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How Many Exercises You Should Do Per Workout

1st Nov 19

Workouts are up there with the most subjective topics in fitness. Everyone has their own needs, preferences, and goals to be hitting from their workouts, so it does make sense. One common question that comes up as a result of that is how many exercises you should do per workout. It’s tough to answer, but there is always guidance out there.

Let’s take a look at some of the main points.

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Before we take this any further, in order to really be able to give you advice about the number of exercises you need per workout, it’s essential to look at what you want to achieve. For example, trying to become a bodybuilder or put on weight may have a massively different workout from someone who is trying to lose weight and tone up. For that reason alone, things get complicated.

To make sure you’re heading in the right direction here’s each category explained to try and help you on your way.

Building Muscle

Older man lifting weights

A hugely popular reason to be exercising in the first place is to build muscle. Whether you want to put on a little mass or become the next world’s strongest man, the principles are often similar; just on different scales. With that in mind, let’s move on.

Generally speaking, you’re aiming to achieve muscle hypertrophy (see this for more info). That means you need to be really overloading your muscles. To do that, one of the best ways is a workout plan like push-pull legs. That way, you’re hitting a major muscle group and then hitting the supporting muscles immediately after in one of the most efficient workouts out there. That’s around six exercises per workout.

Toning Up

Group of people doing push ups together

Now, unlike building muscle, the number of exercises you need to do here is completely different. You need different results after all, so there’s a whole new science we need to take into account here. The definition of toning up is to cut down on fat and build a little muscle to create an overall better physique (check out this article for more about it). So instead of hitting muscles hard individually, we need to change the game to do that. How do we do that? Big lifts.

You need to change things completely to get the most out of your toning workouts. Bigger, more compound lifts are just what the doctor ordered. If you’re doing compound lifts, you’re burning more calories per lift and, ideally, cutting the most fat (while still building muscle, of course). For lifts this big, you’re probably going to be cutting down the number of exercises quite drastically. We’d recommend 4-5 exercises per workout here.

Keeping Fit

Woman bicep curling a dumbbell

The last goal we’ll look at is keeping fit, and this one is a lot easier and a lot more complicated at the same time. It depends on how you’re going about it. If you’re exercising to keep fit and nothing else, things are a lot more relaxed. You need to be finding the perfect balance between strength training and cardio (like you do with toning), but you have way more flexibility in your workout plan.

What we mean by this is that the results are not as tightly monitored. You might want to go for walks four days a week and have one long full-body strength workout with 5-10 exercises in it to make the most of your time, and that’s fine. You also might want to do strength and cardio at the same time 3-4 times a week, and that’s fine too. However, if you go for the latter, you’re looking at 3-4-5 exercises per workout. It all comes down to how often you work out.

Those are three of the biggest fitness goals out there, and that should definitely give you some kind of push in the right direction. Before you walk away happy with your new info, though, we do have something else that you need to keep in mind, especially when you get more advanced in your training.

Set Styles Change the Game

The same workouts, the same way on the same days at the same times every week, have one big problem. They cause plateaus. You might become bored, demotivated, stop seeing results… anything can happen.

To really get the most out of all of your hard workouts, you need to be mixing things up. The best way to do all of that? Changing set styles. There are a LOT out there. Let’s look at some of the most diverse.

German Volume Training

German volume training means picking one big exercise and sticking with it for 10 whole sets. It hits your muscles harder than you could imagine, and there is no way you’re going to want to change exercise after that oneSo toTo keep it safe and see results, that’s just one exercise per workout!

Drops and Pyramids

These are some of the more famous set styles out there, and they do awesome things for your progress since they give such good overload. Drop sets mean you start on a higher weight than usual and lower the weight while upping the reps; pyramid is the opposite, starting on lightweight with high reps. If you’re adding this in, you can probably stick to 4-5 exercises per workout (or just add it to your last sets for a killer overload!).


Monster sets are just as brutal as they sound. They’re literally a combination of drops and pyramids in just one workout! You go up and then down, every single set. Just awful, but an incredible way to overload muscle and a real game-changer. That’ll drop your exercises per workout again to maybe even 2/3/4.

Super Sets

It’s not all muscle-building here either. If you’re gunning for calorie burn or improved fitness, this is one to know about. A superset is jumping between two completely different exercises every set, with little to no rest in between. It’s an excellent way to burn calories and make the most of your time if you don’t hit the weights too often. This can be 4-8 exercises per workout.

All of these sets styles and training goals mean that there really is no one size fits all that you can use here—the number of exercises you do per workout changes massively on you personally. Find a way that you enjoy training and make the most of it. If you’re making progress, stick with it until it slows down. Then, change it up when you feel like it, and just see what works best for you.

For more information about what we’ve talked about here, check out some of these articles too:

Before beginning any exercise or nutrition program, consult your physician, doctor or other professional. This is especially important for individuals over the age of 35 or persons with pre-existing health problems. assumes no responsibility for personal injury or property damage sustained using our advice.

If you experience dizziness, nausea, chest pain, or any other abnormal symptoms, stop the workout at once and consult a physician or doctor immediately.