Templates? Isolation vs cumulative sets.

  • Artesin

    Posts: 482

    Oct 06, 2011 4:04 AM GMT
    TL;DR version: How can I be sure that an isolated muscle group like biceps wont get overworked when they become a secondary muscle. In the case of back/bicep or chest/arms days. Is six sets on isolation a good number to shoot for?

    When constructing a new workout plan what are some fundamentals to keep in mind? When dealing with the number of sets for both isolated and compound movements what number should one shoot for? Keeping in mind that the exercises generally ranged from 8-12 reps, hoping good form completely exhausts that muscle group.

    For instance I just read an article that when isolating biceps the sets when starting out should be around 6 and then serious body builders should only do around 9-12. It sounds easy, but they didnt go into detail on where these isolated moves should be in a plan (I assume after the compound for that group). Nor did the author elaborate on overall sets. If its a day where your biceps are being hit directly then they are also lending support to other compound moves, which is where confusion comes in to play, when trying to decide on an overall amount of sets without overworking any one muscle group.

    The article can be found here

    AT the moment my chest and arms routine comes in at 28 sets, with the first exercise involving 6 sets of 3 speed reps and my upper body power days have 21. This can probably only carry me so far when the time comes that I need another plan and without understanding the synergy between overall sets balanced with isolation and compound moves, it seems almost impossible.
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    Oct 15, 2011 8:59 AM GMT
    The article doesn't say what their rep scheme is for other muscle groups. I do 6 exercises for chest 6 for back. 3 exercises for bi's and 3 for tri's. 6 to 8 reps for strength, 9 to 12 reps for size. I rotate two weeks of 6 to 8 reps of strength training, followed by two weeks of 9 to 12 reps of size training. I don't know if there is a general rule of thumb for this.
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    Oct 16, 2011 6:47 PM GMT
    Thought i'd add a bit more.. I took a look at Arnold's Encyclopedias, Level 1 exercise program.. also was looking at Christian Thibaudeau's off-season & pre - contest training for bodybuilders program.. It seems like there are some similarities in the bulking phase that i can see, as far as amount of exercises per body part. Both of them put 5-6 exercises for chest, 5-6 for back, 5-6 for delts, 5-6 for upper arms, and 5-6 for upper legs. Arnold hits these muscles 3 times a week, Christian hits them once a week. Imo, I think the idea when starting to build a program, is to keep everything balanced to grow evenly. After that's in place, adjustments can be made to target muscle groups that may need a bit more work.. this can be done be done by adding in different types of shocks.. adding in an exercise to target a specific muscle.. or offsetting the amount of exercises per muscle group... etc.

    I think that the amount of proper sets for biceps depends on the amount of sets you're using for other body parts. Some lifters use a very high volume... some HIT.. some are somewhere in between.. What i would do... i'd take a look at some programs written by bodybuilders that i respect, base my opinion on what they're doing.

    When I mentioned that I use two weeks of strength followed by two weeks of size training. This method is taken from Charles Poliquin's "Daily Undulated Periodization" Here's a link that explains it. There's quite a bit of info around for this.


    Also another thing that I think is important when building a program is to be aware of both the agonist and synergists. Here's another link.


    I think everyone builds their programs a bit differently. This is just some of the stuff thats worked for me. Hopefully useful to you.