Workout Tips

Lift Doctor: Optimal Number of Exercises Per Workout

Consider following this prescription for maximizing muscle gains during each workout.


Training intensity can be measured many different ways; the amount of volume you hit (sets x reps), the amount of weight you lift, the amount of rest you take between every set - and even a good training partner can help drive the intensity of the workout.  Whatever variable makes the workout harder or easier, can be defined as the training intensity.

While higher volume training does stimulate muscle growth, the amount of weight you use is very important.  If the weights are too light, you’ll have to hit a ton of sets and reps to create the training effect you’re looking for – i.e., muscle hypertrophy (muscle mass) or strength.

Here are some general guidelines for the optimal number of exercises per workout that have worked in my programs:

Full Body Workout:

1 upper body compound exercise, 2 upper body accessory lifts, 1 lower body compound exercise, 2 lower body accessory lifts

Upper Body Workout:

1-2 upper body compound exercises, 2-3 upper body accessory lifts

Lower Body Workout:

1-2 lower body compound exercises, 2-3 lower body accessory lifts

Remember, maximize the contraction for every repetition, utilize good form through a full range of motion (or utilize a range of motion that allows YOU to maintain good form), and push yourself hard in every workout. 

Meet the Lift Doctor

Jim Smith is a highly respected strength and conditioning coach and Fitness Advisory Board member for and numerous national publications.  Owner of Diesel Strength & Conditioning, Jim has been called one of the most "innovative strength coaches" in the fitness industry. Jim’s FREE gift – The Mass Report – has been used by thousands of lifters and athletes to build muscle faster and break through training plateaus.