How Many Exercises Per Workout Do We Really Need?

a woman doing curl ups

How many exercises per workout do we really need?

Everyone desires to have that perfectly sculpted and chiseled body. The most popular and prominent way to achieve that is to work out.

But then do we know which workout is suitable for us? Also, what are the different types of exercises available?

What care and precautions are necessary to exercise? So, read further to know more about workouts and how to do it.

Exercises Per Workout: The Components Of Primary Exercise

Mainly, the physical exercises classify into three categories:

  • Firstly, the primary exercises
  • Then, the secondary exercises (accessory exercises)
  • And finally, the supplementary exercises.

An effective workout program needs to be designed scientifically with a sound understanding of the physical anatomy and muscled groups.

It is also necessary to know how theses three groups of exercises work on the muscle. And also the value it adds to the exercise regime.

As is very obvious from the name itself, the primary exercises are the most important in the workout schedule. Yes, these are the ones responsible for building up the strength of the muscles. Along with they build their size (muscle hypertrophy).

Firstly, primary exercises are the main exercise of the workout, and they are done the first thing after the warm-up (remember, never miss your warm-up). Secondly, the fundamental exercises are the most efficient in terms of the benefits it offers. Hence, they need to be done with maximum energy and strength.

“Give in the best to get the best” works just great with the primary exercises. To identify and perform these exercises, we need to understand them clearly.

Exercises Per Workout: Characteristics Of Primary Exercises

As Justin & Kylie’s Custom Fitness Training says, the first step is to know the main features or characteristics of the primary exercises.

  • The primary exercise must work on more than one muscle group. Also, it is called the compound exercise. Since the best of the strength and effort is invested in these exercises, it is prudent to get the best return. However, working on more than one muscle with one exercise saves time and effort and gets better results.
  • Since primary exercise is linked with building strength and muscle hypertrophy, is should tire out and fatigue the muscles involved. Once the broken muscle fibers are repaired and recovered by proper diet and rest, it improves on strength and endurance. Now, the same old weight and repetitions will not be able to ‘tire’ out the muscles. So, the primary muscles should have the flexibility and scope of overloading in the subsequent workout. That is how the size and strength will increase and not stagnate.
  • Utilization of the barbell in the primary exercise recommended. The barbell being handled by both the arms offers better stability and range of motion. Generally, overloading of the weight on the barbell is safer for handling.

exercises per workout: a man in a gym working out

Exercises Per Workout: The Big Five

The world of fitness and exercises recognize the following categories as the ‘Big Five’.

  • The squats: It works mainly on the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and also is suitable for the ‘whole body’ workout.
  • The deadlifts: The primary muscle groups that are worked are hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, and lower back. Along with it also strengthens the forearm. It adds poise, balance, and grace to the body.
  • The bench press: The chest (pectorals), the front shoulder (anterior deltoids), and the triceps are involved in this exercise. Besides, the back muscles also engage to a reasonable extent. It is fundamentally an upper-body exercise.
  • The overhead Press: It works the shoulder muscles, along with the triceps and trapezius. The lower back and spinal muscles also are engaged as they stabilize the posture.
  • The pull up: The back muscles, along with the shoulder and biceps, are involved in this exercise.

The workout should ideally have at least one exercise from any of the above groups.

Recommended Number Of Exercises Per Workout

According to White Coat Trainer, different body constitution, strength, and objective of workout define the number of exercises in one workout. So, before we get into the discussion on the number of exercises, we need to understand that the quality of workout should be good. This means that for the time and energy expended, the result should be the maximum possible.

Up to a certain point, there is a direct relation between the number of exercises and the result achieved. But beyond a certain point, additional exercises do not yield proportionate results. The effort substantially exceeds the resultant dividend on the effort. This not only wastes energy and time, but the overall efficiency of the workout also goes down. Besides, too much of fatigue and sore is challenging to recover in good time. The chances of disruption of the further exercise schedule increase, and ultimately the objective may be lost.

As in any other endeavor, it is essential to exercise smart. Avoid undue and inefficient expenditure of energy. Studies, research, observations, and experience by fitness experts worldwide suggest no more than 4 -5 exercises per workout.

Therefore, it is vital to select the exercises carefully. Put in the best effort and strength in every repetition of every exercise they say. Also, it is critical to approach these with full form, power, and energy to gain the best out of it.

Doing too many exercises with reduced strength and vigor is futile, opine most of the fitness experts. Ideally, for a strong and enthusiastic gym trainee, 5-6 should be the maximum.

Also, 3-6 repetitions per exercise should be enough if the focus is on gaining strength only. However, for those who are looking to build the size of the muscles as well, focus on 8-15 repetitions.

The Takeaways

Finally, just remember:

  • To gain mass and muscle size not more than six exercises per workout
  • For general toning up of body, not more than four to five exercises per workout.
  • And, finally, if the objective is to be just fit enough, look no beyond three to four exercises per workout.

Conclusively, the average time spent on exercising should be around 60 minutes. Remember to squeeze in at least 30 seconds of rest between the sets. And rest for at least a minute between the exercises.

Types Of Workout: Beginner

An absolute beginner should first get himself checked with a doctor to find out if it is right for him to go for a workout. Also, ensure that you have a good set of gym apparel, a pair of decent, comfortable shoes, and a water bottle at the primary level.

A beginner should always remember some essential points.

  • Remember to breathe deeply, even while you exercise. Never hold your breath when you work out.
  • Take it slow and comfortable in the beginning. On the other hand, do not try to do a lot many things all at once.
  • Start with very low weights and focus on the form of exercise, rather than the weight.
  • Always do good warm-up for at least 10-15 minutes before you begin your exercises.
  • Whenever you exercise, be in full control of the movement. And do not allow the weight or the machine to swing your arms and legs on their own. This may lead to injury.
  • When in pain or discomfort, stop immediately.
  • Indeed, for the first few weeks, be under the supervision of a trainer or a senior.
  • Also, drink small sips of water as you exercise.
  • Rest for half to one minute between sets and exercises.

So, the workout routine best suited for a beginner, according to most fitness experts, is a full-body split routine.

Ideally, three days per week, the full-body split should be good be begin with. This type of routine is for three alternative days. Hence, the upper body and lower body exercises are mixed and performed. Purposely, alternate days are kept off for a workout. This will help the body recover faster.

The Basic Beginner Schedule

Since new to exercise and workout, the beginner will take more time to recover and rejuvenate. Ideally, a schedule of the beginner would look like:



The schedule looks light with lots of rest periods. Firstly, this will help the beginner get adjusted to the weights and exercise movements. Secondly, a gradual start ensures no/lower injuries and muscle pulls.

However, in some cases, the intent of workout is to check weight also. In that case, either cardio becomes part of the whole body workout or it can be incorporated on any rest day.

The body exercises consist of six major muscle groups like back, bicep, chest, shoulder, triceps, and lower. Also, add the abdominals or the core. The idea is mixing these muscles workout in a way that in a week (that is three days) all muscles exercise. So, for the first 3-4 weeks, the complete schedule can look like

Detailed Schedule With Muscles Groups

1FULL BODYChest/triceps/abs
3FULL BODYBack/biceps/abs
5FULL BODYLegs/shoulder/abs


Do not perform more than two exercises for one muscle group. Which means in one workout, the maximum can be six. So, keep it up to five in the ordinary course.

Bro Split Schedule

After about four weeks, one can reschedule the exercises and go in for Bro Split workout. In Bro split, the schedule would be like:



Since there is only one muscle group in a day, one can go for a maximum of four exercises for that group. Even four, done effectively, will show on your physique in a very short time. In essence, quality is far more critical than the quantity (number of exercises).

The number of sets per exercise can vary from 3-4 with the number of repetitions per exercise varying from 6-10. Initially, use light weights and try to get the form of the exercise right. Concentrate also on the complete range of motion of the exercise. Do not cut short the movement to get more repetitions.

Types Of Workout: Intermediate

One comes to the intermediate level after about 8-12 weeks of concentrated and systematic training at the beginner level.

By this time, the body gets used to weights and stress. It also learns to recover itself in time for the next regime. Food and nutrition are also set.

The intermediate workout can follow the Bro split (not many recommend this schedule) or the upper body, lower body split. The upper body, lower body split typically would have a schedule like;

1Upper body
2Lower body
4Upper body
5Lower body


The upper and lower body can alternate with rests in between. Besides, the fifth day can be cardio. In all, five days can be devoted to the workout with two rest days.

This workout is a little advanced and gives a scope of a concentrated intense workout. This is an excellent time to develop the muscles if that is the intention.

A gradual increase in the weights and repetition can be tried. Supersets and drops sets, if desired, can be incorporated to get that mean, shredded look.

Alternative Approach

Another approach for the intermediate workout can be to break it into a combination of muscles parts as shown in the table below:

1Chest, shoulder, triceps
2Back, biceps
4Shoulder, chest, triceps
5Back and biceps


In either of the above schedules, it is essential to vary the exercises. It is not a great idea to repeat the same workout twice in a week for the same muscles. Every muscle can be exercised in a variety of ways.

Hence, one should keep on changing the exercises. This gives better results as the muscles do not get a chance to get used to it. Otherwise, it becomes routine, and muscles do not get loaded and stressed with the exercise.

The number of sets now can be increased up to 5 with repetitions going on from 8-15. Also, increase the weights in subsequent sets of each exercise and try to reach the muscle fatigue towards the end of the set.

Types Of Workout: Advanced

Now, this is a serious body and muscle building. The muscle definition and size both matter. Apart from the exercises, pay adequate attention to the diet and rest. Eventually, that will help the muscles to recover and grow faster.

The advanced work out routine is very specialized and personalized too. Also, a lot depends upon the person and his goals. But then, in general, the schedule now can follow the push, pull, leg format. This format is said to provide great gains. The focus shifts from the muscle group to the exercise types:

  • Push exercises are all those exercises where the body exerts outward force. Basically, there are three types of push exercises;
      • Vertical push: It is like the overhead press and the dumbbell press, where the body is in an upright position.
      • Horizontal push: The bench press and the pushups of all kinds belong here.
      • Lower body push: The squats belong to this category.
  • Pull exercises exert a pulling force against the resistance. They are also of three types:
      • Vertical pull: The examples are the pull-ups and the pulldowns.
      • Horizontal pull: The dumbbell row, barbell rows are examples of this category.
      • Lower body pull: Those exercises that hinge on the hips like the deadlift ideally belong to this category.

The Advanced Schedule

So, the schedule for the advanced workout may look like:

1Push exercise
2Pull exercises
4Push exercises
5Pull exercises


As in the other cases, it is imperative to change the exercises of each category throughout the week.

Common Misconceptions About Working Out

two people doing rope exercises

Fitness and workout have caught a lot of interest and enthusiasm these days. However, lots of misconceptions exist about working out. Some are trivial and inconsequential, but some are quite serious and need to be clarified.

Some common misconceptions are:

  • One should always workout on an empty stomach for a good result.

This is not correct and can lead to weakness and subsequent complications. Even in case, where one needs to lose weight and hence burn calories, the stomach should not be completely empty. For guys looking to add muscles and increase size, a proper pre-workout meal is essential.

  • The longer the workout, the better the result.

This again is a fallacy. The workout should be effective and precise, rather than long and unnecessarily tiring.

  • Lifting weights can make women bulky.

This is not at all true. The hormonal make of women is very different from that of men. Hence, the development of muscles will not happen in the case of women, even if she lifts weights.

  • Exercise converts fat into muscles.

Exercise burns fats. It also helps develop the muscles. But connecting the two to conclude that the fat is converted to muscles is not right.

  • One should not drink water between exercises.

This is not only wrong but dangerous too.

The Best Workout For You

There cannot be a one size fits all workout plan. Therefore, it is not right to believe that there is one workout regime that will do wonders for everyone.

A lot depends on the personal physique and goals of the person. Imagine two people, one who is overweight and wants to lose weight, and the other is skinny and wants to bulk up. Obviously, their exercises will be very different from each other.

To bulk up and add muscles will require a different set of exercises than those needed to just remain fit.

The best workout for you is what suits your objective and your body. Also, note something that hurts you and makes you uncomfortable is not suitable for you.

So, listen to your body, if needed, take advice from a fitness expert, and find your way to a healthy and fit body.


A workout is a great way to take care of your body, and it shows excellent results if done well. But it is imperative to understand what will work for you.  It could be dangerous to get into exercising, without really understanding the nuances of the workout. Once you decide on the right type of workout plan, please stick to it and work diligently to get what you desire.

Fitness and body sculpting takes time and patience. So, be patient and persistent to see the results of a good workout plan.


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