Last updated on October 30th, 2022 at 11:56 am
Who else wants to know, “How Many Sets of Bench Press For Hypertrophy?”
I would hazard a guess that most people would enter a gym for the first time ever, head over to the bench press area, and pump out 3 sets of ten reps.
Even those without any prior workout experience probably already know about the “3 sets of 10” training scenario.
However, as you become more experienced at lifting you soon realise that there are various ways to train in order to induce hypertrophy.
Furthermore, you’ve probably discovered that it’s not always just about reps, but the number sets you perform too.
So, is there an “ideal” number of sets you should be performing of bench press for hypertrophy?
Allow me to reveal all.
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How Many Sets of Bench Press For Hypertrophy?
The optimal number of sets of bench press for hypertrophy would be 3-5 sets per workout. However, in order to build muscle there is evidence to suggest that you should hit a major muscle group, e.g. chest, with 10-12 sets over the period of a week. That being said, hypertrophy isn’t strictly about how many sets you perform. You should also consider factors such as total reps, rest between sets, bench press set up, tempo of your lifts, plus training protocols such as rest-pause, drop sets, etc.
The “Optimal” Number of Sets For Hypertrophy
Okay, I’m more than happy to reveal the “optimal” number of sets for hypertrophy.
However, building muscle is far more than simply sticking to a certain rep or set scheme.
Realistically, you’re looking to stimulate the muscles in a certain way in order to see them grow.
That being said, there is no “one perfect way” to build muscle.
I will cover this in more detail in a moment, but for now let’s look at how many sets of bench press you should be performing for hypertrophy.
Okay, a good number of sets to perform for one particular exercise, e.g. bench press, during a workout is 3-5.
This doesn’t mean that in order to build muscle you must always just perform between 3 to 5 sets of an exercise.
Personally, I have tried Charles Poliquin’s 10×10 workout, as well as Vince Gironda’s 8×8 workout, and both have produced fantastic results.
However, these types of workouts may not be suitable for everyone, especially those who are particularly new to training.
Therefore, training bench press with 3-5 sets for hypertrophy is always a good starting point.
But, as you become more experienced with the bench press, and lifting weights in general, you can look at performing different rep and set schemes.
The “Ideal” Weekly Sets For Hypertrophy
Furthermore, there is also an “optimal” number of sets you should perform on a weekly basis for hypertrophy.
However, rather than looking at just one exercise, such as the bench press alone, this type of training focuses on the muscle groups as a whole.
So, as an example, for the larger muscle groups, e.g. chest, back, quads, hamstrings, glutes, shoulders, etc. your aim should be to perform 10-12 working sets per week.
And for the smaller muscle groups, e.g. biceps, triceps, calves, forearms, etc. you can build muscle from 6-8 working sets a week.
Now, of course, this means that you could perform 10-12 sets of bench press over the course of a week.
In fact, you may even achieve some fantastic results by doing this.
That being said, I personally like some variety to my training, so I would typically use a number of different exercises when training one specific muscle group.
So, sticking to the numbers above, I would generally train chest twice a week.
This would involve performing bench press twice a week, sticking to 3 working sets each time.
I would also perform 2 different chest-related exercises in order to hit optimal 10-12 sets per week for hypertrophy.
Hypertrophy Training isn’t Just About Sets
So, I’ve mentioned that bench press hypertrophy, and building muscle in general, isn’t just about sets.
In fact, you probably know that you should be performing a certain number of reps per set for hypertrophy,
Most people tend to stick in the 8-12 rep range, although optimal muscle growth can occur anywhere in the 5-15 rep range.
That being said, the way in which you perform the bench press can also make a huge difference in terms of hypertrophy.
So, let me reveal some of the best ways to train bench press for hypertrophy.
Bench Press Hypertrophy Training
Okay, so I’ve mentioned an “ideal” number of reps for hypertrophy.
However, hypertrophy typically works best with volume and frequency.
Hence, why I’ve spoken about 10-12 sets over the course of a week, plus potentially hitting bench press twice a week (or even more).
That being said, your rest periods between sets also play a part in muscle growth.
When it comes to hypertrophy training you would typically rest for 1-2 minutes between sets.
However, you could actually use say your 10-rep max of bench press, but perform fewer reps, more sets, and with decreased rest between sets.
So, let’s say that you generally perform bench press @ 225lbs for 3 sets of 10 reps.
Plus, you rest two minutes between sets.
You could actually use the same weight, perform just 7 reps, only rest 40 seconds between sets, and perform 5 sets in total.
Realistically, you will have performed more reps with the same weight in less time.
In other words, your muscles won’t be fully recovered when you perform your next set, but this is fine, as you’re not going near failure with every set.
That being said, it’s likely that you’ll find sets 4 and 5 much tougher than the first 3 sets.
So, when you put all this together, it’s likely that bench pressing using the second method would lead to greater muscular gains.
Something else to consider is the placement of your hands on the barbell and the tempo at which you bench press.
Basically, this works great when training bench press for strength, as you’ve reduced the range of motion, thus allowing you to lift more weight.
Furthermore, you would typically also have a wider grip when training for strength, once more reducing the range of motion.
It’s also likely that you’ll be moving the bar as fast as possible, simply because you’re benching so much weight.
However, when it comes to hypertrophy training you literally want to do the complete opposite of everything I’ve just mentioned.
In other words, you’ll want to go through a far greater range of motion, keep your grip to shoulder-width, while slowing the tempo right down.
Something else that is part of hypertrophy training is time-under-tension.
There is evidence which claims that the perfect working set for hypertrophy should take approximately 40 seconds.
So, this could mean that you’re performing 13 reps at approximately 3 seconds per rep.
But, then again, you could also perform just 5 reps, while taking 8 seconds to perform each rep.
This is a prime example of why reps and sets are not the only things that will lead to muscle growth.
Different Bench Press Hypertrophy Training Protocols
Finally, you don’t have to just perform straight sets.
What I mean by this is that there are other ways to stress the muscles for hypertrophy.
A few examples include pausing your bench press at the bottom of the movement in order to use isometric contraction for muscle growth.
Then again, you could incorporate rest-pause training.
This would involve performing a certain number of reps of bench press, re-racking the bar, taking a brief rest of say 15-20 seconds, performing more reps, another brief rest, more reps, and so on.
I would say that you need to be wary with this type of training, and it’s probably best to do rest-pause training with a spotter, especially once fatigue starts to kick in.
Another great training protocol for bench press is using drop sets, although once more, this is best done with a spotter due to the safety element.
How to Use Bench Press For Growth (Science Explained)
So, I hope you understand that having an ideal number of sets of bench press for hypertrophy isn’t completely cut and dry.
The optimal number of sets per exercise for hypertrophy is typically 3-5, whereas you should look to hit a major muscle group, such as the chest, with 10-12 sets per week.
You can of course simply split up these sets over the course of a week, and just perform the bench press.
Then again, you could also incorporate other exercises too.
That being said, hypertrophy doesn’t always come down to just the number of reps and sets you perform.
Therefore, it makes sense to incorporate various form and training protocols for your bench press.
These include increasing range of motion, reducing rest periods, using rest-pause, incorporating time-under-tension, and using drop sets.
Here’s something that you don’t hear every day, but I promise you it’s a “thing”. You can learn about something you may not even be aware of in my article about feeling bench press in your glutes.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.