The Ideal Number of Weight-Training Sets for Middle-Aged Men

The number of weight-training sets a middle-aged man should perform depends on his fitness goals – and the amount of time he has available during each weight-training session. To reap the health benefits of strength training, adults of all ages should participate in strength-training exercises – such as weightlifting – that work all major muscle groups at least two times weekly, suggest the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.

At Least One Set

The American Council on Exercise reports that the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that an average, healthy person – regardless of age – complete at least one set of a strength-training exercise for each major muscle group at least two to three days each week. Major muscle groups include your hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, butt, back, chest, shoulders, biceps, triceps and abdominal muscles. Many exercises, such as squats, lunges and pushups, work more than one muscle group at a time.

Strength and Power

Although middle-aged men who complete one set of strength-training exercise for each muscle group will reap health benefits, men who perform two to four sets of each weight-training exercise can improve strength and power, according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). The ACSM suggests training each muscle group two to three times per week using a variety of exercises and then waiting 48 hours before working the same muscle group again, to allow time for muscle recovery.


The number of repetitions a middle-aged man should complete during each set is just as important as the number of sets he performs. The ACSM suggests middle-aged adults complete eight to 12 reps to improve strength, 10 to 15 reps to increase strength when beginning a new resistance-training regimen and 15 to 20 reps to increase muscular endurance. Perform fewer reps to boost strength using heavier weights and more reps for muscular endurance lifting lighter weights.

Cardiovascular Exercise

Although weight training is an excellent way for middle-aged men to increase lean muscle mass, strength and power, adding cardiovascular exercise to a weight-training regimen helps reduce men’s risks for developing chronic diseases – especially heart disease. The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans suggest adults – with the OK from their physician – complete 2.5 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise, such as walking, jogging, biking and swimming, each week.

About the Author

Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics and has extensive experience working as a health writer and health educator. Her articles are published on various health, nutrition and fitness websites.