An article by Dave Durell quoted an ESPN / Gold's Gym study showed that strength gains were greatest for a test group that did only 1 set versus 2 or 3 (27%, 24% and 16%, respectively).
Durell's article and the results of the study support the philosophy behind my proposed 3-set Reverse Pyramid high-intensity training for generating strength and stimulating muscular gains. Yet, if one set proved consistent results for strength increases combined with increased physical fitness more people would be doing it. The reality is, however, that most people want more than strength or desire something other than strength alone: muscle and aerobic fitness. Strength gains are prime between 4-6 repetitions. Muscular gains are prime between 8-12 repetitions. Beyond that aerobic conditioning through circuit weight training is best realized between 15-20 repetitions. Performing at least 2 sets assists with both: strength and muscle gains.
Performing only one set depresses the psychological benefits of exercise: the fun, the heightened vitality, and the magic of "the pump". Strength increases are real to both the ESPN/Gold's Gym study and the reality of 3-set Reverse Pyramid Training. Executing the first set yielding to training rule 2:
Intensity is measured by the amount of force generated, yielding the greatest number of muscle fibers stimulated at one time -
The following two subsequent sets with increasing repetitions demonstrates both significant strength and muscle gains.
Doing a one all out set of high-intensity training and incorporating advanced techniques, such as forced reps, negatives, training to failure takes all the fun out of training and makes it drudgery for those wishing to pursue fitness for a lifetime while remaining injury free. To want to do one all out set or carry out more than 3 sets per exercise is to lose direction along the road for the journey of building not only strength but more also muscle. Training too short or too long yields the same results: no fun, no muscle gains and a total burn out. It can be psychologically self-defeating in this fitness revolution!
Performing more than one set of high-intensity training without incorporating any advanced training techniques would not constitute overtraining, especially following the 2-ON, 1-OFF training program. Three sets is a happy medium. Stick to it. Your goal is to exhaust the muscles as quickly and effectively as possible using three sets.
But suppose one day you are on an all time exercise high: Your endorphins are kicking in, you tax the body to its limit and thoroughly exhaust the muscles in only two sets. Why prolong the exercise, train longer and do another? Making one set count as two sets and one rep count as two reps is intensity. Accomplishing more in less time is what high-intensity is all about.
Copyright © by Randy M. Herring
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