I am always reading people saying that people starting out need to start out doing only one set per exercise. I could realize how people could come up with this, though I don't agree. If you refer to the routine Dorian Yates followed, you could see that he only did one working set to failure and beyond for each exercise.
He followed a routine that had him working each body part once a week after about twelve years of training with three sets per exercise because of the intensity he could put into a set was enough to fully stimulate his muscles for growth. For people starting out, you can almost be sure that they cannot produce enough intensity (safely) to only do one set per exercise to fatigue the muscle enough for optimal growth. This is why beginners should do three sets per exercise to get the most out their workouts.
The topic of the number of sets leads me to another discussion. I agree with the idea that beginner's only need to do one exercise per body part; but I think those exercises should be on a machine. Specifically, a universal gym is a beginner's best friend. I am positive that most beginners like to do every machine in the gym because I did and have repeatedly seen it displayed in the gym.
To elaborate, the idea that "more is better" is defiantly stuck in beginner's heads because of the great gains they are getting by over training their ass off. Doing three sets of all the exercises on a universal gym can assure you are working the whole body but have a routine that won't stop your gains later because of over training. The workout I did for the first five months of weight training on a universal gym was:
- 3x10 - Leg Press
- 3x10 - Calf Raises
- 3x10 - Seated Bench Press
- 3x10 - Pec-Deck
- 3x10 - Lat-Pulldowns
- 3x10 - Bicep-Curl Machine
- 3x10 - Ab-Machine
I did this routine three days a week on alternate days. I think that it is possible to recuperate adequately in this schedule because of the low number of exercises in the full body workout.
This is another issue that I would like to touch up on. Recently the 3x10 idea has been discarded from experienced bodybuilders because they like doing a combination of low and high reps to 'fully stimulate each muscle fiber'. Beginners shouldn't apply this though, because low reps with heavy weight could lead to injury, especially if improper form is used.
After you feel like you've done machines for an adequate amount of time (at least 8 weeks) then you should consider using free weights. The most important thing to remember when using free weights is to use proper form. When choosing a routine, I suggest you follow the same one you did with machines, except substitute some exercises for free weight ones and add some additional exercises.
The number of some sets should be decreased from three to two so there will be a less of a chance of over training and the length of the workout will not take more than an hour Also, I suggest increasing the reps of each exercise to twelve to decrease the chance of injury. An example of a routine is:
- 3x12 - Smith Machine Squat
- 2x12 - Leg Extensions
- 2x12 - Leg Curls
- 3x12 - Calf Raises
- 3x12 - Bench Press
- 2x12 - Dumbbell Fly's
- 3x12 - Barbell Rows
- 2x12 - Lat-Pulldowns
- 2x12 - Barbell Curls
Try this routine for another eight weeks before splitting your workouts into a three or four day split that has each day focusing on one working unit (back/biceps, chest/triceps). I hope this article has helped you beginners out there starting your journey for the perfect body, to be on the right path. Feel free to email any questions you have to firstname.lastname@example.org.