Why Three Sets?

Ever wonder why everyone does 3 sets of an exercise on any given day of any given week of any given month?

Ever wonder why everyone does three sets of an exercise on any given day of any given week of any given month? Why three sets? Who was the person that decided three sets of ten was the golden rule for training?

Three seems to be the norm for someone to dictate that when we do a specific exercise we must perform three sets of ten reps each. I have found that people over the years get caught up in that mindset. "Did we only do two sets? We gotta do one more"! Why? What is the big deal?

Creatures Of Habit

I suggest that oftentimes we get caught up in being creatures of habit and lose our creative capabilities. This will only result in an exercise program that becomes mundane and ineffective over time. I say break out of the past and take advantage of all the advances we have made in the fitness industry!

Now, I know that I am guilty of being one of the three-set junkies, but the past year of training has taught me to listen to my body more - and less to how many sets I was supposed to do. It all started when I began prioritizing back training a little over 15 months ago. Boy, has it sure paid off.

Anyway, I went around and looked at all of the back machines: pulldowns, low rows, T-bar rows, etc. Now, if I were to perform three sets of every exercise, I would have been in the gym for about two to three hours or so. Now if you're like me, you have other things to do throughout the day and would rather not slave in the gym.

What I did was one to two sets on each exercise. I just made sure not to repeat any angle or movement. I did lat pulldowns, low rows, pull-ups, T-bar rows, deadlifts, etc. I hit everything possible - and did it within 16 sets. I did all of this in about 50 minutes. Not bad considering it was back training!

Variety Is The Key

Over the years, I have seen people in the gym not make any significant changes. I feel it is partly due to the fact that they are stuck in a rut or hit a plateau. Change things up, all of the time - and listen to your body! My workouts are never the same.

What's A Plateau?
A level of attainment or achievement in weight loss or bodybuilding where one gets "stuck in a rut", barring further progress or noticable results. As obvious as it may seem, if you continue to do the same thing, you will continue to get the same results. Click here for tips on breaking through plateaus.

Do the workouts that you read about in the magazines, but just make sure you aren't overtraining as a result of following someone else's workout who is in a different league than you are. Once again, listen to your body!


Most of all, your training should be an enjoyable experience, not a labor of routine. If you're not enjoying it, then why do it? The best thing I did this year was to cut back on the volume of sets I do in the gym. It breathed new life into what was slowly becoming mind-numbing to me.

Don't freak out about losing muscle and all of that mess. If you are doing everything else right, there shouldn't be a problem. I think the goal for fitness-minded people should be balance, variety, and fun. I truly believe that all of these added together will equal results.