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What's the Purpose of Multiple Sets?
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Elaikases

I'm not trying to be an idiot, but I've made consistent progress on single sets. I'm curious what the thinking is behind people who use multiple sets and how they get started on doing multiple sets in the first place.

I've lost some strength due to some layoffs, but have a new log here:

http://tnation.T-Nation.com/...ts_around_here_

I'm slowly moving to cable and dumbbell weights because they are "real" (as in easily measured, always the same machine to machine, so to speak). Have miles to go to reach competition levels, but for a 55 year old guy with a desk job, the single sets once a week work fine for me.

Not that I don't notice that the multiple set guys are still doing each body part once a week, it just takes them more days to get to the entire body.

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Joseph Anderson

Elaikases wrote:
I'm not trying to be an idiot, but I've made consistent progress on single sets. I'm curious what the thinking is behind people who use multiple sets and how they get started on doing multiple sets in the first place.


Simply put, I employ multiple sets when one set is not enough. The justification is varied and includes the type of tools being used to train, the effort/quality of the sets, the individual response of a trainee to exercise volume, the goal of the training.

When I'm the trainee, it is super-easy to know when additional sets are needed. When training others, it takes a little experimenting and experience to hone in on their particular requirements (again all relative to the tools being used, quality of sets and individual response).

Sometimes, I just want to train more. I can't say I benefit particularly from it, but being in the gym 10 hours a day (for work) I have a tendancy to 'play around' with multiple sets throughout the day, just because. Not always, but occasionally.
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krazy kaju

Well previously, I've used mostly leg presses as my compound leg movement. Now that I'm focusing on squats, sometimes I find that my form is off during my first set, so I perform a second workset mainly to work on my form.
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entsminger

Virginia, USA

==Scott==
I know the mantra of this forum is single set to failure but I have found that I respond better to more than one set per body part per workout. Sometimes I do 2 sets per body part, sometimes 3. I know fellows like Joshua make good gains on just one set with very brief workouts but I'm thinking that he is getting more out of one set than I am with all his Valsalva eliminating stuff , his razor sharp focus on form and feel and superior machines for his purpose, etc.

I hear lot's of talk about maximum inroad being reached in one set but I think there are other factors involved that are important for size and strength gains that might come from additional sets.Since there is no real way to measure if you are getting all you can out of one set I would suggest trying both to see which actually works best for you. A zillion guys have built big muscles with more than one set, they can't all be wrong.
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Turpin

I perform 2-3 sets per exercise of low rep primer sets ( which activate the nervous system ) prior to a working set to MMF.
Lately I have been employing heavy 3 rep primers until the resistance on the 3rd set is heavy enough to see a slowing of the concentric cadence before reducing the resistance and performing a working set to MMF.

T.
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Mr. Strong

Multiple sets create adaptations that would be impossible within a single set.
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fbcoach

Developing strength is a motor skill. Every time you use a heavier weight, you are essentially creating neuro-muscular pathways. This takes repetition. It is why Powerlifters perform multiple low-rep sets such as 5x2 or 3x3. They train the muscles to recruit more fibers (get stronger).

Also, every time you perform an exercise within a specific intensity, you increase protein synthesis. The more sets, the more you stimulate ribosomes (the chemical messengers that turn up protein synthesis). This has to be balanced with the stimulation of catabolic hormones. You learn this thru trial-and-error.

With that said, if you are making gains on the SSTF model, and it fits well in your schedule, I see no reason to change. Just remember, your training can still be brief using multiple sets.
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BIO-FORCE

California, USA

Joseph Anderson wrote:
Elaikases wrote:
I'm not trying to be an idiot, but I've made consistent progress on single sets. I'm curious what the thinking is behind people who use multiple sets and how they get started on doing multiple sets in the first place.


Simply put, I employ multiple sets when one set is not enough.


Exactly, that says it all.

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Elaikases

Thanks all.
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summaHIT

Ontario, CAN

It is very difficult to know what the proper or ideal amount of sets are. It will depend on your personal being. For me, having used only on set for most of my exercise experience I can say that multiple sets have given me more strength and size. The key is knowing enough about yourself and personal situation which will allow you to know when to stop. It could be one set and it could be 10 sets. Obviously the lower rep sets require more sets and the higher rep sets less total sets do to volume.

I sometimes do only one set and sometimes I have done 10. Always within a low volume parameter which I do believe in. If I did ten sets of squats at 3 reps I would only do a few extra exercises at perhaps a different rep and sets scheme keeping the total volume down and manageable.
We are all limited by our genetics. Gymnasts can do whole body work several times per day, every day, and still progress. Only you know what is best for YOU.
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krazy kaju

krazy kaju wrote:
Well previously, I've used mostly leg presses as my compound leg movement. Now that I'm focusing on squats, sometimes I find that my form is off during my first set, so I perform a second workset mainly to work on my form.


Also have one thing to add: multiple sets can help you break through "mechanical sticking points" in your exercises. Unless you're using perfect form on perfect machinery (go to Josh Trentine for that), it's possible that your strength curve doesn't match the resistance provided, i.e. a sticking point. Multiple sets (and set extenders like forced reps) can help you work on those sticking points.
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krazy kaju

summaHIT wrote:
Gymnasts can do whole body work several times per day, every day, and still progress. Only you know what is best for YOU.


Gymnastics and olylifting has a significant skill component, which is why one can progress every day in these two sports. One cannot progress on a daily basis if training properly for hypertrophy and strength.
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summaHIT

Ontario, CAN

krazy kaju wrote:
summaHIT wrote:
Gymnasts can do whole body work several times per day, every day, and still progress. Only you know what is best for YOU.

Gymnastics and olylifting has a significant skill component, which is why one can progress every day in these two sports. One cannot progress on a daily basis if training properly for hypertrophy and strength.


Except for gymnasts and Olympic lifters?
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Ciccio

Single sets are always enough. If you face progression problems which are not fixable by adjusting frequency/volume and often have to do with equipment limitations, break the single set into one rest-pause set.
Static holds may be another option.

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WesH

I generally use one set. However, on occasion I'll be using a heavier weight for the first time and have a crappy set where failure occurred sooner than was optimum. In that case, I'll do a quick drop set without rest.

That said, in the distant mists of times gone by, I used 3-5 sets, but always to failure and usually with forced reps on the last set. Today, I consider that redundant. Recently, I've also goofed around with 8X8, 5X5, and such for laughs. I believe eating has a lot more to do with progress than whether or not one is using single or multiple sets.
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Lioncourt

My personal experience is that I don't necessarily get anything out of warm up sets. They're psychological for me more than anything. Especially on big movements like the squat or deadlift. My working set is the same no matter if I do them or not. I also find I'm able to get so much out of my working sets usually to do a second set even with a reduced weight doesn't even feel necessary.
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db144

I think the number of sets/exercises performed for the entire workout is more important than making the blanket statement that multiple sets are needed at advanced levels. I'd think the opposite is true at advanced levels when one is using heavier weights. That exhaustion would be attained faster eliminating the need for extra sets (excluding the warm up sets). I don't see the need for repeatedly exhausting a muscle. Beating a dead horse comes to mind.

If one begins using multiple sets where does it end? Three, four, five for each muscle?

A person can only perform at an optimal level for certain period of time. Too many additional sets will lead to less than optimal performance due to fatigue and fatigue leads to bad form and bad form leads to injuries.

I have no problem with multiple sets for a particular exercise but multiple sets for the all the exercises in one's routine? Seems contrary to do only enough to stimulate growth.

My 2 cents.

d

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krazy kaju

summaHIT wrote:
krazy kaju wrote:
summaHIT wrote:
Gymnasts can do whole body work several times per day, every day, and still progress. Only you know what is best for YOU.

Gymnastics and olylifting has a significant skill component, which is why one can progress every day in these two sports. One cannot progress on a daily basis if training properly for hypertrophy and strength.

Except for gymnasts and Olympic lifters?


LOL no, I'm pretty sure you're not retarded. You and I know there's a difference between strength and skill.
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HDROB

Ciccio wrote:
Single sets are always enough.


So is an extra set or two.
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Mr. Strong

krazy kaju wrote:
summaHIT wrote:
krazy kaju wrote:
summaHIT wrote:
Gymnasts can do whole body work several times per day, every day, and still progress. Only you know what is best for YOU.

Gymnastics and olylifting has a significant skill component, which is why one can progress every day in these two sports. One cannot progress on a daily basis if training properly for hypertrophy and strength.

Except for gymnasts and Olympic lifters?


LOL no, I'm pretty sure you're not retarded. You and I know there's a difference between strength and skill.



So gymnasts aren't strong just skillful? Same goes for Oly lifters?
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krazy kaju

They are strong. The ones who make it on TV, though, are the ones who were genetically gifted and able to benefit from such overtraining (as in almost every other sport). You never hear about the failures.
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Mr. Strong

krazy kaju wrote:
They are strong. The ones who make it on TV, though, are the ones who were genetically gifted and able to benefit from such overtraining (as in almost every other sport). You never hear about the failures.






Or maybe the ones who wanted it more?
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crazeeJZ

What does everyone consider the conventional pyramid method to be?

It looks like a heavy single set method to me, with preparatory sets preceding it.
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Lioncourt

crazeeJZ wrote:
What does everyone consider the conventional pyramid method to be?

It looks like a heavy single set method to me, with preparatory sets preceding it.


My favorite form of pyramiding is the reverse pyramid that Steve Reeves made popular. I find his method to be a little much though, so I do something similar to what Martin Berkhan writes about sometimes. I'll warm up to my top set that I take to failure, then take ~10% off, take a little rest and do a second set to failure, then sometimes a third set with an additional 10% off.
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krazy kaju

Mr. Strong wrote:
krazy kaju wrote:
They are strong. The ones who make it on TV, though, are the ones who were genetically gifted and able to benefit from such overtraining (as in almost every other sport). You never hear about the failures.





Or maybe the ones who wanted it more?


That's what the guys who make it on TV like to think. But they don't stop to think about the guys on their high school team who worked 10x harder but made it nowhere.
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