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  1. #1
    ~~MsFit~~ Lou1se's Avatar
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    Many sets vs one set of difficult work. Discussion please.

    Hi all I'm new(noob)

    Some people prefer many sets per exercise, usually about 3 -5 sets with approx 10 reps ea.

    I also know that some believe that you don't need to perform any sets at all and prefer to just increase the difficulty, add weights or change the exercise, going to failure well before getting to 10. These people only do about 4-7 reps and still get good results.

    I decided to go with the latter some months back, simply because I found it took too long to go through all the exercises in my daily workout plan. I do whole body each day rather than split bodyparts.

    So, what is the point of doing lots of sets when you can just increase the difficulty and do less?
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  2. #2
    ~~MsFit~~ Lou1se's Avatar
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    LOL waiting for somebody to jump in with NEGGED
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  3. #3
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    Originally Posted by Lou1se View Post
    So, what is the point of doing lots of sets when you can just increase the difficulty and do less?
    Who says that?
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  4. #4
    ~~MsFit~~ Lou1se's Avatar
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    I have read a lot of interviews on cutandjacked.com and a few other fitness sites. But the question you have highlighted has come from me
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  5. #5
    I grunt pharmamarketer's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Lou1se View Post
    I decided to go with the latter some months back, simply because I found it took too long to go through all the exercises in my daily workout plan. I do whole body each day rather than split bodyparts.
    My question is this: Has it worked for you? If yes, then good for you for adjusting things to suit your needs and finding what works for you. More than one way to skin a cat.

    I personally have plateaued as of late. I am changing my routine and trying to see what works best. I have also adjusted my diet. Part of what I like about BBing is that there is not one blueprint to follow. I find that to be both challenging and fun
    I'm a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it. ~ Thomas Jefferson
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  6. #6
    Registered User fbcoach's Avatar
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    Thought I would answer this since I train in this manner. First off, let me preface this with I am forced to train like this due to breaking my neck playing ball and having the required sugeries and spinal procedures. I have an Intrathecal Spinal pump placed in my upper right glute with a catheter running up the spinal canal....sounds attractive, huh? Anyway, if you check my journal, you'll find I train 1x/every 5 days basically a fullbody workout emphasizing pushing exercises one workout and pulling the next. Is it optimal? Yes..for me. If I train any more often, I get crazy muscle spasms in my entire back, neck, and shoulders. With this type of workout, I have been able to continue developing my strength, muscle size, and sense of well-being.

    Is it optimal for everyone? At times it may be useful, but as a mainstay, probably not. It is limiting. It is too short to stimulate the Nervous System into adapting to other stimuli responsible for strength and hypertrophy such as, training motor pathways to contract harder thru repitition, developing work capacity, sarcoplasm (energy substrates within muscle tissue), etc. As a tool, it is one of the best. On it own, it can crumble starting with its premise of always training to failure.

    In closing, use it as long as it is working. Once you adapt, switch to another program. You can always come back to it.
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  7. #7
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    If you are new to lifting the fact is that you will see results using any reasonable set/rep range, so do whatever you like until it stops working for you, then change it up.
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    Took a stab at it back in the early eighties when a friend handed me Arthur Jones' book on nautilus training. It seemed interesting, but in my case I guess I just couldn't generate the effort/intensity to make it work, at least that's my best guess. My strength suffered as well as my physique. I'd never argue the point with anyone because for some it seems to work quite well, though I was a bit skeptical as guys like Mentzer and Viator built their physiques with more traditional methods.

    Try it. If it works for you, great.
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  9. #9
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    Originally Posted by Lou1se View Post
    Hi all I'm new(noob)

    Some people prefer many sets per exercise, usually about 3 -5 sets with approx 10 reps ea.

    I also know that some believe that you don't need to perform any sets at all and prefer to just increase the difficulty, add weights or change the exercise, going to failure well before getting to 10. These people only do about 4-7 reps and still get good results.

    I decided to go with the latter some months back, simply because I found it took too long to go through all the exercises in my daily workout plan. I do whole body each day rather than split bodyparts.

    So, what is the point of doing lots of sets when you can just increase the difficulty and do less?
    The truth is that you could get a different answer from everyone that replies to your question. The two school of thoughts your comtemplating are the same ones everyone has thought of at some point in time. The first method you mention (multiple sets per exercise) is of the mindset that you'll completely break down the muscle fibers thereby requiring many days for recovery. The second method is similar to DogCrap (DC) training. This method calls for one working set of each exercise followed by extreme stretching. The thought process behind this method is that you can work the same muscle group more often (2 or even 3 times per week). Like someone already said ... do whatever works for YOU .. until it no longer does. Then ... switch it up. hth
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  10. #10
    NAS Strongman bigtallox's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Lou1se View Post
    I'm new(noob)
    People new to lifting weights need to focus on how to lift correctly. One of the best ways to improve technique is through repetition ( assuming you're using good form ).
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  11. #11
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    I don't know what the point is, if there is one, other than to do what works for the individual to meet specific goals. My personal route is to shoot for 30 total reps, but the weight fluctuates depending on the point in the cycle I'm on.
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  12. #12
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    Originally Posted by Lou1se View Post
    Hi all I'm new(noob)

    Some people prefer many sets per exercise, usually about 3 -5 sets with approx 10 reps ea.

    I also know that some believe that you don't need to perform any sets at all and prefer to just increase the difficulty, add weights or change the exercise, going to failure well before getting to 10. These people only do about 4-7 reps and still get good results.

    I decided to go with the latter some months back, simply because I found it took too long to go through all the exercises in my daily workout plan. I do whole body each day rather than split bodyparts.

    So, what is the point of doing lots of sets when you can just increase the difficulty and do less?
    1. this is a hobby and if you enjoy it as i do.... then more sets is enjoyable not a drag
    2. the longer you lift the more it takes *me* to feel it, it is like the body says "yeah, yeah, this again ok we got this!"
    3. see number 1
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    Another noob here. Personally, I consider the other approach better for me. I'm not "taking it easy", but I found if I am pushing 100% every set then I feel pretty fried the rest of the time. I feel like I am doing better pushing 90% effort for more sets and making sure every workout I strive for progression.
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    Originally Posted by x-trainer ben View Post
    1. this is a hobby and if you enjoy it as i do.... then more sets is enjoyable not a drag
    2. the longer you lift the more it takes *me* to feel it, it is like the body says "yeah, yeah, this again ok we got this!"
    Kind of like drinking? Haha
    As i get older I am realizing i have to get while the gettings good. I can put stats and PR's up here all day long. But, the main concepts with my workouts....
    1. GO BIG OR GO HOME.
    2. FORM IS EVERYTHING
    3. BREATHE.
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  15. #15
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    Originally Posted by irothste View Post
    Another noob here. Personally, I consider the other approach better for me. I'm not "taking it easy", but I found if I am pushing 100% every set then I feel pretty fried the rest of the time. I feel like I am doing better pushing 90% effort for more sets and making sure every workout I strive for progression.
    Im not going to pretend Im not still noobish but I dont understand this logic at all. Even if Im going higher rep (8-10 or even 12) at the very least that final rep is 100%. Even if you dont agree that less is more, shouldnt you always be lifting to failure? I could be wrong but the "pump" doesnt indicate growth.

    I personally have seen more growth in the lower rep range but thats not to say I havent seen growth in the higher rep range. But one thing never changes....failure. JMO but its that last rep that stimulates the most growth. So for ME, being "fried" after going 100% in just 3 sets of 4-6 or 5x5 on my first movement of the day is exactly what Im after.

    With all that being said, I agree with everyone above. It is all about you....and you will see gains on most workouts being new. I personally like the hit it n quit it approach. It has been working for me.
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  16. #16
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    I've read a couple of studies over the years that stated that 70-80% of results possible are realized on a single/first set of 10 reps to failure. Multiple sets account for the balance. Interesting theory. If true, a good reason to avoid skipping WO's if you don't feel productive. Even a short session could be very productive.
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    Originally Posted by Black Sunday View Post
    Took a stab at it back in the early eighties when a friend handed me Arthur Jones' book on nautilus training. It seemed interesting, but in my case I guess I just couldn't generate the effort/intensity to make it work, at least that's my best guess. My strength suffered as well as my physique. I'd never argue the point with anyone because for some it seems to work quite well, though I was a bit skeptical as guys like Mentzer and Viator built their physiques with more traditional methods.

    Try it. If it works for you, great.
    I made a thread a week or two back about Mike Mentzer.

    For some it may work, I think for most it won't. I also don't blame you, Black Sunday, nor myself for "not being intense enough". I think the volume of doing a couple bad-ass sets a week for chest per week is just not enough volume, and I cannot imagine there are many (if any) professional power lifters or bodybuilders around now who do the kind of low volume Mentzer prescribed.

    OP has introduced two options (many sets, or one set of high intensity). There is a third: Many sets of intensity (even though weight will drop and you'll burn out in strength after first set).
    I've read a couple of studies over the years that stated that 70-80% of results possible are realized on a single/first set of 10 reps to failure. Multiple sets account for the balance. Interesting theory. If true, a good reason to avoid skipping WO's if you don't feel productive. Even a short session could be very productive.
    If so, I wonder what kind of recovery period is necessary. I could imagine some gains coming from doing only one set a workout if it's repeated each day of the week.
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  18. #18
    NAS Strongman bigtallox's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by EasyStreets View Post
    shouldnt you always be lifting to failure?
    No, always going to failure isn't consistent with all goals.

    Originally Posted by EasyStreets View Post
    I could be wrong but the "pump" doesnt indicate growth.
    It doesn't.
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  19. #19
    Registered User Dirk57's Avatar
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    I work in the 4-8 rep range. I start with heavy weight at 4 reps and keep adding reps. When I get to 8 reps I add weight and drop back to 4 rep. It has always worked for me. Just my 2 cents.
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  20. #20
    Gun Ho EasyStreets's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Skoorbmax View Post
    There is a third: Many sets of intensity (even though weight will drop and you'll burn out in strength after first set).
    There are a million...your weight could increase in an intense workout but your reps could drop or vice versa....etc etc.
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  21. #21
    Registered User Manospeed's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Lou1se View Post
    Hi all I'm new(noob)

    Some people prefer many sets per exercise, usually about 3 -5 sets with approx 10 reps ea.

    I also know that some believe that you don't need to perform any sets at all and prefer to just increase the difficulty, add weights or change the exercise, going to failure well before getting to 10. These people only do about 4-7 reps and still get good results.

    I decided to go with the latter some months back, simply because I found it took too long to go through all the exercises in my daily workout plan. I do whole body each day rather than split bodyparts.

    So, what is the point of doing lots of sets when you can just increase the difficulty and do less?

    I think the question is more subjective than anything else. I mean think about it; You might have person A be able to do 1 rep at 260lbs only once and no more than 3 reps at 240lbs, but person B might be able to do 6 reps at 230lbs, but their max 1 rep is 240lbs. One person can lift more, while the other person can lift less for more time.

    I have read a scientific study though that stated from a purely gains point of view 1 set is more than enough to stimulate muscle growth. So doing 3, 4, or 5 sets doesn't necessarily benefit you as much as once might imagine.

    Me personally I'll do 4-5 sets per exercise

    Set 1 (warmup 15-20 reps -light weight)
    Set 2 (increase weight 10-12 reps)
    Set 3 (increase weight 8-10 reps)
    Set 4 (increase weight 6 reps)
    Set 5 (Optional 6 reps same weight as set 4)
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  22. #22
    Registered User irothste's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by EasyStreets View Post
    Im not going to pretend Im not still noobish but I dont understand this logic at all. Even if Im going higher rep (8-10 or even 12) at the very least that final rep is 100%. Even if you dont agree that less is more, shouldnt you always be lifting to failure? I could be wrong but the "pump" doesnt indicate growth.

    I personally have seen more growth in the lower rep range but thats not to say I havent seen growth in the higher rep range. But one thing never changes....failure. JMO but its that last rep that stimulates the most growth. So for ME, being "fried" after going 100% in just 3 sets of 4-6 or 5x5 on my first movement of the day is exactly what Im after.

    With all that being said, I agree with everyone above. It is all about you....and you will see gains on most workouts being new. I personally like the hit it n quit it approach. It has been working for me.
    I guess I wasn't clear enough. I am working in lower rep ranges. I work in ranges where failure might be 6-7 reps and I do sets of 5 with it.
    But then I do multiple sets with that weight. I understood the OP saying that she works with weights where failure might be 4-7 and then she pushes to failure on it.

    Another issue I personally have is that I can often lift more reps at a given weight than I should be able to given my max. I can push the reps out but I will be unable to do any sort of physical activity the next day. I have to pace myself.

    Given the results you have had, maybe I'll try pushing myself a bit more.
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  23. #23
    I'll Rest When I'm Dead ironwill2008's Avatar
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    A noob or someone otherwise relatively untrained will make fast initial progress on just about any routine due simply to the fact that any weight training is more than what the trainee was previously doing (nothing at all). All that changes after that early, fast adaptation is used up.




    I've never found any actual evidence that single-set-to-failure training produces even just equal gains to multiple-set training. There is a multitude of evidence, however, demonstrating the opposite. Here's just a few; there's much more stating the same results:



    3 sets better than one:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1...?dopt=Abstract

    CONCLUSIONS: Three sets of exercise produce twice the strength increase of one set in the early phase of resistance training. Training fast produces greater strength increases than training slow; however, there does not appear to be any additional benefit of training with both three sets and fast contractions.











    Multiple sets produce more strength than one:

    http://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Ab...ple_Set.5.aspx


    This quantitative review indicates that single-set programs for an initial short training period in untrained individuals result in similar strength gains as multiple-set programs. However, as progression occurs and higher gains are desired, multiple-set programs are more effective.

    (C) 2004 National Strength and Conditioning Association














    Multiple sets produce 40% more hypertrophy:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20300012

    In conclusion, multiple sets are associated with 40% greater hypertrophy-related ESs than 1 set, in both trained and untrained subjects.
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  24. #24
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    I did DC style (1 hardcore working set) workouts for the 1st 3 months of this year. My strength went up, but not size. What it really did for me was get me out of a rut. When I went back to my routine I responded well.

    I agree with the earlier posters that as a newb, just about anything will work.
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  25. #25
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    Originally Posted by Manospeed View Post
    I think the question is more subjective than anything else. I mean think about it; You might have person A be able to do 1 rep at 260lbs only once and no more than 3 reps at 240lbs, but person B might be able to do 6 reps at 230lbs, but their max 1 rep is 240lbs. One person can lift more, while the other person can lift less for more time.

    I have read a scientific study though that stated from a purely gains point of view 1 set is more than enough to stimulate muscle growth. So doing 3, 4, or 5 sets doesn't necessarily benefit you as much as once might imagine.

    Me personally I'll do 4-5 sets per exercise

    Set 1 (warmup 15-20 reps -light weight)
    Set 2 (increase weight 10-12 reps)
    Set 3 (increase weight 8-10 reps)
    Set 4 (increase weight 6 reps)
    Set 5 (Optional 6 reps same weight as set 4)
    I tend to follow this method. My reasoning is that I get a little of both schools of thought. Occassionally, I'll throw in drop sets. Since I'm a noob I know that I could do just about anything and get results.
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  26. #26
    Registered User JerryB's Avatar
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    Thanks, Ironwill2008 for the references.
    You would think if one set is superior to multiple sets , then it would be the approach used by a majority of professional bodybuilders natural or otherwise.
    How can you visualize the training of a muscle if you don't know its structure?
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  27. #27
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    I really enjoyed reading your responses and arguments for going one method or the other etc A credit to you all for the intelligent and thoughtful discussion

    I have been lifting for two years now. I joined the gym a month ago, which dramatically increased the number of exercises I could do with the added benefit of being able to increase weights further than I could at home. So far the 1 set, low reps has worked well for me. If it starts getting easy or I decide I want to work a bodypart harder I add more weight. If I get a lot of muscle soreness I rest that part but do more work on the others. I have been finding I am getting stronger and whilst I'm not aiming for a competition level body I'm happy with the results.

    I agree, there comes a point where the body fully adapts and that is where I just whack on extra weight. The quads have been my main focus this past month, I play around with extra reps and weight. Again, it works for me since I work the whole body each day(1 1/2hrs work), if I were to change to extra sets/exercise I would need to break the week up into bodyparts. Maybe one day I will try it

    This discussion shows that both methods have their place depending on your circumstances, where you are starting from and even what you're goals may be. I have been lifting for awhile but did not know the science behind it, hence the noob status. Having learned that we are basically ripping muscle fibres, their recovery brings about added strength and growth. With that in mind, it made sense to me that any work you do that causes this process to take place is working to your advantage. Cool huh?
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