Feb 6, 2002

How Many Sets Per Exercise?

February 6 "There's a difference between knowing the path and walking the path." -Morpheus...The Matrix

How Many Sets Per Exercise?


StrongerAthletes.com realizes that multiple set training can produce strength gains in our athletes. However, one set per exercise is also a very beneficial method of training, assuming an athlete is warmed-up properly. In an article written by Ken Mannie, "High-volume or High Intensity," research is sited from R.N. Carpinelli and R.M. Otto. The investigation involved 35 studies comparing single-set to multi-set strength programs. The results indicated 33
of the 35 studies showed no significant difference in strength or muscular size between the single-set and multi-set groups.

Carpenelli did a follow-up review of 12 studies with same results. Mannie concludes, "The fact that 45 of the 47 [groups] indicate that the single-set training is just as effective as multi-set strength training is compelling evidence for the efficacy of the single-set protocol." In other words it should not be thought of as outrageous to use single-sets as opposed to multiple-sets in stregth programs.

The research sited by Mannie is current research. It shows that the more efficient method would be the single-set approach. One of StrongerAthletes.com's goals is to provide an efficient strength training program. As we have stated before, an athlete at the high school and college level has a very busy schedule. That is why we believe that coaches owe it to their athletes to provide the most efficient training program possible.

Matt Brzycki, in his article "Is One set Enough?" explains, "Remember, the most efficient program is one that produces the maximum possible results in the least amount of time. After all, why perform several sets of an exercise when you can obtain similar results from one set in a fraction of the time?"

Intensity is another factor that should be addressed. Brzycki illustrates, "In order to train at a reasonably high level of intensity, you must train for a relatively brief period of time. So, increasing the number of sets or exercises that you do will add to your training time and actually lower your intensity level." [See "Efficiency"] Brzycki continues, "In fact, numerous research studies have shown that there are no significant differences when performing either one, two or three sets of an exercise provided,of course, that one set is done with an appropriate level of intensity (i.e. to the point of muscular failure)."

The only exception that should be made is the athlete at the Beginner level of training. This phase may last a significant amount of time depending on the athlete. StrongerAthletes.com believes that this athlete should perform more sets to develop efficient neural pathways. Once these learning patterns are developed then the beginner can reduce their amount of sets. in other words, look at the multiple sets as practice as well as a warm-up. However, use only the last set to measure strength development.

Mannie points out, "Science has not been able to define an exact number of sets to be performed," but in the meantime is appears that one is as good as three. If any coach would like to share their thought on sets send it to us and we'll post 'em-up!

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