Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

about us





Training muscle group with 3 sets more effective than with 1 set

Training muscle group with 3 sets more effective than with 1 set
Arthur Jones, the godfather of the High-Intensity approach to strength training, is probably turning in his grave. Sports scientists at Juntendo University in Japan have published the results of a human study which shows that strength athletes are better off training a muscle group with three sets than with one.

Less is more is the credo of the High-Intensity approach endorsed by people like Arthur Jones and Mike Mentzer. In a nutshell: train as little as possible, but as intensively as possible. In the High-Intensity approach you train a muscle group preferably with just one set, and do as many reps as you can. Itís called the single-set principle.

Although several studies have shown that this method works, there are many more studies in which multi-set workouts give better results than single-set ones. Canadian researchers have demonstrated that three sets work better than one and American sports scientists reported a decade ago about the added value of a workout routine consisting of six sets. The Japanese study, which was published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, can be added to the stack.

The Japanese did an experiment with eight male subjects who were in their mid-twenties and untrained. The subjects trained their biceps twice a week for a period of 12 weeks, doing seated dumbbell preacher curls. After warming up, the subjects trained one arm by doing one set and the other arm by doing three sets. This enabled the researchers to exclude the genetic variation factor.

The figure below shows that the maximal strength increased most in the biceps that the men trained with three sets. The added value of the three-sets approach only became clear after eight weeks of training.

Training muscle group with 3 sets more effective than with 1 set

Training muscle group with 3 sets more effective than with 1 set

The figure above shows that the men's muscle mass also increased more in the biceps they trained with three sets.

The post-workout lactic acid level rose by more in the three-sets biceps than in the one-set biceps. Reading between the lines the researchers seem to suggest that they have an idea about the mechanism behind this effect that would explain why three sets cause more hypertrophy than one set, but the article remains vague on the matter.

"Based on our results, we recommend that personal trainers and fitness professionals use 3 sets as a starting point for sedentary untrained individuals", the researchers conclude.

J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Jan;27(1):8-13.

More progression with 8 sets of squats than with 1 or 4 sets 19.02.2012
You build up more strength with 6 sets than with 1 set 06.09.2010
Three sets builds more muscle than one set 15.07.2010