Friday, September 14, 2007

How Many Sets?

Current Weight: 215 lbs
Body Fat: 30.2%
How Many Sets?

A common question for exercise is how many repetitions and how many sets. 10 and 3 are commonly bandied about numbers, but what is their basis, and is it factual? A single set of strength training exercises can build muscle as effectively as multiple sets. This has been reported in scientific literature for a number of years. But the "tradition" of three sets or more doesn't die easily.

In 1998, an analysis of multiple previous studies compared single-set and multiple-set strength training. Thirty-three out of 35 studies examined showed no significant difference between single sets and multiple sets in regard to strength gains or lean muscle mass increases. Another study found that using a weight sufficient to fatigue the muscle at about 12 repetitions is optimal stimulus for strength gain.

Based on this information, working the major muscle groups two to three times a week — doing a single set of each exercise — with a weight that tires the muscle at 12 repetitions is all most people need to do for an effective strength training program. While this is great news for people who have been spending too much time in the weight room doing three or more sets while working with weights, when doing isometrics, or dynamic tension exercises, 1 set of 12 repetitions is just not going to cut it.

For myself, 3 sets of 10 exercises is a simple enough formula, getting in enough exercise to reach muscle fatigue without taking too much time. If you reach muscle fatigue sooner, then do less repetitions, but for maximum muscle gain, be sure to exercise until you reach muscle fatigue.

With information from The Mayo Clinic.

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