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  Click here to go to the first staff post in this thread.   Thread: Body of evidence; single or multiple sets

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    Default Body of evidence; single or multiple sets

    I've whacked this in here not because it has anything to do with powerlifting more so with just strength training as in hard workouts to improve strength , flexibility and muscle size which is a byproduct of strength but that's another topic.

    over the past 40 years more than 50 studies have compared the strength building effects of one set with those to multiple sets.
    some research favored two or three sets and some favored single sets as superior but the vast majority of studies revealed no significant differences between doing one set and doing multiple.

    They were all equally effective

    For all these studies to be effective and make sense would have to apply similar repetitions and define momentary muscular fatigue identically for which I don't think this happened.

    what does this mean to you and why do you justify multiple set protocol?


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    Not having ever been interested in pure strength training, I may not be qualified to have much of an opinion but here it is anyway.

    Strength is primarily determined by neural efficiency. Neural efficiency is developed through repetition. Multiple sets equals more repetition equals more cns conditioning equals more strength adaption.

    Multiple sets will also result in increased training volume which should increase cross sectional area of the muscle which is proven to be proportionate to force generation i.e. strength.

    I'm surprised that single set training can even get close to the same result of multiple sets.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Goosey View Post
    some research favored two or three sets and some favored single sets as superior...
    That in itself is cancellation through elimination. In other words (and without having to delve into which research favoured what), the mere fact that the results were not conclusive, nullifies all these studies.

    but the vast majority of studies revealed no significant differences between doing one set and doing multiple.
    That is great news for lifters (and coaches) who live by studies, I am not one of those.

    They were all equally effective
    More reason to be suspicious.

    what does this mean to you and why do you justify multiple set protocol?
    I justify a multiple set protocol because that's what has been working in real life (with real lifters) since day one. Why would a sane lifter put himself through hell in order to make progress, when he could just as easily apply the one set method and get his training over and done with.

    In my response to your post Andy, I've chosen a totally different approach from the norm. That is (as is evident) by my reply, I've kept it real. No science, no fancy words, no "this research or this Doctor of physiology etc. says so", nothing like that. If a single set works, Olympic weightlifters world wide would have jumped onto that scientific discovery, but it obviously doesn't. And it doesn't for many more reasons than just one.

    This whole thing reminds me a bit of a muscle contraction. We've all seen those commercials where someone (usually a scientist/doctor/"expert"), is trying to sell us a machine that causes our muscles to contract, without having to do any work. No one is even talking about one set or multiple sets here, not even a weight to be lifted or an arm to move from point a to point b no. Simply attach those probes and let them send those electrical impulses that cause a shock to our nerve endings and cause them to fire, sending a signal for a muscle fiber to contract. Oh, if it was so easy huh!

    So it's obvious from the above example re muscle contraction, that it takes more than simply muscle contraction to make a muscle stronger, bigger, or both. It takes stress, and not just stress, but stress that is applied either continuously (as in TUT), or stress that is applied multiple times as in a heavy set done multiple times.

    Let's look at real world training, both bodybuilding and strength/power orientated.

    In bodybuilding , you have two major camps, both (arrogantly) claim to have the holly grail when it comes to their method of training. On the one hand you've got the high volume camp, and on the other hand you've got the high intensity group. Yet when it comes to the topic of this OP, both of this camps would agree on multiple sets to get the job done.

    Moving on to Olympic weightlifting, you've also got two camps, one following the former Soviet Union method of periodisation based on the lifter's 1RM, whilst the other camp following the Bulgarian system where your 1RM is based on your daily's 1RM, applying what is now termed as self-autoregulation, and maintaining that only the two competition lifts are to be performed, with only one strength specific exercise for assistance work, namely the formant squat. Again we see an agreement between this two vastly different camps, where more than just the one set is applied in training to get the job done. Even if the lifter is restricting himself to single lifts, he does a multiple sets of that single lift, over and over again for about 6x/day 6x/week (if you're a Bulgarian or a Bulgarian system follower) as i am (in favour of over the Russian system). But that's another topic.

    Point is, with all these diversities, all agree on a multiple set over a single set method.
    Last edited by Fadi; 15-01-2017 at 11:14 AM.
    1984 Age 18, BW 73kg: FS195kg, BS200kg, 162.5 3x10, PC 140kg, C&J 160kg. 1987 Age 22, BW 77kg BS 130kg x20, 120kg x50.


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    I would probably justify doing multiple sets purely for the purpose of skills building. I don't think it matters what program, sets/reps etc...
    As long as you are going hard and heavy, largely doing compound exercises, eating and sleeping....you will make progress.
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    The thing is though that it's all a bit ambiguous isn't it, when you say one set what does that mean?
    What sort of set, how long a set, what type of set, is it just straight reps or a prolonged set, how many reps and so on.

    I also ask myself, is there a person on the planet who can muster up enough intensity from one single set and do it effectively?



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    It's all a matter of volume isn't it. The more advanced a trainee is the more volume they can utilise. One set might me effective for a rookie briefly but they will outgrow that. Plus if the volume wasn't equated in the studies it's comparing apples and bananas.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darkoz View Post
    The thing is though that it's all a bit ambiguous isn't it, when you say one set what does that mean?
    What sort of set, how long a set, what type of set, is it just straight reps or a prolonged set, how many reps and so on.

    I also ask myself, is there a person on the planet who can muster up enough intensity from one single set and do it effectively?
    You bring up an important point Darkoz. For example, I could load a bar with 60% of my 1RM squat and hammer away 50 reps in a single set. The question then becomes, how long did that set take to complete and why? And was there any benefit derived from doing those 50 reps? The answer, and I can give one because I've done it, is that that type of set is extremely beneficial as far as muscle hypertrophy is concerned. But then, how long did that set take to complete, and can we call it one set, or a multiple set condensed into the one large 50 rep set?

    The first 10 reps are done non stop whatsoever. Then things slow down accordingly. So by the time the last 10 reps are done, the lifter is taking about 5 seconds of breathing between each rep. Would that be now classified as a rest-paused set or not? I haven't let go of the bar yet, as it's still resting on my trapezius muscles. And we know that that in itself is taxing on ones whole body (and nervous system). So here we are, one set, extended beyond the time a normal set of 10 reps is done, but it is still just one set, or is it?

    I personally haven't come across any study done using 60% of 1RM for a total of 50 reps, doing a compound movement such as the squat. I can say it works, but is it sustainable? Absolutely not! What does that mean ultimately? It means we stick with multiple sets to produce the results we require, because these multiple sets (when all is equal), do produce results based entirely on/and due to their inherent multiplicity/repetitiveness.
    Last edited by Fadi; 15-01-2017 at 01:58 PM.
    1984 Age 18, BW 73kg: FS195kg, BS200kg, 162.5 3x10, PC 140kg, C&J 160kg. 1987 Age 22, BW 77kg BS 130kg x20, 120kg x50.


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    Quote Originally Posted by D1cko View Post
    I would probably justify doing multiple sets purely for the purpose of skills building. I don't think it matters what program, sets/reps etc...
    As long as you are going hard and heavy, largely doing compound exercises, eating and sleeping....you will make progress.
    This is it. We can all fuck around with the 1% details but it's bullshit for us shit kicker gym rats. Do the big exercises. Put the effort in. Progression. That's the 99% of it.


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    Whether you're a "shit kicker gym rat" or not, you've got to do multiple sets if your aim is continuous progress, or at least progress to an elite level. I've yet to see or hear of a single Olympic weightlifter anywhere in the world who has gotten anywhere in his lifting career, basing his lifting on this one set method. Sure it may exist, but only in two places: dreamland, and some lab somewhere. In real life, there is no such thing as making full progress whilst relying on some hard ass one set compound movement exercise, it matters not how damn hard that set is. As I wrote above, the harder that set (since you'd be relying on only doing one set), the more you'd be pushed into the ground due to CNS exhaustion. It's that simple.

    Not here to convince anyone one way or the other. Try it for yourself and see how far you'll go.
    1984 Age 18, BW 73kg: FS195kg, BS200kg, 162.5 3x10, PC 140kg, C&J 160kg. 1987 Age 22, BW 77kg BS 130kg x20, 120kg x50.


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    Problem with just doing big lifts week after week, year after year is it takes it's toll on the joints.
    I prefer to train smarter these days if I wanna train for years to come.
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