How Many Sets?

by Steven

The latest "Position Stand" published by the reputable American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) states that "Most individuals respond favorably (e.g., hypertrophy and strength gains) to two to four sets of resistance exercises per muscle group, but even a single set of exercise may significantly improve muscle strength and size, particularly in novice exercisers.


"The target number of sets per muscle group can be achieved with a single exercise or by using a combination of more than one exercise movement (e.g., two sets of shoulder press and two sets of lateral raises)."

Do you find the ACSM position in conflict with your recommendation of performing one hard set of one exercise for optimal results?

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One Set Workouts
by: Lee

For most people - i.e., those trainees with average muscle building ability - one set of an exercise is enough to improve strength and muscle size. Why is this number so important? Since each set provides a negative inroad into a person's recovery ability, performing multiple sets can quickly lead to symptoms of overtraining.

A study published in 2003 in the periodical Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (a journal of the same reputable American College of Sports Medicine) supports this claim.

The study compared 42 people who had been performing a one set weight training workout three-times-per-week for one year. During the study, half of the group were asked to increase their sets from one set to three sets per exercise. What did they find? When results were analyzed 13 weeks later, both groups showed similar improvements in size, strength and endurance - in effect, the results were statistically the same.

This means, the people who trained with one set achieved equivalent gains using a fraction of the effort.

In view of these findings, it would appear performing more sets is ineffective and unnecessary.


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