T Nation

All You Need Is One Set?

This article surprised me. What’s your reaction?
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/strength-training/AN00893

Oh, crap! A can of worms has just been opened.

I LOVE the one set to failure (and beyond periodically).

I don’t think it’s optimal for powerlifting but I do know that Dr. Ken Leistner has quite a few record-holding PL’ers under his tutilage.

It’s MUCH more intense than “tiring” a muscle at 12 reps. We’re talking 15-30 reps squats (20 reps using a 10rm) and training to failure on each exercise. Not just “tired” but where the bar wont move no matter what you do.

If you’ve never taken a high-rep set of squats to the point of failure then
hit heavy pullovers, presses, chins, dips, shrugs, curls and finally a high rep set of deadlifts 'till failure in 30 minutes, you haven’t experienced serious discomfort.

I do One maximal set all the time on ME day after all my warm ups ramping up to the max attempt but its that one set that counts the others are just JUNK sets

Phill

[quote]derek wrote:
Oh, crap! A can of worms has just been open.

[/quote]

More like Pandora’s Box…

It depends a lot on how you define strength. If you are talking about lifting very heavy weights (as on Olifting or powerlifting) then strength is as much a skill as a matter of how much muscle you have. Like all skills, the more you practice, the better you get.

However, the tradeoff is that if you lift heavy weight (over 90% 1RM) too much, you overload your nervous system. So the trick is to balance the two. Hence most powerlifters and Olifters work up to a heavy double or triple, occasionally a single on their heavy days, then “grease the groove” with multiple low rep sets with lighter weights on their light days.

[quote]Phill wrote:
I do One maximal set all the time on ME day after all my warm ups ramping up to the max attempt but its that one set that counts the others are just JUNK sets

Phill[/quote]

Phil I don’t know how you can call them junk sets. It’s important to strain w/ max weights but accumulating tonnage is important for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is grooving technique and adding mechanical work to build muscle.

[quote]Ramo wrote:
Phill wrote:
I do One maximal set all the time on ME day after all my warm ups ramping up to the max attempt but its that one set that counts the others are just JUNK sets

Phill

Phil I don’t know how you can call them junk sets. It’s important to strain w/ max weights but accumulating tonnage is important for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is grooving technique and adding mechanical work to build muscle. [/quote]

Yes but in the end I/your really only using those pre sets top get warm and ready for the Last maximal set to give your all. On the ones prior I called junk sets I am not giving everything Im getting ready for the real work.

Yes they are needed and important, but at the end of the day the One set that matters is the last in an ME type format that One big push/pull etc. But yes those other sets mainly the ones in the 80-90% range do add to you getting new PR’s etc.

Phill

I just started using Ellington Darden’s foundational program from his new book, and so far I’m very pleased. My strength has gone up by at least 2 reps each workout, but again, I’ve only just started 2 weeks ago. We’ll see what happens. I definitely feel this one set to failure thing will, at the very least, be a viable option to go to in the future when my life gets crazy.

It entails one set to failure of 9 exercises per session, anywhere from 3 times per week to only once.

I agree completely with whoever posted above about the serious discomfort of 8-10 sets to complete failure, particularly if you start it off with squats or deadlifts.

[quote]Phill wrote:
Ramo wrote:
Phill wrote:
I do One maximal set all the time on ME day after all my warm ups ramping up to the max attempt but its that one set that counts the others are just JUNK sets

Phill

Phil I don’t know how you can call them junk sets. It’s important to strain w/ max weights but accumulating tonnage is important for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is grooving technique and adding mechanical work to build muscle.

Yes but in the end I/your really only using those pre sets top get warm and ready for the Last maximal set to give your all. On the ones prior I called junk sets I am not giving everything Im getting ready for the real work.

Yes they are needed and important, but at the end of the day the One set that matters is the last in an ME type format that One big push/pull etc. But yes those other sets mainly the ones in the 80-90% range do add to you getting new PR’s etc.

Phill

[/quote]

you gotta remember, Phill is trains like a powerlifter.

[quote]Professor Chaos wrote:
I agree completely with whoever posted above about the serious discomfort of 8-10 sets to complete failure, particularly if you start it off with squats or deadlifts.[/quote]

That was me.

I have a hard time listening to people who say this training doesn’t “work”. I’ve done this for probably 75% of my training time and I weigh almost 260 again (after some down-time recently). And I train twice per week for 30 minutes. Of course I come very close to vomiting each time but you get used to it.

The thing is that you have to push so hard that you don’t just “want” to hit the floor after the squats and deadlifts (and dips and chins), you can’t help it. I’m trying not to sound like a hardass here but in my experience very few people can handle it and I’ve been training clients for over 10 years.

[quote]That One Guy wrote:
Phill wrote:
Ramo wrote:
Phill wrote:
I do One maximal set all the time on ME day after all my warm ups ramping up to the max attempt but its that one set that counts the others are just JUNK sets

Phill

Phil I don’t know how you can call them junk sets. It’s important to strain w/ max weights but accumulating tonnage is important for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is grooving technique and adding mechanical work to build muscle.

Yes but in the end I/your really only using those pre sets top get warm and ready for the Last maximal set to give your all. On the ones prior I called junk sets I am not giving everything Im getting ready for the real work.

Yes they are needed and important, but at the end of the day the One set that matters is the last in an ME type format that One big push/pull etc. But yes those other sets mainly the ones in the 80-90% range do add to you getting new PR’s etc.

Phill

you gotta remember, Phill is trains like a powerlifter.[/quote]

I is trains like a powerlifter too bub, since I am a powerlifter.

And I don’t think I’m the only powerlifter who thinks total tonnage is an important factor. I just wouldn’t call sets ramping to a max “junk sets” since they are productive and important.

First off, the article did not state you have to go to failure and to be successful with one set training. What is important is that you need to progress. When you stop progressing, you decondition or deload to restart the anabolic stimulus. Only you can know when that time approaches. Formulas don’t work.

Sure, extra sets burn more calories and, yes, they do provide extra, though diminished, stimulus. However, unless you are training for competition or want to look like a trained competitor, the extra sets have such a huge diminishing return attached to them that they are not very EFFICIENT for hypertrophy when compared to the EFFECTIVENESS of that first set.

For the typical person who is training for overall aesthetics and heatlth, one set can be enough.

Your training program should be designed around your own personal goals…not what someone else does or does not do.

When I first started working out, I followed a one set scheme.
2 warmup sets, and one set to failure.
All failure sets were kept inbetween 6 - 10 reps.
I made fairly poor progress with this approach.

[quote]DanErickson wrote:
When I first started working out, I followed a one set scheme.
2 warmup sets, and one set to failure.
All failure sets were kept inbetween 6 - 10 reps.
I made fairly poor progress with this approach.[/quote]

Sorry but that is not a true “one set” scheme. That is a typical HIT routine.

[quote]Avoids Roids wrote:
DanErickson wrote:
When I first started working out, I followed a one set scheme.
2 warmup sets, and one set to failure.
All failure sets were kept inbetween 6 - 10 reps.
I made fairly poor progress with this approach.

Sorry but that is not a true “one set” scheme. That is a typical HIT routine.
[/quote]

Well, I know that I was doing more then one set, but that was to warm up. I didnt really count that.
What would be a 1 set scheme?

[quote]Avoids Roids wrote:
DanErickson wrote:
When I first started working out, I followed a one set scheme.
2 warmup sets, and one set to failure.
All failure sets were kept inbetween 6 - 10 reps.
I made fairly poor progress with this approach.

Sorry but that is not a true “one set” scheme. That is a typical HIT routine.
[/quote]

But at the same time a “true” HIT routine would have the person working so hard on that one set (after warmups) that they couldn’t possibly do another set.

If you study some of the original HIT advocates (Dr. Darden, Leistner, Kubik), you see just how hard that one set is supposed to be done. For example, you take a weight that you can get 10 reps in the squat. Then you do 30 reps. Sure, the first 10 will be hard and you’ll want to stop. But instead, you take a few deep breaths, and crank out another rep or two. Then, after more breaths you do more reps. You just keep going and going until you cannot possibly do another rep. By the time you’re done, you collapse on the floor (or puke or both) and have to rest for a while before moving onto your next exercise where you do the same thing.

I think most people who use HIT never truly do it the way it was meant to be done. Thus, the reason they say they don’t get any results. More than likely, they aren’t working hard enough. And few people truly want to work that hard.

I’ve read many articles by Ken Leistner (MILO magazine), and I never truly realized how intense his workouts were until now. I used to think his workouts were a joke because they only required a set or two. But now I realize just how hard those one or two sets are supposed to be.

I could not agree more Nate Dogg!

[quote]Nate Dogg wrote:
But at the same time a “true” HIT routine would have the person working so hard on that one set (after warmups) that they couldn’t possibly do another set.

If you study some of the original HIT advocates (Dr. Darden, Leistner, Kubik), you see just how hard that one set is supposed to be done. For example, you take a weight that you can get 10 reps in the squat. Then you do 30 reps. Sure, the first 10 will be hard and you’ll want to stop. But instead, you take a few deep breaths, and crank out another rep or two. Then, after more breaths you do more reps. You just keep going and going until you cannot possibly do another rep. By the time you’re done, you collapse on the floor (or puke or both) and have to rest for a while before moving onto your next exercise where you do the same thing.

I think most people who use HIT never truly do it the way it was meant to be done. Thus, the reason they say they don’t get any results. More than likely, they aren’t working hard enough. And few people truly want to work that hard.

I’ve read many articles by Ken Leistner (MILO magazine), and I never truly realized how intense his workouts were until now. I used to think his workouts were a joke because they only required a set or two. But now I realize just how hard those one or two sets are supposed to be.[/quote]

Exactly, very few people know what hard work is.

If I’m working on either max effort or repetition methods I rarely do more than a couple of sets after a thorough warm-up (shit, my warm-up is more work than most people I see in the gym doing).

I agree with many that have said very few people take that one set to the absolute limit. I looked but couldn’t find the source but I remember reading a while back that roughly 85% stimulation is achieved on the first maximal set to failure, 94% on the second and 97% on the third.

After thinking about this I wondered why not do 4 sets and shoot for 100% stimulation? The answer was that with each progressive set recovery ability declines progressively so while you may fatigue 100% you may only be able to recover from 30% of that.

This is an interesting article in the pro’s and con’s of one set training.

http://www.ihpfit.com/articles/article_detail.php?ArticleID=43
One set to failure or multiple sets?