T Nation

Fewer Exercises with More Sets?

Hi Ct,

In order to not have any redundant movements in a session, I was thinking about the difference between -

4 different exercises each going to one top set to failure


2 exercises each going to two sets to failure (one being in 6-10 range the other 10-15)

My thinking is that why not hammer fewer movements more to get better at them. Chest for example - if you’re doing a incline dumbbell press and then a machine fly - what movement of the chest muscle are you missing ? Why would you need any more exercises, instead of wasting volume on 2 more movements why not add the volume to the bread and butter lifts.

The only reason I could think to have more movements would be if one doesn’t have a strong mind muscle connection in the said muscle and so an addition of an isolation lift might be helpful.

Thanks as always
Thoughts ?

I used to believe exactly the same thing. And to some extent I still do.

And the theory is sound.

However there are two factors you must consider:

  1. Some people prefer more variety. For these people, doing fewer exercises might be boring, killing their motivation and thus leading to a decrease in focus/intensity and less results.

  2. There is something to be said about variety when using lower reps (not 1-5, more like 6-8) and focusing on muscle damage to stimulate growth. One of the main factors when it comes to stimulating muscle damage is bad intramuscular coordination between the fibers in a muscle, especially during the eccentric. The unever load distribution and asynchronious fiber action leads to more muscle tearing. That’s why you get sore more easily when you do a new exercise. The more efficient you are at a lift, the less muscle damage it creates. On the other hand, when using other pathways for growth (fiber fatigue, lactate accumulation, mTOR activation) variety likely matters less.


In that case why not have the first compound lift remain for 8-13 weeks, and have the next isolation or machine movement hangs every session (or change the methods used)

That’s pretty much how I program 90% of the time