How to use Multi Set Training?

I’ve been a one set to failure trainee for five years now. I’ve been satisfied with my results. Recently I have been shedding bodyfat and am in the last three weeks of an intense training/dieting phase. The third release of the “Mutation Series” by C. Thibaudeau intrigued me to try it. It looks like a good way to increase demands for this final run at my goal. Since I have never done more than one work set of any exercise, does one take all work sets to muscular failure or just the last set in the group?

OH Boy. Welcome to the site.

I wish I had a bit more time but I am sure others will come and fill the gaps for you. I just had to respond and try and help you.

In short NONE of the sets is to failure. You should be REALLY struggling to get the last rep but NOT fail.

Woprking to failure has its place, EVERY ONCE in a while in a short cycle, but do your self a favor and try NOT going to failure for a while and I am sure you will LOVE the Gains.

Just try and make an advancement everytime you go in the gym. Add 1 more rep or another few lbs.

Hope this helps and that others will chime in for ya.

Do a search also, plenty written onm this. One person I know that has written quite a bit on this is CW. You might look at some of his stuff.

Good luck and good training

[quote]Phill wrote:
-snip- In short NONE of the sets is to failure. You should be REALLY struggling to get the last rep but NOT fail.

Woprking to failure has its place, EVERY ONCE in a while in a short cycle, but do your self a favor and try NOT going to failure for a while and I am sure you will LOVE the Gains.

Just try and make an advancement everytime you go in the gym. Add 1 more rep or another few lbs.


I don’t understand Phill, whats wrong with going to failure?? (i am confused)

If you type “train to failure” into the search engine Ian King, C.S. Sloan, and others will tell you in detail.

Early in my training career I was a Mike Mentzer fan. He was still competing then (late 70s) and he really rocked the bodybuilding community with his training methods. He was a strong proponent of one set to failure and I tried his methods. In the 90s Dorian Yates had a similar training protocol.I can tell you from experience that once I dropped that “failure” bullshit and went to a moderate volume method of training, my gains skyrocketed.Do yourself a BIG favor and follow our advice. Don’t EVER go to failure.Try to improve in some way (increase your reps, increase the weight, shorten rest periods) and don’t go to failure. You will be amazed with your results.

Of all the questions I’ve wanted to find an answer to in the iron game, the failure question is till the one which I have never found a satisfactory answer to and the one on which you will hear so many different opinions, even here on T-Mag.

Useful articles to read include Louie Simmons “HIT or Miss?” and “The Importance of Volume”. These of course are aimed at powerlifters but I think bodybuilders would do well to listen to what powerlifters have got to say more often.

Also, I read an article by a guy called Casey Butt which was quite illuminating in the sense that it discussed different volumes and intensities of training and the different changes which take place within the body in response to each.

Another useful article is Ian King’s “Intensity vs Volume”, one of Christian Thibaudeau’s recent Modern Strength letters (which, if I remember right, referred to the IMPORTANCE of failure to get big, albeit not going to failure all of the time) and almost anything written by Chad Waterbury (a real volume fan).

One thing’s for sure you won’t get a concrete answer. The positive side of going to failure is that it recruits/exhausts the highest numbers of muscle fibres; the negative is that it is very demanding on the CNS.

The best solution is really to experiment to see what works for you. For example, try 5 sets with plenty left “in the tank” on each, for a while, then try 4 sets with less to spare (more intensity), and so on and so on until you get back to 1 set to failure and then start again.

Good luck.

Okay - so lets say I am doing bench press with dumbells and using 5 sets (including a warm up set)with 10 reps at 70 lb dumbells. On my last two sets I get around 8 reps on set 4 and 5 reps on set 5.

Should I drop the weight on the last two sets or should I drop the weight on all of them. This is the part I find confusing…

I try to get lots of volume in but on all of my excercises I usually fail on the last one or two sets.

Sounds like you need to read the workouts of this site and stick to one of them. These little questions are taken care of if you go off a set program.

Now to answer your question there are several different ways you can deal with not getting the prescribed number of reps for all 5 sets. As you said you can drop the weight on the last 2 sets, drop the overall weight, or just use the same weight for the next few workouts until you hit the all the reps then slightly increase the weight.

My advice would be to not train to failure, except when testing your strenght every 4 to 6 weeks. For years I adhered to the 1 set to failure Mentzer/HIT/Hardgainer theories and ended up using a consolidation routine once every 7 to 10 days. I finally woke up when I looked at my vacation pics last summer and I looked smooth and out of shape. Not only that but I ended up with high blood pressure. Nowadays I take a full body workout 3x a week, my intensity is about 70 to 80 percent each set. For example using my 10RM I will do 7 or 8 reps. I feel much better, look much better and I am never burned out. I am also getting bigger at 45 years old. I am also doing cardio 5 or 6 days a week, my blood pressure is under control. Most exercise physiologists agree you only have to train at 70 or 80 percent intensity most of the time for exercise to have beneficial effects on the body

Does any of you have enough scientific knowledge or proof , to answer my original question? I am not interested in what worked for you. I am interested in finding out what works for me. Any posts not addressing the proper way to utilize multiple set training are a waste of your time. I am requesting information from scientifically proven methods. Anyone? Anyone? Thanks Phil.

You may be looking to science but common sense over powers that often. Youve been doing the same thing for 5 years change will do you a world of good. Science shows the body adapts quickly, and also shows constantly going to failure strains the CNS.

I’m curious what kind of results have you gotten over the last 5 years?

here is a semi scientific reason not to train to failure all the time:

“By not going to failure and training to give enough stimulus for growth, but not so intense that you have to wait a week for recovery, you can squeeze in extra workouts and more opportunities to stimulate muscle growth. By not training to extreme failure, you also keep the nervous system from becoming overstressed, hindering recovery and the frequency that you can train (i.e. overtraining).”

Why not just pick a program on this site, and follow the author’s instructions? Notice the results from the training, then pick a new program. Here are some programs from this site
If you keep trying different programs, and noticing the results, I think you’ll eventually find what works better/best for you through trial and error.
Here’s Ian King’s opinion on failure:

Here?s another one that takes most bodybuilders a while to accept: you don?t have to train to failure to grow. This relates to overtraining as well. In a nutshell, the average guy can?t train to failure and beyond (forced reps, etc.) without overtaxing his system and halting his progress in the gym.

Some coaches would tell you not to train to failure at all. Coach King has a better idea. Based on his vast experience in the real world, Ian suggests you only train to failure or near failure about once every three weeks. Since most of Ian?s programs involve three week cycles within a larger twelve week plan, this make perfect sense.

Here?s how it works. Let?s say you?ve planned out your training for the next tree weeks. You?ll be using the same exercises and generally the same reps ranges, tempos and rest periods. On week one, you concentrate on perfect form and leave a few reps “in the hole” at the end of each set. If your goal is to get eight reps with a certain weight, use a weight that you can actually lift 10 or 11 times.

On week two you get a little closer to failure, but still fall a rep or two short. Finally, on week three, Ian allows you to go all out and train to failure. He?ll still tell you that forced reps (where you train beyond failure with the use of a partner) are counterproductive for most natural lifters and that such techniques are to be used only on a limited basis and within a periodized plan.

Hope this helps.

I think the majority hit it, what works for me might not work for you. I change workouts every four weeks and even while I am on the same program I switch something about each workout i.e. going to failure, negatives, tempo, hand positions, etc. Variety is the spice of life and without it growth can become stagnant as well.

Thanks everyone. For the record, I am onweek 1 of “Mutation III”. Ouch! Hamstrings feel like they took a napalm injection. Stll trying to learn to not go all out.