One All Out Set or Several Sets with the Same Weight

As it’s Xmas I’ve been doing too much reading on the internet (which I’m aware is dangerous) and I’ve read a lot about ‘proper’ bodybuilding programmes working up to one main big set.

While I’m aware that DC and 531 etc do this, all the meadows programmes I’ve been looking at have several top sets.

I’m currently looking for a new upper/ lower programme and couldn’t really decide if I was looking for a programme with a top set or one with several straight sets.

Just wanted to get some opinions on 1 all out set vs straight sets for bodybuilding purposes.

I’ve been running 531 as the main lift with bodybuilding accessory work but I’ve felt the first two 531 sets don’t really add to hypertrophy and in my mind (maybe incorrectly) are basically warm up sets. Although I was waiting 2 minutes between each sets.

Conversely running some straight sets seems like I’d get more bang for my buck in terms of time as I’d get three good sets rather than one.

Maybe I was resting too long on the 1st and second set or maybe I’m just over thinking everything but I’ve read too much internet information over Xmas and am in need of an 8 week new programme to start next week and feel like I’m going to create my own upper lower which is probably a terrible idea.

Sorry for the rambling but, one all out set or straight sets for BB, and if so what rest periods.

Secondly any good upper lower programmes kicking around?

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Do you still have strength goals in certain movements? If so, then getting more exposure to them should still be important to you. I believe the power in the 1 top set bodybuilding programs is the opportunity to have a more varied exercise selection. Also allows for more targeted work but you’ll be giving up some specific movement strength.

Sounds to me like you just need to give C.Thibs triple progression with straight sets a whirl which’ll give you the freedom to build the rest of the template around the bodybuilding stuff.

Read “Triple Progression Model” dropdown on this article. Just change the rep zones a bit if you want a more hypertrophy-based phase (you don’t need to go as low as 2-4, or even 4-6).


I think this comes down to preference. Both work as long other aspects like volume and frequency are right for you, so which do you enjoy doing the most? Which have you had most success with in the past?

Ive been doing JPs full body routine thats 1 all out set per exercise and its working amazingly. In his upper lower split its 1 all out top set followed by a back off set, which would be a good middle ground.


531 actually is a classic high volume straight set approach except for the one amrap set, which is not intended to be close to failure, but to stop as soon as the barspeed slows down so most times it would be like 2-3 reps short of failure.
All other 531 work is high volume straight sets of 5x10 of most stuff. Most people think 531 is just doing the 531 sets. If you actually read the books you will see that after 531 sets there are like 3-7 exercises done for 3-5 sets of 10-20 reps.

For hypertrophy it is a scientific consensus that straight sets are better, and volume is the primary driver of hypertrophy.
The only studies that show that a single all out set produced more hypertrophy was low volume studies that basically compared an all out set vs a set with reps left in the tank.
If you compare 1 set vs 5 sets, no matter how awesome is the 1 set, 5 sets always produce more. Even if not taken nowhere near failure.

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@cdep89 yea still have strength goals but they are only goals because I believe (maybe incorrectly) that to be big you have to be able to lift big (at higher rep ranges).

I guess by changing my programming too much I’m in risk of not going through on my 52 week idea (hmmm).

I really like the triple progression thing and started drafting a programme around it. But after reading it through I realised there is a reason people get paid to do that. I’d always advise people not to create their own and there I was doing it.

@kd13 I’ve actually made good progress on both but I’d say I’ve stalled more on straight sets compared to ramping ones.

I ran a DC style programme before and made some great progress on it but the more I read about effective reps and total weekly sets etc just makes me think (mainly incorrectly) that it’s not enough volume.

Regarding the JP upper/ lower programme, where did you see it? I found one but in my head I can’t see how so little volume would work. Body parts seem to get around 4-5 weekly sets which seems half of what is needed.

Also the programme I’ve found, some of the exercise names are slightly vague. Like ‘incline barbell’

Is that a press I assume?

531 is not a hypertrophy-centric program. And actually, the accessory movements of that program (depending on which version you’re doing) are more about hypertrophy than the main lifts. Meadows wrote programs specifically for bodybuilding. So if bodybuilding is truly your only concern, I’d go with a meadows program, particuarly if you’re already an experienced lifter with a decent ‘base’. I still love 531, and can make both strength and hypertrophy gains running it, but if I was SOLELY concerned with appearance, that’s not the approach I would take.

I’m not as familiar with DC training, but DC training IS oriented around bodybuilding, right? So that could ultimately be a good way to go as well, if you happen to like the ‘one big set’ idea, but also are mostly concerned with hypertrophy.

Context matters. Working up to one big set on a particular lift isn’t inherently better or worse for hypertrophy. So many other factors come into play. Many things can work.


No, it is not.


Its this series of videos. If you have the time i highly recommend you watch from the first vid.

Its defo enough, intensity and frequency is high plus some crossover of body parts due to mostly compound exercises. Its working a treat for me.


Mechanical tension and maximum recoverable volume of it. Yes it is. You already was stupid in similar discussion and even after that you didnt care to study absolutely anything on the topic.


I so wanted to give JPs full body a bash however it looks like you’d be in the gym for hours?

The sessions are a little longer than i like but im still done within an hour on most days. The way the exercises are ordered you tend to not need many if any warm up sets on the rest of the push, so my first exercise being bench, i would do 5,4,3,2 reps, as my warm ups then into the main set. Next would be high incline dbs, 1 warm up of 3 reps the straight to the working sets. Then dips and side laterals no warm ups needed. Would warm up, 5,4,3,2 style again when moving onto back, then again for legs. I admit i drop the calf work!


Very interesting mate. Cheers!

Also running it and more often than not get done in 60 mins, but I too tend to skip the calf and sometimes ab work. I think 1:30 rest between warm up sets is advised in the video, which I don’t find necessary, otherwise you could be in the gym some time…

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