One Set, Two Sets, or Three Sets to Failure?

Hello everyone,

I am curious if anyone has tried going into concentric failure for more than one set? I remember in one of Dr. Darden’s books, Arthur Jones had Sergio do three sets into failure. According to Chris Beardsley, his believes that train individuals should go into at least two sets of failure.

The Rest-Pause method is quite literally 1 ‘set’ where you go to failure, rest 10-15 breaths, go to failure again, rest 10-15 breaths, then go to failure for the last time. Many people (myself included) have done phenomenally with this method, and this is one of the foundation principles in DoggCrapp training by Dante Trudel.

I think the argument of someone being able to take the same weight, and only lift it 10 times, but being able to do that for 3 sets without hitting failure - is likely improbable. Chances are if you did it 3x at max effort - you’re not hitting 10 reps each time.


I have read about DC training but haven’t tried it out yet. What exercises did you end up performing with DC training if you could recall? Did you end up doing the weighted stretches after lifting?

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Tons of guys here had success following this guys routines which is basically ramping up to(mainly) two sets to failure

Dorian Yates recommended people start off with a two sets to failure template( and every 6-8 weeks back off/not to failure). He only moved to one set once had a substantial strength base.


I have been reading about it for a couple weeks (I’ve been interested for a few years, just didn’t have a reason to change programming until recently). I plan to start up this coming week. Haven’t done loaded stretches yet, but I will consider/adjust programming maybe 4-6 weeks in as this is the supposed mesocycle.

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Nice! I have always seen the Blood N Guts routine from Dorian Yates was single sets to failure. This is new information. I still like the full body routines from Dr. Darden but I might break down into an A/B pattern.

Damn man! Looking at those stats, you’re stronger than me. Let me know how it goes if you get to it. Did you do Bigger but Boring program from Jim Welder?

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Thank you. I’ve never truly followed someone else’s program because I was an egotistical moron who thought I knew more than people with degrees in this stuff. Nevertheless, I pushed my way through years of training via experimentation, trial and error, and doing my best to out-work the people around me. Not the smartest move on my part, but I did alright… still, I could have done better spending some money on a legitimate trainer early on.
To answer your question, no - i’ve never tried Big but Boring, or really any other true ‘program’, just a few body part splits with emphasis on heavy lifts.


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Used to take the Yates/Mentzer style approach of doing a light and then medium set before a final all out heavy set to failure, and then taking ten seconds and doing rest pause.

After watching an old Dr Darden video on Youtube I will now do only one single set of an exercise for the sake of efficiency. I’ll use a weight which is around 70-75% of my max and perform reps at a 4/4 cadence until failure (I understand this isn’t necessarily an approach Dr. Darden would himself utilise, especially these days from what I can gather about 30-10-30, Extreme HIT etc which I hope to look into more in the near future). Again, I will occasionally utilise rest pause, the omni-contraction method or cluster sets depending on the exercise. The point is though, if you’ve actually(!) taken one set to failure, then it follows that it shouldn’t be physically possible to perform a second set of that exercise. Have personally found this approach to successful.

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Find that whether additional sets are necessary depends on the exercise or type of work you are doing, really.

If you are doing strict isolation work, such as on machines which I generally prefer these days, then I’d say it’s usually fine to jump into one all out set. However for compound exercises which involve more small ancillary muscles, then it’s going to be optimal to do at least a few warmups.

To the OP’s question, you don’t need to train to failure. Two to three sets of an exercise (or even body part) works well short of failure.

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Regarding effective reps. John Christy basic routines called for 2 sets 5 reps not to , but close to faulure. That would be about 10 effective reps as per Chris Beardsley article posted above.

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Can only speak for myself, however, I can say hand on heart that I’ve never found anything less than training failure to work for me.

Discovering Yates then Mentzer and reading his book ‘High Intensity Training the Mike Mentzer Way,’ was eye opening and finally started getting me results e.g I could never grow my chest, and within a few months of applying the HIT principles I added 3 inches to it. From there, I learned of Arthur Jones and Dr. Darden. His book ‘The New High Intensity’ was also very informative and eye-opening and has subsequently lead me here. I understand that Dr. Darden now says and correct me if I’m wrong, training just shy of failure could well be adequate (I aim to look further into his more recent works).

I can add that I share your experience from HIT. Also, when doing 4/4 cadence I recommend going closer to failure - but not beyond. It’s remarkable how less weight you can move for reps, compared to regular bro reps.

Please see my other posts of combining Dr Darden’s different routines (4/4, 30-30-30 and 30-10-30) for variation against adaptation.

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Can you please provide the reference for Dorian Yates recomendation.


Blood and guts videos on youtube where Dorian trains Kris Gethin shows 3 sets in first and may be1 set in last excercise e.g. in bi Curl and in between all excercises have 2 sets.

Dorian Yates believed in having warm up sets before the working set. The working set was suppose to be the last set taken to failure.