T Nation

One Set vs. Multiple Sets

Some people believe that one set done with maximum intensity is all that is needed to stimulate growth. however, if a second set is added will it further deplete the muscle and cause the body to stimulate more growth? and if one set is indeed ideal for stimulating growth then why not train with one set of low reps and one set of high reps (per bodypart)in order to stimulte the two major types of muscle fibers? i would like to hear from people who use the “HIT” method as well as people who use several sets and reps per bodypart.

I believe the idea behind HIT is that if you train the first set with enough intensity, then you will not gain anything more with the second set, other than compromising your recovery ability.

In other words, work “hard enough” on the first set, and you have stressed the muscles enough for maximum effect, and any further work would only compromise recovery. If you recover faster, you get back in the gym sooner, to do it again.

[quote]michaelv wrote:
I believe the idea behind HIT is that if you train the first set with enough intensity, then you will not gain anything more with the second set, other than compromising your recovery ability.

In other words, work “hard enough” on the first set, and you have stressed the muscles enough for maximum effect, and any further work would only compromise recovery. If you recover faster, you get back in the gym sooner, to do it again.[/quote]

do you train using “HIT” principles?
i would assume that using high intensity and low reps would work the fast twitch muscle fibers but wouldnt it be better to exhaust both types of fibers? has anybody tried using only two sets per body part? doing one set to work each type of muscle fiber.

I have, but I’ve been doing this stuff for less than a year, so don’t take me as some expert.

On the other hand, since I’m still fairly new at this, I have been devouring all the information I can get, so am learning the different philosophies.

I believe I received some benefit from HIT, though I also believe I stagnated after doing it for awhile. Once again, though, I am a beginner, so there are lots of other things going on at the same time.

I am currently starting the second week of The Waterbury Method, which is almost the opposite. So far, the results are positive. I certainly feel like I’m working!

I understand the concepts behind each approach, and each makes sense in its own way. It’s also important to understand that different physiques will differently to the various approaches, so there isn’t one that is best for everyone. To take that even further, if you’ve been doing something for a long time, you might benefit from something different just because you’re mixing things up.

To understand the ideas behind HIT, I would recommend at least searching for the forum topic on Ellington Darden’s book “The New High Intensity Training”, if not getting the book itself. If nothing else, it is VERY entertaining to read. He’s a story teller, and has a lot of stories to tell.

Mix that in with posts by the excellent people on T-Nation, especially the excellent thread on The Science of 10x3.

If I remember right, there was and old 2-set type training done back in the 70s or so.

You would do a heavy set in the 6-rep range and then immediately do another set of the same exercise for 20 reps.

I tried it for a short while but gave up due to the hassle of setting up 2 benches/bars/rack/etc with different weigths and not having someone take the other equipment while you’re doing the 1st set. Easier done very early in the morning when the gym is empty.

What I remember though, is that the second set was much easier than anticipated, even if you felt fried from the 1st one.

It wasn’t a strict 2-set training, though, 'cause you’d rest and repeat the 6/20 sets 2 or 3 times.

Nautilus founder Arthur Jones was the first who preached the “one set to failure” theories. His disciples, Mike Mentzer and Ellington Darden continued on with this methodology. Right up to his death just a few years ago Mentzer was selling books and courses on the one set to failure principal. Darden currently has a web site:

http://www.drdarden.com

If the site looks familiar it was made by the same folks who designed the T-Nation site. So, you will feel right at home.

Mentzers site:

http://www.mikementzer.com/

Also good information found here:

http://www.cbass.com/ArthurJones.htm

You need to take a look and decide for yourselves how much sense this makes. I won’t say that I have tried every routine that has ever been created. However, I have tried a good share of them including the one set to failure routines. I found them to be inadequate! The routine I did was taken directly from a Mike Mentzer seminar that I attended back in the stone age :wink:

I will say that I did not lose any muscle, on the routine (I seemed to lose a bit of my strength, only a bit). Problem is I did not gain anything. It did teach me how little one has to do to maintain.

I think there are far better routines by Christian Thibadeau, Chad Waterbury and a host of other T-Nation coaches. Again, this is simply my opinion.

There was also a good thread on this which may have been started by Mr. Chris Shugart a few weeks (months) back, if memory serves me. Use the search engine.

Half the fun of training is trying new programs and seeing what works for you!

Good Luck,

Zeb

[quote]michaelv wrote:
I have, but I’ve been doing this stuff for less than a year, so don’t take me as some expert.

On the other hand, since I’m still fairly new at this, I have been devouring all the information I can get, so am learning the different philosophies.

I believe I received some benefit from HIT, though I also believe I stagnated after doing it for awhile. Once again, though, I am a beginner, so there are lots of other things going on at the same time.

I am currently starting the second week of The Waterbury Method, which is almost the opposite. So far, the results are positive. I certainly feel like I’m working!

I understand the concepts behind each approach, and each makes sense in its own way. It’s also important to understand that different physiques will differently to the various approaches, so there isn’t one that is best for everyone. To take that even further, if you’ve been doing something for a long time, you might benefit from something different just because you’re mixing things up.

To understand the ideas behind HIT, I would recommend at least searching for the forum topic on Ellington Darden’s book “The New High Intensity Training”, if not getting the book itself. If nothing else, it is VERY entertaining to read. He’s a story teller, and has a lot of stories to tell.

Mix that in with posts by the excellent people on T-Nation, especially the excellent thread on The Science of 10x3.[/quote]

would you consider bodybuilding a science? if so then wouldn’t it be logical that there should be one method that works best for all. since every person creates new muscle in the exact same way (although at different rates), that is through stressing the muscle then letting it recover and grow, shouldn’t there be one method that produces this effect most efficiently.

[quote]pookie wrote:
If I remember right, there was and old 2-set type training done back in the 70s or so.

You would do a heavy set in the 6-rep range and then immediately do another set of the same exercise for 20 reps.

I tried it for a short while but gave up due to the hassle of setting up 2 benches/bars/rack/etc with different weigths and not having someone take the other equipment while you’re doing the 1st set. Easier done very early in the morning when the gym is empty.

What I remember though, is that the second set was much easier than anticipated, even if you felt fried from the 1st one.

It wasn’t a strict 2-set training, though, 'cause you’d rest and repeat the 6/20 sets 2 or 3 times.
[/quote]

did you notice any benefits from this training or where not able to use it for a significant amount of time?

Anything different will work for a short time. Do HIT style workouts for the next 1 1/2 to 2 months. Then after that do high volume workouts. After that do something different. The bottomline is that any one program is not the best program, the best results come from contintually switching up protocols. Couple this with observing what works best for you. Everyone is going to have different responses to the same stimuli. There is no magic bullet to training.

HIT is based on muscular failure being a stimulator for supercompensation. Following that, everything is perfectly logical. Since you achieve failure in the first set, no others are needed.
However, EXACTLY what causes growth is still being researched. Total work done in a given workout time seems to be more likely, but I’m betting that’s only part of the equation.

when one stresses the muscle to failure through weightlifting, the body responds by supercompensation. then why not do another set to failure in order to cause the body to stimulate more growth. is the body not able to differentiate increasing levels of stress after that first set to failure? all the body “needs” is one set to failure but can it handle more than set?

[quote]gladiatorsteer wrote:
would you consider bodybuilding a science? if so then wouldn’t it be logical that there should be one method that works best for all. since every person creates new muscle in the exact same way (although at different rates), that is through stressing the muscle then letting it recover and grow, shouldn’t there be one method that produces this effect most efficiently.[/quote]

Just because it’s science doesn’t mean it’s completely understood. Example: string theory.

Do we all build muscle in exactly the same way? Well, the cellular processesa are the same. But you can’t deny that there are different body types and that genetics play a huge role in all facets of body building.

So, on a broader scale, how do you stimulate that cellular process maximally? Does body type or genetics affect your chosen stimulus? Can you even break it down to a single result? Do the cellular proccesses for maximum size gain and maximum strength gain differ in any significant ways?

See what I mean? What are your goals? What is your body type? What are your genetics? Physical injuries? Deformities? Has your body adapted to a workout style that works for someone else, become efficient at it, and you’re no longer gaining from it?

Hence, you need to try different things and see what works for you at this point in time.

Instead of doing HIIT for fifteen-twenty minutes just do one sprint as fast and as far as you can until you have to collapse.

It has been proven that Multipile sets lead to higher and faster rates of strength gains.

Usually 1 or 2 sets are enough for beginners as a training stimulus, but after 6-12 workout sessions the volume must be increased because the trainee would have adapted.

If the volume isnt increased, progress will slow down and plateau for extended peroids.

As a trainee you must realize that the first 30 percent of strength gains come from the improvrement in intermuscular coordination. that is why a novice lifter will often have a very erractic bar path during his/her first attempt at the bench press, even though it is rather a simple motor task.

once initial strength fitness is achieved, you will find that a multiple presentation of the stimulus (3-6 sets) with a specific rest peroids between sets is superior to a single presentation of the stimulus.

[quote]NateN wrote:
HIT is based on muscular failure being a stimulator for supercompensation. Following that, everything is perfectly logical. Since you achieve failure in the first set, no others are needed.
However, EXACTLY what causes growth is still being researched. Total work done in a given workout time seems to be more likely, but I’m betting that’s only part of the equation.[/quote]

Speaking from experience, HIT will probably waste years of your training. I trained HIT for 7 years and for example did one set of some chest pressing movement about once a week. In the 7 years, my max bench press went from 225 to a whopping 225. In 6 months of higher volume (about 10-12 total sets of chest pressing movements/week, I benched 285)

My squat also went from 255-335 in that time frame. Now I bench 345 and squat 445.

Some Logical Problems with HIT.

HIT assumes

  1. Training to failure means something. If you lift a 200 pound weight 9 times and fail on the 10th, you are not at or near muscular failure. You might very easily be able to move 185, which would be a significant percentage of your max.

  2. HIT assumes Muscles, tendons, and nerves all respond to the same stimulus. Not true, proved in the lab and countless studies. HIT style reps will not cause adaptations in the tendons/nerves after a short time period (a year). These become weak links which will prevent you from taxing your muscles effectively. Even different aspects of the muscle alone have been clearly shown to adapt differently to different types of training (glycogen storage, protein makeup, satellite cell proliferation.)

  3. HIT assumes that all aspects of the muscle, tendon, nerve and system recover at the same rate. Totally disproven. Glycogen can be restored within hours. Destroyed cells are removed and replaced within 24-72 hours. Neurotransmitters have a time frame, and tendon adaptations are slower. Also, tons of evidence that light training increases recovery rate.

  4. HIT assumes recovery rates drop or at least can not be improved through proper training. Mounds of evidence show otherwise.

There is one valid model of training: Use a variety of set, rep, load and speed parameters to cause adaptations in all muscle, tendon, nerve aspects. Train each of these on the recovery time frame set by your body, occassionally lay off of some of the training parameters to prevent overuse injuries. Raise work capacity. Do light workouts if they help you recover faster. AVOID INJURY. Training to TRUE failure literally means injuring yourself. Injury and Stimulating growth, are not, by necessity, related to each other.

However, there’s a lot of trainees out there who would be better off doing 1 hard set than 5 mamby pambys.

I am not an expert on the whole 1 set to failure, but I have tried it. I found the biggest issue was “how am I sure I am doing the 1 set hard enough”?
I train hard, and have always been a ballz out type of trainer, but I still face that question of am I doing the 1 set hard enough. I think this will be the same for most people. The 1 set approach might work, but there will be too many people who think they are going ahrd enough when they are not. Thus the multiple sets work better cause if they cheat 1 set, they have 2, 3, 4, 5 etc to actually do a hard set. I found this when I did 10x3’s. 10 chances to bust my ass.

just my 2 cents

Cappx, that was one of my biggest quandries. If you read Darden’s book, you will definitely get examples of “hard enough”, but the common guy is rarely going to reach those levels.

and that is my point…the average guy will not!

Agreed. I feel like I’ve worked harder after a bout of Chad’s Waturbury Method than I did trying to do “maximum intensity” sets of HIT.

I find on my less intense days, AKA the day I am draging my ass, that triple strips help kick my lazy ass. Guess this would be kind of like 1 set to failure with the added droping of weights to be sure one reaches failure, but I still do the 2, 3, 4 etc sets.