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Started By coachjeff (Shreveport, LA, U.S.A.)

Started on: 12/16/2004 5:21:26 PM, viewed 7943 times
3 sets vs. 1 set debate…Again


I’m new to forum, but have been reading posts for about a month now. Great to be able to be able to get feedback from fellow HIT advocates.

I’ve seen several long threads on this forum debating "3 sets vs. 1 set" and/or "HIT vs. Volume".

One guy claimed PubMed’s database provided overwhelming evidence, that the majority of studies "prove" 3-sets beats 1-set.

I have recently come across some good info in The Journal of Exercise Physiology called:


RICHARD WINETT, AKA “Master Trainer” is one of the authors of this HUGE analysis of The American College of Sports Medicine – a meta-analysis of resistance training studies.

According to ACSM′s "Position Stand," the preponderance of studies support the superiority of high volume training over lower volumes of training. ACSM also supports explosive training and other training protocols, which are definitely not "HIT approved."

However, it looks like ACSM′s “evidence” for higher volume training isn’t so convincing after all. I’d love to get feedback on this paper, which can be read at…


An interesting commentary on the above analysis is at


As a quick aside…I have recently communicated with Mr. Winnett, ( One of the authors of the above paper & known for his "Master Trainer Newsletter") as I was curious if he was still doing Super Slow, which he’d shown great enthusiasm for at one point.

He told me that he has gone back to a more traditional HIT rep cadence of 4/4. He said that working on the above paper convinced him there was very little difference in the efficacy of various rep ranges, time under load, rep speed, etc. In other words, within certain limits, it all works about the same!

15 reps will produce about as much strength as 6 reps, slow reps work about as well as faster reps, etc.

I’ve read the above paper 3 times and am still trying to digest it. The implications of its conclusions are very intriguing. It’s very supportive of general HIT theory, but also challenges some of its main tenants.

Ok, the new guy is rambling…I’ll shut up now.

This Topic has 28 Replies: Displaying out of 28 Replies:

Analyzer (CDA, id, U.S.A.) on 12/16/2004 9:07:07 PM

I hear ya, those papers can be a lot to digest, the funny thing is, where they show some of the studies, the conclusion in the study says ′No significant differences were found between one set and multiple sets′ but if you read the study, you see that there were difference. One of them showed almost double the size gains for the multiple set group.


CanadaMan (Saskatoon, SK, Canada) on 12/17/2004 12:24:19 AM


I′ve said this before: How do they define "multiple sets" in these studies. Every volume trainer I know starts at a lower weight and pyramids up. I do the same thing, but for most exercises I limit myself to two warm-up sets(~50% of my working weight on the first set, then ~75% of my working weight on the second set). These warm-up sets are not done to failure, only my final set is. I chose 50% and 75% for the sake of convenience, because I believe if you don′t keep track of your warm-up sets, you can′t accurately gauge the progress of your final working set to failure.

So, in all these multiple vs. single set studies, are they talking about doing multiple sets with the same weight? I don′t know anyone who trains like that. As I′ve mentioned, most weightlifters I know pyramid up, even the high-volume trainers. They usually do more total sets than I do, and they do more than one exercise per muscle group, but they don′t build up to a certain weight, then keep doing sets at that weight. That would seem just futile to most people. I know once I′ve done my last set to failure, I′d have to wait at least five minutes before I could do another productive set with the same weight. Why bother?

Oh, and one more question: if multiple sets are done with the same weight, is there any warm-up prior, or are the first sets considered warm-up for the final set. This system was recommended to me years ago by a gym owner(e.g., 4 sets of 10 reps with the same weight). I thought it was a little dangerous at the time to go straight to your working weight with no warm-up, especially once your poundages went up.

Can anyone clarify these issues for me? The abstracts on PubMed never seem to lay this out in much detail.


NeuroMass (Saskatoon, SK, Canada, Philippines) on 12/17/2004 1:40:52 AM


To settle the issue once and for all in your mind I suggest you try both and compare you results. Try each one for 2-3 months at a time to give enough time and justice to your experiment and then after all is accomplished ANALYZE which one gave the MOST benefit.


Vincent (Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland) on 12/17/2004 8:40:19 AM

Thoses studies are done on untrained people or beginners they don′t have a clue about what′s strength training… I believe the only thing we can learn from thoses studies is that more volume doesn′t provide much better gains. After a few set, (maybe 1), the stimulation is near the maximum.

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