There’s a lot of debate regarding how many sets you should do to build muscle. On one hand, you have examples like Mike Metzer and Dorian Yates who endorse using only one or two work sets. On the other, you have guys like Arnold who embrace volume training and grind out many sets.
Science and empirical evidence have shown that both volume training and short duration training can work whether you’re lifting weights or using an endless rope trainer. There is also reason to believe each style has its flaws and might not work best for you. So how do you know how many sets are best for you as an individual?
It’s not just about what’s best for you, but also what’s best for your current workout. Sometimes, you may get the best results from only doing a few sets. Other times, you may want to do more volume. This variation can be due to a number of factors like energy level, motivation, recovery, diet, and even weather.
There’s yet another variable thrown into the mix. You may need more volume on some exercises than for others. For example, the optimal number of sets for your pull-ups may be 4, but push-ups may be 3.
You can see why it can be difficult to know how many sets are best for you. What are the chances that an expert recommendation of 2, 3 or 6 sets is going to be best for you? More importantly, who’s to say any set recommendation is best from one workout to the next? And even if you choose the optimal number of sets for yourself and for that workout, whats to say you won’t be better off with one more, or one less set for certain exercises?
This is why Peak Set Training is a great method for helping you dial in the perfect number of sets for you, for any workout and for any exercise. It helps you know how many sets you need for you, for your workout and for each exercise. You can learn all about how to use peak set training here, but here’s the basic idea.
Phase 1 Ramp up sets
Ramp up sets are the sets you do to get your mind and body dialed into the exercise. This is when you’improving tension control and blood flows to the working muscles. These sets don’t use a lot of energy as you only go to about 50-70% of fatigue. Each set should feel a little stronger than the last.
Phase 2 Peak sets
Peak sets are when your mind and body are operating at an optimal level and you’re getting as much as you can from each set. These are the “money sets’ that produce most of the stimulation you want from your workout. The number of reps you can do is holding pretty steady from one set to the next.
Phase 3 Decline sets
Decline sets are when body and mind are starting to quickly fatigue and the number of reps in each set is on a fast decline. You’ll also probably notice your technique is starting to falter and other aspects of performance like breathing and balance are decreasing as well.
All three of these phases naturally respond and adjust to your personal fitness and energy level. Feeling stronger and more capable from one set to the next shows you’re in the ramp up period of your workout. Reaching a peak level of performance is when you’re at your peak sets. Once your reps and technique start to decline it’s time to start wrapping up the workout for that exercise.
The important thing is to listen to your body and let it talk to you. Peak set training isn’t about satisfying the number of sets of a program or routine. It’s about listening to your body and recognizing what’s best based on how you feel and perform.
Give it a try in your next workout and listen to the podcast down below for more details: