ArticlePDF AvailableLiterature Review

Abstract

Perhaps the most controversial element of any strength training programme is the number of sets required to increase muscular strength and hypertrophy. There is a prevalent belief that at least 3 sets of each exercise are required to elicit optimal increases in strength and hypertrophy. However, most of the studies that reported the results of training with single versus multiple sets do not substantiate this tenet. In fact, the preponderance of evidence suggests that for training durations of 4 to 25 weeks there is no significant difference in the increase in strength or hypertrophy as a result of training with single versus multiple sets. Because of the design limitations of these studies, conclusions concerning the efficacy of multiple sets should be tentative. However, there is little scientific evidence, and no theoretical physiological basis, to suggest that a greater volume of exercise elicits greater increases in strength or hypertrophy. This information may represent an important practical application of time-efficient, low-volume exercise.
Strength Training
Single Versus Multiple Sets
Ralph N. Carpinelli and Robert M. Otto
Human Performance Laboratory, Adelphi University, Garden City, New York, USA
Contents
Abstract . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73
1. Support for Multiple Sets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 74
2. One Set Versus Two Sets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75
3. One Set Versus Three Sets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77
4. More Than Three Sets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81
5. Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81
6. Recommendations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83
Abstract Perhaps the most controversial element of any strength training programme is
the number of sets required to increase muscular strength and hypertrophy. There
is a prevalent belief that at least 3 sets of each exercise are required to elicit
optimal increases in strength and hypertrophy. However, most of the studies that
reported the results of training with single versus multiple sets do not substantiate
this tenet. In fact, the preponderance of evidence suggests that for training dura-
tions of 4 to 25 weeks there is no significant difference in the increase in strength
or hypertrophy as a result of training with single versus multiple sets. Because of
the design limitations of these studies, conclusions concerning the efficacy of
multiple sets should be tentative. However, there is little scientific evidence, and
no theoretical physiological basis, to suggest that a greater volume of exercise
elicits greater increases in strength or hypertrophy. This information may repre-
sent an important practical application of time-efficient, low-volume exercise.
REVIEW ARTICLE Sports Med 1998 Aug; 26 (2): 73-84
0112-1642/98/0008-0073/$06.00/0
© Adis International Limited. All rights reserved.
Strength training has been shown to be an effec-
tive method for increasing muscular strength and
hypertrophy. It is often prescribed for general fit-
ness, athletic conditioning, health and prevention
or rehabilitation of muscular and orthopaedic inju-
ries. An essential component of any strength train-
ing programme is the number of sets required for
each exercise. The prevalent recommendation is to
perform multiple sets (at least 3) of each exercise
in order to elicit increases in muscular strength and
hypertrophy. This recommendation appears at all
levels in the scientific literature, including strength
training reviews and exercise physiology text-
books. Reviews by Atha,[1] Behm,[2] Clarke,[3] Fleck
and Kraemer,[4] Kraemer and Fleck,[5] Kraemer and
colleagues,[6] Lillegard and Terrio[7] and McDonagh
and Davies,[8] and books by Berger,[9] Enoka,[10]
Fleck and Kraemer,[11,12] Fox and colleagues,[13]
Wilmore and Costill[14] and McArdle and col-
leagues[15] all claim that multiple sets are superior
to a single set. With the exception of a study by
Berger,[16] which is discussed in this review, there
was no training study referenced in any of the
abovementioned strength training reviews or exer-
cise physiology textbooks that would support the
claim that multiple sets are superior to a single set.
The absence of compelling evidence to support this
training philosophy, as well as the abundance of
evidence that suggests a single set of each exercise
is just as effective as multiple sets, is discussed
below.
It should be recognised that many of the studies
cited may have design limitations with confound-
ing variables such as different numbers of rep-
etitions, amount of resistance, specific muscle
groups, exercise equipment and types of muscle
actions within a specific investigation. The purpose
of this review is to present an objective, compre-
hensive account of all the studies which have been
published, albeit some of them as abstracts, that
have reported the results of training with single or
multiple sets. The reader may decide whether there
is sufficient evidence to support the widely held
belief that multiple sets are required.
1. Support for Multiple Sets
In the most frequently cited strength training
study, published in 1962, Berger[16] reported that 9
groups of males (approximately 20 in each group)
exercised 3 times per week for 12 weeks. In addi-
tion to their regular weight training programme,
which was not described in the report, participants
performed different combinations of sets and rep-
etitions (sets × reps) of the free-weight bench press
exercise. Because the groups were not initially
matched, an analysis of covariance was applied to
adjust the means of the 1 repetition maximum
(1RM) bench press in each group. All of the groups
showed a significant increase in 1RM for the bench
press exercise (table I).
Berger[16] reported that the maximal rate of
strength development resulted from a training pro-
gramme of 3 sets of 6 repetitions (3 × 6). However,
a comparison of the individual groups which per-
formed the same number of repetitions (2, 6 or 10)
showed that the increase in strength for the 3 × 6
group was significantly greater than the 2 × 6 group
but not significantly greater than the 1 × 6 group.
Similarly, the 3 × 2 group had a significantly greater
increase in strength compared with the 2 × 2 group
but the 3 × 2 group was not significantly greater
than the 1 × 2 group. Nor was there any significant
difference in 1RM between the following groups:
1 × 6 and 2 × 6, 1 × 2 and 2 × 2, 1 × 10 and 2 × 10,
1 × 10 and 3 × 10, 2 × 10 and 3 × 10. Seven out of
the 9 possible comparisons (groups performing the
same number of repetitions) showed no statistically
significant difference in the magnitude of strength
gains as a result of performing single or multiple
sets (table II).
Berger[16] also compared the results of training
with 1, 2, or 3 sets of repetitions by combining the
9 groups according to the number of sets per-
formed. Training with either 1 set or 2 sets pro-
duced similar improvements in strength (22.3 and
22.0%, respectively), while training with 3 sets
elicited an increase in 1RM of 25.5% (table III).
The difference in 1RM between 1-set and 3-set
training programmes was 3.2% (1.8kg) at the end
of 12 weeks of training in apparently untrained,
healthy, college-age men (pretraining 1RM bench
press = 56.6kg).
If 3 sets of 6 repetitions are superior to other
training protocols for this exercise, subsequent
studies should have replicated these results, but
they have not. A follow-up study by Berger[17]
failed to support his conclusion that 3 sets of 6
repetitions was the best training protocol. In the
Table I. Increases in single repetition maximum (1RM) for the
free-weight bench press exercise in 9 groups of men training 3 days
per week for 12 weeks using a protocol of 1, 2 or 3 sets of repetitions[16]
Group (sets × repetitions) Mean increase in 1RM
%kg
1 × 2 20.0 11.3
1 × 6 25.5 14.5
1 × 10 21.6 12.2
2 × 2 17.3 9.3
2 × 6 22.9 12.9
2 × 10 25.1 14.2
3 × 2 23.5 13.3
3 × 6 29.6 16.7
3 × 10 23.0 13.0
74 Carpinelli & Otto
Adis International Limited. All rights reserved. Sports Med 1998 Aug; 26 (2)
later study, 3 groups trained 3 times per week for
9 weeks, performing either a 6 × 2, 3 × 6 or 3 × 10
protocol in the bench-press exercise. All groups
showed significant increases in 1RM bench press
(16.9, 21.3 and 20.0%, respectively), with no sig-
nificant difference among the groups. That is, con-
trary to Berger’s earlier investigation[16], the 3 × 6
protocol was not shown to be superior to the 3 × 10
protocol. In the textbook Applied Exercise Physi-
ology,[9] published 20 years after his original train-
ing study, Berger claimed that 3 sets were more
effective than fewer sets for maximising strength,
and the only reference cited for this was his first
training study.[16]
Kramer and colleagues[18] randomly assigned
43 weight-trained males to either a single-set (1 ×
12RM), multiple-set (3 × 10 repetitions at a target
weight) or varied multiple-set group (1 to 5 sets of
2 to 10 repetitions at a target weight). They per-
formed 7 free-weight exercises 3 times per week
for 14 weeks. The single-set group performed each
exercise to muscular fatigue. The target weight was
set by the investigators for the multiple-set and var-
ied multiple-set groups. The multiple-set groups
did not exercise to muscular fatigue. All groups
showed significant increases in 1RM for the squat
exercise. The multiple-set and varied multiple-set
groups showed significantly greater increases in
1RM for the squat exercise than the single-set
group (25, 22 and 12%, respectively). There were
no significant changes in body mass or body com-
position for any of the groups. No data were re-
ported for the changes in 1RM strength or amount
of resistance for the other 6 exercises.
Kraemer and colleagues[19] (published abstract)
randomly assigned 24 females to a single-set, a
varied multiple-set or a control group. Both of the
training groups performed the same exercises 2 to
3 times per week for 9 months. The single-set
group performed 1 set of 8 to 10RM for all of the
exercises. The multiple-set group performed 2 to 5
sets of repetitions for each exercise and varied the
number of repetitions on different days (3 to 5RM,
8 to 10RM and 12 to 15RM). After 4 months of
training, both groups showed increases in 1RM for
bench press, military press and leg press exercises.
The authors claimed that only the multiple-set
group continued to show further significant in-
creases in strength. However, no absolute values or
percent increases in strength were reported, nor
were any statistically significant differences in
strength observed between the 2 training groups
for any of the exercises at any of the 1RM evalua-
tion points (0, 4, 6 and 9 months). The lack of data
and statistical analyses leave this report open to
different interpretations.
2. One Set Versus Two Sets
A number of studies have investigated the in-
creases in strength gained by training protocols us-
ing one set and two sets of repetitions (table IV).
Based on the equipment manufacturers’ recom-
mended training protocols, Coleman[20] trained
participants on Nautilus® machines using a 1 × 8
to 12RM protocol, or on a Universal® Gym for 2
sets: 10RM on the first set, 8RM on the second set.
They trained 3 times a week for 10 weeks. Both
Table II. Comparison of the increase in mean repetition maximum
between groups performing differing numbers of sets of the same
number of repetitions of free-weight bench press exercises[16]
Comparison groups (sets × repetitions) Statistical significance
3 × 6 and 2 × 6SD
3 × 6 and 1 × 6NS
2 × 6 and 1 × 6NS
3 × 2 and 2 × 2SD
3 × 2 and 1 × 2NS
2 × 2 and 1 × 2NS
3 × 10 and 2 × 10 NS
3 × 10 and 1 × 10 NS
2 × 10 and 1 × 10 NS
NS = no significant difference between groups; SD = significant
difference at the p = 0.05 level.
Table III. Combined mean percentage increase in repetition maxi-
mum for the 9 groups performing 1, 2 and 3 sets of repetitions in
the free-weight bench press exercise[16]
1 set 2 sets 3 sets
22.3 22.0 25.5*
* = significantly greater compared with 1 and 2 sets at the p = 0.05
level.
Number of Sets in Strength Training 75
Adis International Limited. All rights reserved. Sports Med 1998 Aug; 26 (2)
groups showed significant increases in 1RM
strength for all the exercises tested: bench press
12.4 and 12.3%, biceps curl 15.1 and 15.9%, lateral
pull 20.0 and 20.2% and leg press 17.4 and 17.9%,
in the Universal® and Nautilus® groups, respectively.
There was no significant difference between groups.
Significant increases in fat-free mass were reported
for both groups (3.9 and 3.2% for Universal® and
Nautilus® groups, respectively), with no signifi-
cant difference between groups.
Graves and colleagues[21] randomly assigned 67
men and 43 women to one of 6 groups: 1 set dynamic,
Table IV. Studies comparing strength increases after programmes using 1 set versus 2 sets of repetitions
Reference Programme
duration (wk) Modality/exercise Frequency
(days/wk) Strength
measure Training protocol
(sets × repetitions) Strength
increase (%) Results
Coleman[20] 10 Nautilus®
bench press
biceps curl
lateral pull
leg press
Universal®
bench press
biceps curl
lateral pull
leg press
31RM 1 × 8-12RM
1 × 10RM + 1 × 8RM
12.3
15.9
20.2
17.9
12.4
15.1
20.0
17.4
NS
Graves et al.[21] 12 MedX/lumbar
extension 1 Maximum IM
torque 1 × 8-12RM
2 × 8-12RM
1 × IM
2 × IM
1 × 8-12RM + 1 × IM
(Range from
18.0 to 63.0)aNS
Hurley et al.[22] 16 14 Keiser®
machines and FW 33RM 1 × 15 UB
2 × 15 LB 43.1
43.8 NS
Ryan et al.[23] 16 14 Keiser®
machines and FW 3 Peak torque 1 × 15 UB
2 × 15 LB 51.4
35.6 NS
Treuth et al.[24] 16 14 Keiser®
machines and FW 33RM 1 × 15 UB
2 × 15 LB 39.2
40.8 NS
Ryan et al.[25] 16 14 Keiser®
machines and FW 33RM 1 × 15 UB
2 × 15 LB 37.9
37.5 NS
Miller et al.[26] 16 14 Keiser®
machines and FW 33RM 1 × 15 UB
2 × 15 LB 64.2
40.4 NS
Koffler et al.[27] 13 14 Keiser®
machines and FW 33RM 1 × 15 UB
2 × 15 LB 41.0
45.0 NS
Rubin et al.[28] 13 14 Keiser®
machines and FW 33RM 1 × 15 UB
2 × 15 LB 40.0
41.0 NS
Nicklas et al.[29] 13 14 Keiser®
machines and FW 33RM 1 × 15 UB
2 × 15 LB 37.0
39.0 NS
Pollock et al.[30] 12 MedX/cervical
extension 2 Resistance loads
Peak IM torque
1 × 8-12RM
1 × 8-12RM + 1 × IM
40.9
43.5
21.9
22.3
NS
NS
Westcott[31] 4 5 Nautilus®
machines 3 Total strength 1 × 10
2 × 10 56.0
54.0 NS
Capen[32] 12 5 exercises
(equipment type
not reported)
3 Total strength 1 × 8-15RM
1 × 8-15RM + 1 × 5RM 18.8
20.9 NS
a Specific data not reported.
FW = free-weight; IM = isometric; LB = lower body; NS = no significant difference between protocols; RM = repetition maximum; UB = upper
body.
76 Carpinelli & Otto
Adis International Limited. All rights reserved. Sports Med 1998 Aug; 26 (2)
2 sets dynamic, 1 set isometric, 2 sets isometric, 1 set
dynamic and 1 set isometric or control. Dynamic
lumbar extension exercise consisted of 8 to 12 rep-
etitions through a 72° range of motion (ROM) per-
formed to volitional fatigue. Participants in the
isometric groups were instructed to hold each
maximal isometric muscle action for 3 seconds.
After 12 weeks, all training groups significantly
increased maximal isometric torque (18 to 63%)
for all angles tested, with no significant difference
among the groups at any angle.
Eight studies performed by a group of investi-
gators, in different male and female participants for
each investigation, examined the effects of resis-
tance exercise on body composition,[22-24] bone
mineral density,[25] insulin action,[26] gastrointesti-
nal transit time,[27] urinary chromium excretion[28]
and hormonal responses.[29] It is beyond the scope
of this article to discuss the specific aspects of each
of the investigations; however, there were some
notable results concerning increase in strength.
The participants trained 3 times per week for 16
weeks performing 14 exercises using Keiser®
pneumatic (air) resistance machines and free-
weights. Although the rationale for the training
protocol was not stated in any of the reports, all of
the individuals performed a 1 × 15 programme for
each of the 9 upper body exercises and a 2 × 15
programme for each of the 5 lower body exercises.
Similar significant increases in upper body (1 set,
43.6%) and lower body (2 sets, 40.5%) strength
(3RM) were observed in all 8 studies[22-29].
Pollock and colleagues[30] trained male and fe-
male volunteers twice a week for 12 weeks on a
‘MedX’ cervical extension machine. One group
performed 1 × 8 to 12RM dynamic repetitions
throughout a 126° ROM to volitional fatigue. An-
other group performed 1 × 8 to 12RM dynamic
repetitions plus a set of maximal isometric muscle
actions (1 to 2 seconds each) at 8 positions in the
ROM. Dynamic training loads increased 40.9 and
43.5% for the 1- set and 2-set groups, respectively,
with no significant difference between groups.
Both groups had significant increases in isometric
torque at all 8 angles (mean = 21.9 and 22.3%, 1-set
and 2-set groups, respectively), with no significant
difference between groups at any angle.
Westcott[31] trained 44 women and men 3 times
a week for 4 weeks on 5 Nautilus® machines: leg
extension, leg curl, torso pullover, triceps and bi-
ceps. Half of the participants followed a 1 × 10
protocol and the other half performed a 2 × 10 pro-
tocol. The 1 × 10 group increased overall strength
by 56.0%, while the 2 × 10 group increased by
54.0%.
In a multifaceted study involving 8 groups of
men and 4 training protocols, Capen[32] had one of
his groups perform different protocols for contra-
lateral muscles. The men performed 1 × 8 to 15RM
for their right elbow flexors, left elbow extensors,
left shoulder abductors, right knee extensors and
left knee flexors (programme 1). For the contralat-
eral muscles (left elbow flexors, right elbow exten-
sors, right shoulder abductors, left knee extensors
and right knee flexors) they used 1 × 8 to 15RM
followed by 1 × 5RM (programme 2). All partici-
pants trained 3 times a week for 12 weeks. The
average increases in strength for the 5 muscles
tested were 18.8% for programme 1 and 20.9% for
programme 2. There was no significant difference
in the magnitude of strength gained in the contra-
lateral muscle groups as a result of training with 1
set versus 2 sets.
3. One Set Versus Three Sets
A number of studies have investigated the
increases in strength gained by training protocols
using 1 set and 3 sets of repetitions (table V).
Starkey and colleagues[33] compared strength and
muscle thickness (using 2-dimensional ultrasound
measurements) of the anterior and posterior thigh
muscles in 38 male and female volunteers after
training 3 days a week for 14 weeks. Both training
groups performed dynamic bilateral knee exten-
sion and knee flexion exercises on 2 ‘MedX’
strength machines. The low volume group per-
formed 1 × 8 to 12RM to volitional fatigue; the
high volume group performed 3 × 8 to 12RM to
volitional fatigue. Peak knee extension torque at
7 angles significantly increased in both the low
Number of Sets in Strength Training 77
Adis International Limited. All rights reserved. Sports Med 1998 Aug; 26 (2)
Table V. Comparison of strength increases with programmes using 1 set versus 3 sets of repetitions
Reference Programme
duration (wk) Modality/exercise Frequency
(days/wk) Strength
measure Training protocol
(sets × repetitions) Strength
increase (%) Results
Kramer et al.[18] 14 7 FW exercises 3 1RM squat 1 × 12RM
3 × 10
1-5 × 2-10
12.0
25.0
22.0 SD
SD
Starkey et al.[33] 14 MedX knee extension
MedX knee flexion
3 Peak IM
torque 1 × 8-12RM
3 × 8-12RM
1 × 8-12RM
3 × 8-12RM
23.8
19.7
21.3
23.3
NS
NS
Terbizan &
Bartels[34] 8 5 Universal® gym
exercises 31RM1 × 6-9
1 × 10-15
3 × 6-9
3 × 10-15
aNS
Silvester et al.[35] 8 FW biceps curls
Nautilus® biceps 3 Peak IM
strength 1 × 8-12RM
3 × 6RM
1 × 8-12RM
3 × 6RM
22.0
30.4
24.7
19.4
NS
NS
Reid et al.[36] 8 9 Universal®-type
exercises 3 Peak IM
strength 1 × 8-12 or 1 × 3-5
3 × 6-8RM 17.7
17.9 NS
Stowers et al.[37] 7 FW bench press and
squat 31RM1 ×
a
3 × a
aNS
Messier & Dill[38] 10 9 FW exercises
12 Nautilus® exercises 3 Resistance
loads 3 × 6
1 × 8-12 or 1 × 15-20 22.5
38.0 NS
Jacobson[39] 10 Nautilus® knee extension 3 Dynamic
strength
IM strength
1 × 6-10RM
3 × 6RM
1 × 6-10RM
3 × 6RM
31.9
39.2
7.6
7.6
NS
NS
De Hoyos et al.[40] 10 11 exercises (equipment
type not reported) 3 1RM chest
press
1RM leg
press
1 × 10-15RM
3 × 10-15RM
1 × 10-15RM
3 × 10-15RM
12.5
12.8
21.7
20.8
NS
NS
Westcott et al.[41] 10 Gravitron® dips and chins 3 Number of
repetitions 1 × 5, 10, or 15RM
2 × 5, 10, or 15RM
3 × 5, 10, or 15RM
aNS
Welsch et al.[42] 14 MedX knee extension
MedX knee flexion
3 Peak IM
torque 1 × 8-12RM
3 × 8-12RM
1 × 8-12RM
3 × 8-12RM
22.5
20.0
NS
NS
Leighton et al.[43] 8 6 FW exercises 2 IM strength
on 3
exercises
1 × 6
3 × 6 17.0
18.0 NS
Stadler et al.[44] 8 7 exercises (equipment
type not reported) 2 and 3 1RM on 7
exercises 2 × 10-12
3 × 8 17.0
17.0 NS
De Hoyos et al.[45] 25 7 MedX exercises 3 1RM on 5
exercises 1 × 8-12RM
3 × 8-12RM 32.0
41.0 NS
Vincent et al.[47] 25 MedX knee extension 3 1RM
Peak IM
torque
Resistance
loads
1 × 8-12RM
3 × 8-12RM
1 × 8-12RM
3 × 8-12RM
1 × 8-12RM
3 × 8-12RM
33.3
31.6
35.4
32.1
25.6
14.7
NS
NS
NS
Hass et al.[49] 13 9 MedX exercises 3 1RM on 5
exercises 1 × 8-12RM
3 × 8-12RM 10.0
12.0 NS
a data not reported.
FW = free-weight; IM = isometric; NS = no significant difference between protocols; RM = repetition maximum.
78 Carpinelli & Otto
Adis International Limited. All rights reserved. Sports Med 1998 Aug; 26 (2)
(17.5 to 36.1%) and high volume (13.2 to 27.1%)
groups. Peak knee flexion torque at the same angles
increased in both the low (13.0 to 34.8%) and high
volume (7.8 to 40.7%) groups. There was no sig-
nificant difference in the knee extension or flexion
peak torques between the 2 groups (except at 24°,
where the low volume group had a significantly
greater increase in peak extension torque than the
high volume group). Both groups had similar sig-
nificant increases in dynamic training resistance
for the 2 exercises. Ultrasound scans revealed
significant increases in muscle thickness, with no
significant difference between the 2 groups.
Terbizan and Bartels[34] (published abstract)
randomly assigned 80 women to one of 4 strength
training protocols: 1 × 6 to 9, 1 × 10 to 15, 3 × 6 to
9 or 3 × 10 to 15. They trained 3 times a week for
8 weeks, performing 5 different exercises on Uni-
versal® Gym equipment. There were significant
increases in lean body mass and strength (1RM) on
all 5 exercises (data not reported). There was no
significant difference between the groups.
In an attempt to support the hypothesis that 3
sets of 6 reps were optimal for strength gains,
Silvester et al.[35] trained 4 groups of men 3 times
a week for 8 weeks. Two groups performed barbell
curls: group I performed 1 × 8 to 12RM to muscular
fatigue, group II performed a 3 × 6 protocol using
80% 1RM. Two groups used the Nautilus Omni
Biceps® machine: group III performed 1 × 8 to
12RM to muscular fatigue, group IV followed the
3 × 6 repetition protocol. All 4 groups had signifi-
cant increases in strength at all angles tested, with
no significant difference between groups (group I
= 22%, group II = 30%, group III = 25% and group
IV = 19%).
Reid et al.[36] trained male volunteers 3 times a
week for 8 weeks. The participants performed 9
exercises on a Universal®-type machine (Supra-
Athletics Corporation). One group performed 3 ×
6 to 8RM, and another performed 1 × 10 to 12RM
for the first 2 sessions each week and 1 × 3 to 5 at
the third session. Both groups showed significant
increases in most of the isometric strength tests.
The average increase in strength was 17.7% for the
1-set group and 17.9% for the 3-set group.
Stowers and co-workers[37] compared the ef-
fects of training with free-weights 3 times a week
for 7 weeks using either 1 set to exhaustion, 3 sets
to exhaustion or periodisation training. Periodisa-
tion is a predetermined programme of variable
combinations of sets, repetitions and resistance for
specific durations. The periodisation group per-
formed 5 × 10 (weeks 1 and 2), 3 × 5 (weeks 3 to 5)
and 3 × 3 repetitions (weeks 6 to 7). All 3 groups
(84 untrained men) showed significant increases in
1RM bench press, with no significant difference
among groups. All participants significantly increased
1RM squat. The periodisation group increased 6%
more than the 3-set group and 11% more than the
1-set group, and the 3-set group increased 5% more
than the 1-set group after 5 weeks of training. How-
ever, there was no significant difference between
the 1-set and 3-set groups at the end of the study.
In a study by Messier and Dill,[38] a free-weight
group performed 3 × 6 for 9 exercises, and a Nau-
tilus® group performed 1 × 8 to 12 for 8 upper body
exercises and 1 × 15 to 20 in 4 lower body exer-
cises. Both groups trained 3 days a week for 10
weeks. The Nautilus® group increased their resis-
tance by 30.0% for upper body exercises and
46.0% for lower body exercises; the free-weight
group increased their resistance 22.0% for the
upper body and 23.0% for the lower body. Because
of the confounding variables it is not known
whether the greater strength increases reported in
the Nautilus® group were a result of only perform-
ing 1 set of each exercise compared with 3 sets, the
greater number of repetitions or the training mode
(Nautilus®) per se.
Jacobson[39] trained 2 groups on a Nautilus®
knee extension machine 3 times a week for 10 weeks.
Group A used a 3 × 6 protocol with 80 to 85% 1RM.
Group B performed 1 set to volitional concentric
fatigue with a partner supplying additional resis-
tance on the eccentric phase (3 to 4 seconds) of
each repetition. They performed approximately 6
repetitions with 65% 1RM, followed by 3 to 4
additional repetitions to elicit volitional eccentric
Number of Sets in Strength Training 79
Adis International Limited. All rights reserved. Sports Med 1998 Aug; 26 (2)
fatigue. Both groups had significant increases in
dynamic strength (group A = 39.2%, group B =
31.9%) and isometric strength (group A = 7.6%,
group B = 7.6%), with no significant difference
between groups. The confounding variables in this
study (number of sets, number of repetitions,
manual resistance and eccentric fatigue) precludes
speculation on the practical significance of the
results. That is, it is not known whether the greater
intensity in group B (performing the exercise to
concentric and eccentric volitional fatigue) was
required in order to produce similar results.
DeHoyos et al.[40] (published abstract) trained
adolescent tennis players 3 times a week for 10
weeks with 11 weight training exercises. Trainees
performed either 1 or 3 sets of 10 to 15 repetitions
to muscular fatigue. There were significant in-
creases in 1RM chest press and leg press in both
training groups: chest press 12.5 and 12.8%, and
leg press 21.7 and 20.8% for the 1-set and 3-set
groups, respectively. There was no significant dif-
ference in the strength increases between the 1- and
3-set groups.
Westcott and colleagues[41] trained 54 men and
23 women 3 times a week for 10 weeks on a Gravit-
ron® machine, which provides individualised pro-
grammed assistance for performing dips and chins
within a desired range of repetitions. Participants
chose 5, 10 or 15 repetitions within each of the 3
training groups of 1, 2 or 3 sets. The mean improve-
ment in the number of repetitions (dips and chins)
was 4.8, 4.1 and 5.2 for the 1-, 2- and 3-set groups,
respectively. There was no significant difference
between the groups.
Welsch and colleagues[42] (published abstract)
trained 15 volunteers on ‘MedX’ knee flexion and
knee extension machines. Participants performed
bilateral exercise to muscular fatigue following
either a 1 × 8 to 12RM or 3 × 8 to 12RM protocol
3 times a week for 14 weeks. There were significant
increases in maximal isometric torque at all meas-
ured angles for knee flexion (20.0%) and knee
extension (22.5%), with no significant difference
between the 1-set and 3-set groups.
Leighton and colleagues[43] trained 2 groups of
participants who performed a 1 × 6 repetition pro-
tocol for each of 6 exercises, and 7 groups who
performed various combinations of 3 × 6 protocols
for each exercise, with different weights, rest periods
between sets, super-sets (2 exercises for the same
body segment with little rest between exercises),
tri-sets (3 exercises for the same body segment with
little rest between exercises), etc. All of the partic-
ipants exercised twice per week for 8 weeks. The
increase in strength in the 1-set groups (17%) was
similar to that in the 3-set groups (18%) for the 3
isometric elbow flexion, elbow extension and leg-
lift strength tests. There was no significant increase
in arm and thigh girth measurements or body-
weight in any of the groups.
In a study by Stadler and colleagues[44] (publish-
ed abstract), 14 participants performed 4 upper
body and 3 lower body exercises for 8 weeks. One
group performed a protocol of 2 × 10 to 12 repeti-
tions twice a week, and the other performed a 3 ×
8 protocol 3 times a week. The weekly volume of
exercise for the 3-set group was 50% greater than
for the 2-set group. Both groups had significant
increases in 1RM strength for all of the exercises
with no significant difference in strength gains
(17%) between the 2 groups. The greater volume
of exercise did not elicit greater increases in
strength.
Two valid criticisms of most strength training
studies are that the durations of the studies are rel-
atively short, usually about 6 to 12 weeks, and that
the studies usually recruit untrained participants.
These criticisms were addressed in the following
investigations. De Hoyos et al.[45] and Pollock et al.[46]
(published abstracts) investigated the effects of 1-
set versus 3-set protocols for strength training over
a 6-month period. Two groups performed 7 exer-
cises to muscular fatigue in a 1 × 8 to 12RM or a
3 × 8 to 12RM protocol on 3 days per week. The
1RM strength was assessed for the chest press,
rowing, arm curl, knee extension and thigh curl ex-
ercises. Muscle thickness at 8 sites (chest, subscap-
ula, biceps, triceps and the anterior, medial, lateral
and posterior thigh) was measured using ultrasound.
80 Carpinelli & Otto
Adis International Limited. All rights reserved. Sports Med 1998 Aug; 26 (2)
Similar significant increases in 1RM strength were
reported for all exercises for the 1-set and 3-set
groups (32 and 41%, respectively),[45] as well as
similar significant increases in upper and lower
body muscle thickness (14 and 13%, respec-
tively).[46] The authors concluded that both training
protocols produced increases in muscle strength and
hypertrophy of the same magnitude.
Vincent and colleagues[47] (published abstract)
trained 42 participants who performed a 1 × 8 to
12RM or 3 × 8 to 12RM protocol of the knee ex-
tension exercise 3 times a week for 25 weeks. The
1-set and 3-set groups had significant increases in
1RM strength (33.3 and 31.6%, respectively), iso-
metric peak torque (35.4 and 32.1%, respectively)
and training resistance (25.6 and 14.7%, respec-
tively), with no significant difference between the
2 groups.
Ostrowski and colleagues[48] randomly assigned
35 males who had been weight training for 1 to 4
years to one of 3 training groups: a 1-set, 2-set or
4-set programme. All of the participants trained on
6 free-weight exercises 4 times a week for 10
weeks, performing 12RM, 7RM and 9RM in weeks
1 to 4, 5 to 7 and 8 to 10, respectively. The exercises
were all performed to muscular fatigue and the
only difference between the 3 programmes was the
number of sets. At the end of the programmes, sig-
nificant increases in 1RM squat (7.5, 5.4 and
11.6%), 1RM bench press (4.0, 5.0 and 1.9%) and
bench press throw power (W) [2.3, 2.3 and 3.1%]
were observed for the 1-, 2- and 4-set groups, re-
spectively, with no significant difference between
the groups. Significant increases in thigh circum-
ference and cross-sectional area, triceps thickness
and body mass were reported for all 3 groups, with
no significant differences between the groups.
Hass and colleagues[49] (published abstract) re-
cruited 40 adults who had been performing 1 set of
each of 9 exercises to muscular fatigue for at least
1 year before entering the study. Participants were
randomly assigned to either a 1-set or a 3-set group
who performed 8 to 12RM on 3 days per week
for 13 weeks. Both of the groups significantly
increased their muscular strength and endurance
(1-set by 10% and 3-set by 12%), with no signifi-
cant difference between the groups for any of the
5 1RM strength tests (knee extension, thigh curl,
chest press, overhead press and arm curl). The in-
vestigators concluded that 1 set of resistance exer-
cise was as effective as 3 sets in adults with
strength training experience.
4. More Than Three Sets
A number of studies have investigated the in-
creases in strength gained by training protocols us-
ing more than 3 sets of repetitions (table VI). With-
ers[50] trained 3 groups of volunteers twice a week
for 9 weeks. They performed either 3 × 7RM, 4 ×
5RM or 5 × 3RM combinations of sets and repeti-
tions for each of 3 free-weight exercises: curl,
bench press and squat. All groups showed signifi-
cant increases in overall strength (1RM) of 19.3,
22.9 and 19.3% for the 3-, 4- and 5-set groups,
respectively. There was no significant difference
between the groups.
Ciriello and colleagues[51] trained 9 men (3 days
per week for 16 weeks) using a Cybex® II isokinetic
dynamometer at a velocity of 60°/sec. All volun-
teers trained the knee extensors of one limb with a
5 × 5 protocol and the contralateral knee extensors
with a 15 × 10 protocol. Peak torque significantly
increased at all 7 test velocities (no data reported).
The greater total work performed (4.39 times
greater) by the 15-set thigh compared with the con-
tralateral 5-set thigh manifested a significantly
greater increase in peak torque at only one speed
of movement (30°/sec).
5. Conclusion
No study has compared exercise programmes
using 1 set of repetitions with those using 5 or more
sets, but perhaps a syllogistical inference can be
applied. That is, most reports describe no signifi-
cant difference in strength increases when compar-
ing 1-set with 2-set,[20-32] 1-set with 3-set,[33-47,49]
1-, 2- and 4-set,[48] 3-, 4-, 5- and 6-set[17,50] and 5-
and 15-set protocols.[51] Thus, it may be inferred
that no significant difference in the magnitude of
strength gains should be expected between 1-set
Number of Sets in Strength Training 81
Adis International Limited. All rights reserved. Sports Med 1998 Aug; 26 (2)
and multiple-set, up to 15-set, programmes. The
literature lends support to the innovators of single-
set strength training programmes such as Lieder-
man,[52] Jones,[53] Darden,[54] and Riley[55] who in-
tuitively hypothesised that 1 set of repetitions of an
exercise was as effective as performing multiple sets.
This review raises the question of whether the
training study by Berger,[16] which reported on a
single exercise (bench press), and one other report
by Kramer et al.[18] on a single exercise (squat),
should set a precedent for strength training. The
opinion that multiple-set protocols are better than
a single set of an exercise is not supported by the
consensus of scientific evidence; 33 out of 35 of
the comparative reports included in this review
show no significant difference in strength increase
between individuals performing single-set and
those performing multiple-set (up to 15 sets) exer-
cise protocols. One set of repetitions has been
shown to be as effective as multiple sets, and more
time efficient, for increasing muscular strength and
hypertrophy in males and females of different ages,
for a variety of muscle groups and using various
types of exercise equipment. In other words, there
is insufficient evidence to support the prevalent be-
lief that a greater volume of exercise (through mul-
tiple sets) will elicit superior muscular strength or
hypertrophy than will the minimal volume (through
a single set). By employing a single-set protocol,
individuals can achieve similar results in less time
and with less work and a decreased potential for
injury.
There is no evidence to suggest that the response
to single or multiple sets in trained athletes would
differ from that in untrained individuals. There is
also no evidence to suggest that a single set of an
exercise would be less productive than multiple
sets for people in the general population or special
populations, such as the elderly and cardiovascular
and orthopaedic patients who, perhaps, should not
or will not perform each exercise to the point of
muscular fatigue.
In addition to the increases in muscular strength
and lean body mass, there are other potential health
benefits of resistance exercise training. These ben-
efits include increased bone mineral density,[25]
connective tissue strength (ligaments and ten-
dons),[56] functional capacity (ability to climb stairs
and walking speed),[57] sports performance,[14]
metabolic rate[23] and enhanced quality of life.[58]
There can also be a concomitant decrease in body
fat,[24] gastrointestinal transit time,[27] heart rate
and blood pressure responses to specific activi-
ties.[59] There is no evidence that multiple sets are
superior to a single set of each exercise in attaining
these benefits.
Table VI. Comparison of strength increases with programmes using multiple sets
Reference Programme
duration (wk) Modality/exercise Frequency
(days/wk) Strength measure Training protocol
(sets × repetitions) Strength
increase (%) Results
Berger[17] 9 FW/bench press 3 1RM bench press 6 × 2
3 × 6
3 × 10
16.9
21.3
20.0
NS
Ostrowski et
al.[48] 10 6 FW exercises 4 1RM squat
1RM bench press
1 × 7-12RM
2 × 7-12RM
4 × 7-12RM
1 × 7-12RM
2 × 7-12RM
4 × 7-12RM
7.5
5.4
11.6
4.0
5.0
1.9
NS
NS
Withers[50] 9 3 FW exercises 2 Total strength (1RM) 3 × 7
4 × 5
5 × 3
19.3
22.9
19.3
NS
Ciriello et al.[51] 16 Cybex® knee
extension 3 Peak torque 5 × 5
15 × 10
aNS
a data not reported.
FW = free-weight; NS = no significant difference between protocols; RM = repetition maximum.
82 Carpinelli & Otto
Adis International Limited. All rights reserved. Sports Med 1998 Aug; 26 (2)
6. Recommendations
Although it is often considered that multiple
sets are required to properly warm up muscles dur-
ing exercise, there is no evidence to suggest that an
exercise-specific warm-up is superior to a total
body warm-up for producing increases in strength.
If a low number of repetitions, such as 3 to 5, is
desired for training, or if a competitive power-lifter
or Olympic weight-lifter is attempting a 1RM, then
a single warm-up set with a lighter resistance may
be appropriate. Fitness enthusiasts, as well as re-
creational and competitive athletes, should attempt
to attain the benefits of resistance exercise training
by undertaking the minimal volume of exercise not
the highest tolerable volume; that is, the minimal
volume to achieve the desired response.
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Correspondence and reprints: Dr Ralph N. Carpinelli,
Human Performance Laboratory, Department of Health,
Physical Education, and Human Performance Science,
Woodruff Hall, Adelphi University, South Avenue, Garden
City, NY 11530, USA.
E-mail: otto@adlibv.adelphi.edu
84 Carpinelli & Otto
Adis International Limited. All rights reserved. Sports Med 1998 Aug; 26 (2)
... Regarding weekly training volume, current guidelines recommend performing 2-4 sets per muscle group for 2-3 times a week [1], which corresponds to a weekly training volume of 4-12 sets per muscle group. Thus, there is a wide gap in recommended sets, and while higher training volumes may be more beneficial for gains in strength and muscle mass [15], evidence shows that significant muscular gains can be obtained from a low training volume as well [16][17][18]. Several studies have demonstrated that performing only a single set three times per week is effective for increasing strength and hypertrophy [16,17], and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) states that performing a single set 2-3 times per week can be beneficial especially for older individuals and novice trainees. ...
... Thus, there is a wide gap in recommended sets, and while higher training volumes may be more beneficial for gains in strength and muscle mass [15], evidence shows that significant muscular gains can be obtained from a low training volume as well [16][17][18]. Several studies have demonstrated that performing only a single set three times per week is effective for increasing strength and hypertrophy [16,17], and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) states that performing a single set 2-3 times per week can be beneficial especially for older individuals and novice trainees. The results from a recent meta-analysis by Androulakis-Korakis et al. indicated that single-set training also can have a positive impact on trained individuals [18]. ...
... A traditional belief has been that adaptations following strength training are load dependent, with heavy loads, moderate loads and low loads used for increasing maximum strength, hypertrophy and muscular endurance, respectively [9]. The ACSM guidelines recommend people in general train within a 1-12 RM loading range with emphasis on the 6-12 RM range to improve muscle strength and hypertrophy, with lighter loads (15)(16)(17)(18)(19)(20)(21)(22)(23)(24)(25) suggested for increasing muscular endurance [1,8]. However, emerging evidence indicates that similar hypertrophic responses occur across a wide spectrum of repetition ranges (even when using very light weights) as long as the training is performed with a high level of effort and the number of sets is equated [25]. ...
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Full-text available
Lack of time is among the more commonly reported barriers for abstention from exercise programs. The aim of this review was to determine how strength training can be most effectively carried out in a time-efficient manner by critically evaluating research on acute training variables, advanced training techniques, and the need for warm-up and stretching. When programming strength training for optimum time-efficiency we recommend prioritizing bilateral, multi-joint exercises that include full dynamic movements (i.e. both eccentric and concentric muscle actions), and to perform a minimum of one leg pressing exercise (e.g. squats), one upper-body pulling exercise (e.g. pull-up) and one upper-body pushing exercise (e.g. bench press). Exercises can be performed with machines and/or free weights based on training goals, availability, and personal preferences. Weekly training volume is more important than training frequency and we recommend performing a minimum of 4 weekly sets per muscle group using a 6–15 RM loading range (15–40 repetitions can be used if training is performed to volitional failure). Advanced training techniques, such as supersets, drop sets and rest-pause training roughly halves training time compared to traditional training, while maintaining training volume. However, these methods are probably better at inducing hypertrophy than muscular strength, and more research is needed on longitudinal training effects. Finally, we advise restricting the warm-up to exercise-specific warm-ups, and only prioritize stretching if the goal of training is to increase flexibility. This review shows how acute training variables can be manipulated, and how specific training techniques can be used to optimize the training response: time ratio in regard to improvements in strength and hypertrophy. Graphic Abstract
... Opioid use has been associated with negative clinical and quality outcomes for patients after primary joint arthroplasty. [20][21][22][23] As revision TKA are expected to increase in the future, 24 appropriate characterization of the impact of preoperative use is important to set expectations and preoperatively counsel patients. Moreover, as health care shifts toward a value-based model, identification of variables that can impact PROMs is of financial concern; particularly in a patient population, such as revision arthroplasty, which already represent a financial burden to the health care system. ...
... 29 The negative impacts of preoperative opioid use on complications and patient morbidity following primary total hip arthroplasty (THA) and TKA are well known. 5,20,21,30,31 Rozell et al identified that preoperative opioid use was an independent risk factor for needing intravenous rescue narcotics. 20 This was correlated with increased risk of postoperative interventions such as fluid boluses, transfusions, and urinary catheterization. ...
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This is a retrospective study. Prior studies have characterized the deleterious effects of narcotic use in patients undergoing primary total knee arthroplasty (TKA). While there is an increasing revision arthroplasty burden, data on the effect of narcotic use in the revision surgery setting remain limited. Our aim was to characterize the effect of active narcotic use at the time of revision TKA on patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs). A total of 330 consecutive patients who underwent revision TKA and completed both pre- and postoperative PROMs was identified. Due to differences in baseline characteristics, 99 opioid users were matched to 198 nonusers using the nearest-neighbor propensity score matching. Pre- and postoperative knee disability and osteoarthritis outcome score physical function (KOOS-PS), patient reported outcomes measurement information system short form (PROMIS SF) physical, PROMIS SF mental, and physical SF 10A scores were evaluated. Opioid use was identified by the medication reconciliation on the day of surgery. Propensity score–matched opioid users had significantly lower preoperative PROMs than the nonuser for KOOS-PS (45.2 vs. 53.8, p < 0.01), PROMIS SF physical (37.2 vs. 42.5, p < 0.01), PROMIS SF mental (44.2 vs. 51.3, p < 0.01), and physical SF 10A (34.1 vs. 36.8, p < 0.01). Postoperatively, opioid-users demonstrated significantly lower scores across all PROMs: KOOS-PS (59.2 vs. 67.2, p < 0.001), PROMIS SF physical (43.2 vs. 52.4, p < 0.001), PROMIS SF mental (47.5 vs. 58.9, p < 0.001), and physical SF 10A (40.5 vs. 49.4, p < 0.001). Propensity score–matched opioid-users demonstrated a significantly smaller absolute increase in scores for PROMIS SF Physical (p = 0.03) and Physical SF 10A (p < 0.01), as well as an increased hospital length of stay (p = 0.04). Patients who are actively taking opioids at the time of revision TKA report significantly lower preoperative and postoperative outcome scores. These patients are more likely to have longer hospital stays. The apparent negative effect on patient reported outcomes after revision TKA provides clinically useful data for surgeons in engaging patients in a preoperative counseling regarding narcotic use prior to revision TKA to optimize outcomes.
... His other doctoral committee members were Mark Peterson and Nicholas Ratamess, all of whom are advocates of high volume resistance training. Alvar, Peterson and Rhea (another high volume advocate) co-authored a so-called symposia (124) where they listed several articles that challenged their claims regarding high volume training (125)(126)(127) as well as a critical analysis of the American College of Sports Medicine position stand on resistance training (97). Alvar and colleagues specifically cited and quoted several of the criticisms from the aforementioned articles but offered no defense of those criticisms, only a snide comment that the criticisms were familiar biased dialog. ...
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Researchers have expressed concern recently for standardization of resistance training protocols so that valid comparisons of different training variables such as muscular fatigue, time under tension, pre-exhaust exercise and exercise order, pyramid and drop sets, amount of resistance (load), range of repetitions, frequency and volume of exercise, interset rest intervals, etc. can be more closely studied and compared. This Critical Commentary addresses some recent review articles and training studies specifically focused on the stimulus for muscle hypertrophy in participants with several years of resistance training experience. It reveals that many of the recommended resistance training protocols have their foundation in some long-held, self-described bias. Blinding of assessors and statisticians, self-plagiarism, authorship responsibility, and conflicts of interest are briefly discussed as well. The conclusion is that most of the published peer-reviewed resistance training literature failed to provide any compelling evidence that the manipulation of any one or combination of the aforementioned variables can significantly affect the degree of muscle hypertrophy, especially in well-trained participants. Although the specific stimulus for optimal gains in muscle mass is unknown, many authors are desperately clinging to their unsupported belief that a greater volume of exercise will produce superior muscle hypertrophy.
... His other doctoral committee members were Mark Peterson and Nicholas Ratamess, all of whom are advocates of high volume resistance training. Alvar, Peterson and Rhea (another high volume advocate) coauthored a so-called symposia (124) where they listed several articles that challenged their claims regarding high volume training (125)(126)(127) as well as a critical analysis of the American College of Sports Medicine position stand on resistance training (97). Alvar and colleagues specifically cited and quoted several of the criticisms from the aforementioned articles but offered no defense of those criticisms, only a snide comment that the criticisms were familiar biased dialog. ...
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Full-text available
Researchers have expressed concern recently for standardization of resistance training protocols so that valid comparisons of different training variables such as muscular fatigue, time under tension, pre-exhaust exercise and exercise order, pyramid and drop sets, amount of resistance (load), range of repetitions, frequency and volume of exercise, interset rest intervals, etc. can be more closely studied and compared. This Critical Commentary addresses some recent review articles and training studies specifically focused on the stimulus for muscle hypertrophy in participants with several years of resistance training experience. It reveals that many of the recommended resistance training protocols have their foundation in some long-held, self-described bias.
... His other doctoral committee members were Mark Peterson and Nicholas Ratamess, all of whom are advocates of high volume resistance training. Alvar, Peterson and Rhea (another high volume advocate) coauthored a so-called symposia (124) where they listed several articles that challenged their claims regarding high volume training (125)(126)(127) as well as a critical analysis of the American College of Sports Medicine position stand on resistance training (97). Alvar and colleagues specifically cited and quoted several of the criticisms from the aforementioned articles but offered no defense of those criticisms, only a snide comment that the criticisms were familiar biased dialog. ...
Presentation
Full-text available
Researchers have expressed concern recently for standardization of resistance training protocols so that valid comparisons of different training variables such as muscular fatigue, time under tension, pre-exhaust exercise and exercise order, pyramid and drop sets, amount of resistance (load), range of repetitions, frequency and volume of exercise, interset rest intervals, etc. can be more closely studied and compared. This Critical Commentary addresses some recent review articles and training studies specifically focused on the stimulus for muscle hypertrophy in participants with several years of resistance training experience. It reveals that many of the recommended resistance training protocols have their foundation in some long-held, self-described bias.
... This makes their interpretations prone to the large individual-to-individual variation in exercise adaptability (seen in e.g. Ahtiainen et al., 2016), which has been linked to variation in genetic and epigenetic predisposition (Timmons, 2011;Seaborne et al., 2018), and may potentially explain the long-standing lack of consensus (Carpinelli & Otto, 1998;Krieger, 2010). ...
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Key points: For individuals showing suboptimal adaptations to resistance training, manipulation of training volume is a potential measure to facilitate responses. This remains unexplored. Here, 34 untrained individuals performed contralateral resistance training with moderate and low volume for 12 weeks. Moderate volume led to larger increases in muscle cross-sectional area, strength and type II fibre-type transitions. These changes coincided with greater activation of signalling pathways controlling muscle growth and greater induction of ribosome synthesis. Thirteen and sixteen participants, respectively, displayed clear benefits of moderate-volume training on muscle hypertrophy and strength. This coincided with greater total RNA accumulation in the early-phase of the training period, suggesting that ribosomal biogenesis regulates the dose-response relationship between training volume and muscle hypertrophy. These results demonstrate that there is a dose-dependent relationship between training volume and outcomes. On the individual level, benefits of higher training volume were associated with increased ribosomal biogenesis. Abstract: Resistance-exercise volume is a determinant of training outcomes. However not all individuals respond in a dose-dependent fashion. In this study, 34 healthy individuals (males n = 16, 23.6 (4.1) years; females n = 18, 22.0 (1.3)) performed moderate- (3 sets per exercise, MOD) and low-volume (1 set, LOW) resistance training in a contralateral fashion for 12 weeks (2-3 sessions × week-1 ). Muscle cross-sectional area (CSA) and strength were assessed at weeks 0 and 12, along with biopsy sampling (m. Vastus lateralis). Muscle biopsies were also sampled before and one hour after the fifth session (Week 2). MOD resulted in larger increases in muscle CSA (5.2 (3.8)% versus 3.7 (3.7)%, P < 0.001) and strength (3.4-7.7% difference, all P < 0.05. This coincided with greater reductions in type IIX fibres from week 0 to 12 (MOD, -4.6; LOW -3.2%-point), greater phosphorylation of S6-kinase 1 (p85 S6K1Thr412 , 19%; p70 S6K1Thr389 , 58%) and ribosomal protein S6Ser235/236 (37%), greater rested-state total RNA (8.8%) and greater exercise-induced c-Myc mRNA expression (25%; Week 2, all P < 0.05). Thirteen and sixteen participants, respectively, displayed clear benefits in response to MOD on muscle hypertrophy and strength. Benefits were associated with greater accumulation of total RNA at Week 2 in the MOD leg, with every 1% difference increasing the odds of MOD benefit by 7.0% (P = 0.005) and 9.8% (P = 0.002). In conclusion, MOD led to greater functional and biological adaptations than LOW. Associations between dose-dependent total RNA accumulation and increases in muscle mass and strength points to ribosome biogenesis as a determinant of dose-dependent training responses. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
... Previous reviews have compared single-and multiple sets within sessions and their effects on strength and hypertrophy, with some reviews finding single sets equally effective to multiple sets [32,33], while other reviews favouring multiple sets [34]. Despite the disagreement regarding whether multiple sets produce optimal increases in strength compared to single sets, most authors have concluded that single sets can be utilised when time is a restricting factor as they will produce strength increases. ...
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