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How Many Sets Are Recommended For Strength Training and Why?

Double Up or Triple Up but No More

When it comes to strength training, you need to work in the sweet spot in terms of the number sets you do. Fear not, that sweet spot has been found, and you probably won't be surprised to learn you should do two to three sets of each exercise. According to a review of studies published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, doing two or three sets will make you 46 percent stronger than just doing one. Talk about motivation. However, there were no strength benefits found in performing more than three sets of an exercise. Muscles just max out and can only respond to so much stimulus, so no need to sweat about adding in that fourth set of jumping lunges or leg presses.

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Eric-Kenyon-RKC Eric-Kenyon-RKC 7 years
Sorry, that item is WAY of base. Strength training is accomplished first by producing high levels of force, second by doing it often. Real strength training is done in set/rep schemes more on the order of ten sets of three reps per session. There are long rests between sets ( 2 to 5 minutes ) so that fatigue does not reduce the amount of force applied. So don't tell all those professional powerlifters and Olympic weightlifters and NFL players they have it wrong, they have it right. Olympic lifters will do 30 plus sets of one rep in a typical training session. Top powerlifters usually do deadlifts in sets of one rep, squats in sets of two. and bench press in sets of three, and ten or more sets. Regular folks who want to get strong are best served by the same procedures, only difference is in the actual poundage lifted. Real strength training is done almost exclusively with weights at 80 - 90% of your one rep max, and never to muscle failure. Leave one or two reps, "in the tank." The article and the studies mentioned are from the perspective of the very limited, and extremely low skill level commercial gym scene. Why limit yourself to that very narrow view? The journal cited is known in top strength and conditioning circles for presenting incomplete or irrelevant material. MUCH more important than any set/rep scheme is the actual lifts you are performing and the quality of technique. For instance, if you have not become proficient in the conventional deadlift, you have not even begun strength training. You could also do back or front barbell squats, barbell snatch, barbell clean and jerk or clean and press. If you are not doing at least one of these you are not strength training.
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