Should I Do Single Set or Multiple Set Exercise?

The debate on this is going on since for decades. But before getting into anything the question is what is a single set and what is a multiple set? A multiple set means doing repetitions of an exercise for many times; it can be 2×15, 5×5, 4×10, 8×3, 3×12, etc. A single set can be 1×10, 1×15, 1×6, 1×25, etc.

Single Set Vs Multiple Set Exercise

The Debate on Single Set Vs Multiple Set

This debate is going on for decades now and may continue for another decade since many have failed to explain which is better of these two. Let’s understand the debate now.

  1. Many believe multiple sets are better than single sets but if that is true then why do many get positive results with single set strength training?
  2. What is a single set strength training? Does that mean you need to do a single set per body part or single set per exercise?
  3. What is a multiple set exercise or repetition and does that offer optimal muscle stimulation? This means multiple times it is performed but this is performed with sub-optimal effort and so it doesn’t simulate anything. Doing multiple times doesn’t mean unless it is done very efficiently so that it can stimulate the muscle tissues.
  4. Multiple sets are considered to be critical to optimal development; in that case how hard should we do for 2, 4 or 6 sets?
  5. If a single set is so effective then doesn’t it mean that more should be better? Then should we perform 10 or more sets on this logic? How do you draw a line between overtraining and training volume?
  6. If we perform 5 set repetitions with the sub-optimal effort for each set, will this give better results than single set performed at the high level of effort?

Percentages of 1RM and The Problems

1RM means one repetition maximum and many of the multiple set programs depend on this. 75% of 1RM is given for 12 reps or 87% of 1RM is given for 5 reps. In this plan do both of these provide effective muscle load?

What Is The Purpose of A Multiple Set?

If we perform a multiple set then all are done with the goal of recruiting and overloading a maximum muscle tissue. Is it right? If not, then what is the purpose of each set? If we are performing ‘m’ number of reps for ‘n’ sets and it goes inefficient if the bouts don’t result in muscle overload.

It is important to address the number of sets for every muscle group and plan to target pectorals or chest. Below is a typical repetition used for this purpose.

  • Barbell decline press – 3 x 10
  • Dumbbell flat bench press – 3 x 12
  • Machine flat bench press – 4 x 8
  • Close grip push ups – 3 x maximum reps per set

Now, are these sets required? The answer might be no. May be too much training for one body part is not necessary.

Here is a better plan is given below by an expert.

  • Dumbbell incline fly – 12 reps to VMF (Volitional Muscular Fatigue)
  • Barbell decline press – 10 reps to VMF
  • Machine flat bench press – 8 reps to VMF
  • Close grip push ups – maximum reps to VMF

Ways To Utilize Single Set Strength Training

  1. Work to VMF safely and get more muscle if possible. A 100-meter sprint would be much better. Do not sprint for 85 meters and coast for last 15 minutes but run hard till the finish line.
  2. Use less training sets or volume and opt for quality and VMF.
  3. This is a direct approach and is measurable; thus, allows recovery time and gives proper results while minimizing workout time.
  4. You can definitely go for a single set and different exercises for different body parts. You will get all the benefits of multiple sets in less time.
  5. Do the strength training wisely and do not move resistance haphazardly. Instead, control it in concentric and eccentric segments of these exercises.
  6. When you pause squeeze in the contracted pose and use a turn between the concentric and eccentric phases.
  7. Always take assistance from a partner for forced reps. At the point of VMF you mail at the sticking point but here you have to fully fatigue the involved muscles.
  8. Do one half to one-quarter range of motion reps. Stay above sticking point, and push and pull against resistance. Your muscle will be recruiting and this will add up to overload effect.
  9. Do isometric holds to finish that set. When forced and when top one half and one-quarter reps have been completed then contract isometrically against resistance to again fatigue the muscles.
  10. Vary the reps and resistances over a multi-week period of time and mix them up. Try different set rep scripts from workout to workout every week.