What are the different types of sets for optimal growth?
What are the different types of sets for optimal growth?

The beginners don’t do enough training, but many amateurs do the wrong kind of training and do too much. A lot of people are so caught up in the bodybuilding craze that they have this false perception built up in their minds that the only way to build muscle is to pound out set after set until they are blue in the face because that is what they’ve been told in magazines. The kinds of people I’m talking about don’t feel “right” unless they are in the gym working for hours a day on one body part. You have to understand that up to this point you’ve been brainwashed that more is better.

8x Mr. Olympia, Lee Haney, known by many to be one of the greatest
bodybuilders of all time, always preached to “train to stimulate, not annihilate”.
He also believed that “it doesn’t take a ton of weight to stimulate a muscle to
grow, just the correct stimulus.”

To achieve this correct stimulus, you will want to choose one set of one exercise per muscle group where you will go all-out for that set using one of the following to do so:

1) Drop Set

When you cannot complete another rep on your own with the weight you currently are performing, drop the weight down and bang out some more reps without any rest in between. In a 2-set drop set, decrease the weight so that you can perform at least 8 reps on your second set.


1)Strip Set

This is a drop set, but performed multiple times. Perform a three, four, five, or six set drop set, where you continually lower the weight upon each successive set. In a strip set, the range of reps is up to you, but make sure you mentally push through to get as many done as you can with strict form.


2) Forced Reps

When you cannot complete another rep on your own, have a training partner assist you by applying only the required help necessary for you to keep the weight moving for extra reps. Shoot for 5-6 more reps with the assistance.


3) Negatives

Using heavier weight than you are used to, lower the weight very slowly on the negative portion of the rep (it should take 4-5 seconds to complete that half rep) and have a partner help you as much as necessary on the positive portion of the rep. For instance, aim for 6-8 total reps on a weight that you possibly could only do for 2 reps with your partner’s assistance.

4) Rest-Pause Theory

Take brief rest periods during a set to squeeze out more reps. For instance, if you use a weight you can lift for 6 reps, only do 2-3 reps. Take a brief rest of up to 20 seconds at most and try for another 2-3 reps. Rest again and repeat the process. You will essentially lift the same weight you can do for 6 reps, but because of the brief rest periods you will be able to get about 12 reps in this one set.

5) 5, 5, 5

This set consists of 5 fast reps (explosion of only 1 second for both the negative and positive portion of the rep), followed by 5 very slow reps (5 seconds on each the negative and positive portion of the rep), then followed by 5 normal reps (2 seconds on each the negative and positive portion of the rep). This works all twitches of the muscle fibers.

Keep the same weight for all 15 reps, but make sure a proper weight is chosen, where you are really struggling to get those last 5 in. Have a spotter help you. Also, you can vary it so you start out with a heavyweight for the first 5, then immediately after, with no rest, use a low weight (around 40% of your 1 rep max) for the 5 very slow reps, and then raise the weight for your 5 normal reps (around 60% of your 1RM) for the 5 normal reps.

6) Giant Set

Using multiple exercises that focus on the same body part, one set consists of performing at least 3 exercises in a row without rest. For instance, during back, you could do a pull-up straight to a bent-over barbell row straight to a wide grip lat pulldown; ensuring that there is no rest in between the set.

7) Slow and Controlled Reps

Take 4-5 seconds on each portion of the rep. Have a spotter help you just enough when you’ve failed.

8) Pause Contraction Reps

Pause at different phases of the movement to realize an incredible contraction. For instance, during a squat throw on 50% of your one-rep max and pause halfway for 3-5 seconds, then pause at the bottom position at parallel for 3-5 seconds, and then back up halfway with a hold, and then at the top with a hold (that is one rep). Complete it as many times as you can. Once you can’t hold it anymore, bang out as many normal reps as possible with the help of a spotter. You can switch up the times you are paused. For real intensity, hold it at the bottom, midway, and top positions for 20 seconds at a time.

9) Peak Contraction Reps

Hold the peak contraction for up to five seconds on each rep. Squeeze the muscle as hard as you can before starting the next rep.

10) Rep Overload

Instead of performing your normal rep range, which most people keep within the 6-15 rep range, you are going to shoot for 30, sometimes, 50, and even up to 100 reps. Choose a moderately heavy weight but one where you can perform a good amount of reps. Keep focused and keep pushing them out for an incredible amount of reps. It’s really all mental. For instance, put 135 on your back for a squat. Bang out 10 at a time, hold at the top position for 5 seconds and breathe, then bang out another 10 reps, and another 10 reps and so forth until you’ve reached failure.

11) 21’s

Dividing the movement into three parts. The top, bottom, and whole movement. Most commonly done on curls where 7 tops are done then 7 bottoms and then 7 full reps. Any combination of tops and bottoms can be used, however. I prefer to do the seven full first that way the partials are only done when the full movement has already been trained to failure.

12) 10 to 1

Several different variations on this one. You can start heavy and do one rep, strip some weight and then do two reps and carry on this way until you hit 10. Another is to start at 10 take a couple of seconds rest and then do 9 and carry on till you get to one using the same weight. The last is to keep the same weight on all sets but hold the contracted position for 10 seconds, lower and then hold 9 seconds and so on till your done.

13) Running the rack

It can be done up or down the rack (dumbbell holder) but usually down. This is almost the same as a drop set where you use a set of dumbbells to failure and then select a lighter pair to continue on. You can continue on down the rack as far as you want but three drops are most common.

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