Maximal Muscle: How Many Sets Do You Need
by: Robbie Durand
There have been many programs designed to increase muscle mass by increasing the volume of exercise. The late great bodybuilder Sergio Oliva had one of the biggest chests of all time, here was a typical chest training routine that was used by Sergio Oliva.
Workout from Muscle and Brawn
Set 1. Bench Press 200 x 8, 15 reps on chinning bar
Set 2. Bench Press 220 x 8, 15 reps on chinning bar
Set 3. Bench Press 260 x 8, 10 reps on chinning bar
Set 4. Bench Press 300 x 8, 10 reps on chinning bar
Set 5. Bench Press 320 x 8, 8 reps on chinning bar
Set 6. Bench Press 350 x 8, 8 reps on chinning bar
Set 7. Bench Press 380 x 8, 5 reps on chinning bar
DB Flyes supersetted with Dips.
5 sets of 15 reps with 80-pound dumbbells, supersetted with dipping. The set, rep and weight scheme for dipping were not provided by Sergio Oliva.
Volume dose is commonly prescribed in the form of sets and repetitions (e.g., 3 sets of 10 repetitions). A previous research study has suggested that greater volumes result in increased strength gains and may be associated with neural mechanisms. Many workouts typically recommend three to four sets for each exercise but looking at the workout of Sergio; he did much more. There are programs such as German Volume Training, which recommend ten sets or more. Researchers compared three different groups:
– 4-SETs, and
In a six weeks of volume manipulated training program training with 80% of 1RM. All the sets were performed to volitional failure with 3-minute rest intervals between sets. At the end of the study, the 4- and 8-SET had greater than the improvement in strength than the 1-SET condition. The magnitude of increase elicited in the 4-SET group was not different from that of the 8-SET groups. The results suggest that ‘‘high’’ volumes (i.e., .4 sets) are associated with enhanced strength development. Practitioners should be aware that strength development may be dependent on appropriate volume doses and training duration.
McBride, JM, Blaak, JB, and Triplett-McBride, T. Effect of resistance exercise volume and complexity on EMG, strength, and regional body composition. Eur J Appl Physiol 90: 626–632, 2003.
Robbins DW, Marshall PW, McEwen M. The effect of training volume on lower-body strength. J Strength Cond Res. 2012 Jan;26(1):34-9.
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