Something you may have heard or read in the past.
Is it true?
Yes, however you’ll need to know exactly what is meant by ‘one set’.
When people write or speak about making progress with the above, they don’t mean you literally only do one set.
What they mean is that you’re going to do one ‘working set’, you don’t include your warm ups in the mix, which could be was little as two sets or as many as 10 depending on how strong you are.
A working set is classes as an amount of reps performed at the target weight.
You also have the classic 3×10 by Delorme/Watkins which was as follows:
– 1x10x50% 10RM (warm up)
– 1x10x75% 10RM (warm up)
1x10x100% 10RM (working set)
Going you one working set.
If we took the classic 3×8, this means 3 working sets, not including warm ups.
If you ever read Brawn, you’d find that lots of the programs had things like this written:
All of these are the working sets, as you cans occasionally they had 2 working sets.
The idea of this set is to much you to your limits and perhaps add some small amount of weight to be bar, improve the form, do it while having less rest and so on.
You could manipulate any variable to get progress so long as you made progress.
– Volume – perhaps got an extra rep at or 2 the same weight
– Intensity – lifted more total weight on the bar
– Density – had less rest than previously
– Frequency – performed this feat twice in a week instead of once
When you take a look at the principles behind this long spoken method of training it’s fair to say they’re pretty solid because they leave you nowhere to hide.
If you limit yourself to only one hard set, you’re more likely to give it your all and try to better that set in any which way you can.
The more modern approach of “Do all the sets & all the reps!” isn’t bad by any means, however it does often leave people working sub-optimally which is why some struggle to make any form of progress.
The repeated bout effect or repetition method is a solid one, that’s not being disputed, however those who get the most out of this are the ones who’ve spent a decent chunk of time hitting one hard ‘working set’ in the past.
You may also find working sets are called ‘top sets’ which can be found in those who follow a daily lifting routine – ala Bulgarian style training and daily maxing.
So, should you try this style of training protocol?
Yes, no, maybe, I really don’t know.
It certainly works, however if you’re making progress with what you’re doing then there’s no sense in changing, if not though, perhaps you might find this useful.
If you decide to work for top sets here are some pointers of where to start:
Top set recommendations:
Accessory lifts: 8-12