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 Single set Vs multiple sets - which is best for muscle size?

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Pete
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PostSubject: Single set Vs multiple sets - which is best for muscle size?   Sat Sep 04, 2010 10:13 am

Yes, it's that old chestnut again!
There has been years of debate & one study certainly won't end it, but here is a meta-analysis (that is a study of studies done by other people). It takes, in this case, 8 studies & compares outcomes in terms of muscle hypertrophy (muscle growth).

Results are basically no significant difference between 2-3 sets per exercise and 4-6 sets per exercise & multiple sets are associated with 40% greater hypertrophy than 1 set, in both trained and untrained subjects. So in this study the conclusion is "Do 2-3 heavy sets of an exercise for best muscle size increase"
Here's the study:

Quote :
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20300012?dopt=Abstract

J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Apr;24(4):1150-9.
Single vs. multiple sets of resistance exercise for muscle hypertrophy: a meta-analysis.

Krieger JW.

Journal of Pure Power, Colorado Springs, CO, USA. jim@jopp.us
Abstract

Previous meta-analyses have compared the effects of single to multiple sets on strength, but analyses on muscle hypertrophy are lacking. The purpose of this study was to use multilevel meta-regression to compare the effects of single and multiple sets per exercise on muscle hypertrophy. The analysis comprised 55 effect sizes (ESs), nested within 19 treatment groups and 8 studies. Multiple sets were associated with a larger ES than a single set (difference = 0.10 +/- 0.04; confidence interval [CI]: 0.02, 0.19; p = 0.016). In a dose-response model, there was a trend for 2-3 sets per exercise to be associated with a greater ES than 1 set (difference = 0.09 +/- 0.05; CI: -0.02, 0.20; p = 0.09), and a trend for 4-6 sets per exercise to be associated with a greater ES than 1 set (difference = 0.20 +/- 0.11; CI: -0.04, 0.43; p = 0.096). Both of these trends were significant when considering permutation test p values (p < 0.01). There was no significant difference between 2-3 sets per exercise and 4-6 sets per exercise (difference = 0.10 +/- 0.10; CI: -0.09, 0.30; p = 0.29). There was a tendency for increasing ESs for an increasing number of sets (0.24 for 1 set, 0.34 for 2-3 sets, and 0.44 for 4-6 sets). Sensitivity analysis revealed no highly influential studies that affected the magnitude of the observed differences, but one study did slightly influence the level of significance and CI width. No evidence of publication bias was observed. In conclusion, multiple sets are associated with 40% greater hypertrophy-related ESs than 1 set, in both trained and untrained subjects.
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PostSubject: Re: Single set Vs multiple sets - which is best for muscle size?   Tue Sep 07, 2010 3:32 am

I don't know how to see the whole article but I recall that most of these strength training studies I've read of are 6 weeks long and use novice lifters.

My personal experience is that indeed multiple sets will give more size. More "puffiness" you could say. But I shouldn't really use the term "puffiness" as that makes it sound like it's something of no use. Although it's not more muscle, it's supporting ....stuff Smile which helps in quicker recuperation for additional sets. Also I agree that 4 to 6 sets as opposed to 2 to 3 will do little. At least certainly in the short term it will do little. Perhaps in the long term, sort of like runners try to build a base, perhaps eventually learning to handle more volume will benefit lifters.

From what I've seen of studies (and personally experienced) in the short term, absolute strength is about the same for a single set versus multiple sets.

And then there's all kinds of factors to take into consideration. In some situations single set lifting is better. For me, multiple sets often has caused some sort of overtraining. Not lately though. Blueberry smoothies are really making a huge difference concerning that.
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PostSubject: Re: Single set Vs multiple sets - which is best for muscle size?   Sat Nov 06, 2010 3:02 pm

There have been so many studies done on this subject through the years, that by now there should be a definitive answer.
However some of the studies go with multiple sets, some single.
My experiences through the years though show that for myself, and friends who are geneticaly average, 1 set gives best results , while the gym folks with above average genetics, or steroid users get better results from multiple set workouts.
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PostSubject: Re: Single set Vs multiple sets - which is best for muscle size?   Sat Nov 06, 2010 4:42 pm

I think it's going to be hard to a definitive answer as there are so many factors. Say I design 2 programs. One is a great well rounded program & say it has several sets per exercise..Now suppose I make another equally rounded single set per body part routine. Things that can go wrong are (off the top of my head & in no way complete!):
1/ The trainer -
a/ they can be good or bad
b/ they can have personal preference or belief in a system
c/ work with a particular client base (they might get good results with elite athletes, but not have a clue about the 'average' or below average athlete - or the other way around be unable to train elite athletes)

2/ The client -
a/ worked too hard by a trainer used to working with a different client base
b/ be under worked if the trainer is used to more elite athletes
c/have a training belief system in place
d/ be under or over trained when they arrive for the research
e/ be under stress
f/ Not be concerned enough to put in the necessary effort to achieve results (go through the motions)

3/ Nutrition -
a/ Have no understanding of good nutrition
b/ have an understanding but not be willing or able to commit to a decent nutrition program

If you get a good athlete getting a good trainer then you will get exceptional results, conversely bad athlete or trainer-or any of the above (& more) & you get less results.
It may also be the case that different types actually do respond to different protocols, so some people really do do better with one set, while others need several to achieve the best results?

Personally I think that you find a system that works best for you, then take some time doing it...but move to other styles now & again as the change in itself often stimulates growth. Me I prefer low reps for example, yet now & again I have to force myself into the higher rep ranges, just to stimulate those areas I'd miss if I stayed in the lower rep ranges all the time. Obviously if you suffer from issues like Jay you'd have to be aware & avoid things that cause health issues, but for most of us we have 'naturally comfortable' (not to be confused with easy) types of training, like one set brutally hard for example, while others do better on long lactic acid burning sets upon sets (with most of us somewhere inbetween I suspect).

As I said I think we are a way off knowing "THE WAY" to train (if there is such a beast), so for now you do best by using a log book & seeing what actually works best for you, then straying outside that style now & again just to keep things fresh.
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PostSubject: Re: Single set Vs multiple sets - which is best for muscle size?   Mon Nov 08, 2010 12:52 pm

I do think it's sad just how little knowledge we really have concerning exercise.

I think most of these studies have again been short term studies with untrained people. Not much money is put into such things. Perhaps the communist countries might have learned some stuff, but it seems they mostly learned how to use steriods.
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PostSubject: Re: Single set Vs multiple sets - which is best for muscle size?   Tue Jan 11, 2011 8:27 am

I was going to start a new thread but this post has a lot to do with original post in this thread so Im putting it here.
My friend-gym buddy is the complete opposite of what is needed for good results at the gym, very all, skinny etc, and although he has ben able to add strength in the 3-4 years hes trained has found it impoossible to add any size.
He has tried various approaches to his training style, but then decided to try a workout based on mike mentzer routine
Day 1 Chest and Back
DB flyes supersetted with flat bench press 1 superset
stiff arm pullldown supersetted with close undergrip pulldowns 1 superset


rest a week then

Delts and Arms
DB side raises
DB rear delt laterals
Barbell Curls
pushdowns supersetted with close grip bench press 1 superset
rest a week then routine 1 again etc

He is supposed to do a leg workout inbetween these two but due to a painfull lowerr back[the curse of tall skinny folk] he hasnt been able to add these as yet.
all excercises are done for one set only, and where supersetted the isolation excercise is 8-10 reps to failure then straight onto the compound which is done for 3-5 reps.
his workout takes around 15 minutes,and he only hits the gym once a week
For the first time in his life he is starting to add muscle to his frame
I measured him before the gym yesterday and he has added two and a half inches around his chest.
His arms although the same size are looking much harder and more shapely.

The mentzer routine done as it should be done can be found here
http://www.musclenet.com/mikementzerheavyduty.htm
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PostSubject: Re: Single set Vs multiple sets - which is best for muscle size?   Tue Feb 01, 2011 5:18 pm

An interesting read on the 1 set or more argument
http://www.cbass.com/NEWEVIDE.HTM
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PostSubject: Re: Single set Vs multiple sets - which is best for muscle size?   Fri Feb 11, 2011 3:06 pm

That appears to be pretty close to a slam dunk for single set training. Thanks for posting.
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PostSubject: real life example   Thu Feb 17, 2011 11:41 am

Back in November last year I had a young man put in touch with me who had been training at the gym I go to for around 18 months doing the regular multi set multi day workouts with very little to show for it.
He was getting very dissilusioned and toying with the idea of buying steroids Shocked

It took me a while to persused him to try a 1 set per body part once a week routine, but in the end he decided to give it a try.
I put him on the following routine
Leg press
bench press
pulldown
seated shoulder press
barbell curl
close grip bench press
All done for 1 set of 8 reps after two warmup sets on first three excercises, 1 on rest.
In the three months he has trained this way, his weights have gone up each and every workout,and he has put on 6lb in bodyweight while losing almost 2 inches off his waist measurement.
He still has a long way to go, but If he carrires on training this way I reckon he will be looking good by gym standards within a year at the most
sadly he will not give veganism, or vegetarianism a try, but this thread is about amount of sets to do for best results, so I thought id post here
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PostSubject: Re: Single set Vs multiple sets - which is best for muscle size?   Thu Feb 17, 2011 7:24 pm

The first two years or so I lifted weights I did multiple set workouts and my weight stayed in the 170 to 180 pound range. (I'm 6'4"). I usually could barely benchpress my weight. I didn't improve really at all during this time. I switched to doing one set to failure every 4 days with not really any warmup. (I would do a single rep wtih a much lighter weight as my "warmup" just to make sure about my form.) In a year I gained 50 pounds, bench had improved to about 260, etc. Squat had improved by like 150 pounds. Deadlift by 100 or so.

Since then I've mostly plateaued.(sp). (I did bench 300 eventually and deadlift 465.) During the last decade+ I've gone back and forth and never really found anything useful to happen with multiple sets.

I recall there was one well known trainer who basically dismissed anyone who says good things about single set training, saying that they just have woefully inferior genetics. But this research you've just posted seems to prove otherwise.

...FYI the best workout I ever did was a hard single set to failure every 4 days (5 to 8 reps) and then on the other three days a lighter single set just to get the blood flowing, using around 60% of the weight for 15 reps. My experiments with just a single set every week weren't as good.
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PostSubject: Re: Single set Vs multiple sets - which is best for muscle size?   Thu Feb 17, 2011 10:21 pm



OK just to throw oil onto this fire I've just stumbled across this gem, that could well make the average iron-heads blood boil (I'm looking forward to the fall-out on this one Laughing )



The basics:

You get better anabolic results using low-load (30% 1 rep max!), than using high load ( 90% 1 rep max)!!!
This doesn't seem to tie in with real world experience, to me at least. Does it mean that if you occasionally shifted to a low % of your 1 rep max you 'could' make gains? I don't know, I've never seen or even heard of it, except in a few over-training examples, but I've never even considered doing 30% 1 rep max on anything other than rehab, so I can't say I've ever experimented with such a low %? Has anyone ever tried that kind of low % training (under a third of your 1 rep max) for any length of time?



Quote :
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20711498

PLoS One. 2010 Aug 9;5(Cool:e12033.
Low-load high volume resistance exercise stimulates muscle protein synthesis more than high-load low volume resistance exercise in young men.

Burd NA, West DW, Staples AW, Atherton PJ, Baker JM, Moore DR, Holwerda AM, Parise G, Rennie MJ, Baker SK, Phillips SM.

Exercise Metabolism Research Group, Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
Abstract

BACKGROUND: We aimed to determine the effect of resistance exercise intensity (%1 repetition maximum-1RM) and volume on muscle protein synthesis, anabolic signaling, and myogenic gene expression.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Fifteen men (21+/-1 years; BMI=24.1+/-0.8 kg/m2) performed 4 sets of unilateral leg extension exercise at different exercise loads and/or volumes: 90% of repetition maximum (1RM) until volitional failure (90FAIL), 30% 1RM work-matched to 90%FAIL (30WM), or 30% 1RM performed until volitional failure (30FAIL). Infusion of [ring-13C6] phenylalanine with biopsies was used to measure rates of mixed (MIX), myofibrillar (MYO), and sarcoplasmic (SARC) protein synthesis at rest, and 4 h and 24 h after exercise. Exercise at 30WM induced a significant increase above rest in MIX (121%) and MYO (87%) protein synthesis at 4 h post-exercise and but at 24 h in the MIX only. The increase in the rate of protein synthesis in MIX and MYO at 4 h post-exercise with 90FAIL and 30FAIL was greater than 30WM, with no difference between these conditions; however, MYO remained elevated (199%) above rest at 24 h only in 30FAIL. There was a significant increase in AktSer473 at 24h in all conditions (P=0.023) and mTORSer2448 phosphorylation at 4 h post-exercise (P=0.025). Phosporylation of Erk1/2Tyr202/204, p70S6KThr389, and 4E-BP1Thr37/46 increased significantly (P<0.05) only in the 30FAIL condition at 4 h post-exercise, whereas, 4E-BP1Thr37/46 phosphorylation was greater 24 h after exercise than at rest in both 90FAIL (237%) and 30FAIL (312%) conditions. Pax7 mRNA expression increased at 24 h post-exercise (P=0.02) regardless of condition. The mRNA expression of MyoD and myogenin were consistently elevated in the 30FAIL condition.

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: These results suggest that low-load high volume resistance exercise is more effective in inducing acute muscle anabolism than high-load low volume or work matched resistance exercise modes.
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PostSubject: Re: Single set Vs multiple sets - which is best for muscle size?   Thu Feb 17, 2011 10:39 pm

Oh gosh here's a study showing 3 sets are superior to 1 set

Looks like a basic 70% of 1 rep max protocol, then they measure how long protein synthesis is measured - I can't see the full study...but it looks like protein synthesis only NOT muscle breakdown, but I could be wrong? Also other % of your 1 rep max may affect the results?

Quote :
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20581041

J Physiol. 2010 Aug 15;588(Pt 16):3119-30. Epub 2010 Jun 25.
Resistance exercise volume affects myofibrillar protein synthesis and anabolic signalling molecule phosphorylation in young men.

Burd NA, Holwerda AM, Selby KC, West DW, Staples AW, Cain NE, Cashaback JG, Potvin JR, Baker SK, Phillips SM.

Exercise Metabolism Research Group, Department of Kinesiology, McMaster University, 1280 Main Street West, Hamilton, ON L8S 4K1, Canada.
Abstract

We aimed to determine if any mechanistic differences exist between a single set (1SET) and multiple sets (i.e. 3 sets; 3SET) of resistance exercise by utilizing a primed constant infusion of [ring-13C6]phenylalanine to determine myofibrillar protein synthesis (MPS) and Western blot analysis to examine anabolic signalling molecule phosphorylation following an acute bout of resistance exercise. Eight resistance-trained men (24+/-5 years, BMI=25+/-4 kg m2) were randomly assigned to perform unilateral leg extension exercise at 70% concentric one repetition maximum (1RM) until volitional fatigue for 1SET or 3SET. Biopsies from the vastus lateralis were taken in the fasted state (Fast) and fed state (Fed; 20 g of whey protein isolate) at rest, 5 h Fed, 24 h Fast and 29 h Fed post-exercise. Fed-state MPS was transiently elevated above rest at 5 h for 1SET (2.3-fold) and returned to resting levels by 29 h post-exercise. However, the exercise induced increase in MPS following 3SET was superior in amplitude and duration as compared to 1SET at both 5 h (3.1-fold above rest) and 29 h post-exercise (2.3-fold above rest). Phosphorylation of 70 kDa S6 protein kinase (p70S6K) demonstrated a coordinated increase with MPS at 5 h and 29 h post-exercise such that the extent of p70S6K phosphorylation was related to the MPS response (r=0.338, P=0.033). Phosphorylation of 90 kDa ribosomal S6 protein kinase (p90RSK) and ribosomal protein S6 (rps6) was similar for 1SET and 3SET at 24 h Fast and 29 h Fed, respectively. However, 3SET induced a greater activation of eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2B (eIF2B) and rpS6 at 5 h Fed. These data suggest that 3SET of resistance exercise is more anabolic than 1SET and may lead to greater increases in myofibrillar protein accretion over time.
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PostSubject: Re: Single set Vs multiple sets - which is best for muscle size?   Fri Feb 18, 2011 8:28 am

[quote="Pete"]Yes, it's that old chestnut again!
There has been years of debate & one study certainly won't end it,

As you said in the above quote
this debate will not end,
but all I can say is that in EVERY instance where I have helped people I know who are stuck, or not gaining, cutting them down to 1 or 2 sets per bady part, infrequent training[once every 4 to 7 days], has produced the best results they have ever had. Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: Single set Vs multiple sets - which is best for muscle size?   Fri Feb 18, 2011 12:11 pm

I can see the arguments for one set & the arguments for several sets - I believe both have some merit & probably work in different settings...but. I can't figure out how that 30% of 1 rep max works. What sort of physiological effect would need you to build more muscle size doing only 30% of your max (basically an endurance move)?
That's one study I like to see repeated as I'm seriously wondering about the protocols used (although the University is well respected & not known for shoddy work).
But why the hell would you need to build extra muscle at that loading? More endurance, maybe a little size from mitochondria, but the really high protein synthesis?!? I'm wondering if they used trained guys who normally trained very hard & so backing off allowed recovery from overtraining & so increased muscle building? It's my only possible explanation?
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PostSubject: Re: Single set Vs multiple sets - which is best for muscle size?   Sat Feb 19, 2011 1:32 pm

Quote :
Infusion of [ring-13C6] phenylalanine with biopsies was used to measure rates of mixed (MIX), myofibrillar (MYO), and sarcoplasmic (SARC) protein synthesis at rest, and 4 h and 24 h after exercise. Exercise at 30WM induced a significant increase above rest in MIX (121%) and MYO (87%) protein synthesis at 4 h post-exercise and but at 24 h in the MIX only. The increase in the rate of protein synthesis in MIX and MYO at 4 h post-exercise with 90FAIL and 30FAIL was greater than 30WM, with no difference between these conditions; however, MYO remained elevated (199%) above rest at 24 h only in 30FAIL. There was a significant increase in AktSer473 at 24h in all conditions (P=0.023) and mTORSer2448 phosphorylation at 4 h post-exercise (P=0.025). Phosporylation of Erk1/2Tyr202/204, p70S6KThr389, and 4E-BP1Thr37/46 increased significantly (P<0.05) only in the 30FAIL condition at 4 h post-exercise, whereas, 4E-BP1Thr37/46 phosphorylation was greater 24 h after exercise than at rest in both 90FAIL (237%) and 30FAIL (312%) conditions. Pax7 mRNA expression increased at 24 h post-exercise (P=0.02) regardless of condition. The mRNA expression of MyoD and myogenin were consistently elevated in the 30FAIL condition.

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: These results suggest that low-load high volume resistance exercise is more effective in inducing acute muscle anabolism than high-load low volume or work matched resistance exercise modes.
Cyclists generally have huge thighs relative to the rest of their body. I've read that the main difference by the way of Lance Armstrong to other cyclists was having larger thighs relative to the rest of his body. And that in general thigh size relative to body weight determines performance.
Robert Cheeke by the way, I recall used to do deep tissue massage for a living and far and away (at the time) his best body part was his forearms.

Right now my only upper body exericise for the last month at least is using an ergometer 30 minutes twice a week. It's early to say but I'm liking the results so far, although it's only one exercise and doesn't have as much ROM as I'd like.
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