Great article, as usual.
Q: what is a meaning of “until volitional fatigue”
on performing the set? It’s not “to failure”?
Is Single Set or Multiple Sets Better To Build Muscle?
July 31 2010
The question of single set or multiple sets for building muscle has been long standing. A recent study has shed some new insight into this “number sets for muscle” debate.
Why one set to build muscle?
- Intensity: You can put lot more into one set and therefore can use more weight.
- Recovery: If you are doing less sets, you recover better.
Why multiple sets to build muscle?
- Time under Tension: The time under tension on the muscle is greater and hence greater muscle growth potential.
- Trained Lifters: As you the training age increase, ,muscle becomes resistant to training and hence you need multiple sets to gain muscle.
But what do the studies say?
What was the design of the study?
The recent study looked at one set and 3 sets on muscle protein synthesis.
- Participants: The study had 8 trained participants (atleast one year) .
- Design: The design was within subject design where the subject acted as their own control. This within-subject design minimizes the variables like participant motivation and genetics.
- Training Protocol: The participants after an overnight fast did 3 sets of 70%1RM till failure with 2 min rest in between, and for the other leg they did 1 set of 70% 1RM.
What were the results of the study?
- At 5h: The results showed that both 1 and 3 sets increased protein synthesis at 5 hours, but the increase was significantly higher for 3 sets.
- After a day: Only the 3 sets groups sustained the protein synthesis even after a day while the single set returned back to fasted levels.
What about long term studies on sets and muscle?
Can this acute results in protein synthesis translate as muscular changes in the long term? Yes, indeed.
- Recent Meta-analysis: The recent meta-analysis confirms with the above acute study and shows that multiple sets are more effective than single sets in building muscle. This was true irrespective of the training status or the training duration.
- Multiple sets are more effective in building muscle than single set.
- 3 sets are more effective in building muscle than one set.6 sets might be more effective that 3 sets, but we are not sure yet
- Are low reps (1-6) better than high reps (8-12) for muscle growth?
- The Best Workout Program For Muscle Growth?
Anoop | Sat July 31, 2010
Thanks for the comment, anatoly!
Yes it’s to failure.It is just a research lingo. I will change it.Thanks.
Thank you for this article Anoop.
This confirms a number of studies that demonstrate the necessity for sufficient mechanical work/time under tension (as well a sufficient mechanical load, of course) to elicit growth.
Incidentally, James Krieger (at Weightology.net) did a meta-analysis of the data on this issue and came up with similar conclusions.
Anoop | Sun August 01, 2010
That is the meta-analysis I am talking about and is the second reference.
Most studies and reviews of different sets were looking at strength. I guess this was the only meta-analysis which looked at muscle growth. We might see a long term study on this topic from this lab I think.
As an advanced trainee, I find it difficult to sustain progress with multiple sets. Hence, one set to failure seems to stimulate growth and make progress sustainable long term. Remember, protein synthesis is only one part to the entire picture of growth stimulation and recovery.
Dan Moore | Thu August 12, 2010
Anoop | Sun August 15, 2010
You have to remember that they only did one exercise per muscle group. Usually, HIT proponents do more exercises for a muscle group for 1 set. So in reality they are doing multiple sets for a muscle group.
And the type 2 activation level goes down as the sets increase. So I guess the effectiveness of sets are diminishing with more sets.
Thanks for the study. I was about to write one about the intensity and effort of training. I think the design of the study is kind of screwed up. Maybe one reason why they didn’t get published in a good journal.
The public library of Science (PLoSone), is actually a superior journal than JPhysiol!
I think the est. impact factor of plos is ~4.5 whereas Jphysiol is ~3.5
I have no idea where all this confusion is coming from… the open access status? The university pays to make this available to the public.
Anoop | Sun September 05, 2010
You are right, Tyswift. I check their rank and it seems to be high for a new journal(at least for exercise journals). I haven’t come across that journal since is started in Dec 2006 and it’s been growing ever since.
They have a whole new way of peer review. They don’t reject any unless there is technical or reporting problems.
And mind you, part of the PLos one impact factor is because it covers science and medicine and there are more studies and more chances of getting referenced. And journal of Physiol 2009 impact factors is 4.7 not 3.5.
Wow, it has been a while since i checked JPhysiol. It is climbing. Thats great.
I think PLoSOne, may be a downward spiral as they are accepting and publishing more and more studies.
But the open access status is certainly nice for the general public.
Anoop | Sun September 19, 2010
What a surprise! I am almost done readng the book “: “The art and politics of Science” by Harold Varmus (fmr. NIH director) and there he talks about how he started the concept of open access publishing and PLos was his brain child.
He was basically sick of authors writing articles and giving copyright to journals who makes a ton of money and pay nothing for the research. If researchers use tax payers money to find research, why should they pay again to read it. Now there is a new ruling that if NIH money was used to fund the study, the article will be available freely in Pubmed Central.
I will write an article about Impact Factor soon. Not many people are aware of this, even the experts.
I would like to know more info about the study. If you do one set, you can stimulate the muscles to grow, because you broke the muscle down. If you do another set, you just made a 100% increase in the “in-road” you had created from the 1st set and so on for the next. I can see that protein synthesis is higher at 29H but is that because the body is still repairing the long in-road you had created? If there was only one set done, then the body would fill the “hole” and then use its remaining recovery ability to “build the mountain” on top wouldn’t it? There needs to be a long term study done with trained individuals on muscle CSA. If you have any information regarding a similar study, please enlighten me!
I only have an undergrad in Exercise Science and I would love to know what you think since you have many more letters after your name than mine! haha