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Single-set vs. Multiple-set Weight Training

Updated on July 19, 2017
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A proper strength-training program improves muscular size, strength and whole-body power. It tracks muscle and joint function perfectly. It stimulates the muscle efficiently and sufficiently applies the appropriate amount of force to the body.

MULTIPLE SETS V. SINGLE SETS

Many exercise experts claim that multiple sets of a particular exercise is optimal (ex: three sets of eight to 12 repetitions). Adelphi University conducted a study concerning single-set versus multiple-set resistance training. They concluded that, overall, performing multiple sets did not improve or increase results compared to single-set training.

The SuperSlow™ protocol, also known as High-Intensity Training (HIT), is scientifically sound. Originally introduced in 1982 by University of Florida School of Medicine researcher, Ken Hutchins, SuperSlow™ is a controlled workout that has been around for over 40 years. No other workout is as safe on the muscles, bones and joints. It’s effective because it ensures quality, not quantity. One set of each exercise can target all major muscle groups to achieve a total body workout. It’s efficient because each workout is 8-10 exercises and takes only about 30 minutes.

How is this possible? The key is slow, controlled repetitions with perfect form. Sounds easy, right? Well, your muscles actually have to work harder. In order to increase strength gains, you must lift and lower the weight slow enough to counter the effects of gravity and momentum. How slow? As slow as possible without needing to start and stop through the set.

Moreover, the weight must be heavy enough for the muscle to reach total fatigue in just a few repetitions. Scientific research substantiates the recommendation that if each exercise is performed to momentary muscular failure, then it’s not necessary to perform multiple sets.

WHY FAILURE IS A GOOD THING

In the strength-training world, failure is a good thing. What is momentary muscle failure? It’s the point where movement of the weight is no longer possible, despite the attempt to keep it moving. It’s essential to thoroughly and deeply fatigue the target musculature in order to stimulate growth, increase strength and improve metabolism.

The elimination of momentum is at the heart of a SuperSlow™ protocol workout. Studies have shown that you can achieve 50%-100% more strength this way than a traditional weight-lifting program. That’s right…with proper form, you can be up to two times stronger with fewer reps, much less time, and much less risk of injury. Let’s look at why.

MUSCLE FIBER RECRUITMENT

It’s important to understand that the effectiveness of the weight is determined by how many muscle fibers are called into play during the exercise. There are slow-, medium- and fast-twitch muscle fibers. Each muscle contains some of each type, and they differ in size and speed of how they fire and contract. Although our own individual fiber-type ratio and distribution are genetically predetermined, we can vastly improve what we've been given by making them bigger and more metabolically fit.

The brain recruits these fibers on an orderly basis. Fast-twitch fibers are recruited for situations that require explosive power and speed for a short period of time (think, an Olympic sprinter). Slower fibers are enlisted when endurance is necessary (think, a marathon runner). The slowest of fibers are sent into action first because they don’t require a lot of energy. Medium fibers require slightly more energy while the fast ones require the most energy.

When a muscle lifts a given weight, the slow-twitch fibers respond first. If it’s too light, the muscle can endure many repetitions without fatigue. Add more weight and these slower fibers begin to fail. The medium fibers then have to step up to the plate. Add enough weight to fatigue both these two fiber types, and that’s when the fast-twitch fibers get in the game. Until they get involved, your workout isn't building muscle, increasing strength, or improving your metabolic health.

High-intensity strength training is designed to promote deep fatigue of the slower muscle fibers and set a fire sufficient enough to bring the fast ones to failure. The designation of slow, medium and fast fibers really indicates their respective fatigue rates (slow-fatigue, medium-fatigue and fast-fatigue). The slower a fiber fatigues, the faster it recovers. Therefore, fast-twitch fibers fatigue quicker and recover slower.

As a general rule, you should reach muscle failure in 45-90 seconds. If you're able to perform the exercise for longer, you've underestimated the amount of weight you should be using. Likewise, if you're unable to continue the exercise for 45 seconds, you've overestimated. Once you've reached muscle failure within 90 seconds, it's time to increase the resistance by approximately 5-10 percent the next time you perform the exercise.

RECOVERY IS THE KEY

Why is recovery important? As you move through the muscle fiber recruitment pattern from slow to fast, the process causes a degree of inroading, or damage, to the muscle fiber. An alarm sounds, and the muscle fibers say to themselves, “Holy cow, that was way too heavy. We better get stronger and be ready for the next time we have to do that!” So, the body goes into repair, rebuild and recover mode. It stimulates the strengthening and growth of the muscle in order to adapt for the next time it needs to work that hard.

The payoff? Working hard enough to recruit those fast-twitch fibers and gain strength will reduce the risk of osteoporosis and improve cardiovascular health. In fact, contrary to popular belief, strength training is more effective than steady-state aerobic exercises at improving the cardiovascular system because it involves all components of metabolism. A continued regimen of high-intensity strength training is the fastest way to build strength, restore muscle mass, and enhance flexibility lost to disuse and age.

SUPERSLOW™ PROTOCOL BENEFITS

  • Gain strength fast
  • Increase metabolism
  • Reduce body fat
  • Improve cardiovascular health
  • Increase bone density
  • Reduce the risk of osteoporosis
  • Enhance flexibility
  • Get rid of lower back pain

Utilizing the SuperSlow™ weight-training protocol two to three times per week can significantly benefit your health and fitness levels. It's an efficient workout that builds and strengthens your muscles while keeping your joints and connective tissues safe from injury. No matter your age or your condition, anyone can get stronger and fitter from doing the SuperSlow™ workout.

SuperSlow™ (High-Intensity) Training Exercise: Chest Press

The SuperSlow™ weight-training protocol utilizes lower force by eliminating momentum and gravity resulting in a more evenly applied resistance throughout the muscle's range of motion. It reduces the risk of joint and connective tissue injuries.

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