As sports physiotherapists we devise and implement exercise programs on an exceptionally regular basis. In fact, frequently exercise rehabilitation of our athletes is the important thing that we do (Church & Blair, 2009). Therefore, it is essential that when we prescribe exercises we make decisions that are evidence based.
I can hear you thinking “I’m awesome at exercise prescription and don’t need any help”. Fantastic. But answer me this; do you know what number of sets will give your athletes the greatest gains in strength and hypertrophy? Is it 1, 2, 5, 10? This article will tell you.
EXERCISE PRESCRIPTION OF SETS FOR STRENGTH GAINS
Kreiger (2009) performed a meta-regression to assess the impact of number of sets on gains in strength. The study compared 3 groups; single set, 2-3 sets or 4-6 sets. The study found that 2-3 sets per exercise are associated with 46% greater strength gains than a single set. This was true in both trained and untrained individuals. Utilising 4-6 sets showed no additional benefit beyond that of 2-3 sets.
EXERCISE PRESCRIPTION OF SETS FOR HYPERTROPHY GAINS
Kreiger (2010) performed a meta-analysis to assess the impact of number of sets on gains in hypertrophy. Similar to the study above there was a comparison between single, 2-3 and 4-6 sets of the exercise. Interestingly, 2-3 sets showed a 40% greater hypertrophy-related effect sizes than a single set per exercise. Moving to 4-6 sets per exercise did not show any further significant increases.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE
- If you want to achieve strength or hypertrophy gains your athletes should be performing exercise programs with 2-3 sets per exercise.
This article should serve to either confirm the practices of some therapists, or possibly influence the practice of others! What are your thoughts? Be sure to let me know in the comments or catch me on Facebook or Twitter
Church TS, Blair SN. When will we treat physical activity as a legitimate medical therapy…even though it does not come in a pill? Br J Sports Med 2009;43:80-81
Krieger, JW. Single versus multiple sets of resistance exercise: a meta-regression. J Strength Cond Res 2009 23(6): 1890-1901
Krieger, JW. Single vs. multiple sets of resistance exercise for muscle hypertrophy: a meta-analysis. J Strength Cond Res 2010 24(4): 1150-1159