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Training Systems For Muscle Growth

Multi-set – 3 sets of 10. Used to increase strength. 

Single-set – 1 set (ACSM guidelines). Develop strength. Useful for beginners. Advanced users may need more volume. 

Superset – Agonist/agonist or agonist and antagonist muscle groups. For example:

  • Bench press followed by press-ups

  • Bicep curl followed by triceps extension. 

This system allows increases in the density of a workout due to little or no rest between sets. 

Click the video link: watch?v=Vjy67n0Q5UI watch?v=jpAIW6DaN1o 

Tri-set - Three different exercises performed one after another, with little or no rest in between. Example:

  • Cable flyes 

  • Overhead extension 

  • Pullover 

Click the video link: watch?v=YjgAIjZGxe4 

Giant set – 4 or more exercises of 12-15 repetitions per exercise are performed for the same muscle group with minimal rest between exercises. Typically, 90s to 2 minutes rest is taken between giants sets. Suitable for hypertrophy training. Example:

  • 45° incline bench press 

  • 30° decline barbell bench press 

  • Standing crossover bench press

  • Dumbbell flyes 

Drop-set – Used to increase fatigue in muscles. Select an exercise and a weight that can be lifted 8-10 times. Complete the required multiple sets with the appropriate rest per set. On the last and final multiple set, complete the stated reps and work to failure. Once failure has been achieved on the final set, drop the resistance by between 5-20% working to failure. Complete 2-3 drops to failure. 

Click the video link below: watch?v=7132AX7Y70I 

Pyramid - Typically involves sets with descending numbers of reps with subsequent increases in weight lifted (ascending). Example: 

Click the video link: watch?v=Om8icR7TCVo 

Reverse pyramid involves decreasing the weight in each set whilst increasing the number of repetitions being performed

Forced reps - Repetitions are taken to the point of muscle failure requiring a training partner to assist in completing 1-2 additional reps past the specific point of failure. 

Click the video link: watch?v=gi9gLvNR4hk 

Negative - Using SUPRAMAXIMAL loads 110-130% above 1RM. Depending on the exercise, 1 or 2 experienced spotters are required. Loads are lowered slowly. At the bottom of the movement, the spotter assists with the concentric portion of the movement. Used for developing maximal strength only. 

Pre exhaust - an isolation exercise followed by a compound exercise. Examples:


  • Hamstring curl (ISOLATION EXERCISE)/deadlift (COMPOUND EXERCISE)

  • Machine chest flye (ISOLATION EXERCISE)/bench press (COMPOUND EXERCISE)

Post exhaust– A compound exercise followed by an isolation exercise. Increases the level of fatigue in muscle groups. Examples:



  • Bench press (COMPOUND EXERCISE) /Machine chest fly (ISOLATION EXERCISE)

Click the video link: watch?v=XcbKvUIWyNw 

Matrix training - Often referred to as 21s, this training system involves exercising and fatiguing the muscles that cross a specified joint(s) by completing several partial repetitions (usually for the joint’s inner (shortened) and outer (lengthened) ranges and then to finish with, throughout the joint’s available full range. For example, during the bicep curl exercise, you would perform 7 repetitions from the elbow extended (0 degrees to 90 degrees, 7 repetitions from the elbow flexed 90 degrees to 180 degrees and finally, 7 repetitions of the full range (0-180 degrees). 

Click the video link: watch?v=cVnz1JJ4OFo 

Circuit – usually 8-12 exercises performed without recovery. Used to develop muscular endurance and aerobic/metabolic fitness. 

Written by The Fitness Test Team.

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