Powering Through Sets, Part 2: Pro-Grade Tips

How do you power through sets and get the results you want?  

In our previous article, we talked about the two biggest camps in bodybuilding: the high-intensity group and the classical group.

Powering Through SetsThe high-intensity group espouses the belief that higher resistance with fewer reps and sets is the best way to build mass and strength. The opposing group, on the other hand, teaches us that you can get excellent results too by overloading the muscles and increasing the frequency of the movements.

These two methods are not without risks. The high-intensity method is not recommended for people with weak constitutions because it will definitely push your muscles. As well your whole physical frame will be pushed to their limits. If you are not naturally strong, high-intensity training can make you fatigued and miserable.

The classical method can become exhausting as well. This is because you keep adding sets and reps to your current lineup in order to move forward.

Unless you are focusing closely on your nutrition and your mass gains, you are at risk of losing muscle mass to natural catabolism or natural muscle depletion which occurs as you exercise.

Is there a perfect system?

As you can see, there is no such thing as a perfect bodybuilding system. Even the classical system that was used by Arnold Schwarzenegger to win Mr. Olympia has its own downsides.

In order to determine what works best for you, we recommend that you try different systems and see how each one benefits your body. What worked for Arnold may not be as effective as what worked for Dorian and you may find that your system differs entirely.

The Tips

Regardless of what system you choose, use our pro-grade tips below to boost your performance:

  1. Body Type Matters – If you are a tall and lean person, you’re at risk of catabolism after a short period of time. If you perform 20 sets of each exercise you may end up with low body fat. As well as low lean muscle tissue, too! If this is the case, a high-intensity approach may be best for you.
  2. Time Your Recovery Period – It doesn’t make any sense to jump into the next set after 10 seconds of catching your breath. Your body needs more than 10 seconds if you’ve been forcing it to lift heavy weights! The minimum recovery time is 45 seconds but no more than 1 whole minute for “general purpose” workouts.

However, if you’re trying to burn off as much fat as possible in a limited amount of time, your recovery period should be limited to just 20 seconds. However, the intensity should be controlled. As too much intensity can cause you to flop around in subsequent sets.

  1. Experiment With Set Types – There are two main types of set systems in bodybuilding. The first one is the straight set where a bodybuilder performs a fixed number of sets and repetitions without modifying the intensity or resistance.

For example, let us say that today was arm day for me and I wanted to perform barbells curls. If I was using straight sets, my target would be something like 150 lbs., 5 x 10 (5 sets of 10 reps).

The second set system is the pyramid set. The pyramid set is often used by people who espouse the high-intensity mode of training. Instead of maintaining the same rep count through the set, you will change the intensity and rep count accordingly.

Going back to my example, before, if I was performing barbell curls and I wanted a pyramid set, my target set and reps would look like this:

Five Sets

  • Set 1 – 150 lbs. – 10 reps.
  • Set 2 – 155 lbs. – 9 reps
  • Set #3 – 160 lbs. – 8 reps
  • Set 4 – 165 lbs. – 7 reps
  • Set #5 – 170 lbs. – 6 reps

There is a third set type called the reverse set but it’s quite risky for beginners. The reverse set places the highest possible resistance at the beginning of the set. The set becomes progressively easier as resistance is reduced. Do this until the bodybuilder is lifting relatively light weights at the end of the set.

The logic behind the reverse set is that you will have a better chance of being able to lift the heaviest weights at full power if you lift them first. However, this drive for ideal performance can come at the cost of injury. Don’t use reverse sets if you’re barely out of your first year of bodybuilding!

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