One Set To Failure Training Protocol
As part of my Seattle Experiment, I’ve been weight training using a single set (to failure) protocol. After two weeks of this method (4 training sessions), I can truly say that it is working (I am getting stronger, even though my weight isn’t changing). Amazingly, I am also spending hardly any time in the gym. So far, so good.
Here is a run down on the exercises I typically will do. Note that there will be some variation to this routine. For example, I will vary the tricep or bicep exercises and sometimes do dead-lifts instead of squats or pull ups instead of rows. Other than that, I’ve kept things constant.
General rules I’ve been following:
- Perform a total of 8 exercises covering the entire body in a single workout, focusing on compound movements (multi-joint exercises)
- Train twice per week at most. I train once every four days
- Perform each set so that you are reaching muscular failure on the last rep
- Aim to reach failure between 8-10 reps
- Each rep should be performed SLOWLY, using a 5 second up and 5 second down count
- Wait at least 3 minutes between each exercise
A typical day in the gym using this approach (taking from my training log on May 13, 2007):
- Squats 135 lbs x 10 reps
- Nautilus Chest Press 150 lbs x 9 reps
- Nautilus Compound Row (back) 120 lbs x 15 reps
- Leg Press 275 lbs x 9 reps
- Nautilus Pullover 160 lbs x 9 reps
- Cable Flys (chest) 40 lbs x 10 reps
- Tricep Press w/ Rope 30 lbs x 7 reps
- Incline Dumbbell Curl (bicep) 25 lbs x 7 reps
By the end of this I was pretty darn tired. A couple things to keep in mind when doing this type of workout:
- It will take a few training sessions to “calibrate” your exercises so you actually know how much weight to use. You’ll notice for a few of the exercises I did, I still didn’t have the weight dialed in properly.
- Doing the reps slowly is really important. Look at a clock and get use to how long five seconds really is. At my gym there are clocks everywhere, so for couple exercises, I can actually watch the second hand while I am working out to help me calibrate.
- Make sure you take the full rest interval. The goal isn’t to run your body into the ground, it is to stress your muscle as much as possible. Make sure you have the rest required to give it a full effort.
- You MUST keep a training log. It is really important to make sure you are increasing your weights. If your training logs don’t show you increasing weights or reps every workout; you either aren’t resting enough or you aren’t eating properly.
That’s it! The total workout lasts about 40 minutes…and frankly, most of the time is just resting between sets.
My previous training routine took about 70 minutes for the typical workout, and I trained 4 days on / 1 day off.
That means my previous workout routine took almost 6 hours per week while my new routine takes less than 1.5 hours….so I’m getting more progress in 1/4th the time. Not bad!
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