It’s easy to get stuck doing the same 3 sets of 10 every workout.
But there are so many other ways you can organize your rep/set scheme to maximize muscle growth.
In terms of your training methods, in order to stimulate muscle hypertrophy, you need to be doing one of two things:
- Increase resistance: This is called “progressive overload”. Progressively adding more weight to your lifts will recruit a higher amount of muscle fibres.
- Variety: This can mean performing new exercises or even reorganizing the order of your current exercise selection. This will challenge your muscle fibres in new ways without having to lift heavier weights.
If you go to the gym and do the same thing you’ve always done, you’re repeatedly putting your body through the same stresses.
If no new stresses are introduced to your muscles (whether it’s lifting heavier weights or performing a new movement pattern), they’re going to get bored.
In order to gain muscle, you need variety in your program. Variety can include different exercises, as well as different ranges of repetitions and sets.
There are tons of ways you can change up your rep and set scheme.
Today, we’ll go over three different types of sets you probably haven’t tried before for maximal muscle growth.
Cluster sets are intra-set rest periods between repetitions.
An example of a “normal” set would be 8 repetitions.
An example of a cluster set would be 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 repetitions with 10-20 sec rest intervals between each mini set of 2.
As you already know, lifting heavy weights maximizes muscle growth and gets you stronger.
Cluster sets allow you to lift heavier weights for a higher amount of total volume (total tonnage lifted).
Example: Back Squat for 8 total reps
Perform 3 reps. Re-rack the bar. Rest 10-20 sec.
Perform another 3 reps. Re-rack the bar. Rest 10-20 sec.
Perform last 2 remaining reps.
Perform a compound strength exercise and then immediately perform a dynamic/explosive exercise of the same movement pattern.
This maximizes muscle fibre recruitment and nervous system stimulation. Your central nervous system (CNS) controls all cognitive functions of the body. Adding explosive movements for low repetitions maximizes CNS stimulation which translates directly to heavy lifting.
By “heightening” or “priming” your nervous system with dynamic/power exercises (like box jumps, kettlebell swings, or med ball slams), you’re training your body to be more efficient at generating power and applying force. This heightened ability to generate force helps you lift heavier weights and recruits a higher amount of muscle fibre stimulation, both of which help promote muscle hypertrophy.
A1. Bench press: 3 sets of 6
A2. Explosive push ups: 3 sets of 10
A1. Conventional deadlift: 3 sets of 5
A2. Kettlebell swing: 3 sets of 10
A1. Back squat: 4 sets of 8
A2. Explosive squats: 4 sets of 10
Perform one exercise and then perform another exercise that targets the same muscle group.
Usually you would perform one compound lift or movement followed by an isolation exercise; or vice versa.
We know that time under tension is important when trying to build muscle, this is how long our muscles are working while performing an exercise. There are several ways you can increase time under tension; slowing down your eccentrics, adding pauses (isometrics), adding bands or chains, etc.
Compound sets are a great way to effectively create more tension in specific muscle groups by performing a compound lift followed by an isolation exercise that targets the same muscles.
A1. Dumbbell bench press: 3 sets of 10
A2. Dumbbell chest fly’s: 3 sets of 15
A1. Bent over barbell row: 4 sets of 8
A2. Face pull: 4 sets of 12
A1. Romanian deadlift: 3 sets of 6
A2. Hamstring curl: 3 sets of 10
- You build muscle by introducing new stresses to your body.
- Progressive overload (lifting heavier weights) is one way of introducing new stress.
- Incorporating new variations of exercises is another way of introducing new stress.
- Cluster sets allow you to lift heavier weights and increase total tonnage lifted.
- Contrast sets heighten your CNS and increase muscle fibre recruitment.
- Compound sets help increase time under tension in specific muscle groups.
- There is no “best type of set” for building muscle. Use all of them and do what is optimal for you and your training.
If you have any questions or comments please shoot me a message down below!