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episode #275

Get Ready For A Challenging Workout: Single or Multiple Sets?

August 7, 2023 in Podcast


This week I discuss some of the differences between single vs. multiple sets and how it all depends on your time, fitness level and strength training goals. Most importantly, to see results from your strength training sessions, you must overload the muscles with challenging enough effort to cause adaptation to occur. So whether that is one set of 15 or 3 sets of 12 reps there needs to be enough intensity to create muscle growth.

If you are going to give one set to failure a try here are a few guidelines to follow:

  • Warm Up: 5-10 minutes of cardio or some movement prep to get the body ready
  • Have Intent: Mindset is very important when it comes to one set to failure
  • Move Slowly: Count to 4 seconds on both the eccentric and concentric parts of the lift
  • Use Heavy Weight (without causing injury): You need to create fatigue within around 12-15 reps and if it's too easy then you need to up the weight
  • Rest - Make sure you are getting adequate rest between each workout (24-36 hours)
There you have it! Give it a try and let me know how it goes! Remember:  If you decide to go with one-set training, you have to work a little harder to make sure you get the most out of each and every rep.

Have a great day!


  1. Fröhlich M, Emrich E, Schmidtbleicher D. Outcome effects of single-set versus multiple-set training--an advanced replication studyRes Sports Med. 2010;18(3):157-175. doi:10.1080/15438620903321045

  2. Radaelli R, Fleck SJ, Leite T, et al. Dose-response of 1, 3, and 5 sets of resistance exercise on strength, local muscular endurance, and hypertrophyJ Strength Cond Res. 2015;29(5):1349-58. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000000758

Brian (1s):

Hello and welcome to the GETLEAN and Eat Clean podcast. My name is Brian Gryn. I'm a certified health coach, trainer and author, and this podcast is for middle aged men and women looking to optimize their health and get their bodies back to what it once was 10 to 15 years ago. I will give you simple, actionable items to get long term sustainable results. Thanks for listening and enjoy the show. All, right Welcome to the Get Lean Eat Clean podcast. My name is Brian Gryn. I hope you had a great weekend and happy Tuesday if you're listening to this on Tuesday.

Brian (41s):

Hopefully you listen to my interview with Brad Kerns. This was his, gosh, I think it was at least his fourth time on the podcast. And good friend of mine introduced me to podcasting and he's outta California. He's a podcast host of B Rad Podcast. He's also an elite masters athlete. and we discussed all about his morning routine, you know, setting goals in your fifties. We talked all about advantages of micro workouts, which I'm gonna touch more on today and much, much more. So definitely listen to my interview if you haven't already with Brad, it's a great perspective. He's been in the health game for a long, long time. He worked with Mark Sisson, still does, and definitely worth a listen.

Brian (1m 25s):

So that's episode 2 74, check it out. And on today's micro podcast, I wanted to touch on micro workouts, something that gets discussed, a decent amount of my podcast. I've talked about it with Dr. Jake Wish who invented the X three bar, which is a system I've used for the last probably three years now. On and off. I do some traditional lifting, I do some, you know, X three, I like to mix it up. But one of the things Brett and I talked about was these micro workouts that, you know, they can be effective, especially if someone's completely sedentary and they're not doing anything And, you know, they suddenly just start adding these into their, their life.

Brian (2m 8s):

And it's just a way to sort of eliminate any excuses because if a workout's gonna take you 10 minutes, really who can't get that in right? As opposed to going to the gym and it's a an hour and a half ordeal. So I think they can play a role. I'm gonna sort of touch on the differences between doing one set versus multiple sets and, and this, you know, there's some nuance behind this, but I think Most importantly, it depends on first of all, your goals, your current fitness level, And, what you're really looking to do. Like are you looking to build muscle endurance? Are you building the, looking to build some muscle growth or make some strength gains in your forties and fifties?

Brian (2m 50s):

you know, single set training may help you and you could pretty much find studies. I mean there are a lot, there's quite a bit. Once I went, went down the rabbit hole, I know this gentleman, Jay Vincent, who talks all about doing just one set to failure. And this can, you can build muscle, you can, you can build strength from doing this. So I think it can work for most people. And, you know, you can find a study that fits that sort of portrayal, but you can also find studies where, you know, if you're an advanced lifter, you know, three to five sets might be the way to go. I think it depends on your time and your goals, And what you've been doing in the past, but doing a single set of squats of 15 reps, verse three sets of 12 reps, if, if it fits in your timeframe just to do one set, go for it.

Brian (3m 44s):

It makes much more sense because it's better than doing nothing. And you know, there's some conflicting opinions regard regarding single set. I think Most importantly, it's about the stimulus that you're putting on the muscle because if you just, you know, you think of what, what the goal of the strength training session is to be, it's to overload the muscle and challenge it enough to, to cause adaptation to occur. And if you're doing three sets of 12, but it's just super, you know, super easy, you know, then you're better off just doing one set and fatiguing that muscle all the way and being done as opposed to just doing three that are, you know, you can feel like you can do much more.

Brian (4m 32s):

So again, you talk about doing sets of failure, failure to different failure depends on the person per se, and you gotta get into that mindset. I will say I, I've done this, I've done one, set the failure for a little while and, and sort of experimented. It is a mindset, but doing one set when you, when you know that you only gotta do it once, it, if you wrap your arms around that and really just do that lift with full intention, it can really, you can really get tired and it can take a toll on your muscles and, and you can build strength. So I would say that it depends on your time and your goals.

Brian (5m 13s):

I, you can find an argument one way or the other. I was looking at, gosh, there's quite a bit of studies. There was a 2015 study that compared 1, 3, 5 sets of exercises found that multiple sets were better with regard to strength gain, muscle endurance, and upper arm muscle growth. So this one was saying that multiple sets was better, but you know, I've seen some studies showing that single set training was effective in the short term, but some of the research concluded that long-term progress and those looking to increase their strength, multiple sets are superior. So I think he can get results either way.

Brian (5m 53s):

I think that there's pros and cons to both, I would say to do single set training. It, it definitely worked for beginners. I think it's a good place to start. It's a easier way to manage your time. You can still build and preserve strength and it sort of takes the excuses out. So if you're one that just seems to find an excuse for everything, especially when it comes to working out, go for it. One set to failure be done in 15 minutes, And, you know, no more excuses but you really gotta be Intent and you really gotta fatigue the muscle in that one. Set. Some of the cons, I would say maybe for advanced lifters and some might argue that advanced lifters should maybe have to do a few more sets.

Brian (6m 38s):

I enjoy working out, so I like doing, you know, probably I average probably three sets per muscle group. So there's pros and cons to both. But you know, this is something Brad and I talked a lot about and I will just say that if you are gonna do single set training and make it work for you, I'll just give you a few tips that you should follow. One, I would definitely still Warm Up, get your muscles ready by doing, you know, this could be five to 10 minutes of some type of cardio or just some light movement. I still do some, you know, some postural work. I'll, I'll, I'll make sure that I'm rolling my muscles and just getting 'em ready for movement. Two, you really gotta stay focused on that single set. Like I said, take your time on each of the reps.

Brian (7m 21s):

You're only doing one set, right? So you gotta really make sure that you're not bouncing or jerking or slumping And, you know, you wanna sort of go slower, you don't have to go crazy slow. I would say maybe count Count to four during the lifting phase and the lowering phase. And this ma really makes you focus in and will fatigue the muscle. So make sure that you're recruiting all your muscle fibers using heavier weights obviously too, which you know, that can come with some, some risks. So that would be one reason maybe why you don't wanna do single set training. Again, I would say if you could focus on eight to 15 reps, but you know it has to be heavy enough that really you can't do anymore.

Brian (8m 6s):

you know, at at the end you feel like you can keep going, it's a sign that you need to increase your weight and then you just gotta think maximal effort. Again, it's a mindset you remember, you only go in one set, you can, you gotta go all out and you know, you know, stay within your capabilities. You don't have to go crazy, but you really have to feel fatigue coming on. And then I'd probably rest at least a day between strength training sessions. So those would be my tips for you. If you're gonna implement single set training, I think it can be effective for a lot of different individuals and I think it's worth giving a try. So let me know if you got any questions, feel free to write in the comments or email me at brian at Brian Gryn dot com and yeah, Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Brian (8m 53s):

And I look forward to talking with you on Friday with another great interview. Have a great day. Thanks for listening to the GETLEAN E Clean podcast. I understand there are millions of other Podcasts out there and you've chosen to listen to mine and I appreciate that. Check out the show notes@briangrin.com for everything that was mentioned in this episode. Feel free to subscribe to the podcast and share it with a friend or family member that's looking to get their body back to what it once was. Thanks again, and Have a great day.

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