Strength Training: Do sets need to be completed in a row?
December 5, 2006 11:38 AM   Subscribe

Strengthtrainingfilter: If I have a workout comprised of 6 exercises, 2 sets each, can I do all 6 exercises in a row twice, or do I have to do each one twice in a row?

I've been doing all 6 in a row and then repeating, which seems like it lets me lift more and relieves boredom.

But a friend of mine pointed out that I'm supposed to be doing all my sets of one exercise in a row. Why? Do I have to?
posted by sirion to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I think the only thing that really matters is that you are working to exhaustion in each set. The point is to break down the muscle and I don't think the order in which this happens is important, so long as it happens. Also, muscle tends to learn and build up a tolerance to the same old excercise routine, so continually mixing up both the way you do sets and the kinds of excercises you do for each muscle group is important.
posted by spicynuts at 11:47 AM on December 5, 2006


Circuit training often works one muscle group after another, say chest/back/arms/legs, then repeats the circuit two or three times. I'm sure there is a difference in the two approaches, but neither one is "wrong."
posted by InfidelZombie at 11:48 AM on December 5, 2006


It is better to do all sets of one exercise in a row, to near-exhaustion. You'll work your muscles harder and have better strength gains.
posted by dead_ at 11:50 AM on December 5, 2006


What you are doing is 'circuit training', usually done with minimal (30 second) rest periods between exercises, and then the circuit gets repeated a second, maybe a third time.

Another option, as your friend suggests, is straight sets. You don't have to do one or the other, you might stick to what you do now, since you like it better. If you are looking for some specific result, try 6 weeks of your friends method and see if you get a result worth switching methods.
posted by objdoc at 11:52 AM on December 5, 2006


Straight sets require you to rest between each set (if you don't have to rest you either aren't doing enough reps or not using enough weight - your goal should be near-exhaustion as pointed out above by the end of each set). Continuing to work out different sets of muscles sequentially as you are allows you to move from set to set with minimal resting which keeps your heart rate up. You could boost the cardiovascular benefits of this type of work out by intermingling cardio "sets" for example: one minute of jump rope, jumping jacks, step ups, running in place, squats or lunges...
posted by rosebengal at 12:51 PM on December 5, 2006


i pretty much split my sets for the same reason rosebengal mentioned. works for me.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 1:34 PM on December 5, 2006


I've done both methods. Subjectively, method 1 (circuit training) keeps my heart rate up, and I can get through the whole training cycle much quicker (because I'm not waiting in between sets). When I use method 2, it feels like my muscles are more exercised.
posted by muddgirl at 2:35 PM on December 5, 2006


Pick one and go with it. When you stop making gains, try the other method.
posted by lemur at 4:10 PM on December 5, 2006


Ok. Lots of things to talk about.

What is your goal? Cardio? Muscular conditioning? Body building? Or raw strength? Do you want to lift to augment a specific sport activity?

Circuit training will lean you more towards cardio and favors muscular conditioning and endurance if you move from exercise to exercise quickly. This kills two birds with one stone. You get cardio and muscular conditioning. It is safe in that you usually don’t lift too heavy. This approximates your current regime.

With circuit training you will not develop explosive strength.

BTW:You do NOT have to lift to fatigue if your goal is raw strength - AKA power lifting (or greasing the groove coined by Pavel Tsatsouline). You DO have to lift more often, rest up to 2 minutes between sets, and lift 80-90% of your max. You would do 2 sets of 5 reps of just a few basic compound lifts ( FI: Bench, Dead Lift, Squat, Clean) up to five days per week. NEVER to fatigue. You will get strong very fast. You risk injury lifting that close to max with compound lifts. And you don't get those nice big muscles everybody wants. But you only need to spend half an hour at the most lifting. You just have to do it more days per weak.

If you lift the same exercise in consecutive sets, like your friend suggests, it depends on the rest period between each set and what percentage of you max you're doing and how often each week you do that exercise as to the desired effect. heavier=more explosive. Less rest=endurance.

The typical lifting method - "3x10 60-80% max to failure" the way most people endorse- is suited to commercial gym environments. Mostly non-compound lifts. It is safe, efficient, and you SEE results pretty quickly. That is because you are NOT doing cardio. I find this method mind numbingly boring. It means I have to do extra cardio and more exercises per body part.

PS. If you want to get big DON'T do cardio on the same day you lift.

Lifting to failure (especially with machines instead of free weights), after you plateau, you won't get as strong going to failure every lift. You will actually be training your muscles to fail. So if your goal is enhance sports specific activity you DO NOT want lift this way.

If your goal is general health? I think continue with your circuit training because you like it. If your concerned about gains? Put one day per week of two or three 3x10 to failure lifts in there. You will see results.

But make them simple compound lifts. Like dumb bell swings, dumb bell chest press on a Swiss Ball, and lunges. Stuff like that will fill in the gaps and get you strong.
posted by tkchrist at 4:26 PM on December 5, 2006


Probably doesn't matter.

Oh, wait, you're probably quitting the first set early (or holding back) knowing you have the second set left. Either at the same time or after 6 exercies.

Hmm, I wonder, if you worked harder and fatigued your body, if it'd lead to strength gains.

Ok. seriously, it's simple. Work hard, fatigue the body, and muscular growth occurs. Anerobic threshhold is about 120-180 seconds. That's it. Fatigue in that zone = change.

And yeah, contrary to "powerlifters", it gets you strong too - and in a very efficient way. THe problem with the idea of "raw strength" as espoused by powerlifters, is that they judge strength by practiced, lifts that the mimic/practice in training (vs. say a sport or an isometric strength test.

So, yeah, if you really want to push yourself, try training to failure, put a second pin/strip off some weights and do a break down set (= deeper inroads) vs. a second trip.

All it takes is about 30 sec. for the muscles to get 80-90 of their recovery back. Even more after your'e done the six exercises.
posted by filmgeek at 6:22 PM on December 5, 2006


I've seen this and almost every imaginable similar question answered multiple different ways. My guess is that there are two factors involved:
a) everyone is different, and does better with different types of exercise;
b) it's good to change the way you train every now and then, because your body gets used to (straight sets|circuits|powerlifting|etc) after a while and will show suddenly quicker improvement just after you switch. Often this is mistaken for the new way being better.

These two things seem to explain 70% of the weightlifting advice on the Internet, anyway.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 2:11 AM on December 6, 2006


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