Set Training Systems
The following is a description of the main different set training systems.
Circuit training aims to improve muscular endurance and aerobic fitness in a single workout. The workout involves or should involve, exercising all major muscle groups in a continuous cycle with short rest periods of usually 30 secs or less.
The low weight/resistance intensities typically used in circuit training and a lack of structure and hierarchy make significant strength gains unlikely. Although it has its benefits, it is not an ideal form of training. Therefore if I loved doing a circuit training class, I would supplement it with some proper strength training.
METABOLIC RESISTANCE TRAINING
Metabolic resistance training is circuit training which aims to burn as many calories as possible and lift the metabolic rate to continue burning calories after a workout.
Supersetting is where you perform sets of a few different exercises in succession with minimal rest between each set. You typically do this in a few different ways.
One way is doing different exercises which successively work the same muscle group, e.g., low-pulley row and bicep curls. Both of these exercises work the biceps, and this form of supersetting is a killer for fatiguing muscle.
Another way is doing opposing agonist, and antagonist muscle groups in the form of paired set exercises, e.g., bench press and low-pulley row i.e., push-pull.
The third typical form of supersetting is exercises that work different body parts with no or little crossover between muscle groups, e.g., squat and single arm row.
Working these last two methods builds muscle, keeps your metabolic rate high, and saves time by keeping your gym visit short.
The triset system is where you perform three sets of different exercises in succession that work the same body part, with minimal or no rest between each set. True to its name, this form of supersetting is usually repeated three times with a rest period between each group of sets. You typically perform exercises at 8-15RM.
Being a specific form of supersetting that successively works the same muscle group, this system massively fatigues the muscle.
DROP SETS/ STRIP SETS
Drop set training involves doing a set of an exercise, dropping the weight load and doing another set of the same exercise with minimal rest between sets. There are no set guides for how to do this. Therefore you can perform any variation of reps and sets. Care is required when introducing this form of training into your workout due to extra muscle fatigue.
How much weight you drop depends on:
- Exercise performed, or muscle groups worked.
- The weight load increments available.
- What rep range you want to work.
Generally, you should find that your upper body fatigues faster than your lower body. For this reason, you will probably find yourself dropping the weight by larger increments for upper body exercises than for lower body exercises.
If you are keen to minimize your workout time, the benefits of drop set training will interest you. A small amount of extra time investment for the set obtains more significant gains in strength.
PYRAMID/ TRIANGLE SYSTEM
The pyramid system first involves performing an exercise with a higher rep count (usually 8-12) and a lighter weight load. You then increase the weight load performing fewer reps and continue to do this over multiple sets until a peak weight load is reached (usually 1RM). Next, you repeat the same sets, reps, and weight loads in reverse order. There is no set number of reps and sets to this system.
An example of a pyramid system is the following sets of; 10RM, 8RM, 5RM, 3RM, 1RM, 3RM, 5RM, 8RM, 10RM. Usually, you don’t take sets to failure until you reach the peak weight load so as not to be too fatigued for the heaviest loads.
A pyramid system for aerobic interval training involves exercising for a short period, followed by bouts of exercise for longer periods until you perform a peak time. Then the same bouts of exercise are repeated in reverse order.
There are many variations of the pyramid system. You can treat the ascending first half as a warm-up and use lighter resistances. You can keep the weight load constant for the ascending first half and rest times short. Or you can flip the pyramid system by inverting the rep and weight load progression of the pyramid system, i.e., starting with a low rep count and a heavy load.
ASCENDING HALF PYRAMID, ASCENDING HALF TRIANGLE OR LIGHT TO HEAVY SYSTEM
An ascending half pyramid involves performing only the first half of a pyramid system by starting with a lighter weight load and finishing with a heavy weight load.
DESCENDING HALF PYRAMID, DESCENDING HALF TRIANGLE OR HEAVY TO LIGHT SYSTEM
A descending half pyramid involves performing only the last half of a pyramid system by starting with a heavy weight load and finishing with a lighter weight load.