Ok, this really needs to be cleared up once and for all.
In ‘Total Anabolism‘ I wrap up this subject with the following…
“The weight you are lifting on each and every set should be
light enough to allow 8 good reps, but heavy enough to prevent
you getting more than 12.”
However, there are still some questions lingering by readers and forum members about when weight should be increased.
It usually goes something like this,
“I have hit 12 reps on my 1st set of barbell curls. However, I do 3 sets of barbell curls. Do I wait until I hit 12 reps on all 3 sets, or just the first?”
Answer: Treat each set as an individual, separate unit.
If you perform 3 sets of barbell curls, increase the weight on any and every set where you hit 12 reps. To further clarify, here’s a sample biceps workout.
You can see that each set is an individual unit here. Anytime he hits 12 reps, he records a higher weight in the ‘Week 2’ box. If he hits less than 12 reps, he simply records the same weight again.
Now take a look at the ‘Week 2’ weight column and compare it to ‘Week 1’. You can see our guy here is making some good, steady progression. Will he hit 12 reps on those ‘higher weight sets’ next week? Probably not, but that’s not the point.
Once again, he will reach failure in the growth-promoting rep range. Additionally, he probably WILL hit higher reps in those sets where the weight-lifted did not increase. And so it continues indefinitely. As long as he gets his diet right, he WILL succeed – he can bank on it!
By the way, you will probably need to reduce weight on successive sets of the same exercise. So, if you do 3 sets of EZ bar curls, it is unlikely that you will be able to reach failure in the 8-12 rep range by using the same weight in the second and third set, as you did in the first.
I am reducing weight on almost every set of a particular exercise. I am using my 2-3 minutes rest period to make these adjustments. A sample might look like this:
(Set 1) EZ Bar – 50kg – 11 reps
(Set 2) EZ Bar – 47.5kg – 10 reps
(Set 3) EZ Bar – 45kg – 10 reps
I hope this hammers the point home once and for all. If not, let me know so I can further clarify as necessary.
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great to see the clarification in one concise post- i think what a lot of people were missing (including myself) was the concept of altering the weight of a single set, as opposed to doing multiple sets with the same weight. what you say makes complete sense though- by allowing for a variation in weight, you are maximizing the rep range for each and every set.
You really helped me to understand it with a post yesterday but this futher clarifies it. Thanks again.
Brilliant! Glad this clears it up for you guys.
This was very helpful. Really. I will from now one treat each set separately.
Thanks Mark this is a very useful post!
Will implement correctly from today.
Hey Mark, i understand the concept now and i will change what i was doing….Now my problem/question is what do i do if i have been increasing my increments to fast(i was increasing the weight by 5 lbs each week i reached 12 reps on any particular set, instead of increasing it by 1 or 2 lbs). right now im ok and i can reach atleast 8 sets with work out im doing now but i know soon i wont be able to because its getting kind of heavy. Should i just start over and lower the weight? i know you said this is the worst thing to do, but soon i wont have a choice because the weight will be too heavy.
Interesting idea. I would also simply wait until I could do 3×12 on a certain weight rather than increasing the weight on just one of the sets…
Yeah, but this would mean that on the first set you could do 14-16 reps, which is way too light.
exactly Yavor. If you can get 12 reps on the third set, then you would have gotten more on your first. Furthermore, if you only get 8 reps on the first set, you won’t get 8 on the third unless you weren’t giving it 100% from the beginning. Each set is a separate unit in which you must give it your all. Most of the time this is going to mean dropping weight between sets.
Mark is showing us how to MAXIMIZE results so we don’t waste time and effort. We want to grow from EVERY set, not just the last one. We want to force adaptation. Mark has shown us how. Try it. You’ll see it works IF you give it your best effort EVERY rep EVERY set EVERY workout. This concept takes advantage of the way the body works. It’s natural. Makes perfect sense.
That definitely cleared it up for me. I’ve been following your workout approach and seeing good results with it, but this is one part that I’ve apparently been doing wrong. Thanks for clearing that up!
Hey Mark it’s been awhile since I’ve commented but I’ve still been reading. You wouldn’t believe how much your site has helped. I’ve posted a link from my blog to this site. Again thanks a lot & keep up the good work buddy!!
itz totally new idea to me.but it also raised certain confusions.do this concept works for every exercise ,i mean even large muscle groups? we should always decrease weight in consecutive sets of same exercise? plz clear them up
Channy – every exercise. Only decrease if necessary to reach failure in the 8-12 rep range.
hi mark.u r doing a wonderful job.keep it up. god bless u.tell me ,should we go for assistance in reps? i dont mean assistance to prevent injury like in bench press or squats,where obviously v shud have some supporter. i mean assistance to fall in 8-12 rep range so that v can carry heavy weights. or should we totally condemn it,and carry lighter weight?
@Channy. Thanks. No, don’t have a spotter take the weight for you on any rep. Use lighter weights that you can handle.
You may have a spotter help you complete the final rep if you are having trouble.
mark .i hv started following this concept.as theory always differs from practical approach,there arised questions while training.
1) should i consider SAME set for progressive overload with my previous workout of a particular exercise? eg. if i want to increase load in second set of an exercise, i shall look over load in same set of my previous workout.
2) i dont really need to succesively reduce weight in succesive sets. sometimes i need. sometime dont. and sometimes i INCREASE.
3) lastly, shud i increase weight only on reaching 12 reps or can i increase weight even when below 12 but above 8.
………i guess i shud increase only on reaching 12 and i guess it may b the answer to my second question.
pls…clarify me.as m completely following u
and m very much dedicated nd desperate for quick results
good luck to u again mark for this marvelous job of helping people.