How Many Exercises and Sets Do I Perform For My Strength Training? by Australian strength coach Gary Matthews

What if I told you only have a limited amount of energy (readily available) per strength training session, would you believe me? Well the latest scientific data and blood tests on individuals under strict gym conditions have revealed that blood sugar levels drop dramatically after only 20 to 30 minutes during a high intensity strength training session.

So you see you only have a short period of time to complete your strength training, so exercise selection is crucial for proper results. One way around this is to use compound multi-joint movements as these offer the most beneficial muscle stimulation needed for lean muscle growth and metabolism improvement in the shortest period of time. In other words, we can train many muscles simultaneously and use our energy more efficiently.

Compound exercises are much more functional and superior to isolation exercises and promote natural movement of your joints. Heavier loads can also be lifted using these exercises. Some benefits are:

  • More functional
  • Higher muscle activation
  • Higher hormonal release
  • Less stress on joints

Examples of compound multi-joint movements include squats, bench press, dips, and chin-ups. Performing three to four exercises with high intensity during a session are what most people are capable of during a high intensity strength-training workout. All the main muscle groups are thoroughly exercised with these exercises and they have an overall growth effect on the body as a whole i.e. a total body workout.

After rest and recuperation is allowed to take place and at the next exercise session if you can push out a few more reps then you will have become stronger, thus allowing for more muscle growth. i.e. more lean muscle and a higher metabolism.

It only takes one of these workouts to target the entire major support muscles of the body. Exercises should be chosen from the more complex and challenging to the less complex and challenging. Remember, as you get stronger in your upper body exercises i.e. Dips, Bench Press and Lat Pull downs, you will also add size to your upper arms as well as to your shoulders. There is no need to train the arms and shoulders with isolation exercises.

Did you know that current research shows that performing one set per exercise is as beneficial as multiple set workouts!! If you think that volume training (multiple sets) is more effective then you’re wrong! The latest research shows that single set training is as beneficial as multiple set training. Also by performing the one set decreases the chances of over training and saves valuable energy for other exercises required during that particular workout.

So all you need to do is ONE SET only of each strength training exercise, this is accomplished by performing as many repetitions as you possibly can. Single sets are just as effective as multiple sets in increasing strength, muscle size and power.

After performing one complete set to total failure, it should be just about impossible to generate the same force and intensity for another complete set of the same exercise. If you’re able to generate the same force and intensity for this second set then it is pretty obvious that not enough effort has been put into the first set. If you give each set per exercise 100% effort (e.g. you cannot move the bar after the last rep) then there will be no more requirement for further muscle stimulation on that specific exercise.

Multiple Sets can be used in the following circumstances:

  • The initial stages of learning a new exercise
  • During rehabilitation

Remember it is the intensity that is important, not the volume when it comes to gains in strength. One warm up set of 50% of maximal weight can be done for 5-10 repetitions to oil the joints for the big work set that is to follow. After completing a set and when your breathing has returned to normal proceed to the next exercise. There is no time limit here just what you feel comfortable with, be it 3 or 5 minutes etc.

Make no mistake about it put what you have leaned here to practice and you will start to finally make those long awaited gains you have been after.

gary matthews australian strenght coachGary’s professional career began in the Royal Australian Air Force where he was employed as a Fitness Instructor. He has over 20 years of experience. His duties consisted of training recruits in various disciplines including strength training and conditioning techniques. He was soon posted to Penang, Malaysia where he was primarily responsible for creating and maintaining a commercial gymnasium used by service personal and civilians alike. During this time, Gary is also fluent in the Malaysian language, and was an essential player in re-leasing negotiations with the Malaysian and Australian governments. Gary continued to utilize these skills when he returned to Australia and began his tenure with the ANA and Sheraton hotel chains where he lead a cultural staff exchange between the ANA hotel Gold Coast and Manza Beach Resort in Okinawa, Japan. Gary used his expertise to develop their leisure and sports club and also gained fluency in the Japanese language.

Gary has continued to build upon his gym instruction and personal training experience throughout his entire career. By developing client routines and noting their frustrations with time intensive training reGlycemic Indexmes, it became apparent that the more people train, the slower their respond to the training. Gary steered away from volume training and developed a fitness technique that requires people to be in the gym for only 20 minutes a week. When Gary introduced this element into his clients’ fitness routines, they began to make rapid progress while increasing functional muscle and dramatically decreased body fat levels. When Gary further combined this technique with a more nutritional diet, total transformations were achieved in as few as ten weeks. Gary currently directs a very successful personal training business on the Gold Coast of Australia and promotes abbreviated training as the preferred fitness method. He also continues to run a fitness consultancy for off and on-line businesses.

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