Which set should I use in my resistance program?

The benefits of weight training are immense. Some benefits include: improved bone health, muscular strength, performance, and overall health. There are so many different ways to modify resistance exercises in your program. So far we have covered Isolation vs Compound, Tempo and de-loading. Now we will look at different types of sets and the benefits of each.

Believe it or not, there is multiple variations of sets. 


Please see the below table that provides a guide 

















2-5 minutes

2-5 minutes



These are the recommendations by the National Strength and Condition Association and is the guidelines a lot of health and fitness professionals refer to.  

Straight set/ Traditional sets

This is the most common form of programming that is seen and implemented. This is performing a number of sets using the same number of repetitions and using the same weight (eg 3×12 @ 20kg) throughout).

Pyramid Sets

This is essentially manipulating the weight and repetition through theworkout (eg first set 12 reps @ 20kg, second set 10reps @ 30kg, third set 8 reps @40kg). This workout doesn’t include warm-up sets, however most people incorporate warm-up sets into the programming of the pyramid set. 


This is commonly done by people to either save time or get the most out of a gym session. This is where two different exercises are performed together. This is commonly done with agonist and antagonist exercises or upper limb vs lower limb. An example would be squats with bent over rows. The combinations are endless. This essentially reduces workout time and increases workout intensity. The drawback for this is that you can experience more delayed onset of muscles soreness (DOMS) and fatigue.

Tri-Sets and Giant Sets

Tri-Sets incorporate 3 exercises back-to-back.
Giant sets include 4 or more. This type of programming is less commonly done and prescribed. Once again the major downside of this is DOMS and fatigue. 

Drop Sets

This is a very common form of set that is used by bodybuilders to increase muscle mass and endurance.

Drop sets allow you to extend your set length by lifting one weight to failure then dropping the weight and performing more repetitions. An example would be: bicep curl 20 reps @ 15kg, 10 reps @ 10kg, 5 reps @ 5kg to failure. This is a total of 35 repetitions. These places increase time under tension which stimulates hypertrophy and muscle growth. 

Above are the five most common ways to manipulate states in a resistance training program. A lot of times people will interchange between these programs to stimulate neural adaptations and to get over a plateau. 

We hope this provided you with great insight into the different types of sets that can be utilised and the benefits of each. Health practitioners will typically incorporate one or more of these techniques for different reasons. If you have any issues with programming or want to go over your lifting techniques, click here to book now with one of our physiotherapists for help!

Read more….

To learn more about measuring exercise intensity, check out our blog HERE
To learn more about tempo, check out our blog HERE
To learn more about deloading, check out our blog HERE

Weakley, J., Till, K., Read, D. B., Roe, G., Darrall-Jones, J., Phibbs, P. J., & Jones, B. (2017). The effects of traditional, superset, and tri-set resistance training structures on perceived intensity and physiological responses. European journal of applied physiology, 117(9), 1877–1889. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-017-3680-3

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