One heavy set while weight training is optimum. I know the likelihood of suffering an injury or a strain or getting over-trained and rundown is greater the more heavy sets I do. But I sometimes do the extra sets anyway and suffer.
It is so easy to get carried away in the gym. The atmosphere. The in-shape people. The weights all lined up easily for your use.
The thousands of articles you have read about pushing yourself. The videos and books all talking about going all out.
The images of big muscular men in movies and on the athletic fields.
Plus, once you are into the workout, you do feel good and feel like doing more.
It's easy to do more. The difficult part is doing less.
I've hurt myself many times with the weights, always on the second or more set. I cannot think of a time where I hurt myself on the first set unless it was after doing a ridiculous amount of exhausting warmups.
Over-warming up is a huge mistake I've made in the past too. You just need to warm-up enough to be ready for your one heavy set.
From Starting Strength
Last year on my second heavy set of squats, I was tired
already, when I was driving up out of the hole, the weight shifted (I
had stupidly not put on collars), as I forcefully adjusted the weights
so the bar did not tip, I aggravated my old neck injury. The first set was so good. The second set killed me.
I spent almost all of last year dealing with this... doctoring, pills, chiropractor visits, daily neck traction, gently daily exercise and not doing what I wanted to do.
It was a lost year.
I feel good now, almost healed, because the chiropractic has healed my neck. I have much more flexibility than before. I needed to do that.
But I am still irritated that I hurt myself on the second set.
I hurt my right elbow on the second set of a heavy lying triceps extension.
It still hurts, more than 2 years later.
That's the thing about getting injured. It takes an enormous amount of time to heal. You may never fully heal.
I have to be so careful with my elbow.
Over the 4th of July holiday weekend I was playing catch with my friends. Just some tossing around a Nerf football in the water. It was quite fun. We did it for 15 or 20 minutes.
But it was too much for me.
I have been struggling for weeks with a bad elbow. I could not lift. I could not really do much.
It's like the healing that I have been doing for 2 years, has regressed.
You might want to only use one heavy set on every exercise. But I know that is tough to do. Some exercises lend themselves to multiple, lighter sets. Dumbbell curls and triceps push downs. But be careful.
At least focus your one heavy set on the big lifts.
One Heavy Set Lifts Only
These lifts all lend themselves to using heavy weights. Sometimes extremely heavy weights. With these lifts you always have to work up to the heavy lift. You start light, then gradually add weight over a number of sets. If you are lifting well over 200 pounds on the bench, you need a number of warm-up sets to get to this weight. So you are doing multiple sets anyway.
Since you are doing it this way, you are getting tired by your warm-ups even if you correctly don't do too many warm-up reps.
But there is a lot of effort involved in setting up the bar and the bench and the rack. There is the loading and unloading of plates. You normally are in the process of getting beat just getting to the gym and getting ready to lift the big weights.
Weight lifting is very energy draining. I don't care how many people say exercising gives you energy or how often you read that it does. It's nonsense. Weight lifting takes an enormous amount of energy both during the actual lifting and for a long time after each session. It's even energy draining thinking about it.
You won't feel very energetic after lifting. It may take days or longer to recover and feel better.
It takes energy. It does not give energy.
Now of course, you may feel better with big muscles and a flat belly. You will want to get out and about more to show off. But you really won't have any more energy. Sorry.
So with that in mind, you need to find ways to limit the energy expenditure from weight training for other things.
Making a living is the biggest reason to save your energy. Chores and errands take energy.
The biggest reason to have leftover energy is to have more fun and have a better life.
Yes, you will develop more strength and more muscles from multiple work sets. That's obvious. I get more pumped, get stronger with bigger muscles and look better from multiple sets.
It's tempting. You will look better with those extra sets, but you will feel terrible.
But keep in mind, to look better, you don't have to be super ripped, with 6 pack abs and huge, vascular muscles to look better than the average guy. Especially without the sauce.
Look around, not at the biggest bodybuilding gym, muscle magazines, action movies or even the internet at super in-shape guys. They look so good, you look bad in comparison. But it's better to compare yourself to normal guys.
If you limit yourself to one heavy work set, you will make progress on your lifting, and you will feel better for other things.
It's so risky to do those extra sets.
I know many of you will ignore this advice and may even successfully lift heavy multiple sets for years. But eventually you will hurt yourself on that second set. You've been warned.
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