Alternating Sets

This is a modification of the priority workout.

The idea behind this method is training mostly the bigger or lacking muscle groups. The sets for those groups alternate with local exercises for the smaller muscle groups, that are usually distant with the main muscle group.

Some experts consider this method a super-set variation.


So, for example, using this method we can do an intense set, that targets the back musculature, followed by a set that targets our calf muscles.

Alternating sets are an economical way of targeting the smaller muscle groups, without contradiction with the main target of our workout.

We can go through our whole workout, using this method. It’s recommended for the local muscle groups to be trained with moderate intensity, so the focus can be on the main muscle group.

We should also know that this method is only viable for advanced and elite athletes. This is because the contrast in muscle groups has high requirements towards the cardio vascular system, and beginners, of course, have not yet reached the needed levels of adaptation.

Usually, bodybuilders remember this method a couple of weeks out from a competition. This, is a period, during which, the abdominal muscles for example, require 25-35 sets, and from there, every tool that can help them reduce training duration is favorable.

Alternating sets as a helping method, are a perfect tool for trainees who have calves and abdominals as their weak muscle groups. When this method is not overused, it gives the trainees an opportunity to be creative during their workouts.

Often, trainees don’t plan the use of this method, and only include it in their workout from time to time, when they want to achieve a De-adapting effect. Such approach, of course, is not bad, but if this is done systematically (2-3 times a week) there is an actual danger of over-training your lacking muscle groups.

To a big extent, the positive effects of the super-set method (less time spent in the gym, faster recovery, mental relief, etc.) are also observed with alternating sets, but to a lesser extent.

Unlike the classical super-sets, where we train antagonistic groups consecutively (usually limbs), alternating sets allow us to combine two exercises for the upper and lower body (e.g- quadriceps & triceps).

Through research, it was concluded that during intense sets until failure, we reach significantly higher levels of blood flow towards in the activated limbs. However, while that group of muscles is working, those levels, for the opposite limbs, are lower than they are during a state of rest.

The levels of physical training influence and neutralize these side effects of the blood circulation. This is the main reason, as to why this method is mostly recommended for elite athletes, while super-sets are a perfect tool for advanced athletes.

As a conclusion, we can say that it’s recommended to include a lower body, local exercise, as the second part, when planning the completion of your alternating sets. This is simply because the working weight is relatively lower- 55-65% of 1RM, leading to the completion of more reps, which is a premise to the optimal and gradual muscle activation.

Lacking or big muscle groups Local exercises
Incline barbell bench +   Calf raises
Behind the neck pull ups +  Hamstring curls
Barbell squats +  Forearm curls
Dead-lifts +   Triceps exercises
Arm exercises +   Glute exercises
Behind the neck shoulder presses +   Crunches


The similarities between this method and the super-set method define their equivalent links to other principles and methods.

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