Triple Sets

Triple sets are a method that combines three exercises for the same muscle group. This method is used for synergistic or antagonistic muscle groups, as the sets are done with little to no rest in between the exercises.

During the completion of the three exercises (each having between 8 and 10 repetitions), without a pause between them, a greater blood-filling of the working musculature is achieved.

The pump is significantly bigger than that, achieved through a single exercise, done in 25+ repetitions.

There are two main reasons to explain this:

  1. Even though the rest times are short, they allow us to let some tension off of the working musculature for a couple of seconds. This, respectively, lowers the muscle pressure upon the blood vessels, which is a premise to better blood-flow towards the working musculature in the next exercise.
  2. The right choice for this method is using exercises that target the same muscle group, at different angles. From a bodybuilding perspective, this allows a better activation of every muscle sector, which, leads to more capillaries involved. This, of course, causes a better blood-pump for the working musculature. It’s logical to think that such an extensive overload of the musculature can not be done, using high intensity, therefore, this method is mostly used during the cutting phase.

When it comes to functionality, strength endurance is positively affected by this method. Additionally, the increased vascularity is a premise to better on-stage performance. Triple sets also improve the lactate-muscle endurance, which makes them a perfect tool to use, if you want to increase your vascularity.

Advanced and elite athletes, usually use three triple sets per muscle group, and rarely reach four.

As we already noted, the rest times in between the separate exercises are very little, but after finishing your triple set, we need a rest of 2 to 3 minutes. This method requires the use of moderate intensity, due to the fact that the 2-3 minutes of rest in between each triple set, is not enough to compensate for the fatigue caused by the total of 24-30 repetitions in one triple set.

Usually, the weight is lowered with up to 20% from your normal working weight, and sometimes even more than 20%. The defining things here, are the recovery capabilities of the individual.

How To Apply This Method

There are a couple of ways to complete a triple set. With the first option we can use, we complete the exercises consecutively, with no rest whatsoever (This is the classical version), with the second option, the exercises are done with a small rest window in-between each exercise (30 seconds). The first option is used mainly for the muscles, which allow us to concentrate the load upon a separate part of the given group.

For example- Front, lateral and rear raises for the shoulders, target different sectors of that muscle group, in this case, the front, side and rear deltoid muscles. The idea of the second option however, is based on the fact that on average, we observe the biggest muscle pump, 35 seconds after the completion of a set until failure.

This way, every exercise that follows, additionally pumps the muscles in-depth and the blood reaches even the furthest capillaries, which is another hypertrophy stimulus.

Body Part Triple Sets (Classical)
Biceps 1. Standing barbell curl
2. Alternating incline dumbbell curls
3. Preacher curls with a Z bar
Triceps 1. Parallel bar dips
2. Rope push-downs
3. Skull crushers
Shoulders 1. Behind the neck presses
2. Lateral raises
3. Front raises
Chest 1. Incline bench dumbbell presses
2. Flat cable flys
3. Flat barbell bench press
Back 1. Seal rows
2. Cable rows
3. Narrow grip lat pull-downs
Quadriceps 1. Back squats with a barbell
2. Leg extensions
3. Hack squats
Hamstrings 1. Laying hamstring curls
2. Glute & ham raises
3. Romanian dead-lift
Calves 1. Donkey calf raises
2. Barbell calf raises
3. Seated calf raises
Abdominals 1. Crunches
2. Leg Raises
3. Cable crunches

The combinations given above, are just samples and can be manipulated. There are many options when it comes to combining three exercises for the same muscle group, and they can be tailored to your personal needs and preferences.

However, there are a couple of requirements when it comes to building a proper combination of three exercises:

  1. The first and the third exercises must be compound, while the second exercise is more isolated.
  2. There must not be two exercises, one after another, that target the same muscle sector (example- 1. Incline barbell bench 2. Incline flys)
  3. It’s recommended to avoid single limb exercises (like concentrated bicep curls, dumbbell rows, etc.)

As we already noted, triple sets can be used for antagonistic muscle groups. So, for example, a barbell bicep curl, followed by a triceps push-down and a preacher curl will be a triple set for your arms, with a priority towards the biceps.

Unlike the classical triple sets, that attack one muscle group, the antagonistic triple set can successfully be used during the last stage of the off-season, as a De-adaptation and transition tool.

Antagonistic Triple Sets Examples

Body Part Antagonistic Triple Sets
Biceps/Triceps 1. Standing barbell curl
2. Cable push-downs
3. Preacher curls with a Z bar
Triceps/Biceps 1. Skull crushers
2. Seated dumbbell curls
3. Straight bar cable push-downs
Chest/Back 1. Flat barbell bench press
2. Seal rows
3. Incline dumbbell bench press
Back/Chest 1. Cable rows
2. Parallel bar dips
3. Lat pull-downs
Quadriceps/Hamstrings 1. Leg presses
2. Laying hamstring curls
3. Hack squats
Hamstrings/Quadriceps 1. Straight legged dead-lift
2. Leg extensions
3. Standing hamstring curls
Abdominal/Lower back muscles 1. Crunches
2. Hyper-extensions
3. Leg raises

A careful analysis here, will show us that the differences between the classical and the antagonistic triple sets, are more than the similarities. So, for example, as the classical triple sets target the same muscle group under different angles, through low-intensity, continuous workloads, they are considered a quality method.

In other words, they are best used during our cutting phase. On the other side, the antagonistic triple sets, that allow bigger recovery windows for the given muscle groups, accumulate the super-set principle, which makes them perfect for the second half of our off-season, as well as the first two weeks of the on-season (cutting phase).

In other words, antagonistic triple sets can play the role of the needed methodical transition between the two periods.

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