Single Set Training vs. High Volume Training, What's Best?

We're here today to "uncelebrate" Valentine's Day with single set training. 

Some of you may be traditionally celebrating Valentine's day with your loved ones, but what about us single folks?

My colleague Susie came up with the idea for this blog and suggested bringing attention to Singles Awareness Day. Also known as Singles Day or Singles Appreciation Day.

Han Solo meme

Gives all new meaning to "going solo."

Recognized the day after Valentine's day on February 15, Singles Awareness Day honors love in all of its shapes, types, and forms. This also includes loving yourself, which I find particularly awesome. 

Loving yourself is one of the hardest things to do in life. What's one of the best clues that someone loves themselves? 

They take care of their body and keep a habit of staying active and healthy. 

So let's all love ourselves with some robust single set training this week, especially Friday, in the gym. 

The Origin of Single Set Training

Mike Mentzer

Single set training did Mike's body great in the 70s.

Mike Mentzer was a pro bodybuilder throughout the 1970s. He won the Mr. Universe contest in 1978 with a perfect score, the first man to ever achieve the feat. 

Mike was a pretty interesting guy. He fed a voracious interest in philosophy and would go on to integrate his philosophical views into his training regimen. He enjoyed showing people how to "use their reasoning ability to live happy, mature, adult lives" and how to do so.

Mike would endorse bodybuilding "as only one potential component of an individual's existence, encouraging many other worthwhile pursuits throughout his books."

Over his career, Mike developed what he called the "Heavy Duty" training systems, which became more generally known as high-intensity training. 

Mike diverged from mainstream bodybuilding tenets by supporting a system which flew in the face of widely accepted norms. 

People like Arnold were training high volume, for hours a day, many days a week. 

Mike did the opposite, going for max intensity, low sets and long rest periods between training sessions. 

His training wreaked controversy, even leading to a feud with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Mike claimed that his loss to Arnold in the 1980 Mr. Olympia contest was rigged. 

1980 Mr. Olympia contest

1980 Mr. Olympia; L to R, Arnold and Mike

Although Mike retired after that contest, he still went on to write books, espousing his training methodology, focusing on low volume, high-intensity training, which evolved into single set training

Mike's training systems earned him a cadre of proteges. First and foremost among them, Dorian Yates, who won 6 consecutive Mr. Olympia titles. Dorian is also well known for supporting a single set training system.  

But Does Single Set Training Work?

Good luck. 

What I mean by that is, everyone has their own unique physiology. You can add genetics, metabolism and goals to that too. 

What works for me, may not work for you. Rarely in strength sports training, does one system umbrella everyone and work the same for each individual. 

Think about it like your skin tone and complexion. If you're Irish, English or northern/central European, your skin probably doesn't do well in the sun. 

But if you're Latino, you can spend hours in the sun and not be phased. 

But does that mean if a Latino person uses sunscreen that it doesn't work?

No, it just doesn't work for that type of person. 

So we can't make a blanket endorsement of single set training.

no answer meme

We reserve the right to be noncommittal.

But we can say that it will work for some of you, based on your unique genetic makeup, goals, type of strength sport you practice, etc. 

So in the great tradition of non-answers, we can confidently say, it may or may not work awesome for you.

Single Set Training Info Dump

There's a LOT of info about there about the effectiveness or not, of single set training. 

I did my best to lasso and round up some of the best sources out there for you. 

Again, I don't know if it'll work for you, as I don't know what your goals are, your physiology, etc. 

Regardless, here we go...

We're going to start with the readable content first. 

I found a couple of basic articles to get your feet wet, here and here.

I've always been a fan of Lifehacker, as they usually offer quality, entry-level info on just about anything. Here's their info on low volume training.

Personally, I make my decision to read content sometimes based on the credibility of the source. 

workout once meme

Not to be confused with single set training results.

So if you're a New York Times kind of person, read their take on single set training.

Obviously, the guys over at BreakingMuscle know exactly what they're talking about when it comes to single set training.

Finally, if you're into highly researched, peer-reviewed journals, read up on single set training in BioMed Research International and here in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

Now for the Video Portion of Your Programming

Here are some good vids on the subject. 



Finally, Picture Fit produces awesome vids if you didn't know already. Here they help out with determining how much training, volume and intensity is right for you. 


The Final Answer

 If I haven't said it enough I don't know what will work for you. 

That said, single set training will definitely stimulate hypertrophy. 

And you know what comes with bigger muscles? 

More muscle fibers to generate more strength. 

So to some extent, you can be sure that single set training will not only increase your size gains, but your strength gains as well. That's just common sense. 

Please share your insights, experiences and strength training secrets with us in the comments below. We'd love to hear what has worked for you. 

Thanks again for reading Fringe Nation and go beyond the ordinary. 

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