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P90x: Week 8

25 Sep 2011

Single Sets. That’s what the strength training days are like in phase 2 of P90x, unlike phase 1. Why is that?

I’ve heard that multi-set strength training is conducive for optimizing strength gains in experienced athletes and lifters. One set alone isn’t enough for the seasoned gym rat or trainee. However, for beginners, a single set is just as effective, if not more so, than two or more. For a quick synopsis, click here.

Having said this, the P90x program starts the upper body strength days with two sets for each exercise, while the phase 2 involves a single set of each. I’m not quite sure why it’s not the other way around. Looking ahead, phase 3 upper body days involves alternating phase 1 and phase 2 strength sessions so you get a mix of workouts with both single-set and two-set training.

I’ve been strength training for years, and on my own, I do anywhere from 2-5 sets, adhering to what is considered most effective for strength development for long-timers. Multiple set strength training is what I’m used to. Nonetheless, I’m finding that completing 45-50 minutes’ worth of single-set exercises is challenging — mentally and physically. For every single exercise, I’m psyching myself up to crank out as many reps in good form with the right weight. This takes a lot of mental energy!

Another thing about single-set training I like, which also adds to the challenge, is that you have to do more exercises in a given session in comparison with multiple set training. So you can make the argument that you are hitting muscle groups at different angles, thereby recruiting a wider variety of fibers than with a few exercises you’d do per muscle group on workout that incorporated multiple sets.

Either way, even though single set training may be ideal for novices, it may not hurt for veterans to try it once a while.

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