One Set is All You Need

One Set is All You Need

Mission Monday Episode 5

A question that comes up often is, “why do we only perform one set per exercise?”

It’s a valid question. If one set works, wouldn’t we get better results from multiple sets on each exercise?

Performing multiple sets of each exercise is a common practice. Specifically, “3 sets per exercise” is the go-to recommendation of many fitness professionals.

Before we get in to why one set is enough, let’s talk about where the “three-set” recommendation started.

Sets & Repetitions

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Thomas DeLorme and Dr. Arthur Watkins published a series of research papers about the use of strength training to increase muscle size.

Originally, they recommended performing 7-10 sets per exercise with 10 repetitions for each set…for a total of 70-100 repetitions. Imagine doing 70-100 repetitions of every exercise!

Within three years, DeLorme and Watkins changed their mind. The new recommendation: 2-3 sets with 20-30 total repetitions

They realized that fewer repetitions lead to “greater and more rapid” muscle growth. The three-set per exercise has been the consensus since that point.

However, DeLorme and Watkins didn’t recommend three sets of maximum effort work. They actually recommended using the first two sets as a build-up to the third one, which was an all-out effort.

As you might know, at The Perfect Workout we skip the two build-up sets and get straight to the most important set: the one where you do every rep that you possibly can.

One Set vs. Multiple Sets

A number of studies also support one set as being sufficient to get great results. Here are some of the research-proven benefits:

  • Muscle growth
  • Losing fat (when combining a single-set strength training program with calorie restriction)
  • Reducing blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose
  • Improving artery function
  • And developing better aerobic fitness

Are we saying multiple sets are useless? NO. Not at all. Performing multiple sets per exercise has value for some people, including competitive athletes and bodybuilders.

Performing one set, however, provides the majority of the benefits most people seek, including fat loss, muscle growth, and better health.

What’s the best part? The single-set approach helps you get all of these benefits while being in and out of the gym in less than 30 minutes.

If you would like to learn more about our method of strength training, read about our methodology. If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a workout with us and start with a FREE Introductory Session.

  • Cornelissen, V. A., & Fagard, R. H. (2005). Effect of resistance training on resting blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of hypertension, 23(2), 251-259.
  • Davy, B. M., Winett, R. A., Savla, J., Marinik, E. L., Baugh, M. E., Flack, K. D., … & Boshra, S. (2017). Resist diabetes: A randomized clinical trial for resistance training maintenance in adults with prediabetes. PLoS One, 12(2), e0172610.
  • DeLorme,T. & Watkins, A.L. (1948). Technics of progressive resistance training. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 29, 263-273.
  • Pratley, R., Nicklas, B., & Rubin, M. (1994). Strength training increases resting metabolic rate and norepinephrine levels in health 50- to 65-year-old men. Journal of Applied Physiology, 76(1), 133-137.
  • Waller, M., Miller, J., & Hannon, J. (2011). Resistance circuit training: Its application for the adult population. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 33(1), 16-22.
  • Watkins, A.L. (1952). Practical applications of progressive resistance exercises. JAMA, 148(6), 443-446.
  • Westcott, W.L., Apovian, C.M., & Puhala, K. Nutrition programs enhance exercise effects on body composition and resting blood pressure. The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 41(3), 85-91.

One Set is All You Need

Mission Monday Episode 5

A question that comes up often is, “why do we only perform one set per exercise?”

It’s a valid question. If one set works, wouldn’t we get better results from multiple sets on each exercise?

Performing multiple sets of each exercise is a common practice. Specifically, “3 sets per exercise” is the go-to recommendation of many fitness professionals.

Before we get in to why one set is enough, let’s talk about where the “three-set” recommendation started.

Sets & Repetitions

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Thomas DeLorme and Dr. Arthur Watkins published a series of research papers about the use of strength training to increase muscle size.

Originally, they recommended performing 7-10 sets per exercise with 10 repetitions for each set…for a total of 70-100 repetitions. Imagine doing 70-100 repetitions of every exercise!

Within three years, DeLorme and Watkins changed their mind. The new recommendation: 2-3 sets with 20-30 total repetitions

They realized that fewer repetitions lead to “greater and more rapid” muscle growth. The three-set per exercise has been the consensus since that point.

However, DeLorme and Watkins didn’t recommend three sets of maximum effort work. They actually recommended using the first two sets as a build-up to the third one, which was an all-out effort.

As you might know, at The Perfect Workout we skip the two build-up sets and get straight to the most important set: the one where you do every rep that you possibly can.

One Set vs. Multiple Sets

A number of studies also support one set as being sufficient to get great results. Here are some of the research-proven benefits:

  • Muscle growth
  • Losing fat (when combining a single-set strength training program with calorie restriction)
  • Reducing blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose
  • Improving artery function
  • And developing better aerobic fitness


Are we saying multiple sets are useless? NO. Not at all. Performing multiple sets per exercise has value for some people, including competitive athletes and bodybuilders.

Performing one set, however, provides the majority of the benefits most people seek, including fat loss, muscle growth, and better health.

What’s the best part? The single-set approach helps you get all of these benefits while being in and out of the gym in less than 30 minutes.

If you would like to learn more about our method of strength training, read about our methodology. If you are new to The Perfect Workout, try a workout with us and start with a FREE Introductory Session.

  • Cornelissen, V. A., & Fagard, R. H. (2005). Effect of resistance training on resting blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of hypertension, 23(2), 251-259.
  • Davy, B. M., Winett, R. A., Savla, J., Marinik, E. L., Baugh, M. E., Flack, K. D., … & Boshra, S. (2017). Resist diabetes: A randomized clinical trial for resistance training maintenance in adults with prediabetes. PLoS One, 12(2), e0172610.
  • DeLorme,T. & Watkins, A.L. (1948). Technics of progressive resistance training. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 29, 263-273.
  • Pratley, R., Nicklas, B., & Rubin, M. (1994). Strength training increases resting metabolic rate and norepinephrine levels in health 50- to 65-year-old men. Journal of Applied Physiology, 76(1), 133-137.
  • Waller, M., Miller, J., & Hannon, J. (2011). Resistance circuit training: Its application for the adult population. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 33(1), 16-22.
  • Watkins, A.L. (1952). Practical applications of progressive resistance exercises. JAMA, 148(6), 443-446.
  • Westcott, W.L., Apovian, C.M., & Puhala, K. Nutrition programs enhance exercise effects on body composition and resting blood pressure. The Physician and Sportsmedicine, 41(3), 85-91.

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