Here is some more food for thought! You might be familiar with H.I.T. – High Intensity Training. This is the all-out, one set training approach that was popularized in the 1970′s by Arthur Jones – the inventor of the Nautilus machines. Although most people think that Jones invented HIT style workouts, that is really not the case. Actually, one-set per exercise training was the standard before and during the early years of the pre-roid, Golden Age of the 1940s and 50s!
In the early Golden Age (early 1940s), set series training (doing multiple sets per exercise) was even considered a specialized form of training for advanced trainers! But by the mid-1940s, set training became more standard and set series training was introduced for intermediate trainers.
However, all throughout the Golden Age, it was the rule that ALL beginners would train for up to 6 months on one set per exercise (using full body workouts, 3 times per week)! Nearly all the CPB Champs of that era had a strong foundation in HIT training as beginners! This really helped them get started on the right foot in terms of building a classic physique quickly and is very different from today, where beginners start with set training and split routines right off the bat, never do one-set, full body training, and quickly start over-working causing all gains to cease after some initial beginner’s results.
You can see for yourself the one-set training in the York muscle building courses, Weider’s Muscle Building Courses of the Champions, and even in Steve Reeves’ training when he first began! Again, this type of training was pretty universal for beginners in the Golden Age.
What were the benefits of such training? A lot! It produced very good gains for beginners, prevented overworking, taught them how to use the principle of progressive resistance properly, allowed them to use heavier weights which promoted better growth, didn’t overtax the nervous system, and ramped up the body’s muscle recovery abilities.
Because of this type of training, the Golden Agers, as intermediate and advanced trainers, were able to get much more out of fewer sets than most people do today. Steve Reeves once said that if you can’t completely stimulate a muscle in 3 sets per exercise, then you are doing something wrong! And, in his own muscle building course system (see his book Dynamic Muscle Building), Steve had beginners train on one set per exercise for 6 months (the Golden Age standard)!
Now, Joe Weider, in his 1954 and later versions of his “Muscle Building Courses of the Champions” updated his beginners course and introduced set series training earlier. But he still had beginners train for 3 months on 1 set per exercise. But prior to that (prior to 1954), he had beginners train for 6 months on 1 set per exercise (Golden Age HIT training).
It was in the later half of the 1950s, that Weider introduced high volume training – but this was for advanced trainers – not for beginners. And by that time, all the great physiques had already been produced (like those of Grimek, Ross, Stephan, Reeves, Eiferman, Delinger, etc), so it is not clear that high volume training really added anything at all to the building of classic physiques. Now Joe was always looking for a marketing angle in order to be “new and different” from his competition. So he may have promoted high volume training as a marketing ploy (to be “different” and appear “cutting edge”) – not because it really provided anything of real value.
Now, you might ask “This is fine, but I’ve been training for a while. I’m not a beginner and I’ve never done one-set training. Is it too late for me to benefit from this kind of training?” I would say “no!” You can still benefit!
Most people you see in the gym today are overtraining their muscles and getting nowhere fast! How many times have you seen some guy in the gym, week and week, pounding out set after set, using the same weights, and still looking the same? No real gains to speak of. You see this quite often.
If this describes your training, then try this. Take a one to two week layoff. Then come back, select 6-8 compound exercises covering the major muscle groups of the entire body (e.g., bench press, bent over rows, military press, barbell curls, squats, calf raises). Do one set per exercise. Go all out and use all the weight you can handle for 6-8 reps! When you can do 8 complete reps (and fail on the 9th rep), then increase your weight at the next workout and work up to 8 reps again. Keep pushing the weights up in this manner. Do this workout 3 times a week for 6 weeks. Eat and rest properly and see what happens! Chances are good, you will surprise yourself and see some unexpected results and improved muscle recovery ability!
After 6 weeks, take a one week layoff and then resume the same program! Keep this pattern until you see no more results. Then take a week layoff and after do the same routine using 2 sets for each exercise instead of 1 for another 6 weeks. Doing this will definitely teach you how to get the most out of each set. Then, one day, as an advanced trainer, like Steve Reeves, you will know how to stimulate a muscle using 3 sets per exercise (with no more than 3 exercises per body part). But don’t jump to advanced training routines before you are ready – if you do, they won’t work for you. Lay a good, solid foundation of Golden Age HIT training and then proceed from there!
P.S. For a free, 1 year subscription to Classic Physique Builder Zine (CPBzine) – a pdf “zine” (do-it-yourself magazine) patterned after the muscle mags of the pre-roid Golden Age of Bodybuilding (of the 1940s and 50s) – just email your name, the name of your city (not your actual address), state/province, and country to email@example.com. That’s it! Any info you send us is confidential. We don’t share info with anyone. So you won’t get on any lists or receive unwanted spam (even from us)!