By Nick Nilsson
Author of Time-Volume Training
Triple Add Sets strongly work all three of the major muscle fiber types (I, IIa, and IIb) in one extended set, pushing the very limits of your body's strength and endurance.
If this sounds good to you, you're going to love this technique.
To fully understand the effectiveness of the Triple Add Set, let's take a look at the muscle fiber types and why it's such a good thing to work all three of the major types at once.
Type I muscle fibers are endurance-oriented muscle fibers. They primarily work in higher rep ranges and during aerobic exercise.
Type IIa muscle fibers work when the weight used is moderate-to-heavy. This fiber type is most active in moderate rep range weight training (e.g. 5 to 10 reps per set)
Type IIb muscle fibers are the explosive muscle fibers. They are called upon when the weight is very heavy and great power or explosiveness is needed.
When you lift a weight, your body recruits a certain number of muscle fibers to get the job done. It recruits a certain percentage of each type of fiber, depending on how heavy the load is.
For instance, the lighter the load, the more Type I fibers will be called upon. The heavier the load, the more Type IIa fibers will be called upon. With very heavy loads, Type IIb fibers will be the most heavily recruited.
With regular training, your body learns to become more efficient with this recruitment and tries to get away with firing as few fibers as possible to get the job done. It's the body's natural tendency to conserve energy.
Unfortunately, this also leaves many muscle fibers underworked and not developed to their full potential. We need to find a way to force your body to recruit every available fiber to maximally work the muscle and develop it to it's full potential. That's where the Triple Add Set comes in.
If you're familiar with Triple Drop Sets (where you start with a heavy weight for the first part, then drop to a lighter weight for more reps then drop to a somewhat lighter weight for more reps to finish with) then you're familiar with the basic idea of this style of training.
However, here's the switch: instead of starting with a heavy weight and working down, we're going to start with a light weight and work our way up.
The Triple Add Set technique will first exhaust your Type I muscle fibers with light weights and high reps.
Then it will work on the Type IIa muscle fibers by moving to heavier weights and moderate reps. Since Type I fibers are still being activated at this point, even though the weights are heavier, your body will recruit more and more of those Type I fibers as you keep going.
On the third and final part of the set, very heavy weights will be used. Your Type IIb fibers will now be preferentially activated. But now, because the load is extremely demanding, your Type I fibers and even more of your Type IIa fibers are being recruited to help.
By the time you're done with the Triple Add Set, you've recruited almost every available muscle fiber in the target muscle. Then we do one or two more sets just to be sure they're completely worked.
How To Do Triple Add Sets:
Start with a light weight and do a high-rep set, e.g. 20 to 30 reps. Your muscles will be burning. This will hit the Type I endurance muscle fibers and fill the target muscles with blood.
Rest 10 seconds to flush out enough of the waste products that have accumulated in your muscles for you to keep going. This is basically the time it takes to switch weights on the machine or grab a new set of dumbbells, take a few deep breaths and jump back in.
Next, you'll move on to a somewhat heavier weight and aim for about 6 to 8 reps. This will hit the Type IIa muscle fibers (the moderate-to-heavy oriented fibers).
Take 10 seconds rest again.
After that, you will do your last set with a heavy weight, going for only 1 to 3 reps. This will work on strength and connective tissue while focusing on the Type IIb muscle fibers (the very heavy and explosive fibers).
Your muscles will feel incredibly hard and pumped up. The effect of this type of training is immediately noticeable and very powerful.
It will take a little practice to figure out what weights you'll be using. It will really depend on how well your body deals with lactic acid build-up. This is a training stimulus your body will most likely NEVER have experienced before.
The first part of the set should use a very light weight.
Go for strict form and go for the burn. The first time through you should get at least 20 to 30 reps.
On the second Add Set, your reps will go down significantly as the waste products of the first set will not have been completely cleared.
The second Add Set should use about double what you used on the first set, e.g. start with 25 pound dumbbells then do 50 pound dumbbells (this increase will vary a lot depending on the exercise - experiment with the weights you use to find out what works for you).
The third and final part of the set is the hardest.
Since you've already worked hard on the previous two parts, you will be using a weight that is lighter than what you'd normally use for this rep range in regular sets.
When you do the third part, you will feel an extremely strong and deep burning in the muscles. You are tapping muscle fibers that have rarely been worked.
The first two Add Sets worked the majority of your muscle fibers - every fiber you've got now has to kick in and fire to move the weight in the third Add Set.
Triple Add Sets are extremely hard and extremely effective. You'll either love them or dread them but they work.
These are Triple Add Sets. Pick an exercise and give this technique a try the next chance you get. You will be amazed at the incredible burning and pump that results from this unique training stimulus.
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