Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Super-sets. Tri-Sets, Quad-Sets, Straight sets,Energy Systems, and my thoughts

Do you pair your Main Lifts all of the time, some of the time or never? Why? Why not?

I had a great discussion with Patrick Ward (who is starting to become a mentor), and with my good friend Cedric Unholz. We got onto the topic on the alactic system for strength and power athletes.

The alactic system as we know is our ATP CP system. It is used for all out maximum efforts in strength, power, and speed. Depending on who you read this system only has a life of 7-10secs, before it starts to ask for help from the anerobic system. It then takes depending on who you read again 3 or more minutes for it to replenish fully. If we want it fully replenhished?

In thinking then of programming super-sets, tri-sets, and quad-sets for strength and power athtletes, does it make sense? Now for the discussion I am only talking about the programming of Main Lifts here. I think yes and no.

If we think about the energy systems use throughout a match (eg. hurling, football, soccer), we know that we get a contribution of all three systems throughout the entire match. I think sports like the above would fall under the alactic-aerobic caterogies.

So in this line of thought I ask the question again do super-sets, tri-sets, and quad-sets make sense when training the big lifts.

What would make more sense:

Eample 1:
A1: Deadlift 5x1 @ 90% - alactic
A2: Bench 5x1 @ 90% - alactic
A3: Mobility - active recovery - aerobic

Example 2:
A1: Deadlift 5x1 @90% - alactic
A2: Push Ups 4 x12 - anerobic
A3: Mobility - active recovery - aerobic

Example 3:
A1: Deadlift 5x1 @ 90%
A2: Mobility - active recovery - aerobic

Eample 4:
A1: Deadlift 5x1 @ 90% - alactic
A2: Mobility - active recovery - aerobic
A3: Bench 5x1 @ 90% - alactic

Example 5:
A1: Deadlift 5x1 @90% - alactic
A2: Mobility - active recovery - aerobic
A3: Push Ups 4 x12 - anerobic

I think they all make sense.

Lets like at each example more closely:

Example 1:
In this example we have to alactic lifts back-back. I dont really think there is anything wrong here with this example. My only question would be is one lift taking away from the other as the intensity that they are being performed at is pretty high. I don't this model would work well for a powerlifter, as I do feel that one lift may take away from the other. I would say there maybe some gobal fatigue going from a heavy deadlift to a heavy bench. But how much of a difference??

Example 2:
I think this example also works well, and when looking at the energy systems involved it looks like a good model for a field/court player as all three energy systems are worked. Again my only question would be is our lower body main lift (alactic system work) being compromised by the gobal fatigue of the upper body assistance work (anerobic system work). This brings another question tough. Do we want some fatigue going into are next set of Deadlifts? This would seem to replicate the energy demands on the field and court and would seem to make sense in that regard.

Example 3:
This is just pure alctic development. One Max effort and relax. This method is ideal for powerlifters, olympic lifts, and a lot of track and field events were one all out effort is required. I think this can a have a lot of benefit to a field and court athlete to when you are in a phase where you are really trying to emphasis power/speed/stength/alactic processes. A model I actully like is cleans 1 rep every 60-90secs for field/court players

Example 4:
I think would make more sense then example one as there is a recovery period between both efforts I think model would work fine. But is there still some negative effect one from lift to the other? Does the difference really matter if we are talking about field/court athletes and not powerlifters etc.

Example 5:
I really like this model for a field and court athlete. I this reflects the demands of the biochemistry of field and court sports very well.

When I listen to Dan Pfaff he talks about always trying stimulate the similar biochemical processes in the weight room that will carry over to the sport. Thats way I think it is important for us to consider these concepts.

I think also it depends on what time of year we are taking about. Patrick brought up the point that in the one phase tri-sets, quad-sets are useful for building work capacity if that is the goal, where as in another phase, straight sets with some active low intensity rest is what we would do to refine those alactic strength and power qualities.

This is just some thoughts to chew on. I dont think there is an all out right or wrong way. I agree with Patrick that there is an optimally way depending on what time of year and phase you are in.

As always people,

Stay Strong,



  1. Good post Robbie.

    Just one thing, my understanding was that alactic and anaerobic are the same thing?

  2. Kind of as both are in the present of insufficent O2, but alactic is with out lactate production, while anerobic produces it.

    Alactic system (ATP CP) 7-10secs
    Lactic system (Anerobic or glycolytic) 10secs - 120secs depending on who you read.

    Thats why Bill Hartmann talk about an athlete of his being able to do 54 6secs sprints with 30secs rest without hitting LT, or AT whatever you want to call it.

  3. Robbie - always good to read your thoughts mate, and considering what is actually happening inside the body is a key step that many miss.

    It is important to take into account the energy system characteristics of the sport the athlete is training for, however, wouldn't you say that the majority of athletes get enough of this on the training ground? (assuming the coach is giving appropriate training)
    Is our main goal energy system development, or getting our athletes stronger? I suppose it depends on the individual case.

  4. Howard my post wasn't so much about we should try energy systems in the weight room. It was just to be aware of them.

    Also keep in mind that when following this process you can still stimulate the same biochemical process in the weight room without the extra joint stress.


    Instead of doing 10 x10m acelerations, you could do 10x1 deadlifts, and get similar adaptations without the added impact. Just something to consider.

    Yes you are dead right, we just need to get them strong.I just wanted to point out that True max strength is alactic by nature. Sub-max work is anerobic, and active recovery (fillers between sets) are aerobic.

    You are right also in saying it is case by case.

    As we now that marathon dont need futher development of the aerobic system, what they need is more max strength and sub-max work in the weight room. More development of their alactic and lactate systems.

    I hope I explain myself ok here

  5. I understand what you mean perfectly Robbie - cheers for clarifying!

    Perhaps an additional way that this information could be taken / used is with athletes in rehab (who cannot do certain aspects of their sport yet).

    Keep blogging - I am trying to get back into it myself!