Tri-sets – My Experiences

The most recent training method I used was tri-sets. This is a grouping of 3 exercises for the same body part, performed in sequence with 10 seconds rest between each exercise. Once the third exercise is completed, you wait between 2 and 3 minutes before moving on to the next tri-set or exercise. It’s an accumulation type method that boosts your work capacity while also increasing lactate tolerance to a small degree. It will make you grow but won’t really add much strength.

Exercise selections – with tri sets, you are moving from a weaker ROM to a stronger ROM for exercise 1 and 2. For example, incline press followed by flat or decline press, or incline DB curls followed by standing BB curls. You do this because it helps keep the load as high as possible for each exercises.

The third movement should be something that is significantly easier for new to moderate trainees or something that is tougher but with fewer reps or less weight for the advanced trainee. For example, trap bar deadlifts, DB split squat, hack squats as a beginner or intermediate tri-set and front squat, back squat, front squat for an advanced trainee. When the first and third exercise are the same, we call this a double tri-set and it tends to increase size gains over the traditional tri-set, but it has a much larger intensity cost and should only be performed by people who have the capacity to work that hard.

Some examples of what I did were, for back, lean back supinated chin-ups, neutral grip pull-ups, and lean back supinated chin-ups; wide grip pull-ups, mid neutral grip pull-ups and narrow grip supinated chin-ups; weighted pronated mid grip pull-ups, bend over DB row, standing rope to neck. For chest, 45 degree DB press, flat DB press, and 45 degree DB press; 70 DB press, 30 DB press, DB flies. For shoulders, seated military press, seated Arnold press, and medial DB laterals.

Tempo and timing – the goal is to get about 30-50 seconds of time under tension for each segment of the tri-set. When we include rest time we are looking at about 4:30 to 5:00 minutes of time for each tri-set. This means that you can train two body parts in about 30-40 minutes leaving enough time to do some accessory or structural balance work.

I’ve been doing tri-sets for about 4 weeks now and am getting ready to change things up again. My work capacity has definitely increased and I’ve been sore in the days following my workouts – an indication that my body is adapting to a new form of stimulation. It is a good method that I will come back to in a few months. It’s also a mentally challenging approach because the sets are so long – up to 2 minutes.

The main error people make when performing tri-sets is not adhering to the rest interval of 10 seconds between segments. There is a tendency to take longer and while I can understand why someone would, it lowers the effectiveness of this approach dramatically. Keep in mind that the 10 seconds is only long enough to move to the next exercise, it isn’t long enough to get a drink or have a conversation. But with 2-3 minutes rest between sets, you should have plenty of time to do all of those other things.

I have given it to some of my clients and they have experienced the same things I did – growth, pain and a boost in work capacity. Try it out if you are looking for a new challenge.