The “Giant Sets” concept is something I was formally introduced to a few years back whilst on a strength and conditioning course in the United States, however, if I look back at my early training it was something I was doing without really knowing the technical term for it!
The brain child of, and made famous by, renowned bodybuilding champion and trainer of champions Milos Sarcev. Giant Sets involve performing anywhere from 4-12 or more exercises for a given body part. The exercises are performed consecutively with no rest from exercise to exercise.
They are a great way to bring up a lagging body part or push through any plateaus you may have reached. Primarily they are used to bring about hypertrophy of the target area, but given the lactate inducing nature of the training they can be a fantastic conditioning tool as well.
As with everything with training regimes, there is a time and a place for them and certain other variables will need to be addressed in order to reap the full benefit. Rest and recovery and ensuring you are fuelling the body with optimum nutrition are of paramount importance.
There are a myriad of ways they can be performed and there really is no right or wrong way in terms of exercise selection or order. You will often see Giant Sets workouts designed where you go from the most neurologically demanding exercises to the least, but this is certainly not a pre-requisite.
I often like to prescribe isolation exercises at the start and end of my personal training clients workouts as I feel it works well in getting blood rushing to the targeted muscle, creating the pump that is necessary for the type of hypertrophy we are trying to achieve - sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.
We are currently using Giant Sets in our chest workout. The workout is as follows…..
- A1 Around the World * 3-5 x 10 3030
- A2 Flat 1 ¼ DB Press – Semi Supinated Grip 3-5 x 6 4010
- A3 45 Degree Incline DB Press – Supinated to Pronated Grip 3-5 x 8 3110
- A4 Decline DB Press 3-5 x 10 2110
- A5 Flat DB Fly 3-5 x 12 2011
Rest 180 seconds and repeat.
Around the World is an exercise we learnt from one of our mentors Tom Crudgington of Body Development, Bath. In this instance we use it as a pre-fatigue exercise in the Giant Set. You can see a video of the whole routine below:
If you are going to give this a go then you need to have all the necessary weights first (a good spotter or personal trainer is extremely useful here). There is zero rest between exercises until you have finished A5. At which point you rest 180s and repeat the process.
NB Your strength will naturally diminish from set to set given the nature of the work and the incomplete rest. Therefore you may have to drop the weight from set to set. There is no shame in this, in fact we’d think more of you, as it means your ego is not in the way of getting optimal results!
As far as Giants Sets go, the volume is fairly low, so we will repeat the workout for 3-4 sessions and then move on to something else. If the volume were a lot higher we may only do the workout once before switching up, however it is all very dependant upon a lot of variables that are probably not in the scope of just one article!
As with any program you will only reap results during the time it takes you to adapt, meaning that you need to change to a different program just before you begin to plateau. This is a point that I think is often lost on the majority of gym goers. Many believe there is an ideal program, the holy grail of training and are indoctrinated into thinking that there is only one way. This couldn’t be further from the truth, as ever it is those that are willing to mix up what they do and challenge the body that will reap the best results. This is something that is again purely down to the individual. Some will need to switch workouts more often than others, it is only something you can learn about yourself over time.
Give this workout a go and let us know how you get on.