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Musings, Training

3 Is The Magic Number

Ever wondered why gym classes, coaches or fitness magazines recommend you do a X sets of a certain exercise?

Bikram does two of everything, and I’ve been in many classes that alternate between two and three sets (reps per set totally depends on the exercise). According to the guy who runs the boot camp I’ll be attending next week, three is the magic number.

Here’s the logic:

The first set of an exercise creates micro tears in the muscle fibers we use all day every day. [The process of repairing those tears is what makes muscles stronger.] You’re only hitting a small number of fibers, such as those in your biceps used to raise and lower a fork.

In the second set, you incorporate deeper fibers used less often, ie. not for everyday activities. In the bicep example, these are activated when carrying a box up stairs.

The third and final set activates the deepest muscle fibers used only rarely, and the only way to reach them is to exhaust all the other fibers first. In your biceps, this translates to fibers used to carry a couch up the stairs or keeping it from falling back down on you as you lift.

Without conducting multiple sets, it is very difficult to reach those fibers deep down inside the muscle and get them to grow stronger. Also, realize that each angle that you hold your hands, elbows, knees or other joints targets different fibers. This is why your trainers introduce training variables into your workouts. We are attempting to fatigue your muscle fibers deep within your muscles, as well as the fibers that are used more often.

So now I know that everything at boot camp will be performed and then repeated twice. Just a few more days until session one!


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