How You Can Get More Gains Out of Every Single Set

Tim Ross
Written By: Tim Ross
November 17th, 2016
Updated: June 13th, 2020
18.1K Reads
How You Can Get More Gains Out of Every Single Set
We're all guilty of wasting precious time while in the gym. Read how these 3 intensity techniques will help you get more gains out of every single set!

You could be spending half the time you need to in the gym to get just as jacked.

If you train for an hour or longer and aren’t an elite athlete – there’s a pretty good chance you could be doing things more efficiently.

So, if you’re going to be spending less time in the gym but getting the same amount (or more) work done, where that time coming from?

You guessed it, your rest periods.

Don’t worry, you can still rest, this isn’t circuit training!

But you need to be smart about it.

Before we get into that, let’s get a few terms out of the way. You’ll need to know these three.

1. Super Set

Two exercises performed back to back that target different muscle groups (i.e. Chest flies and tricep extensions). You’ll want to include plenty of these in your program.

2. Compound Set

Two exercises performed back to back which target the same muscle group (i.e. Chin-ups and bicep curls). You can include a few of these, but not as much as supersets, as they induce a lot more fatigue in the target muscle group.

3. Giant Set

Three exercises performed back to back. The conditioning effect really starts to kick in with these and they should be used sparingly.

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With these exercises in mind, I’ll dissect a regular training program and show you how to optimize your time in the gym. Bear in mind this is a program designed for maximum hypertrophy (muscle size).

When you’re training for strength, you’ll want to limit the use of the above techniques and rest up big (3+ minutes per exercise), as you need this rest to recover between sets of heavy compound lifts.

You Get to The Gym

Today you’re hitting chest, shoulders and triceps – your classic push day. First up you get your compound exercises out of the way. You have more energy at the start, so go for your two main compound exercises of choice for chest and shoulders. I’d recommend some form of bench press and overhead press.

Related: Fast Mass Program - The 4 Day Superset Split Workout

As you’re training for hypertrophy, shoot for anywhere between 6-15 reps for all exercises.

Let’s say you do 4 sets with a 2 minute rest in-between. You get these done (you’re feeling alpha today) and so far you’ve been in the gym for around 20 minutes.

Now this where you’d usually start your accessory work – incline dumbbell presses, lateral raises, tricep work, etc.

The thing is, if you’re doing these exercises as you usually would – three sets of lateral raises with one minute rests, then three sets of tricep pushdowns with one minute rests – you’re wasting time.


M&S Female Athlete Performing Tricep Pushdowns

Because you can hit these muscles in isolation (i.e. lateral raise – delts, and tricep pushdown – triceps), meaning that performing a set of one will have no effect on the other. You won’t lose any strength performing these back to back, so make sure you do – using a super set.

Now I hear you saying, but hang on Tim, what about when I do an incline dumbbell press? That uses my chest, triceps, and shoulders. If I superset that with tricep pushdowns that will fatigue my triceps and make me weaker on the bench.

100% correct. However, let’s look at your goal. You’re trying to get jacked. You don’t care about lifting heavy weight because this is hypertrophy training. Your muscles don’t know how much weight you’re using – all they know is the tension they’re put under.

Because you’ve fatigued your triceps slightly, you may need to use a slightly lighter weight on your next set on the bench, but your chest will still be working just as hard. Why? Because you’ve fatigued your triceps and reduced the weight to accommodate this weakness – the amount of work required from your chest remains unaffected. Sweet right?

Use this super set technique for all accessory work.

After The Main Lifts

When you start your accessory work, start with a couple of super sets. A sample progression would be the incline dumbbell press and tricep dips, rest for 1.5 minutes and repeat for three sets. Now you’ve been in the gym for 27.5 minutes.

The next super set could be a seated dumbbell shoulder press and a tricep kickback. Again, shoot for three sets and rest for 1.5 minutes afterwards. You’ve now been in the gym 35 minutes.

I’m sure you’ve noticed we’ve got a lot of work in so far through super-setting, yet you’ve only been training for just over half an hour. It’s time to wrap it up.

This is where you can use compound or giant sets to cram as much work in as you can, whilst also creating an awesome conditioning effect that will leave you with a feeling of sweaty satisfaction.

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Wrapping Up

A great way to finish your push day is to hit all your target muscles at once through use of a giant set. An example could be chest flies (chest), lateral raises (delts), and close-grip push-ups (triceps). Shoot for slightly higher reps to cram as much volume as you can in per muscle, plus really igniting the conditioning effect. Shoot for 2-3 sets of this and again rest for 1.5 minutes.

Related: Conquering The Giant - Giant Set Workouts For Hypertrophy & Fat Loss

Alternatively, you could use a compound set progression to add more volume for each muscle group individually. For example, dumbbell chest flies to low cable chest flies, shoulder press to a front raise, and tricep pushdowns to a skull crusher. Again, shoot for 2-3 sets and rest for 1.5 minutes.

Either of those finishers should take a maximum of 9 minutes, which brings our total workout time to 44 minutes. Give yourself a generous 10 minutes for transitions and setting up equipment and you’re still working out for less than an hour.

As you can see, a lot of volume can be achieved in a short space of time if you program right.

Here’s the workout in table form for you to try next push day. It’s written with the giant set progression, which can be replaced with the compound set finisher if you like. You’ve also got a light cardio warm-up/cooldown and some dynamic and static stretching to loosen up your chest and shoulders before you begin and after training.

Exercise Work Sets Tempo Rest
1. Barbell Flat Bench Press 4x8 2-0-1 2 min
2. Strict Press 4x7 2-0-1 2 min
3a. Incline Dumbbell Press 3x10 2-0-1 -
3b. Tricep Kickback 3x10 2-0-1 90 secs
4a. Arnold Press 3x10 2-0-1 -
4b. Tricep Dip 3x10 2-0-1 90 secs
5a. Cable Chest Fly 3x12 2-0-1 -
5b. Lateral Raise 3x12 2-0-1 -
5c. Close Grip Pushup 3x12 2-0-1 90 secs

*Be sure to include a light treadmill/bike/rower session for 5 minutes followed by a 5 minute dynamic stretch routine proir to working out.
**Include a light treadmill/bike/rower session for 5 minutes post workout followed by a 5 minute static stretch routine to complete the workout.

If you enjoyed the post, make sure to head over to RazorStrength and check out some of my other work.

My content and training principles tale a science based approach designed for hardgainers (skinny guys) who are looking to put on as much mass as genetically possible. No fluff, no shredding down below 8% body fat, just the fastest way to gain as much mass as physically possible.