Tri-Sets For New Muscle Growth


Although technology can help us regulate our programs (devices to measure movement velocity, smartwatches to capture heart rate variability, etc.), the most approachable autoregulation technique requires no gizmos.

“Subjective autoregulation” relies on your perceptions to inform program modifications. That’s where RIR comes in. It links your perception of exertion to a predicted number of reps in reserve. (4) To my knowledge, powerlifter Mike Tuscherer popularized this model.

Powerlifters and bodybuilders are like good neighbors – they share each other’s sugar. So, even if you’re more interested in showy muscle than maximum strength, be aware of RIR. It serves as the basis of many autoregulated resistance-training methods, allowing you to manipulate loads, sets and/or reps based on how you feel.

Selecting an appropriate exercise intensity for tri-sets is challenging and may open the door for training errors when repetition volume is fixed. Outside of occasional “lucky guesses,” average lifters (myself included) are unlikely to accurately self-select loads that facilitate ascending levels of effort at pre-set rep volumes for grueling tri-set training.

Therefore, a very simple application of RIR works best: Use RIR to autoregulate the number of reps per set (rep volume).

Here’s how it works: Simply perform reps until you perceive that you only have the goal number of reps “in reserve.”

Here’s a reminder for ascending effort tri-sets: You want to leave 3 reps in reserve for the first exercise. For the second, leave 2 RIR, and for the final exercise, you want to leave 1 RIR.

On a good day, you’ll be able to do more reps. On a bad day, you’ll perform fewer. You’ll likely perform more reps before reaching your RIR target during the first “round” of tri-sets than the final.

And as a bonus for bodybuilders, this method of autoregulation is extremely robust against errors in load selection. We build muscle across a wide rep range, provided sets are taken close to failure. It doesn’t much matter whether we complete 6 or 16 reps per set. The ascending effort tri-set structure helps you take every set close to failure while managing your fatigue.


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