Supersets / Tri-Sets / Giant Sets: The Ultimate Guide!


Supersets, tri-sets and giant sets are three of the best training methods you can use to build muscle.

These methods increase the time under tension of your sets and help you get more work done in less time.

If you want to get jacked and tan then this article is for you! 

Introduction

  • Part 1: Supersets
  • Part 2: Tri-Sets
  • Part 3: Giant Sets

In this comprehensive guide I will show you how to use supersets, tri-sets and giant sets to build muscle mass and strength as fast as possible.

Supersets, tri-sets and giant sets are advanced training methods where you perform 2-4 exercises in a row with 10 seconds rest between exercises. These methods force your muscles to work longer during a set and help you to perform a greater number of sets in a shorter period of time.

Supersets are one of the oldest training methods ever invented. The idea is simple: you perform 2 exercises in a row with 10 seconds rest between exercises.

Here is the bodybuilding coach John Meadows demonstrating a triceps superset with rope pushdowns and overhead rope extensions. Check it out:

John Meadows Triceps Superset

John Meadows loves this kind of superset for the triceps. The rope pushdown gives you a great contraction in the triceps and the overhead rope extensions put the long head under a deep loaded stretch. Check it out:

“This is an absolutely phenomenal combination – 8 reps on the rope pushdown and 8 reps on the rope extensions. Absolutely awesome.”

Tri-sets are a lot like supersets. The main difference is you are going to perform 3 exercises in a row for the same muscle group rather than just 2.

Here is Josh Bryant demonstrating a brutal tri-set for the upper back. Check it out:

Josh Bryant Upper Back Tri-Set

For this tri-set Josh Bryant is using 3 completely different exercises: t-bar rows, seal rows and wide grip pulldowns.

Josh Bryant is also using anywhere from 5-40 reps for each exercise. Check it out:

“We’re starting the tri-set with 5 reps on the t-bar row with a 5 second negative. Then we’re doing dumbbell seal rows for 8 reps. Finally we have wide grip lat pulldown for 40 reps.

We’re doing everything from an eccentric overload to moderate reps to really high reps so we’re basically taxing all of the motor units with an extreme tri-set.”

Tri-sets are like a more extreme version of supersets. Performing 3 different exercises in a row for a muscle group creates even more muscle damage and metabolic stress which is great for building muscular hypertrophy.

If you are really up for a challenge then you have to give giant sets a try. A giant set is an advanced training method where you perform 4 or more exercises in a row for a muscle group with 10 seconds rest between sets.

Some bodybuilders like Milos Sarcev use as many as 10-20 exercises in a row for their giant sets! Here is Milos taking Sergio Olivia Jr. through a biceps giant sets workout. Check it out:

Biceps Giant Set Workout

Giant sets are very hard to recover from but they are awesome for building muscle mass and losing body fat. The amount of muscle damage that you can create with just one giant set is absolutely insane!

Here is Milos Sarcev explaining why he likes giant sets so much:

“What is the most intense training system? What creates maximum muscle fiber stimulation? If you’re truly honest with yourself then the answer is giant sets!”

Supersets, tri-sets and giant sets are all fantastic for building muscle mass and strength.

In this guide I will show you how some of the world’s best bodybuilders and strength coaches use these techniques in their own training programs. Trust me, you don’t want to miss out on this cutting edge information!

Note: if you have trouble reading the training routines in this article then check out this guide on how to read a training program. Now let’s get down to business…

Part 1: Supersets

Supersets are one of the oldest and most effective training methods ever invented. The legendary bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger popularized supersets in the 1970s but the truth is they were being used sense the early 1900s!

There are 2 different types of supersets that you should know about. Check it out:

The 2 Types Of Supersets

  • Option #1: Agonist Supersets
  • Option #2: Antagonist Supersets

These 2 training methods are very different from each other but they both deserve a place in your training programs. Let’s take a closer look at both of these types of supersets.

Option #1: Agonist Supersets

Agonist supersets are sometimes called “same muscle group supersets” because you perform 2 exercises in a row for the same muscle group.

Agonist supersets are so effective because they force your target muscle to work twice as long as normal.

If a regular set takes 20-40 seconds to complete then an agonist superset will take 40-80 seconds to complete! This extra time under tension is awesome for building muscle mass and muscular endurance.

Here is the bodybuilder John Meadows performing a simple superset using one-arm barbell rows and Meadows rows. Check it out:

John Meadows Back Superset

In this video John Meadows performs a set of one-arm barbell rows to failure, rests 10 seconds and then performs a set of Meadows rows to failure. This is technically called a mechanical advantage superset because he uses the same weight on the bar for both exercises.

The bottom line is this method works extremely well for building muscular hypertrophy.

Bodybuilders love agonist supersets but they can also be used by powerlifters to build muscle mass. The powerlifting coach Louie Simmons loves to superset lying triceps extensions with band pushdowns to build size and strength in the triceps. Check it out:

Louie Simmons Triceps Superset

Louie Simmons has been using this exact superset sense the 1980s and it continues to produce great results today. There are many different ways to design an agonist superset.

One of the best strategies is called post-exhaust supersets. This is where you perform a compound exercise, rest 10 seconds and then perform an isolation exercise.

Here is Josh Bryant demonstrating a great post-exhaustion superset for the triceps. Check it out:

Josh Bryant Post-Exhaust Triceps Superset

For this superset Josh is having his athlete perform 6 reps on the v-bar dips and 30 reps of lying dumbbell extensions.

The dips are used to overload as many muscle fibers as possible with a very heavy weight. Then the lying triceps extensions are used to increase the time under tension on the triceps with a high-rep isolation exercise.

This is a nasty combination that creates a ton of muscle damage and muscle soreness. Here are Josh Bryant’s thoughts on this omni-rep superset:

“You can’t be married to any one training style. High reps work, low reps work. You have to use a holistic approach if you want holistic huge arms!”

You can also do the opposite and perform an isolation exercise right before a compound exercise. This is called a pre-exhaust superset because you are pre-exhausting the muscle with the isolation movement.

Here is John Meadows demonstrating a pre-exhaust superset for the triceps. Check it out:

John Meadows Pre-Exhaust Triceps Superset

In this video John is supersetting lying triceps extensions and close grip bench presses using the football bar. Pre-exhaust supersets can be a good choice if you have a hard time feeling a specific muscle group work or if you really want to improve your mind-muscle connection.

Here is John’s full triceps pre-exhaust superset workout in case you were curious. Check it out:

John Meadows’ Pre-Exhaust Triceps Routine

  • A1: Standing triceps pushdown (spongey grips), 4 x 12, 1/0/X/0, 90 seconds rest
  • B1: Lying triceps extension (football bar / close grip), 4 x 6, 1/0/1/0, no rest
  • B2: Bench press (football bar / close grip), 4 x 6, 1/0/1/0, 90 seconds rest
  • C1: Overhead triceps extension (football bar)**, 4 x 8, 1/0/1/0, no rest

**Perform a static stretch in the bottom position of the exercise for 10 seconds immediately after your last rep.

John uses the pre-exhaust superset in the middle of his workout after he has performed his triceps pushdowns but before he performs his overhead triceps extensions.

You can read more about John’s favorite triceps training strategies in my article “Mountain Dog Tricep Training: The Ultimate Guide!

Now let’s look at some of the best ways to incorporate antagonistic supersets into your routine.

Option #2: Antagonist Supersets

Antagonistic supersets are an advanced training method where you alternate between exercises for opposing muscle groups. For example you could alternate between sets for biceps and triceps, chest and back or quads and hamstrings.

Here is the high-energy Nsima Nyang giving a great overview of this training method:

Antagonistic supersets were a favorite of the Canadian strength coach Charles Poliquin. He used antagonistic supersets in almost all of his training routines for his world-class athletes. 

Charles says that antagonistic supersets have 3 main advantages over regular straight sets:

  • Advantage #1: They help you recruit more motor units in both target muscles
  • Advantage #2: They improve your muscular endurance so you can perform more high-quality sets
  • Advantage #3: They let you perform twice as many sets in the same amount of time  

Charles believed that antagonistic supersets are great for building muscle mass and strength. If you are trying to get stronger then you would take longer rest periods between exercises.

For an arm workout you could perform a set of bench presses, rest 2 minutes, perform a set of preacher curls, rest 2 minutes and then perform another set of bench presses.

You will actually be stronger on the bench press when you perform curls in between your sets because your central nervous system will be able to recruit more motor units in your triceps.

Here is what a low-rep arm superset workout could look like. Check it out:

Charles Poliquin Cluster Set Arm Workout

  • A1: Bench press (shoulder-width grip), 5 x 5**, 3/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • A2: Preacher ez-bar curl (wide / supinated grip), 5 x 5**, 3/0/X/0, 2 minutes rest
  • B1: 30 degree incline barbell extension with chains (to forehead), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 1 minute rest
  • B2: 30 degree incline DB curl (hammer grip), 3 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 1 minute rest

**Performed as a Poliquin-style cluster set routine. You are going to perform 5 reps with 10 seconds rest in between each rep. After your 5th rep you rest 2 minutes then perform the other exercise in the superset. See the video below for more details.

Here is the training video for this workout:

This routine features cluster sets. This was Charles Poliquin’s absolute favorite training method for boosting strength levels in elite athletes. The basic idea is to perform 5 sets of 5 reps with 10 seconds rest in between each rep.

On the bench press you perform 1 rep, rest 10 seconds, perform your 2nd rep and so on until you perform all 5 reps. Then you rack the weight, rest 2 minutes and perform your cluster set on preacher curls.

After you have performed 5 cluster sets for the bench press and preacher curls you would move onto your “B” exercises.

This type of routine works really well if your goal is to build strength but antagonistic cluster sets can also be used with high reps to build muscular hypertrophy. In fact this was a favorite training method of the legendary bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger

Here is Peter Katcherian giving a great overview of Arnold’s superset training style:

When Arnold Schwarzenegger was getting ready for the Mr. Olympia contest he would train antagonistic muscle groups together like chest and back. He would perform a set for chest, rest 30 seconds, perform a set for back, rest 30 seconds and then perform another set for chest.

Arnold said that this superset routine gave him an unbelievable pump and allowed him to perform more work in less time.

Here is the exact chest / back routine that Arnold Schwarzenegger used to prepare for the Mr. Olympia contest. Check it out:

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Pre-Contest Chest / Back Workout

Superset #1:

  • A1: Bench press, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps
  • A2: Pull ups (wide / overhand grip), 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps

Superset #2:

  • B1: Incline bench press, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps
  • B2: Cable pulldowns (wide / overhand grip), 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps

Superset #3:

  • C1: V-bar dips, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps
  • C2: T-bar rows, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps

Superset #4:

  • D1: Flat DB flyes, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps
  • D2: Barbell bent over row, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps

Superset #5:

  • E1: Cable crossover, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps
  • E2: Seated cable row, 3-6 sets of 5-20 reps

Arnold performed 5 separate supersets for his Mr. Olympia chest and back workout. This kind of training volume is enough to give most bodybuilders a one-way ticket to the hospital but it worked like magic for Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I highly recommend you experiment with antagonistic supersets in your workouts. They work incredibly well for building size and strength depending on how you structure your workouts.

You can read my epic article “Charles Poliquin’s 15 Favorite Training Programs!” for more ideas – Charles Poliquin was the original gangster of antagonistic supersets.

Part 2: Tri-Sets

Tri-sets are the next logical progression after supersets. With a tri-set you perform 3 exercises in a row with only 10 seconds rest in between exercises.

Normally you perform all 3 exercises for the same body part but some creative individuals like Brian Alsruhe have found ways to perform tri-sets with 3 exercises targeting different muscle groups.

Tri-sets are so effective because they extend the time under tension of the set and force your muscles to work much longer than normal.

Here is Charles Poliquin coaching one of his bodybuilding clients through a brutal elbow flexors tri-set. Check it out:

Charles Poliquin Elbow Flexors Tri-Set

For this tri-set Charles chooses three different exercises to target all of the muscle fibers in the elbow flexors. He picks one exercise to target the long head of the biceps, one exercise to target the brachialis and the brachioradialis and one exercise to target the short head of the biceps.

Here is the full routine:

Charles Poliquin’s Elbow Flexors Tri-Set

  • A1: 45 degree incline DB curl (offset grip), 3-5 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Standing football bar curl (medium grip), 3-5 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0**, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: Thick bar ez-bar preacher curl (wide / supinated grip), 3-5 x 6-8, 2/0/1/0, 3 minutes rest

**Pause for 2 seconds at 30-45 degrees elbow flexion during the concentric range of each rep. In other words lift the weight a quarter of the way up, pause for 2 seconds, then complete the rep and lower all the way down. Use this technique on all 6-8 reps.

This routine is absolutely brutal for building bigger arms! It targets all of the motor units in the elbow flexors and creates a huge amount of time under tension.

Here is Charles Poliquin himself describing this routine:

“This tri-set isolates the arms very effectively. We did incline curls, standing reverse curls and preacher curls.

These exercises overload different points in the strength curve, different parts of the biceps brachii and the brachialis muscle.

In this way every muscle fiber in the elbow flexors is completely thrashed!”

Tri-sets can be used to build strength if you are creative enough but they are mainly used to build muscle mass.

There are many different ways that you can design a tri-set workout. One of the best strategies is to use 3 completely different exercises for one muscle group. This strategy helps you to recruit and fatigue as many muscle fibers as possible.

Here is the bodybuilding coach Nick Mitchell showing a great tri-set routine for the quadriceps. Check it out:

Nick Mitchell Legs Tri-Set

  • A1: Leg extension, 3 x 10-20, 2/0/X/0, no rest
  • A2: Walking alternating DB lunge, 3 x 10-20, 2/0/1/0, no rest 
  • A3: 45 degree leg press, 3 x 10-20, 2/0/1/0, no rest

Here is the training video for this workout:

Talk about a brutal tri-set routine! Nick forces his client to train to failure on leg extensions, walking dumbbell extensions and the 45 degree leg press all in a row with no rest between exercises. By the end of the workout his poor client is left gasping for air on the floor!

Another great way to design a tri-set routine is to pick three different variations of the same exercise. This is sometimes called “uni-angular tri-sets” because you are using three different exercises that attack a muscle group from the same angle.

You can change things like your grip or your stance to target a slightly different motor unit pool within the muscle for each exercise.

Uni-angular tri-sets were a favorite training strategy of Larry Scott, the first ever Mr. Olympia winner. He used uni-angular tri-sets to build his legendary 20-inch arms. Here is Larry’s favorite biceps workout. Check it out:

The Larry Scott Bicep Workout

  • A1: Dumbbell Preacher Curls, 3-5 x 6-8**, 4/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Barbell Preacher Curls, 3-5 x 6-8**, 4/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: Reverse Ez-Curl Bar, 3-5 x 6-8**, 4/0/1/0, 180 seconds rest

**Perform 6-8 full range of motion reps then 4-6 partial reps out of the bottom position.

Here is a great training video for this workout:

Larry Scott built his legendary biceps using a tri-set with three different types of preacher curls. He would perform dumbbell preacher curls, underhand grip preacher curls and reverse grip preacher curls all in a row with 10 seconds rest between exercises.

Uni-angular tri-sets are an awesome way to train. In my experience they work especially well for building bigger arms.

So far we’ve looked at “omni” tri-sets where you use three completely different exercises and uni-angular tri-sets where you use three different variations of the same exercise. Another great variation is called mechanical advantage tri-sets.

The basic idea is to perform three different variations of the same exercise using the same amount of weight. You start with your weakest exercise, then the second weakest exercise and finally you finish with the exercise you are strongest on.

Here is a sample mechanical advantage tri-set routine you can perform for your upper back. Check it out:

Mechanical Advantage Pull Up Tri-Set

  • A1: Pull up (wide / pronated grip), 3-5 x 6-8, 2/0/X/0, 15 seconds rest
  • A2: Chin up (medium / supinated grip), 3-5 x AMRAP**, 2/0/X/0, 15 seconds rest
  • A3: Pull up (narrow / neutral grip), 3-5 x AMRAP**, 2/0/X/0, rest 3 minutes

**Perform as many reps as possible with the same weight you used for exercise A1.

Here is the training video:

With this routine you perform three different variations of pull ups in a row. You start with wide overhand grip pull ups, then perform medium supinated grip pull ups and finally you finish with narrow neutral grip pull ups.

You are moving from your weakest variation to your strongest one so you can continue busting out extra reps while using the same weight for all 3 exercises.

Here is Charles Poliquin describing this method:

“One of the best ways to improve chin ups is to do an extended set.

You take the grip with the least mechanical advantage, do as many reps as possible, rest 15 seconds, move onto a supinated grip, perform as many reps as possible, rest 15 seconds, perform a neutral grip for as many reps as possible.

What it does is you use greater mechanical advantage to make your lats work longer.”

So far we’ve looked at tri-set variations where you perform 3 exercises in a row for the same muscle group.

This is how tri-sets are normally performed but if you are extra creative you can design tri-sets with exercises for completely different muscle groups. This is a favorite strategy of the amateur strongman competitor Brian Alsruhe.

Here is one of Brian’s upper body training days. Check it out:

Brian Alsruhe Overhead Press Workout

Main Giant Set

  • A1: Pull ups (medium / neutral grip), 4 sets of 4-6 reps, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Log clean and press, 4 sets of 2 reps, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: Twisting leg raise, 4 sets of 8-12 reps, 90 seconds rest

Secondary Giant Set

  • B1: Pull ups (wide grip / grenade attachment), 4 sets of 8-12 reps, 10 seconds rest
  • B2: Upside down kettlebell walk, 4 sets of 100 feet, 10 seconds rest
  • B3: T-bar row, 4 sets of 10-20 reps, 90 seconds rest

Accessory Giant Set

  • C1: V-bar dips (forward leaning torso), 4 sets 10-20 reps, 10 seconds rest
  • C2: Banded face pulls, 4 sets of 10-20 reps, 90 seconds rest

Here is the training video for this workout:

Talk about a brutal workout! Brian likes to perform 2-3 tri-sets in his upper body workouts. He will perform different exercises like overhead presses, pull ups and even ab exercises as part of a tri-set.

Brian Alsruhe says that tri-sets are great because they help him get more work done in less time and maximize his overall conditioning level. Here is Brian talking about his unique training style:

“Now you guys know that I do all of my strength work with giant sets. There’s a couple of reasons for that.

Number 1 I get twice as much done in the gym in the same amount of time and time is not something I have a lot of. Number 2 it builds my conditioning while I’m building my strength.

I know a lot of people say that you cannot get bigger and stronger while dropping body fat. It can! It just requires extremely hard work and most people avoid that like the plague.”

So far we’ve covered many different types of tri-sets including omni tri-sets, uni-angular tri-sets, mechanical advantage tri-sets and circuit training.

These methods are all great but if you are serious about taking your training to the next level then there are two more strategies that you have to try:

  • Strategy #1: Tri-sets with isometric training
  • Strategy #2: Tri-sets with eccentric training

That’s right! I’m talking about combining tri-sets with isometric and eccentric training. This is a favorite strategy of the bodybuilding coach Josh Bryant.

Let’s start by looking at a tri-set routine with isometric training. Check it out:

Josh Bryant Isometric Tri-Set Routine For Triceps

  • A1: Close grip bench press overcoming isometric***, 3 x 6 second hold, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Close grip bench press against bands, 3 x 3, 1/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: Decline DB extension, 3 x 10, 5/0/1/0, 4 minutes rest

***Perform an overcoming isometric with an empty barbell. The pins should be set up 2 inches below the lockout in a power rack.

Here is the training video for this workout:

This is a tri-set routine for your triceps. It features three different exercises: isometric bench presses, close grip bench presses against bands and decline dumbbell extensions.

These three exercises are designed to overload all of the muscle fibers in your triceps.

The first exercise is the isometric bench press. You are going to set the safety pins in the power rack about 2 inches below lockout. Then you press an empty 45 pound barbell into the safety pins as hard as you can for 6 seconds. Your goal is to break the safety pins in half!

This isometric bench press is unbelievably effective fro maximizing muscle fiber recruitment in your triceps.

After the isometric bench press you knock off all the remaining muscle fibers in your triceps with close grip bench presses against bands and decline dumbbell extensions with a 5-second negative phase.

Now let’s look at a Josh Bryant biceps tri-set routine using eccentric training. Check it out:

Josh Bryant Eccentric Tri-Set Routine For Biceps

  • A1: Eccentric one-arm barbell preacher curl (supinated grip), 5 x 3, 10/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Chin ups (medium / supinated grip), 5 x 5, 2/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: 45 degree incline DB curl (supinated grip)**, 5 x 10, 1/0/1/0, 3 minutes rest

**Perform “one and a quarter reps” out of the bottom position. Lift the dumbbell up a quarter of the way, lower it back down, lift it all the way up, lower it all the way down. This counts as 1 rep. Perform 10 of these reps per set.

Here is the training video for this workout:

This is another brutally effective arm routine by Josh Bryant. You are going to perform 3 exercises in a row for your biceps: eccentric one-arm barbell preacher curls, chin ups and incline dumbbell curls.

Here is Josh Bryant discussing the benefits of the eccentric one-arm barbell curl:

“This is called a one-arm eccentric barbell curl. Most bodybuilders and people in general neglect eccentrics. There are so many reasons why hypertrophy is very important.”

“Not only is it important for eccentric only, all the supinators are forced to work overtime to balance the barbell. I promise you he’s going to be very sore tomorrow if he’s never done this before.”

The eccentric one-arm barbell curl is one of the best exercises you can do for your biceps. This is especially true if you have not performed a lot of eccentric training in the past.

Eccentric training creates more muscle tension and damages more muscle fibers than regular sets. It’s not even close!

Using eccentric training as part of a tri-set is a very creative way to blast through a plateau in arm size. Just make sure you have your post-workout drink ready after a workout like this – you’re going to need it!

Part 3: Giant Sets

Giant sets are the next logical progression after supersets and tri-sets. Here is Milos Sarcev giving his thoughts on giant sets:

“What is the most intense training system? What creates maximum muscle fiber stimulation? If you’re truly honest with yourself then the answer is giant sets!”

Giant sets are an advanced training method where you perform 4 or more exercises in a row for the same muscle group. For example:

The Giant Set Training Protocol

  • Step #1: Perform exercise A, rest 10 seconds
  • Step #2: Perform exercise B, rest 10 seconds
  • Step #3: Perform exercise C, rest 10 seconds
  • Step #4: Perform exercise D, rest 2-4 minutes, repeat!

Giant sets are performed with at least 4 exercises in a row but it’s possible to go much higher than this. Milos Sarcev sometimes performs giant sets with 10-20 exercises in a row!

So why on earth would anyone train this way? The truth is giant sets are like supersets or tri-sets on steroids.

Giant sets dramatically increase the time under tension of your sets. They create an overwhelming amount of muscle damage and metabolic stress.

They are a great way for advanced bodybuilders to build muscle mass and blast through training plateaus. They are also one of the best ways to train for fat loss.

The most common way to perform giant sets is to use several exercises that are completely different from each other to recruit and fatigue as many muscle fibers as possible. This is a favorite strategy of the bodybuilding coach John Meadows. Check it out:

“I’d rather someone mix it up. I like to see different movement patterns. Muscles don’t always originate and insert at the same point.”

John often likes to perform giant set routines for his back and arm workouts.

Here is a simple giant set routine that he performed for his upper back. Check it out:

John Meadows Giant Set Back Routine

  • A1: Chest supported row (wide / pronated grip), 4 x 8, 1/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Decline DB pullover, 4 x 8, 2/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: Cable pulldown (narrow / neutral grip), 4 x 8, 2/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A4: One-arm DB row, 4 x 8, 1/0/1/0, 2-4 minutes rest

Here is the training video:

For this workout John performs 4 different upper back exercises in a row as part of a giant set. After performing all 4 exercises he rests for 2-4 minutes and then performs the entire sequence again.

You do have to be careful with your exercise selection when designing a giant set routine. It would be a bad idea to perform a bunch of exercises that are really hard on your lower back.

For example it would be a bad idea to perform deadlifts, t-bar rows, barbell rows and one-arm dumbbell rows together as a giant set. Your lower back would be so fatigued from the deadlifts that you would risk injuring yourself on the next three exercises.

John’s exercise selection is perfect. He picks 4 hard exercises to really challenge himself but none of these exercises put a ton of stress on his lower back.

John also likes to perform giant sets for his arms. One of his favorite strategies is to perform a giant set where you alternate back and forth between exercises for your biceps and your triceps. This method doesn’t have a name so I will call it “antagonistic giant sets.”

Here is an antagonistic giant set arm routine that you may want to try. Check it out:

John Meadows Giant Set Biceps / Triceps Workout

Arms Giant Set #1

  • A1: Standing dual rope cable pushdown, 4 x 8-12, 1/0/1/1, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Standing 2-arm DB curl (supinating grip), 4 x 8-12, 1/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: High-pulley rope triceps extension (leaning forward at torso), 4 x 8-12, 1/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A4: Seated DB curls (supinating grip), 4 x 8-12, 1/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest

Arms Giant Set #2

  • B1: Preacher ez-bar curl (wide / supinated grip), 4 x 8-12, 1/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B2: Kettlebell lying extension, 4 x 8-12, 1/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B3: Reverse cable curl, 4 x 8-12, 1/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • B4: 30 degree incline DB extension, 4 x 8-12, 1/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest

Here is the training video for this workout:

For this routine you are performing 2 separate giant sets for your arms. For each giant set you perform a biceps exercise, a triceps exercise, a second biceps exercise and a second triceps exercise.

This method has many of the same advantages as antagonistic supersets. You get a crazy pump in your arms and you are slightly stronger than normal when you pair opposite muscle groups together like this. 

Of course I cannot talk about giant sets without talking about Milos Sarcev. Here is John Meadows talking about Milos: 

“Milos Sarcev, arguably the greatest IFBB coach in history was really big on giant sets. You’re really putting a lot of blood in the muscle and just completely exhausting the muscle fibers.”

Milos trains all of his professional bodybuilders using giant sets. One of the things that makes Milos unique is he likes to use high-intensity training techniques like drop sets, forced reps and partial reps during his giant sets.

For example if he is performing a giant set with 5 exercises then he might perform these high-intensity techniques on 2 or 3 of the exercises.

Here is a brutal quadriceps giant set routine that you may want to try. Check it out:

Milos Sarcev Giant Set Leg Routine

  • A1: Horizontal leg press, 1 x 20**, 1/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A2: Belt squat, 1 x 10, 1/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A3: Machine squat, 1 x 10, 1/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A4: Leg extension, 1 x 10**, 1/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
  • A5: Machine hack squat, 1 x 2****, 3/0/1/0, rest 3-5 minutes

**Perform a double drop set. Train to failure, take some weight off the machine, train to failure, take some weight off the machine, train to failure, done!

****Perform 2 regular reps, take 10-20% weight off the machine, perform 2 “one and a quarter reps”, take 10-20% weight off the machine, repeat until there is no extra weight on the machine. Then perform 10 partial reps in the bottom position of the machine with no extra weight. Then fall on the floor and pass out! (Just kidding… maybe).

Here is the training video for this workout:

For this giant sets routine Milos Sarcev uses two types of high-intensity techniques: drop sets and 1.25 reps.

Milos uses drop sets on the horizontal leg press, leg extension machine and the hack squat machine. Then on the final exercise he has his client perform 1.25 reps on some of his reps and normal reps on others.

At the very end of his set his client performs 10 partial reps right out of the bottom position to destroy any remaining muscle fibers in his quads. Talk about a brutal giant set routine! 

Let’s say you’re a true masochist and you really want to push yourself through a hard workout. In that case I recommend you try the following giant set routine for your quadriceps.

This routine was written by Nick Mitchell for a client who wanted to build muscle mass and lose body fat as fast as humanly possible. Check it out:

Nick Mitchell Quadriceps Giant Set Routine

  • A1: Back squat, 3 sets of 8-12 reps, 3/0/1/0, no rest
  • A2: Trap bar deadlift squat, 3 sets of 8-12 reps, 3/0/1/0, no rest
  • A3: Machine hack squat, 3 sets of 8-12 reps, 3/0/1/0, no rest
  • A4: Pendulum squat with bands, 3 sets of 8-12 reps, 3/0/1/0, no rest
  • A5: 45 degree leg press, 3 sets of 8-12 reps, 3/0/1/0, no rest
  • A6: Machine leg extension, 3 sets of 8-12 reps, 3/0/1/0, no rest
  • A7: Bodyweight squats, 3 sets of 8-12 reps, 3/0/1/0, no rest
  • A8: Eccentric-only sissy squats, 3 sets of 8-12 reps, 3/0/1/0, no rest
  • A9: Bodyweight lunges, 3 sets of 8-12 reps, 3/0/1/0, rest over 9,000 minutes

Here is the training video for this routine:

Talk about a brutal workout! Nick Mitchell’s client trains to failure on 9 quadriceps exercises in a row. This routine produces an enormous amount of lactic acid in your legs.

I recommend you only try this routine if you were dropped on your head as a child. If you have not already lost your sanity then stay far, far away from this routine!

The bottom line is giant sets are a fantastic training method for building muscle mass and losing body fat in advanced athletes. There are many different ways you can design a giant sets routine – you can use anywhere from 4-20 exercises in a row if you are creative enough.

The biggest downside to this training method is you have to hog several different pieces of equipment at a time. This makes giant sets difficult to perform in a regular commercial gym.

Conclusion

Supersets, tri-sets and giants sets are three of the best training methods you can use to build muscle mass and strength. All of these methods increase the time under tension on your muscles which creates a more powerful training stimulus.

Supersets are a great option that can be performed in almost any commercial gym.

You can perform 2 exercises for the same muscle group or you can perform antagonistic supersets like Charles Poliquin. Both of these methods will produce great results.

In my experience tri-sets are the “sweet spot” for many trainees. You can really overload your muscles with many different exercises while still feeling like you are training hard on each exercise.

Finally giant sets are a great option for very advanced or motivated athletes who want to build muscle mass and lose body fat as fast as possible. If you have the “testicular fortitude” to train all-out with giant sets then you will be rewarded with some of the fastest progress of your life.

So what are you waiting for? Go design your next superset, tri-set or giant set routine and get back on the gains train!

Here is a great quote by the notorious Connor McGregor to pump you up even more:

“It’s a tough pill to swallow but we can either run from adversity or we can face our adversity head on and conquer it. And that’s what I’m going to do.”

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!

Dr. Mike Jansen, PT, DPT

Thanks for checking out my site! My name is Dr. Mike Jansen and I'm the founder of Revolutionary Program Design. If you want to reach your size and strength goals faster then you've come to the right place. My goal is to make RPD the #1 strength training resource available anywhere in the world. So grab a seat, kick back and relax. There's never been a better time to lift weights or to learn the art and science of strength training program design.

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