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Which Set Styles Suit Your Goals?

24th May 19

Weight training is an incredibly diverse topic. You can customise almost every single aspect of it to make it work well for you. One of these variables is the set style that you’re going for. Different training goals have very different techniques for getting there, and using the wrong one will slow down your progress. It can even steer you in the wrong direction!

Here we’re looking at four common training goals and the set styles that work best to get to them. They are all interchangeable, and you shouldn’t take this as law from now on. Having said that, they are some of the most effective exercises.

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Muscle Growth

The most common reason for weight training is to build muscle. That’s what it usually comes down to, and even if it’s not what you are working towards, it will likely be a byproduct of your training. This is one of the most versatile goals on the list because of the number of different set styles there are out there, but if you had to choose, drop sets are your best bet.

Drop Sets

man picking up weights

Drop sets are an excellent way to make sure that your muscles are as overloaded as they can be. That’s when muscle growth happens. You’re pushing them to their absolute limit, and you’ll probably hit failure a lot of the time if you’re doing it right. Your starting point has a lot of influence, but only you know where you should be hitting.

The idea of a drop set is to gradually lower the weight that you are lifting every time you finish a set. You can choose to push yourself with the reps until failure or stick to a set number, but you need to be struggling by the end of it. You should be starting around 80% of your one rep maximum and working downwards over 4-6 sets for the best results. It is hard work, and your muscles will hurt for it, but it works.

Strength Building

Strength building is commonly associated with muscle building, but the difference is enormous. There are significant differences in what will work best. Muscle size or physique is rarely essential, and it comes down entirely to performance. That is the fundamental of strength building, after all. The best way to train? Big weights, low reps.


Five reps of five sets are what you need to be doing. This is how your muscles will be pushing to their maximum. Any more than that, and you aren’t lifting as heavy as you should be. If you’re really pushing your strength, even five reps will be a challenge to achieve without failing. You always need to be working pretty closely to your one rep maximum. You’ll likely focus on compound exercises rather than isolating muscles, as it happens with muscle building.

This 5×5 set style is the one that really fits the bill for strength. If you’re performing a big lift with heavy weights, five reps are close to the higher end of what you need. Sometimes even just one rep maximums are preferred, but for a good workout, a set is wiser. Pick your exercise, make sure you’re equipped for what you’re doing, and keep with five reps five times. Any more, and you’re risking either performance or safety, if not both.

Performance Stamina

Performance stamina or endurance are the goals you need if you know exactly what you need to be doing and if you need to do it well. There are very few generic training plans aimed at this other than just practising what you’re doing and making sure the muscles you are using are in the best shape. That’s great, especially for things like running and sports. So, what do you do? German volume training.


It’s not the most common set style to see in training, but it’s a great choice. Getting huge muscles isn’t always the right priority if you need to be balancing speed, endurance and power at the same time. That’s where training like this comes into play. What does this entail?

The basis of German volume training is a set style of 10×10. You pick one exercise, and that’s pretty much your full workout. It will push your endurance and your ability to perform to the limit, and it’ll give you an added edge. Performance is always a little tricky to get better without just more practice, but it’s a great way to provide you with a boost.

Weight Loss

Finally, we have weight loss. This is another common fitness goal, and weight training isn’t always the first thing that springs to mind. There are set styles out there that are particularly complimentary to it, and using weight training properly will help you increase your resting energy expenditure too. That’s always a good thing to have under your belt.


woman performing bench press with dumbbells

The best way to go about it is to use supersets. You won’t be building too much muscle or demanding too much of your time either, they are awesome for your general fitness, and they burn calories. You can also choose whichever exercises you prefer so that it’s enjoyable for you. Even if you only do it once a week, in line with the rest of your training, you’ll see the benefits!

A superset is essentially just two exercises in a standard set pattern, like 4×10, but back to back with no rest between them. An example would be squats and the bench press.

Exercising like this, you won’t be using the same muscle groups, so you don’t have to worry about muscle fatigue. This minimises the time and maximises the calorie burn you’re going to see. It’s great for building muscle and burning fat at the same time!


These are just examples of what can be the best-set style for your goals. They are all useful and can all work together to help you reach wherever you need to. Variation is crucial to success in your exercise, and mixing things up is a great way to keep the motivation going and get the best results that you can. Find what you enjoy and what has proven to be successful for you, and go with what makes you happy.

Before beginning any exercise or nutrition program, consult your physician, doctor or other professional. This is especially important for individuals over the age of 35 or persons with pre-existing health problems. assumes no responsibility for personal injury or property damage sustained using our advice.

If you experience dizziness, nausea, chest pain, or any other abnormal symptoms, stop the workout at once and consult a physician or doctor immediately.