A Blast From the Past: Open Sets

Three magic words: minimum effective dose. The littlest amount of work needed to create a positive and meaningful change in performance. In very simple terms: how many sets and reps do I need to do to get stronger? How often do I need to train? 


Why is that so important? It is not important. It is THE most important variable in training. Volume must be earned. There is no such thing as high or low volume when it comes to strength training. There is the right amount of volume to drive adaptation. More leads to overtraining. Less is just a waste of time. The right amount of training is the minimum effective dose. Once a benchmark is established volume increases as needed only if necessary to continue drive adaptation.


The word small is quite deceiving, indeed. For a beginner 3 sets of 5 reps at about 75% of 1RM twice a week can be enough to PR in a deadlift. For an experienced powerlifter to break a PR can take up to 5 sets of 5 reps three tomes a week, and anything less than that simply would not move the needle. The question then becomes: how can I figure that out? How do I know when to stop? What if I can do more? What if I am not doing enough?


Dilemma. The best course of action is the good old method of trial and error. Test. Set a benchmark for volume. Train for a while. Retest. If you did not PR then make a little change here and there and see if that works or not. Nothing wrong with it. Generations and generations of Olympic-level athletes have been built by trial and error. But we can do better. 


Here is where velocity-based training (VBT) comes into play. Let’s talk about open sets. Open sets is nothing I invented. I do not take any credit for it. Professor Carmelo Bosco (1943-2003) pioneered this method back in the 80s but only published it in the latest edition of his masterpiece La Forza Muscolare in 1994. I came up with a catchy name for it. Open sets can be extremely challenging and taxing, yet the method itself is astonishingly simple. Follow the steps:

Read the rest of Antonio Squillante's blog post at RepOne Academy


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