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Man Working Out

Which Strength Training Programs Will Help Me Meet My Goals?


So you’ve started working out and you’re hearing about all these different training programs. You’ve got HIIT, traditional strength training, supersets, and tri-sets to name a few. Good for you if you’ve decided to just try one because you want to get in shape. You are 100% in the right direction and are making positive changes. But now you’re wondering which one is the best and if you’re on your way to meeting your goals.


Let’s define those programs first so we’re all on the same page:

HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)- Combination of cardio and strength training with little to no rest between exercise.

Traditional strength training- Perform 3 sets of 1 strength training exercise with rest between each set.

Supersets- Perform 1 set of 2 strength training exercises without rest between. A rest is taken between each set. Perform 3 sets.

Reciprocal supersets- Alternate sets of agonist-antagonist muscle groups without rest in between (example: chest press and row). A rest is taken between each set. Perform 3 sets.

Tri-sets- Perform 1 set of 3 strength training exercises without rest between. A rest is taken between each set. Perform 3 sets.


What happens with traditional strength training?

  1. Greatest decrease in CMJ (countermovement jump) performance right after exercise.6 This indicates decreased lower body power immediately after exercise. Recovery is indicated 24 hours after training.
  2. Neuromuscular function has recovered 24 hours after training.5
  3. Training sessions with additional rest of 1-3 minutes are thought to improve recovery.1
  4. Cortisol responses almost certainly reduced immediately after and 24 hours after training.1
  5. Creatine Kinase changes are likely trivial at 24 hours after training.1
  6. EPOC (Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) is lower.2
  7. Less kilojoules (energy) are metabolized relative to the duration of exercise.2


What happens with supersets and tri-sets?

  1. CMJ has possible or likely reductions 24 hours after training.5
  2. Possible or likely reductions in neuromuscular function at 24 hours after training.5
  3. Creatine Kinase changes are very likely increased with supersets and likely increased with tri-sets 24 hours after training. 5
  4. Improved training efficiency.5
  5. Increased RPE (rate of perceived exertion).5
  6. Cortisol responses are likely reduced immediately after excercise. Possible increases in cortisol 24 hours after training.5
  7. Elimination of rest periods between exercises increases the anaerobic requirements increasing metabolic perturbation and fatigue.2
  8. EPOC is significantly greater.2
  9. Average blood lactate measures are significantly greater, likely due to greater use of anaerobic systems.2
  10. More energy is used relative to the duration of exercise time.2


What does all this mean?

You’ve started or thought about starting a new fitness routine for a number of different reasons. Depending on what those reasons are, I’ve broken down the information above to help you sort out which type of workout you can do to best achieve your goals.


Why Should You Do Supersets or Tri-sets?

  1. You find yourself limited on time (30 minutes). You use equal energy performing the same amount of exercises in less time.2
  2. You find yourself wanting to lose more weight and burn more calories. More energy is metabolized in the same amount of time when performing supersets or tri-sets compared to traditional strength training.2 If you have an hour and your goal is to burn as many calories as possible, supersets or tri-sets are for you.
  3. Again, you find yourself wanting to lose more weight and burn more calories. Decreasing the amount of rest you take during your workout increases your use anaerobic pathways. Your EPOC will remain elevated for a longer duration of time following exercise. The human body needs about 5 calories to breathe 1 liter of oxygen.4 The longer your body requires more oxygen to return to its steady state, the more calories you will burn after exercise.
  4. It is speculated that you will develop greater energy efficiency and muscular endurance.2


Why Should You Do Traditional Strength Training?

  1. You are not trying to burn extra calories. Your goal is to maintain your weight but increase your muscle strength.
  2. It is speculated that you will develop greater improvements in muscle strength.2
  3. You want to get fit, but you hate delayed onset muscle soreness. Extra recovery periods ranging from 1-3 minutes can decrease muscle damage.3
  4. You decide that you will do a superset or tri-set workout at the beginning of the week for your lower body, but you will do a traditional strength training workout during the second half of the week to be able to better recover for your next superset session.
  5. You love to workout and you really don’t want to take too many rest days. Your power will be improved more quickly for the next session with traditional strength training.



  1. Hiscock DJ, Dawson B, Clarke M, Peeling P. Can changes in resistance exercise workload influence internal load, countermovement jump performance and the endocrine response?. J Sports Sci. 2018;36(2):191-197. doi:10.1080/02640414.2017.1290270. Accessed June 27, 2020.
  2. Kelleher AR, Hackney KJ, Fairchild TJ, Keslacy S, Ploutz-Snyder LL. The metabolic costs of reciprocal supersets vs. traditional resistance exercise in young recreationally active adults. J Strength Cond Res. 2010;24(4):1043-1051. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181d3e993. Accessed June 27, 2020
  3. Mayhew DL, Thyfault JP, Koch AJ. Rest-interval length affects leukocyte levels during heavy resistance exercise. J Strength Cond Res. 2005;19(1):16-22. doi:10.1519/R-14113.1. Accessed June 27, 2020.
  4. McCall, P. 7 Things to Know About Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). ACE. 2014. Accessed June 27, 2020.
  5. Weakley JJS, Till K, Read DB, et al. The effects of traditional, superset, and tri-set resistance training structures on perceived intensity and physiological responses. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2017;117(9):1877-1889. doi:10.1007/s00421-017-3680-3. Accessed June 27, 2020.

Posted on

June 30, 2020