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Special Sets: Super Sets, Giant Sets, and Medleys

Joe Kenn | Vice President of Performance Education

Saving time in a training session is crucial. Especially in team sport settings, where there are specific time restraints on daily and weekly limits to overall athletic based training. It is viable to have ways to save time and in a positive way increase training density, the overall amount of work time compared to total time in a session. Depending on how one programs a strength training program here are three ways to improve density and save time in a training program.

Super Sets

Super Sets are the pairing of antagonistic (opposite) muscle groups. The three biggest types of super sets you may see in programming are; Back/Chest, Biceps/Triceps, and Quadriceps/Hamstrings. In these cases, the sets for each exercise are the same, the repetitions scheme may be different depending on the philosophy of the coach.

In my programming plans, back movements will always have more reps per set than chest, triceps will have more reps per set than biceps, and hamstrings will have more reps per set that quadriceps.

The rest time between each movement is negligible. The faster the athlete can move from one movement to the other is recommended. The athlete will take a prescribed rest period after the completion of each super set.

Giant Sets

Giant Sets are the utilizing agonist (same) muscle group movements for a minimum of two and a maximum of five movements per set. Each movement is prescribed for the same amount of reps and is completed in a circuit type fashion. Rest time between movements is minimal, and prescribed rest is done after the complete Giant Set is finished.

Highly popular in the sport Bodybuilding, there is very little reasoning to use this in an athletic based strength training program. This a specific principle to help elicit hypertrophy gains to a specific muscle group. The only time I would consider programming this type of training may be during transitional periods of the annual plan for some fun and variation or for extra size in the ARMS!


Medleys are mini circuits that have no real criteria to the movement choices, sets, or reps prescription. The medley term was created when we began to circuit the Tiers 3,4, and 5 movements of our Tier System Training Template. The amount of circuits (I prefer to call them rounds) is determined by the amount of sets per each tier. If one tier has less sets than another that tier falls out of the rotation. This is a rare occurrence. This is an excellent way to reduce training time and increase training density of a Tier System based training plan.

The second way I like to use medleys is in a Readiness or Finisher (wRap Up) series. As I gave an example in our 60 Second Strength Coach, I will general choose three movements that work similar areas of the body and combine them in a mini circuit.

A readiness medley example would be, TKE’s (Quads), Sissy Squat (Compound Leg), and Seated Leg Curl (Hamstring) before a squat session

A finisher medley example would be, Single Arm Dumbbell Row (Lats), Face Pull (Posterior Shoulder), and Lateral Raise (Deltoid) after an upper body priority session.

Super Setting pushing and pulling upper body movements is a very good way to prescribe the correct correlation to horizontal and vertical volumes in a strength program and Medleys have become a staple in my Tier System Strength Training programming. Give it some thought and see if these special sets have any value to your programming.

This is part 1 of a 2-part series.


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