Single Set – Super Slow Resistance Training – An Alternative to 3 Sets of 10?

Single Set – Super Slow Resistance Training – An Alternative to 3 Sets of 10?

Single Set Resistance Training – High Intensity Training (H.I.T.) is a popular training technique that has evolved since the 1970’s. It was properly advocated by Arthur Jones, the founder of Nautilus and MedX resistance training equipment, and has since been highly supported by bodybuilding champions such as Mike Mentzer and Casey Viator, Super Slow founder Ken Hutchins, exercise guru Dr. Ellington Darden, and many others around the globe.

H.I.T can be applied to cardiovascular training, resistance training and a combination of both. It was seen as a radical form of weight training when bodybuilding, and strength training popularised. (around the time Arnold Schwarzenegger was at his peak). This article will introduce you to the concepts behind H.I.T and seek to provide a physiologic reasoning behind why this method of training is just as effective as conventional strength training.

Super Slow Single Set Resistance Training consists of the following principles:


The two categories of exercise (aerobic and anaerobic exercise) are primarily defined in terms of intensity and duration. Aerobic exercise is low intensity/ high duration, and anaerobic exercise is high intensity/ low duration. The saying goes, “muscles can’t count repetitions”, and this is primarily because muscles only respond to intensity and duration. Most strength training studies have concluded that a set of exercises should last between 60-90 seconds for an effective strength training stimulus. This method of training is popularly known as ‘time under tension’ or ‘time under load’ (TUL) model.

This being the case however, it takes nothing away from repetition count, as repetition count is a great goal-orientated focus to strength training and can provide pivotal motivation to complete a set of exercises. However, if a trainer is training by reps, keep in mind the tempo of each repetition as it is easy to do 10 repetitions in 30 seconds (1:2 tempo), or to do 10 repetitions in 60 seconds (3:3 tempo). As the 10 repetitions at 3:3 tempo is in the 60 – 90 second range, it will prove a more effective workout than the former.


There is still much debate over the potential benefits slow training has over fast training, and vice versa. However here is the logical view!

Slow repetition training is termed as (at minimum) 5 secs on the concentric phase and 5 secs on the eccentric phase (however some H.I.T trainers go up to 10 secs each way!). These slow repetitions are infinitely beneficial as they:

Strength training is about overloading muscles so that they respond and become stronger. Advocates of slow repetition training define it as ‘intelligent strength training’ because it properly overloads the muscle with maximum resistance throughout every part of the movement.



Again, set programming is another major source of confusion in the fitness industry. The main reasoning behind single-set training is that, at the end of the day, the human body responds to stimuli, and it internally adapts to the external environmental stresses applied to it. In terms of strength training, we seek to provide the most effective stimulus we can to stimulate the muscle to essentially become a stronger muscle before the next gym session.

If we think about the human body as being an electrical structure (in which it already is), we can appropriately compare it to a lift in an office building. Whilst waiting for a lift, one worker decides to press the button once and patiently wait for the lift to come, which it will because the stimulus has been triggered. The other worker, in desperate need to get a fast result (the lift to come down), presses the button three times very quickly. The same outcome (stimulus) has been achieved, yet the worker who frantically pressed the button three times has essentially just wasted time (and effort).

The only logical benefit that single-set training has is that it allows for 100% of your muscle’s available resources to generate the greatest possible stimulus in one maximum effort, as it would not have been fatigue from any prior sets, and would have no drawbacks because you (as a trainer) would not be saving your energy for the next set to come.


If we return to the definition of aerobic exercise, we re-enforce the fact that it is a workout performed at a low intensity for long duration’s. Logically we can then say that:

8-10 exercises at maximum, performing no more than 2 exercises per muscular group, and no more than 8-10 exercises in a workout routine. Once you perform 8 exercises at a high intensity (slow, in good form, and until muscular failure) you will (and should be) absolutely exhausted, which therefore leaves you to achieve nothing but sub-maximal efforts on the rest of your exercises (which is generally a waste of time!).


The main consensus surrounding strength training frequency is the following:

High Intensity Training almost has the exact opposite view, which basically suggests the following:

Have you ever needed to take a whole week off your normal strength training routine to come back and find you haven’t lost any strength, and that you are actually a little bit stronger than what you were last session? It mainly due to the fact that this time you have given your muscles more adequate time to rest, recover and grow stronger.

The more advanced you are as a trainer, the higher the intensities you train at, and this isn’t because you are doing heavier weights, it is because you are more able to push through the mental and physical pain barriers thereby placing greater stress on your muscles.

As the saying goes, “your muscles don’t get stronger lifting weights, they get stronger in the resting days after you train”. Exercise scientists are not yet able to say exactly how long our muscles should rest in order to produce the most positive training adaptation before we train again. It only makes sense to H.I.T trainers that the higher the intensity you train, the more rest you need in order to gain the most beneficial growth production period.


Super slow Single Set Training is a resistance training technique which loads the muscles without the influence of momentum, overloading the muscle, and stimulating the adaptation mechanism for hypertrophy.

Research has shown no significant difference from the benefits of doing either single-set super slow training or conventional multiple-set strength training. Research has also shown that conventional multiple-set strength training is superior! And that stretching is good and bad!

It is a different way to overload. Give it a go, and you be the judge!

If you enjoyed this article you may also enjoy reading Pro Guide on How To Be a Successful PT12 Tips for Successful Coaching, or 12 Tips for Getting Clients After Your PT Course.

Different resistance training techniques are covered in the Certificate III in Fitness, Certificate IV in Fitness and Diploma of Fitness.