Overload Technique # 2- Tri-sets

The second installment of my ongoing article series detailing specific overload techniques and how you can use them to supercharge your gym training.

Overload Techniques = These are strategies used within your current training to place additional stress to your body and muscles to push them past their current capabilities.

In case you missed Pt. 1, it was all about Super sets and how they can benefit your training to make it more effective.

The second overload technique which I'll be covering builds on the super-set and is a progression of what they can do for you.

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  • What's it called? Tri-set
  • How does it work? You select three exercises and merge them together into a tri-set. You perform all 3 exercises, back-to-back with no rest until the third exercise has been completed.
  • When should you use them? When you want to condense your training session or amplify the effects of repeated muscular contractions and/or leverage your already elevated heart-rate.
  • Why are they beneficial? They help you to get more work done in less time at the gym, they will allow you to push your heart-rate even higher and also do more mechanical stress to your muscles to help you add lean muscle mass.

Using Tri-sets is a powerful tool in your overload technique arsenal and will allow you some powerful room to maneuver with regards to how to put them to use.

If you prefer performing cardio, you can utilise a tri-set of bodyweight, or cardio-only exercises to peak your heart-rate and take your fitness training up a few notches.

On the other end of the spectrum.

If you hate doing cardio, but see its importance, perhaps implementing your tri-sets with all-weights is where you'll get the most bang for your buck.

You'll get stronger, pack on muscle AND build your fitness, as it will force you to work longer due to the 3-exercise pairing.

Below I'll outline the two main methods I like to use for Tri-sets;

1. Cardio-Based

This section will help you to select the most suitable cardio options for your tri-sets so that it doesn't become boring, but also enhances the physical qualities that are important to you.

Generally, I will use timed-sets as my indicator for duration or volume, as it will allow you to maintain good technique and keep you accountable to work for the same time-period each round, regardless of your strength and fitness levels.

  • If you don't consider yourself very 'fit', then opt for the shorter duration options along with the less impactful exercises.
  • If you feel like your fitness level is higher and/or you like a challenge, push the boundaries and try the more advanced and powerful exercises.

As with the previous article's recommendation of doing bodyweight exercises first "as you cannot alter your bodyweight - or until you reach 'technical failure'" it's important to note that you WILL GET TIRED.

Use a stopwatch, or phone timer for performing your ' timed sets '.

Use a stopwatch, or phone timer for performing your 'timed sets'.

That is the whole point!

You should huff and puff.

You may break into a sweat.

These are indicators that you are working hard.

But please do not keep going if you feel like your technique is deteriorating, or you feel physically unwell.

A common sense approach goes a long way!

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20-30 sec stations

A) Skipping

B) Mountain Climbers

C) Jumping Lunges

30-45 sec stations

A) Squat Jumps

B) Body-weight Get-ups

C) Step-ups

45-60 sec stations

A) Rowing

B) Spin Bike

C) Running

2. Weights-based

Pick exercises which you know quite well and don't require an awful lot of complexity to them. Simple exercises, performed at a high intensity is the criteria you're looking for when choosing your weightlifting exercises.

Don't try to use tri-sets to work on your form.

That is what your strength and straight-sets are for.

This is designed to get you moving, contracting lots of muscles and breathing hard.

In terms of how to organise and group your exercises, there are two variations that I like to use.

  1. Same/similar muscle groups (All upper body, or all lower body)
  2. Varying muscle groups (A mixture of push, pull, hinge, squat)

Below I will provide you with a few examples from each category so that you get an understanding of how to create your own tri-sets.

I recommend that you perform the weights-based exercises for a specific number of reps.

Rather than allowing for time to guide you, select a weight which will allow you to reach a rep-target. You can use the recommendations below to help establish a suitable number of repetitions for your specific goal.

  • 1-3 reps = Power

  • 3-8 reps = Strength

  • 6-15 = Muscle building

  • 12-20+ = Endurance

Note: You can use different reps for different exercises. Play around with your rep-target until you find the 'sweet spot'.

Same/similar muscle groups

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1) Flat DB Press, DB Fly's, Push-ups

2) T-Bar Row, Body Rows, DB Hammer Curls

3) Goblet Squat, Reverse Lunge, Seated Band Abduction

4) BB RDL, Back Extension, Reverse Hypers

Varying muscle groups

1) KB Swing, KB Pendlay Row, KB G2OH

2) Zercher Squat, Half-kneeling DB OH Press, Incline Bench Pull

3) DB Thruster, Flat DB Press, DB Skullcrushers

4) Underarm Bent-over Row, DB Deadlift, DB See-saw Press

Generally speaking, I will create the tri-set in order from most complex to least complex.

That way, each round you can focus hard on the initial exercise, which requires the most focus and attention in terms of good lifting mechanics.

As you fatigue, you can feel a little more at ease in the fact that the next exercise is a little easier to perform technically.

Start with the more complex exercises and then work towards the simple(r) ones.

Start with the more complex exercises and then work towards the simple(r) ones.

That wraps up the second overload technique strategy. Tri-sets, building on from their predecessor of the super-set and taking things to a new level - and further results for you, too!

I hope that gives you a clear understanding of tri-setting and where you can use them in your current training regime.

If you have any questions, or would like further guidance on their application, please don't hesitate to ask.

Comment below and I'll do my best to respond and guide you in the right direction.

Until next time,

Add some tri-sets into your training.