Tri-sets for Total Body Training

Tri-sets for Total Body Training: How to train fast and efficiently

Some of the greatest training methods in bodybuilding use tri-sets to enable you to perform more work in less time. By performing more exercises for each body part without significantly increasing training time you can develop a physique without weaknesses. Let’s take a closer look. Whereas supersets usually pair opposing muscle groups, such as the biceps and triceps, tri-sets enable you to perform three exercises for the same muscle group. The method is especially effective for body parts that require a large variety of exercises for complete development, such as the shoulder.

The ball-and-socket design of the shoulder permits seven functions: abduction, flexion, horizontal adduction, internal rotation, extension, horizontal abduction, and external rotation. To train all these functions using conventional workouts would make for an extremely long workout. Tri-sets can take care of that problem. In the case of a muscle attached to a simple hinge joint, such as the biceps, your focus could be on working the entire strength curve of the muscle by tri-setting exercises with different resistance curves. For example, the resistance curve in a Scott curl is strongest at the bottom range of the exercise, in a standing barbell curl it is strongest at the mid-range, and in a spider curl the resistance curve is strongest at the top range.

The order of exercises in a tri-set influences the training response. The late Casey Viator, a teenage phenom who placed third in the 1982 Olympia, is a good example of the effectiveness of tri-sets. At a height of 5’8″, Viator weighed 218 pounds; his arms measured 19 15/16 inches and his chest 50 inches. To focus on his quads, in one workout Casey performed a tri-set that included 20 reps of 750 pounds in the leg press followed immediately by 20 reps of 225 pounds in the leg extension and then 13 full squats with 502 pounds!

To get you started, here are my favorite tri-sets for the major body parts. Variety is essential to fast muscle growth, so don’t limit yourself to just these exercises; there are many more options. As a general guideline, perform a specific tri-set workout a total of six times before moving on to another workout.

Chest. This tri-set starts with two compound exercises followed by an isolation movement, and works the chest from three different angles.                                      A1. Incline Bench Press

A2. Flat Dumbbell Press

A3. Decline Dumbbell Flye

Triceps. The V-bar dip is a compound exercise that strongly affects the lateral head of the triceps. Because this muscle tends to be recruited best when heavy loads are used, the V-bar dip is performed first in this tri-set.

A1. V-Bar Dip

A2. Flat Dumbbell Triceps Extension

A3. EZ-Bar Seated French Press

Istvan Csak /

Biceps. Forearms that are relatively weak will limit biceps development, which is why the EZ-bar reverse-grip Scott curl is performed first in this series.

A1. EZ-Bar Reverse-Grip Scott Curl

A2. Seated Dumbbell Hammer Curl

A3. Incline Dumbbell Curl

Shoulders. Varying the leverages of these three dumbbell exercises intensifies the work of the medial deltoids.

A1. Dumbbell Lateral Raise

A2. Dumbbell Accentuated Eccentric Lateral Raise (i.e., the Funky Chicken)

A3. Dumbbell L-Style Lateral Raise

Quadriceps. The squat is the king of exercises, so this tri-set starts off with the barbell back squat to give it the respect it deserves. It is followed by two less challenging exercises to push the quads into greater growth.

A1. Barbell Back Squat

A2. Barbell Hack Squat

A3. Incline Leg Press



Hamstrings. The hamstrings have several different lines of pull, so this tri-set changes the position of the feet to effectively work all the angles.

A1. Lying Leg Curl, Feet In

A2. Lying Leg Curl, Feet Neutral

A3. Lying Leg Curl, Feet Out

Calves. The first exercise in this tri-set works the gastrocnemius, the second works the soleus, and the third works the anterior tibialis for a total lower leg workout.

A1. Standing Calf Raise

A2. Seated Calf Raise

A3. Anterior Tibialis Raise

Upper Back. Here is a tri-set that works the upper back from horizontal to vertical angles to promote both width and thickness.

A1. Seated Row

A2. 45-Degree Leaning Pulldown to Chest

A3. Wide-Grip Pulldown

Lower Back. The first two exercises in this tri-set involve flexion of the trunk, whereas the third exercise involves movement of the legs. Working both ends of the muscles in this manner ensures complete development.

A1. Standing Good Morning

A2. 45-Degree Back Extension

A3. Reverse Hyperextension

Forearms. Although the A2 and A3 exercises in this tri-set each involve a short range of motion, they have different resistance curves and as such can be teamed up to work all areas of the strength curve.

A1. Standing EZ-Bar Reverse-Grip Curl

A2. Decline Barbell Wrist Extension

A3. Seated Barbell Wrist Curl

Fast, efficient, effective – tri-sets offer all these advantages. Once you’ve identified your strengths and weaknesses, perform your choice of tri-sets that fulfill your needs best.

Via: Infinite Labs

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