3 Sets of 12 are​ Killing Your Gains!

If you go to the gym you will have been told that to gain muscle that you should do 3 sets of 12 reps.

This is killing your gains!


It is to do with Maths. I personally hate mathematics. Unfortunately, it all comes down to maths. When the research was being completed into what will cause the most muscle growth researchers used Time Under Tension (TUT) to discover what amount of time would lead to the most muscle growth.

Time Under Tension – “the amount of time that a muscle is working or under strain during a set.”

The research found that to grow the most amount of muscle each set should last from 45 seconds to 1 minute. Let us break down the movement time for most people. The bench press for an example. It normally takes 1 second to move up or concentrically and 2 seconds to move down or eccentrically. The Maths (3s x 12 = 36 seconds). The maths show that you are not under tension for the right amount of time.

There are many options so that you can adapt your training:

  1. Pausing at the top of the movement for 1 seconds (48 seconds)
  2. Increasing the time in the concentric phase by 1 second (48 seconds)
  3. Do the same movement speed but complete 15 repetitions per set. (45 seconds)
  4. Increase the time in the eccentric phase by 1/2 seconds (48-60 seconds)

Personal recommendations

All of these options will help to upgrade your training and see results while in training to promote muscle growth. What I suggest to clients in the gym is that you go with option 4 because in other research the eccentric phase of the movement this will promote the most muscle damage (the good kind). The other bit of advice that I would suggest is that you leave your ego at the door and do not be afraid of dropping the amount you are lifting.

There will be comments that will suggest that lifting heavy will improve strength and with that size. This is not completely true, you should train for strength, but that should be part of your periodization plan. To find out more on periodization click here.

Please comment below any questions or thoughts and I reply with answers where I can. Thank you for the support.


3 thoughts on “3 Sets of 12 are​ Killing Your Gains!

  1. I was always told reps are the most important not the weight, so can see the logic in the crux of the argument here! This is I have read very important for those in their 40’s!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi James,

      Yeah it is more important then trying to lift as heavy as possible. I would next time in the gym look at adding a timer and looking to see if you can complete the 12 with the 45s to the 1m time frame to promote muscle growth.

      The weight that you are lifiting only true​​ly becomes important when you are trying to imprvoe​ strength.

      Happy training and subcribe ​to discvoer​ more exercise advice in the future.



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