January 26, 2024 2 min read

By Shane Robert

A tri-set is an intensity technique that follows a similar pattern to a superset, only with 3 exercises instead of two. In other words, it is 3 exercises done back to back with minimal rest. Where it differs from a superset is that all 3 exercises are for the same muscle group. The purpose of these sets is to thoroughly exhaust the muscle and drive as much blood (the “pump”) into them as possible; the theory being that all of this fatigue and pump will lead to more muscle growth (that is up for debate at another time). 

Reps can range from 3 to 30 and exercise selection can vary based on goal. All of the exercises can be isolation movements or compounds or a combination. There isn’t really a wrong way to do this as long as you follow the rule of 3 exercises for the same muscle group. This is a very time-efficient way to set up training for hypertrophy and is very effective if you like the feeling of extreme pumps and muscle soreness.  

Here are some examples:

- Shoulder Tri-set -

  1. Reverse Fly x12
  2. Upright Row x12
  3. Overhead Press x12

No rest between exercises and 60 seconds between sets. Do 3-5 sets. Pick a weight that 12 reps is 2-3 reps from failure on the first set.

- Nautilus Style Quad Tri-Set - 

  1. Leg Press x reps to failure
  2. Leg Extension x reps to failure
  3. Back Squat x reps to failure

Each movement should be a challenging weight taken to failure for a minimum of 6 reps each. High reps of 30+ are acceptable as long as you are really pushing yourself and going to utter failure on each movement. One time through is probably more than enough, but feel free to do more sets if you don’t want to walk the next day

- Poliquin Hypertrophy Schock Tri-Set -
  1. Close Grip Bench x6
  2. Lying Triceps Ext x12
  3. Overhead Rope Extensions x25

This tri-set starts with a compound movement to load the muscle heavy, then moves on to a more stable exercise for moderate reps before finishing with an isolation exercise for metabolically demanding high reps. The purpose of the different rep ranges is to completely exhaust all fiber types while training both myofibril and sarcoplasmic hypertrophy. Each movement should be taken 1-2 reps shy of failure. 

Tri-sets are a very demanding technique that require you to be on top of your recovery. It is essential that you don’t start using these for too many sets in the beginning. Three total tri-sets per workout is a good place to start, adding one additional tri-set every two weeks as needed to push growth.

Due to the fatiguing nature of tri-sets, they aren’t great for pure strength and they are terrible for high-skill movements like the Olympic lifts. Otherwise, they are a great option for a new stimulus or when time is at a premium.

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