Straight sets like three sets of ten or four sets of eight are the cornerstone of most bodybuilding programs. They’re like the meat and potatoes of a mass-building meal.
However, as much as straight sets deliver reliable results, if that’s all you ever do, your progress may eventually stall.
Your body is the master of adaptation. Do the same thing often enough, and it will stop responding to the demands of your workout. That’s why intelligent bodybuilders change their workouts periodically and use different set and rep schemes from time to time.
Another way to add variety and increase the intensity of your workouts is by using trisets. A triset involves grouping three exercises together to hit your muscles from several different angles. Trisets also extend your time under tension and allow you to train beyond failure, all of which can help you pull the trigger on new muscle growth.
In this article, we reveal the best 12 trisets for bodybuilders.
- The Rules of Effective Trisets
- The 12 Best Trisets for Bodybuilding
- Triset FAQ
- Best Trisets – Wrapping Up
The Rules of Effective Trisets
Trisets are a simple but effective way to make your workouts more varied and intense. But, before you start grouping your exercises into random batches of three, it’s worth hitting pause to discuss the rules for effective tri-setting.
Two Ways to Do Trisets
Trisets typically involve doing three exercises for the same muscle group. However, there are exceptions to this, as you’ll see in the examples provided later in this article.
There are two accepted ways to do trisets. First, with the conventional method, you move as quickly as you can between each exercise, so your muscles work almost non-stop through all three movements.
With the second method, you take 15-30 seconds between exercises. Legendary bodybuilding coach Vince “The Iron Guru” Gironda called this triset variation compound sets.
The main difference between these two methods is the amount of weight you can use for each exercise.
With little rest between exercises, the conventional method means you won’t be able to use much weight for the second and third exercises. In fact, by the final exercise, you may be reduced to using 50% or less of your regular training weights for that movement.
However, with compound sets, the slightly longer rest means you’ll be able to use heavier weights.
Is one method better than the other? Probably not. However, they’re different enough that most bodybuilders will benefit from using both types of triset. Try conventional and compound trisets for yourself to determine which one you prefer.
Exercise Selection for Trisets
While you could choose any three exercises and do them back to back to create a triset, you’ll get better results if you take a more prescriptive approach.
The first thing to do is to use exercises that aren’t too similar. The idea is to hit your muscles from several different angles so you can tap into any motor units you’ve yet to exhaust.
For example, flat barbell bench presses, flat dumbbell bench presses, and flat Smith machine bench presses all involve the same basic horizontal pushing movement. A better triset would use different training tools, angles, and exercises.
You also need to consider the physical location of the three exercises in your trisets. They need to be close to one another so that you can get from one to the next within the allotted time and make sure they’re still free when you get to them.
One way around this is the machine/dumbbell/bodyweight triset.
Grab a pair of dumbbells and drag them over to whatever machine you want to use. Then you can do all your chosen exercises without having to move very far, e.g.:
You’ve now got all the information you need to start creating your own trisets. But, to save you the bother, we’ve got 12 tried-and-tested trisets for you to add to your next workout.
The 12 Best Trisets for Bodybuilding
Do you want to try trisets for yourself but aren’t sure where to start? Take your workouts to the next level with the following examples.
Please note that while we’ve included a rep range for each triset, this is for illustration purposes only. The actual number of reps performed will depend on how tired your muscles are and will probably decrease from one set to the next.
Just push each exercise to the brink of failure, and you’ll trigger hypertrophy, even if you go outside the accepted 8-12 rep range for bodybuilding. Studies suggest that intensity is far more important than a specific rep range or time under tension for muscle growth (1).
1. Quads triset
A lot of bodybuilders favor high reps for leg training. For example, the Quadfather Tom Platz often did 20 or more reps of front and back squats, and he had arguably the best legs in bodybuilding history. This triset hits your legs hard, focusing specifically on your quadriceps.
2. Pecs triset
While straight sets of barbell bench presses can build a massive chest, it might not be the best way to sculpt aesthetically pleasing pecs. Instead, this triset works your chest from multiple angles to develop broad, deep, separated pecs.
- Gironda neck press x 8-12
- Push-up x As Many Reps as Possible (AMRAP)
- Incline dumbbell fly x 12-15 reps
3. Lat triset
The main problem with most back exercises is that your biceps tire before your lats. This triset provides your biceps with a short break so you can push your lats harder than usual.
4. Delt triset (1)
Most shoulder exercises emphasize one deltoid head at a time. This triset is designed to work all three deltoids, making it a time-efficient workout for more muscular, bigger shoulders.
5. Delt triset (2)
This second shoulder triset also hits each deltoid head but using different exercises.
6. Hamstring/Glutes triset
If you want well-developed legs, you need to do more than train your quads. Your hamstrings might be out of sight, but that doesn’t mean they should be out of mind. And, as your hamstrings and glutes often work together, it makes sense to train them together.
7. Bodyweight-only leg triset
No gym? No problem! You can still challenge and fatigue your legs with just your body weight for resistance, especially when you do trisets with little or no rest between exercises.
8. Calf triset
A lot of bodybuilders struggle with their calf development. Straight sets of calf raises can work, but if your calves are particularly stubborn, you may need to use more aggressive training methods.
Turn your baby calves into full-grown cows with this triset!
9. Biceps triset
There isn’t a bodybuilder in the world who doesn’t want bigger biceps. This triset combines three great biceps exercises that will pump your arms up to the max!
10. Triceps triset
While the biceps might be the glamor muscle of bodybuilding, the triceps are actually bigger and make up more of your upper arm mass.
This triset hits all three triceps heads to sculpt the perfect horseshoes.
11. Full body triset (1)
This triset uses a compound leg exercise, an upper-body push, and an upper-body pull to train virtually every muscle in your body in no time flat. While far from the perfect workout, it’s a great way to maintain muscle mass when you don’t have time to train for longer. Using this triset, you can train almost your whole body in 15 minutes or less, including your warm-up.
12. Full body triset (2)
This full-body triset plugs the gaps left by triset #1. Do them on alternating days to develop all your major muscle groups equally. Or, for a short but challenging workout, do both trisets in the same session.
- Conventional deadlift x 6-10
- Barbell military press x 8-12
- Pull-up/chin-up x AMRAP
How many times should I do each triset?
Because trisets are so intense, 2-3 “laps” of each one should be sufficient. If you can do more than this, you may not be using heavy enough weights or doing enough reps.
How long should I rest between trisets?
Anywhere between 1-2 minutes of rest should be enough. The fitter you are, the faster you’ll recover. If you’re not sure, rest a little longer to ensure you are recovered enough to do justice to each exercise.
If you are too recovered, simply crank out more reps to fatigue your muscles. You may also need to increase the length of your rest periods as you repeat your triset.
Can I make changes to the example trisets?
Most definitely! Just use similar exercises. For example, leg presses are an acceptable alternative if you can’t do front squats. However, doing push-ups instead of lunges is not a satisfactory replacement as the movement and target muscle groups are completely different.
How many trisets should I use per workout?
That’s really up to you! You could do one as a finisher after the main exercises in your workout or do nothing but trisets for the entirety of your program. However, like any training method, even trisets will lose their potency if you do them too often, so use them but don’t abuse them!
There are plenty of other intense bodybuilding training methods you can use to maintain your progress.
Are trisets good for fat loss and getting ripped?
Trisets increase your workout density. In other words, they allow you to do more work in less time. Combined with their non-stop nature, that means trisets have the potential to burn more calories than standard straight sets.
So, yes, trisets are good for fat loss and getting ripped. However, you will need to combine your efforts with a suitable fat loss diet for best results.
Are trisets safe?
While trisets are intense, they’re also very safe. That’s because fatigue means you won’t be able to lift such heavy weights, and that puts less mechanical stress on your muscles and joints.
However, because you’ll be pushing your muscles to failure, you should choose exercises where you won’t get crushed by the weight if you cannot complete a rep. That means dumbbell bench presses are fine, while barbell bench presses should be used with caution. Use a spotter for safety whenever necessary.
What are 6/12/24 trisets?
6/12/24 trisets involve doing three exercises with a heavy, moderate, and light weight. This is an intense training method designed to exhaust all types of muscle fiber.
- Squats x 6 reps
- Leg press x 12 reps
- Leg extensions x 24 reps
On paper, 6/12/24 trisets are a fantastic workout, but, in reality, they’re hard to manage. Because of increasing fatigue levels, it’s almost impossible to determine the exact weights you need to use.
As such, the chances of doing precisely 6, 12, and 24 reps are very slim. A better option would be to use heavy, moderate, and light weights, taking each exercise to failure and without getting hung up on the exact number of reps.
Best Trisets – Wrapping Up
Building muscle is hard. You need to break your muscles down so that they grow back bigger and stronger. Hypertrophy, the process of building muscle, is basically a form of biological self-defense!
To continue making progress, you need to keep on challenging your body to grow. Lifting more weight is one way to do this, as is doing more reps.
However, as you become more accustomed to the demands of your workouts, you may need alternative ways to trigger hypertrophy. For example, drop sets, supersets, myo-reps, and rest-pause are all reliable training methods.
Trisets are another and are arguably one of the most time-efficient ways to make your workouts more intense.
Use trisets to bring up lagging muscle groups or otherwise raise the intensity of your workouts.
Remember, to change your body, you must challenge it, and trisets are very challenging indeed!
1 – PubMed: Resistance Exercise Load Does Not Determine Training-Mediated Hypertrophic Gains in Young Men https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22518835/