Gain muscle size and strength 75%+ faster? New research shows “3/7 method” of lifting does just that…
A recent study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology compared the efficacy of a new lifting method (“3/7”) as compared to the usual grouping of sets and reps. The total volume of each was the same, but the results were quite astonishing, and open the door to gaining muscle size and strength much more quickly than traditional lifting methods. The catch — it hurts a lot more than the traditional lifting method.
This article provides the what and why for the 3/7 method, plus some feedback from my own lifting putting the 3/7 method into practice to ideally give you the details on a new and more efficient option for improving your physique.
What is the “3/7” method? This method is an inverse pyramid best explained by example. Start with a weight of roughly 70% of your 1 rep max on an exercise (such as bench press).
1 -Lift it for 3 reps. Set it down, rest for 15 seconds…
2 — Lift again for 4 reps. Set it down, rest for 15 seconds…
3 — Lift again for 5 reps. Set it down, rest for 15 seconds…
4 — Lift again for 6 reps. Set and rest for 15 seconds…and finally
5 — Lift again for 7 reps.
That’s one full 3/7 set. Rest 2 minutes, and repeat for one more time and move on to a new exercise.
In order to ensure that the total mechanical load was the same for this study, the control group lifted for nearly the same amount of total reps using an 8 set, 6 rep each set method, with a 2 minute rest between each set.
Why do the researchers think the 3/7 method produced such greater gains?
Muscles grow due to sensing “mechanical tension” which is why standard progressive lifting methods work. However, they also respond to oxygen deficit (see the many articles on ‘occlusion training’) and metabolic waste build up (lactic acid…see the massive thighs of speed skaters). In this case, the mechanical load was nearly identical for both the 3/7 and 8x6 group.
The difference is thus thought to be the much greater oxygen deficit and lactic acid build-up due to stacking higher and higher reps with minimal recuperation time (lactic acid clearance, oxygen restoration) between each new set.
Thus, the 3/7 stimulates muscle growth via mechanical load, and oxygen deficit and metabolic waste stimulus. In other words, 3 stimuli vs 1…and thus the theorized reason for the 75% greater gains.
Personal feedback from using the 3/7 method — I immediately shifted from the regular lifting setup of 3 sets of 8–10 reps after reading the study and article on it from Ergo-Log.com.
So far it definitely seems to live up to it’s expectations of greater size and strength gains, but I can say a few additional points to help you decide if you want to leverage the 3/7 method:
1 — It hurts a lot more than regular sets. The oxygen debt and lactic acid buildup mean intense burn especially on the 6 and 7 rep sets. Regular sets don’t have this level of burn/pain. But, that’s the reason these are more effective so you’ll have to decide if the greater short term pain is worth it.
2 — It can be hard at first to pick the right weight since the structure is so different. You can find you’ve over or under selected around the middle of the sets. My recommendation is to just adjust the weight in the 15 second window if possible, otherwise go slightly higher or lower on the rep count to finish off nicely and then adjust the weight for the next set or workout.
3 — You won’t be able to use the same weights with the 3/7…basically in all cases, you have to go lighter. This shouldn’t matter if your goal is to do what is most efficient, but since many people often lift to try and move as much weight as possible (see the chest bounces while benching, the swinging back and forth for curls, etc). you’ll have to ignore your ego and go lighter to properly do the 3/7 method.
4 — One big upside — workouts are faster. Since it’s more of a continuous lifting flow vs the usual time between sets, the total time for a workout usually drops. Thus, you get to spend less time at the gym while at the same dramatically increasing the growth stimulus….so overall, a big win.
Personal results after two months — I’ve switched entirely to the 3/7 method and have been seeing very steady gains as a result (strength and size). In two months I went from working out with 180 on the bench for the 3/7 to as of today, 225 pounds! It’s been a pretty steady process as well:
Summary: The 3/7 method appears to offer a new and clinically proven way to accelerate muscle gains in both size and strength fairly dramatically. It does this by inducing a much higher amount of oxygen debt and lactic acid buildup, while incorporating the same amount of mechanical tension as traditional lifting methods. This tri-stimulus thus accelerates muscle growth.
Give it a try for a few weeks and see what you think. The workout feel and pain level is quite different (as I said, it hurts), but the results appear to make it worth it!