WHAT IS IT?
Marathon sets are defined by a rep target (subject to the trainee's goals) that is meant to be achieved in as few total sets or time as possible. Typically, these will be done in a quasi-Rest-Pause fashion with less-than-full rest periods and sets taken to (or close to) failure.
HOW TO TRACK PROGRESSION?
Progressions with Marathon sets are extremely easy to modulate. Load can be increased, rest periods can be reduced, rep target can be achieved in less total sets, and/or the rep target can even be pushed up. All of this is easily tracked through simple data collection and recording.
WHO SHOULD USE IT?
Intermediate and advanced trainees will see the strongest benefits from Marathon sets due to the high density of stimulating reps. The combined intensity, fatigue and volume create an environment in which skill and technical resilience become increasingly important for safety and maximization of the technique.
WHO SHOULD NOT USE IT?
Marathon sets would most likely be an overkill for beginners who can progress safely and at a rapid pace with more traditional schemes. Additionally, trainees with poor work capacity would be better served to address those deficiencies before attempting Marathon sets.
WHEN TO USE IT?
Due to the ease of progression and modulation, Marathon sets can be implemented at any point within a mesocycle as long as the total volume is controlled for. Even within a single training session, it seems as though the placement (beginning versus end) is much less important than the volume load.
Additionally, metabolic phases and time-constrained programs seem to be especially well-suited to Marathon sets.
WHEN NOT TO USE IT?
Any time when volume or intensity need to be controlled or intentionally reduced, Marathon sets may not be the best technique to use. When training goals are more neurological and/or technical in nature, the highly intense and dense volume provided by Marathon sets may actually lead to contraindicated effects.
HOW TO USE IT?
Variations that have higher levels of intrinsic stability and fewer failure points are going to be good candidates for Marathon sets. Along those same lines, the movements must be risk-averse and resilient to compounding levels of systemic fatigue. Machines and cables are better choices of modality due to the above factors. Single-joint/isolation movements will allow for higher intensities to be sustained without the potential of non-specific failure points being the limiting factor. Axial loading should be generally avoided as well.
It is generally recommended to perform Marathon sets with a load that is >=15RM and <=30RM to differentiate from Rest Pause sets and align more with the goal of metabolic accumulation. Rep targets can be assigned based on the load used and estimates of total sets needed, but anywhere from 30-100 total reps can be feasible. Rest between sets can range from 15 sec to 30 sec depending on the trainee and their goals—the idea is to rest long enough to continue getting a sufficient proportion of remaining reps but not so long that there is little-to-no drop-off from set-to-set.
1) Machine Hip Thrusts to 100 reps with ~30RM and ~20 sec rest between sets
2) Cable Biceps Curls to 50 reps with ~20RM and ~15 sec rest between sets
3) Seated Leg Press to 30 reps with ~15RM and ~30 sec rest between sets
HOW NOT TO USE IT?
Because the goal of Marathon sets is to condense volume while elevating intensity, any movement or scheme that disallows this is going to be contraindicated (i.e. unilateral movements that switch sides between sets, complicated or slow set-ups, instability, etc). As mentioned above, the variations should also have a requisite level of safety intrinsically so that risk of injury is reduced (i.e. minimal axial loading, complexity, etc).
Exercise selection, rep target, load and rest times should all be synergistic to the desired goal.
1) Single Arm Preacher Curls to 50 reps with ~15RM and ~15 sec rest between sets
2) Goblet Squats to 100 reps with ~30RM and ~20 sec rest between sets
3) Barbell Bent Over Rows to 30 reps with ~20RM and ~30 sec rest between sets
BENEFITS OF THE TECHNIQUE:
- High density of effective reps
- Can be scaled across a variety of volumes and loads
- Creates huge metabolic stimulus
- Low temporal footprint (i.e. takes up little time)
- Can be implemented across almost any portion of a mesocycle or individual training session
- Progression is very easy to track
DRAWBACKS OF THE TECHNIQUE:
- High density of effective reps also comes with high fatigue accumulation
- Limiting factors outside of targeted muscular failure become more pronounced
- Skill is needed to sustain requisite technique and intensity
- Higher loads are going to be excluded (>75% of 1RM)
- Mechanical tension is less of a factor here than is metabolic stress even though the former is more contributory to hypertrophy
- NOT a productive way of increasing strength
- Aligning each of the variables (Exercise selection, rep target, load, rest times, etc) properly can be somewhat confusing at first
WHAT IS IT?