Updated: Aug 15
TL;DR: The 3/7 training method may increase hypertrophy and help build muscle, but it may not be superior for strength gains.
Most individuals utilise a sets and reps framework while exercising to gain strength or muscle. You may do three sets of six repetitions on the bench press, for example.
The 3/7 approach, on the other hand, seems to have gained some traction in recent years. This technique seems to have been adapted from a French fitness book published in 2005.
This method requires you to choose a 70% 1-rep max, which usually equates to a load you can generally perform a maximum of 12 reps with.
It goes like the following.
Complete 3 repetitions
Rest for 15 seconds
Do another 4 reps
Rest for 15 seconds
Do another 5 reps
Rest for 15 seconds
Complete another 6 reps
Rest for 15 seconds
Then perform a final 7 reps
The real question is; does this 3/7 training method build muscle? You've probably seen from the title that this helps build muscle, but why and by how much?
In this article, I'll discuss the research and reasoning for why it helps to build muscle.
Table of Contents:
What the Research Says About the 3/7 Method
One study took 43 previously untrained males, trained them twice a week for 8 weeks on a machine biceps workout. (1)
Each session, a control group did eight sets of six repetitions with a 70% 1-rep max and 2.5 minutes of rest between sets.
A 3/7 group did the 3/7 technique for 2 bouts, separated by 2.5 minutes of rest between bouts, with a 70% 1-rep max load in each session.
They performed the 3/7 technique twice in a session, with a 2.5 minute break period between them.
If a participant in either group was unable to finish their prescribed regimen, help was given.
Subjects who completed their prescribed regimen for two sessions in a row, on the other hand, raised the load they utilised by 2.5-5%.
Both 3/7 and 8x6 methods increased their 1-rep max load. The 3/7 group had higher improvements in 1-rep max (22.2% ± 7.4) on the machine biceps exercise after 8 weeks of training compared to the control group (12.1% ± 6.6).
Does It Increase Hypertrophy?
As previously stated, the 3/7 group gained more muscle than the control group. Some of you, on the other hand, may be sceptical of the typical group's training regimen.
It seems strange to perform 8 sets of 6 repetitions with a 70% 1-rep max load, and it certainly doesn't sound like something you'd do to develop muscle.
The results are relative. If the 3/7 technique had been compared to a more conventional hypertrophy regimen, such as 3 to 5 sets of 8-12 repetitions done to or near failure, the findings may not have been as promising.
Deeper examination reveals that 8 sets of 6 repetitions with a 70% 1-rep max are probably very beneficial for muscle development, so this may not be an issue as a 70% 1-rep max load is great for developing muscle.
For most people, you can usually complete a maximum of 12 repetitions to failure with a 70% 1-rep max load.
The control group only did 6 repetitions each set, thus their first set would have been around 6 reps short of failure.
The sets following the first set would have been closer to failing due to the effects of cumulative tiredness. Assuming that each set brings them one rep closer to failure than the previous set.
When broken down in this manner, it's difficult to label this regimen "significantly suboptimal" for muscle growth.
I say this because it does not seem that training to failure is required for hypertrophy. A number of studies show that exercising 1-3 reps away from failure each set is just as beneficial as training to failure for hypertrophy. (2)
Five of the eight sets for the typical group would have come within three repetitions of failure.
Furthermore, there is some evidence that exercising 5 repetitions away from failure is just as beneficial for hypertrophy as training to failure.
As a result, it's possible that even more of the typical group's sets might be classed as ideal for muscle growth. (3)
Based on all of this, I believe this research discovered the 3/7 technique to have some kind of increased advantage for muscular growth. But, why?
The authors of the research hypothesised that the advantage of the 3/7 approach may be explained by the fact that it causes greater metabolic stress.
The accumulation of metabolites in muscles, such as lactate, is known as metabolic stress.
But I'm dubious about this since the function of metabolic stress in muscle development isn't well understood. (4)
In many instances, an increase in metabolic stress doesn't result in increased muscle growth.
Therefore, it is unclear why the 3/7 training method increases muscle growth.
Does the 3/7 Method Improve Strength?
Despite the fact that the 3/7 approach resulted in higher improvements in 1-rep max, the findings do not necessarily imply that the 3/7 method is optimal for strength development.
Training with higher weights is likely superior for maximising your 1-rep max. (5)
Another study discovered that training sessions of 2-4 repetitions with a 90% 1-rep max on the bench press and back squat resulted in higher 1-rep max increases on the bench press and back squat than training with 8-12 reps with a 75% 1-rep max. (6)
As a result, if the 3/7 technique were compared to training with 90% or more 1-rep max loads, the 3/7 method would likely be inferior for strength gains.
Compared with the 8x6 training method, the 3/7 approach provided a better stimulus for hypertrophy and strength gains.
However, the 3/7 training method may not be superior for strength gains, at least when compared to a dedicated strength program, such as 90% 1-rep max training.
Only one study suggests that the 3/7 technique may help you gain muscle. Since this is just one study, we cannot be confident that the 3/7 technique really develops more muscle.
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This evidence-based analysis of the 3/7 method on muscle growth features 6 references, listed below.
1. Stragier S, Baudry S, Carpentier A, Duchateau J. Efficacy of a new strength training design: the 3/7 method. Eur J Appl Physiol. (2019, May) ✔
2. Jozo Grgic, Brad J. Schoenfeld, John Orazem, Filip Sabol. Effects of resistance training performed to repetition failure or non-failure on muscular strength and hypertrophy: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J of Sport and Health Science. (2021)
3. Lasevicius T, Schoenfeld BJ, Silva-Batista C, Barros TS, Aihara AY, Brendon H, Longo AR, Tricoli V, Peres BA, Teixeira EL. Muscle Failure Promotes Greater Muscle Hypertrophy in Low-Load but Not in High-Load Resistance Training. J Strength Cond Res. (2019, Dec 27) ✔
4. Wackerhage H, Schoenfeld BJ, Hamilton DL, Lehti M, Hulmi JJ. Stimuli and sensors that initiate skeletal muscle hypertrophy following resistance exercise. J Appl Physiol (1985). (2019, Jan 1) (Review) ✔
5. Schoenfeld BJ, Grgic J, Ogborn D, Krieger JW. Strength and Hypertrophy Adaptations Between Low- vs. High-Load Resistance Training: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. J Strength Cond Res. (2017, Dec) (Review) ✔
6. Schoenfeld BJ, Contreras B, Vigotsky AD, Peterson M. Differential Effects of Heavy Versus Moderate Loads on Measures of Strength and Hypertrophy in Resistance-Trained Men. J Sports Sci Med. (2016, Dec 1) ✔
✔ Citations with a tick indicate the information is from a trusted source.
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