Sets & Repetitions – The 8 best “AFTER SETS” for more muscle building!

sets & reps – The 8 best “AFTER SETS” for more muscle growth!

The basics

Sets and reps

Each training session is basically designed and/or pre-planned in exercises. How often and in what form the respective exercise is performed is usually determined in a set-rep-scheme indicated. The following article is a simplified but very useful representation of this scheme.

Explanation of the basics in the use of sentences and repetitions.
After Sets: Drop Set, Joker Set, Back-off Set, Isometric Set
1.WarmUp Sets
2.Pre-Work sets– Daily training maximum
– “Over-Warm-Up”
3.Work setsClassic name for the main training content
4.After Sets– Plus Sets, Joker Sets, Back-Off-Sets, Myo Reps, Dynamic Effort, isometric sets,….
Basic structure of a training session

1.Warm Up sets (15-20min)

An adequate warm-up, before a training session, prepares the body for the upcoming loads accordingly.

  1. Foam roll and breathing techniques if necessary
  2. Increase mobility of the joints
  3. Core activation
  4. Kettlebell or dead body circuit complexes

As important as a good warm-up is, it should not be so intensive and long that energy is wasted and you start “battered” with the work sets. The motto must be, “As much as necessary, as little as possible!”. Everyone should develop his individual warm-up and remain flexible.

Now what would the pre-work sets look like if the work sets were a classic bench press 5×5 @75% (of the 1RM)?

Warm up
Warm up and warm up sets

2.Pre-Work Sätze

  1. Bench press with empty bar 10 reps
  2. Band “pull a parts” 10 reps + Lat Stretch with band
  3. Bench press 5 reps with 30-40% 1RM, start with “Iso-Holds” at the chest and focus on the contraction of the chest muscles during the push up.
  4. Mobilize and stretch the chest muscles + “Face Pulls”
  5. Bench press 5 reps with 40-50% 1RM
  6. YTWL for the shoulder
  7. Bench press 5 reps with 50-60% of 1RM
Over Warm UpsDaily MaxIsometric & Explosive
empty bar x 10-12 reps
40% x 5 reps
50% x 5 reps
60% x 3 reps
70% x 1 reps
80% x 1 reps (Weight above the current working set)

working sets: 75% x 5 x 5 reps
empty bar x 10-12 reps
40% x 5 reps
50% x 5 reps
60% x 3 reps
70% x 1 reps
80% x 1 reps (Weight above the current working set)
90% x 1 reps (Weight above the current working set)
100+% x 1 reps (Test your current
training maximum for today)

working sets: 75% x 5 x 5 reps
empty bar x 10-12 reps
40% x 5 reps
50% x 5 reps
60% x 3 reps
70% x 1 reps + isoPush 6sec
80% x 1 reps + explosive push ups 6 reps

working sets: 75% x 5 x 5 reps
Examples of “Pre-Workout” sets “Over WarmUps” or “Daily Max”, from the book “Base Building” by Paul Carter (2013).

3.Main Sets

In the above example, you would now be very well warmed up and well prepared for the upcoming bench press, which is the first exercise of the workout. How much time you invest in warming up depends on various factors.

  • Age
  • Type of upcoming workout (intensity, upper body, legs, push, pull, full body, ballistic,…).
  • Ambient temperature
  • Training experience and level
  • etc.
Main training part
Design of the main part of a training session

The working sets are the main focus of the planned training. However, since we have focused on the warm-up sets and the sets after the working sets in this article, we will not go into the working sets in more detail here. We will write a separate article on this soon. At this point we can only say this much, the main part of the workout should last about 30-45min.

4.After Sets

“After Sets” are additional sets that can be used directly after the last working set to provide specific stimuli with which to end the workout. Let’s look at the most commonly used ones.

After Sets
Sets and repetitions – With after sets to more muscle building
4.1.Plus sets

A plus set, is the last set of a working set for the particular exercise, which is executed until technical failure.

Here is an example:

1.set 5 x 75%

2.set 5 x 75%

3.set 5 x 75%

4.set 5 x 75%

5.Satz 5+ x 75% (as many Wdhg as technically clean possible!)

The 5th set in this example was the final set, the athlete tries to do as many quality repetitions as possible in this set. This set can subsequently be used to adjust the 1RM accordingly for the next training session. There are various formulas for calculating this.

A frequently used formula is the following from Epley:

1RM = (weight x rep x 0,0333) + weight

123,31kg = (100kg x 7 x 0,0333) + 100kg


Jim Wendler and the well-known training method 5/3/1, popularized these joker sets. (Wendler & Koss, 2013; Wendler, 2017). Here, one does some more of these joker sets with +5% weight following the work sets, depending on the shape of the day. There are different ways to apply them, see table below.

1.Option (on a good day or good condition)2.Option (Day condition average)
1.set 5 x 75%

2.set 5 x 75%

3.set 5 x 75%

4.set 5 x 75%

5.set 5 x 75%

1.Joker set 5 x 80%

2.Joker set 5 x 85%

3.Joker set 3 x 90% (5 reps no longer managed, from here abort)
1.set 5 x 75%

2.set 5 x 75%

3.set 5 x 75%

4.set 5 x 75%

5.set 5 x 75%

1.Joker set 1 x 80%

2.Joker set 1 x 85%

3.Joker set 1 x 90%

4.Joker set 1 x 95%

5.Joker set 1 x 100%
2 options of joker sets, (Jim Wendler).
4.3.Back-Off sets

In this type of set design following the working sets, the goal is to increase the volume of the workout. Usually the weight is reduced by 10-20% from the main work set and the number of repetitions remains the same or is increased, compared to the work set.

This is achieved with 3 possible options, see table below.

75% x 5 x 5 (work sets)

65% x 5 reps x 3 sets
75% x 5 x 5 (work sets)

65% x 10 reps x 3 sets
75% x 5 x 5 (work sets)

65% x max reps (1 set)
3 options for back-off sets

Jim Wendler (5/3/1), uses “first set last (FSL)” or “second set last (SSL)” to create a higher volume of training. Both of his variations also represent back-off sets. Back-off sets, especially when used with lighter weights, are very good for consolidating good technique. Or just to increase the training dose.

Other back-off sentence variations are known from bodybuilding, such as “strip sets”, “forced reps”, “cheating”, “burns”, “negatives” and so on.


Another method to increase the training dose is the so-called Myo-Reps, where 2-3 more “rest-pause” sets are added after the main work set. The weight can either stay the same or be slightly decreased. See the table below for 2 possible options.

1.option (weight is not reduced)2nd option (weight is reduced)
75% x 5 x 5 (work sets)

75% x 6 + 2 + 2 + 1
75% x 5 x 5 (work sets)

65% x 10 +4 + 4 + 3
Pause should be about 10-15sec long each time
4.5. Dynamic sets

The weight is reduced to about 40 – 70% 1RM and a few more sets of 1 – 3 reps are completed, with as explosive execution as possible.

75% x 5 x 5 (work sets)

50% x 8 sets with 3 reps
4.6. Isometric sets

This type of sets, is a good way to finish the workout with a very clean technique. The “mind-muscle connection” is improved enormously. The weight should not be chosen too heavy.

75% x 5 x 5 (work sets)

50% x hold 10-20sec at the required position x 2 – 3 sets
4.7. Variations

All the types we have described so far can also be supplemented with the following possible variations. Referring to the flat bench press example, a “back-off” set could also be, for example, 3 x 10 @65% incline bench press or push-ups with rings. This can be very useful in avoiding chronic overuse syndrome.

To bring some variety into the workout, the tempo (slow eccentrics, long isometrics, etc.), grip strength of the bar, grip width, range of motion, etc. can be varied. Always with the goal of not letting the workout become boring and avoiding overuse injuries (one-sided loads).

What is often a problem for athletes of team sports, when a “new” exercise is due in the next training cycle, athletes often struggle with severe muscle soreness, which then in turn negatively affects normal sports training. On top of that, the likelihood of injury increases. A good way to counteract this is to incorporate the new exercise as a warm-up exercise before the cycle change or as a “back-off” set after the main workout.

So for example:

The exercise for the working sets would be the normal squat and in the next cycle the front squat is on the program. Then the front squat could be incorporated into the “back-off” sets or already used as a warm-up exercise.

4.8. Combined sets

You can also sort of lump everything together and combine the different options.

Bench press with the barbell

75% x 5 x 4 (work sets)

1 x 5+ @75% (Plus set)

3 x @85%, 1 x @95% (Joker set)

switch to dumbbells:

3 x 8-12 @60-70%, changing the angle of the bench at each set. (flat, oblique,….)
All different variants can also be combined.

If you are looking for a varied training program, you might be interested in one of our athletic programs, see

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