Hi Beverly. In my opinion, the answer to your question depends more on the training goal for the particular client than it does on a specific ‘guideline.’ Each client is an individual, and will respond to a training stimulus in their own individual way. The beauty of our profession and the ‘art’ of what we do is that we need to design programming that will get the desired results for the client that we have in front of us. Sometimes, what we read in the books is the answer, and sometimes we have to use what is in the books to design our own program for the particular client’s needs.
I’ve used single sets and multiple sets in working with my clients. A lot of the time it comes down to something as simple as “am I working on raw strength, or strength endurance?” for a particular training session.
I hope that this helps.
While there are many variables to consider, as a basic guideline for beginning clients I like to use timed sets and allow them 3 sets to better orient them to a new technique.
As someone mentioned above, I love the idea of the untimed first set, followed by timed sets. I began implementing the same strategy with several beginner clients and found a significant improvement in form at a much faster rate.
Sorry to be vague, but there are so many variables to consider before properly answering that question. Here’s a few off the top of my head:
-which exercise are you doing?
-why are you doing that exercise?
-does that choice align with your client’s goals?
-who is your client? i.e., age; goals/needs; health/medical situation; time, energy, financial budget; level of fitness/exercise experience etc…
-how many other exercises are you doing?
-is there rest in between sets?
-what does current research suggest re: number of sets, based on specific goals/circumstances?