Q+A: What is the 3/7 Protocol?

The 3/7 Protocol is a series of 5 sets of an exercise in which the reps are increased incrementally from 3 to 7 (thus, its name) while using the same weight. A recovery period of 15 seconds or less is taken between each of the 5 sets.

by Matt Brzycki

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The 3/7 Protocol is a series of 5 sets of an exercise in which the reps are increased incrementally from 3 to 7 (thus, its name) while using the same weight. A recovery period of 15 seconds or less is taken between each of the 5 sets.

In other words, you’d do a set of 3 reps, recover for 15 seconds, do a set of 4 reps, recover for 15 seconds and so on. Essentially, then, over the span of 5 sets, you’d do a total of 25 reps while taking no more than a total of 1 minute of recovery.

In one study, 38 male subjects (ages 18–26) were assigned to one of three groups: the 3/7 Protocol, 4 sets of 6 reps or 8 sets of 6 reps. All subjects trained two times per week for 8 weeks, performing the bench press (with a Smith machine) using 70% of their 1-repetition maximum (1-RM). Between each set, the group that used the 3/7 Protocol took 15 seconds of recovery, while the groups that used the other two protocols took 2.5 minutes.

The group that did 8 sets of 6 reps (48 reps total) produced greater gains in maximum strength than the group that did the 3/7 Protocol, while improvements in maximum force and power were similar. Both the 3/7 Protocol group and the 8-sets-of-6-reps group showed better results than the group that did 4 sets of 6 reps.

In sum, the researchers found that the 3/7 Protocol was effective and efficient—and that the athletes who used it obtained favorable results with a much lower volume of training.

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REFERENCE:

Laurent, C., et al. 2016. Effect of a strength training method characterized by an incremental number of repetitions across sets and a very short rest interval. Science & Sports, 31 (5), e115–e121.

Meet our experts

AFM-Author-Brzycki Matt Brzycki , is the Assistant Director of Campus Recreation, Fitness at Princeton University. He has more than 30 years of experience at the collegiate level and has authored, co-authored and edited 17 books.

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