What Are Tri-Sets and Quad-Sets?
Tri-sets are three exercises done back to back. Quad-sets are four exercises done back to back. You can do them whether you’re on a body part split, a push-pull routine, or doing full-body workouts.
You can do these tri and quad-sets for arms and shoulders at any gym, even when it’s packed. Each series is designed so that you can remain where you are without having to walk all over the gym and lose the equipment you’re using to another member.
As a bonus, these are great workouts if you’re short on time.
Sets and Reps
For all of these (except the last barbell quad set) do 2-4 sets, 8-16 reps per exercise, resting 1-2 minutes before repeating the sequence.
1 – Low Cable Tri-Set
You’ll need a low cable set at ankle height and a handle attachment. All the exercises are unilateral – performed one arm at a time.
- A1 Rear-Delt Flye
- A2 Face-Away Biceps Curl
- A3 Triceps Kickback
You can certainly perform these exercises in any order you’d like. But since both the rear-delt flye and triceps kickback involve holding yourself in the bent-over position, it’s best to put the curl between the two to get a break from holding the position for so long.
2 – Cable Tri-Set
This one works best when using a cable column that has both a high and low setup. Place an EZ-bar attachment on the low cable and attach rope handles to the high cable.
- A1 Rope Face Pull
- A2 Rope Triceps Pressdown
- A3 EZ-Bar Biceps Curl
Instead of doing EZ-bar curls, you can attach a single handle to the low cable and perform either face-away biceps curls or single-arm cable curls.
3 – Dumbbell and Bench Tri-Set
You’ll need a flat bench and two sets of dumbbells: a lighter set and a heavier set. The lighter set will be used for the shoulder exercise; the heavier set will be for the biceps and triceps exercises.
- A1 Seated Biceps Curl
- A2 Skull Crusher
- A3 One-Arm Side-Lying Rear-Delt Flye
To remain more stable on the bench during the flye, hook one foot around the top of the bench. Keep your down hand on the floor, which requires you to position yourself with the top of the bench under your armpit.
4 – Dumbbell Complex
You’ll need two sets of dumbbells. A heavier set will be used for the first exercise; a lighter set will be used for the remaining three.
- A1 Biceps Curl
- A2 90-Degree Front Raise
- A3 Kickback
- A4 Dumbbell A’s
This one is sequenced in a way that incorporates isometric arm work, on the same area you just hit, during each of the subsequent shoulder exercises. After you do the curls, you then have to further work your biceps isometrically when doing the front raise. And after you’ve performed the kickbacks, your triceps have to work isometrically to hold your elbows straight as you do the dumbbell A’s.
So, not only does this quad-set ramp up the amount of time under tension your arms experience, it also hits both your arms and you shoulders front-to-back.
5 – Barbell Quad-Set
This one is really more of an arms and shoulder-oriented complex than it is a quad-set. Regardless of what you call it, perform for a high volume with light loads and use as a workout finisher. Load the bar with no more than 10 pound plates for a total of 65 pounds.
- A1 Overhead Triceps Extension x 15-25 reps
- A2 Curl x 15-25 reps
- A3 Wide-Grip Upright Row x 15-25 reps
- A4 Overhead Press x 20-30 reps
Do 1-3 sets, resting 1-2 minutes between sets before repeating the sequence.
Although there’s no magic order to the exercises, I recommend placing the overhead presses at the end since that’s the strongest of the movements. Since all of the exercises are done with the same load, it makes sense to leave the easiest exercise at the end when you’re fatigued.
Regardless of the order you choose, don’t put the bar down. Switch grips holding the bar so that you keep the pace up and keep working throughout the sequence.