If you’re sleepwalking through the same three sets of 15 reps of the same biceps exercises you have done every Tuesday for the past two years, it’s time for a change. Hell, it’s time for a change if you’ve been doing that for two months!
Muscles adapt quickly. They get lazy. It’s up to us to keep them alert and working. Shock and awe.
By varying the types of sets you do, you will see better results as you push to build muscle, boost your metabolism and sculpt a Great physique.
So here’s a quick guide to what’s what in sets. Use this to mix up your weight routines. If you REALLY like those three biceps moves, fine. But why not do them as pyramid sets or giant sets?
Super Sets: These are consecutive sets, no rest in between. You can do them for the same muscle, like biceps or triceps, or for opposing muscles like back and chest. You can also do them for unrelated muscle groups like quads and shoulders – a surefire way to get your blood pumping from one end of your Badass to the other.
I love Super Sets for their efficiency. By working these muscles in a bam-bam, no-rest pattern, you can blow through a challenging, butt-kicking routine pretty quickly. It also keeps your heart rate up and boosts growth hormone levels by boosting lactic acid production. And depending which muscle groups you superset, you can activate a lot of muscles in a short period of time. Remember: More muscle = higher metabolism = a leaner Body
Example: 1 set of tricep dips, 1 set of tricep extensions with a dumbbell. Repeat two more rounds. Or 1 set of tricep dips followed by 1 set of bicep hammer curls. Or 1 set of deadlifts, followed by shoulder presses.
Drop Sets: This is when you perform an exercise to failure, then quickly reduce the amount of weight and push out as many more reps as you can with the lighter weight. You can start really heavy, do just 4 to 6 reps, strip some weight, do as many reps as you can, and then strip more weight off and push out more reps.
Example: Do 4-6 reps of leg presses at the heaviest weight you can manage. Quickly take off some of the weight, then bang out as many as you can. Take off more weight, and bang out more until your legs reach total fatigue. Ouch, but it hurts so good!
Pyramid Sets: These are similar to drop sets, except you start light and build up to heavy, then drop the weight back to light. A typical pyramid is five sets of one exercise, with reps usually at 12, 10, 8, 10 and 12 (give or take a couple – 10, 8, 6, 8, 10 works too if the weight is heavier). The first two sets are meant to warm up the muscles worked, so the weight is light to medium. The 3rd, or middle, set is the working set so your weight should be the maximum you can do for those 6 to 8 reps. Then you drop back down in weight for the final two sets.
I like pyramids because you really can isolate and work a muscle group to fatigue, and you get not just intensity with that middle heavy set but endurance and high repetitions with the other sets.
Giant Sets: These sets target one muscle group by doing three exercises quickly, one right after the other, to failure/fatigue using challenging weights and high reps. You don’t have to do these often, but give them a try. They are intense and truly shock the muscles.
Example: Bicep curls using a weighted bar, 25 to 30 reps. Immediately move to hammer curls using dumbbells, 25 to 30 reps (you might need to drop the weight back midway to finish, which is fine. Quickly bust out 25 to 30 side bicep curls using dumbbells.