In our last issue, we looked at how the tempo of your exercises affects your workout and how different ways to put exercises together can make your workout more exciting. This month we’ll discuss how to make those sets more challenging and how to increase your volume of exercise.
First, let’s look at how our lessons from last month look in a practical setting.
Antagonist: In this method, you pair two exercises for opposing (antagonist) muscles. As with other supersets, there is no rest between the first and second movements. With this approach, you can pair these muscles together:
• Chest and back
• Biceps and triceps
• Quadriceps and hamstrings
• Lateral/front deltoid and rear deltoid
• Abdominals and lower back
Triple sets: This technique is similar to the superset, but instead of doing two exercises back to back, you perform three movements in a row. This is obviously a very demanding method that should not be abused, especially by beginners and/or individuals with low work capacity.
Just like supersets, there are several alternatives when it comes to triple sets. A pre- and postfatigue option starts with one isolation exercise, follows with a compound movement and then closes with another isolation exercise. An example for the chest might look like this:
• Dumbbell flies for 8-10 reps
• Decline bench press for 6-8 reps
• Cable crossover for 10-12 reps
Holistic: This consists of performing one compound movement with heavy weights and low reps, moving on to an assistance exercise performed for an intermediate number of reps (8-12) and then finally performing an isolation drill for high reps (anywhere from 20 to 40 reps). An example for the legs could look like this:
• Squat for 4-6 reps
• Leg press for 8-10 reps
• Knee extensions for 30 reps
Drop sets: These are part of a category of training method called “extended sets.” Extended sets means that after you reach a point where you can’t lift a weight one more time with proper technique, you find a way to continue on doing more work. This is normally done either by reducing the weight (drop sets) or by taking a short rest before continuing on with the set (rest/pause or cluster sets).
When performing a drop set, you basically perform a certain number of reps with a given weight. At the end of that “first” set, you reduce the weight slightly and immediately continue performing reps with the reduced weight. For example:
• Leg press with 100 pounds for 20 reps
• After 20 reps, go down to 75 pounds for 10-12 more reps
• After 10-12 reps, go down to 50 pounds for 5-6 reps
Burns: These are partial (half) reps performed at the end of a regular set. For example, you perform 10 full reps on the dumbbell curl, and at the end of the set you add 5-6 partial reps at the second half of the range of motion.
Muscle failure: This is the point at which you can’t complete one more proper repetition at a given weight. In other words, you reach a point of muscle failure when you’re unable to complete a rep without having the help of a spotter or resorting to cheating/bad form. Failure can occur due to several factors, including complete fatigue of the muscle fibers (rare), accumulation of metabolites in the muscle—which makes contraction harder or impossible—and fatigue of the nervous system.
This should help you get to the next level of your training. Next month we’ll focus on muscle groups and exercises that affect those areas. Happy training!