Reps, check. Sets, check. But what about drop sets, supersets and giant sets?
If you’ve ever been inside a gym, you’ve likely heard these words tossed around like weights and dumbbells. In order for you to talk the talk, walk the walk — and lift the reps — we’ve defined them below for you.
Get ready to take your workout to the next level, and achieve the muscle gains you’ve been wanting.
Drop It Like It’s Hot
Drop sets are hard, so be prepared to work. When you workout with drop sets, you reduce the amount of weight you lift about midway through a set, finishing off the number of reps you can do at the point of exhaustion.
If it sounds like a relief to reduce weight, don’t be fooled. You’ll be working your muscles with the remaining reps until you literally can’t lift another single rep. Since this can be extremely tough, you will need a partner or spotter for these sets, as you don’t have to take the time to swap the weights. The goal is to avoid any rest within the set. They’re also known as descending sets.
Consider this strategy from muscleandfitness.com for choosing how much weight you should be lifting:
- Set 1: – Choose a weight you’d fail at 4-6 reps.
- Set 2: – Reduce weight by 5 lbs. 8-10 reps
- Set 3: – Reduce weight by 5 lbs. 10-12 reps
- Set 4: – Reduce weight by 5 lbs. 12-15 reps
- Set 5: – Reduce weight by 5 to 10 lbs. 15-20 reps
Rules: Your set should be heaviest. No rest in between drops sets. “Walk down the rack” selecting weights.
So what’s the benefit? According to a study in the Journal of Human Kinetics, using drop sets for bench presses and chest flyes had notable benefits for pre- and post-exhaustion in male test subjects versus 10 rep max sets. Try the drop-set workout with this 5 Leg Press Variations for Glutes.
Super Size Your Sets
Get your cape and leotard ready! Just kidding. No superman costume required for this – although you will feel like an absolute hero after finishing this vigorous way of training.
Supersets are meant to increase the intensity of your workout by eliminating the rest time between exercises. By avoiding rest, you keep your muscles challenged, achieve pre-fatigue sooner, avoid cheating, and you spike your heart rate. What’s the benefit? Research in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research found that supersets not only cut down on time spent at the gym, but it also increase energy expenditure (calories burned) during and after the resistance training.
The superset category also breakdowns into more types, including pre-fatigue, post-fatigue, compound, isolated, opposing muscle group, staggering and triple supersets. Because supersets shock the muscles, you’ll feel it the next day, especially if you’re not stretching properly. Choose a weight that is manageable and tough – there’s no rest, remember? And you will definitely need your rest days with this type of training. Try our 5 Supersets for a Full-Body Workout to get started.
Stand On The Shoulders Of Giants
Giant sets sound intimidating, and for good reason. When you do giant sets, you focus on one muscle group at a time, with three or more exercises at about eight to 12 reps. Rest time is about five to 15 seconds between moves, and two to three minutes between giant sets. Because you might not be working the muscle in the exact same way, choose a weight that is challenging and will get you through the reps. Since the different exercises work the muscles in different ways (and different muscle groups, depending on which three exercises you choose for the set.) You may also hear giant sets described as trisets.
For example, a chest giant set might consist of 10 reps on a flat bench press, 10 reps of dumbbell pec flies, 10 reps on an decline bench press and 10 reps of incline dumbbell presses. You can tailor the giant set to whatever muscle group you’d like to work (i.e., back, legs, arms, etc.), and you can create any combination of corresponding exercises.
Giant sets have been shown to improve the weight lifted during one-rep maximum, peak and shuttle-run performances as well as improving lean muscle mass, reports a study in Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. And if you’re a numbers guy – logging your performance – this is the set style for you. The results were comparable to high-resistance circuit training.