Friday, March 10, 2006

Drop Sets and 30-Second Breaks

Since I wrote about lifting weights again, I figured I should explain my usual routine, or at least write it down so I won't forget. I've read plenty about lifting and how you should change your exercises at least every few weeks to keep yourself and your muscles from getting bored, but I'm too stubborn for that. My circuit has worked well for the last 10 years or so when I've lifted which means I must be doing something right. I'm not serious enough to target different muscles each day, so this takes care of everything (I've never cared for any leg exercises which would explain my negative vertical leap). The order alternates muscle groups which lets you finish faster.

The keys to this circuit are drop sets and only waiting a mere 30 seconds between sets. You'll notice it's all free weights. I used to do more machines, but realized free weights are better because they require more muscles to keep your form. Machines are helpful at the start and I'd even recommend using one for a tricep pulldown, but if you can, go the free weights way. It helps to use your mp3 player's song countdown (or a simple clock) to time out the 30-second wait. Doing this workout will make 30 seconds seem way too short, but it's worth it. I also recommend buying some good lifting gloves with some sort of wrist strap. The strap isn't just for heavy lifters since I find it helps on the lightest weights too. When I'm doing well for myself, I follow these steps twice a week.

Dear Harbinger, my wrists thank you for your fine lifting gloves.

As it stands now, here's my circuit:

-3 sets + 1 drop set of standing hammer curls. After breaking my right wrist twice, I can't do standing barbell curls.

I do the exercise just like this...without the guns.

-3 sets + 1 drop set of sitting overhead two-handed barbell tricep presses/lifts. Holding the barbell vertically, I use an overlapping grip on the "top" weights and do, let's say 8 reps with the left hand on top and right touching it underneath, and then 8 more (or however many I can do that set) with the right on top and the left underneath. This is my favorite exercise, however it is dangerous (at least how I do it) because I lift the barbell from the floor and raise it over my head before starting the set (and to switch hand position) and it is also almost over my head with each lift.

Don't forget the other 1/2 set comes when you carefully(!) switch hand positions. And no, you don't get to take a rest while you switch hands because it's all 1 set.

-3 sets + 1 drop set of a barbell concentration curl. I usually start with my left arm because it can't always do as much as my right. This way, I keep them even by only doing as many with my right as I did with my left. I like this exercise because I can spot myself.

My baby pythons are as pale as his.

-3 sets + 1 drop set of standing barbell shoulder flies. The number of reps varies each time with this one.

Just like this, but don't wear jeans while you lift.

-3 sets + 1 drop set of standing barbell curls. This drop set is special because after you've finished the drop set and decreased your weight to one or two very-light plates on each side, you do a "21" which is 7 full curls, 7 curls that start at halfway and go to the top of a full curl, and 7 full curls again (though most will tell you by definition the last 7 usually start halfway and go down, then start at halfway again, etc.). Nevermind that, I just do another 7 full curls. The last 7 curls kill your forearms, but in a good way of course.

Damn you 21's!

-3 sets + 1 drop set of tricep pushups. The last drop set of pushups isn't a true drop set, but more like a 4th set that just kills your triceps like drop sets.

For a greater challenge (more weight), place your feet on another bench.

-4 sets of pushups. This allows for differences in how the pushups are done, like a set on each foot or a very slow set, etc. I usually see how many I can do in my first set and use that as how many each set requires, even if it means taking a break of a few seconds midway through a set to finish it.

When you get bored of this, throw in a few on one foot for more weight.

If you'll notice, there is no bench press in my circuit. This is because I've never liked bench press since I've never had good form and because I don't have a bench for it in the first place (see reason 1).

Who needs to bench press anyway? Not me.

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