Working Smarter AND Harder

By: Dana Shorb, Fitness Director

I am not one to leave well-enough alone, especially in my workouts and neither should you. If your workouts sometimes become repetitive and you need a change of pace or if you just want to add some intensity to your current routine here are some of the strategies I use to get the most out of each and every set. These techniques can be used on most resistance exercises, give them a try some time and if you have any questions or need a demonstration do not hesitate to ask me.

Super Set:

The simplest of these strategies actually involves doing two or more exercises back to back without rest. For example, after doing 10-12 repetitions on the seated row, grab some dumbbells and do a set of bicep curls. Adding a third exercise like push-ups or box jumps will increase the intensity so be prepared to “feel the burn.”

Drop Set:

When starting this set use a weight you can do about 12-15 repetitions but not more. As soon as you cannot do any more repetitions at that weight immediately lower the weight to about 75% what you were doing and repeat. You can do this multiple times by dropping again to 50% then 25% of your original weight, going to failure each time.


This method involves moving the weight very slowly in the muscle relaxation phase of each rep. For example, when using a chest press or bench press allow the weight to slowly come towards you at a five-second pace until it is all the way down then push it away at normal speed. For the lat pull-down and seated row this would involve pulling the bar towards you at normal speed and then slowly releasing it at a five-second pace.

Pyramid Set:

Similar to the drop set, the pyramid set involves changing the resistance but instead of going down the weight will increase. Start with a weight you can do 15-20 times but not to failure, on completion of 15 reps increase the weight by five to 10lbs and complete another 10-12 reps. This can be repeated by adding weight and lowering reps to develop muscular strength and endurance.

Pause Reps:

The last strategy involves holding each rep for 5 to 8 seconds at the peak of muscle contraction then slowly relaxing. The advantage of this strategy is that light weight can be used while still being a challenge. The key is focusing on those specific muscles and squeezing them as hard as you can. Try using this one on the seated row, remember to squeeze your shoulder blades together at the end, hold for five to eight seconds and repeat.