Powerful Set Variations For Building Muscle

Chances are that standard sets are the de facto, predominant way you lift weights. That is, let’s say, doing 3 sets of 12 reps with 60s rest in between each exercise, into oblivion. They’re conventional wisdom and the foundation for all forms of resistance training, but that same paradigm ultimately prevents 95% of people from venturing into more challenging waters (without a kick in the butt from a trainer).

And there in lies a HUGE problem — relying exclusively on traditional, standard sets leaves an enormous amount of muscle growth AND fat-burning potential untapped.

Sure you’ll stimulate muscle growth for a period, but the body adapts over time and growth stagnates. Moreover, traditional sets aren’t that intense, outside of major anchor lifts like squats, deadlifts, and dumbbell swings. Elite physiques are constructed through high-octane intensity and challenge — standard sets generally can’t escalate to that level. Push UPWARD and tweak the way you train. Here are 5 powerful set variations that can toss a wrinkle into your routine, galvanize new results and burst frustrating plateaus, and crank up fat burn to full-blown incineration mode. Plus, you’ll be more engaged. New, rapid stimuli can break up the monotony of a repetitive workout plan. Put. It. To. Work.split-routine

Super Sets

Super sets are required learning for anyone who wants a killer physique. They’re the most basic set variation and the launching pad for more advanced techniques. Complete 1 set of 1 exercise immediately followed by a 2nd set of a different exercise, without rest (and change dumbbells, if necessary).


1. Dumbbell Chest Press, 12 reps
2. Dumbbell Flies, 12 reps

Circuit Sets

AKA circuit training, circuit sets are a super set consisting of 3+ different exercises back to back, without rest. Circuit sets can hit one muscle group, or combine multiple exercises across muscle groups.


1. Dumbbell Chest Press, 50 lbs, 12 reps
2. Dumbbell Flies, 25 lbs, 12 reps
3. Push Ups, 20 reps

Drop Sets

Complete 2+ sets of the same exercise — without rest — decreasing the weight used in each subsequent set. Weight on drop sets can decrease by 25-50% from set-to-set, depending on how many mini-sets you do.


1. Dumbbell Chest Press, 100 lbs, 12 reps
2. Dumbbell Chest Press, 70 lbs, 12 reps
3. Dumbbell Chest Press, 45 lbs, 12 reps
4. Dumbbell Chest Press, 25 lbs, 12 repsDumbbell-Bench-Press

Strip Sets

Complete 3+ sets of the same exercise — without rest — increasing the weight used in each subsequent set. This conventionally works best on machines with a weight stack, but it can also work with dumbbells (just keep in mind that hoarding 10 sets of dumbbells might be a little issue). Start strip sets with a moderate weight and continuously jump by 10-50% per set, depending on how many mini-sets you do within one strip set. I like to increase until failure.


1. Calf Raises, 100 lbs, 15 reps
2. Calf Raises, 125 lbs, 15 reps
3. Calf Raises, 150 lbs, 15 reps
4. Calf Raises, 175 lbs, 15 reps

8. Calf Raises, 250 lbs, 10 reps (reached failure)Seated-Calf-Raise

Burnout Sets

Complete an exercise using a light weight (less than half the lbs in a normal set) until you literally can’t complete another rep. Do burnout sets either as a standalone set or as the final set in a super set/circuit set; they’re most effective at the END of a workout.


1. Dumbbell Chest Press, 50 lbs, 12 reps
2. Dumbbell Chest Press, 20 lbs, 38 reps (to failure)

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