How do I shock my body into getting new results?

June 15, 2013

Q: I’m tired of doing the same old set rep schemes and feel as if the traditional three sets of 10 to 15 reps per exercise is getting stale and boring. Do you have any other suggestions on how to change things up and shock my body to new results?

A: Humans are creatures of habit. We like to do things that feel familiar and comfortable, but to get results we sometimes have to step outside the box and do something different. Below are seven rut-busting techniques with varied set and rep schemes to help you achieve this goal.


This technique has been around forever and has traditionally been used with bicep curls, but I’ve found it works well with any body part. To do 21s, separate any movement into three different parts - the top, bottom and full range of motion - and do seven reps of each without rest. To illustrate this we will use the common push up. Start in the push up position, lower your body half way until your elbows reach 90 degrees, push back up and repeat for seven reps, then go all the way down until your chest touches the ground and go half way up for seven more repetitions. Now finish by doing seven full push-ups through the entire range of motion and you have just finished your first set of 21s.


Pyramiding means starting your first couple sets of any exercises with lighter weight and more reps to lay the foundation and shuttle blood into the muscles, and then increasing the weight and reducing the reps with each additional set. This helps to get the body ready for the heavier sets and is a good change of pace. A good example of pyramiding would be doing the leg press for a total of four sets with repetitions at 15, 12, eight and six.

Drop sets

A drop set is doing a particular exercise for a desired number of reps and then quickly dropping the weight and repeating the process for several sets. The idea is to keep the muscles burning with little to no rest in between sets. A good example would be doing tricep pushdowns with 80 x 10, 70 x 10, 60 x 12 and after you finish, rest for 40 to 60 seconds and repeat the process.

Pre exhaustion

Conventional wisdom says do multi-joint compound exercises - bench presses, deadlift and squats - first because they work larger muscle groups and should get priority. However, shocking your muscles with 2-3 sets of high-rep single-joint isolation exercises followed by larger compound movements can be an excellent way to pre-exhaust muscle fibers and force growth. A good example would be doing two sets of leg extensions for 15-20 repetitions followed by four sets of squats and four sets of leg presses.

Tri sets with core movement

Working abdominals was never my favorite thing until I finally realized you don’t have to wait till you're exhausted at the end of your workout to begin working them. Instead, I began injecting them between the two body parts I was planning on working out for a particular day. A good example would be on chest and bicep day I would do incline dumbbell chest press x 10, bicycle crunches x 25 and straight bar curls x 10 back to back and then rest for 45 to 50 seconds and then repeat for two more triple sets. To my surprise, not only did I get much stronger, more developed abs but a quick, intense weight training workout as well.

Bar complex

A bar complex is an intense circuit of exercises - five to six movements - with little to no rest, performed in consecutive order. In most cases the bar or set of dumbbells never leave your hands until the last exercise is complete and sweat is dripping on the floor like a leaky faucet. This technique is an advanced training method and should not be attempted by beginners but can be an excellent change of pace for seasoned lifters. To perform a bar complex, do one set of five to six different exercises in a row for the desired number of reps and then rest and repeat for three to four sets. A good example would be dumbbell squats x 10, standing overhead dumbbell press x 10, standing dumbbell rows x 10, dumbbell chest press x 10 and then finish with dumbbell hammer curls x 10.

Super sets

Super sets are grouping two different exercises for opposing muscle groups back to back with no rest. A good example would be doing a set of push-ups followed by seated cable rows. Rest approximately 40 to 50 seconds and repeat again until the desired amount of sets is complete.

So if a change of pace is what you’re looking for, try the above techniques and you'll be happy with the results.

  • Chris Antonio is a personal trainer and former world-class weightlifter. He has been lifting for more than 20 years and has trained a wide variety of clients ranging from All-American athletes to the average person trying to get into shape. To send a question to the Ask the Trainer column, email Chris at or check out

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