Supersets, drop-sets, trisets, oh boy…

If you read yesterday’s post on weight lifting (not scary, promise), you’d know that I alluded to future blog posts in this quasi-blog series of mine. Well, here’s the second in the “series” – this one is all about various styles of weight lifting you probably have heard of but might not know exactly what it all means.

I’ll break it down for you here, in my very-non-scientific-I’m-no-expert-I-just-love-to-lift-weights way. 😉

Trisets – probably my most favorite style of weight lifting, especially for legs. I’ve talked about it before. It’s basically three exercises (typically for one body part, but can include 2-3 body parts) done back to back for three sets. For example: a leg triset might include squats followed by lunges followed by calf raises. You’d do that triset three times in a row, resting for 30-60 seconds in between.

Drop-sets – are all about fatiguing the muscle by “faking” it out. It’s basically a set of three exercises done at “dropped” weights after each set. For example: You might start doing bicep curls at 15 lbs for 152-20 reps. For the next round, you’d drop down to 12 lbs for 20-25 reps. And the final round you’d be at 10 lbs for 25-30 reps, or better yet – to failure. This burns out the muscle in a great way and by “faking” it out, your muscle thinks it’s lifting the same pounds from the first round so it works just as hard as if it were lifting heavier weights, which allows you to lift longer and harder by the last round. <again – these are my made-up definitions, hopefully you get the idea, if not, check this out for a more scientific explanation.>

Back-off sets – is a favorite you’ll see in Cathe’s STS workouts that I love, love, LOVE (more on what this is, in a sec). If you’ve ever lifted a set of weights for a particular muscle group but felt like that last set didn’t burn you out quite enough? Try this. Back off your last set to 40% of what you were lifting and lift for as many reps as you can without compromising form, and go to failure (again without compromising form). Awesome burner.

Supersets – another favorite of mine as you’ve probably noticed, this involves two exercises done back to back – usually for the same muscle group but it can also be done for two complementary muscle groups (i.e a bicep/tricep superset vs. a back superset or chest superset). This is a time saver but it’s also an intensity builder.

Double-wave load – is similar to a pyramid style workout (if you’ve ever done Cathe’s Pyramid Upper or Pyramid Lower body workout, this is a similar, though not exactly the same, style to that). It’s about slowly upping your weights for a total of six sets of exercises for one body part. It tricks your body into recruiting more muscle fibers in the second set because you’re slowly increasing your weight (by 5% with each set). For example: if you’re doing a bicep curl double-wave load: start with 10 lbs for 15 reps for set #1; move to 12 lbs for 15 reps for set #2; and then 15 lbs for 15 reps for set #3; then repeat that series once. By the end, you’ll be burned out and your muscle fibers will be twitching away. Hm, I think I’ll add this into the mix next week, haven’t done that one in awhile. 😉

Periodization – this is what my all-time favorite weight training rotation is based on: Cathe’s Shock Training System (STS). I’ve done three rotations of this workout in the past couple of years and have NEVER been disappointed. It does take a time committment though – one rotation is 3 1/2 months long. But WORTH it for the results you’ll gain (and no, this is not an informerical for STS, I swear!).

Without confusing you, it’s basically three workout cycles (called “mesocycles) that are based on three distinct weight training focuses – endurance style training, hypertrophy-based training and strength-style training. As I’ve said before, endurance style training is all about high reps; low weights. Hypertrophy (this is where you see muscle definition take place) is about slightly heavier weights and slightly less reps (so instead of lifting for 12-15 reps like in mesocycle 1, you’d lift about 10 reps per round). And the strength building phase is your heaviest lifting phase, only lifting for about 6-8 reps per exercise. It’s intense. and I love it. I could go on and on about it here, but if you want to hear how I got started with STS, check out a verrrry old post from me on STS here.


I’ve thrown a TON of info your way, and all of it based on what’s been rolling around in my head over the years as I’ve picked up various styles of weight training. I hope I haven’t bored you too much. I just wanted you to see that there are LOTS of ways to weight train so you’ll never be bored, and should hopefully never hit a plateau. I’m a huge fan of switching it up, often, as you’ve seen here on the blog. I love to shock the system, keep it guessing. If I stick with one thing too long, I get bored, and so does my body. Hm, Maybe that’s where all this formerly “useless” data in my head came from, huh?!

So tell me – what style of training do you think you’d like (if you’ve not really done much weight training before). OR – if you’re a big fan of lifting weights, what is your personal favorite style? Did I miss any that you’d add to that list? Do tell! 🙂

11 thoughts on “Supersets, drop-sets, trisets, oh boy…

  1. Lots of info! Thanks for helping clear up the confusion with all the strength training lingo. One of the things that always made weights unapproachable to me was the language that people who know what they’re doing use. I’ll bookmark this post for future reference!

    • I know, sort of like information overload, totally. I was trying to not make it overly confusing but apparently I had a lot more to say than I thought. Woops. 😉 I’m going to create a separate tab on the blog for this series so it’ll be easy to find in the future. 🙂

  2. Great post sis. I LOVE trisets, but also really love drop-sets. Totally tricks your muscles into thinking they are working heavy even when you’ve backed off. I also like push/pull, especially for back, since it helps me get through it when I hate working back for some reason!

  3. I like trisets, but find myself going with supersets more frequently. The crazy thing about drops is that I’ve seen several different types of drops. I think pyramids even can fall into that category. I think that’s when it can get confusing to people though. I mean you can drop the weights and increase reps or you can drop reps and keep same weight even. Can they not come up with different names???? LOL

    Double waves are evil 😉

    • I know – supersets are just so damn efficient, can’t really go wrong with them, and they work you SO GOOD!
      I agree though, so many freakin’ different names for similar styles of weight training, we need one standard glossary or something. Sheesh!

  4. Great post, I think I’ve tried all of the above methods in Cathe’s Sts series, I find trisets a killer and double wave load super tiring but effective. I’ve just ordered Supreme 90, not sure if you’ve heard about it? It meant to be effective and help with any plateaus and of course the price is great, 20 dollars and only 10 dollars to ship here. I was going to wait until I got to the States but then I wasn’t sure if I’d find the Supreme set in stores so I went ahead and ordered it last night.

  5. Pingback: Weigh’r do I start? « EatDrinkBreatheSweat

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