Friday, November 5, 2010

Power Sets

Do you have any power set ideas for any muscle (group) target?

Yesterday I mentioned how much I am enjoying the power set at the end of my workout.  Therefore today I gave a few new power sets a try to see how they would work.  But first "what the heck is a power set?"  I'm glad you asked only person who will read this (you know who you are).

A power set (by my definition) is a string of exercises done in succession as one single set.  My "norm" is to do three sets of a given exercise and then move onto the next exercise.  A power set can take two or more exercises and group them into one continuous set.  For example, the power set I have been doing included 10 vertical leg lifts, 10 vertical tricep dips, and 10 pushups with maybe 5 second inbetween the different exercises.  You may wonder now "why would you do that?"

One advantage to a power set is that it allows you to get more out of simpler exercises.  If you asked me to do three sets of 10 pushups, it wouldn't be a challenge.  I'd have to move up to maybe 3 sets of 30 or to a bench press to increase the weight in order to get enough out of the exercise to be effective.  But if you do 10 pushups after 10 leg lifts and 10 tricep dips, it becomes more difficult.  If you don't have the BoFlex at home or your home gym of choice, you can still get a lot out of simple exercises this way without spending all that extra money.  Second, a power set can be used to intensify a workout targeted at a specific muscle group.  Multiple exercises focused on the same muscle or group of muscles will hit that muscle even harder than having done each exercise individually.  Another more common advantage of a power set is that it increases your heart rate faster and also forces you to take less rest between exercises which makes your workout more efficient (finish 30 minutes faster and get on with the rest of your day).

I tried three new power sets, one for the upper body, one for the lower body, and one for my core.  They need some tweaking, but overall I think I'll use them more.

New Exercise(s):
1.  Seated Calf Raise:  Much like a vertical calf raise (calf extension), the idea is to raise the body with the extension of the foot (plantar flexion).  However, in this exercise, you do this from a seated position where the weight is rested on your knees.  The point of this change of position is to keep your gastrocnemeus (most visible calf muscle) from being able to contract, leaving mainly your soleus (internal calf muscle) to do the work.

2.  Russian Twist:  Start in a seated position.  Lean back and lift your legs up off the ground until you find a balance point; your upper body and thigh (lower leg as well if you are more capable) will make a V-shape.  From this position, twist until you can touch the ground on your right side.  Return to center and repeat to the left side.  As you progress with this exercise, you can hold a weighted object in your hands as you twist (medicine ball, dumbbell, weight, etc.).  The V-shape of your body works the abs, but the twisting works your obliques.

3.  Oblique Pulley Twist:  I use a pulley system set at mid-level (roughly my belly button height).  Pull the pulley so the weight raises and start this exercise standing at a 90-degree angle to the pulley.  Hold the pulley with both hands just to the side of your body closer to the machine.  Keeping your arms stationary to the rest of your body, use your body to twist away from the machine pulling the pulley away.  Return to the start position and repeat.  When finished, turn around in a 180 and twist in the opposite direction.  This exercise is focused to work on your obliques, though is does keep your arms, legs, and abs generally flexed as well.

Today's Workout:
1.  Warm up: Elliptical; 1 mile forward, 0.2 mile backwards, 0.2 mile forward, 0.1 mile backwards (heart rate up to ~160)
2.  Seated Bicep Curl (10/10/7 reps with 55,45,55 lb)
3.  Tricep Bench Dips (30 reps)
...Repeat #2 and 3 for a total of three sets

4.  Seated Calf Raises (30 reps with 60,60,80,90,90 lb)
5.  Squats (5 sets of 10 with 70,80,90,100,110 lb)
6.  Standing Calf Raises (50,50,50,30,40 reps with 70,80,90,100,110 lb)
...Repeat #4-6 for a total of three sets

7.  Side Plank Twists (5,10,10 reps on each side)
8.  Crunch Ups (10 sit-ups & 10 crunches)
9.  Russian Twists (10 reps with 10 lb) 
...Repeat #7-9 for a total of 3 sets

10.  Treadmill (0.2 miles [speed 4.0], 1.0 mile [7.5-9.0], 0.1 [4.0], 0.2 [10.0], 0.1 [4.0])
11.  Leg Curl (3 sets of 10 reps with 130,120,120)
12.  Leg Extension (3 sets of 10 reps with 150 lb)
13.  Oblique Pulley Twist (3 sets of 10 reps with 70,90,90 lb)

The first power set (biceps & triceps) didn't work as well as I hoped.  I may add the dumbbell press at the beginning and change the tricep dip to a full vertical.  After a few sets, I found a weight that was sufficient for the seated calf raise, but still have yet to find myself comfortable with starting at high weights for the squats.  I'll continue increasing the weights with multiple sets until then.  The core power set worked very well.  I felt little on the plank twists, but was really pushing myself to make it through the Russian twists at the end.  They'll need some work, but I like the idea of doing more power sets.

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