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Easing into heavier weights to tone up

May 6th, 2013 2 Comments

Mary Rambin Kentucky Derby hotel room

Every week one of you emails me asking how I keep my arms toned.  There really is no secret to it:  repetition, definition with light weights and “heavy” weight lifting.  You can click here to see all of my upper body workouts, each of which contributes to keeping my guns polished (laugh with me on that one please!).  I’ll admit, the SoulCycle training, which includes about 15 minutes of arm repetitions with 2 lbs weights 4 days a week, has really been enough these days.  But I still hit the gym for heavier weights 1-2 times a day to keep building muscle.

I realize you might not WANT to pick up heavy weights, feeling intimidated that you can’t complete a “full set” of reps or that your arms will get big.  You CAN do it and it IS good for you.

So I’m going to offer up drop sets for you to get comfortable with heavier weights.

The great part about drop sets is that they include both heavy weight and a lot of repetition.

“Drop Set” means you start an exercise using “heavy” weight – a weight that you can complete 6-10 reps of one exercise.  Then when you can’t lift it any longer, you drop down in weight.  Using the moderately light weight, try for 10-12 reps until you’re muscles are burned out.  Now drop down in weight again and go for 10-12 reps. Finally, reach for a light set of weights and do the movement until you just can’t anymore.

How much you decrease the weight each time depends on how much you start lifting with.  You want to make sure that your heaviest weight is truly challenging while being able to maintain your proper form.

A few examples from my workout:

  • Chest press: start with 25 pounds, drop to 17, drop to 12 or 10, then finish at 8 lbs.
  • Shoulders: start at 15, drop to 10, drop to 8 or 5, and finish at 3.  T
  • Bicep curls: start at 17.5, drop to 12, drop to 8, drop to 5.
  • Tricep pull downs: start at 20, drop to 15, drop to 5.

YOUR CHALLENGE THIS WEEK IS TO DO DROP SETS INSTEAD OF YOUR USUAL ROUTINE.  This will help show you you’re stronger than you know you are and get you comfortable using the heavier weight.  Maybe the following week you’ll choose a heavier free weight or set the machine a little heavier for your normal workout.  That’s my hope anyway :)

(Photo is before my day began Saturday at The Kentucky Derby!  I thought it was more interesting than my usual workout photos AND it shows my “toned arms.” More pics from the Derby come this weekend.  It was SOOOO much fun!)



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  • Julia

    No offense, Mary, but since you’ve starting blogging full time again, you’ve become so vapid and obnoxious. Completely unrelatable.

    • Interesting…how so? I’m trying to put MORE of myself out there…