I like to hurt.

Let me clarify that. I don't like hurting people, I like to feel pain after a set.

Call is psychological; hell, call it pathological.

For whatever reason, feeling an intense burn or cramping in my muscles is the residue of hard work. It's like a badge of honor that stands in stark contrast to the guys on either side of me in the gym who casually do their single set of 8 or 10 reps without so much as breaking a grimace or spouting a bead of sweat.

Wuss boys.

As such, I love throwing the occasional extended set into my workout. For the uninitiated, extended sets are sets where you continue to do more work once you've reached failure in whatever movement you're doing at the time.

There are several ways to do this:

  1. You can reduce the amount of weight and keep pumping (the conventional drop set).
  2. You can do half or quarter reps at the end of a regular set (post-fatigue partials).
  3. You can hold the weight in place in the contracted position for as long as you can at the end of a set (post-fatigue isometrics).
  4. You can reduce the amount of weight and continue repping out (drop sets).
  5. Taking a very short rest and continuing the set with the same weight (rest-pause).

Trouble is, those methods are BORING, at least to me.

I prefer two other methods that I think are more stimulating, mentally AND physically:

They're called Mechanical Drop Sets and Post-Fatigue Tri sets.

Mechanical Drop Sets also involve doing more reps once you hit failure, only rather than reducing the weight, you simply make small adjustments in the execution of the movement that allow you to keep on going.

As an example, in the following triad of biceps exercises: Reverse grip curls, "regular" grip curls, and hammer curls, the reverse grip ones are the hardest, followed in relative ease of execution by "regular" grip curls and then hammer curls.

If you rep out doing reverse curls, you'll be able to continue doing more reps by simply rotating your wrists and doing conventional curls. When you rep out using conventional curls, you should be able to eke out a few more reps by rotating your wrists and doing hammer-grip curls.

Easy but oh-so hard.

Post-Fatigue Tri Sets involve doing a second and a third exercise for the same muscle or muscle group without taking any rest.

Again, easy but oh-so hard.

The science behind them is simply this: the more muscle fibers you can exhaust, the more muscle you can grow.

The potential drawback? You can easily do too much work and compromise recovery. Of course, that won't be a problem if you use them judiciously; I'd say no more than three or four sets of an extended set exercise per body part.

Whether you want to regularly incorporate them into your workouts, or occasionally use one to punish your miserable self for sins against man, nature, or God, here are some of my favorites.

I appropriated many from Christian Thibaudeau, some from Charles Poliquin, and one from Dr. Clay Hyght. I dreamed up the others during lonely evenings spent in my backyard gym.

Remember, move from variation to variation within the set without taking any rest, but rest about 2 minutes in-between sets.

Shoulders

Mechanical Drop Set 1

1. Standing Military press (no leg drive) 8-10 reps
2. Push press (use a little leg drive) same weight; as many reps as you can
3. Push Jerk (use a powerful leg drive) same weight; as many reps as you can

Mechanical Drop Set 2

1. Dumbbell Lateral Raise 8-10 reps
2. Dumbbell Front Raise same weight; as many reps as you can
3. Dumbbell Upright Row same weight; as many reps as you can

Mechanical Drop Set 3

1. Dumbbell Front Raise 8-10 reps
2. Lateral Raise same weight; as many reps as you can
3. Dumbbell Press same weight; as many reps as you can

Barbell Row

Post Fatigue Tri Set 1

1. Upright Barbell Row 10-12 reps
2. Dumbbell Lateral Raise 8-10 reps
3. Behind-the-Neck Barbell Press (using the same barbell you did for upright rows) As many reps as possible

Note: yeah, yeah, both upright rows and behind-the-neck presses are shunned by some exercise specialists, but given the rep ranges we're talking about here (relatively high), you'll be using a weight that most likely won't harm you, unless you already have known shoulder problems.

Chest

Mechanical Drop Set 1

1. High Incline Bench Dumbbell Press 8-10 reps
2. Low Incline Bench Dumbbell Press same weight; as many reps as you can
3. Flat Bench Dumbbell Press same weight; as many reps as you can

Mechanical Drop Set 2

1. High Incline Bench Cable Fly (second adjustable pin on bench) 8-10 reps
2. Low Incline Bench Cable Fly (first adjustable pin on bench) same weight; as many reps as you can
3. Flat Bench Cable Fly same weight; as many reps as you can

Quad or Quad Dominant Movements

Mechanical Drop Set 1

1. Front Squat 8-10 reps
2. Close-Stance (hip width) Back Squat same weight; as many reps as you can
3. Wide-Stance Back Squat same weight; as many reps as you can

Mechanical Drop Set 2

1. Short-Step Lunge with dumbbells at side 8-10 reps
2. Long Step Lunge with dumbbells at side same weight; as many reps as you can
3. Dumbbell Squat same weight; as many reps as you can

Mechanical Drop Set 3

1. Single-Leg Extension 8-10 reps per leg
2. 2/1 Leg Extension (up with two legs, down with one leg in 5 seconds) same weight; as many reps as you can
3. Leg Extension (both feet up and down) same weight; as many reps as you can

Hamstrings or Hip Dominant Movements

Deadlift

Mechanical Drop Set 1

1. Snatch-Grip Deadlift 8-10 reps
2. Romanian Deadlift same weight; as many reps as you can
3. Sumo Deadlift same weight; as many reps as you can

Mechanical Drop Set 2

1. Single-Leg Curl 8-10 reps per leg
2. 2/1 Leg Curl (up with two legs, down with one leg in 5 seconds) same weight; as many reps as you can
3. Leg Curl (both feet up and down) same weight; as many reps as you can

Mechanical Drop Set 3

1. Siffie Lunges (lunges on the tips of your toes at all times) 8-10 reps
2. Short Step Lunge same weight; as many reps as you can
3. Long Step Lunge same weight; as many reps as you can

Biceps

Mechanical Drop Set 1

1. Steep Angle Preacher Curl 8-10 reps
2. 45-Degree Preacher Curl same weight; as many reps as you can
3. Standing Barbell Curl same weight; as many reps as you can

Mechanical Drop Set 2

1. Reverse Grip Dumbbell Curl (both arms at the same time) 8-10 reps
2. Regular Grip Dumbbell Curl (both arms at the same time) same weight; as many reps as you can
3. Hammer Grip Dumbbell Curl (both arms at the same time) same weight; as many reps as you can

Triceps

Mechanical Drop Set 1

1. Super Close-Grip Bench (8") 8-10 reps
2. Close-Grip Bench (14") same weight; as many reps as you can
3. Normal Grip Bench (22-24") same weight; as many reps as you can

Post Fatigue Tri Set 1

1. Reverse Grip Cable Pushdown (on lat pulldown machine) 8-10 reps
2. "Regular" Grip Cable Pushdown 8-10 reps
3. Overhead Rope Extension (remove bar from pulldown machine and replace with rope) 8-10 reps

Note: Lower weights as necessary to achieve rep goals.

Back

Mechanical Drop Set 1

1. Bent-Over Barbell Rowing torso parallel to the floor 8-10 reps
2. Bent-Over Barbell Rowing torso 45 degrees same weight; as many reps as you can
3. Bent-Over Barbell Rowing slight cheat same weight; as many reps as you can

Mechanical Drop Set 2

1. Wide-Grip Lat Pulldown (palms away from you) 8-10 reps
2. Medium-Grip Lat Pulldown (palms away from you) same weight; as many reps as you can
3. Close-Grip Lat Pulldown (palms toward you) same weight; as many reps as you can

Post Fatigue Tri Set 1 *

1. Reverse-Grip Pendley Barbell Row (use a narrow grip, allow barbell to touch ground on each rep) 6-8 reps
2. Regular-Grip Pendley Barbell Row (use a wide grip, allow barbell to touch ground on each rep) same weight; as many reps as possible
3. Hammer-Grip Dumbbell Row 6-8 reps

* Be prepared to be sucking wind after this one.

Got any favorite Mechanical Drop Sets or Post Fatigue Tri Sets of your own? I want to know about them! Hurt me, please.