Barlates: Upper & Lower Drop Sets

As soon as I saw that Linda Wooldridge was filming Drop Sets workouts I was very excited. She did these workouts one by one and released clips of each workout on YouTube as she did them (links to each clip are included below in each review, and here is a clip to the two disk set, but it just plays one clip after the other, so it is 27 minutes long). These are not free YouTube workouts so I waited impatiently for her to finish filming all of them so I could order the DVD set. During the filming of these workouts Linda did a Coffee Talk about muscle soreness in which she mentions the severe DOMS she had when filming these workouts. This is when my… apprehension began. I do not have a problem with DOMS. Heck, I like DOMS! But I have also had severe DOMS–usually in my chest or calves but other places, too (once in my shins and tops of my feet!) and it is not pleasant. I wasn’t able to get to these workouts immediately since I had ordered so many new programs I had to get through first but, like all strength workouts I do, I did preview them to create workout cards and choose my weights in advance.

That’s when the apprehension turned to dread. Linda suffered throughout every single one of these workouts. Usually, even when Linda says she is in pain during a workout, you really can’t tell. Her voice and facial expression are still calm and serene, and her form remains perfect. Not so in these workouts. It was clear she was in pain (tho her form still remained perfect). She even had to psyche herself up to move on to the next exercise in some of the workouts. At times she even questioned her sanity for creating these workouts! Also, since these are all very high rep workouts, I knew they were going to hurt and that every single muscle in my body would probably be screaming at some point. I was especially afraid of Drop Set Calves. 37 minutes of calf work?!?! WTF? I have had severe and nearly crippling calf DOMS from far less than 37 minutes of work!!!! (Thank you Cathe and B.J. Gaddour for that.)

Normally, when I combine cardio and strength and I have control over the order I do them, I like to do the strength work first and finish with cardio, or combine them in a circuit workout, alternating cardio with strength. However, since I suspected that these workouts were going to tear me up and they also do not contain warm ups, if I was able (due to their length) to include cardio, I did the cardio first then did the Drop Sets workout.

All of the workouts in this series are structured the exact same way. They all contain 4 exercises; you do 4 rounds of each exercise using different rep patterns then you repeat the exercise (including the rep patterns) at a lighter weight. There are sometimes some minor variations to this structure, but all of the workouts still fit into this basic structure. All of the workouts use dumbbells but some other equipment you will need for some of the workouts (but not all) is a step with 3 risers, a stability ball, a pilates band, a chair or barre, and ankle weights.

Summary: I have now done all of the workouts. I think they are all winners and some I liked more than I expected. I actually expected far worse DOMS than I suffered. Some of these workouts I suffered zero DOMS which was a surprise and even the ones I had DOMS on (calves), it wasn’t as bad as I expected. The worst DOMS was calves and triceps. For the rest my DOMS was either mild or I didn’t suffer any. I cannot comment on chest DOMS yet since I did the chest workout this morning (the day I posted this), but I will report back in the days following to update my DOMS level for the chest workout. Chest Drop Sets was brutal so I suspect that might be the worst DOMS of them all. *Next day, I do have DOMS but not as severe as I expected. I’ve had worse from Cathe’s Ripped with HIIT and Gym Styles chest workouts.

These were all great workouts and Linda does an excellent job working every muscle group in your body well. I am particularly impressed with Drop Sets Lower DVD. Between those 4 workouts, Linda manages to work every single lower body muscle group, big and small. Pretty impressive IMHO.

Finally, when I list the weights below that Linda was using, that is based on what she says at the beginning of the workouts. There is a 1-2 minute intro at the beginning of every workout in which she gives an overview of the workout and the equipment you will be using. Then she usually lists the weights of the dumbbells she is using in both kilos and pounds.

Drop Sets Lower

Glutes is 44 minutes (the last minute is Linda and her cat, Minnie, so it is actually 43 minutes); 2 minute intro, no warm up and 4 minute stretch. Here is the trailer. Equipment: various dumbbells from moderate to heavy, stability ball and a set of light weights to elevate heels and toes. Linda is using 10kg (22 pounds), 8kg (17 pounds),  7kg (15 pounds). The weights listed below are what I used. Just like all of the workouts in this series, this workout consists of 4 exercises; you do 4 rounds of each exercise using different rep patterns then you repeat the exercise (including the different rep patterns) at a lighter weight. This was the first workout in this series I did and it wasn’t as tough as I had feared it would be. Don’t misunderstand–it was tough. In fact, #3, 4 and 8 were killer. The rest didn’t kill me but did work me well. In the future I will wear a weighted vest for 1, 2, 6 & 7. Only because this is a high rep workout and holding the dumbbells for so long did start to make my arms ache but I would have felt those exercises more had I lifted heavier weights–but again, my arms were getting tired. So adding weight with a vest would be the answer. Also, on #9 I think I will use a step to raise my feet higher and get a deeper range of motion, because after #8 (which was excruciating) #9 felt too easy. But overall, an excellent glute workout. #3 & 4–OMG. Excruciating. At the end of each tempo I had to release the tension for a moment (Linda does, too, most of the time so you usually get a very brief break anyway) in order to continue. Since this workout is only 43 minutes and I workout for an hour in the morning, I used Jessica Smith’s Quick Cardio Fat Blast as a warm up. It is free on YouTube and only 12 minutes, so it is the perfect length and did an excellent job warming up my lower body.

  1. Narrow squats (singles, 2 counts down/2 counts up, down 3/up 1, down 1/up 3) (25# DBs)
  2. Repeat #1 w/ a lighter weight (18# DBs)
  3. Forward leaning lunge (singles, down 2/up 2, down 3/up 1, down 1/up 3) (one 20# DB)
  4. Repeat #3 w/ a lighter weight (one 15# DB)
  5. Repeat 3 & 4 on other leg
  6. Wide squats w/ feet turned out w/ toes elevated (light DBs under toes) (singles, down 2/up 2, down 3/up 1, down 1/up 3) (20# DBs)
  7. Repeat #6 with lighter weight and this time heels are elevated (15# DBs)
  8. Hip thrusts w/ shoulders on stability ball and one DB on hips (singles, hold hips high and pulse, up 2/down 2, up/pulse 2x/down) (one 25# DB)
  9. Repeat #8 on the floor (one 25# DB)

Calves is 37 minutes; no warm up and 2 minute stretch. Here is the trailer. Equipment: at least 2 sets of dumbbells, one heavy and one lighter. Linda is using 8kg (17 pounds) and 7kg (15 pounds), something to elevate feet on (Linda is using a step @ what looks like 8 inches), a chair or barre to hold for balance and a pilates band. I used 20 pound and 15 pound dumbbells, a step @ 8 inches, pilates band and a high back chair. This is the workout I was dreading so much. It did surprise me. I assumed I would do it once and never return to it but having now done the workout, I have revised my opinion. It was painful. The very first exercise had my calves in knots of pain. I did do a warm up beforehand btw, which I feel is essential for this workout but it still knotted them up. But as the workout continued, it oddly became more bearable. This workout doesn’t just work your calves, it works your shins and your feet, too. These are all badly neglected muscle groups that do need this kind of focused work. Now, I just did this workout a few hours ago so DOMS has not set in. I will check back in here tomorrow and see if the severity of my DOMS changes my opinion back to the original dread. *It’s the next day and I do have DOMS but it is not severe like I expected. The pain I suffered from Cathe‘s Gym Styles Legs and B. J. Gaddour’s MetaShred Extreme MetaMatrix finisher was far worse than this. Again–this surprised me because their calf segments are much shorter. I assumed 37 minutes of calf torture would cripple me but it didn’t. So I am liking this workout much more than I expected! **It is now two days after doing this workout and the DOMS is actually slightly worse. It is still bearable and I can walk normally, but it does feel like painful knots in my calves now. ***It is 3 days after doing this workout and my calves are still sore but it has lessened finally. ****Day 4 and it is gone–no more calf DOMS.

  1. Heel raises w/ toes on step and heels hanging off (chair/barre for balance) (singles, 2 up/2 down, up/3 pulses/down, half up and down–fast)
  2. Repeat #1 on floor (no step but still using barre/chair for balance)
  3. Heel raises on floor holding DBs–first 3 are all singles but foot position changes (feet parallel, heels together and toes turned out, toes angled toward each other and heels out, feet parallel again but pulse once at top of heel lift) (20# DBs)
  4. Repeat #3 w/ lighter DB (15# DBs)
  5. One foot heel raises w/ toes on step and heel hanging off (chair/barre for balance and other foot crossed behind working leg) (singles, singles on other foot, up 2/down 2, up 2/down 2 on other foot)
  6. Repeat #5 on floor (no step but still using barre/chair for balance)
  7. Sit on floor with legs extended in front of you, double up pilates band and place the center of it over the balls of your feet and hold an end of the band in each hand (point and flex feet, keep feet pointed and pulse, point and flex again but this time alternate feet, point to count of two/flex to count of two)
  8. Repeat #7 but band is not doubled up

Hamstrings is 62 minutes; 2:30 minute intro, no warm up and 4 minute stretch. Here is the trailer. Equipment: various dumbbells, ankle weights, pilates band tied into a large loop and a step w/ 3 risers (10 inches). Linda uses 10kg (22 pounds), 8kg (17 pounds) and 7kg (15 pounds), 1kg (2.2. pounds). The weights listed below are what I used. This was another tough and excellent workout. I considered swapping it out today since my calves are still very sore from Drop Set Calves, but since I set up my workout room the day before and I workout at 4:30am, I really don’t have time to swap everything out, so I just went with it. I don’t think this workout affected my calves since the focus was clearly on my hamstrings and glutes. That is the bonus of this workout. Though it does work your hamstrings really well, it also works your glutes and low back. As of this morning I have now done 4 of the Drop Sets workouts and this one is my favorite but I do like them all. You do a lot of deadlifts which I love but you hands/forearms do fatigue from holding heavy weights so long. Luckily, Linda’s fatigue, too, so you get several breaks to set your weights down and rest your hands/forearms. However when you move to the mat work, which is Linda’s strong area (just have a look at all of her mat workouts that completely burn out your lower body), she doesn’t give you many breaks and my hamstring and glutes were screaming. So was my non-working leg! So everything about this workout is pretty tough! If you want to make this workout even tougher I have a suggestion that I will try when I do it again. The obvious thing is heavier weights but for the final exercise, Hip Thrusts (9 & 10), instead of doing one set with your feet on the step and the drop set with feet on the floor, do one set with your shoulders elevated (I will use my weight bench) and the other set with your feet elevated. And use the dumbbell on your hips for both. And as a reminder for myself–you need something to pad your hips under your dumbbell. During #9 the dumbbell was grinding painfully into my hip bones but for #10 I folded up a towel and put it underneath the dumbbell. That was much more comfortable!

  1. Deadlifts (singles, down 2/up 2, down 3/up 1, down 1/up 3) (30# DBs)
  2. Repeat #1 w/ lighter weights (25# DBs)
  3. Single leg deadlifts (singles, down 2/up 2, down/pulse 2x/up, down 1/up 3) (20# DBs)
  4. Repeat #3 w/ lighter weights (18# DBs)
  5. Repeat 3 & 4 on other leg
  6. On all 4s w/ one leg extended straight behind you, bend and straighten leg (ankle weights and loop is wrapped around working foot and non-working thigh) (singles, pulse 2x, lower straight leg/raise and bend, lower straight leg/raise and bend/pulse 2x)
  7. Repeat #6 with no loop (still wearing ankle weights)
  8. Repeat 6 & 7 on other leg
  9. Hip thrusts (glute bridges) w/ feet on step and DB on hips (singles, up 2/down 2, up/pulse 2x/down, up 1/3 down) (one 30# DB)
  10. Repeat #9 but with feet on floor (DB still on hips) (one 30# DB)

Inner & Outer Thighs is 55 minutes; 2 minute intro, no warm up and 3:30 minute stretch. Here is the trailer. Equipment: resistance loop, barre or chair and various dumbbells. Linda is using 10kg (22 pounds), 8kg (17 pounds), 7kg (15 pounds) and 6kg (13 pounds). The weights listed below are what I used. This was another tough and effective workout. #5 & 6 will actually get your heart rate elevated, too. I didn’t hit true burnout until #7-9–the mat work. That’s when my muscles really started protesting. But the entire workout worked me very well. I will probably increase my weight for #2 to 20 pounds. Linda gives you different ways to hold your dumbbells during #1 & 2. She chooses to hold her DBs on her thighs. I did that for the first 2 tempos of #1 but 25 pound dumbbells actually started to hurt the tops of my thighs, so I held them in front of me (hanging down between my thighs) and I felt the exercise much more in my inner thighs–the muscles you are targeting with that exercise. So for future reference, that is a more effective way to hold the dumbbells for greater inner thigh activation. *It is the next day and my inner thighs are sore. Not bad DOMS, but they are sore.

  1. Wide plie squats (singles, down 2/up 2, down/pulse 3x/up, down 1/up 3) (25# DBs)
  2. Repeat #1 w/ lighter weights (18# DBs)
  3. Wide plie squats w/ loop just under knees and raised up onto toes (barre/chair for balance) (singles, down 2/up 2, down/pulse 3x/up, down 1/up 2)
  4. Repeat #3 either flat footed or remove loop and stay on toes (I did it flat footed and kept the loop on)
  5. Curtsy lunge + side leg raise, alternate legs (singles, pulse 3x on curtsy lunge/one side leg raise, pulse 2x on curtsy lunge/2 leg raises, 1 curtsy lunge/3 leg lifts) (15# DBs)
  6. Repeat #5 w/ lighter weights (12# DBs)
  7. Side lying outer thigh raises w/ loop above knees (singles, up/pulse 3x/down, up/bend then straighten knee/down, up/bend knee-pulse 2x/down)
  8. Repeat #7 w/out loop
  9. Repeat 7 & 8 on other leg

Drop Sets Upper

Back is 42 minutes; 2:30 minute intro, no warm up and 4:30 minute stretch. Here is the trailer. Equipment: dumbbells, pilates band and stability ball. Linda is using 1kg (2pounds), 1.5kg (3 pounds), 2.5kg (5 pounds), 8kg (17 pounds), 10kg (22 pounds). This is the second workout in this series I did and the first upper body workout. It was tough. Not as tough as I expected it to be but tough nevertheless. It is several hours later and my back has a very nice burn going. Will that burn be pleasant tomorrow? Not sure, we’ll see. I was burning out repeatedly in this workout and for #3 & 4 I may need to consider lowering my weights. Or at least lowering my weights for the 4th and final tempo change in the set. I was struggling both times with that exercise. For some of the exercises I think I can lift a bit heavier in the future–#5, 6 and 8. Not a lot. #5 I’ll try a 30 pound dumbbell, #6 a 20 pound dumbbell and #8 three pound weights. This was a very challenging back workout that can definitely grow with you. I’ll be doing some weight adjustments before I do it again. Since this workout is 42 minutes and has no warm up, I did All in 18’s 18 Minute Max Out. That did a great job warming me up, but perhaps in the future one of the other All in 18 workouts that also has upper body work would be better: Sweat & Sculpt Combos or Upper Body Burn (their length is perfect to add on to this workout). Also, a boxing premix from another trainer might be more appropriate since this is an upper body workout. Kelly Coffey-Meyer’s Body Design has a 12 minute kickboxing segment. Add on the 4 minute warm up and that is a 16 minute add on that would warm the upper body up very nicely. Jillian Michaels has 2 short kickboxing workouts that could be used as well–a 12 minute segment from 10 Minute Body Transformation (15 minutes with warm up) and the upper body kickboxing workout from Kickbox FastFix–but that one is 21 minutes long, so maybe a bit longer than I am looking for but still would work very well. Anyway, these are just ideas for me to keep in mind for when I return to this workout. *I didn’t end up having any DOMS from this workout.

  1. Bent over rows (singles, 2 down/2 up, up 3/down 1, up 1/3 down) (20# DBs)
  2. Repeat #1 w/ lighter weight (15# DBs)
  3. Seated rows w/ pilates band and DBs (singles, back 2/forward 2, pulse back 3x, pull back then open arms/DBs out) (8# DBs)
  4. Repeat #3 w/ lighter weights (5# DBs)
  5. Pullovers on stability ball (singles, down 2/up 2, down/pulse 1/up, down 3/up 1) (one 25# DB)
  6. Repeat #5 w/ lighter weight (one 18# DB)
  7. Spinal extensions on stability ball (lift chest while bringing DBs from floor and pulling DBs back to shoulders) (singles, up 2/down 2, up/pulse 2x/down, up/pull back one arm/down/up pull back other arm/down) (5# DBs)
  8. Repeat #7 w/ lighter weight (2# DBs)

Shoulders is 40:30 minutes; 1:30 minute intro, no warm up and 4:30 minute stretch. Here is the trailer. Equipment: stability ball, pilates band and various dumbbells. Linda uses 6kg (12.5 pounds), 5kg (10.5 pounds), 3.5kg (7 pounds), 1.5kg (3 pounds), 1kg (2 pounds). The weights listed below are what I used. Wow! This was intense and painful. Even Linda really seemed to be struggling at the end of this workout (#7 & 8). I was, too! This was constant shoulder burn out. Tough but very effective. Linda hits your shoulders from all angles and fries them. It was obvious that she was not enjoying this workout either–at the end she seemed to be psyching herself up for each tempo change. BTW–you do get mini breaks throughout this workout and longer breaks between each set. But between each tempo change you get a short recovery. And it is needed. If you aren’t needing it then your weights are too light. **I never did get DOMS from this workout, which really surprised me.

  1. Upright rows (singles, up 2/down 2, up 1/down 3, up 3/down 1) (13# DBs)
  2. Repeat #1 w/ a lighter weight (9# DBs)
  3. Bent arm side lateral raises (singles, up 2/down 2, singles–alternating arms, up 1/down 3) (10# DBs)
  4. Repeat #3 w/ lighter dumbbells (7# DBs)
  5. Incline shoulder press leaning against ball  (singles, 2 up/2 down, singles–alternating arms, up 3/down 1) (11# DBs)
  6. Repeat #5 with lighter weights (7# DBs)
  7. Seated front raises sitting on ball w/ pilates band under feet and holding one end in each hand (singles, up 2/down 2, singles–alternating arms, up/2 pulses/down) (4# DBs)
  8. Repeat #7 w/ lighter dumbbells (2# DBs)

Biceps is 30:30 minutes long; 1:30 minute intro, no warm up and 2:30 minute stretch. Here is the trailer. Equipment: a stability ball and various dumbbells. Linda has 7kg (15.5 pounds), 6kg (13 pounds) and 5kg (11 pounds). This morning I did this workout and followed it immediately with Triceps Drop Sets (below). I definitely underestimated my weights for this workout. While previewing it, I got really nervous because Linda was really struggling throughout this workout. She even says during Tricep Drop Sets that she was very sore for 4-5 days after doing this workout. She definitely chose her weights wrong (she should have lifted lighter weights) so I was very conservative on my weight selection. But when I did the workout, it was too easy. So, listed below are the weights I used but on every exercise I will be lifting heavier the next time I do this workout. Because I do not work today I was also able to add on my own warm up. I did Jillian Michaels 10 Minute Transformation warm up + Kickboxing segments beforehand. That did a great job not just warming me up but also getting my arms ready for lifting with all the punches (I wore weighted gloves for the kickboxing).

  1. Traditional bicep curls (singles, up 2/down 2, up 1/down 3, up 4/1 down) (13# DBs)
  2. Repeat #1 w/ a lighter weight (11# DBs)
  3. Hammer curls seated on ball (singles, 2 up/2 down, up 1/down 3, halfway up and down) (13#DBs)
  4. Repeat #3 with lighter weights (11# DBs)
  5. Incline W curls (leaning on ball) (singles,  down 2/up 2,  down halfway and up, start low and raise halfway and lower) (11# DBs)
  6. Repeat #5 with lighter weights (9# DBs)
  7. Preacher curls on ball (singles, 2 down/2 up, halfway down and up, down 1/up 3) (12# DBs)
  8. Repeat #7 w/ lighter weights (9# DBs)

Triceps is 27 minutes; 1 minute intro, no warm up and 2:30 minute stretch. Here is the trailer. Equipment: stability ball and dumbbells. Linda has 5kg (11 pounds) and 3.5kg (7 pounds). As I mentioned above, I did both Biceps & Triceps on the same day, back to back. I underestimated my weights on Biceps but not on Triceps! OMG. This workout fried my arms! Fried them! By the time we got to the final (4th) tempo change in each set I was struggling to get through the last few reps with good form! Linda was, too. Especially on the final exercise: tricep push ups. Instead of doing 4 tempo changes like she does with everything else in this series, she only did 3 because she was dying, too. This is the workout in particular she talked about in her Coffee Talk that gave her severe DOMS. So, I am scared. I will check back in here tomorrow and note the level of DOMS I am suffering. *Next day, my triceps are sore but it is bearable. **Two days later–still sore, but still bearable.

  1. Overhead tricep extensions (singles, down 2/up 2, down 1/up 3, up 1/down 3) (11# DBs)
  2. Repeat #1 w/ lighter weights (7# DBs)
  3. Tricep kickbacks (singles, up 2/down 2, up 1 + 2 pulses, up 1/down 3) (9# DBs)
  4. Repeat #3 w/ lighter weights (7# DBs)
  5. Lying overhead tricep extensions on ball (singles, down 2/up 2, down 1/up 3, up 1/down 3) (9# DBs)
  6. Repeat #5 w/ lighter weights (7# DBs)
  7. Tricep push ups on toes (10 reps, 6 reps, 4 reps)
  8. Repeat #7 on knees

Chest is 42:30 minutes long; 2 minute intro, no warm up and 4:30 minute stretch. Here is the trailer. Equipment: pilates band, step @ 10 inches (3 risers) (or you can use a weight bench or a stability ball) and various dumbbells ranging from heavy to very light. Linda has 8kg (17 pounds), 7kg (15 pounds), 6kg (12.5 pounds) 2.5kg (5.5 pounds), she had a lighter dumbbell, too but didn’t share that ones weight. This workout was very hard. Chest is my least favorite muscle group to work and I never care to burn it out. Well–this workout was so painful, definite burn out. During this workout my chest muscles were shaking. At the end you use the band for a stretch and I could see my band trembling as I stretched. This workout was very hard. And the first two exercises with the band burned my shoulders out more than anything. I felt the exercise primarily in my shoulders and biceps. In the future, I will use heavier dumbbells and not use the band at all. At one point during #1 I dropped the band because it got so painful and just used my dumbbells and guess what? I felt it in my chest! So I must be doing the exercise wrong when I use the band because it kills my shoulders and doesn’t seem to touch my chest. BTW–this workout didn’t just kill me. During the push ups Linda was visibly shaking and really struggling. She was also stalling starting the push ups every time–psyching herself up. This is a very hard, high rep workout. Which means you cannot lift heavy. During a Cathe workout or a Yvette Bachman workout I can lift much heavier for chest, but with the amount of reps you are doing in this workout, I was struggling with the weights I was using! I know I will have some DOMS–possibly severe–tomorrow, so I will check back and update this review. *Next day, I do have DOMS, but not nearly as painful as I expected it to be.

  1. With one end of the band and a DB in each hand, stand on middle of band, with arms bent and elbows at sides, push DBs up in front of you at chin height, bring ends of DBs together (singles, up 2/down 2, up 3/down 1, up 1/down 3) (6# DBs) (in the future I will use 9# DBs and no band)
  2. Repeat #1 w/ lighter weights (3# DBs) (in the future I will use 6# DBs and no band)
  3. Chest press on step (singles, down 2/up 2, down 3/up 1, singles alternating arms) (20# DBs)
  4. Repeat #3 w/ lighter weights (15# DBs)
  5. Chest flys (singles, 3 down/1 up, down 1/up 3, singles alternating arms) (18# DBs)
  6. Repeat #5 w/ lighter weights (15# DBs)
  7. Push ups (12 singles, down 2/up 2–8 reps, 8 reps–singles leaning to one side, 8 reps–singles leaning to other side)
  8. Repeat #7 w/ hands on step

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