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Third Time’s a Charm: Why Three Sets of Exercises are Optimal

3 sets exercise for optimal lean muscle mass


I love how Tone It Up has us doing three sets of all their Daily Moves for the Bikini Series. Because the third time really is a charm!

Three sets of each exercise is perfect for building lean muscle mass.

Let me show you what I mean.

The first set

The first set of an exercise is sort of a warm-up set. It gets your muscles used to the idea of a move. Your brain and muscle fibers start firing to meet the demands of the exercise.

The second set

The second set usually feels easier than the first set, because your body is warmed up now and your brain is ready for the moves this time. At this point, you’re starting to burn through major calories because all your systems are “go,” especially if you run through the sets with little rest in between moves.

The third set

The third set is what counts! On the third set, your muscles should be nearing fatigue. And if you remember this quote from Arnold Schwarzenegger, you’ll know why:


Arnold Schwarzenegger quote last reps count

Share me!


The last few repetitions of the last set are where change comes from.

Those are the repetitions that you need to burn through to create change.

Remember that next time you’re struggling at the end of your workout. The last few reps are where change comes from, so push through! You deserve it!

The result of this kind of training is lean muscle mass, exactly what most of us women want. Most of us aren’t working toward hypertrophy (muscle building) or athletic power. We’re just trying to lean out and build some definition.


How about you…

Where are my TIU girls at? How is the lean muscle building going for you?

Full-Body Back Porch Workout

So, I’ve been loving working out on my back porch lately on Mondays and Wednesdays, when I do my regular strength training. (Tues, Thurs and Sat are cardio/running and Fridays are Pilates/Yoga/Barre day).

I realized what an asset this natural setting is for workouts. Why work out inside when I can work out here, listening to the morning birds and crickets?


I’d also like to share the workout I did this morning with you. Feel free to pin it so you can try it out this week:


quick strength cardio circuit


I don’t have visuals of the moves, but you can easily Google them if you don’t know what they mean. I was thinking about Livestreaming parts of my workouts, so let me know in the comments if that’s something that would be helpful.

For this workout, I used 15 lb dumbbells to really burn out my muscles. And I just used the stopwatch clock on my smartphone to time the moves. The faster you go through the circuits, the more fat you’ll burn. I was dripping from head to toe after this!

Let me know in the comments: would you be interested in seeing my workouts Livestreamed?

Where is your favorite workout spot? #FlashMe your workout hideout.

I Got Published in the Huff Post

Eeeeee!!!! Yes I did!

I got published in the Huffington Post!

You’re definitely going to want to earmark this article for workout inspiration!

As a writer, this is a huge privilege and accomplishment. And let me tell you, I was totally fitness fan-girling at some of the people I got in contact with. Autumn Calabrese!!! Karena & Katrina!!! Lauren Gleisberg!!! If you’re a fitness nut, these are some of the celebrities in our world! I got well over 100 replies and selected only the best ones. And I tried to get a good variety in there as well.

I asked fitness entrepreneurs (the ones who live, breathe and eat fitness) how they would work out if they only had 30 minutes. Because if this is how they do it, then you know it must be effective!

This process completely validated the premise of my very own FlashFit workouts that I’ve been designing myself. Total-body strength training and cardio built into one 30 minute workout.

We can learn so much from some of the overarching themes I found:

  1. Do cardio intervals in between strength moves to increase calorie burn.
  2. OR shorten rest periods and move quickly from one move to the next (circuits).
  3. Target your biggest muscle groups as they’ll give you the most afterburn.
  4. Compound moves give you the most bang for your buck.
  5. Intervals are bomb.
  6. 30 minutes is more than enough time to work out every day.

So basically, to build a workout that’s the best use of your time, do one compound move followed by one minute of cardio until you reach 30 minutes. This will scorch the most fat and lean you out in the shortest time.

What do you do when you only have 30 minutes to work out?

Weekly Food and Fitness: What To Do When You Didn’t Meal Prep

**Hey there, I thought I’d bring back my rundown of my weekly workouts and menus to perhaps inspire others to prepare in advance for a week of healthy eating and give you menu and training ideas. Now that I have more of an established schedule and all, it’s easier for me to organize.

I have been doing at least 30 minutes of exercise every morning, 6 days a week, alternating strength training and cardio days. And for cardio, I’ve been alternating steady state and interval training.


Meal Prep:

Oh my goodness, this week was a bit “off” for me with no meal prep, but I’m hanging in there. We had unexpected company over on Sunday and didn’t get the chance to grocery shop or meal prep like we always do. I definitely don’t eat quite as healthy when this happens. But, I have a few tricks to share on what to do when you haven’t meal prepped, so you can still maintain a healthy diet.

1. Always have some backup food in the freezer or cupboard. I always have a supply of Boca Burgers in the freezer and usually a can of Amy’s soup in the cupboard. I also try to keep a few of those new Protein Steamers on hand. These are not entirely the “cleanest” meals ever, but they’re still very nutritious and a much better alternative.

2. Grab just a handful of ready-to-eat things at the grocery store–or even Kwik Trip! We grabbed eggs, cottage cheese and bananas to fill in my snack gaps for the week. There’s no reason to have to whip up something complicated every week.

3. Use dinner leftovers whenever possible. My hungry boys usually eat up everything we make for dinner, so this one can be a little difficult at times. But if I’m able, I will sneak away a few things before we start eating so I have food for the next day. This helps prevent me from having to go out to eat.

What do you normally do when you haven’t meal prepped for the week?

Weekly Food and Fitness

**Hey there, I thought I’d bring back my rundown of my weekly workouts and menus to perhaps inspire others to prepare in advance for a week of healthy eating and give you menu and training ideas. Now that I have more of an established schedule and all, it’s easier for me to organize.

I have been doing at least 30 minutes of exercise every morning, 6 days a week, alternating strength training and cardio days. And for cardio, I’ve been alternating steady state and interval training.


  • Monday: 30 min arms
  • Tuesday: 30 min interval run
  • Wednesday: 30 min legs (workout below)
  • Thursday: 30 min run
  • Friday
    • 30 min Tracy Anderson Precision Toning arms, abs and butt
    • 30 min brisk walk with a friend
  • Saturday: 35 min interval run
  • Sunday: 15 yoga from Slim Calm Sexy Yoga
Wednesday’s leg day looked like this. I broke the workout down into
circuits of three moves each. I did two sets of each move.
Friday’s workouts came from this DVD I just ordered on Amazon. I always like to do something different on Fridays, like barre or Pilates. Whereas, Mondays and Wednesdays are usually traditional strength training. The Tracy Anderson Method is one of those things I like to do on Fridays. Kills my muscles in a whole different way.
Sunday is always rest/active rest day and I did an active rest day this past week with a few stretches from this book. I like how Tara Stiles creates routines for different desired effects, like anxiety relief or muscle toning.

On the menu

  • Breakfast: smoothie, eggs and veggies
  • Snack: grapefruit
  • Lunch: rice salad (see below)
  • Snack: two hardboiled eggs + apple
  • Dinners: Asian drumsticks, broccoli chicken bake, hot dogs, chicken salad, etc.

My breakfasts always kinda look the same not only because I’m hooked but also because it’s such a good way to get lots of protein and extra veggies into my day. Plus, grapefruit are in season and I’m happy to partake. I had to make an extra-large batch of hardboiled eggs because Kayne is a huge fan and wanted his very own carton, haha! I’m happy to oblige. Eggs were on super sale, they’re easy to make, and I’m always happy when he requests a healthy snack.

I found this super simple rice bowl recipe in a recent issue of Shape Magazine I was reading on the treadmill. All it requires is white beans, tomatoes and rice along with a few ingredients for the dressing. The prep was so easy. It’s such a simple, cool, summery salad that goes perfect with the unseasonably warm temperatures we’ve been having this week in Wisconsin–like 64 degrees today!!
What’s it like where you live? How are you getting healthy this week?

Weekly Food and Fitness

**Hey there, I thought I’d bring back my rundown of my weekly workouts and menus to perhaps inspire others to prepare in advance for a week of healthy eating and give you menu and training ideas. Now that I have more of an established schedule and all, it’s easier for me to organize.

I have been doing at least 30 minutes of exercise every morning, 6 days a week, alternating strength training and cardio days. And for cardio, I’ve been alternating steady state and interval training.

Workout Schedule

  • Monday: 30 min 21 Day Fix Extreme
  • Tuesday: 30 min run
  • Wednesday: Rest, sick
  • Thursday: Rest, sick
  • Friday: 30 min Flashfit (my own workout)
  • Saturday: 35 min interval run
  • Sunday: Rest

This week was a bit of a bummer because I was sick for several days. The first day it hit, I had a wicked sore throat, and Hubster has been complaining about me snoring every day I’ve had the sore throat. Sorry Hubby!

On the menu this week:
  • Breakfast: superfood smoothie, eggs with veggies, grapefruit
  • Lunch: Quinoa Pecan Peach Salad from the Tone it Up Nutrition Plan
  • Snack: A hefty serving of squeaky clean cucumber salad
  • Dinners: we have clean parm chicken, ham and cheese sammies, homemade blueberry pancakes, pizza burgers, etc.

A photo posted by Jessica Collins (@boun_seejess) on
Look at this beast! I get excited every day when snacktime comes around. I made my cucumber salad with 3 cucumbers, 1/2 onion, a carton of cherry tomatoes and 1 can chickpeas. For the sauce, I used about 1.5 cups of plain Greek yogurt, garlic, vinegar and dill. I’m tellin’ ya, you don’t miss the mayo!
This week I also had an appointment with my doctor and asked him about my weight, again. And again, they checked my thyroid!!! That’s been checked so many times, my blood should have its own spot in the lab. I’m getting a bit frustrated. Thinking about doing a video about it, because I have a lot to say, haha! I’m eating pretty clean, working out 6 days a week, and my body is not responding whatsoever. My diet and food plan here would make anyone else lose weight…just not me. Oh well, will keep you posted on what I find out.

How to do the LiveFit Series at Home

For those of you that don’t know, bodybuilding.com offers a bunch of free 30 to 90 day fitness programs for both men and women on their website. You can choose a program to lose weight, muscle up and everything in between. I have tried the LifeFit Trainer before in the past and enjoyed it. It’s one of the most impressive workout and clean eating programs that I’ve seen anywhere for free. But, it requires access to a gym. Until now.

Hubster helped me film a video this weekend showing how to do Jamie Eason’s LiveFit Trainer at home. I filmed substitutes for most of the moves that require specific gym equipment. To do the LiveFit Trainer at home, you need little more than a chair, weights, resistance bands and maybe an exercise ball. I did a few moves in the video with ankle weights, but you could even skip those and put a weight plate between your feet instead.

  • Seated calf raise: use ankle weights and/or place a weight plate on top of your knees.
  • Leg curls: wear ankle weights, lie on your stomach and bend legs behind you. Keep upper thighs off floor to make it tougher.
  • Leg extensions: put on ankle weights, use a sturdy chair and do extensions. You may also put a weight plate between your ankles.
  • Adductor: Squeeze an inflatable ball between the thighs.
  • Abductor: wrap tubing around upper thighs and perform an abductor press.
  • Back extensions: perform on ball
  • Reverse Fly: belly on ball, do a reverse fly.
  • Cable Rope Overhead Extension: Stand on one end of a resistance tube and perform a tricep extension with the other end.
  • Leg press: it’s difficult to do this move at home, but you can do heavy squats to get a similar effect. Use heavy weights or resistance tubing to intensify the squats.
  • T-bar row: perform rows with similar arm position using a heavy dumbbell.
  • Incline Press and Decline Crunch: any incline/decline moves can be done on a stepper. Put the risers under one side of the step to create the slant.
  • Standing calf raise: hang heels off any step in your home and lift up onto the balls of your feet.
  • Seated cable rows: I wind my rubber tubing around my treadmill and do them that way. Use thicker brands and choke up on the bands as you get stronger.
  • Triceps Pushdown: anchor the stretch tubing a little higher and perform the move.
  • Lat Pulldown: same position as triceps pushdown, perform a pulldown.
  • Underhand Cable Pulldown: same as lat pulldown, but switch hand position to underhand.
  • Cable Crunch: same anchor point, grab both ends of the tubing in your hands and perform a kneeling crunch.
  • Straight Arm Pulldown: same anchor point, pull arms straight down to your sides.
  • Cable Crossovers: I wound my tubing around both handles of the treadmill and did the crossovers kneeling.
  • Donkey calf raises: my little boy happily obliged climbing onto my back to do these.
  • Roman chair leg lifts: use the corner of your kitchen cupboards to rest your arms on. You can still pull your knees up to target abs.
Not shown:

  • Hanging leg raises and pullups: use your pull-up bar or monkey bars at the park. I don’t have these in the video because I didn’t have the equipment readily available while I was filming.
  • Lying T-bar row: belly on ball, perform a row

I hope this helps some of you tackle this excellent program at home. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments.

Weekly Workout Rundown

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  • 50 min 12WBT run in the AM with 10 min hard intervals
  • Tuesday:

  • 50 min 12WBT total body tone in the AM
  • 30 min casual walk with mom at lunch
  • Wednesday:

  • 50 min treadmill interval run in the PM, 3.43 miles
  • Thursday:

  • 50 min 12WBT run in the AM with 10 min of hard intervals
  • 30 min moderate walk at lunch
  • Friday:

  • 25 min brisk walk with 5-10% incline at lunch
  • 50 min 12WBT yoga stretch in the PM

  • Saturday:

  • 55 min 12WBT run with 10 min hard intervals

  • Sunday:

  • Rest
  • Friday’s lunch workout is what happens when a girl forgets her workout bra. #FitnessGirlProblems. If I couldn’t run, I could certainly walk on enough of an incline to get my heart rate just as high. It worked! I swear, I need a checklist or something for those lunchtime workouts. I’m always forgetting my towel or gym shoes or something. Ha!

    This week, I’m entering the 4th and final week of my 12WBT preview. I’m going to be sorry to see this program go, but I might just sign up for it when it goes live in the US. I’d totally pay for it! You must check into it if you’re looking for a fitness plan that not only helps you with food and fitness, but also motivation and underlying issues that might be preventing you from losing weight. The food alone is worth so much in my book–it takes sooo much guesswork out of food prep and most of the recipes are super easy and practical. And you’ll find your favorite things in there, like nachos! I printed the recipes and had them bound in a notebook so I will always have them as a reference.

    I’m going to start creating my own workout schedule this week, so I’m prepared to challenge myself once the program is over. I’m definitely going to set it up like this plan though. Three days of cardio and abs, two days of strength training, one day of yoga stretch, and at least one day of complete rest. I’ve neglected yoga for awhile now and could really use the release, flexibility and calm in my life. I always love it when I do it, I just don’t always actually do it. I also think core work is absolutely essential and highly neglected. In my NASM training, core work is prescribed for every workout, so this plan is even in line with my studies. I can’t wait!

    Side note: I’ve decided that these weekly workout posts definitely need more pictures, so I’m going to make an effort to include some “setting” pictures for you, to make it more interesting and motivating. Perhaps inspirational images, pretty views from my lunch walks, or sneak peeks into my very own workouts. What do you think?

    How do you plan your week in workouts? Do you follow a prescribed plan or make up your own?

    Weekly Workout Rundown

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    • 45 min 12WBT cardio and abs in the AM
    • 25 min LiveFit legs at lunch
    • 50 min 12WBT total body tone in the AM
    • 30 min mod walk with mom at lunch
    • 50 min 12WBT Tabata cardio in the AM
    • rest
    • 25 min run at lunch
    • 50 min 12WBT yoga stretch in the PM


    • Rest


    • Rest

    Well, I ran myself down pretty good this week. I had to skip workouts on Thursday and Saturday because I was feeling really rundown and sick-like. I came down with a cold, but the effects were widespread and I was pretty much out of commission. There were many naps and curling up in blankets involved. The weekend was kind of a bummer, but I’m feeling much better today. And Hubster and I were able to sneak in a secret breakfast date on Sunday morning because we were up so early with the time change, so not all was lost.

    The 12 Week Body Transformation is so great, aside from the restrictive calories. Just to show you how restrictive, I followed the food to a “T” a few days, and Tuesday night I went to bed feeling hungry and ended up not being able to fall asleep for quite a long time because of my hunger. I finally went downstairs and ate some cottage cheese and then slept like a baby. Those 1200 calories are definitely not enough to live on with that kind of activity. I wore my HR monitor, and we’re killing like 800 calories with these workouts. 1200-800=400 calories to live on. Not enough!!! I am however really loving the workouts and the new recipes. The forums and myriads of motivational videos are really inspiring. The 12WBT crew is quick to answer any questions you might have, which is like having personal trainers and nutritionists at your beckon call.

    This week, I plan on easing back into the plan a bit, doing more of the beginner moves than the advanced ones. I’m still stuffy and recovering, and I don’t want to feel like I did toward the end of last week again, that’s for sure.

    Next weekend, we’re heading out on a small weekend trip to soak up the last of fall here in Wisconsin. We’re staying at a little cabin relatively close to home and it’s Hubster’s birthday weekend. We’re planning on doing a whole lot of nothing. And by nothing I mean, some casual hiking, picture-taking, apple roasting, movie-watching and partaking in some other comfy fall pleasures. This fall trip is meant to be a yearly tradition of going away. We went to Crivitz and visited waterfalls last year. You can read the story of this yearly tradition there. Can’t wait to share the weekend pleasures with you next week!

    How was your week?

    Weekly Workout Rundown

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    • 45 min LiveFit quads and calves in the AM
    • 25 min run at lunch, 2.22 miles
    • 45 min arms and back in the AM
    • 30 min PM run outside, 2.63 miles
    • 45 min chest, abs and shoulders in the AM
    • 30 min run at lunch, 2.45 miles
    • 50 min hams, glutes and calves in the AM
    • 25 min run at lunch, 2.23 miles
    • 45 min arms in the PM
    • 50 min chest and triceps
    • 30 min run, 2.63 miles
    • Rest
    This week, I start the 11th week of the LiveFit Trainer. This week and next are about pumping out 30 of each exercise all without stopping, then repeating the circuit 2 more times. All the exercises change every two weeks, which is what I love about this program. You never do a set of exercises more than twice. This not only prevents boredom, but it also keeps the body from adapting.
    I’ve finally decided what training program I’m going to start after this. I’ve been invited to try out the first 5 weeks of the Michelle Bridges 12 Week Body Transformation. The program hasn’t launched officially in the US yet. It’s still in testing mode here, so I’m really excited to be a test dummy before it’s even released! I’m doing some of the “preseason” work which includes eliminating excuses, taking measurements, setting goals and that sort of thing. I’m very familiar with all of these techniques already, but it’s still healthy to reclaim and face these goals and hurdles every once in awhile.
    In the most exciting news for the week, I have purchased another website that I’m hoping to fuse with this blog, officially opening up shop as a personal trainer. I had to do a lot of research and brainstorming to get this thing rolling. In fact, I had the perfect name picked out and found out someone already owned it. I even contacted the owner, who wasn’t ready to relinquish the domain. I came up with the most brilliant solution, and I’m so happy with where this is going. The website is only in its infant stages, but when it’s ready, you’ll be the first to know!
    How did you MOVE this week?