Q: I recall from some of your previous newsletters that you’ve done something called stage sets. What are those?
A: The stage technique is a great one for jolting new muscle growth because it does two critical things: emphasizes the semi-stretch point of the exercise’s stroke and extends tension time on the target muscle. Let’s look at Smith machine squats as an example…
To apply the stage technique, squat down deep, then come up to just above the halfway point—like an exaggerated X Rep. In other words, do the bottom two-thirds of the stroke for as many of those semi-stretch-emphasizing reps as possible. When you can’t do any more, drive to full lockout. Now squat down about one-third of the way and rep out at the top. You can even flex your quads at lockout on each of those top-end reps to fuel the burn.
Now, it doesn’t work well for all exercises. For example, on upright rows you’d have to do the top range first, which is the contracted position, not the semi-stretch point. And on curls you’d probably have to use cable curls because a barbell has too much of a leverage shift. (If you try it on cable curls, do the bottom two-thirds of the stroke first, then have your partner help you to the top for top-end reps.)
It does work well on most exercises with a lockout, like overhead presses, incline presses, dips, and pushups. On some of those, you may need help to get to the lockout for your top-end partials, but the growth burn you get is well worth it.
Note: For more on stage sets, as well as other X-hybrid techniques, see the Beyond X-Rep Muscle Building e-book.
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.