Q: I read in one of your previous articles where you mentioned that you sometimes do Stage Sets. What are Stage Sets, and is that a good mass technique for me?
A: Many years ago, even before we developed X-Rep partials, we noticed that every time we introduced Stage Sets to our workouts, we got sudden muscularity and vascularity increases—and now we know why: The technique is essentially a unique type of X overload—an intense out-of-the-blocks blast right at the max-force point where the target muscle is semi-stretched, like near the bottom of an incline press…
Here’s how a Stage Set works for Smith-machine incline presses. You position yourself on the incline bench, grip slightly wider than your shoulders. Unhook the safety catches and then lower the bar to about an inch above your upper chest. Without pausing, you blast it back up, but only to just slightly higher than the midpoint of the stroke.
When you reach that point, lower back to the semi-stretch position, and so on, doing low-range partials till you can’t stand the burn. Notice that you’re essentially doing piston-like exaggerated X Reps right off the bat through the max-force point, which is how pro bodybuilders and former Mr. Olympia winners like Jay Cutler and Ronnie Coleman would train most of their exercises, but we take it a step further.
When you can’t do another exaggerated X Rep—you should get about 10 of those lowdown partials—get the bar to lockout, with help from your partner. Now you do the top stage of the stroke. First, squeeze your pecs hard, contracting them in the lockout position, then lower through about the top one-third of the movement. Blast back to the top and squeeze your pecs again. Flex at lockout on every one of those top-end reps.
We like to do a Stage Set as the last set for an exercise. They work exceptionally well for most types of squats and any type of press—flat, incline, decline, and even leg presses. You get extended tension time and a division of work that provides unique mass-building stimulation. Try it, and prepare to grow!
Note: For more on Stage Sets as well as many other X-hybrid mass techniques, see the Beyond X-Rep Muscle Building e-book. It also contains our complete post-X-Rep-year program that incorporates many of those fast-mass techniques, taking our physiques to a new level of impressiveness. For photos and more info, see our Beyond X-Rep page.
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
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