Q: I’ve been reading about the 4X training and am wondering if you have any advice on how to use it with a full-body three-days-per-week routine. I just started using the 4X method for each bodypart. I do one exercise per muscle. Monday I do chest, shoulders, back, bi’s, tri’s, abs, legs. Wednesday I do the same body parts but in a different order and using different exercises. The same goes for Friday. I take the weekend off. I’m drug-free, so I think I’ve been overtraining till now. I’m hoping that 4X will help spark some new gains.
A: That sounds like a great plan for building more mass. First, skeptical readers need to realize that three-days-per-week programs can do incredible things. We discuss the Colorado Experiment in Size Surge 2.0 and 3D Muscle Building, a four-week research project in which Casey Viator gained 60 pounds of muscle…
Granted, he was really regaining muscle, which is easier than building it from scratch, but that’s still an incredible feat (even if he was on steroids as many claim). Note that he was also eating everything in sight; he was NOT trying to get lean—plus, he had superior genetics for bodybuilding…
Now, you’re not on steroids and probably more on in the average-genetics category, so using 4X* on one exercise per bodypart while hitting each muscle three times a week should give you a new burst of growth—especially if you’ve been overtraining. Full-body workouts can be draining—but 4X can make them less so…
That’s because the 4X method helps minimize cortisol so you aren’t as catabolic postworkout. With 4X you use medium poundages with only the last set to muscular exhaustion, but the volume and short rests allow you to blast the majority of high-growth muscle fibers without excess stress (that’s explained in the 4X Mass Workout).
After a few weeks of total-4X training, you may want to mix it up with some 3X pyramid sequences. That’s taking your same 4X starting weight for 10 reps, rest 30 seconds and add weight. Set 2 you go to failure with the heavier weight (you’ll probably get 9 or 10). Rest 30 seconds, put on a bit more weight and go to exhaustion again on the last set for 7 or 8 reps.
With a 3X pyramid, you get some variation from 4X while hitting the muscles with a somewhat different stress—heavier weights for more power emphasis. It is a bit more intense than standard 4X, and that’s why we suggest not doing a 3X pyramid on every exercise at every workout. A good size strategy is to do half the body parts on Monday with 3X and the other half on Friday. Make Wednesday total 4X. Here’s an example…
Monday: chest (4X), shoulders (3X), back (4X), bi’s (3X), tri’s (3X), abs (4x), legs (3X)
Wednesday: chest (4X), shoulders (4X), back (4X), bi’s (4X), tri’s (4X), abs (4X), legs (4X)
Friday: chest (3X), shoulders (4x), back (3X), bi’s (4X), tri’s (4X), abs (3X), legs (4X)
Considering a 4X or 3X sequence only takes about 5 minutes, those workouts should last about an hour—10 exercises times 5 minutes equals 50 minutes, not counting setup time.
Try 4X mixed with 3X and you’ll pack on more muscle you’ll be proud to flex…
*Note: For those not familiar with 4X training, you take a weight with which you can get 15 reps, but you only do 10. Rest 30 seconds, then do 10 more. And so on until you complete 4 sets of 10—although on the last set you should hit muscular failure before 10 reps. If you get 10 on the fourth set, use a heavier weight for the 4X sequence at your next workout. Keep in mind, however, that 4X is a concentrated muscle-SIZE-BUILDING method, not a strength-building protocol. You will get gradual strength increases, but packing on maximum mass is the main event.
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
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