Q: I’m making great strides in muscle gains with the 4X mass method from your newsletters. I do 10 to 12 reps per set, but I’ve seen that you sometimes recommend up to 30 reps. What’s up with that, and does that actually work for you guys?
A: We often use higher reps within the 4X-sequence framework, and it’s done amazing things for us and many of our trainees.
It works because the OPTIMAL hypertrophic tension time is 40 to 90 seconds. A lot of bodybuilders never reach 40 seconds on any set—and even fewer hit the 60-to-90-second higher range. (Maybe that’s why the majority make such slow gains.)
Getting into the UPPER hypertrophic tension time can trigger significant new mass via more sarcoplasmic expansion. That energy fluid in the muscle blows up best with longer time under tension. And that eventually results in extreme muscle SIZE. (We go into more detail in the 4X Mass Workout 2.0, which includes tension-overload programs).
We don’t do 30 reps on every set though. Our preferred method is 30 reps on set 1—which is very close to failure. Rest close to 40 seconds, then go to failure again, which usually occurs around rep 20-25. Rest about 40 seconds again, then go to failure, usually hitting 15 reps or so.
The first 30-rep set, at 2 to 3 seconds per rep, gives you 60 to 90 seconds of tension time—the UPPER tension time for hypertrophy. And even the 20-rep set should give you almost a full minute…
On some compound exercises, like dumbbell bench presses, we can add weight on each set and still hit the 30-20-15 rep goals.
However, if we use it on an isolation move, we usually have to stick with the same weight all the way through—or the reps fall too much from set to set.
So to recap: Pick a weight with which you can get 30 reps—and try to do 30. The burn will be fierce. Rest 40 seconds, then shoot for 20 reps. Rest 40 seconds, then grind out 15. Each set should be to failure or very close.
Also, we don’t do every exercise with a 30-20-15 sequence, although you could for a SHOCK EFFECT. Here’s a sample triceps routine from the new Tension-Overload program in our 4X Mass Workout 2.0…
Midrange: Close-grip bench presses (4X), 4 x 10
Stretch: Cable pushouts (4X), 3 x 10
Contracted: Pushdowns (4X), 3 x 30, 20, 15
That’s one way to use TORQ (tension overload repetition quantity). You can switch it up and do the 30-20-15 sequence on the first exercise every so often or the stretch-position move (that’ll get you seriously sore, as stretch produces major microtears in the myofibrils—a total of 65 stretches; more on that in 4X 2.0, with a full workout).
Mr. America Doug Brignole starts his version with 50 reps, adds weight, and progresses downward in reps from there. He gained more muscle at a record pace with higher reps—two to four pounds per month!
It hurts, but it works—new pain for extreme muscle gains.
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
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