Q: I love 4X training. It’s gotten me bigger than I’ve ever been, but my gains have leveled off. I’m thinking about doing the last set in stage style for more intensity. Do you think that will work? Any tips if I try it?
A: We love experimentation. It can make good gains great, so we say try it on for SIZE…
Let’s start by explaining the 4X method for our new readers who aren’t familiar: You pick a weight with which you can get 15 reps, but you only do 10; rest 30 to 45 seconds, then do 10 more—and so on until you complete four sets. If you get 10 reps on your last set, you add weight to that exercise at your next workout….
Now, to do a stage set on your fourth set, you’ll have to reduce the weight somewhat. We introduced that tactic in Beyond X-Rep Muscle Building. Here’s the description for Smith-machine incline presses from that e-book…
Unhook the safety catches and then lower the bar to about an inch above your upper chest. From there you drive 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-streched position, and so on, doing low-range partials till you can’t stand the burn. You’re essentially doing piston-like exaggerated X Reps right off the bat…
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.
You continue with those top-end partials till failure. You’ll probably get five to eight of those, depending on the exercise. And as we mention in the Beyond X-Rep e-book, stage sets will NOT work on all exercises. For those, you could use standard end-of-set X Reps on that fourth set of your 4X sequence, or one of the other X-hybrid tactics from Beyond X.
As we’ve said, the last set of a 4X sequence is a great place for other change-to-gain tactics. For example, you could reduce the weight and instead of Stage do an X-centric set—that is, negative-accentuated training. With NA you do one second on the positive stroke and six seconds on the negative stroke. That’s a great way to get both a longer tension time (around 50 seconds if you do 7 reps) and more growth-inducing trauma from the negative emphasis (it’s one of our favorite Fat-to-Muscle tactics as well).
You can use just about any mass tactic on set number four—Stage, X-centric, even supersets, drop sets, and more. Take your pick to get BIG quick.
NOTE: The Beyond X-Rep Muscle Building e-book is only $12. It contains X-Rep info as well as X-hybrid techniques like X Fade, Stage Sets, and X/Pause training. There’s also a bonus chapter on Mr. Olympia Ronnie Coleman’s workout, analyzed from an X-Rep perspective.
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
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