Q: You’ve mentioned Stage Sets. What are those, and should I use them to get more size? Also, are Smith-machine squats a midrange exercise for quads or hamstrings in the Positions-of-Flexion mass-training system? I’ve seen it classified as both.
A: We discuss Stage Sets as one of our favorite X-hybrid techniques in Beyond X-Rep Muscle Building, along with Double-X Overload and X-Fade. We first tried Stage Sets after reading about them in one of Ellington Darden’s High-Intensity Training books back in the ’80s. So what the heck is a Stage Set?
You break the exercise stroke into three sections, and you do the hardest third first. For example, on lateral raises, the TOP end of the stroke is the hardest. That section of the exercise is where the dumbbells are at a point even with your lower pecs up to where they are just above shoulder level.
So you do that top section for about six to eight “third” reps. After those, you lower the dumbbells to about waist height and raise up to a point even with your lower pecs. That section of the stroke is the second hardest. Do eight “third” reps there.
Last, you lower the dumbbells all the way—to where they’re in front of your thighs. Now raise them out to waist level. Do eight “third” reps there at the bottom of the stroke. Your side-delt heads should be on fire!
If you’re using the 4X mass method, rest 35 seconds, then hit another Stage Set—and so on for four sets. (Note that there are other variations in Beyond X, which is part of the 3-E-book Unreal Deal below).
Obviously the weight you use for a Stage Set will be considerably lighter than what you use for a normal set. And if you’re using 4X, the first two rounds should be fairly easy—you won’t be struggling, but your delt pump will blowing up big time…
By round three, you should be struggling to get eight in each STAGE. But the pain-to-gain is worth it. You’ll get a long tension time and unique muscle-fiber stress on every Stage Set. Your sarcoplasmic size should explode with NEW GROWTH.
As for your second question, you can use Smith-machine squats as your midrange exercise for quads; however, your feet should be directly under your hips…
If you move your feet forward, you bring in your hamstrings more, so it becomes a midrange move for hams. You may want to do them with the bar in front for more perfect form, as Jonathan shows—but front or back is a good midrange ham attack…
So to follow true Positions-of-Flexion full-range mass-building protocol, you would do: Smith-machine squats (midrange), sissy squats (stretch), and leg extensions (contracted) for quads…
For hamstrings you would do FEET-FORWARD Smith-machine squats (midrange), semi-stiff-legged deadlifts (stretch), and leg curls (contracted).
And if you want to do Stage Sets on either version of Smith-machine squat, you would do the bottom third first for six to eight reps, the middle third second and the top third last. Growth burn? You bet—it will turn up your muscle-size jets.
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Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
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