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Do Three Quick Sets for Major Muscle Mass

Q: At your training blog [at] I notice that you often do Downward-Progression 4X with only three sets instead of four. It looks like you add weight so your reps are 12, 10, 8. I like the idea of three sets because I do more than one compound exercise for each muscle. Will adding more weight to each set—so my reps are 12, 8, 5—work? I like to go heavier.


ironmanmagazine.comA: The reason I keep my last set at around eight reps is that I’m old—54. Jonathan Lawson, my former training partner, who now lives in Kansas, on the other hand, likes to take his reps lower. He’s only 40. So, yes, I’d give the thumbs-up to your idea if you’re not over 50 like me.

For those not familiar with standard DP 4X, you start with your 15-rep-max weight, but you do only 12. Rest 45 seconds as you add weight, and do 10. Rest 45 seconds as you add weight, and do eight. Rest 45 seconds as you add weight one last time, and go to failure, shooting for six reps. It’

s a 12-10-8-6 sequence.

You will be adding a bit more weight on each set and doing only three, so your reps will go 12, 8, 5. One thing you may want to try, at least on some of your compound exercises, is to do a drop set after your last five-rep set. So your downward progression would look like this: 12, 8, 5 (10-12).

Don’t use a standard tempo on the drop; go for speed—1.5 seconds per rep for 10 to 12 reps.

In the new e-book, Super-Size Crash Course, I suggest dropping your last weight by half. So if you use 80-pound dumbbells for inclines, drop to the 40s.

I also note that dropping weight on barbell exercises, like bench presses or squats, is difficult and takes too much time. In that case I suggest moving to a different but similar exercise.

I provide a number of examples in Super-Size Crash Course, such as bench presses to pushups, squats to dumbbell squats and so on. By using a different exercise, you will be able to move to the speed, or X-celeration, set immediately after your last heavy set—with almost zero rest.

Moving quickly into a speed set is one of the best ways to activate dormant 2A and 2B growth fibers safely and trigger a new surge of super size.

—Steve Holman


Editor’s note: For more on moderate-weight growth-threshold 4X mass training, including  the new e-book, The Ultimate Super-Size Crash Course, visit For e-books on X Reps, fat-loss nutrition and bodypart specialization, visit the X-Shop at

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