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Fast Reps, Faster Mass Gains?

ironmanmagazine.comQ: In The Ultimate Super Size Crash Course you talk about how doing a speed [or X-celeration] set immediately after a heavier set can help activate more muscle fibers for extra growth. I’m older, so the heaviest I do is a 4X sequence, using my 15-rep-max weight. Can I superset a speed set after each set in a 4X sequence? I would imagine it would be great for stimulating new mass on every set.

A: As you know, I’m all in favor of experimentation. In this case I suggest you cut down the 4X to a 3X.

If you recall, in The Super Size Crash Course I added an X-celeration set to the last, heaviest set of a Downward-Progression sequence. That’s the 4X method on which you add weight to every set, resting 45 seconds between sets. Reps go something like this: 12, 10, 8, 6 (12 X-celeration).

You use half the weight of your six-rep set for your X-cel set and do it immediately after.

What you’re suggesting is using an X-celeration set after each regular set. In that case your reps might look like this: 10 (12), 8 (10), 6 (8). You use the same weight for all of the regular-speed sets and a lighter weight for the X-cel sets. Rest 45 seconds between drop-set combos.

In some cases you should use a similar but different exercise for the X-cel sets. For example, if you’re doing close-grip bench presses for triceps, you can’t strip the bar fast enough, so use bench dips for your X-cel sets.

A similar hyper-hypertrophic method is complex training. Here’s what Olympic coach Charles Poliquin says about it:

“With complex training, athletes achieve hypertrophy through a combination of lifting maximal loads (1-5RM) and fast eccentric training (plyometrics). One example is to superset six sets of five reps in the squat with five reps of hurdle jumps. The rationale is that the heavy sets tap into the high-threshold motor units, and the plyometric work creates muscle fiber damage that leads to the positive adaptation, or hypertrophy, of the high-threshold fast-twitch type 2B fibers.”

So that version is a five-rep heavier set followed by a speed set of a similar exercise. Older trainees will do better with the 3X method described above—more moderate-weight sets followed by speed.

Another method you can try is doing an exercise in X-centric style first, raising in one second and lowering in six. When you can no longer lower in six seconds, you launch into a speed set on the same exercise with the same weight, no rest. Talk about an unreal mass-building feel.

The bottom line is that X-celeration is a great way to train to “speed” muscle gains.

—Steve Holman


Editor’s note: For more on moderate-weight growth-threshold 4X mass training, see the The 4X Mass Workout 2.0 and The Ultimate Super-Size Crash Course, available at For e-books on X Reps, fat-loss nutriton and bodypart specialization, visit the X-Shop at

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