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Joint Pain and 4X

www.ironmanmagazine.comQ: I’m in my late 40s and having trouble letting go of training heavy. I’ve tried the 4X mass method and actually gotten good muscle size from all-4X, but I just feel that I need some heavier sets at every workout. Unfortunately, my joints are pretty beaten up from doing heavy, low-rep work over the years. Should I just tough it out—do heavy sets on the big exercise first for every -bodypart and then do 4X on the stretch and contracted moves?

A: Joint pain. Yes, I’ve had my share. It’s one reason that, at age 53, I went to moderate-weight, high-fatigue, growth-threshold 4X training on almost all exercises—and my joint pain disappeared. If I decided to experiment with some heavier stimulation, I’d do it using  modified preexhaustion. So I would start with a 4X sequence on the isolation exercise—a targeted hit—and then move to the big exercise and do a pyramid. The delt routine might be this:


Lateral raises (4X) 4 x 10


DB presses (pyramid) 3 x 8, 7, 5-6


One-arm cable laterals (4X) 4 x 10

The preliminary 4X prefatigue work on laterals causes your presses to be somewhat lighter than if you did them first, but they are still heavier than if you were doing a 4X sequence. You go close to failure at eight reps, add weight, rest two minutes, and then go for seven reps. Add weight one last time as you rest two minutes and then shoot for five to six reps.

Note that you should take two-minute rests between sets on the pyramid, not the 40 seconds required for the 4X mass method.

Even though you’re not supersetting, you still get a lot of prefatigue in the target muscle from the first single-joint move—laterals in this case—and you should feel the big, compound exercise more.

You finish with a 4X sequence on the stretch-position exercise, one-arm cable laterals.

If on the above routine the presses continue to hurt your shoulders, try a double-modified preexhaustion attack: Move the cable laterals to the second exercise, still done in 4X style, and end with your pyramid on presses.

So for some heavier work—but not joint-jolting heavy—one of the modified preex methods should fill the bill. Take your pick to get bigger and stronger quick.

Editor’s note: Steve Holman is the author of many bodybuilding best-sellers and the creator of Positions-of-Flexion muscle training. For information on the POF DVD and Size Surge programs, see the ad sections in this issue. Also visit  and
for info on X-Rep, 4X and 3D POF methods and e-books.  IM

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