Q: The Positions-of-Flexion program in The 4X Mass Workout is filling out my muscles faster than anything I’ve ever tried. Thank you. I’m wondering what you think about doing something weird on the last set [of a 4X sequence]. I’ve been doing a drop set every so often or a superset with another exercise just on that last set. Is that okay, or should I stick with straight sets with 4X?
A: I’m a staunch proponent of any and all types of training experimentation. You have to keep an open mind and try new things; that’s exactly how Jonathan Lawson, my training partner, and I hit on 4X training. When you read how to do 4X, it doesn’t sound as if it will work to build mass—but it does, big time.
For a 4X sequence, you take a weight with which you can get 15 reps, but you do only 10. Rest 30 seconds, and then do 10 more. Rest for 30 seconds again, and strive for another 10. Rest for 30 seconds one last time, and get as close to 10 as you can.
What you’re proposing is a drop set on that fourth set. So once you hit exhaustion, you reduce the poundage and immediately rep out again, getting around six more reps. Here’s what it looks like on dumbbell upright rows:
Dumbbell upright rows (4X) 4 x 10, 10, 10, 9(6)
Notice that you’ve essentially done five sets, four in a 4X sequence plus a drop set added to the last one for even more extended tension time and fiber recruitment. Exending the last set with a drop should give you more sarcoplasmic expansion in the endurance consituents of the key 2A growth fibers.
Or, as you said, you could hit exhaustion on that fourth set and immediately move to another exercise and rep out. For example, you could follow dumbbell upright rows with lateral raises to really blow out the medial-delt heads.
Another last-set-roulette option is the 3X + NA method. For that you do a 3X sequence, with 30 seconds between sets. After the third set you rest 30 seconds again but reduce the weight and do a negative-accentuated set on your fourth—that’s one second on the positive and six seconds on the negative of every rep.
An NA set gives you about 50 seconds of tension time if you do seven reps. That’s a unique type of stress for most trainees that packs on mass fast. Look around any gym, and you’ll see that work sets rarely last longer than 20 seconds—not good considering that max hypertrophy occurs at around 40 seconds of tension time.
Oh, and the X-centric emphasis also creates excess muscle trauma, which requires energy, or bodyfat burn, to repair the extra microtears. That’s why it’s one of our favorite fat-to-muscle tactics. If you use NA sets correctly, they can provide mass upticks in both the myofibrils and sarcoplasm, as we explain in our new free e-book, Secrets to Ultimate Muscle Growth. It’s available at X-Rep.com and IronManMagazine.com, no charge—and I guarantee it will change the way you train—and gain.
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 videos and Size Surge programs, visit www.X-Rep.com for information on X-Rep and 3D POF methods and e-books. IM