At some point in your life you will no longer be able to train heavy. Or maybe you’ll just be sick and tired of getting aching joints while seeking an extra quarter-inch of arm muscle. Either way, you’ll need a new way to gain.
Readers of IRON MAN are familiar with my 4X method, and I recently retooled it as F4X for the general public. That’s because it works for serious trainees and is also especially suited to aging neophytes. All that’s required for those not serious about adding slabs of muscle is to use less volume.
For example, in the e-book that introduces F4X to the masses, Old School New Body, the base “Lean” workout is only four exercises—but even that small amount performed a few days a week in F4X style can trigger new muscle as well as bodyfat annihilation for newbies. The short rests between sets are the primary reason, and they also help ensure natural growth hormone release. GH is a key to many anti-aging mechanisms, including stronger joints, a fortified immune system and less bodyfat.
For the uninitiated, a 4X, or F4X, sequence is as follows: Pick a weight with which you can do 15 reps, but only do 10; rest 35 seconds, and then do it again. Repeat for four sets, and on the last one go all out—to muscular failure. That’s the money set. If you get 10, you can add a small amount of weight at your next workout.
While the last, all-out set is critical, all sets add to the cumulative fat-burning, body-transformation effects. It’s very important to make every repetition a consistent tempo—lift in one second and lower in three—so every rep takes about four seconds.
That’s the key: moderate-weight, high-muscle-fatigue training, at least 10 reps per set so you get 40 seconds of tension time on each. That taxes the working muscles on many levels (as explained in Old School New Body). For one thing, muscles worked in the F4X style will recover after your workout, and the recovery energy will pump up your metabolism so you burn more fat. That’s how interval cardio works too, and if you think about it, F4X is really just interval weight training with a cardio edge.
That’s because of the short rests between sets—F4X will tax your cardiovascular system, especially when you’re training your larger bodyparts like back and quads and hips. You will be breathing hard and raising your pulse rate, a key to faster fat burning.
One way to vary the muscular stress and amplify the cardio effect and fat burning is to do only three sets instead of four but increase your reps to 12 per set. So you do 3 x 12 per exercise, still resting 35 seconds between sets.
Or go for 3 x 15. With the higher rep range you will have to use a slightly lighter weight—which isn’t a bad thing in most cases. You will increase the cardio benefits, enhance fat burning and also get new muscle stimulation.
Using higher reps means you stress the muscles in a unique way, breaking ground for new recovery requirements outside the gym. That means a higher metabolic rate—you burn more bodyfat even when you’re sitting still as your muscle rebuild. Exciting stuff.
Moving up the effort ladder, there is also tension-overload repetition quantity, or TORQ. That’s three sets, but you rest 45 seconds between sets. The extra time is necessary because you use the same weight on all sets; however, you do 30, 20 and 15 reps. Talk about muscle burn for a growth hormone cascade.
Give the F4X method a try, especially if you’re older. Just because your age derails heavy training doesn’t mean you have to stop gaining. —Steve Holman
Editor’s note: For more on the F4X system and weight training for anti-aging and well-being, see Old School New Body, available at OldSchoolNewBody.com, or for a more hardcore look, see The 4X Mass Workout 2.0, available at X-Workouts