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One Intra-Set Change

Q: I love 4X because it’s 10 reps per set, so I get the “hypertrophic tension time” of more than 40 seconds. My workout partner likes DP 4X better, adding weight each set as the reps decrease—12, 10, eight, six—but I feel the last two sets are not enough tension time for the best growth stimulation. Should we alternate, doing 4X at one workout and DP 4X at the other? We are both in our 40s, by the way.

A: Yes, you can alternate those methods. Doing DP 4X at one workout and then standard 4X at the next will give you more of a semi-heavy/semi-light variation for new mass creation. Very good for a change-to-gain effect.

Or you can use DP 4X continuously for a while—but with a tension-time tweak. At one workout use either rest/pause or a drop set on the last two sets in the sequence to satisfy your need for longer tension times.

For example, your incline dumbbell presses might look like this:

Incline dumbbell presses (DP 4X)
4 x 12, 10, 8(4), 6(4)

So on set three you hit failure at eight reps, grab lighter dumbbells, and then rep out for four more.
You use more weight on the fourth set. Try to get six, then grab lighter dumbbells and rep out for around four more.

If you choose the rest/pause route, you don’t need lighter dumbbells—so it’s a bit less cumbersome. On set three get eight reps, put the ’bells on your knees for 10 seconds, then clean them up and rep out for three or four more.

Do the same on the fourth set. You’ll have slightly heavier dumbbells, so go for six reps. Then rest for 10 seconds, flip the dumbbells up into position, and rep out for three or four more.
The last set is the real money—or growth—set, so you can just alter that one. Do a double-drop set or two rest/pause sets there, and leave set three as a single eight-rep set. If you choose that route, here’s how it would look:

Incline dumbbells presses (DP 4X)
4 x 12, 10, 8, 6(4)(3)

Again, that last set has you either immediately going to lighter dumbbells for drop sets or staying with the same weight for 10-second rest/pauses. Those small changes make for big muscle gains.
Bottom line: You can extend your last set or two to stir the hypertrophy stew.

—Steve Holman

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

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