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Simple Size-and-Strength-Building Solution

Ever since I adopted a moderate-weight, high-fatigue mass-building protocol, I’ve gotten lots of feedback—some of it resistance to the idea that anything but ultra heavy poundages can build muscle. Hey, I understand.

It took me a few years before I got brave enough to give the 4X method a go—and then some time after that before I went all in and started training with a total-4X-style program.

As I’ve said, younger guys love training heavy, and that’s great—if they’re careful. Strength is fairly important in the overall size-building scheme of things. Once you get up into your 40s, however, joint health and staying out of the emergency and/or operating rooms become priorities—and an all-4X program is the answer to looking like a bodybuilder without all the aches and pains.

But for those who want to get as big as possible while building strength on top of mass, there is a simple solution: Do all or most of your big midrange exercises in power-pyramid fashion. A midrange exercise is the first move in full-range Positions-of-Flexion mass training. It’s usually a multi-joint exercise like squats, bench presses, rows and so on. So your POF triceps routine would be…

Midrange: Close-grip bench presses (pyramid), 3 x 8, 6, 4

Stretch: Overhead extensions (4X style), 3 x 10

Contracted: Pushdowns (4X style), 4 x 12

You can use any type of power scheme on our first big exercise—like 5 x 5, popularized by strength coach Bill Starr. Heavy, lower-rep sets will build the force-generating myofibrils, the actin and myosin strand in the muscle fibers, while the 3X and 4X sequences will focus more on expanding the sarcoplasmic energy fluid due to the short rests between sets.

For those unfamiliar, 4X is taking a weight with which you can get 15 reps, but you only do 10 (or 12); rest 35 seconds, then do it again—and so on until you do four sets. On the fourth set you go all out to crash through the growth threshold. If you get 10, you increase the weight at your next workout.

A key point: Lift in one second and lower in three seconds on every rep. That will give you at least 40 seconds of tension time, important for sarcoplasmic-size increases. (Studies show that it’s also the ideal cadence for power reps as well.)

Here’s another POF example for middle/lower chest:

Midrange: Bench presses (pyramid), 4 x 8, 6, 4, 3

Stretch: Flyes (4X style), 3 x 10

Contracted: Cable crossovers (4X style), 4 x 12

On the pyramid you rest two to three minutes between sets, so the above will take you longer than if you were training all 4X.

Of course, the next question is, Should you go heavy at every workout? That may require experimentation. You might like the heavy/moderate approach if you train each muscle twice a week. So at the first workout you’d do the power pyramid on the midrange exercise, then the second workout you’d do 4X. Your all-4X workout is obviously your moderate-weight day; however, you will still build both myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic size.

So if you feel you need heavy training for ultimate gaining, try the above combo—and prepare to grow.

Stay tuned, train smart and be Built for Life.

Note: The 4X Mass Workout is available at, as are the two 4X companion e-books with heavy-plus-4X workouts, The X-centric Mass Workout and The Power-Density Mass Workout. All contain full-range Positions-of-Flexion programs.

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