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Stage Sets: Mass Training Tactics

Q: I’ve seen you refer to Stage Sets. What are they?

A: In most of our mass-training e-books we say that the semi-elongated, or semi-stretch, position on an exercise’s stroke is most important. Why?

Here’s a quote from strength and hypertrophy researchers Steven J. Fleck, Ph.D., and William J. Kraemer, Ph.D. (Don’t fall asleep as you read it; we will translate):

“There is an optimal length at which muscle fibers generate their maximal force. The total amount of force developed depends on the total number of myosin cross bridges interacting with the active sites on the actin…. Below this optimal length, less tension is developed during an activation because with excessive shortening there is an overlap of actin filaments so that the actin filaments interfere with each other’s ability to contract the myosin cross bridges.”

For compound exercises [with lockout, like squats] you do Stage Sets in reverse—that is, you hit the bottom, semi-stretch segment first for a new size burst.

So, as a muscle approaches the contracted position, like at the top of a leg extension, the fibers have less leverage and are crowded and bunched, which produces less fiber activation and, ultimately, less force. That’s the case on any exercise that provides resistance in the contracted position, not those on which you can lock out.

That would explain your relative weakness at the top of a leg extension and leg curl. The contracted position on those exercises, as well as others that provide continuous tension—like cable crossovers, triceps pushdowns and pulldowns—is harder.

Is there a way to make those moves on which there is resistance in the contracted position produce more fiber activation and size stimulation? Yes: Stage Sets. (Sorry for the long-winded explanation, but it was necessary.)


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