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Triple-Threat Mass-Building Sets

7305-prime3Q: I’ve been training for about 20 years (I’m 44), and I’m getting my 14-year-old son into it. He’s been working out about four months, breaking in, but I still do not want him to go heavy. I have him using your 4X method, which is great at his stage. I was thinking about the Progressive-Speed 4X version as well, specifically the speed set to help build the power fibers. Is that a good idea at his age?

A: First, what you have him doing now is perfect. Moderate-weight growth-threshold 4X is fantastic for young teens getting into lifting. Heavy weights may damage young joints early on, so it’s a good idea to get neophytes gradually acclimated.

For the uninitiated, standard 4X is taking your 15-rep maximum but only doing 10 on four quick sets, taking 35 seconds between them and going to failure on the last one. If you get 10 on set 4, you add weight to that exercise at your next workout.

The weight is moderate and all sets should be strict—lift in one second, lower in three. And therein lies the problem with Progressive-Speed 4X for young trainees.

For Progressive Speed you take your 15RM again but do set 1 as an X-centric set—lift in one second and lower in six; sets 2 and 3 you do standard style—lift in one second, lower in three; and set 4 is X-celeration, or speed, style—each rep lasts about 1.5 seconds.

The last set is fast reps, but each should still be done under control—no throwing. The problem is that most teenage boys are very ego driven; they want to lift as heavy as possible to show they’re strong.

In other words, your son may start jerking and throwing the weights on that last set to get a lot of reps or demonstrate that it’s easy for him and he needs more weight.

I discuss that in the e-book The Ultimate Super-Size Crash Course. Jordon Williamson, the 18-year-old subject who gained 18 pounds of muscle in 12 weeks, used heavy pyramid training, downward-progression 4X and TORQ (high reps)—no Progressive Speed. I intentionally avoided PS 4X because I know all too well the ego of male teens and the propensity for cheating to get more reps or use more weight.

You, on the other hand, have 20 years of experience—and know the consequences of heaving and jerking even lighter poundages. You would be fine using PS 4X—and it can help you activate more growth fibers. Still, you shouldn’t show your son yet.

Keep him learning the exercises and getting in touch with the target muscles. Once he has more lifting experience, introduce him to standard heavier pyramid training to build his foundation.

Have him read in The Ultimate Super-Size Crash Course about how Jordon used it in rotation with 4X and higher-rep sets. Jordon’s story and complete workouts are included, which should motivate your son—and you, as you’ll also find alternate workouts without heavy pyramids for older bodybuilders.

In a few years your son may be ready for PS 4X, but keep a close eye on him if he tries it. Throwing and jerking your reps is a sure way to generate injury-causing stress rather than mass-building success. —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-book available at For e-books on X Reps, fat-loss nutrition and bodypart specialization, visit the X-Shop at

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