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X-centric Sets Will Get You Bigger and Leaner

7301-prime7Q: I’ve seen you mention X-centric training and how it can help build muscle and burn fat. How is it different from regular lifting?

A: On X-centric, or negative-accentuated, sets, you lift in one second and lower in six on every rep. So if you can get eight reps, you are putting the muscle under tension for almost a full minute.

That longer, more hypertrophic time under tension is something most bodybuilders never achieve. Look around the gym, and you’ll see most sets lasting around 20 seconds. So an X-centric set provides unique anabolic stimulation.

Also consider that the slow lowering on the eccentric stroke causes more microtears in the muscle fibers. As those heal postworkout, they will strengthen and thicken the myofibrils, the actin and myosin strands. In addition, the healing process takes days, so your metabolism is stoked. In fact, studies show that the muscle repair actually burns bodyfat. How great is that? So having sore muscles means you’re getting lean.

As you can see, X-centric training can get your muscles growing with longer tension times and eccentric emphasis, and because of that slow lowering, it is very safe, perfect for older trainees.

One of the best ways to use it is on the first set in a 4X sequence. Take your 15-rep-max weight and lift in one second and lower in six. Go until you’re close to failure—around eight reps. Rest 35 seconds, and then do a standard set, lifting in one second and lowering in three. Continue with standard-tempo sets and 35-second rests for two more sets—until you’ve completed four total.

Inserting the X-centric set up front in your routine does a great job of prefatiguing the target muscle as well as warming it up for the sets that follow. You won’t have to use a lot of weight, but your results will be excellent—you’ll get bigger and leaner while keeping your joints relatively pain free. —Steve Holman


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

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