by Steve Holman, Iron Man Magazine
Q: I’m loving your 4X mass method. I’ve been using it for only three weeks, and I already feel bigger and look fuller. The scale says I’ve put on three pounds, but it looks like more than that. I feel pumped all the time. Anyway, I’m wondering if I should do a warmup set before I jump into 4X for an exercise. If not on all three exercises in Positions of Flexion, maybe just on the first one, since it’s compound [or midrange], like squats.
A: Keep in mind that with 4X mass training, you’re using the same moderate weight from the first set to the last. In most cases you shouldn’t need a warmup set because your first in the sequence is fairly easy—you don’t go to failure.
Remember, for a 4X sequence you pick a weight with which you can get 15 reps, but you only do 10; rest 30 to 40 seconds, then do it again. Repeat for four sets, and on the last one go all out. If you get 10, you add weight at your next workout or try for 4×11.
So the first subfailure set is technically a warmup—but, yes, it is heavier than most people use for a standard first warmup set. Some trainees, especially older guys, feel they need a first set with less stress to get the target muscle primed for major mass-building action. In that case, I highly recommend doing the first set in the 4X sequence as X-centric.
We’ve talked about ending a 4X sequence with the negative-accentuated X-centric method, but it works great on the first set as well to innervate the target muscle. Why? Because you do every rep with a one-second positive and a six-second negative. For example, on incline dumbbell presses you drive the ’bells to the top in one second, then slowly lower them to your chest in about six. Do that for eight reps.
With eight of those NA reps, you get 56 seconds of tension time. Blood floods the target muscle afterward, and the remaining three sets in the 4X will be much more productive. You may have to use slightly less weight all the way through, but I’ve found that on most exercises I can still use the same 4X weight. That may sound crazy considering the fatigue from the initial X-centric set, but here’s why it works:
Studies show that heightened blood flow increases a muscle’s fiber activation and resulting power output. By keeping the tension time at more than 50 seconds on the first set, you force more blood into the target muscle. Therefore, it’s stronger on the sets that follow. You could say that NA is a perfect primer—a great first-set trick for a major mass uptick.