BLOG

Being a part of the #UFEnation is all about taking on the obstacles in your life and the enormous sense of accomplishment that you feel when you overcome them.

Specialty Workouts:
The Innovative Way To Accelerate Your Gains
Supersets * 21s * The 4-Rep System

by UFEHQ on February 13, 2019


Submitted By Timothy Rigby, M.A., NSCA-CPT

Everyone wants that extra edge. That little-known piece of information that sets you apart from the rest; that pushes your gains over the top and helps you hit your goals efficiently. Competitive athletes at all levels constantly seek some sort of special technique to training that stimulates your gains faster and more significantly than your same old workout – and your competition. When it comes to fitness, you truly have a blank cheque at your disposal, and your approach to training is limited only by your imagination. Bodybuilders, Fitness Models, Figure and Physique athletes, Bikini and Glamour athletes are all free to incorporate as much sound creativity as desired when it comes to implementing a radical method of training in their journey to competition. This is to say, however, that such methods must be structured and scientifically valid.

Why are specialty techniques advantageous to your training? Simply put, the human body is an amazing thing. It quickly adapts to levels of stress placed on muscles, which means that if you don’t continually change up your training protocol, you’ll eventually hit plateaus of performance. This in turn means that your muscle development will stagnate and your gains will become halted. By leveraging the wide pool of specialty techniques available, you can continuously provide new stimuli to your muscles to promote growth. If you happen to be on a long-term journey to competition, it’s important for you to alter your exercises, sets, reps and rest periods not just once, but several times – every four to six weeks is ideal.

Once you’re on board with the concept that specialty techniques hold a great utility to fitness athletes, your next step is to identify an approach that targets your needs. Not sure where to take it from here? You’re in luck. The number of special techniques available at your disposal numbers in the dozens. This Training Tips instalment centers on three excellent specialty techniques you can introduce into your training program to accelerate your results and get the edge on your competition. Let’s get right to them:

SUPERSET

Bicep Curls

Supersets are where you perform an extended set that involves not one, but two exercises with no rest between them. This method is often mislabelled by many people who mistakenly believe it refers to two exercises for the same muscle group. On the contrary, it actually refers to two opposing muscle groups, commonly classified as agonist and antagonist muscle groups. The two most illustrative pairings for supersets are your chest with back and your biceps with triceps. One of the great advantages to supersets training is the time you’ll save to complete your workout. This may not be a concern for some, but in this day and age with the busy strains of daily life all around us, making your workout extra-efficient is a big deal.

Another advantage to supersets relates to performance, in that you’ll actually be stronger performing the second exercise than you would otherwise be performing it in a standard workout. Scientific research has shown that the first exercise in a superset provides a contraction that is not found when you perform straight sets. The effect of this contraction on its antagonist muscle group will result in an increased ability to lift more weight. For example, if you choose to perform a straight set of the bench press in order to work your chest, the contraction in your pecs will be slightly limited due to the physiology of your back. However, if you take the step of performing a back exercise like the seated cable row immediately before the bench, you’ll consequently allow your pec muscles to contract more forcefully. Of course, stepping on stage has no requirements of strength, but you’ll nevertheless develop more muscle mass from using heavier weights.

Sample Arms Supersets Workout:

Exercise

STANDING BARBELL CURL
-superset with-
ROPE PRESSDOWN

PREACHER CURL
-superset with-
OVERHEAD TRICEPS EXTENSION

INCLINE DUMBELL CURL
-superset with-
TRICEPS DIP

Sets

3

3

3

3

3

3

Reps

8

8

10

10

12

12

Rest

a
a
1:30 mins.

a
a
1:30 mins.

a
a
1:30mins

21s

Legs

Whereas the supersets technique above focuses on manipulating sets, the 21s method is an effective means to manipulate reps in order to stimulate new muscle growth. Performing 21s can be challenging, but fun. You break down a set of 21 reps into three sub-sets of seven reps each with no rest between them, as follows:

* 7 partial reps through the first half of the range of motion

* 7 partial reps through the second half of the range of motion

* 7 full reps through the entire range of motion

This may seem like a radical approach to technique, but it’s a tried-and-true method that’s used by elite athletes and pros for decades. Furthermore, it has ample scientific merit to support it. The most popular application of the 21s method is, to be sure, for biceps curls; however, it’s equally as effective and very helpful for training your other muscle groups as well. Make no mistake that you’ll elicit an excellent pump at the conclusion of a 21s set. Whichever part of your body you’re training, it’s wise to appreciate from the very start that you’ll have to decrease the weight substantially from what you’d use for straight sets of the usual 8-10 reps.

It’s also important to consider that 21s are best applied to single-joint isolation moves, rather than the heavier compound moves that require involvement of secondary and stabilizer muscles. Furthermore, 21s have a natural physiological partner in cables and machines, which make it easier to keep constant tension on your muscles at full flexion; when you use free weights, the tension is reduced in such a position of the rep. Why is it necessary to perform seven full-range reps after you’ve already done the equivalent of 14 partial reps? It’s all about the pump and burnout, setting you on course for solid growth. Use 21s for the first exercise of a muscle group only, then continue with straight sets of other exercises. If you tried to do 21s for all exercises, you’d hit excessive exhaustion very quickly.

Sample 21s Legs Workout

Exercise

LEG EXTENSION
Followed by 2 more quad moves of your choice.

LYING HAMSTRING CURL
Followed by 2 more hamstrings moves of your choice.

Sets

3
3 ea.

3
3 ea.

Reps

21(7 first half, 7 second half, 7 full)
8-10

21(7 first half, 7 second half, 7 full)
8-10

THE 4-REP SYSTEM

Chest

Third, we’re going to present herein an advanced method of stimulating extra muscle mass with the 4-Rep System. In practice, it’s not difficult to execute, but there is much to appreciate about its structure. Once you’ve identified two muscle groups you want to train, you’ll establish a list of four exercises per muscle group. Now there’s an important strategy in which exercises you perform, so you must have the discipline to avoid just randomly performing moves that you enjoy. Before we get to the basis for the exercise selection, we’ll advise you that there will be a progression by an exercise of four reps to eight reps to 12 reps to 16 reps. The multiple-of-four increments are how this system got its name. For each exercise, you’ll perform three sets.

One of the goals in this technique is to hit your muscle groups from a variety of angles which will lend itself to a unique stimulus on your muscles. The first movement you perform, for four reps, should be a basic move like the incline bench press. With a low rep count, you’re establishing strength. The second movement, done for eight reps, can be another basic move but ideally focuses on using dumbbells and helps develop muscle gain. The third movement, performed for 12 reps, will need to be an isolation move that helps develop not only muscle but endurance. Finally, the fourth movement should also be an isolation movement, which at 16 reps should really finish off your muscles with a good pump to stimulate muscle growth.

In terms of how to incorporate the 4-Rep system into your overall training, you’ll simply need to break down your full body into pairs of muscle groups. For instance, you could in one workout train your chest and triceps; in another, you back and biceps; in another, your quads and hamstrings; and still another, your shoulders and abs. Take a look at the following sample workout to see how all components of the 4-Rep System nicely tie together:

Sample 4-Rep System Workout (Chest and Triceps)

Exercise

INCLINE BENCH PRESS
FLAT BENCH DUMBELL PRESS
DECLINE BENCH FLY
PEC-DECK FLY

CLOSE-GRIP BENCH PRESS
OVERHEAD TRICEPS EXTENSION
TRICEPS DIP
V-BAR PRESSDOWN

Sets

3
3
3
3

3
3
3
3

Reps

4
8
12
16

4
8
12
16

Rest

1:30mins
1:30mins
1:30mins
1:30mins

1:30mins
1:30mins
1:30mins
1:30mins

KEY CONSIDERATIONS

Remember to get yourself on the right track from the start when you employ specialty techniques. Always maintain the same good form you would use doing straight sets. Some techniques will be much shorter than you’re accustomed to, while others may be longer. Have patience and discover for yourself how capable you are, by using strict execution.

Don’t be shy about using these techniques due to some irrational fear of them being “too complex” or “only for pros”. We encourage you to commence using them right away, as you’ll find out for yourself over time that they’re not really intimidating; in fact, constant variety in training stimulus is actually a requirement to consistent gains.

Finally, keep in mind that rest and recovery are even more important with specialty techniques. This is the best way to guarantee that you optimize your potential for gains. At first, you may find these workouts difficult, but still you manage to execute a good workout. Your next step is to take additional care in terms of nutrition, water intake, supplements and sleep. To be sure, it’s not unheard of that athletes describe how they greatly exceeded their own expectations and gained far beyond anticipation through training with specialty techniques.


Timothy Rigby, M.A., NCSA-CPT is a freelance writer and one of Canada’s most published fitness writers.

Facebook
Facebook
Twitter
Visit Us
YouTube
INSTAGRAM
Follow by Email
UFEHQSpecialty Workouts:
The Innovative Way To Accelerate Your Gains
Supersets * 21s * The 4-Rep System