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Bodybuilding and Weight Training Techniques

Giant Sets

A giant set usually consists of a number of different exercises for one particular body part done in tandem. Set one is preformed on one exercise followed by set one on the next exercise and so on. Weight is usually moderate and there is little to no rest between each exercise. After one set, rest can occur up to two to three minutes. Example: Triceps pushdowns – overhand grip, followed by triceps pushdowns – underhand grip, then dumbbell kickbacks. The total, composing one giant set.

Super Sets

A super set consists of a number of different exercises for two or more body parts one after the other. Body part number one is exercised, and then body part number two, etc. Weight is moderate to heavy with minimal rest between exercises. Rest between super sets is anywhere from two – five minutes. Example: Biceps and Triceps – alternating standing curls with triceps French curls.

Forced Reps

Forced reps are a process that involves working the muscle group to failure. Forced reps take place with in a given set and can consist of maximal weight to failure (less reps) or light to moderate weight (high reps). Utilization of a lifting partner is essential to allow full contraction of the muscle to occur. Minimal time is needed between forced reps (as long as full muscle contraction occurs) and time between sets utilizing forced reps is longer to allow greater recovery. Example: Bench press at 90% of max for 6 – 8 reps (employing a partner to help you through the full phase of contraction).

Stalled Reps/Sets

This method involves stopping the movement somewhere in-between the start and finishing position, stalling there for a given time period, and then finishing the movement. This can be done at the beginning of the movement, midway through the movement or near the end. Stopping the movement at the end of the movement is not as beneficial unless resistance is still present (i.e. with a cable system). The “stall” lasts anywhere from 3 – 10 seconds and can occur at a given point all the time, or an alternate point each time. Rest between stall sets is user dependant but can be anywhere from 30 seconds to two min. Example: Preacher curls with a stall at the midway point for 10 seconds before completing the range of motion.

Eccentric contractions (Negatives)

Eccentric contractions are defined as muscle contractions in which the muscle lengthens as opposed to shortening (concentric contractions). This can be approached purposefully, with the aid of a partner, utilizing maximal weight (30-40% more than ones maximal concentric lift) or be done with any regular exercise regimen where the lifter concentrates on the ‘down’ phase of the lift as well as the ‘up’ phase. Timing during the lift is very slow, allowing for control, and minimum amount of time is needed between reps. Time between sets is usually greater, as one needs it for recovery. Example: Bench press with weight exceeding your maximal press, slowly lower the bar to your chest and with the help of a partner return the bar to the starting position. Repeat. Word of caution: Eccentric contractions are known to cause more muscle soreness than concentric contractions, and the risk of injury is much greater due to the large amount of weight utilized!


Twenty-ones is a descriptive term based on the number of reps done in a given set. The unique aspect of this method is that the set is actually broken up into three different sets done consecutively, within the same movement. The three different aspects of the set involve partial range of motions within a full range of motion (see example). Each aspect or portion of the full range of motion is done for a total of seven, followed by the next portion of the full movement for seven, and then finally by the last portion of the full movement, again for seven. (7 + 7 + 7 = 21!) Obviously you could do Fifteens (5+5+5=15) if you wanted to, but this technique is better known as Twenty-ones. The exercise is done using moderate weight. Each portion of the movement is done immediately after one another, with average rest between sets. Example: Standing Biceps Curls – do seven partial reps from the start point to midway, followed by seven partial reps midway to the end of the movement, then do seven full range of motion standing curls to end it.

Timed Sets/Reps

Timed sets and reps involve doing the movement through a specific fixed time or count. Both the concentric (positive or up) and the eccentric (negative or down) phase of the movement are done over a specified time or count. The positive and negative movement times can be the same or different, as long as they are consistent through out the entire set. Time between reps is minimal (one following the other), and rest between sets is moderate (2- 3 minutes). Weight is usually moderate to light, as the set is difficult. Example: Seated Quadriceps Extensions – Do the concentric or up movement over a 10 second count followed by the negative or down movement over a ten second count. Repeat.

Partial Reps, Restricted ROM sets/reps

Partial reps or restricted range of motion (ROM) sets is similar to Twenty-ones except that the entire set is purposefully done through a partial range of motion. Focus can be either on the concentric or eccentric portion of the partial movement. This can be done anywhere within the normal full range of motion such as at the beginning, the middle, or the end. Weight is usually moderate to heavy and timing between sets is anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes. Example: Lying Hamstring Curls – a set of 12 reps is done at the top of the normal range of motion, starting from the hamstrings being fully contracted and ending approximately midway through the normal range of motion and repeating.

Pre-exhaustion, Reverse Training, Pre-lift burnout, etc.

Pre-exhaustion is a method in which a muscle group is isolated, using an isolating movement prior to doing a compound movement (more than one muscle being utilized, or more than one joint involved in an exercise). This method fatigues the muscle being refurbished before it is subjected to “the real” workout. Weight is light to moderate and reps are usually in the higher range. Example: For your chest – Doing cable crossovers (isolating movement), three sets of 20 reps, before doing bench press (compound movement).

Post-exhaustion sets, Heavy-light sets, Burnouts, etc.

Post-exhaustion sets involves performing low repetition, heavy weight sets, followed immediately by high repetition, light weight sets. This can be done with the same exercise (example #1) or with two different exercise (example #2). Weight is as described above, and there is minimal to no rest between the heavy and light phase of the set. Rest between sets is moderate to long, again, for recovery. Example #1: Squats – Heavy set doing 4 to 6 reps followed immediately by squats with a lighter weight, 12 – 15 reps. Example #2: Squats – Heavy set doing 4 – 6 reps followed by leg extensions, moderate weight, 12 – 15 reps.


Pyramiding is a general term used to describe a number of different options. There is load or weight pyramiding, repetition pyramiding, and rest or intermission pyramiding.

Load pyramiding

Load pyramiding occurs when each progressive set is done with heavier weight and less repetitions. This can be done with minimal or moderate rest between sets. Example: Bench press with sets, reps, and weight as follows – Set 1- 100lbs 10 reps. Set 2- 120 lbs 8 reps, etc.

Repetition pyramiding

This form of pyramiding is done with a set amount of weight and gradually increase repetitions by one or two per set. Example: Set 1- 150lbs, 10reps. Set 2- 150lbs, 12 reps. Etc.

Intermission pyramiding

This techniques progressively decreases the time between sets of a given weight load. Example: Set 1- 120lbs, rest 1:00 minute. Set 2 – 120lbs, rest 30 seconds. Set 3 – 120lbs, rest 15 seconds. Pyramiding can also be done within a given set. These are also referred to as load sets (add sets) or drop sets (stripping, strip sets).

Load Sets

Load sets progressively add weight to a given set while the number of repetitions stays the same or decreases. Example: One set – 100lbs 10 reps, followed immediately by 120lbs 8 reps, etc.

Drop Sets

Drop sets involve decreasing the amount of weight while you decrease or keep the reps the same (each time to failure) with in the same set. Example: Self-descriptive.

In part II of Bodybuilding Techniques we will cover a number of other systems that, as was stated above, breaks monotony and allows for periods of growth by alternating tissue breakdown and tissue repair. Utilize these techniques not only as they are stated above but in ways that tailor to your needs. Change them up, add or decrease weight and/or reps. Use them with various body parts on different days, weeks, etc. Most importantly, go for your goals and don’t go to P.O.T.!

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