Showing posts from April, 2014

Straight Sets vs Pyramid Sets

Q: I've been reading a lot of discussions about straight sets over pyramid sets. They both seem to have lots of benefits, but is there a superior system in the two? I've noticed a trend that advanced lifters use more pyramid sets (flat pyramids, which was discussed on the blog) with multi-joint lifts. Does this have to do with recovery?

My Answer: Very simple: it doesn't make a difference.

For those of you who don't know, pyramid sets are when you increase the weight for an exercise from set to set until you hit your max weight.  The Hypertrophy Training for the Ectomorph program is an example of pyramid sets:

Set 1- 10 reps
Set 2- 8 reps
Set 3- 6 reps
Set 4- 15 reps

"Straight sets" are when you maintain the same weight and/or reps throughout all the sets for an exercise, such as 5x5.

Now what are the advantages and disadvantages of each system?  Pyramid sets allow you to warm-up before you hit your max weight.  Pyramid sets are better for beginners or when …

Hitting the Power Lifts Once a Week

After reading your material I'm highly intrigued, but I'm curious about "strength as a skill." Currently I'm working on my base strength (squat is 315, bench is 235 and deadlift is 360 ), and if I'm focusing on aesthetics will I lose "the groove"of those lifts? I would prefer to be both strong in the power lifts and have aesthetics, but I'm worried that I'm not staying on top of technique.

- Jason M.

My Answer: You can focus on aesthetics while still improving your strength.  It's just a matter of programming.  Many of my programs utilize microcycling.  There is always a strength focused workout within the microcycle itself.  For example, the 6 Factors Program has a strength focused workout known as the T-Boost Workout.  So with the T-Boost Workout you can focus on the power lifts (squats, bench press and deadlifts), since the workout requires multiple sets of heavy weight and low reps.  This way you work on your power lifts once a week, …

Using Negatives to Increase Pull-up Strength

I've been so lethargic the past ten days from a chest cold I've had (I just was put on an antibiotic yesterday), and just haven't been in the shape to workout. I feel especially bad in the mornings and before bed, and cough sporadically through out the day. 

I'm super pissed, because I've been doing great and making awesome strength gains. Is there a right way to get back into lifting after a set back or being out of commission? I know this is a stupid question... but just thought I'd ask! Keep up the great work!


My Answer: When you get back into training after an illness, you should do a low set program to ease you back in.  Stick with 2-3 sets per exercise.  Don't train to failure and don't do any shock techniques like set extenders or forced reps or negatives.

Do this for the first week, then up the intensity and volume the second week.

What's up James? I was reading one of your articles, and I wanted to know if you could give me any advice…

Building Up Massively Ripped Triceps

Q: Hey James, I've recently gotten back into weight lifting, and unfortunately I have a couple of bum shoulders which make it hard to do a good portion of triceps exercises. I know of the most common ones out there and for the most part used to have a good routine. 

I've noticed that your triceps have really great size and definition (insert gay joke here), and so I was wondering not really of the exercises out there that I could do, but maybe your routine specifically.

Thanks for your help, 


My Answer: I change my program every so often, but these factors always remain constant in my triceps training:

I train heavy and rarely go over 6 reps. I train my triceps with 2 different exercises: a press variation and an extension variation. I go slow on the negative and explode through the positive portion. I flex the triceps as hard as I can at the lockout position. 

This is the game plan that I follow, and I outline in great detail in the triceps chapter of High Tension Exercises …