Before I get into my blog post on 4X training let me just tell you a little bit about myself. I am 56 years old and have been training for over 42 years. Lifting competitively in Olympic weightlifting, my body took a toll, mostly in the joints and back.
After that career was shot I continued training but more to stay in shape and look good than anything else. Over the decades I have tried every type of gimmick routine(s) and health supplements. Some worked, most didn’t and I also found out along the way that everyone is different. There is no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ training program. I tell all my clients they need to experiment with their bodies after they learn how each muscle works to see what works best for them.
In addition, I do not believe in any type of T therapy which seems to be the new thing with men once they hit their 30’s. At the age of 56 I feel I look better than ever before and I know that I am much more healthier than when I used to compete.
This post has no scientific backing, just 42 years of training, observing and reading any article on nutrition and exercise.
This post will deal strictly with my opinion of 4X and who can benefit from this the most. I am not a bodybuilder although I have been told I should compete. So I am not giving opinion based on trying this routine and I won a bunch of physique championships. It is solely based on whether I feel it worked or not.
I had to decide whether to explain What is 4X first or Why 4X so I chose the latter.
Ok, I have mentioned that I have been training for 42 years and that I am 56 years old about a dozen times already. This is very important because this means that my body has taken a seriously heavy toll on the joints over the years. Although they are stronger than the average person, I still punish them pretty good.
It is my opinion that your muscles do not lose their strength as they get older compared to your tendons and ligaments. I feel that tendons and ligaments are like rubber bands. Over the years with all their stretching and contracting, they start to lose their elasticity. They are also more prone to pulling, breaking or snapping just like a rubber band. It doesn’t matter how well you take care of them, if you are constantly stressing them, they will break at some point ESPECIALLY if you are going with heavy singles or 3-5 rep maximum weights.
The same is true with your joints, where you slowly wear away cartilage and you start having arthritic conditions.
Add to that, your muscle recovery seems to be slower. When I was in my 20’s I could blast muscle parts twice a week easily and get away with it. Today, there is no way I can do this. Mind you I am 100% natural. I am sure if I was on some sort of hormone therapy I could get away with this training but I choose not to do so because I believe in long term health and fitness not short term.
So how do you stress the muscles WITHOUT going with an all out heavy weight? This leads me to the next…..
What is 4X?
It is a method of doing sets for any exercise on any body part that uses moderate weight. Although there are e-books out there explaining the science to the method, it’s origins date way back to Danny Padilla and Vince Gironda. As a side note, I met Mr. Gironda when I trained in his gym back in 1984 in Beverly Hills. He was a very cool person with quite a wealth of training knowledge that is still used today. He was very eccentric but his methods worked.
Ok so here we go, 4X training explained….
First, you find a weight that you can do for a particular exercise where 15 reps is the max you can do. Right off the start, any exercise that you can do 15 reps with a particular weight is obviously not your max but it is a moderate amount of weight anyways.
Using this 15 rep max weight as your starting point, you warm up until you are already to perform the 4X set. My suggestion is to take a nice 3 minute or more rest before doing the 4X set because this is where the boys are separated from the men.
4X is very simple and it goes as follows:
First set with x weight 10 reps……….. rest 30-35 seconds
Second set with x weight 10 reps………..rest 30-35 seconds
Third set with x weight 10 reps…………rest 30-35 seconds
Fourth set with x weight, rep out. If you exceed 10 reps that means next workout add additional weight to the x weight you just did.
Now you will read articles where the rest period may be different, some suggesting as much as 45 seconds. For 4X training I found that 45 seconds was too much rest. It does allow you to handle a tad more weight but the rest interval is just as important if not more so than the weight lifted, I will explain that a little bit later.
It has been my experience that for most body parts except legs, to use the 30 second rest. When doing legs I use 35 seconds only because legs is such a large muscle group, you need those extra 5 seconds of gasping to gut out the next set then the next then the next.
Variation of the 4X set…
As in any training routine, there are variations to 4X training. One which I use on occasion when the joints are feeling good is to go a little heavier, perform 6 reps but only have a 20 second rest between sets.
How often should you use 4X?
I like to perform at least one exercise per body part using the 4X method. I also make sure it is my first exercise and the major body building one for the muscle being trained. So for example, I would use these exercises based on body part:
Chest – Incline Bench with bar or dumb bells
Back – Lat rolls or lat pulldowns
Legs – Squats or leg press
Shoulders – shoulder presses
Arms – biceps, barbell curls; triceps, tricep pushdowns
Science behind 4X…
Ok, I told you I wouldn’t get into the science of it and I really am not. I am just going to explain a little bit of what a 4X set is doing to the muscle you are exercising.
Muscle hypertrophy (increase muscle size and mass) is broken down into two categories, myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic. They both involve increasing the size of the cells but in a different way.
Myofibrillar accomplishes strengthening through increasing weight in an exercise while sarcoplasmic hypertrophy focuses on increasing actual size of the muscle. Think of sarcoplasmic as getting that ‘pumped’ look.
In 4X training you hit a sweet spot where by using a moderate weight, you are hitting the muscle from a myofibrillar standpoint then blasting it from a sarcoplasmic standpoint with that shortened rest interval.
So, whether you are young or old (especially old) and you want to try something that I consider safer on the joints, tendon and ligaments yet very effective, give….
4X training a try in order to be Fit Forlife!