Diminishing Sets for Size, Strength and Muscularity

Q: Firstly, thank you for all of this information. It has proved to be invaluable reading!

I've started doing the Hypertrophy for Ectomorph program, but I'm finding that with the 3 minute breaks between sets, it's taking too long for me to perform in the time I have available. Would you recommend doing the sets as circuits (IE: all the 10 reps, all the 8 reps etc) or is it okay to reduce the recovery time between each set?

For your information, I'm 6'2", 176 lb, I'm relatively fit (used to doing LOTS of cardio - mainly distance running and cycling) but new to weight training and have around 8% body fat - not sure how much of that is relevant!

Hope to hear from you soon!

Thanks again!

My Answer: I know it's very tempting to turn your strength training workout into a cardio workout, since you come from an endurance background. However, it's important to keep the rest periods long enough for your nervous system to recover and for you to build strength.

You're already going back and forth between exercises when you do bench presses with pulldowns and incline curls with close grip bench presses.  So there is no point in doing the entire series of exercises in a circuit.  But if you must shorten the workout, then go ahead and shorten the rest periods.  Keep in mind that if you do this, then your strength and hypertrophy gains will be compromised.

I would suggest shortening the rest periods for the squats and lateral raises, but keep the rest of the workout the same:

A) Squats- 4 sets of 10, 8, 6, 15 reps; 1 minute rest.

*The next 2 exercises are an “antagonistic superset.” Perform a bench press, then rest 90 seconds. Perform pulldowns, then rest 90 seconds before going back to bench presses. Repeat until you get 4 sets for each exercise.

B1) Bench press- 4 sets of 10, 8, 6, 15 reps; 90 seconds rest.
B2) Pulldowns- 4 sets of 10, 8, 6, 15 reps; 90 seconds rest.

C) Laterals- 4 sets of 10, 8, 6, 15 reps; 30 seconds rest.

Arms Antagonistic Superset:
D1) Incline dumbbell curls- 4 sets of 10, 8, 6, 15 reps; 90 seconds rest.
D2) Close grip bench press- 4 sets of 10, 8, 6, 15 reps; 90 seconds rest.

Q: I really enjoyed your article: Diminishing Sets for Size, Strength and Muscularity. At 38 years old, simplifying my workout is the way to go.

I workout on Sundays only. As far as my heart health is concerned, I don’t believe in boring cardio, but I believe in what strength training does to the heart. I basically do chins and dips supersets only.

At 5’9”, 190 lbs I can give you a good clean 12 chin-ups and about 16 dips.

A few questions:

Since I workout once a week only and want to maintain and slowly gain what should my rep range start with? Is doing 50 reps total a week enough? 100 reps? More?

A lot of “gurus” advocate up to 100 reps a week for both chins and dips. I’m not a bodybuilder or powerlifter. That seems a lot to me.


My Answer: You didn't clarify as to what you want to gain. Is it more muscle, more fat loss or more reps in your performance of pull-ups and dips? Since you're not a bodybuilder or powerlifter, then I'm assuming you want to up your reps.

The bottom line is you should vary your target rep totals. Alternate between 50 reps and 100 reps. One week, do 50 reps total. Next week do 100 reps total. Then back to 50 the next week. This way you modulate your volume from week to week, which is better for gains in the long run.

Q: I have an question regarding your article on Bodybuilding.com: Hypertrophy Training For The Ectomorph.

You mentioned doing four sets of 10-8-6-15 reps. Would I be using the same weight with each set? Or am I using lighter weights for the high rep sets and heavier weights for the low rep sets?

Thanks in advance,

My Answer: Yes Jonathan, it is lighter weights for the high rep sets and heavier weights for the low rep set.
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