Training With Giant Sets

From Charles Poliquin


Gain muscle and lose fat by training with giant sets—those brutal sets of four or more exercises that target one part of the body, but train different parts of the strength curve. In contrast to a superset, which usually alternates between exercises of opposing muscle groups (agonists and antagonists), giant sets thrash one muscle group with a lot of volume, elicit a nice fat burning growth hormone response, and train cardiovascular fitness.



The key to getting maximal results with giant sets is to understand how to use the strength curve to your advantage. In addition, you need to be aware of the fiber-type content of the muscle that you are training in order to program giant sets properly.



The strength curve describes the amount of force a muscle can exert at a specific joint angle. Likewise, Every exercise has a resistance curve that emphasizes different areas of the strength curve.



Simply, there are three resistance curves: low range, mid range, and end range. The idea to giant sets is to overload all three ranges multiple times when training. For example, for the biceps, you could try doing standing barbell curls to overload the mid range of the elbow flexors’ strength curve, followed by a Scott curl, which emphasizes the start of the movement or low range, followed by a spider curl, which emphasizes the end range of the curl movement.



A lower body giant set would be eccentric-enhanced squats, followed by heel-elevated squats to isolate the quads a bit better, followed by lunges, followed by trap bar deadlifts. This is an excellent way to shock the lower body into getting stronger. It triggers a robust anabolic hormone response and is particularly effective for boosting growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor-1.


For a complete leg workout, pair the above lower body giant set with a hamstring giant set of three sets of lying leg curls, first with feet inward plantarflexed, followed by feet neutral plantarflexed, followed by feet outward plantarflexed. Then go to a seated leg curl with feet neutral and plantarflexed, followed by dumbbell step-ups. For the hamstring curls use a 4-second eccentric, 1-second concentric tempo with no pauses in between motions. For the dumbbell step-ups try 1-second eccentric, explosive concentric with no pauses in between.


Now, regarding the issue of fiber-type make-up, the hamstrings, for example, are primarily made up of fast-twitch fibers. This means you want to train lower reps, high weight and more sets. For example, try 5 sets of each of the above exercises with 6 to 8 reps and a heavy load. This is quite a lot of volume, and if you train with minimal rest between exercises within the giant set (10 seconds, ideally, which is just enough to move between lifts, assuming they are all set up in advance), you will produce severe metabolic stress for improved body composition.



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