With the right plan and the right discipline, you can get seriously shredded in just 28 days.Read article
Even the most driven lifter has to admit that there’s a lot of idleness in a workout. All those rests between sets are lost opportunities to stimulate growth. Of course, you don’t want to take away from the muscles you’re resting, but you can work an unrelated muscle during that downtime. By hitting two body parts in the period that you’d normally work one, you can multitask your way to greater gains.
As a name, “staggered sets” is lame. “Diverse attack” would be clearer (and cooler), but “staggered” means you can work a smaller body part by alternating its sets with only some of the sets of a bigger body part. Smaller usually means calves, abs, and forearms, though it might also mean biceps, triceps, or deltoids. You can train abs with any other body part. Because you don’t want your grip lessened when doing, say, pulldowns, forearms should be worked only with legs; for similar reasons, calves can be worked with anything but legs. Any staggered work for biceps, triceps, or deltoids should also not rob strength from the bigger body part. So you can stagger in pushdowns with legs but not with chest presses (which also work triceps).
In addition, cardio can be staggered into your weight training. Do 10 to 15-minute sessions of high intensity cardio between body parts. For example, work quads, hit the StepMill for 10 minutes, work hams, hit the treadmill for 10 minutes, work calves, and finish off with 10 minutes of elliptical. Instead of 30 minutes of continuous tedium, you’ve broken it into more palatable pieces and kept your enthusiasm, focus, and intensity elevated. And such uptempo intervals are better for burning fat than longer, lower tempo work.
There are three ways to do staggered sets:
As with other types of multitasking, staggered sets save time. By filling in some of your rest periods with work, you can reduce the length of workouts. But perhaps the greater advantage is the reduction in tedium. Face it, some exercises are boring. Most of us would rather be doing heavy incline presses than knocking out another high-rep set of leg raises. This is why too many of us focus more on the former than the latter. By staggering work for calves, abs, and forearms as well as cardio, you don’t have to slog through a focused routine for those areas. In essence, you trick yourself into doing the work you might have been tempted to skimp on or skip.
There are potential pitfalls to staggering. First, if done incorrectly it can rob valuable recovery time and strength from one or both areas. To prevent this, stick to our prescriptions for staggering calves with upper-body muscles, forearms with lower body muscles, and abs and cardio with anything. Staggering can also reduce your focus. But this often depends on the workout. If you’re pyramiding up to a personal best in the squat, don’t crank out sets of hanging leg raises between every two sets.
Finally, whenever you pair two different exercises, there may be logistical issues. It can be difficult to keep dibs on two gym stations. With staggering, this is compounded by the fact that you may be doing multiple sets of one exercise before one set of another, and, because you’re working diverse body parts, the stations may be far apart. Sometimes you can do both in the same spot. Other times, because you won’t have a lot of time to wait, prepare to change it up. If you were staggering in standing calf raises but someone has staked a claim on the machine during your absence, switch to a different calf exercise.
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