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Most bodybuilders save their failure sets for the end, but if you remember, as a beginner, in order to get big fast, you simply picked up a weight and gave it everything you possibly could, and you didn’t put it down until you had to be scraped off the floor. And it worked. You got big fast.
That’s what I still do. I do one or two warm-ups, then go directly to my maximum weight before I start counting sets. Most important, every set is taken at least two reps beyond failure to the point where my training partner, ends up doing all the work. For chest, for example, I aim for six, but I always make sure I use so much weight that I can get only four. My training partner then has to dig in and sweat to get those last two reps off me.
I do this for every Bodypart; although, for legs, I keep my reps in the 15-20 range. This helps me avoid knee destruction from so many beyond-failure sets with the enormous weight I’d be using with lower reps. Even at that, my knees are sometimes a little sore, so I use leg extensions to warm up and pre-exhaust my quads. I then do 10 or 15 reps to failure, catch a quick breather, then get the other five.
Next, I do Smith machine squats. I’m the perfect argument against those who say you can’t get big legs without free squats. I haven’t free-squatted in years, yet my legs are one of my best bodyparts. I put two plates on each side to fool around, but then I go right to five. This is the only exercise that’s sort of pyramided. Because of the amount of maximum weight possible, I want a couple of sets to orient myself to the big increases. I do my 10-15 reps, then add a sixth plate for two more sets, each for four to six reps on my own, with help for another two to four reps.
Finally, I do leg presses. The machine holds about six plates on each side, plus six or seven on top.
As long as my body survives, and as long as my joints hold up, I’ll keep training this way. I think pyramid sets are wasted sets. Why go to 10 and stop? That doesn’t do anything; when I go to failure every time, I feel the effect for the entire day. My legs are cramped and my muscles are fatigued. I can’t walk up and down stairs. I know I did legs.
I even feel that way after my first set of leg extensions. My legs are on fire. I have to walk without bending them. Usually, I have to lie down in the locker room. I’ll stretch out in the middle of the floor, put my knee wraps under my head and lie there for about 20 minutes. There will be people walking over me, trying to get to their lockers, but I’ll just lie there. When I feel better, I get up and leave. That’s just the way it is. – FLEX