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Unless you’re training like a powerlifter, you’re hoisting heavy weight, over and over, you don’t need to rest very long between sets. Cutting rest periods can help you burn more fat and keep your workout intense. You can, however, give the muscle you’re working a rest by shifting your attention to another area that may need more work—like maybe your calves or biceps.
Enter staggered sets. The execution is simple: Insert a set or two of a smaller muscle, unrelated to the primary muscle you’re working, between sets of your main exercises. For example, if you’re training legs, you’d do all four sets of the leg press and then two sets of curls. Or one set of leg presses immediately followed by curls. And since you’re not hitting any of the same muscles, staggered sets shouldn’t affect your primary muscle—though they may tire you out. The result is more volume for that particular area and more calories torched overall, as you’re not just sitting on your ass “resting up.” You’ll thank us later.
Alternate a set for a bigger body part with one for a smaller, unrelated body part. You probably won’t want to do as many sets for the smaller body part, so skip supersetting one or two exercises. For example, if you do 16 sets and four exercises for the back, do 12 sets and three exercises for calves.
Do one set for the smaller body part for every two or more sets for the larger body part. For example, complete one set for abs between every two sets of arms, and after 12 sets for bis and 12 for tris, you’ll have also cranked out 12 for abs. This is the classic method of staggering.
Perform one set for a smaller body part between exercises for larger body parts. For example, throw in a wrist curl set after completing every leg exercise, and over the course of a workout consisting of four exercises for quads and three for hams, you’ll squeeze in seven sets for forearms, almost without noticing.