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How To Apply Back-Off Sets To Your Training

It might seem counterproductive to use heavy weights and lots of tenacity only to scale the weight back on your final set. But opting not to follow a linear path with your sets and reps and using techniques like back-off sets can translate to gains in both strength and size — something athletes universally strive for.

What are back-off sets? They’re a method of lifting to which — just as it sounds — you back off and revert to the weight used in your first set (or by 40 percent). So instead of following a traditional rep scheme where you increase the weight used and reduce the number of reps, you use your last set to knock out as many reps as possible. Surprisingly, despite being fatigued, your central nervous system will kick into high gear and recruit as many muscle fibers as possible for you to polish off that last set. In fact, you might even execute more reps that you did in set one.

Obviously, no matter what weights you use you need to apply strict form to each movement. A cheat rep or two with lightweight is okay, but don’t make a habit of it. Otherwise, you’ll work areas you’re not intending to work. Here is a sample chest workout to which you can apply back-off sets …

Dumbbell Bench Press

4 Sets x 10, 8, 8, 6 reps

Incline Bench Press

3 Sets x 12, 10, 10, 8 reps

Weighted Dips 3 Sets x 15, 15, 12 reps

*Following the last set of each exercise decrease the weight by 40 percent (or whatever you used for the first set) and perform the exercise to failure.

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