Those wanting effective, long-lasting fat loss are, in today's more enlightened age, becoming increasingly aware that strict dieting and endless aerobic workouts will not cut it (that is, fat from their bodies). It is now more than ever accepted that weight training is imperative if fat is to be carved from flesh in rapid fashion.
In days past a quick fat loss fix necessitated crash diets consisting of a negligible number of calories and marathon cardio sessions, both widely purported to directly remove excess weight. What such nutritionally deficient eating and excessive cardio did, however, was to burn equal parts fat and muscle while only temporarily boosting the metabolism.
Impossible to maintain, once such a schedule was in any way compromised though the addition of "bad" calories (food that contained, heaven forbid, fat or high carbohydrates) in larger amounts than thought necessary, any fat weight lost would inevitably be piled right back on, with interest. And valuable muscle would be the biggest casualty.
Today it is known that to successfully lose weight and keep it off it is, as a fundamental pre-requisite to long-lasting results, important to build as much muscle as one possibly can, a process often dictated as much by genetics as it is facilitated through good eating and hard training.
One weight training method that has received positive results for many weight loss candidates is giant sets, which are generally thought to involve incorporating four, or more, bodybuilding exercises into one arduous set that, if done correctly, will stimulate one muscle group—or two opposing groupings (back and chest, for example)—more effectively than will an exclusive emphasis on straight sets training.
While any form of weight training—from three to four straight sets per body part to supersets (two sets performed back to back), drop sets (one set broken into three parts, each subsequent set after the first comprised of a 30 percent weight reduction) and rest pause training (upon a set's completion, rest for around two seconds before completing several more reps) - will assist fat loss, giant sets incorporate a greater amount of work into a smaller timeframe.
This allows one to do more while seriously elevating their metabolic-rate (the rate at which we burn calories both during activity and at rest) to more effectively burn fat. Sound good? How might you best include giant sets in your training regime? Read on to find out.
Giant Gains In Fat Loss?
Performed in rotation with as little rest as possible between them, the four or more exercises that comprise each giant set are to be done with as much intensity as one can muster. Though this statement might appear self contradictory, it is worth noting that intensity, in bodybuilding terms, is defined by failure attained at the completion of a set.
The major goal of giant sets training, then, is to complete each set of each exercise (a good rep range for both fat loss and muscle building being around eight to 12) with nothing left in the tank before moving onto the next set (exercise).
Resting between each exercise is to be kept to a minimum (around 10 seconds is sufficient, with 1-to-2 minutes between each giant set) to ensure the compounding effect each movement has upon the one following it is maximized. The giant sets themselves are to be limited to three per body part. Three giant sets comprised of four exercises will therefore provide 12 sets per body part, each muscle grouping targeted from all angles over what is technically the same set.
In fact, one of the benefits of doing giant sets is their brevity; depending on the body part trained an entire workout can be completed in around 35 to 45 minutes. Condensing three maximal bouts of sustained aggression into such a short period does wonders for both muscle building and fat loss.
A giant sets workout can significantly enhance fat loss, provided enough intensity is applied to building muscle. One mistake many people who employ giant sets make is to relax workout intensity to achieve the completion of four exercises in succession. Doing this will not only negate the purpose of each set, which is to build muscle, but to lessen the fat burning effect brought about through a resulting elevated metabolic rate.
Used as an adjunct to one's regular weight training program, giant sets training often provides the intensity boost needed to encourage new gains in muscle mass. The combination of exercises coupled with a sustained period of exertion serves to target a muscle group from all angles hitting deep muscle fibers and stimulating growth.
The metabolic processes governing such growth—as with any form of weight training, but to a greater degree with giant sets—will result in an elevated metabolism, which will, in turn, burn body fat at a faster rate, even while we rest. Once new muscle has been established—provided proper nutrition and rest have been structured in—such metabolic activation will continue.
In fact, the less muscle one has the harder fat loss efforts are to sustain as muscle, being a metabolically active tissue, is constantly working to maintain its structure. Fat, on the other hand, is comparably inert and, if anything, slows the metabolism down.
To shock a muscle into growing, giants sets are thought to be unequalled: by forcing more blood into a specific muscle group (which helps to deliver amino acids to enhance the healing process resulting from the micro tearing of the muscle fibers) compared with any other training protocol, they exponentially create a compounding effect that encourages extreme gains.
Be sure, however, not to turn each movement into a high rep, pumping exercise that is likely to be more aerobic by nature; your sets must be hard and heavy, as with any other style of weight training. If you are not lying on the ground exhausted after the five or so minutes it takes to complete one giant set then you may not have worked hard enough. Each set should be achievable, but only just.
Another advantage including giant sets within your regular training program will confer is the impact they can have on muscles not normally targeted during more convention workouts. Again provided enough intensity is applied and a focus on form is maintained at all times, the added difficulty completing four exercises back to back creates can also force assisting muscle groups to work to their fullest.
In transitioning from one movement to the next, such is the degree of difficulty—both in a technical sense and in terms of sheer effort—required to complete the second set, and the two to follow, that special neuromuscular pathways must be activated to properly coordinate each rep of each set. Like learning any new skill, adjusting to giant sets training requires the firing of new nerves and specific neuromuscular responses to the unique challenge using giant sets presents.
And like conventional straight sets training, exercises and rep ranges can be changed around with the giant sets approach to continually shock the muscles into new growth. Such nervous system activity along with the adjustment needed to adapt to this new training stimulus/system will also amp up the metabolism to encourage greater fat loss.
Our bodies will quickly adapt to new training approaches if these are used in the same manner for an extended period: the key to stimulating further gains is to change one's routine often and giant sets are a valuable tool that can incorporated whenever such change is required.
Given the giant sets approach is an advanced training method it is best that it not be used by beginners as the compound stress associated with it and the greater potential for injury among those unaccustomed to such stress might offset any benefits to be gained. It is probably best to begin using giant sets after at least one year of solid bodybuilding-style training.
What Exercises Are Best?
The best movements to include when designing any giant set are those that work the target muscles from all angles. A giant set for chest, for example, would not include four exercises that target the upper region. Instead, you would pick separate movements to work the upper, lower, inner and outer chest, perhaps rounding the set out with one that functions solely as a mass builder.
I would also recommend those that work best for your individual body type and/or are needed to balance a certain body part. There are certain movements that work well for some, but are not as effective for others. Due to genetic limitations (arm length, height etc) and the overall degree of muscle growth we get from specific exercises, it is best to select those that you feel are most productive for your unique physiological requirements.
Personally, I get a great pump using chins, bent dumbbell rows, deadlifts and close grip pulldowns combined into one giant set for back. This combination just feels right for me and, as a result, I experience great gains.
However, using bent barbell rows and wide grip pulldowns in place of the dumbbell rows and chins, respectively, provide a much weaker response. It is also good practice to select those movements that target weaker areas of a particular muscle grouping.
If your side deltoids are strong but those to the rear are weak then it might be smart to include two movements that place greater emphasis on the weaker area while one can be used to maintain the current degree of size the stronger region possesses.
In the program outlined in this article you will find recommended exercises. If one or more of these are not suitable for you, then simply substitute in its place those that are.
How To Use Giant Sets
The best way to use giant sets as a method for building certain areas to their fullest is to pick four movements related to that area. For back, you might choose deadlifts, T bar rows, chin ups and bent barbells rows. Each of these movements works a specific part of the back to target overall growth.
What I have found to be best for maximizing each movement's effectiveness is to complete the hardest movements first (in the above example it would be deadlifts) and run down the list to the least taxing (probably chin ups, though this would be a subjective matter).
This way, you will be better able to generate the utmost intensity for each movement when relatively fresh while offsetting the risk of potential injury (trying to complete a heavy set of deadlifts while you are physically exhausted is not a good idea, trust me). It is also important that the most effective movements—the compound exercises such as deadlifts and squats which work more related muscle groups while targeting the largest of these from all angles—be completed first while energy levels are at their highest.
But this is not to say that one should not reduce the intensity on the so-called easier movements as a set reaches its conclusion: actually, it is best to try to increase the force placed upon the muscles as the weight will probably be slightly lighter than they would be training with straight sets. Therefore, take the time to refine your focus to where you can feel each fiber working through a full range of motion.
Giant sets can also be used to target opposing muscle groups. For example, to work the biceps and their agonist grouping, triceps, one might pick alternate dumbbell curls, triceps pushdowns, bicep preacher curls and lying triceps extensions, executing them in this order. Probably best done with smaller body parts such antagonistic training can cause major swelling of all related muscle tissues (a great thing for bodybuilders, a possible medical condition for normal people).
The key thing to remember here is that if you wish to bring up a lagging body part then it is best to hit it, in giant set fashion, with four related movements, otherwise the blood flow that is diverted to any antagonistic muscles might lessen its healing, and eventual growth.
Typically, giant sets are used to support and enhance the effectiveness of an established program. They are included for perhaps one body part per workout with 1-to-2 sets being the maximum number used. Because of their intensiveness, giant sets are usually limited to occasional use to provoke further gains. In the following program they will exclusively form a training schedule designed for rapid fat loss to encourage the development of a lean, shredded and muscular physique.
A Giant Sets Workout Schedule For Maximum Fat Loss
While the following 6-week program—designed to carve the final layer of fat from one's physique while further increasing muscle gains—incorporates giant sets as a major part of the outlined training schedule, it is recommended that this method, following this program's conclusion, be included for at least one (of four exercises) set every other workout.
Giant sets can also be used periodically—every second or third week, and incorporated into one's routine as outlined in the following program—to help overcome a training plateau to further encourage fresh gains in muscle size while reducing body fat. Be aware, however, that given their intense nature excessive use of giant sets might result in overtraining, so they are best used in the following manner:
- To attain a specific goal (such as fat loss prior to a show) and
- Occasionally incorporated into one's regular training program to vary the pace of their workouts and to stimulate further gains.
Note: For both 3-week phases specific cardio sessions are limited to three per week. As mentioned, giant sets training will ensure rapid fat loss, but if you feel additional cardio is needed (depending on the stage you are at in your training) then add one more 45 minute/moderate intensity session per week on a non weight training day