Blog, bodybuilding|fitness|frank zane

Practicing Safe Sets

You lessen your chance of injury when you practice safe sets. How do you do this?

  1. Warm up before sets by stretching. Continue stretching the body-part you are working between sets.
  2. Increase poundage gradually on each set. I don’t take more than a 5 pound increment on dumbbell exercises, 10 to 15 pound increment on machine movements, and 20 pound jumps on leg presses and Leg Blaster Squats.
  3. If you are going heavier than previous workouts, work up in weight for 3 sets, not 2. Sometimes I even do 4 sets of an exercise when establishing higher poundage.
  4. Make sure that your negatives are always slower than the positive phase of the repetition. This keeps the weight in the groove, makes the weight feel heavier to the muscles and enables more muscular growth.
  5. Develop a piston-like rhythm on each repetition. This will give you a better pump.
  6. Always keep your muscles warm while training. You should never train in a tank top in cold weather. I start my workouts with a T shirt and sweatshirt on and take the sweatshirt off as my upper body muscles warm up.
  7. Apply liniment to sore muscles to help them stay warm during your workouts. I often use ultrasound on sore areas before workouts with liniment as a coupling gel. This sends heat deep down to the muscles and tendons.
  8. DMSO may be called for if you have tender areas that you are going to train. The drawback of course is the garlic taste in your mouth and smell of your breath.
  9. You may need to rest longer between sets if you are using weights that are heavier than usual.
  10. Don’t do forced reps or go to failure on the positive phase of a rep. I never use spotters, but instead use weights I’m sure I can control.
  11. The alternatives to forced reps and going to failure are doing rest-pause (stop your set when the weight feels heavy, rest for 20 seconds, then do a few more reps in strict form) and drop sets (on your last successful rep, immediately go to a lighter weight and do a few more reps—this works great with dumbbells).
  12. For muscle growth, go to negative failure on the last rep of your last set on one or two exercises in your workout.
    On the day following your workout, rest the muscles you worked on the previous day completely. My policy is to never train upper body two days in a row. This has really helped my shoulders stay less injury prone.
  13. To full isolate the muscle you are working, do your reps through a range of motion that only works the intended muscle. For example I don’t lock out on incline dumbbell press in order to keep tension on the pecs and not on front pull-down either in order to keep tension on the lats.
  14. Your goal with each set is to get a good pump, not to see how much weight you can use.

Going too heavy too soon tends to work the joints more and the muscles less. Experiencing safe sets will enable you to train hard longer without injury… Remember: injury is what stops you.