To maximise muscle growth in a given muscle you need to stimulate and fatigue a wide spectrum of muscle fibres. To achieve this you need to challenge it across its entire contractile range. Picking the big compound lifts is a good starting point, but leaves a little bit of untapped growth potential. You see, doing a full range of motion (ROM) in the big lifts doesn’t achieve stimulation of all of the fibres.. Moving through a full ROM is very different to being challenged over a full ROM. To train a muscle across the widest range fibres you need to work it in the mid-range, lengthened and shortened position.
Multi-joint barbell lifts do provide the most bang for your training buck, but they do not overload a muscle in all three of these positions. No single exercise can. Exercises do not require you to produce a constant force at all points throughout the ROM. Changes in the length of the lever during an exercise mean that force differs across the ROM. Every free-weight exercise has a point where it is hardest and then another where it is easiest. Take the bench press for example, it is hardest at the bottom, but you are stronger in the mid-range as you approach lockout. A DB lateral raise is another example. In this case, the challenge at the bottom of the lift when the DB is by your side is minimal. At the top when your arm is out to your side and the lever arm is longest, however, it is extremely challenging. So, as you can see, relying on just one free-weight exercise will not train the entire range available at a given muscle.
A simple solution to the above problem is to use three different exercises for each muscle group. One for the shortened, mid-range and lengthened position. This is what Steve Holman suggested with his positions of flexion (POF) training method. This approach works, but can be quite time consuming. Training each muscle with three exercises often enough (training a muscle twice per week is a good rule of thumb) using traditional sets requires plenty of hours in the gym each week. If you have the time then, great! If not there is a simple, and very time efficient way to achieve a full contractile challenge for each and every muscle. I call it FCR Tri-Sets.
FCR stands for Full Contractile Range. A tri-set is when you sequence three exercises back to back with little, or no rest. In each tri-set there is an exercise for the lengthened, mid-range, and shortened positioned. As such, each tri-set taxes the muscle across their entire range. The great thing is that they are also extremely time efficient. It takes about half the time to get your session done using FCR tri-sets compared to training all points of the strength curve with traditional straight sets. So, put these to use when time is at a premium to help you to maximise your gains in minimal time.
Below are some example FCR tri-sets for you to put into practice:
1 – Bench Press, 3×6-8, rest 10s
2 – Machine Flyes, 3×6-8, 10s
3 – DB flyes, 3×6-8, 120s
1 Front Squat 3×6-8, 10s
2 Leg Extension 3×10-12, 10s,
3 Sissy Squat 3xMax, 120s
1 – Pull-Ups 3×6-8
2 – Straight Arm Pulldowns (Torso Upright) 3×8-10
3 – DB Pull-Over 3×8-10
Hamstrings (Hip extension)
1 – BB Goodmorning, 3×6-8, 10s
2 – 45 Degree Back Extensions, 3×8-10, 10s
3 – Back Extension, 3×10-12, 120s
Hamstrings (Knee Flexion)
1 – Standing Leg Curl, 3×6-8, 10s
2 – Seated Leg Curls, 3×6-8, 10s
3 – GHR, 3xMax, 120s
(You could do a tri-set which combines both functions of the hamstrings – hip extension and knee flexion as follows)
1 – BB RDL, 3×6-8, 10s
2 – Lying Leg Curls, 3×6-8, 10s
3 – Back Extension, 3xMax, 120s
1 – BB Curls, 3×8-10, 10s
2 – Spider Curls, 3×8-10, 10s
3 – DB Incline Curls, 3-8-10, 120s
1 – Dips, 3×8-10, 10s
2 – Rope Pressdowns, 3×8-10, 10s
3 – Seated French Press, 3×8-10, 120s