Stressing the Entire Strength Curve for Full Muscular Growth

Q: James,I enjoy all of your books, and I feel I grasp somewhat the concept of the density training. But I get lost when trying to make my own routines up. More specifically the exercises and how you decide to put them together. For example the trisets in the density training.

I can’t believe the gains I have gotten through your routines, and I want to understand more so I can keep the gains coming. Are you going to come out with any more books?



My Answer: I do plan to write one more book, and in this 5th book, I will go into more detail about exercise selection and the principles governing the construction of your own routines.

When I create trisets and compound sets, I look at 2 things when selecting exercises:

  1. Stressing each portion of the strength curve
  2. Stressing all portions of a muscle

So let’s just use the biceps area as an example. When you curl, you will feel the weight more or less at certain portions of the movement.  If you do preacher curls, then the beginning range of the movement will be the hardest portion to work through.  If you do barbell curls, then the midrange is the hardest.  And if you do spider curls, then the top range or contracted position is the most difficult.

So if you’re constructing a triset for the biceps, then you would string together 3 exercises that hit each portion of the strength curve:

  1. Spider Curls
  2. Standing Barbell Curls
  3. Preacher Curls

I’m sure you’ve noticed that you get an incredible pump when you perform the trisets or compound sets I list in Volume One and Two.  This is not just because you’re performing a lot of reps.  It’s also because you’re hitting the full range of the force curve, which activates a greater number of muscle fibers.

The other thing I consider when constructing compound sets and trisets is that I want to stress all portions of a muscle.  Let’s consider the triceps.  The triceps consists of three heads: lateral, medial and long head.  You should know from reading Volume One that the lateral and medial heads of the triceps are activated by pressing movements, while the long head is activated by extensions.  So if you wanted to create a compound set for the triceps, then you would string an extension movement with a pressing movement:

  1. Lying triceps extensions
  2. Close grip bench press

So when you create trisets and compound sets, construct them based on either stressing the entire strength curve or stressing all portions of the muscle.

Q: I read your article Complete Strength Routine on Very, very good article! Thank you for writing it! I was wondering if you could give me work of advice on my workout program.

First I will tell you about my background, my goal, time frame and what I’m planning to do. And I hope you could maybe correct me, if anything needs to be corrected.

OK, here’s my background: I’m 24 years old. I’m 6’2″, 200 lbs. with about 20-25% bodyfat. I have been working out for about 6 years. Last 2 years, because of my education, I was on and off with the workouts and for the last 8 months I stopped completely. So now I’m out of shape, but I do have some muscle.

My goal: I want to join the Air Force, and for that I need to get good results on the physical tests. I have approximately 3 months, and I started working out last week.

During these next 3 months I have nothing else I need to do (no school or work), so I can dedicate myself 100% to the workouts. My ultimate goal is:

55-60 push-ups
16-18 chin-ups
60-70 sit-ups
9:20 on a 3km run (1.6 miles) or 12 minutes on a 2 mile run

Here is my plan: I’m going on a strict diet (high protein, high fiber, medium carbs and fat) 500-1000 calories less than what I’m used to. I want to get read of that extra fat. That should help me on all the tests.

I got all the supplements I need: Creatine, Glutamine, Arginine, BCAA, Whey, Casein and Beta Alanine. This should help me push as hard as I can and recover quickly. I got ACG3 as a pre-workout, which seems to work amazing for me. I can pump really hard. I was surprised how much I took, after 1 week of workouts. “C4 thermal-shock” to help me get rid of fat.

For my workout, I want to do strength and some endurance. Here is my plan:

Monday – 5km jog in the morning. Chest, shoulders, abs workout in the evening 4 exercises for each muscle group, 2-3 sets, 4-6reps.
Tuesday – jog in the morning, Back, Biceps, Shrugs w/o in the evening
Wednesday – Jog in the morning, Legs, Triceps, Abs w/o in the evening
Thursday – day off/easy swimming for stamina/steam room
Friday – same muscles as Monday, 3-4 exercise for each muscle, 4 sets with 20reps or to failure (failure should be about 20 reps)
Saturday – same muscles as Tuesday, same routine as Friday.
Sunday – day off.


When I workout, I try to isolate muscles, so I don’t use muscles I don’t workout that day. Morning jog will slowly be increased to 10km. But I will vary between increasing distance and speed. I need a certain amount of kilometers to be able to hit target of 9:20, but I need to increase my strength as well, so I don’t want to jog more than 60-70km a week.

Before each workout I’ll do a 10 minute jog as a warm-up. I’m going to try to increase my speed all the time to get as close to my target speed as possible.I know I need to do some interval training, but I just don’t see where I can squeeze it in. Maybe have it as warm-up before my workout?

Last 3 weeks before my test, I will do mostly jogging with a lot of interval training and a specific program on push-ups and chin-ups.If it’s not too much trouble for you, could you please give me some feedback? Should I change anything to reach my goal, or does it looks good?Thank you very much!

Best Regards,


My Answer: Your cardio and supplementation looks fine.  What I would revamp is your strength training routine.  If your goal is to increase chin-ups, pushups and sit-ups, then you must do chin-ups, pushups and sit-ups at every workout.

Plus your volume is way too high.  You’re doing 3 body parts per workout, 4 exercises for each body part, 2-3 sets per exercise.  That’s 36 sets per workout, which translates to about an hour and a half depending on how long you rest in between sets.  That’s way too long.  Your workout should not be any longer than an hour, and you should not be performing any more than 20-24 sets per workout.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Perform 1 set of chin-ups, pushups and sit-ups at  the beginning of every workout.  Do as many reps as you can short of failure.  Consider this your warm-up and ditch the 10 minute jog (you’re already running in the morning).
  • Follow the workouts you have planned, but bring the number of exercises per body part down to 2 instead of 4 sets.

Good luck, Pavel!


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