Workout Routines

The Staggered Deviation Training Program to Fix Your Weaknesses

Deviate from your normal routine to bring up your lagging body parts.

by
Seated Dumbbell Lateral Raise
Ian Spanier
Ian Spanier
Duration 60 min
Exercises 6-8
Equipment Yes

Unless you're training like a powerlifter, you’re hoisting heavy weight, over and over, you don’t need to rest very long between sets. Cutting rest periods can help you burn more fat and keep your workout intense. You can, however, give the muscle you’re working a rest by shifting your attention to another area that may need more work—like maybe your calves or biceps.

Enter staggered sets. The execution is simple: Insert a set or two of a smaller muscle, unrelated to the primary muscle you’re working, between sets of your main exercises. For example, if you’re training legs, you’d do all four sets of the leg press and then two sets of curls. Or one set of leg presses immediately followed by curls. And since you’re not hitting any of the same muscles, staggered sets shouldn’t affect your primary muscle—though they may tire you out. The result is more volume for that particular area and more calories torched overall, as you’re not just sitting on your ass “resting up.” You’ll thank us later.

STAGGERED SETS BASICS

  • Train a smaller, weaker body part during rest periods while working a bigger body part. Make certain the smaller body part isn’t stressed during compound exercises for the larger body part.
  • Abs, calves, forearms, and cardio are the best candidates for staggered sets.

STAGGERED SETS TIPS

  • The classic method of staggering is to alternate one set for the smaller body part between every two or more sets for the larger body part.
  • Try to plan combinations that you can do in the same area. For example, dumbbell flyes and crunches can be done on the same bench.
  • Don’t stagger if you need the rest period to recover from an exhausting set.

3 Ways to do Staggered Sets

1. UNRELATED SUPERSETS

Alternate a set for a bigger body part with one for a smaller, unrelated body part. You probably won’t want to do as many sets for the smaller body part, so skip supersetting one or two exercises. For example, if you do 16 sets and four exercises for the back, do 12 sets and three exercises for calves.

2. ASYMMETRICAL COMBOS

Do one set for the smaller body part for every two or more sets for the larger body part. For example, complete one set for abs between every two sets of arms, and after 12 sets for bis and 12 for tris, you’ll have also cranked out 12 for abs. This is the classic method of staggering.

3. BETWEEN EXERCISES

Perform one set for a smaller body part between exercises for larger body parts. For example, throw in a wrist curl set after completing every leg exercise, and over the course of a workout consisting of four exercises for quads and three for hams, you’ll squeeze in seven sets for forearms, almost without noticing.

Weak Point: Rear Delts

Exercise 1A

Barbell Biceps Curl You'll need: Barbell How to
bicep curl thumbnail
3 sets
10-12 reps
-- rest

Exercise 1B

Dumbbell Lateral Raise You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Lateral Raise thumbnail
3 sets
10-12 reps
-- rest
Perform as a bentover dumbbell lateral raise.

Exercise 2A

Incline Dumbbell Biceps Curl You'll need: Bench, Dumbbells How to
Incline Dumbbell Biceps Curl thumbnail
3 sets
8-20 reps
-- rest

Exercise 2B

One-Arm Cable Lateral Raise You'll need: Adjustable Cable Machine, D-Handle Attachment How to
One-Arm Cable Lateral Raise thumbnail
3 sets
10-12* reps
-- rest
*Per arm.

Exercise 3A

Triceps Pressdown You'll need: Adjustable Cable Machine, V-Handle Attachment How to
Triceps Pressdown thumbnail
4 sets
15 reps
-- rest

Exercise 3B

Band Pull-Apart
Band Pull-Apart thumbnail
4 sets
20 reps
-- rest

Exercise 4A

Dumbbell Bench Press You'll need: Bench, Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Bench Press thumbnail
3 sets
10-12 reps
-- rest

Exercise 4B

Face Pull You'll need: Adjustable Cable Machine, Rope Attachment How to
Face Pull thumbnail
3 sets
12-15 reps
-- rest

Weak Point: Calves

Exercise 1A

Lat Pulldown You'll need: Adjustable Cable Machine, Lat Pulldown Bar How to
Lat Pulldown thumbnail
4 sets
10-12 reps
-- rest

Exercise 1B

Standing Calf Raise You'll need: Box How to
Standing Calf Raise thumbnail
1 sets
15-20 reps
-- rest
Perform 2 sets if you can.

Exercise 2A

Barbell Upright Row You'll need: Barbell How to
Barbell Upright Row thumbnail
4 sets
6-8 reps
-- rest

Exercise 2B

Seated Calf Raise You'll need: Bench How to
Seated Calf Raise thumbnail
1 sets
15-20 reps
-- rest
Perform 2 sets if you can.

Exercise 3A

Cable Row Standing You'll need: Adjustable Cable Machine, Straight Bar Attachment How to
Cable Row Standing thumbnail
3 sets
10-12 reps
-- rest
Perform as a low-cable row.

Exercise 3B

Seated Calf Raise You'll need: Bench How to
Seated Calf Raise thumbnail
1 sets
20-25 reps
-- rest
Perform calf raises on a leg press machine. Do 2 sets if you can.

Weak Point: Forearms

Exercise 1A

Leg Extension
Leg Extension thumbnail
3 sets
20 reps
-- rest

Exercise 1B

Behind-the-back Barbell Wrist Curl You'll need: Barbell How to
Behind-the-back Barbell Wrist Curl thumbnail
3 sets
20 reps
-- rest

Exercise 2A

Leg Press How to
Leg Press thumbnail
3 sets
20 reps
-- rest

Exercise 2B

Cable Biceps Curl You'll need: Adjustable Cable Machine, Straight Bar Attachment How to
Cable Biceps Curl thumbnail
3 sets
12 reps
-- rest
Use a reverse grip. Perform one arm at a time. Do 12 reps per arm.

Exercise 3A

Barbell Squat You'll need: Barbell How to
Man Barbell Squat thumbnail
2 sets
12-15 reps
-- rest

Exercise 3B

Dumbbell Hammer Curl You'll need: Dumbbells How to
Dumbbell Hammer Curl thumbnail
2 sets
10-12 reps
-- rest

Weak Point: Upper Chest

Exercise 1A

Lying Leg Curl How to
Lying Hamstring Curl thumbnail
6 sets
8-10 reps
-- rest

Exercise 1B

Incline Dumbbell Flye You'll need: Bench, Dumbbells How to
Incline Dumbbell Flye thumbnail
6 sets
10-12 reps
-- rest

Exercise 2A

Stiff-legged Deadlift You'll need: Barbell How to
Stiff-legged Deadlift thumbnail
3 sets
6-8 reps
-- rest

Exercise 2B

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press You'll need: Bench How to
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press thumbnail
3 sets
10-12 reps
-- rest

Exercise 3A

Good Morning You'll need: No Equipment How to
Good Morning thumbnail
3 sets
15 reps
-- rest

Exercise 3B

Incline Smith Machine Bench Press You'll need: Smith Machine How to
Incline Smith Machine Bench Press thumbnail
3 sets
8-10 reps
-- rest
Use a wide grip.
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