We often hear that we should stick with the basic, battle-tested exercises when looking to build muscle. And, we also often hear that in order to build muscle, we must include enough training variety to keep our body interested, positively adapting, and to prevent our workouts from growing stale and less effective. So, it’s no wonder bodybuilding enthusiasts and even some personal trainers become confused, as these training tips seem to directly contradict one another. In that, one says to stick with the same basic stuff while the other says  keep varying the stuff you use.

Well, as I say in my book Strength Training for Fat Loss, “Any good training program should have enough consistency to allow you to see progress, and it should have enough variety to prevent boredom and staleness. This involves using the same basic exercises but in slightly different ways.”

In other words, you certainly do want to stick with the basic muscle-building exercises, but you want to apply them in a variety of not so basic ways. And, that’s exactly what I’m going to provide you in this article: New ways to squeeze more juice out of traditional bodybuilding exercises.

Mind Your P’s and G’s… and E’s!

Here’s are 4 methods of performing sets of classic muscle-building exercises used in the Performance U training approach to spice up classic bodybuilding exercises and help spark new muscle gains from them:

Pause-Go sets (PG’s): This is where you perform an isometric hold followed by regular full range of motion repetitions.

Go-Pause sets (GP’s): This is the reverse order of the above. It’s where you perform regular full range of motion repetitions followed by an isometric hold.

Pause-Go-Eccentric sets (PGE’s): This is where you perform an isometric hold followed by regular full range of motion repetitions. Then finish the set with a (single) slow eccentric repetition.

Go-PauseEccentric sets (GPE’s): This is where you perform regular full range of motion repetitions followed by an isometric hold. Then, like the above, finish the set with a (single) slow eccentric repetition.

Video Tutorials

The following videos demonstrate each of these four set applications.

How to do PG Sets

How to do GP Sets

How to do PGE Sets

How to do GPE Sets

Why We Use GP, PG, GPE and PGE Sets?

In addition to the videos above, below I’ve provided you with a comprehensive list of our top exercises to use each of these four set techniques with. But, before we get into how to use each of these 4 set techniques from a practical exercise perspective, it’s important you understand why to use them.

First off, all four of these are techniques designed to subject a muscle group to increased time under tension (TUT) – the last two techniques (PGE’s and GPE’s) even more-so than the first two (PG’s and GP’s) because they include three-stages of the set instead of two.

In my Smart Dumbbell Lifting: Iso-Dynamic Training article, I provide the science showing how increasing TUT increases metabolic stress, which is one of the three mechanisms for increasing muscle hypertrophy. In that same article, I also cover the science showing that isometric training, which each of the four techniques shared here involve, can be an effective means of adding muscle. And, like Iso-Dynamic Dumbbell training, the four techniques in this article allow you to reap the hypertrophy benefits of isometric training in an interesting way that blends it with other forms of muscle contractions.

Additionally, as you’ll see in the practical exercise applications, sometimes the isometric is held in the mid-range of the exercise. In one in my Advanced 21s for Hypertrophy article, I discuss a basic principle of muscle physiology that shows how the mid-range of an exercise allows you to increase muscle tension and increase motor unit recruitment.

Furthermore, the final two of the four techniques provided above – PGE’s and GPE’s – not only involve normal (dynamic) reps and an isometric (hold) portion, they also incorporate a slow eccentric contraction component. In my Cheat-Centrics: A Better Way to Perform Cheat Reps article, I cover the science showing how including both concentric and eccentric training may better optimize development of muscle strength and size.

In short, PG, GP, PGE and GPE sets, like Iso-Dynamic sets, Cheat-Centrics, and New Type 21’s are all unique methods used in the Performance u training approach to apply scientifically founded principles of muscle building.

Top Exercises Applications for PG, GP, PGE and GPE Sets

Now that you understand the scientific foundation behind these four rep techniques, let’s take a look at our favorite ways to apply each of them in the gym.

PG Sets: Top Exercises Applications

 The general repetition range we use for Pause-Go sets is an 8-10 second isometric hold followed by 8-10 normal full range of motion repetitions.

As you will see in the following exercise applications, some exercises will perform the isometric hold in the midrange, and in other exercises will perform the isometric hold in the shortened range of the exercise.

The following is a variety of top exercises for using Pause-Go sets: 

For Quads: Bulgarian Split Squats – Drop-down holding your rear knee roughly 1 inch above the floor, and perform an isometric hold in this position. Then perform regular style reps going up and down in a controlled tempo.

For Hams/Glutes: Lying Leg Curls – Perform the isometric hold either in the fully contracted (heels by your glutes) position or in the midrange (knee bent to 90-degrees) position. Then perform regular style reps.

For Back: Barbell Bent-Over Rows – Pull the bar all the way into your body so it’s in contact with the bottom of your rib cage and perform the isometric holding the bar in this position. Then perform regular style repetitions.

For Chest: Push-Ups – Lower your body so your chest is held just above the floor and hold this position for the isometric portion. Then perform push-ups as normal.

For Shoulders: Front or Side Raises – Hold the dumbbells up parallel with your shoulders for the asymmetric portion. Then perform reps as normal.

For Biceps: Dumbbell, Barbell or Ez-Bar Curls – Hold your elbows at a 90° angle with your forearms parallel to the floor for the isometric portion. Then perform regular style biceps curls.

For Triceps: Parallel Bar Dips – Lower yourself down until your elbows are bent at a 90° angle; hold this position for the asymmetric portion. Then perform dips as normal.

GP Sets: Top Exercises Applications

A Go-Pause set is the reverse the order of the above. So simply switch the order of the exercise applications described as “pause-go” sets to make them go-pause sets. The general repetition range we use for GP sets is also 8-10 normal full range of motion repetitions followed by an 8-10 second isometric hold.

We like using go-pause sets because they allow us to get just a bit more work done in the fatigued state where you are unable to perform a full range of motion rep with good technique.

Also, individuals competing in the physique sports (i.e., bodybuilding, figure, etc.) must hold extended isometric contractions while on stage performing their posing routines. So, we feel that incorporating some isometric holds can better help prepare the body to hold poses.

In addition to those application covered above, the following are some of our favorite ways to use Go-Pause sets:

For Quads: Leg Press – Perform rep as normal, and finished by holding an isometric contraction in the mid-range with your knee bent to around 90-degrees.

For Hams/Glutes: 45° Hip Extensions – After performing rep says normal, pause at the top with your body fully straight for the isometric hold portion of the set.

For Back: Chin-Ups or Pull-Ups – After you’ve completed your normal chin-up or pull-ups reps, perform an isometric hold either with your chin above the bar were in the mid-range with your elbows bent at 90°.

For Chest: Cable Flyes – Perform cable chest flies as normal, and then perform the isometric hold with your hands touching one another in front of you.

For Shoulders: Rear-Delt fly Machine – After performing reps as normal, hold an isometric contraction with your arms out to your sides.

For Biceps: Preacher Curls – After performing regular full range of motion reps, perform the isometric hold in the mid-range of the exercise.

For Triceps: Rope Pushdowns – Once you’ve completed your normal repetitions, perform the isometric hold with your arms fully straight. 

PGE Sets: Top Exercises Applications

The general repetition range we use for Pause-Go-Eccentric sets is an 8-10 second isometric hold followed by 8-10 normal full range of motion repetitions, followed by one 8-10 eccentric lowering phase.

The reason this eccentric works well at the end of the set is because when your muscles are too fatigued to lift the weight (concentrically) without cheating, they still have the ability to (eccentrically) lower the weight since you’re stronger eccentrically than concentrically. This physiological reality makes eccentric training perfect for when you have less energy to give at the end of a workout.

The following are some of our top exercise applications for using PGE sets:

For Quads: Leg Extensions – Perform an isometric hold at the top of the range with your legs straight. Then perform normal full range of motion repetitions. Then perform a slow eccentric from the top to the bottom.

For Hams/Glutes: Seated Hamstring Curls – Perform an isometric hold at the top of the range of motion with your heels by your glutes. Then perform regular full range of motion repetitions. And perform a slow eccentric starting with your legs bent and slowly extending them.

For Back: Lat Pull-Downs – Begin by performing an isometric hold in the mid range with your elbows bent at roughly 90°. Then perform regular full range of motion repetitions. Finish by performing a slow eccentric from your where the bar is at chest until your arms are straight.

For Chest: Dumbbell Flat or Incline Press – Hold your elbows at a 90° angle for the isometric portion. Then perform full range of motion reps as normal. And finish with a slow eccentric from the top to the bottom.

For Shoulders: Lateral, Front or Rear-Delt Raises – Hold your arms out to the sides parallel to the floor for the isometric portion. And perform full range of motion reps. Finish by performing a slow eccentric repetition starting from the top to the bottom

For Biceps: Machine Biceps Curls – Begin by performing an isometric old in either the beginning of the range (with your elbows slightly bent), in the mid range (with your elbows bent at a 90° angle), or in the shortened range at the top of the exercise. Then perform full range of motion reps as normal. Then finish with a slow eccentric repetition from the top to the bottom.

For Triceps: Machine Triceps Extension – First perform and isometric hold with your elbows fully extended. And perform full range of motion reps is normal. Then finish with a slow isometric repetition beginning with your elbows straight until your arms are fully bent.

GPE Sets: Top Exercises Applications

Just like PGE’s, the general repetition range we use for Go-Pause-Eccentric sets is 8-10 normal full range of motion repetitions followed by an 8-10 second isometric hold in the shortened range, followed one 8-10 eccentric lowering phase.

The way we like to keep track of the count on the final two phase of the set – the pause and eccentric portions of these set –  is to count the isometric portion up (i.e., starting from one and counting up to eight seconds), then count down that same amount on the eccentric lowering portion of the set (i.e., from eight seconds down to one second).

As you’ll see, some of the exercise applications listed below are the same as listed above for the PGE sets, while others are a bit different. This is because, like any other overload training tactics, certain training methods fit well with certain exercises and not others.

The following are some of our favorite exercise applications for using GPE sets:

For Quads: Leg Extensions – Perform normal full range of motion repetitions. Then perform an isometric hold at the top of the range with your legs extended.  Finish by performing a slow eccentric repetition from the top to the bottom.

For Hams/Glutes: 45° Hip Extensions – Perform normal full range of motion repetitions.  Then perform an isometric hold at the top where your body is in a straight line.  And perform slow eccentric lowering yourself from the top to bottom.

For Back: Chin-Ups and Pull-Ups – Perform full range of motion chin-ups or pull-ups as normal.  Then perform an isometric hold at the top with your chin above the bar.  Then perform a slow eccentric lowering repetition from the top to the bottom.

For Chest: Cable Chest Flyes – Perform normal full range of motion reps. Then perform an isometric hold with your hands together in front of you.  Finish with an eccentric repetition by slowly allowing your arms to separate.

For Shoulders: Lateral, Front or Rear-Delt Raises – Perform shoulder raises in the normal full range of motion manner.  Than perform an isometric hold with your arms parallel to the floor by the sides of your body.  Then finish with a slow eccentric lowering from the top to the bottom.

For Biceps: Cable Curls – With the cable attached at your feet, perform normal full range of motion biceps curls with any handle you wish.  Then perform an isometric hold at the top of the range of motion or your hands are in front of your shoulders.  Finish with a slow eccentric lowering from the top to the bottom of the range of motion.

For Triceps: Rope Pressdowns – Perform full range of motion repetitions.  And perform an isometric hold with your elbows extended.  And perform an eccentric repetition slowly allowing your elbows to bend.