Q: I know the big midrange exercises, like squats and presses, are most important for mass, but after that, do you think the stretch-position exercise or the contracted-position exercise is the best followup for extra muscle growth? The reason I ask is that I don’t have a lot of time to train, so I’m going to do the Ultimate Exercise for each bodypart [identified in The Ultimate Mass Workout e-book] and one more, either stretch or contracted, whichever you say will give me the most growth.
A: Interesting dilemma, but both the stretch- and contracted-position exercises are important for different reasons. Each triggers growth along different pathways (but there is an easy solution to your problem, as you’ll see)…
We often reference the animal study that produced a 300 percent muscle-mass increase—that’s a triple-size gain—in one month of progressive-stretch “workouts.” The researchers believe the stretch overload caused hyperplasia, or fiber replication, as well as hypertrophy. (Antonio, J., and Gonyea, W.J. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 25:1333-45; 1993.)
In another study that produced significant growth via stretch overload, the researchers said, “excess muscle stretch promotes the orderly lining of sarcomeres within muscle, leading to a stronger muscle contraction and setting the stage for architectural changes in the muscle that precede growth.” (Seynnes, O.R., et al. J Applied Physiol. 102:368-373; 2007.)
So stretch-position exercises like incline curls for biceps, flyes for pecs, sissy squats for quads, pullovers for lats, etc., are excellent for extra anabolic effects after the big midrange move; however…
Contracted-position exercises, like leg extension, leg curls, concentration curls, pushdowns, etc., produce continuous tension and occlusion. Japanese researchers got an 800 percent muscle-mass increase with occlusion compared to standard training that allowed blood into the muscles [occlusion produced 800 percent better results, not an 8-fold size increase]. Also, other studies show that tension/occlusion triggers more lactic acid and muscle burn, which is key to growth hormone production, setting up an optimal anabolic environment. (Can J of App Phys; 22:244-255; 1997)
So which do you choose? The easy solution is to alternate them at successive workouts. At one workout do midrange and stretch; at the next workout for that bodypart do midrange and contracted. That’s Split-Positions training, and it’s very effective due to automatic variation…
The X-Rep-Hybrid Mega-Mass Program on pages 67-71 of the Beyond X-Rep Muscle Building e-book is set up as a Split-Positions-workout regimen. Here’s a quote from that e-book with a specific example…
The midrange exercise stays constant, but the second exercise alternates between a contracted-position movement and a stretch-position movement…. Here’s an example from the 3A and 3B workouts for upper chest: The A workout has Smith-machine incline presses, the constant midrange exercise, followed by incline cable flyes, a contracted-position upper-chest move; the B workout is Smith-machine incline presses again, but that’s followed by incline dumbbell flyes, a stretch-position exercise.
Try it as is, or construct your own program with the Positions-of-Flexion exercises listed. Remember, change can bring big gains. [Note: There’s also a home-gym Split-Positions program with basic equipment on pages 72-75 in the Beyond X e-book.]
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
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