Q: I just saw an interview with a top pro bodybuilder, and he said one of the keys to building mass is to explode at the bottom of every rep and attempt to move the positive rep as fast as possible. Are explosive reps a good idea? I’m afraid of getting injured.
A: The big pros are the genetic elite with superhuman muscle-fiber density, as well as ironclad tendons and ligaments. And don’t forget that many use growth hormone, which fortifies cartilage, tendons, and ligaments even more (that’s why many athletes use it—to quickly rehab soft-tissue injuries and prevent others from occurring in the gym and on the field.)
That being said, the pro bodybuilder you mention does make a good mass-building a point. The myotatic reflex is a phenomenon that gets more muscle fibers into the action. When you explode with a weight out of the turnaround, it elicits an emergency response from the nervous system, and more fibers are called into action. And the more fibers you activate, the more size you stimulate.
But, yes, using explosive reps can be a dangerous way to train. So are they a necessary evil in the attainment of extreme mass? NO!
Those of us who are drug-free and without the luxury of super genetics should use a controlled explosion at the turnaround on each rep. In the X-traordinary X-Rep Workout e-book, we discuss a study that showed a one-second-up, three-seconds-down cadence as a superior mass-building tempo. You should use that on most sets…
Slowing the negative to three seconds not only stimulates more muscle via fast-twitch fiber tension and eccentric emphasis, but also better guards against an injury-provoking jerk at the turnaround. You get that safer, controlled explosion when you shift from the positive to the negative stroke.
Nevertheless, we do believe that the turnaround is the key spot for fiber activation and you should be emphasizing it. That’s one reason we developed END-OF-SET X-Rep partials. Here’s a quote from the X-traordinary X-Rep Workout e-book—Chapter 1: You Gotta Try This…How the Pros Pack On Mass—that hammers that point home:
[X Reps] extend a set at the sweet spot of all the key growth exercises. You get extreme anabolic overload at the end of a strict set, no jerking or heaving necessary. You keep your reps strict and safe, and when you can’t get another full rep, you use short X-Rep partials to extend the set and overload the fast-twitch fibers at the precise sweet spot—anabolic overload right where the muscle needs it most.
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
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