Q: I have almost all of your e-books, and I’ve learned more from them than I have from anywhere else in the 10 years I’ve been training. Thank you. I just got The 4X Mass Workout and had a question: You always say “change to gain,” but you tend to use the same few exercises in a lot of your programs. Shouldn’t I switch moves often to gain mass, like use dumbbells instead of a barbell?
A: While variation is important, you need to focus on the exercises that you feel the most. That’s especially true for weak bodyparts, which tend to lag due to inadequate neuromuscular efficiency, or nerve-to-muscle connections. A good example for us, and most bodybuilders, is upper chest exercises.
While we will use incline dumbbell presses every so often, we’ve found that when our hands have freedom of movement, our delts and/or triceps begin to steal work from the pecs. Jonathan’s front delts are very strong, so those tend to take over on any dumbbell pressing move when the going gets tough.
For that reason, we often favor a barbell and a fixed hand position. That allows for an isometric inward push as we drive on the bar. That inward hand force better innervates and contracts the upper pecs.
Will some trainees feel incline dumbbell presses more than the barbell version? Absolutely. We all have different leverages, muscle origins and insertion points, etc. That’s why we suggest that you stick to the version you feel best MOST OF THE TIME. We say most of the time because a little variation for a couple of weeks never hurts—but always return to your bread-and-butter exercises.
Another reason you see a lot of the same exercises in our programs is that we have been proponents of the Positions-of-Flexion mass-building protocol for nearly 30 years. That’s because it works, as explained in most of our e-books. POF is training a muscle through its full range of motion with a specific sequence of exercises. For example, for triceps, it’s close-grip bench presses (midrange), overhead extensions (stretch) and pushdowns (contracted)…
Now in POF, there are only a handful of exercises for each position, and for some, there is only one exercise. A perfect example is the stretch position for quads. The torso and thighs must remain on the same plane as you squat for optimal stretch in the quads, and that means the only stretch-position quad move is sissy squats…
Even so, we may use Smith machine squats as a substitute for a few weeks just for variation, but Smith squats are NOT a true stretch-position move for the quads. That’s why we always return to sissies after a few weeks.
The point is, use the exercises you feel the best MOST of the time. Deviating from your individual core mass-building exercises is acceptable for a few weeks, but always go back to what works for you.
Then what the heck do we mean by “change to gain”? We mean to vary rep speed, intensity tactics, even exercise order. For example, an excellent change that can trigger incredible muscle gain is to go to an all-4X program, as we outline in The 4X Mass Workout e-book. Talk about a blast of new mass!
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
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