Q: I’ve been lifting for about 1 1/2 years, trying to build a mass base, but it’s just not happening very fast. I like the idea of 3D Positions of Flexion [training each muscle in its midrange, stretch, and contracted positions], but almost everyone I talk to says to stick to only the big, basic exercises and forget about isolation moves. Should I just continue using the big basics and hope I build size and strength, or is now the time for me to try 3D POF?
A: Using only the big, basic exercises, what we call midrange-position moves like squats for quads, is fine for, say, a six-week phase every so often (like winter); however, we firmly believe that those who make big gains using only big exercises have an abundance of pure fast-twitch fibers and exceptional nerve-to-muscle connections (neuromuscular efficiency). They are genetically gifted, unlike the majority…
Remember, the big basic exercises are geared to elicit max-force generation, which primarily builds the anaerobic fast-twitch fibers at one level. If you can’t contract a lot of those fibers or you simply don’t have a lot of them to begin with, you have to use a more efficient mass-building approach, like 3D POF (if you want bigger, fuller muscles so you look like a bodybuilder).
As we explain in the 3D Muscle-Building e-book, you still focus on the big midrange exercise, doing it first—rows, chins, squats, bench presses, etc.—but you follow with stretch-position work and contracted-position exercises. Those two unique mass builders develop the muscle via different pathways than the basic force producers.
Stretch-position exercises are decent force generators, but they’ve also been linked to hyperplasia, or fiber splitting, and anabolic hormone release in muscle tissue. We discuss the animal study that produced a 300 percent muscle-mass gain in only one month in most of our e-books, but in X-Rep Update #1, we analyze it even further, with some interesting conclusions…
The amazing muscle gains in that study were produced with very little movement, only progressive stretch overload with more of a pulsing action at muscle elongation. Perhaps very little movement is necessary on stretch-position exercises—just pulses with progressively heavy weight, as in the study (see the X Update e-book for more info). Nevertheless, it shows the incredible mass-building power of stretching a muscle against heavy resistance, something you don’t get with most big compound, or midrange, exercises.
Obviously, the research shows that stretch-position exercises provide a lot of unique anabolic stimuli, so if you just do the basic exercises, you miss this important hypertrophic trigger.
Then there are contracted-position exercises, like leg extensions, leg curls, concentration curls, and pushdowns. Those build mass at a different level as well. They provide continuous tension, which results in occlusion, or blood-flow blockage, and that alone has been shown to build muscle size. Choking off blood flow to a working muscle activates a lot of different fiber types, and it also develops the cell mitochondria and capillary beds.
All of that adds another layer of muscle size. (And as we’ve said, tension/occlusion may be as important or even more so for hardgainers with many more endurance-oriented fibers that pure fast-twitch ones.)
So, yes, you should still use the big, basic exercises, but also add stretch- and contracted-position moves—at least for a few training phases during the year. That will give you fuller, more complete muscular development no matter what your genetics. Even if you don’t have a lot of pure fast-twitch fibers, you can still look like a ripped, well-developed bodybuilder when you peel off your shirt.
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
OVER-40? This is for you!
One of the most interesting read-me pages on Testosterone and other muscle-building hormones we’ve seen is The Truth About Testosterone.
It even talks about a fruit, a specific part, that can up your T naturally. Cranking up your testosterone will not only get you jacked in the gym, but in the bedroom too—not to mention help rip up your midsection as it ignites fat burning. If that interests you, there’s more from our colleague and registered dietician, HERE.