In a recent article, we discussed how inflicting more muscle trauma requires more recovery time. If you do enough damage, you may only need once-a-week training for each muscle. And if you slow down and use the right techniques, your workouts will still be relatively short…
For example, one efficient way to inflict growth-promoting trauma is to slow down the negative stroke on every rep of a set. On squats, for example, you take a full six seconds to lower, then fire up at normal semi-explosive speed. (The first time we used that slow-down method on squats, we had trouble walking the next day—after only one set!)
Interesting that Arthur Jones, the creator of Nautilus machines and the father of high-intensity training, always said to use a four-to-six-second negative on every rep of every set. That was one reason he prescribed shorter and less frequent workouts—because that slow lowering induced lots of muscle trauma that required extra recovery.
The negative-accentuated style is excellent, but we think one or two NA sets per bodypart can be enough (especially after our NA squat experiment and resulting soreness). You also need faster two-seconds-up-two-seconds-down rep speeds. Why? That allows you to use more weight and achieve more overload at the semi-stretch position—the key fiber-activation point where the muscle is elongated. Jones suggested getting that X-Spot overload at the end of an NA set…
Jones said that at the point of failure, the trainee should hold the weight at the sticking point for as long as possible. That produces even more tension time, muscle damage and growth-fiber activation in one single set. (Static holds are excellent, but we like X Reps, or partials, in the semi-stretch position when possible, as movement calls even more fibers into action.) We still think sets at standard speed are important for unique fiber activation, however.
Rep-speed variations (like negative-accentuated sets) plus X Reps and X hybrid techniques produce unique growth-triggering muscle trauma. But, as Jones often said, the key to getting size bursts is intense workouts followed by enough rest to allow muscle growth to occur.
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
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