Q: Just read The Ultimate Power-Density Mass Workout. Absolutely great! I read it all in one sitting. It really made me think, so I’m redesigning my workout using your programs. But don’t higher-rep warmup sets cover the endurance component of the 2A fibers? And what about X Reps? They extend a set, so I would think they also affect the endurance side of the important 2As as well.
A: You’re right on both counts—to a degree. Warm-up sets aren’t intense, so very few fibers are involved—and many that are fall into the slow-twitch category, rather than the important fast-twitch 2As.
So, yes, on a 15-rep warmup set you will get somewhat of an endurance, or density, effect, but only in those few 2A fibers you activate. It takes sets to muscular exhaustion to fully emphasize density…
Those intense sets can be higher rep or a number of lower-rep sets back to back (drop sets, supersets, etc.) or many sets with short rests between that build in intensity, as in the 10×10 method. Keeping the target muscle under tension for long periods plus muscular failure is the key…
What about X Reps? Those activate more fibers at the end of a set and also keep the ones engaged under tension longer for better growth stimulation. In other words, you’re covering the intensity requirement for max-fiber recruitment. Therefore, a group of X Reps at the end of, say, a nine-rep set to exhaustion definitely has some powerful mass-building density effects—but is it enough?
For some trainees, yes—those who have more of a power propensity to their muscles. They only need small doses of density—like X Reps. Our theory, however, is that most people require about two-thirds power and one-third density. That’s why the Power-Density programs have a multi-set pyramid followed by density sets—to emphasize power with a density chaser…
However, extreme hardgainer types may need to lean more toward density than power due to the high-endurance capacity of every major muscle group. Hardgainers tend to have most muscles with fiber compositions similar to calves and forearms—requiring loads of density, or endurance, work to trigger growth.
That may be why hardgainers get such a huge size burst when they first start using the 10×10 method. Using a weight with which you can get 20 reps, but only doing 10, rest 30 seconds, do 10 more, and so on until you complete 10 sets of 10 reps is a serious density stimulator with less power emphasis. (And the pump is enormous—especially as you drive through those last few brutal sets!)
That doesn’t mean hardgainers don’t also need power work; it’s just that most need more of a balance or even a lean toward density rather than a significant dose of power. That’s the very reason hardgainers don’t respond all that well to heavy, low-rep, abbreviated power programs—they get very little density-component work, and that’s what they tend to respond to best!
For them, alternating between a Power workout and a 10×10 workout for each bodypart is an excellent mass-building strategy. That’s how the Heavy/Light Ultimate 10×10 Mass Workout (pages 28-33 in the 10×10 e-book) is structured. Your heavy day is power work with Positions of Flexion; then at your next workout for that bodypart, you do 10×10 on only one exercise, which is your “light” day. It’s very effective at packing on muscle.
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
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