Q: You include both stretch- and contracted-position exercises in the Old Man, Young Muscle workout. I get why that can build more mass. But since so many studies are showing that stretch loading builds the most muscle, should I rely more on the stretch moves, or maybe even eliminate the contracted exercises most of the time?
A: The jury is still out on whether stretch exercises are “superior” to contracted-position moves. How is that possible since studies clearly show that—for example, overhead extensions beat pushdowns hands down—or in this case, hands up—for triceps mass?
Hypertrophy researcher Chris Beardsley explains…
Many studies have shown that muscle fascicle length [by stretch loading] increases earlier in a strength-training program and then plateaus, while increases in muscle-fiber diameter [from other exercises like contracted-position moves] occur over a longer period of time.
So it appears that the area-specific growth from stretch-position exercises occurs more quickly and levels off. Increasing muscle-fiber thickness can take longer, and that girth expansion may be more optimally stimulated by contracted-position exercises…
What that means is, you’ll get a burst of size first from stretch-position exercises. But as you continue to train, your muscle-fiber thickness will steadily continue to increase, primarily from contraction, building the muscle even bigger.
That would explain why studies show that stretch moves create more hypertrophy. They do at first—over a 12-week period….
But if Beardsley and other researchers are correct, continuing the study for longer would have the contracted-exercise growth effects catching up and perhaps surpassing the stretch-exercise mass accumulation…
That’s still a theory, but there are other reasons to include contracted-position moves. Stay tuned for more on those in the next training newsletter.
Your Efficient Mass-Building Handbook: For complete mass workouts that include Speed Sets, the ideal exercise for each muscle, and the best stretch and contracted add-on moves, get your copy of Old Man, Young Muscle.
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
Former Editor in Chief, Iron Man Magazine
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