A lot of experts say that you’re either destined to have big muscles (bodybuilder look) or you’re not (distance-runner physique). It has to do with the muscle fiber types you’re dealt at birth—the genetics cards. But some cutting-edge research indicates that genetic muscle limitations may not be set in stone. You may be able to go from skinny twig to muscular and big with the right training—and it can happen very quickly and with fairly short workouts (as you’ll see, studies have tripled muscle size in animals in a month; we’ll give you training tips tied to that phenomenon in a moment).
All of this muscle-morphing talk has to do with something scientists call hyperplasia, or fiber splitting. We’ve talked about it before in this e-zine, and it’s a very exciting—although controversial—concept. How exciting? Check out this quote from Mr. Natural Olympia John Hansen’s book Natural Bodybuilding on one of those studies:
Jose Antonio, Ph.D., performed a study on a bird in which he used weights to progressively overload one wing and stretch the anterior latissimus dorsi muscle. The overload scheme started with a weight that was 10 percent of the bird’s weight and increased it by 5 percent up to 35 percent. Two days of rest preceded an increase in weight. After 28 stretch days, the study recorded the greatest gains in muscle mass ever in an animal or human model of tension-induced overload—a 334 percent increase in muscle mass with a 90 percent increase in fiber number.
Did you get that? After a month’s worth of stretch overload (and appropriate rest days interspersed between them), the bird’s muscle mass more than tripled! And the number of muscle fibers in the target area almost doubled! So do you think stretch and semistretch overload are important in your muscle-building endeavors? Maybe a lot more than many of us realize. (We’ve been conditioned to focus on squeezing contractions, but stretch overload appears to be much more important if you’re after quick size increases!)
One way to get that important stretch overload is to include stretch-position exercises for every bodypart. For example, stiff-legged deadlifts for your hamstrings, flyes for your pecs, incline curls for biceps and so on. [Note: Stretch-position exercises are identified for every bodypart in The Ultimate Mass Workout e-book.] Exercises that elongate the target muscle in its stretch position against resistance are the perfect mass-building complement to the big compound anabolic stimulators like squats, decline presses and certain types of chins and rows (identified as the Ultimate Exercises in the UMW e-book). In other words, do a stretch-position exercise after your compound, or Ultimate, exercise to trigger bigger, faster mass increases.
What if you don’t have time to include extra exercises and prefer half-hour workouts? Then the next best—or maybe even better—thing is to use semistretched-position overload on that one Ultimate Exercise for each bodypart (hey, it’s the best exercise anyway; why not make the most of it?). Blasting the semistretched position can exponentially increase fiber-replication possibilities, as well as other anabolic effects. It’s a simple overload sequence with incredible mass-boosting power. Here’s an example…
On your last set of incline presses, preferably on a machine, go to nervous system exhaustion, till you can’t get another full rep, then lower the bar down to halfway between your chest and the midpoint of the stroke and pulse, blasting out as many partials as possible. (Remember, those semistretched partials are at the end of the set, so it’s going to take some teeth gritting; you may need some help from a partner on this particular exercise.) That gives your upper pecs critical semistretched overload. You’ll swear you almost feel the muscle fibers splitting as you fire out those X-Rep partials down near the bottom of the stroke!
Those partials really jack your upper-chest fibers at the max-force point, overloading that key semistretched position. Bonus: They can also ramp up anabolic hormone production. Here’s a conclusion from a recent study on muscular adaptations that confirms their mass-building power [Med Sci Sprts Exer. 35:955-63; 2005]:
“The increased acidity in muscle during intense training not only promotes anabolic hormone release but also appears to increase the level of muscle fiber recruitment. The brain apparently senses the heightened metabolic stress and compensates for it by recruiting additional fibers.”
Anabolic hormone release. More muscle-fiber recruitment. So you can build loads of muscle just doing the big Ultimate Exercise for each bodypart—if you do that single exercise for each muscle group correctly and turn up the heat with X Reps. (Stretch-position exercises are icing on the cake, as we explain in the UMW e-book. If you have time, do them; if not, you can make significant muscle gains without them, tacking on X Reps to one key, or ultimate, exercise for each bodypart).
You can build an eye-popping, attention-grabbing physique with workouts averaging about 30 minutes. We’ve received loads of e-mails from trainees using the Basic Ultimate Mass Workouts who are doing just that, many of which appear in our Satisfied X-Reppers section. (We even work out on our lunch hour; and we’ve made some excellent gains.) Try it yourself—use the X-Rep protocol described above on one set of incline presses, preferably on a Smith or other machine so you can stay in complete control and focus on your chest. You’ll almost feel the growth happening (is it fiber splitting?)—and you’ll get a skin-stretching pump and new muscle size in record time!
X Alert: X Reps have recently been the featured cover story in a number of overseas bodybuilding publications, including IRON MAN Japan, IRON MAN Russia and Sport Revue in Germany. X Reps are helping bodybuilders all over the world train more efficiently to get bigger and stronger faster.