You know our mantra: You can trigger bigger gains with one small change. But let’s multiply that for even more mass. We’ve got 3 simple things to get you growing immediately… [Read more…]
A: Yes, X Reps are better because you extend the set at only the precise point in the exercise’s stroke that is key for force production and/or fiber activation. With forced reps, on the other hand, you writhe around as you strain through full range reps with help from your training partner. So while X Reps help you circumvent nervous system failure for an extra hypertrophic surge, forced reps waste a lot of nervous energy as you push through weak areas of the stroke with imprecise unloading (pushing or pulling from your partner). That’s why trainees who use a lot of forced reps tend to get tremors after training—they overstress the nervous system.
A recent study appears to confirm that (International Journal of Sports Medicine, 24:410-418. ). It featured 15 male athletes engaged in either a maximum-reps routine or a forced-reps routine. Both types of training led to considerable increases in serum testosterone, free testosterone, cortisol and growth hormone; however, cortisol, which is a stress hormone that can cannibalize muscle tissue, was higher in the forced-reps group. Forced reps also produced a greater decrease in maximum muscular force, according to the researchers.
The greater loss of muscle power indicates that forced reps overstress the nervous system and the excess cortisol produces catabolism in muscle. In fact, many studies indicate that the biggest cause of overtraining is nervous system stress, and therefore forced reps do a lot to increase that probability—much more than X Reps. In other words, cue to X Reps short stroke, as opposed to full-stroke forced reps, we believe X-Rep training is a superior way to extend a set for a maximum growth response with less recovery and nervous system stress (Journal of Applied Physiology, 85:2352-2359. ).
Q: What is the best rep speed for muscle growth? I want to look like a bodybuilder/physique athlete, so I’m not that concerned with strength. I just want more muscle mass.
A: In The X-traordinary X-Rep Workout e-book we cite a study that attempted to determine the optimal rep speed for building muscle. It compared doing sets with a two-to-three-second positive and a two-to-three-second negative—about three up, three down—with sets using a power cadence, which is one second up and three seconds down. The power cadence produced the most mass in this study. [Int J Sports Med. 30(3):200-204; 2009.]
Muscle biopsies suggest that the power cadence causes more damage to more muscle fibers than traditional reps, leading to a greater degree of protein remodeling in the trained muscle. You may know from our Ultimate Fat-to-Muscle Workout and the X-centric Mass Workout e-books that slow lowering, or the eccentric stroke, causes more muscle damage. But notice that BOTH groups lowered the weight in three seconds. So what gives?…
The key is that the power-training group used a more forceful turnaround for the one-second positive compared to the slower tempo of the other group. That explosive jolt right at the semi-stretch point of the target muscle activates significantly more fast-twitch muscle fibers, so more growth fibers are engaged on every rep and for each traumatic negative.
That study actually proves why end-of-set X-Rep partials are so incredibly effective—you force the muscle to continue firing, activating the MYOTATIC REFLEX and getting more dormant fast-twitch fibers into the action. In the above study, the controlled explosion occurs on every rep of a power set. Ending with X Reps would make the set even more anabolic.
Our recommendation is to use one second up and three seconds down for your big multi-joint, or midrange, exercises—like bench presses, squats, rows, pulldowns and so on.
Isolation moves are more dangerous, especially stretch-position exercises like flyes and pullovers, so slow down the positive somewhat for less joint stress. We like a two-up/three-down tempo to grow for those.
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
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