Elite trainer Christian Thibaudeau promotes stretch loading as a major hypertrophic trigger. He uses both static holds and partials in his clients’ workout as well as his own training to build mass and strength… [Read more…]
Should your dominant muscle-fiber type determine how you train for mass? [Read more…]
Q: The 4X Mass Workout is filling out my muscles faster than anything I’ve ever tried. Thank you! I’m wondering what you think about doing something weird on the last set. Like I’ve been doing a drop set on the last set every so often or a superset with another exercise just on that last set. Is that okay, or should I only stick to straight sets with 4X?
A: If you’ve been reading this newsletter for any length of time, you should know that we encourage any and all types of training experimentation. Always remember that what packs on new mass for one person may not work well for another, so be innovative and open-minded… [Read more…]
Q: Many years ago, I tried negative-only sets on most of my exercises. My partners lifted the heavy weight for me, and I lowered it slowly, six seconds on each of six reps. I got some decent strength gains but not much mass at all. That’s what gives me reservations about your negative-accentuated [or X-centric] technique. Will it build muscle for me even though pure negatives didn’t?
A: The heavy, pure-negative sets that you tried are great for building neuromuscular efficiency—the nerve connections that improve strength. You also get some muscle trauma; however, you lose muscular tension between each rep when your partners lift the weight for you… [Read more…]
Q: I’m using 4X, TORQ, and Super TORQ exclusively—no heavy training. I’ve already added about six pounds of new muscle in just a few months. Can I train each muscle more frequently than every four days? It seems like with moderate poundages, each muscle would recover quicker and I could train more often to grow even faster. Should I try it?
A: Try it. Whether it works well will depend on your recovery ability—and your age may also have a bearing…
Consider this: Research has discovered that the older we get, the more muscle inflammation derails muscle growth. [Merrit, E.K., et al. (2013). J App Physiology.] [Read more…]
Q: I just started the Size Surge program for some new size this year, and it feels great so far. I love the workouts. One problem I’m having is that on some exercises that I’m supposed to pyramid the weight up, I don’t get enough reps on the second heaviest set. For example, on dumbbell presses, my reps go 9 and then 4 or 5 after I add weight. Should I just keep doing that, use the same weight on both sets or what?
A: We’ve answered a similar question concerning barbell curls before, and we suggested using the same weight on both sets; however, that’s a single-joint move. It sounds as if you’re having problems pyramiding on the big compound, or multi-joint, exercises, which is common for thin guys looking for muscle size… [Read more…]
Q: Your 4X training is fantastic. It has me growing again, and it’s perfect with 3-way POF. My question is about muscle feel. How important is it for size increases? I ask because I have trouble feeling some major body parts, like shoulders and chest.
A: We think it’s EXTREMELY important to feel the target muscle working; if you don’t, you may be using other muscle groups to move the weight or simply not innervating enough muscle fibers for a big anabolic response. [Read more…]
Q: You’ve talked about doing different things on the last set of a 4X sequence, like rest/pause. Are there ways to change the other sets in the sequence for variety? I’m a big fan of “change to gain,” so I like as much variation as I can get. By the way, 4X training is incredible—I’ve gained almost 10 pounds in six weeks using it with POF. Thank you!
A: Yes, change to gain—if your workouts are the same, your results will be lame. (Maybe we should’ve been rappers—Nah.)
We’ve experimented in the past with a unique approach to 4X—but it’s not for the meek. Remember, for 4X you use a weight with which you can get about 15 reps, but you only do 10; rest 40 seconds between sets then do it again. Here’s the hybrid drill:
Set 1: Raise the weight in one second and lower in six, getting around eight reps. That’s what we call an X-centric, or negative-accentuated, set. (Note: That’s almost a minute of time under tension.)
Sets 2 and 3: Use a normal cadence—one-second positives and three-second negatives, going for 10 reps. (40 seconds TUT)
Set 4: Use a speed cadence—about one second for the positive and one second for the negative.Get as many as you can—probably around eight to 10, depending on the exercise. We call this a speed set.
The late Olympic coach and muscle-building expert Charles Poliquin said that the most underused mass stimulus is rep cadence—and the above gives your muscle three different ones to deal with as well as unique tension times—and you use the same weight on all sets…
The X-centric reps on the first set act as an excellent warmup, pushing a lot of blood into the target muscle with a tension time of almost a minute and providing a good stimulus to the nervous system with slow negatives.
They also provide muscle-building benefits right off the bat—you get myofibrillar stimulation with the slow negatives and sarcoplasmic expansion with the long tension time. That’s the double-dose of muscle growth we’re always harping on.
Next you do sets 2 and 3 with a standard cadence—one up and three down. Tension time is around 40 seconds.
Then, on the last set, you do more explosive-style reps, but you still control the weight. The 2-second-reps tempo is speed style and has been shown in studies to activate dormant 2B power fibers, so be prepared for some major fiber churn and burn. Good luck getting 10 reps on this set.
We recommend trying it on just the big midrange movement of a Positions-of-Flexion workout because it can be so traumatic. If you try it on all 3 POF exercises for a muscle, do a 3X sequence for the stretch- and contracted-position moves—only one standard set instead of two. It’s another mass tactic to get you huge.
If you don’t have the 4X Mass Workout yet, you can pick it up for just $9 HERE.
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
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Q: After reading some of your previous newsletters, I’ve been thinking about trying your 10×10 method. It sounds good, except I can’t get myself to accept using such a light weight. Will that really build muscle? I bench 300 pounds for a single, so that means I should use 180 pounds for 10×10. Man, how can that work?
A: You’re falling for the old the-heavier-you-go-the-more-you-grow myth. It’s been ingrained in all of us, but once you understand how muscle mass is created, you’ll know that you can build a lot of size with more moderate poundages and short rests—like with 10×10 or 4X… [Read more…]
Q: Thank you for clearing up the muscle-growth mystery for me. I always believed in going heavier and heavier to get bigger. Now I know that’s only a small part of the puzzle. Working in the 4X method, X Reps, drop sets, and even some of your high-rep TORQ sets has already gotten me bigger in just a few weeks. My question is, Do you think some people get a better size response from power training and others get more size from density [endurance] work?
A: Absolutely. As we mentioned in a previous newsletter, the BIGGEST powerlifters don’t train for sarcoplasmic (endurance fluid) expansion yet have good muscle size. That’s because they were big dudes in the first place, which may signify more myofibril-building capacity. That would explain their extraordinary strength. The myofibrils are the actin-myosin strands inside the muscle fiber that generate force, but for most trainees that’s not the key to ULTIMATE SIZE… [Read more…]