Please have Adobe reader installed or another PDF reader.
[color=violet]Do you want an attention-grabbing, muscle-packed physique? (Of course you do; who doesn't?) But logic tells you that to get big and ripped you have to train like the top bodybuilders, and if you've seen their programs, you probably thought, "There's no way in heck I have time for that!" Their workouts usually contain countless sets and take two to three hours a day. Forget it!
Not so fast. There's a much quicker way to pack on pounds of muscle. Science has had the answer for decades, but hardly anyone has applied that science correctly—until now. Even we were guilty of not applying that science for almost 10 years of serious training—until some amazing things happened that helped us slash our time in the gym and achieve our biggest, leanest physiques ever in record time.
Discovering a Better Way to Build Muscle
We both work for IRON MAN magazine, and that means we can pick the brains of the best minds in bodybuilding. We like to test much of what we hear (if it makes sense) on ourselves, which we then report on in IM in our Train, Eat, Grow series (Steve has also written more than 10 books on weight training). But it's not just about getting bigger. To get that chiseled, granite-hard look, it's also about losing fat—getting as lean as possible while staying as big as possible. We're talking ripped at 5% bodyfat. So every summer we make it a point to get into shape for a photo shoot (and, of course, to look good at the beach). Unfortunately, the past three years our progress seemed to be stalled—we looked about the same each time we peaked—but then it happened. A group of articles on static, or isometric, training hit our offices from three respected authors, one of whom built 21-inch arms doing only about four sets of biceps and triceps work twice a week—no steroids. He said the key to making it happen was compound exercises with a significant twist—holds at the right place along the range of motion.
While we were skeptical, isometric holds made some sense. The other two training researchers had similar things to say about the anabolic potential of static training, and then a scientific study was released that showed that isometric contractions have potentially the same, if not better, muscle-building effects as dynamic full-range sets in some instances. Interesting!
We had collected a few more pieces of the mass-building puzzle: Our own research showed that trainees stop a regular dynamic set due to nervous system failure—leaving too many muscle fibers understimulated for growth to occur. That's why most bodybuilders do so many sets. Think about it. With normal training it takes many successive sets to get at enough fibers for growth—and sometimes that stimulation is insignificant because the nervous system flakes out early on every effort. That's why it takes so long to build noticeable muscle for the majority. In other words, for most people it takes a lot of sets, or volume, to get past the nervous system roadblock that prevents optimal muscle stimulation. Or does it?
Could an isometric contraction at the right spot in the range of motion at the end of a regular set force more nervous system activation, tax more fibers and exponentially increase the muscle-building power of any set? Science and anecdotal evidence say yes—that's how the author with the 21-inch arms did it—however, we've taken it a step farther and discovered an even better way, with muscle-building repercussions that are staggering, from what we've seen.
The new technique is better because it includes small dynamic pulsing actions. That works so well because the nervous system needs some movement for optimal response, even if that movement is small. We call it X-Rep training, and it has the potential to make you bigger than you thought possible—and with much briefer workouts because...
X-Rep Training Can Make Each Set Up to Five Times as Effective as One Conventional Set
It was discovered long ago that increasing force and tension on a progressive basis is the key to making a muscle grow. That's how the author/bodybuilder built his 21-inch arms with only a few sets each week—he extended the tension of a regular set at the right point in his arm exercises' range with increasing force to trigger an awesome growth response. His reward was giant arms in six months!
If you do set after set after set, there's a lot of wasted effort, your workouts take way too long, and you burn up precious recovery energy that could be channeled into muscle-size increases. With X Reps you get the nervous system to fire a maximum number of muscle fibers at the precise position of flexion of any exercise for a quantum leap in muscle fiber activation in any one set. That can result in enormous increases in growth stimulation, not to mention strength, with very few sets. For example, the week before our '04 photo shoot, when we should've been depleted and weak, we went up 70 pounds on our calf raises in one workout, no problem! We got similar increases on other exercises, and we attribute that unusual strength surge to the X Reps we added the last month.
Full-Range Training, Partial Pulses and
Extreme Muscle Size
We've been training together for almost 10 years, and for most of that time we've used a muscle-building protocol known as Positions of Flexion. IRON MAN readers will recognize that as a mass method that calls for training a muscle at three different positions in order to work it through its full range of motion.
We got some incredible gains over the years by training each muscle through its full arc of flexion (POF helped Steve overcome his hardgainer genetics to a great degree); however, not till recently did we realize that we were stopping every set short, before full hypertrophic stimulation was taking place—even when we went to absolute failure. (Remember, it's the nervous system that craps out first.) By adding X Reps to each exercise, we leap-frogged nervous system failure, forced the muscle to keep firing and got three to five times the gains with fewer than half the sets. Our workout time dropped dramatically, and we achieved a level of growth that was nothing short of astounding. To anyone who finds building muscle a difficult, almost impossible task, that's extremely exciting stuff!