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Maximize Your Muscle Pump

Discover five advanced techniques to stretch your muscles and promote faster gains in size and strength.


Here is one truth I’ve discovered about skinny guys: They tend to have more slow-twitch muscle fibers, which require a greater amount of lactic acid to be stimulated to produce growth. Here is how you know if you’re naturally slow-twitch dominant: Were you a sprinter in high school? Can you jump high? Do you build muscle easily? If you answered no to all three of these questions, then you’re very likely a slow-twitch fiber dominate individual, and these pump methods will be perfect for you.

Partials

Unlike full-range reps, partials establish a hypoxic state because full-range movements allow the muscle to briefly disengage, which creates a localized pump. Partials have an added benefit of enhancing the mind-muscle connection, thus increasing the effectiveness of your training overall. The localized pump also increases protein synthesis and decreases protein breakdown, which sets the stage for muscle growth.
How to do it: Perform 10 partial reps of any movement in which the muscles are operating in their shortest range, followed by five partial reps through the mid-range of the same movement, finishing with five full-range reps.

Using the overhead press as an example, you would perform 10 partials, lifting the bar from the top of the head to the fully extended position, then five partials lifting the bar from your nose to just above the head, before performing five reps through a full range of motion.
Switch it up: Try performing the sequence in reverse order: bottom-range partials, followed by full-range reps, and finishing with top-range partials.

Another option is to perform an additional partial rep before transitioning into your next full-range rep. For instance, you would squat down, come up a quarter of the way, go back down, and come up to the top. That’s one rep.

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Reduced Rest Intervals

Reducing the amount of recovery time between sets limits the opportunity for metabolic waste to be cleared, which increases the demand on the body to dispose of it the next chance it gets. It does this by sending even more nutrient-rich blood to that area. Only when the muscle is disengaged can a surplus of blood enter.

How to do it: Perform 10 reps of any exercise, then rest as little as possible to get another five reps (or half as many as the first set).
Switch it up: For a change of pace, perform 10 reps, then rest only as long as needed to perform another two to three reps at a time, until you perform double the amount of reps originally completed.

Extended Sets

When it’s no longer possible to perform an exercise in the same manner, an alternative measure can be taken to continue subjecting the targeted musculature to high levels of tension. These options include reducing the amount of weight or modifying the manner in which the exercise is performed.
How to do it: Perform a movement of your choice in a more challenging way by either slowing things down, including pauses, or even placing yourself in a position of disadvantage (using an underhand grip when pressing, for example). As the set becomes more and more challenging with every rep, extend the set by either performing faster reps, full reps without pausing, or switching your grip/stance to the stronger alternative.

Using the machine chest press as an example, you would begin the set with an underhand grip and perform your reps slowly. As you fatigue, speed up the execution of the reps and switch to an overhand grip.
Switch it up: Perform the entire sequence again using partial reps.

Slow Tempo Lifting

Lifting slowly prevents the muscles from disengaging, which is what happens when you lift with maximum force and through a full range of motion. However, the momentum generated from lifting with maximal force can overcome the necessity for the muscles to remain engaged throughout the full range of motion.

Because “slow” is a relative term, I generally advise that a rep be performed no faster than three seconds at a time, as anything faster than that will generally be too fast and take tension off the muscle.

Isometrics/Flexing

Flexing, or simply pausing during a dynamic movement, engages the muscle in a similar manner that partials do, by preventing oxygen and nutrient-rich blood from entering the muscle. The beautiful thing about flexing is how practical it is. And, because flexing is not damaging to the muscle in any way, it can be used frequently.
How to do it: Flex the muscle you’re training during your rest to trap nutrient-rich blood inside. An example would be to perform a set of curls, put the weight down, flex the biceps are hard as possible for 30 to 45 seconds, and then perform the next set with as little rest as needed (no more than 60 seconds) between the flexing and the subsequent set. Continue in this fashion for as many sets as prescribed or as tolerated.

Flex in the same manner in which the musculature was trained during the movement. For example, if performing underhand curls, flex the biceps with the palms up as well. If performing reverse curls, flex the biceps with the palms facing down.

An isometric hold is similar to the flexing technique, but you do it mid-rep. When lifting a weight, intentionally stop at a specific point in the range of motion to increase the demand on the targeted musculature. Using the reverse barbell curl as an example, initiate the curling motion with the elbows fully extended, and upon reaching a 20- to 30-degree bend in the elbow, stop the movement and hold for two seconds before continuing the curl.
Switch it up: Instead of pausing for two seconds during each rep (which would equate to roughly 20 seconds for every 10 reps performed), hold the isometric contraction for a full 20 seconds prior to performing your set, and then complete your reps in a traditional manner. IM

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