Q: I love 3D Positions of Flexion training. It makes sense and has helped me bring up my chest and delts with fewer sets. My question is about biceps. Which is best for the contracted-position exercise, one-arm spider curls or concentration curls? Or are they about the same?
A: In the e-book X-traordinary Arms we explain the in-for-out/out-for-in principle. For biceps it means that to focus on the outer head for peak, you use an inner-grip exercise. Concentration curls are about as “in” as you can get.
By curling the dumbbell across your torso to the opposite shoulder, you’re simulating an extreme inside grip, emphasizing the lateral, or outer, head of the biceps, which adds to the peak when you flex. It’s the outer head that rises above the inner head to produce an impressive jutting crest.
One-arm spider curls, which are performed on the vertical side of a preacher bench, are an “out” exercise—you angle your lower arm out away from your upper arm. That focuses on the medial, or inner, head of the biceps. Beefing up that area gives it more thickness when your arm is down by your side and viewed head-on.
Obviously, one is not better than the other—unless you want to specialize on one of those biceps areas. If you’re after complete biceps development, you should alternate them as your contracted-position exercise. A good 3D POF biceps program would be barbell curls (midrange), incline curls (stretch) and concentration curls or one-arm spider curls (contracted), alternating the last two exercises from biceps workout to biceps workout.
Q: I keep reading that the shape of the biceps is genetic and can’t be changed, but [in the e-book X-traordinary Arms] you say that it can. I’ve even seen respected scientists say that changing the shape of a muscle can’t be done. How do you respond?
A: What those scientists are referring to is the length of a muscle. For example, if you have short biceps, with a gap between the lower part of the muscle and the elbow joint when it’s flexed, you can’t fill in that gap. You’ve simply been born with a high biceps insertion point—same idea as a high calf muscle. To fill in the gap would require muscle reattachment surgery.
You can, however, use exercises that focus on one head of a muscle to give it a different look—genetics willing, of course. For example, in the answer above I explained how concentration curls train the outer biceps for more peak because of the inward angle of your upper arm, while spider curls, with the lower arm angled out, focus on the inner biceps head for more thickness.
Another example is keeping your feet close on squats, which hits more of the outer quadriceps, the vastus lateralis, for sweep. A wide stance hits more of the inner quads, the vastus medialis, and the adductors, the beefy upper-inner-thigh muscles. Remember, in for out and out for in. The same holds true for angling your feet on leg extensions—toes out hits more inner quad, or the teardrop, while toes angled inward hits more of the outer area for sweep.
Q: Do you think I could lose 15 to 20 pounds in a month? I have a reunion coming up, and I want to be in a somewhat healthy-looking condition. I was 250 last night. I want the fat off. It’s killing me to see this gut—you have no idea!
A: Yes, you could lose that much, but most of it would be water and muscle—and you probably wouldn’t look much better or feel healthy. We’re all impatient when it comes to changing our bodies, but the best strategy is relatively slow and steady.
You’d be better off shooting to lose about 10 pounds of fat and lifting hard to build muscle. You’ll be amazed at what losing some ugly fat and gaining some rock-hard muscle will do for your total look and how you feel—from the standpoint of health and self-confidence.
If you do it right, you’ll be adding muscle and losing fat, so the scale isn’t something you should pay attention to very closely. In other words, if you lose 10 pounds of fat and gain 10 pounds of muscle, you’ll look completely different—as in so much better—but the scale will read exactly the same. Always keep that in mind.
Q: What’s the difference in effect between rest/pause and drop sets? I know what they are: You use the same weight on rest/pause sets and rest about 10 seconds between them, while on drop sets you move immediately to a lighter set with no rest. But is one better than the other?
A: I’ve found that rest/pause is best for exercises that use max force as their key growth component. In 3D POF those are midrange- and stretch-position moves. It’s a great way to add a little more volume and force overload without too much extra time in the gym. Try resting 15 seconds, then hitting another set to exhaustion. That lets ATP and nerve pathways regenerate somewhat so you can continue the force-overload assault.
Wouldn’t adding another set after a two-to-three-minute rest be better? Possibly, but that adds significant time to your workout. I train on my lunch break four days a week, so I have to find innovative ways to tweak up the volume without adding much time—and rest/pause is one of the best tactics for that. (Note: See the new e-book X-Rep Update #1 for more on rest/pause.)
Drop sets, on the other hand, are best when occlusion is the primary growth factor—contracted-position exercises like leg extensions, leg curls and concentration curls. On those you’re trying to extend the tension time, so that means as little rest as possible—only enough to reduce the weight on the stack or grab a lighter pair of dumbbells. A drop—two sets back to back, the second with a lighter weight—is a great way to force the secondary layer of growth that consists of mitochondria development and capillary bed expansion. Plus, you get more muscle burn, which can activate more growth hormone, a potent fat burner and muscle builder. If you want to look big like a bodybuilder, you have to attack every layer of growth—from max force to stretch overload to tension/occlusion.