You already know that the best hypertrophic tension time is right around 40 seconds. If you’re interested in building extreme mass, try to make most of your sets last about that long—getting close to muscular failure between 40 and 60 seconds will get you some incredible new mass gains. One-second lifting (positive) and three-second lowering (negative) for 10 reps has been found to build size. It hurts, but it works.
So what else should you be doing to optimize muscle-size stimulation? How about stretching? No, not freehand yoga poses. I’m talking about stretch-position weight-training exercises that fully elongate the target muscle. An animal study by Drs. Antonio and Gonyea produced a 300 percent muscle mass increase with the equivalent of only one month of progressive-stretch-overload workouts. Now that’s incredible!
So what the heck is a stretch-position exercise? Sissy squats, semi-stiff-legged deadlifts, pullovers, flyes, incline curls, overhead extensions, donkey calf raises, incline one-arm laterals. I may have missed some, and there are alternatives to many of those I listed (see my e-book on Positions-of-Flexion mass training, 3D Muscle Building, for more), but you get the idea.
Elongating the target muscle against challenging resistance does a number of great things for mass building, including creating an emergency response from the muscle for more fiber activation. When the muscle senses it’s being stretched with a heavy weight pulling against it, it must mobilize excess fibers to resist being injured. Your essentially tricking it into firing dormant fibers—those that may not come into play during standard exercises.
There is also evidence that stretch-position exercises increase anabolic receptors on muscle tissue—making size more easily attainable—and they may also increase the myofibrils, which are the actin and myosin pairings in the fibers. That’s similar to fiber splitting, or hyperplasia, but more aptly it’s strand duplication within the fiber. It all adds up to larger, fuller muscles.
Some things not to do on stretch-position moves:
1) Don’t jerk out of the stretch position. Use three seconds to lower and one second to lift; use a controlled “hitch” to reverse the movement and innervate a maximum number of muscle fibers.
2) Don’t lower to an excessive stretch. For example, on flyes only lower the dumbbells until they are on the same plane as your torso; there’s no need to overstretch the target muscle and possibly strain joints, tendons and ligaments.
3) Don’t use speed reps. There is research that says faster rep speeds can activate dormant fibers, but the stretch on these moves will accomplish that without having to risk injury. Stick with the 1-3 cadence—or slower—most of the time.
Bottom line is that you want to include stretch-position exercises as often as possible to trigger a bigger anabolic response—maybe not 300 percent, but you will get bigger focusing on stretch-position exercises. Just be aware that they can be dangerous because of the precarious position you’re forcing the target muscle into. Stay safe and keep your form strict. Using stretch-position exercises is one more trick to get you big and thick.
Stay tuned, train smart and be Built for Life.