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Fast or Slow to Grow?

7208-prime6Q: Thanks for revising Size Surge to include 4X training. I’m 45 with a lot of joint damage from heavy “lifting,” if you want to call it that. So your [moderate-weight] 4X method is perfect and has me making new muscle gains. Thank you. My question concerns the “finisher” set you recommend [in one of the new SS workouts]. Do you think pure-negative or negative-accentuated sets are better?


A: For those who haven’t seen it, the updated e-book Size Surge 2.0 features a few new workouts, including an alternate Phase 2 routine that is Positions of Flexion–based with a few heavy sets and 4X work. If you’re older and want to use 4X instead of those few heavy sets, that’s fine too (it’s what I would do). Then, to end, you do a one-exercise mass finisher using an intensity method.

For example, you end the full-range POF chest workout with wide-grip dips. Next to that exercise in the listed routine in the e-book, you’ll see: (PN or NA). That’s pure negatives or negative accentuated.

For pure negatives you use your legs to get into the top position and then lower in six seconds for six or seven reps—until you can no longer lower slowly.

For negative accentuated, a.k.a. X-centric, reps you lift in one second and lower in six—no help necessary from a partner or other muscle groups. Once again you do six to eight reps—until you can no longer lower slowly.

No help necessary makes NA more convenient; however, you can’t use as much weight as a pure-negative set, so your muscles don’t get the same overload.

Does the extra weight make pure negatives better than NA? Not necessarily. Here’s why.

While PN and NA sets take close to the same amount of time, 40 to 50 seconds, the tension time is not the same. The reason is that the tension is off the target muscle between pure-negative reps. A pure-negative set is really like a series of rest/pause eccentric singles.

So a pure-negative set is best for building strength with a size side effect.

Negative-accentuated reps, lifting in one second and lowering in six, have you using a lighter weight, but you keep tension on the target muscle through the entire set—and you still get myofibrillar microtrauma with the moderately heavy weight.

So a negative-accentuated set is best for building size with a strength side effect.

You may be wondering whether you involve more fibers with pure negatives because of the heavier weight. Possibly—but not enough to make a big size-building difference. Nevertheless, it’s a reason to use the X-centric + X-celeration tactic—also in described in Size Surge 2.0. Here’s the drill:

At the end of an X-centric set—say rep 8, when you can no longer lower in six seconds—immediately launch into a speed set. Each rep should last only 1.5 to two seconds, and you should get five to 10 semi-explosive reps, depending on the exercise.

Studies show that these speed, or X-celeration, reps can involve more fibers, even dormant ones, to enhance the growth effect.

So feed your need for speed to plant the muscle-size seed. And you’ll grow like a weed—even if you’re an older bodybuilder.

Note: The updated e-book Size Surge 2.0, revised to include new programs with the 4X mass method, is available at

—Steve Holman


Editor’s note: For more on moderate-weight growth-threshold 4X mass training, see The 4X Mass Workout 2.0, an e-book available at For e-books on X Reps, fat-loss nutrition and bodypart specialization, visit the X-Shop at

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