I’m often asked about HRT—no, not hormone-replacement therapy; I’m talking about Hell Raiser Training. I attended a seminar in 2010 given by Tom Fuller, the founder of HRT, which is a training system designed to increase the sarcoplasmic portion of the muscle cell.
I remember reading an article in an old Muscle Builder years ago written by Fred “Dr. Squat” Hatfield. In it he broke down the components of a muscle cell. Of course, there are the muscle fibers that make up the core of the muscle cell. There is also another area called the sarcoplasm, which is the portion of the muscle cell that lies between the muscle fibers themselves and the cell wall.
Hatfield explained that increasing the volume of the sarcoplasm in a muscle cell will make the muscles bigger. The sarcoplasmic portion of the cell includes fluids, blood, glycogen, calcium and other components that add volume to the cell.
Heavy training using three to eight repetitions per set helps increase the size and diameter of the muscle fibers; however, doing more repetitions with less weight brings more blood into the muscles, causing a greater pump—and that increases the size of the sarcoplasm. Both methods of training can make a muscle bigger.
The HRT method involves doing four forced-negative repetitions after completing eight normal reps. The 12 total repetitions will help to increase both the diameters of the muscle fibers and the sarcoplasmic portions of the muscle cells. By using forced-negative reps after a series of regular repetitions, you will force more blood and fluid into the muscle cells, eventually increasing the volume of the cells and making the muscles bigger.
I liked this method of training because it involves more than just training lighter and doing more reps in order to get a better pump. By focusing on the negative, or eccentric, portion of the rep, you damage more muscle fibers and at the same time get a much better pump.
Here’s an example of how I incorporated forced-negatives into my workouts. For chest I choose two or three exercises—and I only do two work sets per exercise. For my chest workout I usually do barbell bench presses, incline dumbbell presses and flat-bench dumbbell flyes.
After doing a couple of warmup sets on the bench press, I pick a moderately heavy weight and do my first set. I perform eight repetitions, and then I extend the set with four forced negatives. My training partner applies pressure on the negative portion of the rep for a four-second negative. At the bottom of the rep, he has to pull the weight up to the top, literally, so I can do another negative rep. I do four forced negatives like that.
After two sets of bench presses I move on to my second exercise. For incline dumbbell presses I usually begin with my first work set because I’m already warmed up. I follow the same process here, doing eight normal repetitions followed by four forced negatives, with my training partner applying pressure.
My last chest exercise is dumbbell flyes on a flat bench. Again, eight normal reps, and then my partner helps me do the four forced-negative reps. He applies pressure on my hands while I resist the movement for four seconds.
One thing you have to remember when using HRT is to lift only moderate weights. If you pick a weight that’s too heavy, and you have difficulty getting through the first eight normal reps, you will never make it through the last four forced negatives. Many times when using this method my arms have collapsed during the forced negatives because my muscles have reached failure. If the weight is too heavy initially, you will never get through the whole set.
Mr. Natural Olympia