Q: Your 4X training is fantastic. It has me growing again, and it’s perfect with 3-way POF. My question is about muscle feel. How important is it for size increases? I ask because I have trouble feeling some bodyparts, like shoulders and chest.
A: I think it’s extremely important to feel the target muscle working; if you don’t, you may be using other muscle groups to move the weight or simply not innervating enough muscle fibers to stimulate a big anabolic response.
One thing I can’t stress enough is getting adequate time under tension. If your sets don’t last long enough, you won’t feel the muscle working, and you’ll be cheating yourself out of significant size increases.
Strength and muscle-building expert Jim Stoppani, Ph.D., explains: “The best TUT [time-under-tension] range for strength is about four to 20 seconds per set and about 40 to 60 seconds per set for muscle growth.”
So you want every set in your 4X sequence for every exercise to last at least 40 seconds—if you’re going for maximum muscle size.
For 4X you pick a weight with which you can get 15 reps but only do 10; rest 35 seconds, then do it again. Go to failure on the last set, and if you get 10, add weight to the exercise at your next workout or try 4×11. Simple—but the last set or two will hurt like crazy, especially with a longer TUT.
So you’re doing 10 reps per set, and each rep should last four seconds—four seconds times 10 reps is 40 seconds. I recommend a one-second positive and a three-second negative on every rep. The semi-explosive positive has been shown to activate more growth fibers—and that means more potential hypertrophy from each rep.
Remember, use that rep tempo on all exercises—including lateral raises. You must do the downward stroke slowly and with control; don’t just drop the dumbbells through to the bottom.
You may have to reduce your weights, but so what? You need to feel the muscle working to get it growing. Make a conscious effort to “fight” the weight down, even if it feels light. Ray Mentzer, a Mr. America winner and Mike’s brother, said that he could make a 25-pound dumbbell feel like 60 pounds. That’s the idea.
I also recommend including an X-centric set every so often—like at the beginning or end of a 4X sequence. X-centric is raising the weight in one second but lowering in six—yes, six seconds per rep. If you get eight of those, you’re up around 60 seconds of tension time. Excellent variation for more mass creation. X-centric training also has fat-loss implications, bringing more muscle striations.
Editor’s note: Steve Holman is the author of many bodybuilding best-sellers and the creator of Positions-of-Flexion muscle training. For information on the POF DVD and Size Surge programs, see the ad sections it this issue. Also visit www.X-Rep.com and X-Workouts.com for info on X-Rep, 4X and 3D POF methods and e-books. IM