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Short, Basic Workouts to Pack On Mass

Nevertheless, extreme hardgainer types may need to lean more toward density than power because of the high-endurance capacity of every major muscle group. They tend to have muscles with fiber compositions similar to calves and forearms and require much more endurance work to trigger growth.

Q: I’ve started the Basic X-traordinary X-Rep workout, and it’s great. Getting unreal pumps so far, and I’ll move to the Basic Power-Density Mass workout next. My question is about some of the smaller bodyparts. For example, shouldn’t I add shrugs for upper traps, bent-over laterals for rear delts, hammer curls for brachialis and seated calf raises for soleus? I need total development everywhere.

A: You could add those so-called detail exercises, but the whole point of basic workouts is to train multiple muscles with each ultimate mass exercise to minimize the drain on your recovery ability—you want to have plenty left in your tank to facilitate extreme growth, which means keeping each workouts to an hour or less.

If you’ve gone through a week of Basic XX workouts, you should realize that dumbbell upright rows do a great job of contracting your upper traps along with your medial-delt heads.

Be sure to pull the dumbbells up and out to simulate a wide grip at the top. That will hit your medial-delt heads hard as well as your traps. You’ll also get some rear-delt work that way, but the back heads really come into play on chins or pulldowns for lats and rows for midback.

As for your brachialis, the muscle that snakes under your biceps and can give you higher peaks, it gets worked well with standard barbell curls, if you keep your grip at just an inch or two narrower than shoulder width. MRI studies show that a narrower grip lights up both heads of the biceps to the extreme, as well as the brachialis.

If you use dumbbells, follow that same narrow-grip rule—keep the ’bells in front of you on a vertical plane with your shoulders; don’t let your hands drift outward.

As for the soleus muscles, they assist when you do any type of calf raise—standing, donkey, leg press, etc. If you have weak calves, however, you can add a drop set of seated calf raises to every Friday workout. The lower legs recover fast, so that quick blast should help boost thickness and give your calves a fuller look.

Also, be sure and do the end-of-set X-Rep partials on all of the sets indicated in the Basic XX workout (as explained in the e-book). X Reps extend the set at the semistretch point and in many cases continue to activate the smaller muscle groups, such as rear delts on upright rows and soleus on calf raises. They also help produce more burn, which can heighten growth hormone release. In other words, X Reps will X-celerate overall muscle growth.

One last point: After about six weeks of very basic workouts, I suggest that most trainees should move to something more multi-angular, such as the Ultimate 10×10 Mass workout, for four to six weeks. On that program you do full-range Positions of Flexion, which includes many of the detail exercises you mentioned, like shrugs and bent-over laterals—but not at every workout.

You do full POF at one workout for a muscle, and then the next time you train it, you do a quick 10×10 on only the ultimate exercise. In other words, at every other workout you do full-on POF and use those detail exercises you’re worried about. The “light” 10×10 bodypart blast at a different workout takes just 10 minutes or so.

So the heavy/light 10×10 routine is really a combination of basic and multi-angular work. Still, it’s very efficient and effective at training both power and density, which is necessary to get huge size increases in the key 2A muscle fibers that are most prevalent in the biggest bodybuilders.

Q: I’m using the Basic X-traordinary X-Rep Workout, but I have a very weak chest. I know you say the decline press is the ultimate chest exercise, but I’m not getting much from doing only that for power and density work. I am, however, getting great gains everywhere else. Should I keep the program as is and just add more chest work?

A: I hear you—and can identify with your plight, as I have stubborn pecs. You may not need more work, though—just a different exercise along with a shift in emphasis at each workout.

Notice that the pectoral muscle is fan-shaped. So while a chest exercise will innervate fibers from every segment, the angle emphasizes the development in specific areas. For example, while decline presses hit the lower, middle and upper pecs, the lower area gets the brunt of the stress.

That’s especially true in hardgainers, who have low neuromuscular efficiency, or nerve-to-muscle connections, and/or fewer fast-twitch fibers. Getting at all areas of the chest requires multi-angle training in  many cases—but you can get that with the same number of sets. I suggest you try that strategy first in order to keep your total workout time under an hour.

With the program you’re using, you want to attack two different angles to train your chest, one for power and one for density—decline presses and incline presses, for example. Then you reverse the order at your next chest workout.

So your new size strategy is to alternate these two chest routines in your Basic XX Workout (page 28 of the e-book X-traordinary X-Rep Workout):

Chest workout 1

Decline presses (pyramid) 3 x 9, 7, 5

Incline barbell or dumbbell presses

(drop set) 1 x 10(6)

Chest workout 2

Incline barbell or dumbbell presses

(pyramid) 3 x 9, 7, 5

Decline presses (drop set) 1 x 10(6)

At workout 1 you get lower/middle pec work with power and upper-and-middle work with density; then at workout 2, four or five days later, you blast upper/middle with power and lower/middle with density. (And, yes, you bench press hounds can use flat benches instead of declines.)

Try that simple two-way switch for a few weeks, and you should notice big changes in your physique—your pecs will be popping!

[Note: You can further amplify neuromuscular efficiency, pump and fiber activation by adding a single drop set of an isolation exercise to the above, as outlined on page 46 of the e-book The X-traordinary X-Rep Workout, but the above should be your first size-boosting step. That e-book, along with many others, is available at]

Q: Just read The Ultimate Power-Density Mass Workout. Absolutely great. I read it all in one sitting. It really made me think, and I’m redesigning my workout using your programs. My question is, Don’t higher-rep warmup sets cover the endurance component of the 2A fibers? And what about X Reps? They extend a set, so I would think they also affect the endurance side of the 2As as well.

A: You’re right on both counts—to a degree. Warmup sets aren’t intense, so very few fibers are involved—and many fall into the slow-twitch category rather than the important fast-twitch 2As.

So, yes, on a 15-rep warmup set you will get somewhat of an endurance, or density, effect, but only in the few 2A fibers you activate. It takes sets to muscular exhaustion to fully trigger density.

You can do it with higher-rep sets, with a number of lower-rep sets done back to back—drop sets, supersets, etc.—or with many medium-rep sets done with short rests between that build in intensity, as in the 10×10 method. Keeping the target muscle under tension for long periods and hitting muscular failure are the key.

What about X Reps? I’ve discussed how they activate more fibers at the end of a set and also keep the ones engaged under tension longer for better growth stimulation. Basically, you’re covering the intensity requirement for max fiber recruitment. Therefore, a group of X Reps done at the end of, say, a nine-rep set to exhaustion definitely has some powerful mass-building density effects—but is it enough?

For some trainees, yes—those who have more of a power propensity to their muscles. They need only small doses of density—like X Reps. My theory, however, is that average trainees require about two-thirds power and one-third density. That’s why the power-density programs have a multiset pyramid followed by density sets—to emphasize power with a density chaser.

Nevertheless, extreme hardgainer types may need to lean more toward density than power because of the high-endurance capacity of every major muscle group. They tend to have muscles with fiber compositions similar to calves and forearms and require much more endurance work to trigger growth.

That may be why hardgainers get such a huge size burst when they first start using the 10×10 method. Use a weight with which you can get 20 reps, do only 10, rest 20 seconds, do 10 more, and so on until you complete 10 sets of 10 reps. It’s a serious density stimulator with less power emphasis. (The pump is enormous—especially as you drive through those last few brutal sets!)

That doesn’t mean hardgainers don’t also need power work; it’s just that most need more of a balance or even a lean toward density than a significant dose of power. That’s the very reason hardgainers don’t respond all that well to heavy, low-rep, abbreviated pure power programs—they get very little density-component work, and that’s the thing they tend to respond to best.

For them alternating between a power workout and a 10×10 workout for each bodypart is an excellent mass-building strategy. As I mentioned in a previous answer, that’s how the Heavy/Light Ultimate 10×10 Mass Workout (pages 28-33 in the 10×10 e-book) is structured. Your heavy day is power work with Positions of Flexion; then at your next workout for the bodypart you do 10×10 on only one exercise, which is your “light” day. Very effective at packing on muscle for anyone, including hardgainers.

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 videos and Size Surge programs, see the ad sections beginning on pages 250 and 264, respectively. Also visit www
for information on X-Rep and 3D POF methods and e-books.  IM

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