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Swell Your Muscle Cells

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Q: I notice that you have been adding one X-centric set to the end of each bodypart workout. Is that enough to get the trauma necessary for myofibrillar thickening? I’m older and can’t train heavy to get that muscle-size effect, so I’m wondering if I should try X-centric training—but I think more sets might be necessary.

A: That one extra X-centric set—lifting in one second and lowering in six—is part of the experiment. The idea is to train each muscle directly once a week—and hammer it with enough trauma that it requires seven days of recovery. Here’s what I’m doing.

For the first exercise, a big midrange move, I use tension-overload repetition quantity, or TORQ, with a double drop set on the last set. So for lats I may start with this:

Pulldowns (TORQ) 3 x 30, 20, 15(7)(5)

I add weight to each successive set, going to failure on every set. On the last set to failure I reduce the weight and immediately hit another set—and then I repeat the drop one last time.

For the stretch move, it’s usually standard sets, like this:

Dumbbell pullovers 3 x 12, 10, 9

And for contracted it’s a 4X-style sequence for three sets:

Stiff-arm pulldowns (4X) 3 x 10

Now to finish, I’ll do one or two X-centric sets of one extra lat move, like this one:

Undergrip pulldowns (X-centric) 2 x 7, 6

Whether it’s one or two X-centric sets depends on how my lats feel after the previous POF barrage.

Think about it. The first exercise alone is around 80 reps. Then a heavier stretch exercise provides even more fiber trauma.

The contracted-position exercise is more for density—sarcoplasmic size; however, you still tax the target muscle’s myofibrillar strands.

Then comes a final X-centric set or two of a different exercise—in this case undergrip pulldowns for some stretch and contraction.

That’s a very thorough mass hit, so see what kind of soreness you get. One or two negative-accentuated sets at the end should be an X-cellent trigger to get you bigger.

—Steve Holman

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

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