Q: You’ve said that training each bodypart only once a week never worked for you, but I saw mention that you did make gains doing that with X-centric training. I like training each bodypart only once a week because that’s the way the pros do it. Should I use X-centric training to make it work better for me?
A: First, following the pros’ workouts is a bad idea for 99 percent of us. Steroids and other anabolic drugs make most of what they do not applicable to drug-free trainees. It’s like trying to make your Toyota Camry perform like a Formula-One racing car. You can’t do it without some major “enhancements.”
My training partner, Jonathan Lawson, and I are in the drug-free majority, and training each muscle group only once a week has never worked very well for us. The only exception was when we first started using X-centric training. That is, we added a couple of negative-accentuated sets for each bodypart. Why did that work? NA sets impart more growth-boosting fiber trauma, which can force the need for more recovery time.
Negative-accentuated sets, as the term implies, emphasize the negative, or eccentric, portion of the rep. You do one second on the positive and six seconds on the negative to exhaustion, which should occur at around rep seven. That will give you about 50 seconds of tension time, a unique stimulus your muscles aren’t used to. For example, on pulldowns you pull the bar down to your chest in one second and then slowly release back to the arm’s-extended position in six seconds.
Your lats will be screaming on about rep five or six—but keep grinding out reps till you get to seven or eight. Does it work? Here’s what respected muscle-building researcher Jerry Brainum said about X-centric training:
“The advantage of eccentric muscle contractions is that the extensive muscle fiber damage they cause results in a compensation effect, in which the body responds by upgrading muscle protein synthesis. The net result is that the damaged muscle fiber is not only repaired but also thickened to accommodate the increased stress placed on the muscle. The thickened fiber is recognizable as muscle hypertrophy, or growth. Strength usually accompanies the increased muscle fiber density.”
So X-centric training can quickly increase size and strength, but when you do only one NA set per bodypart along with standard sets, you may need up to seven days of recovery before you train it again. No two trainees are the same, however, so some may be able to train sooner. It depends on your recovery ability and the number of standard sets you do in addition to your NA set for each muscle. Back to Jerry Brainum:
“The process that results in exercise accommodation takes some time, particularly after a workout that emphasizes eccentric muscle contractions. Studies show that it takes a minimum of 48 hours to repair the damage wrought by eccentric contractions, and for larger muscles, such as the thighs, it can take as long as 72 hours for full muscle repair. If the muscle is trained before full repair is complete, the potential gains in muscle size and strength can be lost.”
If you want to force your recovery time to seven days, experiment with doing two to three NA sets per bodypart, along with some standard sets as well. You may also want to experiment with the Shock-centric method we’ve recently adopted every few workouts.
For a Shock-centric sequence you take a weight with which you can get about 15 reps, but you only do seven, using one second on the positive and six seconds on the negative. The first set will be fairly easy, but stop at seven reps.
Rest 30 to 40 seconds—or as long as it takes your partner to do his negative-accentuated set—then do seven more NA reps. It will be a lot more difficult.
Rest 30 to 40 seconds and do one last NA set to exhaustion. That may occur at rep five, six, seven or eight. If you get more than seven reps, add weight the next time you use the Shock-centric method.
So, basically, you’re doing a 3X sequence with NA sets—that is, 30 to 40 seconds of rest between sets—and the last set is to muscular exhaustion. You’re getting 20 or so total reps with negative emphasis, which will make you sore—and jolt new muscle growth.
How do I know you’ll grow? Think about it. Not only do you get the trauma-inducing power of NA over three quick sets, but you also subject the muscles to longer tension times—about 50 seconds on each set. That’s a lot of new stress, which can build muscles that will impress.
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, visit www.X-Rep.com for information on X-Rep and 3D POF methods and e-books. IM