Building bigger muscles may be easier than most people think. Gains can really accelerate once you understand how and why hypertrophy happens, which we’ll get to in this installment. First you need to understand the 4X method, a fast-blast training sequence of four sets for each exercise with short rests between sets. Even though the poundages are moderate and only one set is all out, 4X has produced some great gains for us in the past year, much to our surprise.
For the uninitiated, a 4X sequence is taking a weight with which you can get 15 reps but only doing 10. You rest 30 seconds, and then do another 10; rest 30 seconds one last time, and rep out on the last set. If you get 10 reps on the fourth and final set, add a small amount of weight to that exercise at your next workout.
The short-rest, moderate-weight four-set sequence does a number of good things for growth, including downplaying muscle-eating cortisol, a catabolic stress hormone; reducing joint wear and tear due to the absence of bone-crushing poundages; and building both sides of the key 2A muscle fibers that are most prevalent in the biggest bodybuilders.
Those first two – limited cortisol release and less injury potential – are self-explanatory, but optimal growth-fiber stimulation and hypertrophy may seem vague, so let’s check out some facts on fiber – the kind of muscles, not the kind that keeps you regular.
Building Ultimate Muscle
The muscle fibers with the most growth potential are the fast-twitch 2As. They are dual-capacity fibers, meaning that they have both a power and endurance component. That’s why so many claim that eight to 10 reps per set is the best range for hypertrophy – because the weight is heavy enough to stimulate the power side, but you get enough tension time to affect endurance positively.
The reality is that most trainees use a one-up/one-down cadence on every rep. that translates to 20 seconds or less per set, a strength-building time under tension. Most research says that you need 40-plus seconds to get the optimal growth response. Why? Fatigue. Accumulation of lactic acid in a muscle will derail stress on the power side of the 2As.
When we say “power side”, we are talking about the myofibrils, which are strands of actin and myosin inside the fiber. They grab onto one another and pull, overlapping to shorten, or contract, a muscle. You develop the myofibrils with lower rep strength training. Myofibrils equal force.
The “endurance side” of the 2As is the sarcoplasmic fluid inside the fiber, which consists mostly of energy constituents such as mitochondria, ATP and glycogen. To increase that fluid and plump up a muscle fiber, you must push the fiber to a fast-twitch endurance threshold. You do that with higher reps on a set and/or shorter rests between sets.
As we’ve said, a 4X sequence stresses both the myofibrils and the sarcoplasm – a power-endurance balance that can produce extreme size gains. Lately, however, we’ve been questioning whether the power component is adequately taxed, especially on the second and third exercises for a muscle as fatigue peaks. There may be a need for a periodic power-style training to complement our exclusive 4X work-outs in order to maximize myofibrillar growth.
Infrequent Power-Mass Training
The road to the fastest big-muscle gains is paved with change – and you can run into a lot of potholes along the way. They can range from no-gain plateaus to major and minor injuries – all things you want to avoid.
By using 4X workouts exclusively, we have avoided those potholes – but we often ask ourselves , have our gains have been as fast as they could have been?
We are at our highest lean bodyweights and have visible abs. That’s a good sign that our mass-building systems are moving forward, but are they truly in overdrive? After contemplating the fatigue factor, see if we can push past our best lean bodyweights with some changes.
First, we have gone back to a more extensive direct/indirect split that has us hitting muscles two to three times a week. For example, we hit triceps when we train chest with pressing movements; then a few days later, when we train triceps, we hit chest indirectly with close-grip bench presses. We have that type of direct-indirect correlation for every body part.
This article was written by Angela Mills, blogger at www.somanabolicmusclemaximizerdownloads.com. Visit her site to learn more about the Somanabolic Muscle Maximizer and the other fitness products she reviews.