it comes to training, all exercises are
NOT created equal. If you're looking to
gain mass, you know the squat is going
to add a lot more muscle to your legs
than a leg extension.
did you know that focusing work on the
greatest stretched position of a muscle
can give you a similar advantage in muscle
has shown that placing high tension on
muscles in their stretched position can
have two extremely important effects on
first is greater activation of your muscle
fibers - they fire in larger numbers,
which is just what we need to build muscle.
When you add tension to the muscle in
the stretched position, you activate what
is called the Myotatic Reflex (a.k.a.
stretch reflex). It's a reflex designed
to protect the joints when heavy loads
are placed on the muscles in the stretched
position. To try and protect the joint,
the body activates more muscle fibers
to try and get that load out of the stretched
More fibers worked means more fibers growing!
second important effect of stretch-position
training, while being a potentially VERY
powerful one, is still only a theoretical
one. Because while no human studies have
confirmed this effect, numerous animal
studies have demonstrated it reliably,
showing overall muscle size increases
in the order of 300% (which is HUGE).
effect is "hyperplasia," which
means muscle fiber splitting (compare
it to "hypertrophy," which means
muscle fiber growth). When high tension
is placed on the muscle in the stretched
position, a single muscle fiber may actually
split into TWO muscle fibers in response.
fibers in the muscle means more overall
potential growth! If you have more muscle
fibers, it's just plain easier to build
muscle. Having more muscle fibers is most
likely one of the reasons some people
just build muscle faster than others.
So how do we train to maximize muscle
growth from the stretched positions of
going to utilize a technique I've come
up with that I call "Pre/Post-Exhaust
Stretch Giant Sets." It's a fancy
name for a technique that is as effective
as it is challenging and, to be completely
honest, downright painful. Just know right
up front that this is NOT a technique
you can coast through, but if you're ready
for some serious results, get ready to
demonstrate this technique, I will use
the chest as an example. You're going
to be doing two exercises - dumbell flyes
and barbell bench press. But here's the
key...you're not going to be doing the
whole range of motion of either of them!
one of this giant set is the Pre-Exhaust.
dumbells you could normally do about 10
to 12 full reps of dumbell flyes with,
lay down on a bench or Swiss ball and
lower the dumbells down to the bottom,
you're going to do partial, bottom-range
reps of the dumbell flye exercise. Let
the dumbells stretch your pecs at the
bottom then, with a short, powerful movement,
raise them up a couple inches. Now immediately
bring them back down into the stretch
position and hold, letting the pecs stretch.
Perform as many reps as you can with this
two of the giant set is continuous tension
get up and move to the dip station (you
can also use the bench press for this).
When doing dips, normally just using bodyweight
should be fine. If you're using the bench
press, before you start the giant set,
you should pre-set the bar with a weight
that you can normally do 12 to 15 reps
doing dips for chest, you should have
your body in a half-moon position, hunching
forward and setting your elbows out wide
to the sides. Look down as you're doing
the reps to keep the tension on the pecs.
dips, lower yourself down ALMOST to the
very bottom then push yourself back up
ALMOST to the top. When doing bench press,
unrack the bar and lower it to ALMOST
the bottom position then, with no pause,
press it back up to ALMOST the top position.
With no pause, lower it back down to the
same position as before.
you are doing here is continuous tension
training in the middle range of motion
of the dip or the bench press. You're
never getting a full stretch and you're
never locking out. The pecs get NO rest
during the entire set. Do as many reps
as you can on the dips or the press then
step down or re-rack the weight.
Now, if you thought the first two parts
were hard, you're in for some fun...here's
where it gets REALLY tough.
right back to the dumbell flyes, get back
into position on the bench or ball (using
the same dumbells as you were using before)
and do ANOTHER stretch position partial
set. This final post-exhaust set is going
to really set off the alarm bells in your
basically, the first set of partial flyes
is going to take advantage of the increased
muscle-fiber activation you get with a
stretched-position exercise. Then, when
you go into continuous tension pressing,
more muscle fibers will be working under
that continuous tension, increasing the
results you get in terms of hypertrophy
(fiber growth). Now, when we get to the
final partial flye set, the goal is hyperplasia
(fiber splitting). The muscle fibers are
exhausted and pumped up with blood from
the first two parts of the giant set.
Now the high tension in the stretched
position is going to be a serious emergency
to the muscle fibers and (hopefully) induce
splitting of the muscle fibers.
a tough giant set but, when you're done,
you'll know that you had a great growth-producing
your mouse on and off these pictures to
see the exercises in action.
is the first and third section of
the Stretch Superset - When you
do it first, it's Pre-Exhaust. When
you finish with it after the middle
portion, it's Post-Exhaust. It's
a VERY short range of motion, concentrating
only on the stretched position.
is the middle portion of the Stretch
Superset - It's a continuous tension,
middle range set of bodyweight dips
for the chest. You never go all the
way down and never come all the way.
This gives the muscles NO break.
Stretch Giant Sets" can be done with
ANY bodypart, making it a very versatile
technique. Here are some examples of exercises
you can use with each bodypart:
Any flye movement and any pressing movement
Dumbell pullovers and any rowing or pulldown
Cable lateral raises or leaning dumbell
lateral raises (leaning against a solid
object with your working arm hanging down
in front of you) and any pressing movement
Sissy squats and squats, split squats
or leg press
Stiff-legged deadlifts and leg curls
Incline curls and any general curling
Any overhead tricep movement and dips
or close grip presses
Donkey calf raises and seated or standing
When incorporating this technique into
your workouts, I would suggest doing no
more than 3 or 4 of these giant sets for
the back, chest or thigh muscles and no
more than 2 or 3 for the other smaller
muscles. It's also not a technique you
should use every training session - maybe
once every week or two for a bodypart.
It's very intense and demands a lot of
recovery energy. Be sure you give your
body and muscles the fuel they need to
take full advantage of this potential
this giant set technique a try in your
next workout and let me know how it feels!
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