If you’re utilizing a few different intensity techniques in your training, it’s very likely that you can hit most muscle fibers with just two sets if you plan it right. Notice I said “most,” and that’s with two sets of specific exercises. If you have a little more time or want to blast specific muscle groups more thoroughly, stretch overload is the way to grow. So if your lats need extra width, you’ll want to focus on stretch-position aftershock. How do you work lats in the stretch position? With an old-school exercise: pullovers.
Here are a few tips:
1) Recline on a flat bench with a dumbbell in each hand and your head hanging off the end. Be sure to anchor your legs or feet at the other end.
2) Turn the dumbbells so your palms face each other and the plates are touching. This is a more shoulder friendly approach than holding a single dumbbell in both hands or using a bar.
3) Keep your elbows slightly bent, which reduces strain on both your shoulders and elbows.
4) Immediately reverse the downward movement when you’ve reached full stretch. In other words, pull up as soon as your hands are at or just below the plane of the bench. Don’t pause at the bottom, as you want to keep tension on your lats and trigger the myotatic reflex for extra lat muscle-fiber activation.
5) Keep tension on your lats throughout the exercise. Remember, that’s why there’s no pause at the bottom and don’t pull the dumbbells all the way up over your chest. Reverse the movement back to the negative, or downward, stroke when the dumbbells are at eye level. Keep focus on the tension on your lats in order to create maximum mass-building effects.
6) The exercise stroke is shorter than many exercises, so that means you need a few more reps to extend the tension time. Shoot for 12 to 15 reps, or simply use a slower rep cadence than you normally would to achieve the same tension time.
7) X Reps at the end of a set of pullovers may not be safe because of the position of your shoulders at full stretch. You may want to try the Double-X Overload (DXO) technique instead. That’s basically an X Rep/partial rep at or near the stretch point between each normal rep. That will allow you to use a bit less weight to prevent injury while double stressing the important stretch position. (For more on stretch-position exercises, DXO, as well as other hybrid intensity techniques, see Beyond X-Rep Muscle Building.)
Bonus: The two-dumbbell pullover also helps build the upper pecs due to the hand position and the short arc.
Most trainees can get excellent results with just one set of a stretch-position exercise after their midrange and contracted movements. In fact, stretch position exercises are one of the key reason people get such great results from the 20 Pounds of Muscle in 10 Weeks e-book.
Every so often feel free to experiment and go a little heavier so you only get nine reps or so, but after you get your rep goal, immediately grab a lighter pair of dumbbells and do six to eight more reps. That drop-set technique is a real lat burner and can help stoke more muscle-fiber size as well as helping to expand capillary networks.
About the Author
Jonathan Lawson has been working in the health and fitness industry for over 20 years; weight training for 21 years, competed in numerous bodybuilding competitions, worked for IRON MAN Magazine for 17 years, co-owns X-Rep.com where he has co-published over 15 e-books and writes a daily training blog. He has appeared on the covers of, and been featured in, dozens of international magazines, books and e-books.