Using a Time Crunch to Your Fiber-Splitting Advantage
by Jonathan Lawson
A lot of people claim that you’ve either got the genetics to look like a bodybuilder or you don’t. For the most part, that belief has to do with the muscle fiber types you’re born with. Some research indicates that muscle limitations may not necessarily be set in your genetic stones, however…
The research is based on something called hyperplasia (fiber splitting). We’ve been programmed to focus on squeezing our muscles at the point of contraction, but stretch overload appears to be much more important if you’re after quick increases in muscle size and can help break through barriers.
One simple way to get that stretch overload is to include a stretch-position exercise for each body part. A few key exercise which emphasize the stretch movement are stiff-legged deadlifts for hamstrings, sissy squats for quads, dumbbell or machine flyes for chest, pullovers for lats, incline curls for biceps and overhead dumbbell extensions for triceps. Each of these is an exercise that elongates the muscle in its stretch position against resistance.
If you prefer short workouts and are worried that adding in specific stretch-position exercises will add too much time, worry not. You can still get most of the benefit from the stretch position movements by concentrating on the semi-stretch position of compound/midrange exercises you’re likely already doing.
For example, on your last set of presses for chest, go until you reach nervous system failure/exhaustion (when you’re unable to get another full rep) and then lower the bar down to about halfway between your chest and the midpoint of the stroke, then perform as many power partials, or X Reps, as possible. Since these semi-stretched partials are at the end of the set, they’re going to be very hard; you may need some help from a partner on this particular exercise and I highly recommend using a machine if you don’t have a spotter or partner.
The burn will be so deep that you’ll almost feel the muscle fibers splitting during those X-Rep partials in the semi-stretch position. As an added bonus, those partial reps can also increase the production of anabolic hormone’s [Med Sci Sprts Exer. 35:955-63; 2005].
While the true stretch-position exercises for each body part are very beneficial, if you don’t always have time to do them, you can still get most of the benefits by adding on some end-of-set X Reps to your big, compound exercise. Again, keep in mind that it’s best to use a machine or training partner for safety when possible.
By utilizing this method, you can make some impressive gains with relatively short workouts. My training sessions have been less than an hour on average for the past few years, and that’s with including the the stretch position, along with midrange and contracted exercises. On a time crunch, 30-45 minutes can provide a very worthwhile workout.
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.
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