Stop Being So Positive

Although it sounds like quite a different stance from what a lifecoach would take, it is not intended toward your attitude but toward your high intensity bodybuilding workouts. It is a well known fact that in order to stimulate muscle growth, there must be an intense contraction and in most cases, a full range of motion. It is also well known that the muscle as it relates to exercise has three levels, the positive portion or lifting the weight, the contraction portion or holding the weight and the negative portion or lowering the weight. The portions we are going to talk about here are the contraction/holding portion and the negative/lowering portion.

It is all about adaptation. As you adapt to certain levels of training stress, by growing stronger and larger muscles, increased intensity is required to further stimulate that same adaptive process. The problem is that there are other factors involved like friction and blood flow. A muscular contraction can become so intense, that the blood flow to the muscle can decrease, however, if the contraction is short enough and the rest is long enough, you have eliminated the problem. Unfortunately you can not control the duration of the contraction and still generate the desired intensity but you can control the amount of rest.

I find this cardio pulmonary issue mainly with athletes that are advanced and already strong and heavily muscled. It is obvious because of the greater mass and the ability to work at maximum intensity, these athletes use up a lot more reserve or fuel and oxygen and thus create a great deal more waste product than those athletes that are not as advanced, massive and strong. Even in a conventional set carried to complete muscular failure, every rep to the point of the last intense rep, still complicates this problem.

The solution is no movement! If we could bypass the gym and stimulate muscle growth with no sets, then 100{2dd333ed9c7b2074fdfda098a56357c21ab487243e335d9241a31e34dbd5cf30} could go into the adaptation stage with nothing wasted on the workout, but we haven’t quite found that solution yet, but we have come close.

Back in the early 90’s, a former Olympian bodybuilding champion named Mike Mentzer, was doing some work with the solution I am about to discuss. At the time, I was building a small personal training practice and Mike helped me with ideas in putting it together along with my own understanding of anaerobic exercise. Mike was the thinking man’s bodybuilder and my mentor, teacher and soon became my friend. He revolutionized bodybuilding by dispelling the much believed concept that bodybuilders had to spend hours in the gym. Mike saw that bodybuilders were applying a social economic principal to bodybuilding science. It’s called context switching and it is a grave mistake. The economic principal they were applying is the “More is better” principal… but its application does not apply to anaerobic exercise and bodybuilding.

The solution is an intense contraction followed by a slow negative, completely bypassing the positive portion of the exercise…with a limited number of reps and enough time between each rep to allow a somewhat normal blood flow to the muscle. Who said anyway that a set has to have 5, 6, 10 or 12 reps? The body only understands, stress, reaction, solution… again, if we could bypass the gym and stimulate muscle growth without any exercise, the body’s limited resources for recovery would not be tapped, and 100{2dd333ed9c7b2074fdfda098a56357c21ab487243e335d9241a31e34dbd5cf30} could be put into muscle growth. Remember, your body recovers systemically, thus it first compensates for the exhaustive effects of the workout, then, whatever is left over, goes into the overcompensation phase, laying down muscle. To add a twist, your body has the ability to increase in strength by almost 300{2dd333ed9c7b2074fdfda098a56357c21ab487243e335d9241a31e34dbd5cf30} while at the same time, your ability to recover increases maybe 50{2dd333ed9c7b2074fdfda098a56357c21ab487243e335d9241a31e34dbd5cf30}, so you can see where I am headed. And to add the topping to the cake, in doing a conventional set, each rep is almost a waste because it is nothing more than a warm up rep to the final and last almost impossible set that turns on the growth mechanism. In that conventional set, the last rep and the contraction time of that last rep is only a second or two. We want a more intense contraction and a full range of motion and this accomplishes both.

Because of the nature of what is required for an intense contraction, exercises that allow for resistance in the top or contracted position must be employed. These exercises in most cases must be done on a machine. I prefer Nautilus and Hammer Strength for their design but other can work. Examples of these exercises are flies, pecdeck and crossovers; laterals raises… side and rear; lat pulldown performed close grip hands facing you, rows and shrugs; machine curl and machine triceps extension; leg extensions, leg curls and calve raises and the like. As I said, if you do not have these machines in your gym, you can make others work. Cables are also an option.

In using this technique you will only require three or less reps. Rep one of the set will be much heavier than what you would use as an all out single rep, thus the contraction is more intense. You will need someone as a training partner to help you move into the contracted position, bypassing the lifting portion of the movement. Use a weight that is 20 to 30{2dd333ed9c7b2074fdfda098a56357c21ab487243e335d9241a31e34dbd5cf30} greater than your normal rep. This is a good place to start but you will have to be the judge ultimately. Your goal is to hold this weight for 7-10 seconds (upper body) in the top or contracted portion of the exercise. Do not stop however, if you could hold it longer, continue to the point to where you feel that if you held it any longer, you would not be able to control the negative or lowering portion of the movement, it is usually just before you feel you are going to loose it. For lower body I recommend 20-30 seconds. The negative portion of this movement should be super slow all the way to the totally extended position. Take a 10 second rest and reduce the weight by about 20{2dd333ed9c7b2074fdfda098a56357c21ab487243e335d9241a31e34dbd5cf30} and perform another rep in the similar fashion. In most cases this may be your last set and it is my experience that my clients are not able to reach the recommended threshold on the second set, no problem. Hold it as long as possible and follow by a slow negative. If your negative is still strong on this rep, continue with a third rep, reducing the weight another 10-20{2dd333ed9c7b2074fdfda098a56357c21ab487243e335d9241a31e34dbd5cf30}, after resting another 10 seconds. This third rep may turn out to be a pure negative as in many cases you will not be able to hold in the contracted position. Do not go any further than this third rep.

This works very well with all the exercises exampled above. One of my clients using this technique was scheduled for a chest workout. He found that after just one set of machine flies performed in this fashion, that he was not capable of proceeding to his next set of smith machine bench press. Just one set done in this fashion was enough to completely leave his pectorals spent. Since this particular client was training shoulders and triceps in the same workout, I suggested that he follow the exercise with just one set of Nautilus shoulder press and then triceps push downs, performed to failure in regular fashion. This is but a 3 set workout allowing intense stimulation without delving deep into his limited recovery ability. The next step would be to drop the triceps push downs as the press will thoroughly stimulate an already strong and muscular triceps muscle, bringing the total workout down to two sets.

I have found these abbreviated intense workouts to be super productive in my clients. They are in the gym minutes a week and they progress each and every workout… reaching their genetic potential in the shortest time possible. My best test results were with a client who trained once a week, with a three set workout lasting 15 minutes. Within 17 weeks gained 40 pounds of pure muscle. Amazing! If you do this right you will progress each and every workout but you must manage the volume and the frequency. As you get stronger and bigger, you must continue to adjust downward.

Remember, as a bodybuilder, your job is to get into the gym, stimulate muscle growth in the most efficient way, turn on the body’s growth mechanism and get out allowing it happen. It could take, depending on your level, from 4 days to two weeks for this recovery process to happen. It is not how long you train or how often, but how hard and if that process is short circuited by another workout, you get zip! So, stop being so positive and blast your progress into the stars!

Pungky Dwiasmoro Hiswardhani

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