by Steve Holman, Iron Man Magazine
Q: You’ve mentioned an animal study that produced a 300 percent muscle mass increase after only a month of stretch workouts. That is truly incredible. Is there more info? How do I duplicate those stretch procedures in my workouts to get that kind of muscle growth?
A: Jonathan Lawson and I refer to that animal study by Antonio and Gonyea in many of our X-Rep e-books, but the most extensive analysis was in X-Rep Update #1. Here’s a quote from Jose Antonio, Ph.D., from that e-book:
“I performed the study using the stretch model. I used a progressive-overload scheme whereby the bird was initially loaded with a weight equal to 10 percent of its weight followed by increments of 15 percent, 20 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent of its weight. Using this approach produced the greatest gains in muscle mass ever recorded in an animal or human model of tension-induced overload, up to 334 percent increase in muscle mass with up to a 90 percent increase in fiber number.”
The scientists loaded the bird’s wing in the stretch position, so the growth occurred in what would equate to a human’s latissimus dorsi. How can you replicate that in the gym? Answer: With SOS—Stretch-Overload Sets. Here are a few SOS choices:
1) Heavy stretch exercises. First, you should include a stretch-position exercise for each bodypart—like pullovers for lats, stiff-legged deadlifts for hamstrings, overhead extensions for triceps and flyes for pecs.
Simply doing those specific exercises, which put the target muscle in an ultra-elongated state against demanding resistance, will do a number of big things for your muscle growth. For example, the stretch against a heavy weight produces an emergency response from the muscle—an SOS. It must recruit more fibers to avoid being severely damaged. And more fiber activation means more growth stimulation.
Keep your form perfect on those exercises; if you jerk or heave in the stretch position, you can rip connective tissue or even the muscle itself. Stay in complete control for around eight reps and try to increase the weight as often as possible to produce continuous overload—as in the study.
2) Double-X Overload. This is one of the many X-hybrid methods we discuss in Beyond X-Rep Muscle Building. It’s tailor made for stretch-position exercises.
Simply lower the weight to the stretch point, raise only about eight inches, lower again to stretch, then move through the full stroke. That’s one DXO rep. Use the double “hitch” at the bottom stretch of each rep to emphasize and overload the key elongation point.
3) Stretch-Pulses. This is the tactic that most closely replicates the Antonio-Gonyea study, and we discuss it extensively in X-Rep Update #1. Keep in mind that the animal subject in the study was not working out per se. In fact, very little movement was occurring in the bird’s wing. That means you can get massive results holding the weight almost stationary. I like pulsing a few inches up and down for better innervation.
For this technique you want to pick a weight for your stretch-position exercise that allows a 45-second pulse/ hold at full stretch. You’ll need to time the pulse/hold because when you can maintain it for 60 seconds, you up the weight at the next workout. That’s progressive-stretch overload.
Realize that your muscles hardly ever have to cope with being stretched during daily activity—much less stretched against resistance. That’s why stretching is traumatic and can trigger significant hypertrophy. It forces adaptation almost immediately. Research shows that stretch overload even increases anabolic hormones in the target-muscle tissue—like IGF-1 and testosterone—as well as anabolic receptors on the muscle.
Scientists believe that the hormonal surge is the reason that immobilized limbs in plaster casts showed growth when they were set with the muscle in a full-stretch position. That’s right, the muscle grew without weight training or any movement. That shows how powerfully anabolic muscle stretching can be—and if you add resistance, as in the above SOS tactics, your size should rise to new levels almost immediately.
Editor’s note: Steve Holman is the author of many bodybuilding best-sellers and the creator of Positions-of-Flexion muscle training. For information on the POF DVD and Size Surge programs, visit www.Home-Gym.com. Also visit www.X-Rep.com and X-Workouts.com for info on X-Rep, 4X and 3D POF methods and e-books. IM