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Muscle Mass Accretion Training: My Top 3 Mass-Building Tips!

In a nutshell, all fibers are involved in a set, but specific ones are emphasized for the duration... Learn more about these 3 tips and how they can help with muscle gain: Explosive pre-sets, Negatives, & Spot-Accretion.

Let's be honest about being successful in bodybuilding, the key to building a championship physique on any stage relies heavily on muscle mass and density. The traditional rep range of 8-12 reps just does not cut it when it comes to building true and hard-earned muscle. Rep ranges are based on these specific muscle-fiber characteristics (Kravitz, 2007) (See Chart Below):

1-5 reps Emphasis Type IIb Fibers
6-8 reps Emphasis Type IIa Fibers
9-12 reps Emphasis Type I, IIa Fibers
13-20 reps Emphasis Type I Fibers

Accordingly, the size principle, which indicates that order of muscle fiber type recruitment follows the following pattern:

Type I Type IIa Type IIb

So essentially, all fibers are engaged during a set, but certain ones are emphasized based on intensity and duration of set. (Henneman et al., 1974)

For instance, during a light set of lets say 15-20 reps, the type IIb fibers are pretty much dormant at this point. Although they may be recruited later on in the set once the type I fibers become fatigued, they are not recruited long enough (Foss et al., 1998). This is the whole idea of the emphases on the rep continuum (Campos et al., 2002).

In a nutshell, all fibers are involved in a set, but specific ones are emphasized for the duration, while the others contribute when the emphasized fibers become fatigued. However, this is not the case for a heavy set of say 1-5 reps. Essentially, all muscle fibers are recruited and heavily involved, although the type IIb fibers are emphasized, the type IIa's and type I's are working at maximal intensity.

In a lighter set, the type IIa's and IIb's are not working at maximal intensity until they are needed to support for fatigued type I fibers (Foss et al., 1998). Therefore, in order to build truly massive muscles, one needs to work with heavy weights in the 3-5 rep range (DeLorme, 1945). Use 1-2 rep sets sparingly as they can lead to overtraining if done too often.

Tip #1
Explosive Pre-Set Before Heavy Set.

Research has shown that a plyometric/explosive nature exercise done 30-seconds prior to a heavy set (1-5 RM) can increase strength on the heavy set (Masamoto et al., 2003). Here are guidelines to performing this mass building technique:

  1. Perform only 3-5 reps, as explosive movements are very taxing on the nervous system in lieu of the resistance used.
  2. Perform these explosive movements for the first 1-2 sets as opposed to before every set. This technique is usually performed at the beginning of the workout when muscles are freshest.
  3. Perform this technique for large muscle groups (multi-joint exercises) only.
Weight Lifted Reps
1 RM
5 RM

-> Workout Regimen:

    I like to do the following explosive pre-set exercises:

    Right Before Barbell Bench Press
    You Can Do One Of The Following:

    1. Explosive push-up off bench 1x3-5: I simply perform plyo push-ups off the bench. I lower chest to bench slow, but right before touching, I bob and get that stretch reflex to kick in to help me accelerate faster and harder.

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Explosive Push-Up Off Bench.
Video: WMV - MPEG - iPod Video

    1. Explosive chest press at varying resistances for each rep 1x3-5: This exercise is performed on an air-pressure machine. If your gym has them, they are great for explosive pre-sets. Remember, fast movements are always explosive, but explosive movements are not always fast.

Ivan Ivan Ivan
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My Bench Max
Was 240. (Contest)
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My Bench Max
Was 260. (3-Weeks Out)
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My Bench Max
Was 280. (Off-Season)
Notice The Difference In Chest Mass & Density As I Have Progressed In Gradually Lifting Heavier Maximal And Submaximal Loads. A Prime Example Of "Form Following Function."

    Right Before Weighted Pull-Ups You Can Do The One Of The Following:

    1. Explosive lat pulldown at varying resistances for each rep 1x3-5: This exercise is performed on an air-pressure machine.
    2. Partner-assisted sit-up throws 1x3-5: You will need a partner for this one. Use the soft medicine ball for this exercise.

      Lay on your back with one knee flat on ground and other knee bent at right angle. Perform explosive sit-ups with arms fully-extended holding ball out and throw ballistically to partner as you come up. As he catches, the momentum should carry him back into stretch and then he will explosively sit-up and throw the ball back.

Ivan Ivan
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My Weighted Pullups Max Was
90 lbs For 2 Reps. (3-Weeks Out)
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My Weighted Pullups Was 90
lbs For 5 Reps. (Off Season)
Notice The Difference In Lat Width. Definition Is Not The Emphasis Here As A Difference In State Of Conditioning Was Evident. However, For Future Shows, With Conditioning Being Held Constant (i.e. Entering A Show @ < 5% Body Fat), Muscle Mass Accretion Will Enhance One's V-Taper, Proportions, And General Lines. Therefore, In This Off-Season Pic, When I Am Prepared For A Contest, Lat Width Will Be Slightly Wider Than In The Previous Contest Pic At The Same Level Of Conditioning.

    Right Before Squats Or Leg Press You Can Do The One Of The Following:

    1. Explosive squats or leg presses at varying resistances for each rep 1x3-5: This exercise is performed on an air-pressure machine.
    2. Depth jump 1x2-4: Stand on a box 4-6 inches off ground, then drop off and explode into jump as fast as possible.

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Depth Jump.
Video: Mpeg - Windows Media - Real Player

Tip #2
110-140% Negatives.

Research shows that on the eccentric, we are 110-140% stronger than on the concentric and that supra-maximal eccentric training leads to greater gains in muscle strength, and consequently, muscle size (Booth et al., 1991; Higbie et al., 1996; Hortobagyi et al., 1996; Kaminski et al., 1998; Keogh et al., 1999.)

There are 2 ways to do this technique:

1. Assisted Concentric:

    A quality spotter is needed to help lift the weight on the concentric, whereas the negative portion is done by the lifter OR you can do this on certain machines in which you lift the weight with 2 limbs, then lower with 1. For example, a knee extension with 100 lb. lifted with both legs, and then lowered with one.

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Knee Extension.
Video: WMV - MPEG - iPod Video

2. Assisted Eccentric:

    A qualified spotter adds resistance on the negative, while allowing the lifter to lift on the concentric. A good weight to use on this method is approximately 75-80% of 1-RM. Thus, one will be able to lift the weight, but the resistance on the eccentric is increased to approximate 110-140% of 1-RM by the spotter.

    This is a safer way to employ 110-140% negatives, pending a quality spotter, since the load is accommodating. Clear and concise communication with the spotter is imperative for both of these methods.

Weight Lifted Reps
1 RM

Tip #3
Spot-Accretion Approach: The Opposite Of Spot-Reduction.

I have always personally believed that one could spot-reduce to a certain degree. In fact, new research is now showing that my initial beliefs were correct. This study showed that when exercise was performed on certain a body part prior to endurance exercise, the mobilized fats in the area were more likely to be taken up for utilization (Stallknecht et al., 2007).

Same principle can be used for growth hormone and testosterone inducements. For example, when performing heavy squats or leg presses, it wouldn't be a bad idea in the off-season to work this exercise with lagging or weak muscle groups in need of a boost in size and strength.

For example, if you have small biceps, performing heavy squats or leg presses before working biceps could send the abundance of growth factors to the biceps, since you would be increasing the biceps affinity for the growth factors since it would be worked in the same time-course of legs.

So maybe all the growth factors don't just go to the legs or in systemic circulation. Instead, you increase the amount sent to your biceps since you sent the signal that they will be needing repair and recovery.

Incredibly, there was a study that found such an occurrence!! In this study, eight different exercises were performed, of which, four were bicep exercises. It was found that bicep strength increased (~25%) as did bicep cross-sectional area (~12%) (McCall et al, 1999). It was also shown that exercise-induced elevations in growth hormone concentration were highly correlated with muscle hypertrophy (McCall et al., 1999).

-> Sample Workout Regimen:


One thing I have come to realize is that no matter how smart and informed I become in bodybuilding, the most novel movements/methods will always stimulate the mind. As a result, the body will follow the mind's perception of growth from a newfound stimulus.

This is the reason why anecdotally, some people claim to have grown in certain muscle groups or body parts by incorporating some new exercise method or technique; the basis of the shock principle. With the implementation of these 3 shocking methods, one will certainly see improvements in size and mass.

Ivan Ivan
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August 5, 2005.
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June 5, 2007.


  1. Booth et al. (1991). Molecular and Cellular Adaptation of Muscle in Response to Exercise: Perspectives of Various Models, Physiological Reviews, 71, 541-585.
  2. Campos et al. (2002). Muscular Adaptations in Response to Three Different Resistance-Training Regimens: Specificity of Repetition Maximum Training Zones, European Journal of Applied Physiology, 88, 50-60.
  3. Delorme, T.L. (1945). Restoration of muscle power by heavy-resistance exercises, Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery, 27, 645.
  4. Foss et al. (1998). Fox's Physiological Basis for Exercise and Sport, 6th edition, McGraw-Hill, New York, New York.
  5. Henneman et al. (1974). Rank Order of Motorneurons Within a Pool, Law of Combination, Journal of Neurophysiology, 37, 1338-1349.
  6. Higbie et al. (1996). Effects of Concentric and Eccentric Training on Muscle Strength, Cross-Sectional Area, and Neural Activation, Journal of Applied Physiology, 81(5), 2173-2181.
  7. Hortobagyi et al. (1996). Adaptive Responses to Muscle Lengthening and Shortening in Humans, Journal of Applied Physiology, 80, 765-772.
  8. Kaminski et al. (1998). Concentric Versus Enhanced Eccentric Hamstring Strength Training, Journal of Athletic Training, 33, 216-221.
  9. Keogh et al. (1999). A Cross-Sectional Comparison of Different Resistance Training Techniques in the Bench Press, The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 13, 247-258.6
  10. Kravitz, L. (2007). All About Muscles and How Best to Train Them, ACSM's 11th Health & Fitness Summit & Exposition, Dallas, TX.
  11. Masamoto et al. (2003). Acute Effects of Plyometric Exercise on Maximum Squat Performance in Male Athletes, The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 17(1), 68-71.
  12. McCall et al. (1999). Acute and Chronic Hormonal Responses to Resistance Training Designed to Promote Muscle Hypertrophy, Canadian Journal of Applied Physiology, 24, 96-107.
  13. Stallknecht et al. (2007). Are Blood Flow and Lipolysis in Subcutaneous Adipose Tissue Influenced By Contractions in Adjacent Muscles in Humans? American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism, 292, E394-E399.

The information provided in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not serve as a replacement to care provided by your own personal health care team or physician. The author does not render or provide medical advice, and no individual should make any medical decisions or change their health behavior based on information provided here. Reliance on any information provided by the author is solely at your own risk. The author accepts no responsibility for materials contained in the article and will not be liable for any direct, indirect, consequential, special, exemplary, or other damages arising from the use of information contained in this or other publications.

Copyright © Ivan Blazquez, 2007. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder and author of this publication.