If you're a bodybuilder struggling to put on more muscle, you no doubt look to the biggest bodies in the business for answers.
Guys like Ronnie Coleman and Jay Cutler just have to know something the rest of us don't—because they're eye-ball-popping huge! Is it genetics? Is it pharmaceutical enhancement? Is it sheer willpower?
Yes, to a degree, on all of those counts, but if you watch them train, you'll notice something more—a big part of their secret to extreme muscle size. It's something you can start using immediately to make your workouts three, four or five times more productive at packing on mass.
Both Coleman and Cutler use a lot of semistretched-position overload and partial reps. Each has a slightly different style, but you can bet your biceps they've discovered how to hit their muscles with the precise stress that triggers tremendous increases in hypertrophy—and maybe even fiber splitting—and you're about to read exactly how Cutler does it, as documented by Mitsuru Okabe on the "Ripped To Shreds" two-disc DVD set.
Thanks to Mits, we can watch the best bodybuilders train, analyze what they do and come up with ways to jack up the effectiveness of our own workouts. Let's uncover some of Cutler's mega-mass secrets by analyzing how he puts his calves and pecs through the meat grinder. (We'll tell you why specific mass techniques he uses work so well in the last section of this article.)
Before we get into the actual exercises, we must discuss one of Cutler's key mass triggers: the hitch technique (we call it Double-X Overload, or DXO). It's similar to what Ronnie Coleman uses on shrugs.
Here's how Cutler uses it: He'll usually do a few continuous reps, then the hitch, or DXO, technique begins. He pauses near the bottom, semistretched point—the turnaround—and does one to three short partial explosions before driving through for another full rep. (Coleman uses that hitch, or what we call X Rep, at the bottom of the stroke between every rep on his shrugs—and his traps are enormous!)
Cutler uses that on almost every exercise for every bodypart. We'll designate that with a hyphen (-) between rep numbers. For example, 4-1-1-1 means four continuous reps, semistretched-overload X Reps, then another standard rep, more semistretched-position X Reps and so on. On to the calf routine…
Jay begins with a warm-up set on the standing calf machine for 16 reps, and on almost every one he cranks out partial-hitch X Reps near the bottom of the rep—remember, it's almost like a double bounce but with control. That's just the warm-up.
Then he does three progressively heavier sets:
1 x 6-2-2-2
1 x 5-2-2-1-1
1 x 4-2-2-1, rest six seconds, then push out three more reps.
Note that he uses a rest/pause on that third work set to extend it.
He does a final set of 1 x 5-3-1-1
Remember, the hyphens designate X Reps embedded in the set.
Now it's on to seated calf raises:
1 x 7-4-2-1.
He adds weight and does 1 x 6-3-1-1-1, rests six seconds and then does five reps with X Reps on each.
His final set is 1 x 6-1-1-1-1-1, and then he reduces the weight and does 2-1-1-1.
Click Image To Enlarge.
Jay Uses A Double-Stretch Technique
On Most Of His Exercises Between Reps Or Groups Of Reps.
Is He Triggering A Fiber-Splitting Effect?
Photo From Ripped To Shreds.
Cutler begins his pec work on an incline-flye machine, the type with the roller pads at the crook of each elbow. He does 1 x 4-2-2-1-1-1, adds weight and does 1 x 4-1-1-1-1, adds weight and does 1 x 3-1-1-1.
On that last set he pumps out about three X-Rep partials at the end of the last rep. (Are you beginning to see how semistretched-point overload with X Reps is so important for mass stimulation?)
Dumbbell Bench Press:
Dumbbell bench presses are next on his agenda. It's really an awesome sight when he lies back with massive dumbbells in his hands and uses the semistretched-overload tactic at the bottom of so many reps. It looks dangerous, but at least with dumbbells he can jettison them if he gets in trouble. He does 1 x 6-2-1, goes heavier and does 1 x 4-2-1, goes slightly heavier again and does 1 x 5-1-1-1.
Smith-Machine Incline Press:
Now he goes back to upper-chest work with Smith-machine incline presses, working all reps through the bottom two-thirds of the stroke only (semistretched-point emphasis). Yep, you guessed it: He still employs the X-Rep-style pulses between reps or groups of reps.
First he pumps out a warm-up set of 225 x 4-1-1-1. He adds weight—three 45s on each side—cranks out 1 x 4-1-1, pauses at the top lockout for a few seconds and does two more grinder reps. Now comes the money set: He once again reps 315 x 4-1-1, immediately reduces the weight for 225 x 3-1-1, rests for six seconds, then does 225 x 2-1. Whew! Pec check: They're thick, pumped and striated!
For cable crossovers Cutler does 1 x 7-1-1-1 on his first set. Then he adds weight and does 1 x 4-1-1-1-1, reduces the poundage and immediately does 1 x 3-1-1-1.
Click Image To Enlarge.
Jay & Cable Crossovers.
He Almost Never Holds Contractions,
Instead Focusing On The Semistretched Position.
Photo From Ripped To Shreds.
That may be the only exercise on which he squeezes the target muscles in the contracted position, but he limits it to about two reps per set; the rest he works with killer semistretched-position emphasis, pulsing the pecs at the top end of the reps, where his arms are outstretched.
He finishes off his chest work with some pushups just to stretch his pecs, including lots of X Reps performed with his chest near the floor.
So what can we learn from Jay's calf and pec workouts? As with Ronnie Coleman, it appears that semistretched- and stretched-position overload are extremely important for extreme mass development.
Where Coleman uses a lot of rapid-fire partials, emphasizing the semistretched point and even using a hitch at that point on every rep of some exercises, Cutler's partial-range technique involves performing a number of semistretched partials between groups of reps or between reps.
Click Image To Enlarge.
Semi-Stretched & Stretched-Position Overload
Are Extremely Important.
View More Pics From The 2005 Mr. Olympia Here.
Research ties stretch-position overload to hyperplasia, or muscle-fiber splitting. Could he be making it happen with his training style? Interesting. (In fact, one animal study produced a 300 percent increase in muscle mass with only one month of stretch overload; more on that at X-Rep.com).
Due to his partial reps, Cutler also gets a lot of continuous tension, which creates occlusion, or blocked blood flow. That triggers a full-blown pump as well as a number of key anabolic responses. And keep in mind that it's continuous tension for extended sets.
For example, when he does cable crossovers for 1 x 4-1-1-1-1, it lasts much longer than a normal eight-rep set because before each of those singles he pauses and does a few X Reps at the semistretched point. That means his eight reps keep the muscle engaged as long as a normal 12-to-15-rep set (that longer tension time can trigger more growth by activating more fibers, producing more occlusion and beefing up the mitochondria of the type-2A muscle fibers).
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We said at the beginning of this feature that we look to the biggest men in the game for muscle-building answers. Jay Cutler is one of the most massive bodybuilders on the planet—and he's got some interesting answers when it comes to building more muscle, with semistretched-point overload at the top of the list. We'll delve into how he trains other bodyparts in future articles. Stay tuned.
Note: For more on semistretched-point overload and X-Rep mass-building concepts, visit www.X-Rep.com.