Chasing the Ultimate Pump. Part 2: Chest and Back Workout
While there are many different ways to train for size and strength, there remains one true method for upping the mass for maximum muscle gains. And that’s to cram as much blood as possible into the working muscles via a targeted high-intensity protocol enlisting mechanical tension, metabolic stress, muscle microtrauma, and fascial stretching.
In the following program I’ll ‘expand’ upon each of these key muscle-building concepts. I’ll begin with everyone’s favorite muscle group besides biceps: chest. For chest we will combine three movements, each selected to hit the pecs from different angles to produce complete stimulation.
Here we will combine three effective movements into one exhaustive superset with enough weight to promote failure on rep 15. During this set, complete mechanical tension should be placed on the working muscles. In turn, we’ll be able to generate greater force while the muscle’s stretch receptors will be fully activated.9, 10
As a result, more blood can be shuttled into the muscles and the cellular expansion needed to trigger muscle hypertrophy can be achieved.
Expanding the Fascia
On each exercise you’ll be working hard to achieve scapula retraction by pulling the shoulder blades back and down. This will ensure the complete isolation and proper stimulation of the pecs. It’s very important that you exercise complete control at all ranges – never bouncing the weight up and always seeking to thoroughly stretch and squeeze the relevant muscles.
A full stretch is needed to keep the muscles elongated to prevent injury and to ensure a more forceful contraction on each rep. A fully stretched muscle within an ideal training range ensures proper stimulation. This is one important, through frequently overlooked, way to produce full, round muscle bellies.
Properly stretching the pecs is also an effective way to enlarge the fascial layer surrounding the muscle.2
The fascia is a band of connective tissue comprised mostly of collagen. When properly stretched it’s of major importance to increasing blood volume and enhancing the pump. The fascia rests beneath the skin where it attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscle tissue. When constricted it can prevent muscle growth.
To obtain the fullest possible pump we must fully stretch the fascia. You can liken it to a stretched balloon in which the elasticity of the rubber has increased. Thus when air is pumped in, the balloon expands. The same holds true for muscle tissue. The more we stretch the fascia, the greater the muscular expansion and subsequent growth.
When a muscle is fully stretched via a hypertrophy-inducing pump, the muscle cell membrane expands. This threatens the integrity of the cell. Cellular survival is compromised.18
The cell thus reinforces its cellular structure while activating anabolic pathways such as mTOR to counter the ensuing degradation.18
In addition, increased blood flow enhances the muscle’s uptake of amino acids to prevent cellular damage while further enhancing the muscle’s growth potential. That’s why it’s important to supplement with a quality intra-workout amino product such as ALLMAX AMINOCORE.
To signal growth, it’s important to negatively contract each muscle on the final 2-3 reps of each set, where the stretch is to be held for 2-3 seconds. Also, be sure to stretch between sets. Hold each stretch for a good 15 seconds to really force the fascial layer apart, thereby leaving more room for the muscles to expand and grow.
The intensive blood volume training you’ll be doing in this workout will, by itself, place tremendous force against the fascial barrier. This will give the muscles ample room to expand under pressure, and, much like a pre-stretched balloon, they’ll achieve full inflation at a much faster rate.
As with all of the supersets to follow, it’s smart practice to take a full two to three seconds to complete a super-strict negative before exploding into a controlled positive.12 Rest between supersets is limited to one minute to ensure that as much blood as possible stays in the muscles to fully stretch the fascia while prolonging the pump.
High Incline Barbell Press s/w High Incline Flyes s/w Medium Incline Dumbbell Press: 3 sets of 10-15 reps.
Designed to fully engorge the chest with blood, this set will have your pecs fully loaded to where you should feel tightness across the entire pec region.
Having completed the three supersets you’ll have experienced tremendous muscular swelling. This means you’ve created high levels of metabolic stress within the pec muscles. One of the many benefits of the pump is its ability to provide immediate feedback on training form and intensity. For example, the degree of tightness in your pecs will inform you that the right muscles have been engaged. The better the pump, the better your training form and the more growth you’ll ultimately achieve.
Exercise-induced metabolic stress is extremely anabolic.16, 22, 23 To create maximum metabolic stress the muscles must be repetitively overloaded with high levels of resistance. With the right training fuel your muscles can function at a high intensity via the anaerobic glycolysis pathway. The more efficient this pathway, the greater the ATP production and the harder and longer the muscles may work.3, 17
Here we are anabolically primed to create maximum metabolic stress, whereby an accumulation of metabolites such as lactate, hydrogen ion, inorganic phosphate and creatine, among others, are trapped in the muscles.18 An abundant accumulation of metabolic byproducts increases the body’s adaptation response, signaling the muscles to become larger and stronger.
Posing to Pump
To push even more blood into the pecs a series of poses can be completed between supersets. By squeezing down on the most muscular and side chest poses and statically contracting the pecs for a good 7-10 seconds per pose, a maximum amount of blood can be trapped within the pecs. In this way the pump is prolonged and metabolic stress can be maximized.
Enhancing the Hypertrophic Response
The glycolytic training featured in this article series and the massive pumps thusly produced will force your muscles to undergo hormonal changes along with cell swelling, free-radical production, and increased activity of growth-oriented transcription factors.18, 24 All of which combine to produce a pronounced hypertrophic response.
In particular, cell swelling (or cellular hydration), a major physiological regulator of cell function, will occur. 14, 21 The pronounced cell swelling resulting from blood volume training is crucial for stimulating muscle mass increases as it’s known to engage anabolic processes related to muscle protein synthesis and decreased proteolysis (or protein breakdown). 18
…cell swelling resulting from blood volume training is crucial for stimulating muscle mass increases…
In addition, it’s thought that the greater acidic environment created by this kind of training may encourage increased muscle fiber degradation and increased sympathetic nervous system activity, both of which may enhance muscle growth beyond that experienced with less intensive training protocols.18
Pumping the Lats for Maximum Size and Shape
After two minutes’ rest, it’s time to launch into the second set. Here you’ll be hitting the lats to produce a dramatic V-Taper effect.
A rep range of 10-15 will provide just the right amount of volume to fully engorge the working muscles with blood, all without having to drastically reduce the resistance. Remember, heavy weights are needed to place the greatest amount of mechanical tension on the working muscles while adequate volume is needed to induce high levels of metabolic stress.2
To create a voluminous pump requires a decent amount of volume (both training and blood supply).2 Think of a high pressure hose. Once fully open it’ll supply a steady gush of water at an extremely rapid rate. Lower the pressure and there’ll be less water due to a lack of force. Reps work much the same way. A set of 15 reps could be likened to a full force blast from a high pressure hose. To super-saturate the muscle cells with blood, 15 reps per set (the last two being near impossible to achieve) will do the trick nicely.
To properly stimulate the lats it’s important to ensure that the elbows are brought back behind the body and tucked in as much as possible on each of the three movements to follow. The key to proper lat recruitment and activation is to achieve a full stretch and squeeze while removing the biceps and forearms from the equation. Whenever tension is shifted to other areas, blood volume within the target muscle is decreased. So to enhance the pump you’ll need to keep continuous tension on the lats at all times.
Maximum time under tension (TUT) is important for optimizing the pump.7 To increase TUT, aim for a 2-3 second negative and an explosive one second positive on each rep. A set of 15 reps should take between 45-60 seconds to complete. On this superset, and all others in this workout, you’ll be transitioning as fast as possible between exercises. Endeavour also to hit the working muscles across a variety of planes and at a range of different angles to stimulate maximum growth in all available fibers.
Wide Pronated-Grip Pull-Ups s/w Wide Grip Straight Arm Pull-Downs s/w Wide Pronated Pull-downs: 3 sets of 10-15 reps.
On each superset of this workout it’s vitally important that you move between exercises as fast as possible. To enhance the hypertrophic response through metabolic stress accumulation, it’s imperative that rest be kept to a bare minimum. The faster the transition between movements, the greater will be the anabolic response from metabolic stress. Less rest also ensures that a maximum amount of blood stays in the muscle to further accentuate the pump.
Remember, it takes around three seconds for a muscle to recover by approximately 50%; 35 seconds for that same muscle to recover by approximately 85%. Thus it’s important that you not give the muscles any room to recover between sets as this will limit the amount of overload and subsequent metabolic stress that is ultimately placed on them.
enhance the hypertrophic response through metabolic stress accumulation
To keep the lats firing under continuous tension you’ll be exaggerating the negative for the final 3-4 reps on each set of pull-ups. Such eccentric overloading of the muscles forces the nervous system to increase its capacity to recruit motor units, specifically those associated with fast-twitch muscle fibers (the fibers with the greatest growth potential).
By placing more fast-twitch fibers under increasingly greater amounts of eccentric stress, faster muscle growth can occur. In fact, for every exercise in this workout an emphasis should be placed on controlling the negative to maximize the amount of stress placed on our biggest and strongest muscle fibers.
Though targeted last in the hierarchy of muscle groups, the arms are to be hit with full force and uncompromising intensity. Due to the exhaustive nature of the supersets to have preceded them, the biceps/triceps supersets to follow will require a sustained supply of high grade energy and sufficient aminos to ensure that training output is consistently high and protein synthesis remains elevated.
Such energy and amino fuel is amply supplied by taking two scoops of HVOL and one scoop of CARBION 45 to 60 minutes before training and one scoop of both CARBION and AMINOCORE during training. This powerful combo will have you pumping maximum blood into your upper appendages right to the final rep.
With supplementation on point, you’ll be ready to experience more arm growth than ever before. But of course there are many other important factors to consider. I’ll now explain how proper form, continuous tension, and muscle failure can, when applied to the supersets to follow, increase the size of your arms by up to an inch in circumference over a 12-week period.
Slow and Steady for Titanic Tris
The largest muscle grouping of the upper arm, the three-headed triceps must be attacked from all angles for stimulation. For each of the movements to follow, aim for a full extension on each rep. Go for full lockout before fluidly transitioning into the negative phase.
Elbow placement is also to be carefully monitored. Keep the elbows as close as possible to the sides of the body and avoid letting them drift forward or back; keep them locked in tight and keep the tension continuous for the best possible pump.
…aim for a full extension on each rep.
With arm training in general, there is often a tendency to rush through the eccentric (or negative) portion of the rep. We’ve all seen lifters who appear to drop the bar in an overhead triceps extension, for example, only to wield superior control on the upward phase. This is problematic for two major reasons.
First, whenever a weight is bounced from the bottom of a set due to poor control on the eccentric, there is an obvious risk of injury to whichever joint is taking the strain. Secondly, because the eccentric portion of the rep is most effective in tearing down muscle fibers to enhance growth, to neglect this phase means to seriously compromise results.11
Remember, negative reps are aided by the pull of gravitational force. This will require you to resist gravity in order to keep full tension on the working muscles.12 A slow rep cadence of 2-3 seconds on the negative will accentuate this effect, thus producing superior results.
Overhead Cambered-Bar Extensions s/w Dumbbell Curls (Across the Body) s/w Overhead Unilateral Dumbbell Extensions s/w Unilateral Hammer-Curls: 3 sets of 10-15 reps.
Having completed the three sets, full extension at the elbow joint should be near impossible to achieve. Given the triceps comprise two thirds of upper arm mass, the size of your arms will have increased dramatically, giving you an extra inch or two on each arm, which, with the right nutrition, supplementation, and rest, is likely to be translated into solid muscle over the program’s duration.
Use this feedback, and the pumped sensation following each superset, to gauge the effectiveness of future sessions. If, following a session, the tris and other muscle groups are not pumped to capacity then long-term growth is less likely to occur.
Your triceps are tighter than ever partly due to an emphasis on training to failure and the amount of volume used. 24 Defined as the point where the muscles are unable to produce the necessary force to concentrically lift a given load, complete failure is also crucial to maximizing blood flow to the working muscles.25 It’s a growth prerequisite that has stood the test of time.
Failing to Grow
It’s believed that by training to failure, more motor units are recruited to prolong muscle activation.18, 25 Here the amount of stimulation the muscle receives is enhanced and more growth is likely to occur. Such stimulation brings with it more blood, thus further increasing and prolonging the muscle pump.
To achieve failure also means that more metabolites will have accumulated in the targeted muscles. As mentioned earlier, metabolic by-product accumulation leads to a greater muscle pump, a more pronounced adaptation response, and ultimately more size and strength.
While training to failure is desirable, due to associated muscle damage and recovery demands it’s important to avoid overtraining when using the methods outlined in this article series. Follow the workouts exactly as prescribed.
Blasting the Bis
Everyone’s favorite muscle group, the biceps, is targeted along with the triceps in the one giant set. In this set you’ll have hit not only the bis but also the hard to reach brachialis while fleshing out the forearms. Achieving balanced arm development requires a multipronged attack involving a range of different movements; a few sets of curls tacked on the end of a back session is not enough.
For each movement you’ll be aiming for a full stretch at the bottom and a powerful contraction on each concentric rep. As with all of the other exercises in this workout, fluidity is the name of the game: no stopping and starting. Instead, continuous motion will be used to force as much blood as possible into the relevant muscles. No swinging or jerking. Just complete control through the entire range of motion.
Your biceps, brachialis and forearms should now be pumped to bursting point. At this stage, further stimulation should not be possible and may even be counterproductive in that you may court injury and/or venture into overtraining. Your pump should be ultra-tight and long lasting, making further contractions both difficult and painful. It’s now time to rest, refuel and complete the growth process with HEXAPRO and CVOL.
The Key Variable: Continuous Tension
Your massive pump will have been achieved in large part through the continuous rep cadence of each set. With no rest between reps and no stopping short of a full negative or positive contraction, the steadily applied tension will have shunted a continuous stream of blood into the working muscles.
When working through a full range of motion, both ends of the range will provide opportunities for diminished tension. As we enter the extreme lower and upper parts of the negative and positive portions of the rep, there is a natural tendency to momentarily relax in preparation for the next phase of the rep.
With the highest tension point within the range usually being the midpoint of each rep, the onus is on the lifter to maintain a high degree of tension through not only the midpoint, but also both the top and bottom parts of the rep. As we know, with increased tension comes a pronounced pump.
The key to optimizing the pump, then, is to focus on keeping the working muscles tensed through the entire range of each rep of each set.
Unfortunately, the heavier the weight, the greater will be the tendency to lower the tension at each extreme portion of the range. However, by using the 10-15 rep protocol (with a weight that is sufficiently challenging but which can also be properly controlled) you’ll be keeping tension where it is needed.2
Indeed, it’s important to use a weight that is challenging enough to stimulate maximum mechanical tension. Lifting too light defeats the purpose of bodybuilding and can even lead to diminishing returns signified by a smaller than desirable pump.
Provided tension is kept high, the continuous and fluid nature of each set will also have prevented any blood from escaping from the muscles. As a result, significant cell swelling and metabolic stress will have occurred. By now you know what this means: more lean muscle gains.