Often overlooked is the essence of maintaining the optimal repetition pace needed to maximally stimulate big muscle gains. In more than three decades of training, this hardened gym rat has seen countless fools fall easy victim to the trap of choosing a repetition pace that stimulates only minor muscle growth. Typically these guys may even push themselves hard for years, but still not make the eye-popping gains. It’s not because of the poor genetics they so often blame, but simply because they pause too long between repetitions, thus unloading the muscles and reducing necessary training intensity. Remember that the key to a successful muscle-gaining workout is to challenge the muscle in a way that it becomes so uncomfortable it has to hypertrophy and grow to accommodate the workload. The more comfortable you make it for the muscles, the less they grow. The tendency to pause between repetitions stems first and foremost from failing to resist a powerful natural tendency—wanting to give working muscles a break within the set. It’s a powerful survival instinct that I teach bodybuilders to resist. One must over-come this compunction to temporarily pause and unload the muscle (that is, give it a rest, however fleeting) in order to get extra repetitions or hoist slightly more weight. The brief rest between repetitions, or “hitch” as I call it, also reflects a conscious or subconscious desire to preserve strength and unnecessarily protract the workout as well as compensate for an inability to control and/or properly handle a weight that is too heavy. Either way, the hitch is one of the worst enemies of building maximal muscle gains.
If you’re in the gym to build muscle, then the muscles have to work. Again, the limits of how much weight you can lift need not and should not be tested. Leave that dangerous and inevitably losing battle to the powerlifters. You are not there to preserve and conserve muscle energy by taking long, counterproductive pauses between repetitions just to ensure you do one extra repetition, jiggling up a few more pounds. Hitching does nothing more than unload the muscle and reduce the intensity muscles are subjected to. If your goal is to make the muscles grow, then the technique employed should be the complete opposite. Instead, when you set foot in the gym, your aim should be to make the workload as taxing and unrelenting as possible for the muscle you’re training. Again, massive muscular growth simply has no reason to occur unless the muscle is subjected to a stress beyond what can be regulated or beyond that to which it has become accustomed. Hitching goes completely against the logic of building in maximum intensity and workload.
Instead, you must find the strength within yourself to avoid the hitch. No matter how hard it gets, perform your reps smoothly and rhythmically with a machinelike cadence and never, ever stop a repetition within a set. Don’t let yourself pause to take a few breaths and gather more energy. Leave that for your between-set rest interval. Never lose sight of your mission, which is to blast the muscle with such ferocity that it is forced to accommodate the load by growing more for next time—and you can’t do that by hitching your reps. In the beginning it may astonish you just how much you are hitching. Most of us make such a habit of it that it becomes a subconscious move, and we have to really make a concerted effort to pay attention. So for many, catching and working through the hitch is a great deal of mental work at first. If you find that you are hitching all over the place, you may get discouraged when attempting to get rid of it simply because the muscles will feel so weak when they experience the true workload. Guys who have always trained with a pause but are now trying to get rid of it will sometimes experience a big short-term drop in strength. They feel like sissies. But there in is the proof that the muscles are experiencing the true force of the weight, sparing you the load but in the process making you weaker and smaller than you should be, all because you’re hitching.
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