Mythbusters Vol 3
by Nate Green
In Mythbusters Volume 1 and Volume 2,
we let our panel of fitness experts identify, rant about, and quash
some common and not-so-common exercise myths that hold most guys
back from building a strong, muscular, injury-resistant
In Volume 3, Chad Waterbury, Christian Thibaudeau, Tim
Ziegenfuss, Mike Robertson, and Nick Tumminello ask you to pull up
a chair and join the debunking process.
But as any self-respecting GI Joe fan understands, knowing is
half the battle. The other half? Well, it's up to you to put
their advice into practice.
Even Arnold worked the forearms.
Myth: "Hard gainers" will always be stuck with skinny calves and
Mythbuster: Chad Waterbury
The calves and forearms are notoriously tough to build, but
they're also the easiest to build. Why the dichotomy?
If you're born with great calves or forearms (or any easily
developed muscle group, for that matter), it takes little work to
get that body part to look good. That's common sense.
Congratulate yourself for choosing the right
But the calves and forearms are often singled out. Why? Unless
you live in a frigid climate or belong to a religious tradition
that doesn't allow you to expose your arms and ankles, those
are the parts people see and notice. And because you know people
can see those exposed parts, if you're a skinny dude
you're probably more sensitive to their relative
So, here's the million-dollar question: Can your puny
calves and forearms get big?
I've got good news and bad news. The good news is that any
muscle group can get bigger. I've never worked with anyone who
couldn't build impressive forearms, no matter how laughable
the initial girth. The calves, on the other hand, are a wee bit
trickier. If they're small, no problem, they can get bigger.
But if those calves have a very high insertion point (long tendon,
short muscle belly), you're relegated to building calves that
will, at best, look like half a grapefruit on a Popsicle stick.
There's no way around it.
However, that's really not a bad look, considering the
alternative: a strawberry on a Popsicle stick.
The key training element is frequency
. I recommend
training those muscle groups as much as six times per week
Every fourth week, cut back to training them just once, to allow
supercompensation to occur.
Follow these guidelines, and you should see significant growth
in your forearms, and as much growth as your tendon length will
allow in your calves.
Shorts don't lie — if you're gonna show 'em,
you'd better try to grow 'em.
Myth: Drop sets and "feeling the burn" are the best ways to
stimulate muscle fibers.
Mythbuster: Christian Thibaudeau
No training technique is totally ineffective, provided it's used
in a smart way. Drop sets are no exception, as long as you
understand the downsides of using them — and they have a lot
For starters, they're extremely hard on the CNS (central nervous
system). This is because an increase in intramuscular acidity,
along with the accumulation of several different metabolites (such
as hydrogen ions), makes the contraction process much
Any time you have the ''burn'' sensation, the nervous system
must work harder to recruit the muscle fibers necessary to perform
the action required. This doesn't mean we should avoid any training
technique that leads to a great pump or that takes us to failure.
The CNS needs to be challenged, same as your heart, your lungs,
your skeletal muscles, or any other system that's linked to
your goals in the gym. But too much stimulation can lead to central
fatigue, which we don't want.
That brings me to the second downside. To add that
CNS-challenging volume, you have to cut the load in a major way.
And I fail to see where such a drastic reduction in training weight
would stimulate more fibers to grow. Unless you're a beginner,
you should train with at least 70 percent of your one-rep max to
stimulate growth. You can't do that with traditional drop
Let's say your max in the lift you're drop setting is
150 pounds, and you start out with 125 pounds — 80 percent of
your max. You go to failure, then drop the weight by 30 pounds.
You're now using 95 pounds, or 63 percent of your max. If you
go to failure again, and drop by another 30 pounds, you're now at
65 pounds, or 43 percent of your max.
So, even though you just worked your ass off, you were using an
insufficient load for two-thirds of the set. The external load
wasn't heavy enough to maximize motor-unit recruitment, and
the fast-twitch fibers — those that are the most primed for growth
— were shot after you went to failure with 80 percent of your max.
After that, you were relying mostly on intermediate and slow-twitch
The increase in acidity within your muscles will lead to an
increase in growth hormone and IGF-1 levels, which is certainly a
benefit. But I don't think that it comes close to compensating for
the decrease in loading.
What's the alternative? Instead of traditional drop sets, I
recommend extended sets, in which you continue to work even after
you've hit momentary muscular failure. They work well as long
as you use a load heavy enough to maximize motor-unit
Rest/Pause: Do your regular set. When you've completed your
reps (close to failure), rest for 10 to 12 seconds. Then, with the
same weight, get as many additional reps as you can.
Short drops: This is just like a traditional drop set, except
you start with a relatively heavy load, and make small drops. You
should never go below 70 percent of your max during the set. So you
might start with 90 percent, perform three reps, drop down to 80
percent, perform a few more, then finally drop down to 70 percent
and do as many reps as you can.
Mechanical drop sets: In a mechanical drop set (which I
explained in much more detail here),
you still focus on performing more reps once you hit failure. But
instead of reducing the weight, you make a small change to the
execution of the movement that allows you to get more reps with the
original weight. You can change your grip, stance, or angle of
movement — whatever makes the exercise slightly easier
without changing it to a completely different exercise.
If you're ever in doubt, just remember this: The more fibers you
recruit and exhaust, the more growth you get.
Extended sets are...taxing.
Le Mensonge peut courir un an, la vérité le rattrape en un jour, dit le sage Haoussa
se SURPASSER ,ne JAMAIS ABDIQUER,TOUJOURS RESTER HUMBLE