Muscle Hypertrophy—Two Tools to Change the Game

by: Josh Bryant

Any honest bodybuilder will admit it sucks to look like Tarzan and lift like Jane. On the flip side, even the smorgasbord-destroying strength athlete would rather look like a product of the pig iron—not a product of eating like a pig.

Having had the privilege of training some of the top bodybuilders in the world, along with training bodybuilding under the tutelage of Metroflex Owner, Brian Dobson, I would like to share with you two unconventional game changing hypertrophy strategies.

Implementing Bands and Chains

Study after study shows that bands and chains will help get you stronger.  What many don’t realize is that the adaptations are also highly anabolic. 

In other words, bands and chains help you get stronger and BIGGER!

The bench press is a prime example of the benefit of bands and chains when they are added to the barbell.  As a lifter lowers the barbell down to his chest and then lifts it back to arm’s length (the starting position), the resistance (bands/chains) decreases on the way down and increases on the way up.

Look at what’s taking place: As you complete the press, more force will be required to finish the lift. As the range of motion lengthens, resistance will become amplified. The result is an opening of the anabolic gateway, simply because you are forced to recruit more muscle fibers.  That means not only more growth but a fast ticket to being the cock of the walk in the weight pen. 

Bands and chains do not have to be used for just core movements.  Think outside the box and throw a band around the pec dec.   Put it around your back and do dumbbell flys.  Do lateral raises with chains.

Take a look at one unconventional strategy I have used with clients ranging from Branch Warren to raw bench press phenomenon, Al Davis. 

670 raw bench presser, Al Davis, doing chain flys

Flys are a great chest exercise, but they may fall on the risk side of the risk-to-benefit ratio for those with shoulder problems because of the excessive strain in the stretched position.  Many in this situation would opt to only train with cables. 

Chain flys are a game changer! 

Chain flys are performed by attaching the same handles you use to perform cable cross overs to chains.  You are still able to get some of the stretch (lacking in cables) that you feel with dumbbells. As your arms abduct to the fully stretched position, the chains unload on the floor.  This removes much of the strain off of the shoulders.  As you adduct, or squeeze your arms back together, the chains start to lift off the floor again, giving you the peak contraction advantage of the cables. 

Think back to Steve Holman’s Positions of Flexion training.  This traditional “stretch” movement has morphed to a “stretch and contracted movement.” 

 It’s now an economic isolation exercise.

“I feel every muscle fiber in my chest screaming!” IFBB Pro bodybuilder Johnnie Jackson yelled after his first time to doing chain flys.

Bands and chains can benefit the hypertrophy enthusiast in a number of ways!

Using Cluster Sets

Cluster sets simply mean more sets and fewer reps. A traditional three-sets-of-eight-reps workout would become eight sets of three reps. Olympic lifters have used cluster sets for over half a century.   

The well-versed hypertrophy enthusiast will hop onboard. I personally have used this technique training IFBB Pro Bodybuilders Johnnie Jackson, Cory Mathews, and Branch Warren.

Strength athletes like cluster sets because they can produce greater amounts of force and velocity over the duration of sets. I like them for the bodybuilder because they can get more done in less time. 

Here is a caveat–next time you’re training biceps, instead of your traditional three sets of 12, use the same weight for three reps, rest 15 seconds and repeat this sequence for five minutes straight. You’ll get way more done in less time!

Step out of the dark ages and see the light with cluster sets.