Blast Your Arms With HIRT!

(High Intensity Resistance Training)

Big arms are essential to a strong, athletic-looking physique. Unfortunately, it takes many years to build them. Adding a new training method to your program called high-intensity resistance training (HIRT) involving high speed eccentric exercise may be just what the arm doctor ordered to help you build large, shapely, powerful arms in record time.

Muscle physiologists have reported that that muscle tension is the most important factor triggering increases in muscle size (i.e., muscle hypertrophy). High muscle tension— particularly during the eccentric (lengthening) phase of the lift— causes small injuries to muscle fibers. The fibers get larger and stronger during the muscle repair process in response to these small injuries. Your training program should attempt to create these small injuries and give the fibers enough time to heal and grow. At the same time, the injuries cannot be so severe that they don’t heal quickly. Effective training is a subtle balance between creating small injuries (but not large injuries) and managing the healing process through rest and nutrition (e.g., post-workout protein supplements).

Blast Your Arms With HIRT!

Concentric, Eccentric, and Static Contractions

Human movement involves static, concentric and eccentric muscle contractions. You should use each of these in your training program to get the best results. Static contractions develop muscle tension without movement and are used to stabilize joints and bones during exercise. Concentric contractions develop tension that cause muscle shortening and represents the active phase of exercises such as curls, bench presses and squats. Eccentric contractions involve the development of tension as the muscle lengthens. They are vital for movement control. For example, the biceps contracts eccentrically as you lower a cup of coffee from your mouth to the table.

Muscles create more tension contracting eccentrically (lowering the weight) than contracting concentrically (pushing or pulling the weight). Negatives or eccentric contractions create more muscle tension than any other form of exercise. Also, fast eccentric contractions create more muscle tension than slow eccentric contractions. As stated previously, muscle tension is the most important factor stimulating muscle hypertrophy (growth), so the effective weight-training program should create as much time under tension as possible. High-speed eccentric training creates more muscle tension than any other form of training, yet few people incorporate it into their training programs. Athletes and fitness enthusiasts are missing out on one of the most powerful training techniques for building large, strong, powerful muscles.

High-speed eccentric training has a large potential for injury if you progress too rapidly. Start off with light weights and progress slowly. Don’t use this technique more than once a week. Also, incorporate all the elements that promote muscle hypertrophy, including dietary protein (timing and quantity), caloric intake, rest, hormone management, and training program structure (i.e., don’t overtrain).

High-speed eccentric training is a scientific breakthrough that will bring rapid results. You must use it sparingly and gradually to prevent injury. However, it adds a powerful tool to your training arsenal that will boost your arm size to the next level and separate you from the pack.

The Science Behind High-speed Eccentric Workouts

High-speed eccentrics bring rapid results, and we have the science to prove it. Negatives or eccentric muscle contractions create more muscle tension than any other form of exercise. As stated, fast eccentrics create more tension than slow eccentrics. During conventional weight training exercises, such as curls, bench presses, or squats, you have the capacity to lower more weight than you can push during the lift. You create more muscle tension contracting the muscles eccentrically (lowering the weight) than contracting them concentrically (pushing the weight). The results of concentric and eccentric training are highly specific— concentric exercise produces the greatest changes in concentric strength and eccentric exercise produces the greatest changes in eccentric strength. Incorporating exercises that use concentric, eccentric and static muscle contractions in your weight training program causes varied adaptations. Ideally, your program should include all three types of exercises for the greatest training adaptation.

Damaged muscle cells create satellite cells during the repair process, which are muscle cells consisting of just a nucleus. Muscle growth factors can cause the satellite cells to combine with muscle cells that were stressed or damaged during training and assist in cell repair and adaptation. Satellite cell formation is important because it maintains a balance between the number of cell nuclei and cell mass, which is critical for protein synthesis and muscle cell repair.

Following injury caused by weight training, muscle cells go into overdrive to make new proteins to repair the damage and strengthen muscle so they withstand future stresses. Measurable changes in muscle size take weeks. Why does it take so long? Muscle size reflects the balance between making new protein and breaking down old protein. Muscle breakdown accelerates after a heavy workout— often exceeding the rate of protein synthesis. Catabolic (breakdown) hormones, such as corticosteroids, and anti-growth factors, such as myostatin, speed the rate of muscle breakdown after exercise. Your goal is to speed the rate of muscle hypertrophy and slow the rate of muscle breakdown.

Fast-speed eccentrics pushes the hypertrophy process because of the high muscle tension it produces during the workout, but you must give the muscles rest and nutrition if they are to grow optimally. Consume a protein shake or energy bar containing about 30 grams of protein immediately after training. Give the target muscles (biceps and triceps) enough rest to recovery before repeating high-speed eccentrics.

The HIRT ( HIGH-INTENSITY RESISTANCE TRAINING) ARM Workout

This workout is deceptive because it creates much more tension in your muscles than standard weight training, yet it feels easier. The method works like this: lower the weight as quickly as possible using an eccentric contraction; stop the motion suddenly, then do the exercise slowly and under control. For example, when doing high-speed eccentric curls, begin with the arm flexed, lower the weight quickly but stop the movement abruptly before reaching full extension, then curl the weight slowly and under control until you reach the starting position. Do the other exercises similarly.

This arm workout uses supersets to give the target muscle group plenty of rest between sets. A biceps exercise is paired with a triceps exercise. Do 3 sets of 10 of the first pair of exercises before moving to the next pair of exercises. Progress from the biceps to triceps exercise without rest; rest one to two minutes between sets; and rest three minutes before moving to the next pair of exercises.

• Do the HIRT ARM Workout twice a week. The workout uses the superset technique. Each set consists of a biceps and triceps exercise pair. Rest one minute between sets. Do 3 sets of 10— alternating between the biceps and triceps exercise— before moving to the next pair of exercises.
• Rest three minutes before moving to the next pair of exercises.
• Use this movement for all exercises: From the starting position, lower the weight rapidly using an eccentric contraction; stop the motion abruptly before reaching the end of the range of motion; perform the lift concentrically, under control.

Bench push-up triceps extensions
3 sets of 10 repetitions

Seated dumbbell incline curls
3 sets of 10 repetitions

Rest 3 minutes

Bench dips with weight
3 sets of 10 repetitions

Standing EZ bar curls; vary grip width each set
3 sets of 10 repetitions

Rest 3 minutes

Triceps extensions on the lat machine with rope attachment
3 sets of 10 repetitions

Front dumbbell curls
3 sets of 10 repetitions

Rest 3 minutes

Overhead two-arm pulley triceps extensions
3 sets of 10 repetitions

Low pulley cable curls
3 sets of 10 repetitions

EXERCISE DESCRIPTIONS

Blast Your Arms With HIRT! - Bench push-up triceps extensions

Bench push-up triceps extensions

Assume a push-up position with hands on a bench and feet on the floor. Your hands should be slightly forward of a normal push-up position. Lower your upper body quickly so that your head goes below the level of the bench and your arms are bent. Perform a triceps extension and then a push-up to return to the starting position.

Blast Your Arms With HIRT! - Bench dips with weight

Bench dips with weight

Place two flat benches parallel to each other spaced 3 to 4 feet apart (depending on your leg length). Have a spotter put a weight on your lap. Place your hands on the edge of one of the benches shoulder-width apart and your feet on the other bench. Face toward the ceiling with your elbows and legs fully extended. Lower yourself rapidly by bending your elbows but stop abruptly before going all the way down, then push up until you reach the starting position.

Blast Your Arms With HIRT! - Seated dumbbell incline curls

Seated dumbbell incline curls

Sit on an incline bench with feet placed shoulder-width apart. Grasp the dumbbells using a supine grip (palms up). Begin with the arms flexed, lower your right arm as quickly as possible, stopping suddenly before reaching full extension; curl the weights slowly, under control until you reach the starting position. You can do this exercise using both arms at the same time or one arm at a time.

Blast Your Arms With HIRT! - Standing EZ bar curls

Standing EZ bar curls

Stand upright holding an EZ curl bar at shoulder-width, using a supine grip (palms up). Keeping the elbow in, lower the weight quickly with arms extended fully. Curl the weight more slowly and under control to the starting position. You can also do this exercise with a narrow or wide grip.

Blast Your Arms With HIRT! - Front dumbbell curls

Front dumbbell curls

Stand with dumbbells in each hand with arms extended. Curl each dumbbell one at a time in front of the body, keeping the dumbbell as close to the body as possible. Curl the weight slowly and return to the starting position quickly.

Blast Your Arms With HIRT! - Low pulley cable curls

Low pulley cable curls

Attach the short bar to the low pulley cable. Grasp the bar using a supine grip (palms up). Begin with the arms flexed, lower your arms as quickly as possible, stopping suddenly before reaching full extension; curl the weights slowly, under control until you reach the starting position.

Blast Your Arms With HIRT! - Overhead two-arm pulley triceps extensions

Overhead two-arm pulley triceps extensions

Using the low cable position on the dual pulley machine and the rope handles, stand with your back to the machine, grasping the ropes behind your head with elbows up. Extend your elbows until your hands go above your head (starting position). Lower the weight rapidly until your elbows are flexed fully, and then extend your elbows under control to the starting position.

Blast Your Arms With HIRT! - Triceps extensions on the lat machine with rope attachment

Triceps extensions on the lat machine with rope attachment

Stand facing the lat machine. Grasp the ropes with hands placed close together with palms facing each other. Fully extend your arms with your elbows held closely at your side (starting position). With elbows locked to your side, allow your hands to be pulled up rapidly but stop abruptly before your hands reach your chest; then firmly push the weight back to the starting position slowly and under control. If your elbows move during this exercise, you are cheating.

Photos by: Per Bernal

References
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Fahey, T. Basic Weight Training for Men and Women. New York: McGraw Hill, 2004 (8th edition).
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MacNeil, L. G., et al. Eccentric exercise activates novel transcriptional regulation of hypertrophic signaling pathways not affected by hormone changes. PLoS One. 5(5): e10695, 2010.
Nogueira, F. R. D., et al. The effect of eccentric contraction velocity on muscle damage: A review. Isokinetics and Exercise Science. 21((1)): 1-9, 2013.
Ochi, E., et al. Muscular hypertrophy and changes in cytokine production after eccentric training in the rat skeletal muscle. J Strength Cond Res. 25(8): 2283-2292, 2011.
Roschel, H., et al. Effect of eccentric exercise velocity on akt/mtor/p70 (s6k) signaling in human skeletal muscle. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 36(2): 283-290, 2011.
Shepstone, TN, JE Tang, S Dallaire, MD Schuenke, RS Staron, and SM Phillips. Short-term high- vs. low-velocity isokinetic lengthening training results in greater hypertrophy of the elbow flexors in young men. J Appl Physiol 98: 1768 –1776, 2005.
Yasuda, T., et al. Effects of blood flow restricted low-intensity concentric or eccentric training on muscle size and strength. PLoS One. 7(12): e52843, 2012.

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