This is one of my favourite, Go-To Protocols! Popularised by Steve Holman & Jonathan Lawson (Both Pictured Below) many moons ago, with a whole website & program developed to this method to increase Muscle Mass. This was actually the first ever Program I purchased online when I was at University back in 2005.
The Premise is simple: Complete a set to Failure & then Extend (Hence the ‘X’ in X-Reps) the Time Under Tension.
I like to utilise it as a full program as laid out below, or included in an assistance part of a strength program/phase. In fact I’ve had great success in using it in the penultimate phase before peaking specific lifts.
Steve & Jonathan write about each lift having a sweet spot where the X-Reps should be performed, which is based off the strength curve of the movement. I like to divide the movement into thirds and then indicate where I would like the X-Reps performed. For example ‘X-Reps: Mid’ would indicate the pulses should be performed in the middle third of the movement.
The key with the pulses is they must be controlled. The goal is time under tension, with tension being the operative word. Bouncing reps & losing tension makes the protocol completely ineffective. Tension equals hypertrophy of the recruited muscle fibres.
Students who have attended my Seminars will very often be put through this session to ensure they understand proper execution of the method. It’s certainly my clients are used to doing!
Here’s an example on an Incline Press:
Check out the Program Design Templates for more examples & a Supra-Maximal X-Reps routine!
Here’s a quick Protocol/Technique to spice up your training a little: Half-Half-Full reps
The idea is to increase Time Under Tension at either a weak part of the movement or the disadvantageous part of the strength curve. Be prepared for a skin splitting pump after completing a set of these!
Here’s Lee Forbister demonstrating this on a 2″ EZ Bar with a Supinated Grip on the Scott Bench Curl. Notice how he performs 2 x Half reps before an Explosive Full Rep. If the bar doesn’t move quickly don’t panic too much as the intent to move the bar quickly is more important in this protocol.
So Lee overloads the bottom part of the curl which will generally be the weakest/hardest part of the lift due to the strength curve. You can indeed change it up and overload either end and it can be applied to many different exercise variations.