3 Mechanisms For Maximum Muscle Growth

By Vince Del Monte, WBFF Pro Fitness Model, Certified Fitness Trainer and Nutritionist and author of No Nonsense Muscle Building.

Discover the 3 mechanisms you need to use to achieve maximum muscle gains!

The nuts and bolts of what you need to know. . .

  • The three factors contributing most to growth, as suggested by Brad Schoenfeld, are mechanical tension, metabolic stress, and muscle damage.

  • Most guys fail to incorporate all three mechanisms in their training, and leave a lot of gains on the gym floor.

The beautiful thing about structuring workouts based on stimulating growth is that there is a lot of room for various methods to be integrated into a single workout. While the following workouts are geared towards promoting one of the three factors contributing to hypertrophy, there’s no reason that you couldn’t pick and choose which methods you want to use, and when.

Mechanical Tension Workout

Using the chest as an example, a workout designed to spur growth via mechanical tension would look like:

mechanical tension


A.   Bench press – 5 sets of 3-5 reps, using 85-90% of max (3-5 rep max – RM)

B.   Paused bench press – 4 sets of 4-6 reps, using a weight that is challenging to complete the prescribed amount of reps

C.   Dips (weighted if possible) – 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps

Rest as long as needed to allow for the heaviest weights as possible to be used.

Metabolic Stress Workout

Using the quads as an example, a workout designed to spur growth via metabolic stress would look like:

metabolic stress

A.   Leg extension – 3-4 sets of 15-20 reps, using a slow tempo, never allowing the quads to disengage, squeezing as hard as possible at the top of the movement

B.   Slow front squats – 5 sets of 10-12 reps, performing only the middle 80% of the range, pausing at the bottom for 2-3 seconds to maximize intramuscular tension

C.   Leg extension superset with slow back squats – 3-4 sets of 15-20 reps for the extensions and 8-12 reps of squats, using a slow tempo for both, and only performing the middle 80% of the range for the squats and pausing at the bottom for 2-3 seconds

Rest as little as possible, as the goal is NOT to move max weight, but rather perform as much work as possible with incomplete rest to facilitate the accumulation of metabolic waste.

Muscle Damage Workout

Using the back as an example, a workout designed to spur growth via muscle damage would look like:


A.   Straight-arm pulldown w/rope attachment – 4 sets of 15-20 reps

B.   Negatives only chin-ups – 5 sets of 1, using more weight than you can lift, only performing the lowering part of the lift, lowering for as long as possible (aim for at least 5-6 seconds)

C.   Seated cable rows superset with dumbbell pullovers – 4 sets of 8-10 reps for the rows, and 6-8 reps for the pullovers, really emphasizing the stretch on both, lowering quickly for the rows to activate the stretch reflex, and slowly for the pullovers and allowing the weight to travel as far as possible within your limitations

Eccentric overload can pretty much be used exclusively to stimulate growth via muscle damage, but doing so can easily overwork your body’s capacity to recover.

For this reason, it’s a wise investment to perform relatively high reps at the onset of the workout to pre-exhaust the targeted muscle (in this case, the lats) to switch on protein synthesis, limit protein breakdown, and ensure the targeted muscles are the primary workhorses when performing the eccentric overloads (rather than the smaller secondary muscles).

Rest as little as possible for the straight-arm pulldowns, rows, and pullovers, to maximally pump the lats, but as long as necessary for the negative only chin-ups to allow for the greatest loads to be used during the negatives to maximally overload the lats.

Hybrid Workouts – Mechanical Tension + Metabolic Stress + Muscle Damage

As stated above, each of the examples above can be integrated into a single workout, with the goal of stimulating growth via all three factors. In such a case, a workout using the exact same lift would look like this:

A.   Squats – 2 sets of 10 reps, performed slow, and only through the middle 80% of the range

B.   Negative only squats – 3-4 sets of 1 rep, lowering as slow as possible, performing only the lowering portion of the rep, resting the bar on the pins in a power rack at the bottom of the lift to avoid catastrophic injury

C.   Squats – 5 sets of 3-5 reps, pausing at the bottom to negate the effect of the stretch reflex

D.   Squats – 2 sets of 10 reps, performed slow, and only through the middle 80% of the range

This workout demonstrates that the way in which you execute your reps dictates the response you will get, and that all that is needed is one bang-for-your-buck exercise.

It’s best to kick-off a workout with lighter loads and use a method geared towards increasing metabolic stress to create a localized pump in the targeted musculature BEFORE moving onto to lifting maximal, and supramaximal loads.

Once pumped, the focus becomes inducing as much damage as we can, without overworking our capacity to recover (which is why only 3-4 total reps are performed), and this is done with supramaximal eccentrics.

Once damaged, the focus becomes subjecting the muscles to as much mechanical tension as possible, before finishing off with more metabolic pump work to enhance recovery.

Purpose, Strategy, Sequence

You should periodize your training to attack each factor contributing to hypertrophy in a strategically sequenced manner, to ensure you get the most out of your training. To do this, simply follow the parameters laid out above for all of your workouts, for anywhere between 3-6 weeks at a time.

An example would look like this:

Phase 1 (3-6 weeks) – Mechanical Tension

Phase 2 (3-6 weeks) – Metabolic Stress

Phase 3 (3-4 weeks) – Muscle Damage

You’ll notice that the muscle damage phase is limited to 4 weeks, whereas the other two phases can extend beyond 4 weeks, and the reason for this is simply because the type of training designed to create the most damage, is also the type that is the hardest to recover from.

Dividing your training into separate phases gives you direction and purpose with your efforts, in a strategized way to ensure that no “hypertrophy stone” is left unturned, so to speak.

Wave, After Wave

For variety, and to satisfy the fear of missing out (FOMO) that many people have these days, an alternate option would be to cycle through each phase in a wavelike pattern. An illustration is best, so here’s an example, followed by an explanation:

Week 1 – Mechanical Tension

Week 2 – Metabolic Stress

Week 3 – Muscle Damage

Repeat cycle 3-4 times.

In this sequence you’re moving quickly from one phase to the next, while still performing roughly the same amount of work in each phase by the end anyway.

These periodization models give your training purpose, which is necessary to get the most out of your efforts.

If you’d like to see this periodization model in action, watch this Muscle Camp series we did in Las Vegas.

Video #1 focuses on Mechanical Tension and Muscle Damage.

Video #2 focuses on Mechanical Tension.

Video #3 focuses on Metabolic Stress.

Give these workouts/programs a try, or add your own flavor to them by selecting exercises that you prefer most.

Let me know how they go for you in the comments below!

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4 thoughts on “3 Mechanisms For Maximum Muscle Growth

  1. Great tips here. And I have never given much thought to the fear of missing out (FOMO) concept – but it’s totally true.

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  2. Hey Vince, thanks for sharing, you’ve touched on crucial and interesting points, especially fear of missing out…and instant gratification mentality, it’s a big problem when someone does not understand the basics of solid foundation to start with, which leads to confusion and fear of missing out…btw, nothing wrong with experimenting if you can justify the time and energy!

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  3. Great article Vince, Simply put, more damage more growth. I like what you stated when you said, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

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