Get Fitter, Faster: Fitness, Food & Health Hacks

Hey, I'm Julien. I share a weekly newsletter designed to make you fitter. It's short, smart and actionable17k read it, I'd love you to join too. It's free.

I want to get fitter

New Study Reveals Surprising Muscle Growth Hack: Are You Leaving 43% of Gains on the Table?

 Written by 

Julien Raby

 Last updated on 

New research suggests a groundbreaking way to build muscle faster. 

It’s called a lengthened superset, and studies show it could lead to a 43% increase in muscle growth. 

  • Save

This technique pushes your muscles beyond their usual limits by targeting muscle fibers differently. 

This is the first study to investigate this technique, promising significant implications for those looking to enhance their muscle-building efforts. 

Let’s dive into what lengthened supersets are and how this new research could change the way you train.

Understanding Lengthened Supersets

During exercises, muscles transition from longer to relatively shorter lengths. Some exercises are most challenging when muscles are at shorter lengths. 

For instance, calf raises are hardest at the plantar flexed position, where you feel the squeeze in your calves. Similarly, rows, pull-downs, and pull-ups are toughest when your arms are bent and hands close to your body, engaging the back and biceps at shorter lengths.

In these exercises, when training to failure, you typically fail at these shorter muscle lengths. However, you can still perform partial repetitions with the muscles at relatively longer lengths. This forms the basis of a lengthened superset. 

After reaching failure with the normal range of motion, you immediately perform as many partial reps as possible at the longer muscle length position.

This method allows you to push your muscles further, potentially enhancing growth by targeting muscle fibers differently than standard sets.

The Study at a Glance

The study recruited 23 untrained men to explore the effectiveness of lengthened supersets on muscle growth. Participants trained using calf raises on a Smith machine with one leg at a time

Each participant performed a full range of motion repetition, moving from their most dorsiflexed position (toes up) to their most plantar flexed position (toes down).

In one leg, subjects trained to momentary failure with the normal range of motion, which means they could not complete another full rep despite maximum effort. For the other leg, participants also trained to momentary failure but then immediately performed as many partial repetitions as possible in the dorsiflexed position, where the calves are at a relatively longer length.

Researchers aimed for subjects to reach absolute failure in this position, though some could not achieve this, adding to the study’s ecological validity. 

Training variables included increasing the barbell load when subjects could perform more than 20 full-range reps in either condition.

Key Findings

The study’s results were compelling. Lengthened supersets led to greater muscle growth compared to normal training. 

Specifically, the growth of the medial gastrocnemius (part of the calf muscle) was 0.62 mm more in the lengthened superset group. In relative terms, this represented a 43.3% increase in muscle growth.

While 0.62 mm might seem minimal, it’s important to note that both groups saw an average increase of under 2 mm in muscle thickness. Muscle growth can be a slow process, and seeing an additional 0.62 mm of growth within this context is significant. 

This extra growth, although seemingly small, is notable as it occurred over a relatively short period, underscoring the potential effectiveness of lengthened supersets.

Additionally, about half of the participants felt that the extra muscle growth justified the discomfort of performing lengthened supersets, indicating a practical and perceivable benefit from this technique.

Implications of the Study

This study offers several important insights but also comes with limitations. The participants were previously untrained, making it uncertain if the findings apply to trained individuals. 

Additionally, only calf raises were tested, so the results may not extend to other exercises.

Another crucial factor is volume load, calculated as sets times reps times load. The volume load was higher in the lengthened superset group due to the additional partial reps. 

While volume load isn’t always directly proportional to hypertrophy, it’s challenging to separate the effects of increased volume from the benefits of the lengthened superset technique itself.

Furthermore, some may be tempted to generalize the results, suggesting that training to failure and beyond is superior for muscle growth in all scenarios. 

However, previous research has shown that stopping one to two reps short of failure can produce similar hypertrophy. 

Techniques like drop sets, which also extend beyond failure, tend to yield comparable results to traditional sets.

Therefore, while the study suggests that lengthened supersets can enhance muscle growth, especially for exercises challenging at shorter muscle lengths, it doesn’t imply that this method is universally superior for all types of training.

Broader Research Context

The study on lengthened supersets aligns with a growing body of research emphasizing the benefits of training muscles at longer lengths. 

For example, another study found that purely performing partial repetitions at long muscle lengths could be more effective than a full range of motion. 

This study, conducted in 2022 with untrained women, compared three groups: one using a full range of motion, another using partial reps at long muscle lengths, and the third using partial reps at short muscle lengths. 

The group training with long muscle length partials saw the greatest growth, with the medial gastrocnemius experiencing 126.9% more growth than the full range of motion group.

Additionally, other studies on leg extensions and hip extension machines also found that partial reps at long muscle lengths built more muscle compared to full range of motion. These findings suggest a potential advantage of training at longer muscle lengths across different exercises and muscle groups.

However, it’s important to note that much of this research has been conducted on previously untrained individuals. Upcoming studies focusing on trained individuals will provide more comprehensive insights. 

This developing body of literature, while promising, should be interpreted with caution. It suggests that incorporating lengthened training techniques can be beneficial, but more research is needed for definitive conclusions.

Practical Takeaways

Incorporating lengthened supersets into your workout routine can potentially enhance muscle growth, especially for exercises that are most challenging at shorter muscle lengths. 

Here are some practical ways to apply this technique:

  • Experiment with Lengthened Supersets: After reaching failure in a normal range of motion, perform as many partial reps as possible at the lengthened position. For example, during calf raises, continue with partial reps in the dorsiflexed position.
  • Try Alternative Techniques: If lengthened supersets aren’t appealing, consider purely performing partial reps at long muscle lengths. This has shown to be effective in several studies.
  • Gradual Integration: Start by incorporating these techniques into one or two sets per workout. For instance, in a session with three sets of rows, perform the first two sets normally and use lengthened supersets or partial reps for the final set.
  • Monitor Volume and Fatigue: Be aware that these techniques can increase overall training volume and fatigue. Adjust your workout intensity and recovery time as needed to avoid overtraining.
  • Personalize Your Training: Tailor these methods to your individual needs and preferences. If certain exercises are not accessible or enjoyable, focus on those you can perform effectively.

By experimenting with these techniques and monitoring your progress, you can determine if lengthened supersets or partial reps at long muscle lengths enhance your muscle growth.

Considerations and Recommendations

While lengthened supersets show promise for muscle growth, several factors should be considered before fully integrating them into your routine:

  • Volume and Fatigue Management: Lengthened supersets increase training volume, which can lead to greater fatigue. It’s crucial to manage this by adjusting the intensity and ensuring adequate recovery time.
  • Recovery Capabilities: Understand your body’s recovery capabilities. While some people can handle the increased fatigue from lengthened training, others may struggle. Gradually introduce these techniques to gauge your tolerance and adjust accordingly.
  • Exercise Selection: Select exercises that challenge muscles at shorter lengths for lengthened supersets. Examples include rows, pull-downs, pull-ups, leg curls, and lateral raises. If you prefer exercises that already place muscles at longer lengths, such as leaning back leg extensions or seated leg curls, you may not need to incorporate lengthened supersets.
  • Individual Preferences: Personal preference plays a significant role. If lengthened supersets or purely lengthened partial reps don’t appeal to you, that’s okay. Effective muscle growth can still be achieved with traditional methods.
  • Balanced Approach: If you’re hesitant about fully committing to lengthened supersets, consider a balanced approach. For example, perform normal full-range reps for the majority of your sets and incorporate lengthened supersets or partial reps in a few sets to see how your body responds.

Here’s more info about it:


The recent study on lengthened supersets provides intriguing insights into muscle growth optimization. While this technique shows promise, it’s important to recognize the limitations and context of the research. 

Lengthened supersets may offer significant benefits, particularly for exercises challenging at shorter muscle lengths, but more research is needed, especially with trained individuals and other exercises.

For those interested in experimenting, integrating lengthened supersets or purely lengthened partial reps into a workout routine can be a worthwhile strategy. Monitor your progress and adjust based on your individual recovery capabilities and preferences.

Remember, the journey to muscle growth is highly individual. What works best can vary from person to person. The key is to stay informed, experiment cautiously, and find what fits best for your training goals and lifestyle.

Share via
Copy link