Most of us have been there: Embarrassed to tell anyone we work out because of the puzzled looks—and then that stabbing comment: “Really? You lift weights?” That’s when you realize that maybe you’re not doing everything you can for a muscle-mass size surge.
Are you overtraining? Are you undertraining? Are you using the wrong exercises? Are you not activating enough muscle fibers? Are you missing some growth components of the key anabolic fibers?
Jonathan had a lot of those questions when he started working out at the IRON MAN Training & Research Center back in the ’90s. He had been training for years, but his results were far from acceptable. He wanted that coveted bodybuilder look, but nothing he tried built the muscle mass he was after. He’d all but given up—his workouts had become a perfect example of just going through the motions.
At that time Steve was looking for a subject to test a mass-building crash course he was developing. Jonathan appeared at the ITRC at just the right time, with plenty of pent-up motivation. It was a 10-week program with two five-week phases.
Results: Jonathan packed on an amazing 20 pounds of muscle—in only 10 weeks! He went from twig to big in record time, building his muscular base structure in about two months, not two years. Here are those before and after photos taken in the ’90s when he first came to the ITRC…
Remember, he made that transformation in 10 weeks, adding almost 1 1/2 inches to each arm—from 16 1/2” up to a solid 18”—while losing one inch off his waist (his bodyfat actually went down!). His weight went from 191 pounds to 209. (As you can see that was not a ripped 209. Today he leans out near that higher weight thanks to new training techniques like X Reps—and his arms measure over 19”!)
How did he do it? What were those early mass-packing workouts like? He started with a three-days-per-week big-exercise program for five weeks, with almost no stretch-overload moves included.
Then for Phase 2, he shifted to a Positions-of-Flexion 3D muscle-building routine, designed for maximum muscle-fiber activation—with stretch-position exercises for every body part. He trained every other day on that 3D POF program for the second five weeks, and his gains exploded!
It worked because he reprogrammed his metabolism, neuromuscular efficiency, and anabolic hormone output during Phase 1. Then in Phase 2, he trained each body part in 3D POF style, attacking the full arc of flexion, which included stretch-overload for each muscle. His gains took off like a rocket in that second phase.
Why do we keep harping on stretch overload? We’ve discussed the animal study that produced a 300 percent muscle mass increase with one month of progressive stretch resistance in this e-zine and our e-books. We believe the addition of stretch-position exercises is one of the big reasons Jonathan made such spectacular gains in Phase 2. Another is continuous tension/occlusion work that occurs during the contracted-position exercises in 3D POF. But there’s another often overlooked reason—phase training itself…
Each of his five-week phases began with a medium-intensity week. In other words, he started the Phase 1 routine doing all of the sets as prescribed in the muscle-building crash course he was testing, but he didn’t push to exhaustion that first week. He eased into it for three workouts. After those three “easy” workouts, he went all out for four hell weeks (training three days a week).
When he shifted to a more extensive 3D POF program for Phase 2, he again began with a medium-intensity week, allowing his muscle to supercompensate from that first phase before going all out again.
A supercompensation week every few weeks is mandatory no matter what program you’re on. If you keep pushing hard continuously, your body will never have a chance to fully replenish from previous weeks of intense workouts and will spin into an overtraining, muscle-draining downward spiral. Not a good thing!
Dr. Hans Selye, a renowned stress researcher, describes it as the General Adaptation Syndrome, with the three stages of any stress (like intense weight training) being alarm, resistance, and exhaustion. You want to always downshift your intensity before you hit exhaustion—and you’ll see an incredible accumulation of muscle mass!
For more on how Jonathan made those big gains happen (including the full routine) as well as other tips and tricks for adding more mass, check out 3D Muscle Building: