Mass Crash Course Tactics - Phase Training!

Are you overtraining? Are you undertraining? These and many other questions arise when training is leading nowhere fast. Learn here about phase training and what you can do to break out of this lag in your training. Read on...

Most of us have been there—and maybe you're still at that point: Embarrassed to tell anyone you 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 quite right in the gym.

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? Why don't you look like a bodybuilder?

Jonathan Lawson's Transformation

Jonathan Lawson 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 was in his 20s and had wanted that coveted bodybuilder look since his teens, but nothing he tried built the muscle mass he was after. He'd all but given up—and his workouts had become a perfect example of just going through the motions.

At that time Steve Holman 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. The program was set: 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 (no drugs, no trick photography)...

Jonathan Lawson Jonathan Lawson
Click Image To Enlarge.
20 lbs In 10 Weeks!

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 body fat actually went down!). His weight shot up 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"! His current photos are at

19-Inch Arms! 19-Inch Arms!
What we found turned our uphill battle into a successful mountain climb: a 19 1/4-inch arm measurement after a few key exercise tweaks... This part is going to cover the triceps.
[ Click here to learn more. ]

How did he do it? What were those early mass-packing workouts like? As we explain when we outline that mass-crash-course program in the 3D Muscle Building e-book, he started with a three-days-per-week big-exercise regimen for five weeks, no stretch-overload moves included.

Jonathan Lawson Jonathan Lawson
Click Image To Enlarge.
3D Muscle Building Helped Give Jonathan An Amazing Lat Spread.

Then for Phase 2 he shifted to a 3D Positions-of-Flexion muscle-building routine, designed for maximum muscle-fiber activation—these workouts were a little more extensive and, this is key, included powerful stretch-position exercises. He trained every other day on that 3D POF program for the second five weeks—and his gains exploded!

How It Worked

It worked because he reprogramed his metabolism, neuromuscular efficiency and anabolic hormone output during Phase 1 (based around mostly compound exercises). Then in Phase 2 he blasted each body part in 3D POF style, attacking the full arc of flexion, which included stretch-overload for each muscle.

Stretch Overload:

    For example, for biceps he did barbell curls for midrange work, incline curls for stretch-position work and concentration curls for contracted-position occlusion work—and his gains took off like a rocket in that second phase.

    Jonathan Lawson
    Click Image To Enlarge.
    3D Positions-of-Flexion: Midrange, Stretch & Contracted.

    Why do we keep harping on stretch overload? In our "Mass X-celeration" interview that appeared here at we discussed the animal study that produced a 300 percent muscle mass increase with one month of progressive stretch resistance. We believe the addition of stretch-position exercises, like overhead extensions for triceps and incline curls for biceps, is one of the big reasons Jonathan made such spectacular gains in Phase 2.

Mass X-celeration Interview. Mass X-celeration Interview.
Jonathan L. and Steve H., Iron Man magazine authors and developers of X-Reps, recently packed on about 10 pounds of muscle. Check out this great interview as they explain another muscular quantum leap - The X Factor.
[ Click here to learn more. ]

    Another is continuous tension/occlusion work that occurs during the contracted-position exercises, such as concentration curls for biceps, in 3D POF. But there's another often overlooked reason—a tactic you can use no matter what program you're on: Phase training....

Phase Training:

    Each of his two 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. So Week 1 was relatively low effort—he eased into the new program for three workouts. After those three "easy" workouts, he went all out for four hell weeks (training Monday, Wednesday and Friday).

    Jonathan Lawson
    Click Image To Enlarge.
    Jonathan's Gains Exploded!

    When he shifted to a more extensive 3D POF program for Phase 2 (at Week 6), he again began with a medium-intensity week, allowing his muscle to supercompensate from that first phase before going all out again for four more hell weeks. (He said he could almost feel his muscles growing during the reloading week!)

Anabolic Reloading:

    The moral of this story: A supercompensation, or anabolic reloading, week every month or so 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 you will spin into an overtraining, muscle-draining downward spiral. Not a good thing. You may even lose precious muscle tissue!

    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 should see an incredible accumulation of muscle mass!

    Selye's General Adaptation Syndrome:
    Adaptation was explained in elegant detail by famous Viennese physician and endocrinologist Hans Selye, in his monumental 1946 paper The general adaptation syndrome and the diseases of adaptation. Selye explained that stress can eventually lead to a chronic deleterious adaptation, in the form of infection, illness, disease and death - three stages led to this occurrence.

    Stage One: Alarm.
    During this stage an immediate physical reaction involving adrenaline and an increase in heart rate (often termed the fight or flight syndrome) resulted when his subjects were threatened or surprised. The immune system and digestive system was found to be immediately compromised in light of this stimulus, to compensate for the more pressing emotional and muscular needs. As a result, the immune system became depressed and the body is was susceptible to illness, he found.

    Stage Two: Resistance.
    The immune system keeps fighting, at abnormally high levels, to maintain a degree of control over the stressors we feel we are becoming used to. However, this is short lived as we can only adapt to the increases in stress for a short period.

    Stage Three: Exhaustion.
    Finally, our bodies give up on trying to maintain high levels of stress, and illness invariably occurs. The fighting of this, no win, situation may even lead to death, as the body literally breaks down. Thus, Hans Selye demonstrated that with a continued stressor, the body will eventually adapt, with disastrous results.

    Have you downshifted your intensity lately? If not, you may be missing one of the big keys to anabolic supercompensation and unbridled muscle growth!


We'll have more on phase training and Jonathan's early transformation workouts in future articles here at For now just remember to downshift your intensity every four to six weeks (depending on your level of experience and your workouts) to get a muscle-mass size surge!

Note: For more information visit