| Article Summary:
Nothing motivates change more than seeing others who've done it themselves. Before and after photos have a certain power that is beyond words, so we'll put ours right up front...
Jonathan made one of the most remarkable muscle-morphing changes back in the '90s, adding 20 pounds of muscle in only 10 weeks (the first two photos above). He continued to refine his physique with various techniques, some of which we'll discuss in his story below, but first here are Steve's photos...
Steve had a longer transformation time, trying in vain to discover the correct way to train to add muscle to his rail-thin frame. It took a while, but he finally found the right ingredients, many of which you can use to get huge-or at least a lot bigger. Let's start with Steve's story, as much of what Jonathan achieved was a direct result of what Steve learned, as you'll see...
Twig To Big
"I was painfully thin when I started lifting-we're talking anorexic-actress skinny. I decided to 'fix' my body after discovering my uncle's weights and bodybuilding magazines in my grandmother's attic when I was 15. I weighed 120 and could no longer put up with my spaghetti arms, pipe-cleaner legs and sunken chest...
"Genetics were obviously a big problem: My mom weighed 95 and my dad 115 when they were married in their early 20s. Yep, pixie stick bodies on both sides, but when you're young, that's no big deal. I figured that it would only take a few workouts to look like a bodybuilder and have girls falling all over me and guys peeing with fear...
"Didn't happen. Even after training fairly consistently through high school (four freakin' years), I graduated weighing about 160, but I'd also grown a few inches. In other words, my body looked about the same as when I started, just with a longer torso and limbs. Okay, you could at least see a vein on each arm, but I was still painfully skinny and girls still ignored me (maybe it was my Kurt Cobain hairdo). I finally woke up. Instead of relying solely on the muscle magazines, I decided to dig deeper...
"I headed to the University of Texas at Austin to get my degree-and while I was at it, I figured I could use the reams of research material in its libraries to figure out how I could build more muscle. Yes, I was still reading the bodybuilding magazines, but most just revealed how the genetically gifted champs trained (20 sets a bodypart, six-days-a-week workouts, blah, blah). I had finally realized, after bashing my head against the no-gain wall for years, that I wasn't one of those mutant easy-gainer types.
"Eventually, after poring over books, research studies and abstracts, as well as talking to a few physiology professors, I hit on a system of training each muscle through its full range of motion with three distinct exercises. For example, for biceps it was barbell curls (midrange), incline curls (stretch) and concentration curls (contracted)...
Jonathan POF Bicep Exercises - Curls, Incline Curls, Concentration Curls.
"For quads it was squats (midrange), sissy squats (stretch) and leg extensions (contracted). I devised simple three-hit programs for almost every major muscle-and lo and behold I started growing. In fact, I won the first bodybuilding contest I entered using an early version of Positions of Flexion, my tongue-twisting but accurately descriptive name for it. It was a very small local show with about nine competitors, but what an accomplishment for a guy who could've been the model for pirate flags only a few years earlier.
"After I graduated with a journalism degree and became the editor of IRON MAN magazine, POF continued to evolve (as did IRON MAN-I tried to gear it toward telling the truth and printing more than just 'champ' training). My prestigious position fueled my mission to make POF the most efficient mass-building workout protocol out there. As IM editor in chief, I got to interview Arnold (who's favorite biceps routine was barbell curls, incline curls and concentration curls-POF), Cory Everson, Boyer Coe (who at one time worked for Arthur Jones at Nautilus), Lee Labrada (an intensity-training advocate) and Tom Platz (a big fan of extended stretch exercises-a key position in POF-for his freaky quads).
"Yes, they were the genetic elite, revealing what had worked for them, but I had learned to pick and choose what average trainees could use to build muscle. I applied ideas from each of them. I honed POF to a level that I thought was the best it could be and with it had built my physique to its genetic limit-or so I thought. I figured that with my marathon-runner genetics, looking kind of like a bodybuilder, but not really, was it for me.
"Then, after training with Jonathan for a few years, more or less maintaining my medium-muscled physique-first photo below-and focusing on helping him get bigger and win some drug-free bodybuilding contests using POF, we stumbled onto X Reps, which are basically moving the weight to the semistretch position at exhaustion and continuing with partial reps to end the set. Suddenly our physiques took giant leaps.
"We both achieved new levels of muscular size and detail very quickly. After only one month using POF training with an X-Rep chaser, I was amazed that suddenly I looked more like a bodybuilder, and I was in my mid-40s (second photo above). Every bodypart was fuller and more etched, no steroids..."
Before we get to specific tips you can use in your own transformation, let's backtrack and hear Jonathan's amazing story (the following is adapted from the 3D Muscle Building e-book available at X-Rep.com)...
"Like most teenagers who start bodybuilding, I wanted to be so big and muscular that jaws would drop when I walked on a beach. Whether you're young or old, a muscular physique is a great way to get noticed and elevate self-esteem. I also had dreams of competing in the sport of bodybuilding. After I'd been lifting weights for a few years and had progressed to a respectable level of size and strength, that dream seemed to be a little closer, but many told me I needed 'extra' help to get there. I didn't listen. I refused to resort to bodybuilding drugs. They were out of the question (and still are) for me because the rewards simply weren't worth the risk. I decided to rely solely on training and nutrition.
"At age 19 I entered my first contest-with lots of prodding from friends and family. I didn't place well, which I expected because I knew I needed more muscle size if I wanted to make a strong showing. I entered anyway, primarily for the experience that would help me in later contests once I achieved my goals - without drugs. I keep emphasizing my drug-free status because, as any competitive bodybuilder knows, the thought of using anabolic steroids - as well as the 'what if' possibilities-are always there. The bodybuilders at my gym who used such drugs continued to tell me I couldn't compete successfully without them. I tried not to listen, but their words echoed through my mind almost daily. Rather than succumb to the temptation, however, I used their words to fuel my workout intensity. They only made me stronger in my conviction that I could do it drug-free.
"While I did improve my physique, the real size I was seeking didn't materialize no matter what I tried. I began to think that the drug users at the gym were right, that it was impossible to build exceptional size and strength without anabolic steroids. Rather than risk my health and convictions, I let my training gradually slack off and fall by the wayside. By the time I was 21, my bodyweight had leveled off at a soft 190 pounds at 5'11", and I began to refocus my priorities.
"As chance would have it, I got a job in the product division of Iron Man magazine and met Steve Holman, the editor in chief. He told me he had developed programs that could add pounds of muscle to just about anyone's frame in a few months. Talking to Steve motivated me to start training hard again, and here's the real kicker: I then convinced him to train with me. When he agreed, I felt a wave of motivation unlike any I'd ever felt before. Steve had developed the Positions-of-Flexion muscle-building system, so I had a good feeling that he could help me take my muscle size and strength over the top.
"Steve wanted me to be the test subject for his 10-Week Size Surge program, so that motivated me even more. I trained hard, ate well and consistently and focused on doing my best at every workout. The first five weeks I did a three-days-per-week big basic program. Steve called it an anabolic primer, preparing the muscles for the growth surge that would occur during the second five weeks, an every-other-day POF split program. Here are my results...
To say I was shocked is putting it mildly. My muscle size took a radical leap. Here are some of my stats:
- Bodyweight: 191 pounds
- Bodyfat: 11 percent (according to the AccuMeasure calipers)
- Arms: 16 3/4 inches
- Waist: 33 inches
- Thighs: 25 1/2 inches
- Squat: 205 x 8
- Bench press: 200 x 10
10 Weeks Later:
- Bodyweight: 209 pounds
- Bodyfat: 10 percent (according to the AccuMeasure calipers)
- Arms: 18 inches
- Waist: 32 inches
- Thighs: 27 inches
- Squat: 335 x 7
- Bench press: 290 x 6
"I added almost 20 pounds in 2 1/2 months. My bodypart measurements and strength increases also amazed me: arms, up 1 1/4 inches; thighs, up 1 1/2 inches; waist, down one inch; bench, up from 200 x 10 to 290 x 6; squat, up from 205 x 8 to 335 x 7. Unbelievable-and I did all that in 10 weeks with no steroids, just hard, sensible training, a regimented eating schedule and a few choice supplements. Considering my sputtering progress in the past, these gains were miraculous.
"Adding new muscle that quickly felt incredible. Thanks to the IRON MAN Training & Research Center, Steve and POF, I've been very successful in my bodybuilding endeavors since my initial POF Size Surge odyssey. In fact, with many of the refinements, such as new POF bodypart programs, X Reps and X-hybrid techniques, I've achieved the physique I've always dreamed of having-hard and ripped at around 210 pounds (note that I had 10 percent bodyfat at that weight after the 10-week program, but new innovations, like X Reps, have helped me go above and beyond that)! And my arms measure over 19 inches now; however, I'm striving to be even better, which is what bodybuilding is all about."
The moral of our stories is that you should never quit experimenting and trying to find the right training combinations that work for you. Here are a few of the other things we've learned along the way:
1. It Takes Change To Make Gains:
In other words, one minor tweak can add to your physique. Notice that in Jonathan's 10-week transformation he moved from a basic anabolic-primer program that he used for five weeks to a more elaborate POF program, with midrange-, stretch- and contracted-position work for each bodypart.
"Dedicated to Your Physical Transformation"
[ Check Out Johnathan's BodySpace Here! ]
2. Use Phase Training:
This is backing off after every four to six weeks of all-out training. Jonathan used that strategy in his 10-week transformation as well. He trained all out for four weeks, then used the same weights the fifth week but stopped every work set two reps short of failure.
That allowed his nervous system to stay primed for heavy poundages, but by not going to exhaustion his muscles and nervous system were allowed to recover completely, setting up a perfect growth scenario for his second five weeks using POF. He also backed off the final week of the 10-week cycle.
3. Strive To Drive Heavy Weights, But Don't Neglect Getting Extended Tension Times:
While big poundages on the big (midrange) exercises can ramp up muscular force generation and build the fast-twitch fibers along one growth pathway, you also need isolation exercises that keep tension on the muscle for 40 to 60 seconds. Poundage isn't as important as time under tension on these contracted-position exercises-such as:
- Leg extensions
- Leg curls
- Concentration curls
- Cable flyes
- Lateral raises
- And so on...
Those exercises don't allow the muscle to rest during a set, which blocks blood flow. Once the set is over, blood rushes in, producing a big pump. That type of tension/occlusion exercise builds the endurance components of the type 2A fast-twitch fibers, such as capillary beds and mitochondria, so you get muscle growth along another pathway. You also get more muscle burn, which has been shown in research studies to boost anabolic hormone release.
4. Use Stretch-Position Exercises For A Third Layer Of Growth:
In one animal study, researchers produces a 300 percent muscle-mass increase after only one month of progressive-stretch overload "workouts."
Are stretch-position exercises important? You bet! They include:
- Dumbbell flyes (chest)
- Sissy squats (quads)
- Stiff-legged deadlifts (hamstrings)
- Incline curls (biceps)
- Overhead extensions (triceps)
- Pullovers (lats)
Stretch exercises have also been linked to anabolic hormone release in muscle tissue.