Imagine a time long ago called the "Iron Age of Bodybuilding." It was a time from the mid-1960's throughout the mid-1980's in which there were only small gyms with mostly a male population which lifted weights. Bodybuilding had a small, cult following and there was a great camaraderie amongst competitive bodybuilders . . . THIS IS A GREAT READ!
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POF (positions of flexion) training was created by Steve Holman, editor of Ironman magazine. A POF routine has three positions which can be achieved in 2-3 movements for each bodypart.
Midrange Position: Regular compound movements, the real mass builders. (e.g. Barbell Curls)
Stretch Position: The muscle is stretched. (e.g. Incline Dumbbell Curls)
Contracted Position: e.g. Concentration Curls.
From Train-Eat-Grow, Part 1
by Steve Holman and Jonathon Lawson (1999)
Our number-one goal over the next while is to try and build as much new muscle as possible. It's time to throw low-calorie, low-carb caution to the wind and let hypertrophy run rampant. You want your muscles to suck up more glycogen and fill out, but you don't want to lose sight of your abs completely. You don't want to have to much adipose to lose after the muscle is gained - but you do want to have 10-20 pounds of new raw muscle to work with. That's our bodybuilding mission for the next while.
Training program Number 1 is a two-day split - upper body one day and lower body and abs the next - performed on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. There are no weight workouts on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday, although light cardio is allowed for those who tend to have slow metabolisms or who are concerned with cardiovascular health. For the most part, however, avoid cardio work if you can, as it tends to gobble muscle tissue.
The bodypart routines in this first routine incorporate the principles of POF training for the most part, that is, we work each muscle group through a full range of motion with midrange, stretch, and contracted position movements. However, you won't do all the positions at every workout with this routine. Instead, you'll focus on the big midrange movements, which tend to build the most mass, at each workout for a particular bodypart, and work the other two positions at alternate workouts. For example, your two delt routines each week will look like the following:
Press Behind Neck: 2x7-10
Incline One-Arm Laterals: 1x8-12
Press Behind Neck: 2x7-10
Seated Laterals: 1x8-12
Spreading the stretch- and contracted-position exercises over two workouts helps you meet a number of important mass-building criteria:
1) It keeps the workouts from becoming too long. With split position training you get workouts that only take about an hour.
2) You get more rest days to grow and recuperate.
3) You trigger more adaptation with built-in variation. With this routine your primary midrange movement, such as the squat, stays the same - - so you remain in the groove, hone your technique, build neuromuscular efficiency and train the mass of the muscle with heavier and heavier poundages -- while you mix things up at every workout with exercises for the other two positions, stretch and contracted.
4) There's no muscle-training crossover, so you minimize the potential of overtraining. Working your entire upper body one day and lower body the next is much more conducive to total recovery. Other two-day splits, with chest on leg day for example, cause you to train your shoulders four days a week.
Jonathon Lawson: What are we training today?
Steve Holman: Upper body.
SH: It's only two exercises per bodypart, one to two hard work sets of each. We'll do a few quick warmup sets on the first exercise for each bodypart, a midrange movement, then two sets of that exercise followed by one or two sets of a stretch-position exercise. At the next upper body workout we'll do two sets of the same midrange exercise followed by one or two sets of a contracted position movement.
JL: So we'll call this upper body stretch day. Only three sets per bodypart? That's much less work than we were doing before our layoff. Won't we shrink and get weaker?
SH: Just the opposite. We should get a growth spurt because we're still overtrained from the six-days-a-week program we just finished, which is why you're having shoulder problems and my low back won't quite mend. Now we're eating more, getting more days off and training with straight sets rather than supersets, so we should heal up and fill out. Also, focusing on straight sets for a while will give our muscles something new to cope with -- like heavier weights. We'll build on this routine in a few weeks.
JL: I'm ready to start adding plates to the bar.
SH: Me too, but we need to take it slow. We also have to pay close attention to form. Doing fewer sets means every rep must be almost perfect through the muscle's entire range of motion -- no cheating or momentum. Train the muscle fibers' full length, with resistance every inch of the way. Rep speed should be our average 2 seconds up and 2 seconds down. No levering for higher poundages and if you hitch up the weight, you'll have to repeat the whole set.
JL: Wow, are you going to bring a bullwhip to the gym?
SH: Nah, a Tazer is much more effective -- and easier on my rotator cuff muscles. Speaking of which, let's hit bench presses first,j two warmup sets then two work sets.
[They do two sets of eight reps with around 50% of their work weights, then 70% for five reps.]
JL: Ready for the heavy stuff. Two sets, same weight on both?
SH: Yeah, that'll be a change from the pyramiding we were doing on most of our midrange movements. We may go back to that next month. Remember, keep your form strict, touch your low-pec line with the bar and no bouncing or butt bridging. Two seconds up and two seconds down. If you're not accustomed to lifting with this rep speed do some practice sets with a timer until you get the groove smooth.
JL: Got it, O slave-driving Granite Guru.
[They do a set of nine and then seven reps, resting just long enough to change to individual poundages and allow for the other to do his set.]
JL: Now what?
SH: It's stretch day, so I thought we'd do cable crossovers.
JL: Isn't that a contracted-position movement?
SH: It's actually both, one of those efficient two-for-one exercises. Next time we work chest we'll do cable flyes, which is also a two-for-one exercise, but we'll do them on Larry Scott's low bench so there will be less stretch but better contraction due to the more horizontal angle of pull.
JL: Won't that make our workouts way too long?
SH: How's that?
JL: If we have to drive all the way to Larry Scott's gym just to use his bench for flyes.
SH: Okay, comedy boy, on crossovers make sure your arms come up high and your hands are out wide so you feel a stretch in your pecs, but don't pause at the top. And even though we're not calling this contracted-position day, you may as well try to cross your arms just above your wrists and pause at the bottom for a count. No use wasting squeezable resistance in that position.
[They do one set of 10 strict reps on croxxovers.]
JL: Great chest workout. Delts next?
SH: Not so fast, grasshopper. That was just lower chest. We still have upper chest.
JL: Oh, yeah. Incline presses?
SH: On the Smith machine.
[They do two warmup sets, then a work set of eight and one of seven, varying their grip from shoulder width on the first set to slightly wider on the second.]
JL: You said it's stretch day, but I don't really want to do incline flyes. They hurt my overworked shoulder.
SH: Okay, you don't have to whine. Grab your pacifier, pull up your diaper and follow me to the pec deck. We'll do them with our arms high to hit the upper chest -- and hold the contraction for a count, the same as crossovers.
[They do 1x10 on the pec deck.]
JL: Great stuff! Next?
SH: Delts. Press behind neck. Can your shoulder handle it?
JL: I think so, although I almost re-injured it when I fell out of my high chair yesterday.
SH: Right. Let's do two warmup sets.
JL: Do we lock out at the top?
SH: Yeah, but don't pause up there. As soon as you hit lockout, start your next rep. If I see any of that resting at the top crap you can prepare for an instant replay set.
JL: Your kids must love that carefree attitude.
[They each do two warmups sets and then 2x9,7 on the work sets.]
SH: Let's hit the stretch-position. Since your shoulder is a bit tender, we'll do kneeling one-arm-cable laterals -- although I'd rather do one-arm incline dumbbell laterals because I hate the way that weight stacks make the positive harder and the negative easier, which is the opposite of the way it should be.
JL: I can try the one-arm inclines.
SH: Nah, we're both better off with strict one-arm lateral on the low cable. When you can't get any more full reps, do partials at the bottom, stretch position until you can't stand the burn. That should compensate a little for the weight-stack problem.
[They do 1x8 with about 4 partials in the stretch position.]
SH: Damn, I could really see the fibers twitching in your delts on those.
JL: Yeah, the skylight brings out the definition -- but not for long now that we're eating pie every night.
SH: So we're going for ab peak these days, are we? Let's hit back.
SH: Let's do them wide, two sets, same weight on both, but don't heave the weight down and lean back. Try to stay fairly vertical with a slight arch in your lower back. Think lats -- and "I really don't want to have to do an extra set."
JL: Should I touch the bar to my chest?
SH: Not quite. Focus on the middle range of the movement. We're trying to overload that area, so pick a heavy weight and pull the bar to just under your chin -- and don't extend your arms all the way at the top. Relaxing your shoulders at the top might rip your rotator cuff. Let's warm up.
[They do two warmup sets, increasing the weight on each, then 2x9,7 on the work sets.]
JL: Feels good. Let's hit the stretch position. Dumbbell pullovers?
SH: How about the pullover machine so we can get resistance through the full arc all the way from stretch to contraction? Be careful with your shoulder though. You want a warmup?
JL: Yeah, I think I'd better.
SH: Me too. Don't want to aggravate my old rotator cuff injury.
JL: Oh no, not the "I remember when I was a young, buff powerlifter" story again.
SH: I'll spare you this time -- unless I see you cheating on these or hurrying your reps. Hold the contraction for a count and don't pause in the stretch position. Kick out of it immediately, but no bouncing -- then feel your lats working through the full arc.
[They do one light set, followed by one heavy set for 8 smooth reps.]
SH: Not yet. Midback first. We'll hit rows on the machine, then we'll do torso supported bentover laterals followed by shrugs.
JL: Aren't the bentovers a contracted position exercise for midback?
SH: Yeah, but we'll do them heavy so we get more of a pull in the stretch position. Remember, no pause at the bottom.
[They do two sets of cable rows with a shoulder-width grip, 2x9, 7, followed by bent arm laterals with torso support, 1x9.]
JL: What flavor of shrugs do you like?
SH: Well, it's stretch day, and we get the best trap stretch with dumbbells. Try to touch the inside plates in front of your thighs on each rep, then allow them to move to your sides as you shrug them up. That'll provide a bit more stretch than just moving them straight up and down.
[They do one set of 10 reps with no pause at the bottom and a slight pause at the top of each rep.]
JL: Now arms?
SH: You got it. Triceps first. Decline extensions with an EZ-curl bar. MRI studies say that's about the best movement for hitting all three heads of the triceps.
JL: Same weight for both sets?
SH: I think we'll make an exception and decrease the weight on our second set. We both tend to crap out early on the second set of lying extension movements for some reason, and I don't want to do eight reps and then a set of four.
[They do two progressively heavier warmup sets, the 1x8 with a heavy weight and 1x7 with a slightly lighter weight.]
JL: What do you like for the stretch position?
SH: How about cable extensions? We'll do them in a lunge position facing away from the pulldown machine.
JL: Straight bar, rope or do you have some other wacky idea?
SH: I tend to feel more of a stretch with the straight bar, but if you want wacky --
JL: That's okay. I'm not in the mood for one-arm, reverse-grip cable extensions while squatting on one leg. The regular straight bar version is fine.
[They do 1x9 on the cable extensions.]
SH: We're almost done, and you're not whimpering nearly enough. We may have to add some forced reps.
JL: If I can take your aftershock routine for eight weeks I can take just about anything. Bring on the forced reps. What type of curls should we do for our midrange biceps movement?
SH: Heavy barbell curls hit the belly of the muscle.
[They do one light warmup set, then 2x9,7 with the same weight on both sets.]
JL: All right. Time for the stretch. Incline curls?
SH: You got it.
JL: What about brachialis?
SH: We'll save direct brachialis work for contracted-position day.
[They do incline dumbbell curls for 1x8.]
JL: We done?
SH: Nope. Forearms. Let's do one set of reverse wrists curls and one set or wrist curls.
[They do 1x10 on each of the forearm movements.]
SH: Now we're done for the day.
JL: Ah, leg day. I love the smell of burning quads in the afternoon. How's your lower back been?
SH: Still hurting a bit, but I think I can squat. It's probably just a minor muscle pull. Let's do two warmup sets. By the second I'll be able to tell if I'm going to have to sub in leg presses. Hopefully not.
[They do two progressively heavier warmup sets.]
SH: Feels okay! Load it up and say a prayer to the lower-back god Spinus Erectus for me.
JL: Sure, but if he's out to lunch try to fall forward as your screaming with pain, not back on me.
[They do 2x8,7, getting well below parallel on every rep.]
SH: Feels great, and my quads still have some vascularity.
JL: You didn't have your pie last night, did you?
SH: No, I went with ice cream. Butter pecan. The nuts must've kept the glycemic index low.
JL: Blubber accumulation takes time. Sissy squats for quad stretch?
SH: No, we're getting too strong on those now, and I don't feel like trying to to hold two 45's on my chest. Let's do feet forward squats on the Smith machine instead. I know it's not a pure stretch movement but if we go deep we'll get close to the same results. In fact, to make them more fun let's do stage reps.
JL: Man, that's going to be one painful set.
SH: You did say you liked the smell of burning quads in the afternoon.
[They do one set, about nine reps in the bottom two-thirds of the exercise's range, immediately followed by about six reps in the top one-third range.]
SH: Wow. Your veins are really popping.
JL: Must be my express fat transport system kicking in.
SH: Speaking of fat, time to hit the hams. We covered midrange position for the hamstrings with the below parallel squats, so it's stiff-legged deadlifts. Ready for the smell of bacon frying?
[They do two progressively heavier warmup sets, then one slow, strict heavy set, keeping the bar close to the legs and not going lower than mid-shin.]
SH: Let's do two sets of leg curls.
[They do one warmup set, then two slow, heavier sets.]
JL: What do you want to do for lower back -- or do you count the deadlifts as it?
SH: Let's do one set of reverse hypers. That will help stretch out my lower back and give us some direct glute work. Next workout we'll do the lower-back and maybe regular hyperextensions.
[They do one heavy set on the reverse hyper machine, no warmup.]
JL: Let's moooo-ve on to calves.
SH: Very funny, but you won't be laughing for long. We'll hit soleus first. One set of heavy seated calf raises -- pause at the top, no pause at the bottom. Then we'll do heavy standing calf raises, one set, and leg press calf raises for two sets. We'll finish 'em off with one high-rep set of standing and one high-rep set of seated raises. And don't try to hurry your reps. Keep to the 2-up, 2-down speed or you'll get double.
JL: Hey, that's different from how we worked our other bodyparts.
SH: I know, but there's no pure midrange movement for calves, so we have to improvise. Leg curls are close, but we already did those. Trust me. This routine will butcher your calves.
[They do one warmup set on the seated calf machine, then attack the heavy calf work and finish off with high reps on one set each of the standing and seated calf raises.]
JL: You weren't kidding. My calves feel like shredded veal.
SH: Oh yeah! Let's hit the Ab Bench for two sets and then we're done.
JL: Perfect. We get stretch and peak contraction.
[They do one light warmup set of Ab Bench crunch pulls and then two sets of 9 reps, reducing the weight on each work set to failure.]
SH: Oops, we almost forget neck work. A set with the neck strap, one set of prone raises with a plate on the forehead and a manual set to each side.
JL: Feels good, and it was quicker than yesterday so I could put out more. I think I'll go fire up the blender.
**** Decrease the momentum, increase the growth - -
Every time you hitch, jerk or bounce a weight, you lose valuable muscle-building resistance. EMG/force plate studies have shown that if you press a barbell rapidly, you'll actually lose tension on your deltoids through part of the range of motion -- the part right after the bounce. For example, a 60-pound barbell, if pressed suddenly with a jerk, can exert a force of several hundred pounds or a force that measures zero, depending on where along the muscle's range of motion the measurement is taken. The reason is inertia. You have to heave a fairly heavy weight to get the bar moving rapidly, and while that can be advantageous in some forms of strength training, if you're trying to build muscle size you want to keep the tension on the target throughout its range of motion. Strive for a two-seconds up/two-second down cadence, or more time on movements that have a longer stroke, like squats -- even if at first you have to count out loud, "one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two." That will better stimulate the target muscle and provide a greater growth stimulus, although it will definitely make your sets a whole other animal.
Leveraging bigger weights is often advantageous in strength training, but in bodybuilding the weight on the bar is not the only goal. Concentrating strictly on increasing poundage records may not be the quickest way to build muscle AND become stronger.