Sorry for the long delay in posts. I will try to make up for it this month by publishing numerous posts/articles. Here's the first:
For years—back when I was writing almost monthly for IronMan magazine—IM’s editor-in-chief, Steve Holman, penned many articles on his personal brand of high-intensity, briefer-is-better, training: something Holman called “positions-of-flexion” training, or just POF for short.
Holman first revealed this “new” form of training sometime in the mid ‘90s. I can’t remember the exact year, but I think it was sometime in ’94 or ’95, and it was highly touted by IM as a new “state-of-the-art” form of high-intensity training. (IM took advantage, at the time, of the rising popularity HIT was experiencing, especially under the incarnation of it that Dorian Yates was espousing as the key to his Mr.O dominance.)
POF was based on something that I thought—and still do think—to be fairly inventive. Holman’s thought was that if you trained a muscle using only one (at least, it was usually just one) exercise for each “position-of-flexion” for that particular muscle—a midrange exercise, a stretch exercise, and a contracted exercise—then you could better enhance growth—not to mention achieve an out-of-this-world pump—with minimum sets.
At the time, I experimented with some of the POF principles, but I never “test drove” the program exactly as it was written. During those years, I was primarily training with a lot of volume, a lot of intensity, and a lot of rest between each workout for each muscle group. While the POF strategy employed the second and third tactic that my training employed, it most decidedly did not employ the first. Nonetheless, I thought, at the time, that it was good form of training, and I still do—with some minor adjustments.
What follows is a high-volume approach to POF training that I still think is highly effective.
First, however, let’s briefly (one again) outline the three variables of training, and how they should be properly manipulated in order to achieve muscle growth. The three variables are volume, frequency, and intensity. Two of the variables should be high, while the third variable should be low. The exception is, however, if you decide to keep all three variables moderate. A case in point, for instance, would be the classical three on/one off program used ad nauseam by bodybuilders in the ‘80s. In this case, if you train with, say, a three-way split, and perform 9 sets for each muscle group—3 exercises for 3 sets each, for example—without training to the point of momentary muscular failure, then you are using a program that has a moderate amount of volume, a moderate amount of intensity, and a moderate amount of frequency. (This isn’t my favorite form of training, but there is a reason that it worked for a lot of bodybuilders for quite a long time.)
For the sake of discussion, the reason that Mentzerian HIT training sucks, and the reason that the original POF training will only work for so long, is because HIT keeps one variable high (intensity), while keeping the two other variables (volume and frequency) low. This also, possibly, is one reason why Arthur Jones’s original variations of HIT were so successful. Jones kept intensity high, volume low, but frequency relatively high by training each muscle group 3-days-per-week. And one reason that Mentzer’s style of HIT often worked for lifters is because the lifter’s that employed it were coming off of programs where all three variables were high, and so the reduction of two of the variables drastically improved their results. But, alas, I don’t have time to discuss all of this here, so we’ll just save it for another post—or comments at the bottom of this post.
The most popular manipulation of the three variables among bodybuilders these days is to keep intensity and volume high (sky high, in some cases) while keeping frequency low. This is the reason my training in the ‘90s was so effective at building muscle mass. When you train this way, and consume a lot of food while doing so, it can be a very effective program for adding slabs of muscle. This is currently, for instance, how almost every pro bodybuilder on the planet trains. And the pros also (duh) add enormous amount of exogenous testosterone to this mix, which enhances this form of training even more. (I won’t get into all of the details, but I think anabolic steroids work even better for muscle growth when the lifter trains this way compared to any other form of training. But that, as they say, is for another tale.)
Here is an example of what a POF program would look like using the high-volume, high-intensity, low-frequency model:
Day One: Chest
- Incline Barbell Bench Presses: 4 sets of 6 to 8 reps
- Flat Dumbbell Bench Presses: 4 sets of 6 to 8 reps
- Incline Flyes: 4 sets of 12 to 15 reps
- Cable Crossovers: 6 sets of 20 reps
Day Two: Legs
- Sled Drags: 5 sets for distance, adding weight each set
- Squats: 6 sets of 6 to 8 reps
- Sissy Squats: 4 sets of 12 to 15 reps
- Leg Extensions: 5 sets of 30 to 50 reps
Day Three: Shoulders
- Standing Overhead Presses: 4 sets of 6 to 8 reps
- One Arm Overhead Dumbbell Presses: 4 sets of 6 to 8 reps (each arm)
- One Arm Lateral Raises: 4 sets of 12 to 15 reps (each arm)
- Close-Grip Barbell Upright Rows: 4 sets of 12 to 15 reps
Day Four: Back
- Deadlifts: 5 sets of 5 reps
- One Arm Bent-Over Dumbbell Rows: 4 sets of 6 to 8 reps (each arm)
- Power Snatches: 4 sets of 3 reps
- Dumbbell Pullovers: 4 sets of 20 reps (perform these “cross-bench” style)
- Bent-Over Lateral Raises: 4 sets of 20 reps
Day Five: Arms
- Close-Grip 3-Board Bench Presses: 4 sets of 6 to 8 reps
- Skullcrusher/Pullovers: 4 sets of 12 to 15 reps
- Dumbbell Kickbacks: 4 sets of 12 to 15 reps (each arm)
- Barbell Curls: 4 sets of 6 to 8 reps
- Alternate Dumbbell Hammer Curls: 4 sets of 10 to 12 reps
- Incline Dumbbell Curls: 4 sets of 10 to 12 reps
- Concentration Curls: 4 sets of 20 reps (each arm)
Take days 6 and 7 off, then repeat.
If you want to perform some calf work, not a problem. Every couple of days, perform a couple sets of standing calf raises, a couple of sets of “donkey” calf raises, then a couple sets of high-rep bodyweight only calf raises.