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Training With Heavy Weights

Q: A lot of bodybuilders go all power in the off-season. They push for more strength so size will follow. I’m thinking about using the phase 1 program in Size Surge for that purpose—using mostly big exercises and training with heavy weights, three days a week so I get plenty of recover-and-grow time. Would that program be okay to use for the entire 10 weeks instead of moving to phase 2?

A: You’re right, even Arnold used to do a two-to-three-month power phase in the winter, starting in January—but it wasn’t heavy low reps on every exercise, as I’ll explain. That’s the problem with the way most trainees do it: They go heavy on all exercises all the time for too long and neglect critical sarcoplasmic size.

For example, the Size Surge phase 1 chest routine is this:

Bench presses 2 x 7-9

Flat-bench flyes 1 x 7-9

Incline dumbbell presses 2 x 7-9

That will give you a lot of strength with mostly a myofibrillar size increase. The myofibrils are the force-generating actin and myosin strands in the muscle fiber. Emerging research is finding that myofibrillar growth is not the main contributor to muscle size.

So myofibrillar-dominant training is fine for a five-week power-bodybuilding phase, as in the Size Surge program, but after that you should alter it so you blow up the sarcoplasm, the energy fluid that fills the muscle fibers. The sarcoplasm contains mitochondria, glyocogen (carbs), ATP (creatine), noncontractile proteins, and other key growth ingredients and responds to higher reps, or longer tension times, and/or shorter rests between sets.

Of course, if all you’re interested in is strength, 10 weeks of all-power sets is fine. Keep in mind, however, that you could actually shrink if you’ve triggered sarcoplasmic growth in your previous training. Many bodybuilders tend to train all power throughout the winter and compensate by eating more and getting fat. They get big, but not with new muscle—the sarcoplasm deflates as fat cells inflate. That’s probably not what you’re looking for—it’s a classic “bulking” mistake you can’t afford to make.

If you’re looking for maximum muscle size, don’t ignore the sarcoplasmic layer of growth for too long. After five weeks of all power, I recommend you give the above chest routine a sarcoplasmic-size blast. There are a number of ways. Arnold used to do his isolation moves with higher reps—12 to 15—for example, on flyes in the above routine.

Now, the SS phase 1 program doesn’t have you do iso-type moves for every bodypart, so you’ll have to improvise and do a compound move with higher reps for some groups. For example, instead of two sets of each exercise with seven to nine reps for back, you’d do this:

Chins or pulldowns 2 x 7-9

Bent-over rows 2 x 12-15

On Friday when you hit it again, you could flip-flop: Do bent-over rows first for 2x7-9, then do pulldowns second for 2x12-15. I like to do the lower-rep exercise first. The same goes for presses and upright rows for delts in the Phase 1 SS program.

Of course, I prefer you use the 4X mass method on those higher-rep exercises to give your sarcoplasm a real mega-expansion boost. Arnold used to do about four high-rep sets on iso moves in his power-bodybuilding routine, so you’re in good company.

Instead of high reps, do 4X on one exercise per bodypart: Pick a weight with which you can get about 15 reps, but only do 12. Rest 40 seconds, then do 12 more—and so on until you complete four sets. On the fourth, go all out. If you get 12, add a bit of weight at your next workout or try to get 4x13 with the same weight.

Bench presses 2 x 7-9

Flat-bench flyes (4X style) 4 x 12

Incline dumbbell presses 2 x 7-9

You say you’re not going to use it, but just for clarification, the Size Surge phase 2 program is five weeks of full-range Positions of Flexion for each bodypart. The finishing, contracted-position exercise—like pushdowns for triceps or crossovers for chest—produces occlusion, or blood-flow blockage, a sarcoplasmic-growth trigger. For even better mass-building results, I now encourage trainees to use 4X on the contracted moves.

Many experts, including Mr. America Doug Brignole, believe that the sarcoplasm accounts for half to two-thirds of a muscle’s size potential. He’s recently made impressive new gains with moderate-weight, high-fatigue training. So work in some 4X for better mass-building success.

Editor’s note: Steve Holman is the author of many bodybuilding best-sellers and the creator of Positions-of-Flexion muscle training. For information on the POF DVD and Size Surge programs, see the ad sections it this issue. Also visit and
for info on X-Rep, 4X and 3D POF methods and e-books.  IM


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