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Getting Big With One Exercise Per Muscle Group

ironmanmagazine.comQ: I see workouts with only one exercise per muscle group. Can you really get big using those?

A: Sure you can get big—up to a point. For example, in The Ultimate Mass Workout Jonathan and I single out the best exercise for each muscle group, such as decline presses for chest—and even provide “one-hit” workouts. By “best exercise,” however, we don’t mean it’s all you need to reach your genetic size potential.

If you don’t have a lot of time, the decline press is the pec exercise I recommend because it’s been shown to activate the most muscle fibers from top to bottom—yes, even in the upper chest. (Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 11:163-167. 1997) (Note: Reverse-grip bench presses have been shown in recent EMG studies to get at the upper fibers even better.)

The bottom line is that if you want maximum size development, you need to attack the target muscle from multiple angles. That’s because muscle fibers run in various directions and have better leverage to fire at specific angles of pull.

The basic three “angles,” or positions, are midrange, stretch and contracted. That’s Positions-of-Flexion mass training.

For example, we mentioned decline presses for chest; those fall into the midrange category. If you add flyes for stretch and cable crossovers for the contracted position, you complete the full-range chain for exceptional fiber activation—and more blood pooling in the target for sarcoplasmic size.

Some trainees have significant fiber-recruitment abilities in certain muscle groups. For example, you may have seen guys with huge pecs who only do bench presses.

That’s rare, however, and the development is usually not complete, lacking in certain areas, like upper- or inner-pec thickness. Still, they were able to build a lot of mass with one exercise because of superior neuromuscular efficiency, or nerve-to-muscle connections.

You may have a bodypart or two like that—easy gainers; however, most muscles will need multiangle training, like POF, for full, complete development.

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 in this issue. Also visit  and for info on X-Rep, 4X and 3D POF methods and e-books.  IM


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