Impressive Muscle Gaining with Range of Motion and Phase Training

Most of us have been at that awkward point in our training lives: embarrassed to say we work out because of the puzzled looks followed by the devastating comment: “Really? You lift weights?” That’s when you realize that maybe you’re doing something wrong in the gym.

Are you overtraining? Are you undertraining? Are you using the wrong exercises? Are you not activating enough muscle fibers?

I had a lot of those same questions back in the early ’90s. I’d been training for years, but my results weren’t nearly as good as the first several months after I started training. I wanted that classic bodybuilder look, like Labrada, Ray, Paris and Wheeler, but nothing was building the size I was after.  As I’ve mentioned before, I had slacked off significantly, and you could see it in my physique.

I turned that all around and made a fairly radical transformation, however, going from 191 pounds to 209 in just 2.5 months. Not a ripped 209, but it was still the biggest I’d ever been at that point, and it happened in a relatively short period of time.

How did I do it? Well, I started with a three-days-per-week big-exercise program for five weeks, no stretch-overload moves included. Then for Phase 2 I shifted to a Positions-of-Flexion 3D muscle-building routine, designed to activate the maximum number of muscle fibers—with stretch-position exercises included this time. I trained every other day on that program for the second five weeks, and my gains went through the roof.

Before and After 20 Pounds

It worked because I reprogrammed my metabolism and neuromuscular efficiency, and increased anabolic hormone output during the first phase. Then in Phase 2 I trained each bodypart in 3D POF style, attacking the true full range for each muscle (stretch, midrange, contracted). My gains took off like a rocket in that second phase.

I believe the addition of stretch-position exercises is one of the big reasons I made such spectacular gains in Phase 2. Another is continuous tension/occlusion work that occurs during the contracted-position exercises. But there’s another often overlooked reason—phase training itself.

Each of the five-week phases began with a medium-intensity week. In other words, I started the Phase 1 routine doing all of the sets as described in the routine, but I didn’t push to exhaustion that first week. I eased into it for three workouts. After those three “easy” workouts, I went all out for four hell weeks (training just three days a week).

When the routine shifted to a more extensive program for Phase 2, I again began with a medium-intensity week. This allowed the muscles to supercompensate from that first phase before going all out again.

A supercompensation week every few weeks is a great idea no matter what program you’re on. If you keep pushing hard constantly, your body will never have a chance to fully recover from previous weeks of intense workouts and you could spin into a downward spiral. Not a good thing after all that effort.

You want to always pay attention to your body, and downshift your intensity before you hit exhaustion. If you do that, you may see incredible gains!

About the Author

Jonathan Lawson has been working in the health and fitness industry for over 20 years; weight training for 21 years, competed in numerous bodybuilding competitions, worked for IRON MAN Magazine for 17 years, co-owns where he has co-published over 15 e-books and writes a daily training blog.  He has appeared on the covers of, and been featured in, dozens of international magazines, books and e-books.