It’s hard to believe it’s been a full 10 years since Steve Holman and I started our X-Rep.com site. It’s also hard to believe that we had trained together for an entire 10 years before that. For most of that first decade we’d used variations on a muscle-building method designed by Steve known as Positions of Flexion (POF). It’s a training protocol that calls for training each muscle through its full range of motion by utilizing three different exercises to ensure that you fully isolate the midrange, stretch, and contracted positions.
Our gains over those years were great, and my personal gains during the first couple months of using POF were off the charts. For those who recall the original Size Surge experiment, I had managed to put on 20 pounds of muscle in 10 weeks! There was still plenty of progress after that, but never with the same shocking effect… Well, maybe not “never.”
It wasn’t until 10 years of training together that we realized we were essentially stopping every set short, despite training to absolute failure. It turns out it was our nervous systems that were giving out before our muscles, so we were missing out on some key growth-promoting components. Incorporating our X-Rep method (power partials) allowed us to bypass nervous system failure, and we were able to force the muscles to continue blasting through our old failure points. Ironically, the amount of time we spent in the gym actually decreased, and we both ended up adding more muscle than either of us had previously been able to attain, regardless of the knowledge and information we had access to previous to that.
I remember being stunned by my own results when, after only a month with our X-Rep training, I was weighing more than I ever had in lean condition, and all while reaching a new level of leanness I’d never been able to reach before. I was bigger AND leaner than I had ever been. I still have the photos saved of one particular morning when I’d woken up looking so lean and full that I actually started to panic. I had never seen that amount of vascularity or leanness on myself. I eventually laughed at the fact that I was literally worried when I looked exactly as I’d been trying to look for over a decade previously.
Up to that point, I had tried just about every routine in existence. Training each body part once a week got me pretty strong, but I never made muscle gains on that sort of routine. Full-range POF training provided some of my best muscle-building results, and adding super sets, drop sets, and other intensity techniques was always my key to getting leaner, but never to the level I experienced that first time using X Reps. After almost 14 years of training, I learned that in order to build an attention-grabbing, muscular physique, you had to be completely focused, consistent, and willing to put in serious gym time—but I learned that it didn’t have to be as much time in the gym as I previous thought.
X Reps, or power partials, can help you reach a new level of muscle size faster than most people are accustomed to and with less wasted effort in the gym. You have to put in 100% effort on the right exercises, of course, but it saves you time in the long run, and it’s well worth the required effort. That first e-book we released 10 years ago, The Ultimate Mass Workout, has routines for training two days a week, three days a week or on a four-day split. As an example of the efficiency, most of workouts are less than 45 minutes, and I don’t I’ve trained longer than an hour per day for the last 10 years.
The workouts are incredibly effective, and we’ve put out nearly 20 e-books since then, but all are based on being as efficient as possible to maximize your time in the gym. Needless to say, I’ve aged a bit in the last 10 years, too. Not that I feel old—not by a long shot, but certain things don’t feel as good as they once did. Heavy training is one of those things.
Joints and connective tissue don’t seem to recover as well as they did when I was 30, let alone when I was 20, so heavy training has become a rare thing these days. I still like to go back to it, but never to sets with ultra-low single-digit reps. Plus, aside from the mental boost I get from hoisting some heavy weights around, I simply don’t seem to get any muscle-building results from low reps these days. Longer tension times are where it’s at, and the intense burn is known to help trigger hormone production. Let’s face it… If some pain means increased muscle growth, lower body fat, and healthy hormone levels, you actually face the pain and enjoy it.
The ironic thing is that I used to despise anything beyond 10-12 reps when I was younger—unless I was preparing for a contest or photo shoot. If it made the muscle burn too deep, I felt like I was just burning fat, and not adding to my muscle size. If only I knew then what I know now. Not only are longer tension times, like the ones achieved with TORQ and Super-TORQ, much friendlier on joints, but they put you into the proven muscle-building zone with high (and sometimes extremely high) tension times.
None of this is to say that I’ve discovered the one best way to build muscle. Quite the contrary, in fact, and anyone who tells you that a particular training method is the only one that works is, well, wrong. Despite the fact that I help design and promote training programs, or maybe because of that, there’s one thing I’ve learned over the last 23 years of training; there simply isn’t one perfect routine for everyone, and what happens to be perfect for you right now, likely won’t be within the next couple of months. It’s the reason X-Rep.com, and it’s sister site X-Workouts.com, both have so many choices. You have to change to gain.
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 X-Rep.com 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.