I constantly hear from trainees who love the 3D Positions-of-Flexion training approach. The infatuation is generally because it’s so logical, easy to follow, and it produces results. Full-range training (focusing on midrange, stretch and contracted exercises) is helping countless people to develop more muscle, and they always tend to comment on the incredible feel and pump, as well as the impressive muscle-building results. Some trainees have asked about the occasional addition of more midrange sets and exercises to those 3D POF workouts in some online articles, and they’ve shown some concern about more big exercises and sets possibly pushing them into an overtraining situation.
Worry not! I’ve never been in favor of losing muscle or strength, so I’d never recommend a method that would have potentially negative effects. The actual reason for that increased volume you may read about from time to time is most often because of less-frequent bodypart hits on a given routine. Certain training routines are created to have you hitting a muscle group directly only once every seven days rather than the usual routine layout of every four days or so, and this not only allows, but will usually require, an increase in training volume. It just so happens that the most efficient exercises to add to a training routine are usually the big multi-joint midrange movements, such as presses, rows, squats, etc. (There’s a specific triceps example below which you can try–and feel—for yourself.)
Training every bodypart with a direct hit only one time within a week means that you also train fewer muscles at any given workout. That also means your training sessions in the gym can be considerably shorter than usual—BUT you need to effectively traumatize every muscle group to the point where they require a full seven days of recovery time in order to make this work. In other words, you have to train into the extreme zone. Midrange, or compound, exercises tend to activate the most muscle fibers due to muscle synergy and max-force generation, so that’s why they are the chosen add-on exercises. It’s a simple matter of getting more muscle-bang for your training buck.
But instead of simply adding on a couple more work sets to your single midrange exercise, it’s more beneficial to add two work sets on two different big midrange exercises instead. That can provide you with even more muscle-fiber activation to help insure the need for the longer recovery period. A perfect example is triceps…
A great midrange movement for triceps is the close-grip bench press. Instead of doing four work sets of the close-grip bench presses, however, it would be better to do just two sets there, then another two sets of lying extensions with a barbell or dumbbells. That combination provides a unique muscle-fiber trauma and an even more complete triceps stimulation for maximum development.
MRI studies have shown that close-grip bench presses primarily target the lateral and medial triceps heads, with the long heads of the triceps being somewhat neglected. The lying triceps extensions on a flat bench, however, can focus directly on the long heads, making it the perfect complement to the close-grip bench presses—that’s exactly what you want for total triceps development and fullness.
To insure a truly sleeve-stretching upper-arm sweep with both width and thickness in mind, you’d then move on to two sets of overhead extensions for the stretch overload position and end with two sets of cable pushdowns for the contracted position and some great tension/occlusion…
So your new 3D Positions-of-Flexion triceps training program becomes the above three exercises, but after the close-grip bench presses and before the overhead extensions, you would add the two sets of lying triceps extensions. Make that same type of midrange-movement volume increase for every bodypart throughout your routine, but only when you’re training each muscle group just once a week, of course.
In addition to that extra midrange exercise added up front to the Positions-of-Flexion mass workouts, you can also add in the use of negative-accentuated sets for one or two sets per bodypart to really enhance the fiber “damage.” Negative-accentuated sets are performed with a six-second negative (lowering of the weight) and one-second explosive positive on every rep. That technique would be used in addition to standard end-of-set X Reps (power partials) and any other hybrid techniques you’d choose to add, such as drop sets, rest/pause or 1 ¼ reps. It can all add up to more complete mass development and fuller looking muscles—if you’re extending your recovery time long enough to grow bigger and stronger.
Remember, that muscle-fiber trauma from the negative-accentuated sets causes muscle soreness, which is actually a good thing, as it can also turn on the growth machine. A big bonus to that is that the damage requires the use of energy for repair. In other words, when you’re away from the gym, your metabolism actually kicks into high gear as it repairs and rebuilds muscle tissue, and scientists have found that much of the repair process is fueled by fatty acids. Therefore, you can burn bodyfat, even when you’re sitting still, during the recovery and rebuilding process. What more could you ask for?
So, the negative-accentuated sets have a number of great muscle-building and fat-burning benefits:
1. Longer tension time. Just 7 reps with a 6-down/1-up rep cadence is colse to 50 seconds of tension time for the 2A size-building fibers. That tension time is well above the range most bodybuilders ever get. Plus, the muscle burn triggers growth hormone release. (Can J Appl Physio. 22:244-255; 1997)
2. More muscle-fiber trauma. The “damage” in the muscle will rebuild bigger and stronger so you make progress from a size and strength standpoint.
3. Fast metabolism. In order to repair all that fiber damage, your body must use fatty acids, so you burn bodyfat as the muscle tissue rebuilds.
4. Mind-muscle connection. The slow negatives allow you to feel the muscle working every inch of the way—literally, which can activate dormant muscle fibers.
A good place to start is by giving yourself a full seven days of recovery between direct muscle group hits. It works extremely well while using different rep counts, poundages and tactics each week, and this can also provide some unique muscle-fiber trauma. As mentioned above, that muscle-fiber “damage” can significantly increase your metabolism during your recovery phase, which means more fat burning up on your downtime. This is one of the main reasons interval cardio can work so much better than steady-state cardio for bodyfat reduction. It continues to work even while you’re doing nothing.
In other words, you can build more muscle as you burn more blubber. It’s a 2-for-1 deal, and getting bigger AND leaner at the same time is what I’d consider to be very efficient bodybuilding, and very rewarding when the weather is warm and you find more of your skin being exposed.
Note: For a complete 3D POF exercise list for every muscle group with midrange, stretch and contracted movements, see the POF 3D Muscle Matrix on pages 50-51 of the 3D Muscle Building e-book. Plus, it also contains the complete meal-by-meal Fast-Mass Diet and a bodypart-by-bodypart measurement guide to keep an eye on your progress.
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.