Need a workout to shock your muscle mass into
some solid gains? Then, pay attention to
big Jim — big Jim Flanagan!
by Ellington Darden, Ph.D.
"I'm sore from my shoulders to my knees," Travis Hillpot said while stretching his chest and upper back. "It's weird, I can already feel myself growing."
It was November 26, 2006, and I had just joined Jim Flanagan and Travis at Starbuck's in Longwood, Florida. A day earlier, Jim had trained Travis in his home gym. And let me tell you, Flanagan's home gym could be easily mistaken for the original, 1973 Nautilus Research Center in Lake Helen, Florida. Both gyms featured tons and tons of old-school iron.
Jim Flanagan welcomes you to his home gym and challenges
you to a man-sized workout.
"Travis had missed a couple of workouts and he was a little stale. He needed something to kick-start him back into growth. That's why I administered one of my special routines," Jim said as he looked at me with a slight smile and a big wink.
I immediately knew where Jim was coming from. He and I had triangulated all kinds of "special routines," when we trained Casey Viator for the 1978 Mr. Universe contest.
Those of you who have read The New Bodybuilding for Old-School Results will recognize Jim Flanagan from page 112. Jim and I met Arthur Jones about the same time and we both trained under Jones's supervision at the DeLand High School Quonset Hut in 1971. And we both ended up working with Jones for the next two decades.
In October of 2006, I visited Jim and he told me he was still personally training 10 men (one of which was Travis Hillpot) once a week at his one-of-a-kind gym.
This shot shows one corner of big Jim's home gym. Old-school Nautilus guys will recognize the compound-position biceps and the compound-position triceps machines. Around the walls are more than 250 personally autographed
pictures from well-known athletes.
If you want to know more about big Jim Flanagan, dig into Chapter 11 of my new book. But size wise, he's 6' 5" tall and weighs between 265 to 285 pounds, depending on his training and appetite over the previous several weeks. For now, however, let's get back to his quick-grow routine that he's personally applied with some of his trainees.
"Jim," I said, "why don't you tell me more about that special routine? In fact, since I have my camera in the car, why don't we drive over to your gym, so I can share with the readers of my Web site exactly what you guys performed — exercise by exercise?"
"There are 8 exercises in the routine," Jim said as we were driving over to his home, which is about 2 miles from Starbuck's. "But the thing that separates it from a lot of other routines, is what I had Travis do during exercises 1-6.
"On these exercises, Travis did an all-out, 1-rep maximum on the positive. From his previous workouts and my overall experience, I had a good idea what he could do one time — even though we don't train that way — on each movement. That maximum positive was immediately followed by a very slow negative."
"What was the count on the negative?" I asked.
"Our goal was 60 seconds, which Travis achieved on half of the exercises." Jim replied. "It was an eye-opening start."
"Start . . . you mean there was more?" I wanted to know.
"Yep," Jim replied. "When Travis finished that very slow negative, I quickly reduced the resistance on each machine by 40 to 50 percent and he did as many reps as he could, which usually was in the neighborhood of 6 to 8 — each one in good form (a 3-second positive and a 3-second negative)."
I grabbed a pencil as Jim talked and I listed the following six exercises:
- Leg press machine
- Pullover machine
- Pulldown machine
- Decline press machine
- Lateral raise machine
- Biceps curl machine
Again, each of the above exercises is a 1-rep maximum (use as much weight as you can in good form) and then you try to lower that same resistance in an agonizingly slow 60 seconds.
"That max positive and 60-second negative," Jim noted, "make a beyond-normal inroad into your starting strength level."
"You're right about that," I said. "And add another 6 to 8 reps with less resistance to that and you've got close to a 50 percent inroad — which is very significant. No wonder Travis is having such a hard time moving around today. It will probably take him another three or four days to recover fully."
"Jim, what about the 7th and 8th exercises?" I asked. "What did Travis do?"
"The last two," Jim answered, "are finishers — and they can vary. During Travis's workout, he did pushups on the floor, performed in a slow 10-second up/10-second down style; then, the seated dip machine in a normal manner. My goal with those two was to really pump and finish his triceps, which we did.
"But in similar routines, I've used such exercises as the wrist curl, reverse wrist curl, grippers, neck machines, and abdominal movements. Any two of them will work well.
"Or, depending on the trainee and his strength level, I might NOT do exercises 7 and 8. With a lot of strong, advanced athletes — the final two exercises aren't necessary."
"Yeah, I agree with you on those advanced trainees," I said.
After the 10-minute drive, we were at Jim's home gym.
"Okay guys," I said, "let's give the readers of my Web site a few pictures of some of the recommended exercises."
Travis looked like a whipped dog as he climbed into Jim's leg press machine.
"Come on Travis," I said in an upbeat manner, "repeating today what you did yesterday . . . is the best way to eliminate some of that pain."
Travis smiled and, while he knew what I was saying was true, he also knew all I wanted was a few demonstration-type pictures — not actual shots taken during his workout.
"I really like the MedX Avenger Leg Press/Squat machine," Jim said as he watched Travis position himself for the squat exercise and perform several repetitions. "The machine has almost no internal friction and the resistance curve is right where it should be." Travis, at 31 years of age, stands 6' 1" and weighs 225 pounds.
Since I've talked with Jim and Travis, I've had a chance to go through most of the listed exercises applying the recommended techniques. Here are some guidelines for achieving the best results:
- Do at least one warm-up set with less resistance before each of your 1-repetition maximums. Most trainees can do 1 rep with approximately 20-percent more resistance than they can do normally for 8 to 10 reps to muscular failure.
- Find a training partner to keep track of the time (60 seconds) on the negatives. You'll probably need some "tough talk" to get you through each movement.
- Try to keep your face and neck relaxed on each maximum lift and each very slow negative. Do not hold your breath. Keep your mouth open and practice breathing out more than breathing in.
- After the 60-second negatives, have your training buddy quickly reduce the resistance on the machine by 40 to 50 percent. It's not necessary, however, to rush between exercises. Take approximately 60 to 90 seconds to move from one exercise to the next.
- Can you continue doing this routine for two or three consecutive workouts? NO! Such a workout style should not be performed more than once a month.
- Rest at least 4 days (5 days may be better) before you train again.
This is strictly a machine routine. Substituting free-weight exercises for machines will not work well for most of the slow negatives.
"You better be in good shape," big Jim said, "to tackle this special routine. It's definitely not for beginners.
"If you can withstand the initial shock and endure the ensuing pain, you'll be rewarded with a surge of quick growth."
Thanks, Jim, for your parting words of wisdom.
For information on the latest MedX equipment, visit Jim on his new Web site: ResistanceSolutionsInc.com.