Click Here to Read Part II It started in 1985…the year Rocky IV came out.
If you’ve been following me for any time, you know that Stallone was my go-to idol…the guy that unknowingly sparked my interest in fitness (and many others I’m sure).
Simply put, I wanted to look like him.
The only problem was at 10 years old with arms comparable to the #2 pencils I was writing with in grade school, my time might have to wait a bit!
Even though I was too young to lift at that point, it didn’t change the fact that I got teased every Summer because of how skinny I was so I thought if I could at least identify where I EVENTUALLY wanted to be…I’d have a goal to shoot for, and Stallone was it.
And in case you were wondering, I’d have taken the Rambo, Rocky, Cobra, [insert role here] version of Sly just some version of a physique different from what I had been painfully living in!
In fact, I feel blessed to have grown up during a time that, looking back now, was perhaps the most influential in terms of providing young males with a reason to want to get in shape. Seems every major movie during that time featured a larger than life star known for their physique (and kicking ass)! Arnold, Van Damme, Sly, pretty much the whole cast of what is now the Expendables (and the one place that many of you reading will be able to relate to me here! That’s ok, I’m secure with being in my late 30’s!)
So, it began.
My quest for change. Lacking the physical strength and tools I felt were needed to make a quick transformation (and admittedly hating the now familiar burn that once crippled me after completing a set!) I relied on a hobby I actually LIKED to try and get the jump start I needed to follow my new path – reading.
I read everything I could between the ages of 10 and 15 about bodybuilding, training, nutrition, muscles, etc. Shoot, I even used to check out my father’s internal medicine anatomy books just because I thought the drawings were cool!
So with the growing appreciation for the subject matter, albeit no results to show for it, I at least had my mind in the right place…waiting for my body to catch up! Little did I know, my mind would actually hold the key (actually exactly one half of it!) to the day that would forever change my arm struggles. More on that in a sec.
Fast forward a few years, now 15 years old…in high school, playing sports and still very much undersized and “understong” you could say. Oh yeah, I still had the Stallone ideal very much in my sights but I wasn’t exactly catching up to him. So, I kept reading and trying new things.
I subscribed to Muscle and Fitness magazine, took Met-Rx religiously, tried Cybergenix and asked my father at least 20 times before I did to make sure it wasn’t some kind of illegal or dangerous steroid (after all, the company made you feel like it was with the insanely unbelievable before and afters!), and chugged down Hot Stuff and Weider Amino Fuel until my real workout was trying to contract my abs hard enough to prevent myself from throwing that shit back up!
Lots of money spent (thanks Grandma!).
Lots of effort wasted.
My arms never grew.
So I kept at it.
I read (and then followed) every page of Arnold’s Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding, followed some of Reg Park’s tips for building peaks (of course ignoring the fact that the peak actually needed something to peak off of!), and even resorted to training my arms every day (as suggested by an article in Iron Man Magazine that I had ripped out and taped to my mirror).
My arms still didn’t grow.
It wasn’t until 1993 (almost 10 years after my initial journey began) that one random, almost laughable encounter at USA Gym in Milford CT (that should never have happened in the first place) set me on a path that changed my arms…and my entire outlook on potential…forever.
It was 6:30PM on a Friday night. How did I remember that? Because the gym was dead as it almost always was by 4PM on a Friday. Everyone out fresh off their pump and ready to show it off I guess.
Me? Remember, I was the guy doing all the reading…I had nowhere to go!
My usual hour and a half to 2 hour workout (you heard that right) had stretched to 2 and a half that day because I decided to try the “2-A-DAYS” arm workout I had just read about in…you guessed it…Iron Man again. It said “for super fast arm gains, perform the following workout (28 sets mind you!), have a protein shake, and then repeat the whole workout one more time”!
Now, I had been burned by some of the crazy workout stuff I tried before, but somehow I believed this shit held my arm salvation?!? Same guy who would go on to get a degree in physioneurobiology and a master’s in physical therapy, so I promise I’m not as dumb as I may have appeared to be…but I was desperate.
So I tried it.
I got through the first 28 sets in 90 minutes or so. Don’t remember the intensity but I can guarantee you I was subconsciously putting the brakes on my effort knowing that I had another 28 to go!
Had my protein shake intermission. Tricked my mind into actually thinking my arms were growing with every sip…haha!
Then came out roaring in the “second half”. Dips, tricep straight bar pushdowns, v-bar pushdowns, rope pushdowns (I kid you not!), nose breakers, and close grip bench. Then it was onto the biceps. Barbell curls, preacher curls, concentration curls, reverse curls, hammer curls and finally…the double bicep cable curl.
I actually had no business doing that one since I felt it was better off reserved for those that actually had big biceps and was an opportunity for them to proudly put them on display for all that walked by the cable crossover machine! But I did them, because it was in the program…and it was late on a Friday night…very few people there to laugh or criticize what I was doing.
Turns out, that was the most important set I ever did.
Apparently, during that set one of the gym sages (you know…the older ripped guy that kept to himself, always seemed like he had a plan in the gym and wasn’t there to socialize) broke character and came up to me.
I thought he was going to ask to “work in” when I was done.
Instead he said “are you bending your elbows or contracting your biceps when you do those?”
I said, “Isn’t that the same thing? I’m flexing my arms”.
He said, “Do me a favor and make a muscle…as hard as you can”
So I did…and he started looking at his watch.
After 15 seconds he said, “Are you doing that as hard as you can?” I said yes.
He said, “Ok then stop. What time did you get here today?”
I said, “About 4 or so”. He said, “Ok, you could have left at 4:15 because whatever you just did is never going to build your arms. I don’t care what exercises you did.”
I was stunned. Pissed. But of course, curious.
“Why do you say that?”
He said, “Listen to this and it will change every workout you perform from here on out…and I hope there will be lots of them for you…because if you do what I’m telling you here, you’ll start looking a whole lot different”.
I said “Sure thing…what should I be doing?”
He said, “Treat every rep like it’s the only chance you have to build muscle”.
He added, “It should actually feel uncomfortable just to hold the contraction if you do it right!”
I said, “You mean like at the end of my set…the way it burns?”
He said, “No I mean from the very first rep. Squeeze it until it hurts”.
So I tried, even though my arms felt like spaghetti at that point. I sure as hell hadn’t felt what he was talking about in any of the first 56 sets (I laugh as I type that!) so I might as well give it a try.
And then it happened.
From the very first rep I squeezed my bicep like I was trying to crush a walnut in the crook of my elbow at the top of the curl…and…it hurt…a little.
He said, “Do you feel that”?
I said, “Well, I definitely feel it more than I ever have before on a first rep”.
He laughed, “Good then you have hope! Now make a habit out of doing that on every rep. Treat every one as if it’s the only one you’re allowed. Stop saving it for other reps! Pretend like there ARE NO other reps.”
He finished with this…
“You’ve got a great work ethic. Nobody will outwork you. And you seem smart too…so start training smart and your potential will be far greater than anything you ever imagined.”
Little did he (or I) know…
Ultimate Arms was born that night.
From that point on, I looked at my workouts much differently. I stopped just “working out” and I started “training” (working out…but with a purpose!)
I started finding ways to intensify every exercise. Started experimenting with “Cheat Curls”, “Negative Hangs”, tweaked regular dips to better target the triceps, changed my tempos, changed how I organized the exercises in a workout, and guess what…
My arms started growing!
Noticeable gains were finally coming and coming fast.
Sure, I made some more goofy training mistakes along the way, but I felt I was attuned enough with my body to recognize them more quickly and get back on course to resume my gains. And those gains kept coming.
Until now…20 years later, I can easily say that my arms are my most developed muscles. Are they a little out of proportion? Haha, sure probably a bit, but hey you have to remember…my obsession with getting them to grow (after the frustration I had felt growing up with pipe cleaners sticking out of my shirt sleeves) caused me to make sure I left no stone unturned when it came to learning how to bulk them up!
20 years later, I put together the one program that some might say, “I was born to make”. Those that think that my genetics literally “shorcutted” my arm development to what they see these days on youtube. Those would be the ones who never knew my past or my struggles though. They would never know how long the journey has actually taken and the mistakes I made to get to where I am now.
But they would be right about one thing…
I am the right guy to make this program.
I am the right guy to teach others how I did it.
No…I wasn’t “BORN WITH” Ultimate Arms. I was born with the work ethic, determination, stubbornness and thirst for knowledge to pursue them.
And I can’t wait to share the result of this with you on Tuesday.
Thanks for reading and thanks as always for being a loyal follower and member of TEAM ATHLEAN! As you’ll see Tuesday, my appreciation for that will be given back to you in spades when you see what I’ve put together.
STAY STRONG JEFF
P.S. Look in your email inbox on Sunday for an email where I outline all the details on Ultimate Arms. Hint: It’s much more than just an arm workout program!