Big Jim Solid Growth Surge

Dr. Darden,

I just read thru an article you wrote about Jim Flanagan training Travis Hillpot back in 2008 and he used a routine called Big Jim Solid Growth Surge…in the article, it is indicated not to try this more than once a month, to resume your normal routine after 4 days of complete rest. Do you and Big Jim still stand by this, does this workout really put that much stress on the body, has anyone ever tried this type of workout more frequently?

I am like a cat when it comes to curiosity, :laughing:

Great question, fitafter40!..I wonder how Dr. Darden can explain this with his recent move away from training to failure!..BTW, I believe that was forced upon him by T-Nation to SELL SUPPLEMENTS!!!..Respectfully, Steve

Steve! In Dr Darden’s defence there is now some science supporting not to failure for best results. On the other hand, I saw a study stating that going to failure gave a better outcome for newbies. The battle rages on. Maybe in 20 years or so we are back to failure again? Science…

As for supplements, Plazma (and Surge probably) is the best training supplement I’ve tried. Not perfect, but simply quite good.

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Thanks for your response, pettersson.

It just seems to me that the reason for the move away from training to failure, is because more people are willing to train that way.

I believe Dr. Darden was pressured to change his stance because it appeals to a larger audience.

From my vantage point, training with the highest intensity (failure) is superior to all other methods for increasing mass and strength. And I’ve trained that way for more than 40 years.

Good discussion, Steve

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I’ve done Big Jim’s routine about a half dozen times over the past couple years. I did it today after seeing this thread over the weekend. It’s tough. My negative is 45 seconds, to keep them all uniform. And I don’t do the chest press anymore due to a past shoulder issue. I’m on bp meds and still had my heart rate up to the 130s during it. Finished in 26 minutes. The pullover followed by pulldown is a real test.


Would you try it twice a week for a few weeks or is that too much stress on the body for any recovery?

Imo way too much stress! Not enough recovery. Have u tried it yet?

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Not yet, which is why i asked about the frequency

I will try it in a few weeks, thanks

Give it a go, you’ll see how demanding if done properly. I’ve never made 60 secs all thru, which is why I just take the negatives to 45. I’m fried by the time the pulldowns are done

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I agree it has to do with reaching a bigger audience … not just the failure part but training very hard at all. Look at how ‘hard training’ was presented many years ago. It promoted strength and muscle / bodyweight gains and images used to sell it were of hard bodybuilder types that we all wanted to look like.

Things have changed and most people going to the gym don’t give a shit about any of that. Back in the day, there were no gym chains … just hole in the wall gyms without air conditioning or heat and a leaky roof. Guys who went the gym looked like they went to the gym … you could spot then in a crowd a mile away … whether they trained for BB, PL , foot ball or just for fun … they all had that look.

Now you have gyms with machines painted in ‘friendly’ colors, many cardio contraptions of various types , TV’s , music , etc. and most people who ‘go to the gym’ don’t look like they even know what the inside of one looks like. I hear that all the time at work. When I say ‘Hi’ to a customer and my boss asked where I know him from and I reply the gym, her immediate reaction is " The GYM ?? That skinny guy goes to the gym ? "

Gyms are a big business now and for a business to succeed it needs people spending money. Those of the mainstream who have decided to do something in the form of physical fitness would not be rushing to sign up at a place advertising with something like a growling picture of Arthur Jones insisting you aren’t working hard enough if you aren’t vomiting after a set of curls. Some like planet Fitness even go the route of discouraging training hard at all to keep the ‘regular’ people … their real income generators … from becoming intimidated and leaving.

As with everything else, when things are accepted and taken up by the mainstream it becomes a watered down, diluted version of what it once was … and that includes exercise.

Couldn’t agree more!
When I joined my first commercial gym in 1978, it was a hardcore group of BBs and PLs…And almost everyone looked as if they trained!
That’s what led me to becoming a competitive PLer for many years.
I laughed when I read the part about UR boss’ comment.
No doubt, When U got to a gym, U should look as if U go to a gym…LOL!!!

Very little training to failure before Arthur Jones, very little after, compared to the “mainstream(?)”.

Talking about a business turn around. Thirty five yers ago when a gym opened your knew it was on borrowed time … unless it was a YMCA or something established like that. They couldn’t stay open very long with the limited members … and a lot the guys who did join weren’t the most dependable with paying their membership fees. Owning a gym wasn’t a lucrative investment.

My gym which originally opened as a Gold’s is two floors incredibly equipped with weights, Hammer machines, Free Motion machines, sleds, power racks … endless cardio stuff like bikes, rowers , stair climbers and tred mills, besides the various exercise classes. Go by there between 4 and 8 PM and you’d think you’re looking at Walmart’s parking lot on Black Friday. Lucky for me I’m off in the afternoons and train when there’s not many there.

I was one of the first to sign up there … when the second floor wasn’t even finished. They asked me if I wanted a yearly membership or a monthly and I flat out told them ‘monthly’ because they weren’t going to make it because they were trying to do it on too large of a scale and there would never get enough members in this area keep the doors open.

LOL , I’m eating my words now … and very happy I was wrong. And despite being driven nuts seeing most of the people on their phones between sets, I’m glad I’m a member and have such great equipment to train with.

Revisiting the corresponding article, I got interested in trying it next time at the gym. There is something inviting with a one rep max, considering I combine HIT with powerlifting nowadays. Going heavy for a change, which is very different from my impression of HIT. A fun variation in the toolbox - and to failure!

I do wonder if Big Jim still does it or what he is up to these days? Please share an update if you know @Ellington_Darden.

Try the style for a time or two. Flanagan says he hasn’t done such a routine in many years.

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Just read the routine. It sounds horrible, exhausting, ridiculously and unnecessarily difficult.


All of the above!

Tried Big Jim’s routine yesterday. I really liked it! It truly is a plateau breaker, a system shocker. I guessed the weights almost right, though I could’ve gone heavier.

Points to consider:

  • The first max rep feels right to do in a controlled manner during 3-4 seconds, easing into the rep for control of power (and presumable preventing injury).

  • I maxed out on some machines for the single max rep, especially on the Nautilus leg press machine where the weight were too light. I compensated for this with a heavier load on the final repetitions, which worked fine.

  • On the final 3 sec pos/3 sec neg reps I believe half the max rep weight is a low estimate. I would recommend more like 60-70% of the one rep max.

  • I intentionally never did this to failure, though the slow negative may have resulted in close to failure. The final series of reps I brought to about 90% of estimated failure

Today I experience mild DOMS everywhere which feels great, like having had a brilliant workout! Will make sure to do this on a monthly basis!

Any thoughts on this @Ellington_Darden or other trainees having tried this routine?

Question is whether you can do Big Jim’s routine more often than once monthly when NOT going to failure? I would think so. On second thought I may do it again in a week or two, just to get the hang of it.

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I plan on taking a break from the original 30-10-30 routine from the killing fat book and utilize the various nautilus routines (3x/week) from Dardens earlier books for awhile and incorporate Big Jims Surge once a month…probably after turkey day or xmas holidays…be a good way to start a new year