M3 Pure Muscle

by Ellington Darden, Ph.D.

M3 Pure Muscle is a strategy for training muscles while fully pumped with growth nutrients. The system’s three repetition layers and specialized workout fuel potentiate muscle volume and protein synthesis for rapid hypertrophy.

There are two fundamental requirements to do the program:

  1. Be mentally tough and physically conditioned to withstand the required intensity and volume.
  2. Use the Surge dosing protocol to pump your muscles with the necessary growth nutrients for the system to work as planned.

The material in this plan is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice and care of your physician. As with all new exercise regimens, consult with your physician to make sure it is appropriate to your individual circumstances before following the concept described in this material. The author and publisher expressly disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects resulting from the use or application of the information contained herein.

© 2022 by Ellington Darden, Ph.D. and T Nation LLC

Workout Instructions

Each workout covers four body parts. A body-part block takes approximately 5 minutes to complete. With the suggested rest, each workout requires 25 minutes or less. Perform the workouts every other day (MWF or TTS) with two days off after three sessions.

Three 2-Week Phases: 18 Workouts

The plan includes three training phases. Each phase consists of six workouts (a total of 18 over 6 weeks) and uses the same body blocks but in a different order.

Body-Part Blocks

  1. Legs
  2. Thighs
  3. Calves
  4. Chest
  5. Shoulders
  6. Lats
  7. Biceps
  8. Triceps
  9. Forearms

Abdominal Work

If you feel like you need abdominal exercises during your workout, we recommend doing them as a warmup before your scheduled session. Then, do the appropriate Surge workout.

Here are some of the best midsection exercises:

  • Trunk curl on floor
  • Reverse trunk curl on floor
  • Side bend with dumbbell
  • Prone back raise on bench
  • Leg raise
  • Various ab machines

Rep Performance

The program includes fast and slow reps. Regardless of the speed, move smoothly and avoid impact in the top and bottom positions. Explosive movements are safe when done correctly. So focus on feeling the muscles contracting and un-contracting while the joints move. Accelerate smoothly and carefully.

Loaded Stretch/Hold

Loaded stretches are major growth stimulators, so learn to do them well. For loaded stretches, hold a bottom position that feels safe. For pull-ups, most people can safely hang in a full stretch. For bench press, protect the shoulders with a hold that’s a little less than a full stretch. It’s a simple rule: Always be and feel safe, or don’t do it.

Going to Failure

Don’t go to failure. Going to failure overtaxes the nervous system for no benefit. It depletes CNS (central nervous system) reserves and limits the amount of continued mechanical muscle-fiber stimulation. When in doubt, go lighter.

Weight Selection

You want to create layers of effects in targeted muscles. To do that, you have to avoid excessive fatigue to keep the muscles performing during each phase (set).

The correct resistance falls within about a 20-percent range. The best way to describe it is, you’ll know when the weight is too heavy or too light – so if it’s not too heavy or too light, it’s just right.

Reduce the weight a little if you’re getting anywhere close to failure. In contrast, add a little weight if you’re not feeling the resistance working.

Pump Layer

  1. Think continuous pumping movement.
  2. Select a weight that allows for laser concentration and optimal feel.
  3. Use smooth, rhythmic reps, going about one second up and one second down for most exercises
  4. Take no pauses in the top and bottom positions.
  5. Turn around right before lockout on pressing movements (locking out takes too much load off the muscles).
  6. Don’t slow down as the muscles pump up and the set progresses.

Afterward, rest the involved body part for 1-2 minutes and allow the muscles to engorge fully. Then, move quickly to the Stimulate Phase.

Stimulate Layer

Standard Stimulate Method

Again, select a weight that allows for laser concentration and optimal feel. Use this rep style:

  1. Stretch/Hold Bottom for 10 Seconds: Start the first rep in the bottom position with a 10-second stretch/hold. Make sure to breathe during the hold.
  2. Launch to the Top Position: Ease out of the bottom stretch and launch the resistance with force to the top (activating the fast-twitch fibers). Don’t throw the weight. Be quick, but then slow down toward the top.
  3. Slow Down the Last-Half Negative: Lower in about one second from the top to the halfway point, where you slow down and take 5 seconds to lower to the bottom stretch.
  4. Stretch/Hold Bottom Briefly: Stretch/hold the bottom position for about one second before you ease into the launch of the next rep.
  5. Repeat Steps 2-4 for 8-10 reps.
  6. End Like You Began: End the last rep with a 10-second stretch/hold in the bottom position (like you did on the first rep).

Afterward, rest the involved body part for 1-2 minutes and allow the muscles to engorge fully. Then, move quickly to the Flutter Phase.

30-10-30 Stimulate Method

One of my most effective Stimulate methods is called 30-10- 30, which involves doing two 30-second negatives, in a certain way, with 10 optimized reps between them. If done correctly, 30-10-30 triggers HUGE improvements in your training gains.

The First 30-Second Negative

  1. Lift the weight into the contracted position (for most exercises) in preparation for the first negative rep.
  2. Squeeze the contracted muscles in the fully secured contracted position, and begin the 30-second negative.
  3. Keep the movement smooth and deliberate, thinking about nothing but slowly un-contracting muscle.
  4. Glance at a wall clock or something in easy view to manage time.
  5. Don’t get distracted with timekeeping. Your primary goal is feeling and visualizing the muscle working.

The Last Half of the Negative Is More Important

I’ve found that the last half of a negative rep becomes increasingly important as you move into the stretched position. I recommend taking 10 seconds for the first half and 20 seconds to complete the last half of the negative rep. At the stretched position, perform an exquisite — smooth — turnaround to begin your first optimal positive rep.

10 Optimal Positive Reps

Coming out of the bottom position of your first 30-second negative, here’s what you do:

  1. Increase smoothly the movement speed so that you’re at a tempo of one second up (positive) and two seconds down (negative) for all 10 reps.
  2. Focus on putting your mind in the middle of exquisitely smooth, rhythmic muscle contractions and un-contractions. The goal is to fill the working muscles with blood and nutrients while fatiguing the fibers.
  3. Nail the 10th rep with plenty of capacity left to squeeze the contracting muscles in preparation for the most important rep — the finishing 30-second negative.

The Second 30-Second Negative

Doing a 30-second negative on an optimally fatigued and nutrient-loaded muscle is the whole point of the preceding 10 repetitions.

  1. Keep that purpose in mind to motivate you to perform the last perfect, intensely painful negative rep.
  2. Be mindful of the working muscles and savor the feeling.
  3. Slow down the last half of the rep, taking 20 seconds to move into the stretched position, where you end the movement by gently landing at the endpoint and relaxing the working muscles.

30-10-30 Lex Extension Demo

T Nation member pfit9 does a 30-10-30 leg extension set:

1-1/2 Stimulate Rep Method

The 1-1/2 Stimulate method is a rep cycle consisting of a one-half rep followed by a full rep. Do 5 rep cycles in a set using the following instructions:

Description RepCyclePhase Seconds
1 Hold in the stretched position for 1 second. Hold 1
2 Lift to the halfway position in 1 second. Positive 1
3 Hold at the halfway position for 1 second. Hold 1
4 Lower to the stretched position in 3 seconds. Negative 3
5 Hold in the stretched position for 1 second. Hold 1
6 Do a full positive rep in 2 seconds. Positive 2
7 Hold in the contracted position for 1 second (squeeze). Hold 1
8 Do the first half negative in 2 seconds. Negative 2
9 Do the second half negative in 3 seconds. Negative 3
Total Seconds Per Rep Cycle 15
Rep-Cycle Information
Total Rep Cycles 5
Total Seconds Per Set 75 seconds
Total Exploited Negatives 15 negatives
Total Holds 15 holds

Flutter Layer

Flutter reps activate fast-twitch fibers while further increasing the pump. This is the block’s last phase, so stay focused. Take some time to experiment to get the feel of this technique.

  1. Use Lighter Weight: The weight needs to be light enough to do midrange flutters for about 20 seconds.
  2. Set Up in Midrange Position: You’re going to do a burst of quick finisher reps in the midrange, traveling only about 4-8 inches (depending upon the exercise).
  3. Take Advantage of Stretch Reflex: The stretch-reflex effect plays a role when bouncing up and down in the mid position of a calf-raise finisher (flutter) set. Most of us have seen or done that. The action loop is a controlled drop, followed by a reflex-assisted launch, followed by a controlled drop.
  4. End When Performance Slows: Flutter reps, done correctly, should feel automatic and almost effortless. Continue until you begin to slow down naturally, usually after 20 seconds, when you end the set.

At the end of the Flutter phase, you should feel a growth-stimulating super-pump that can last long after the workout ends. Rest 60 seconds before the next body-part block.

Surge® Workout Fuel

I saved Surge Workout Fuel for the end because I want to leave you with a lasting impression of its importance. Saying your results are dependent on Surge Workout Fuel is an understatement – and that assessment is based solely on my personal and professional experience.

I wouldn’t have and couldn’t have developed my Pump Stimulate & Flutter training system without Surge Workout Fuel.

Pumping a muscle with supraphysiologic levels of blood filled with agents that stimulate intracellular growth signaling and protein synthesis, optimize intracellular pH, sustain boosted nitric oxide, and markedly extend work capacity and performance is beyond my educated comprehension.

And Surge Workout Fuel does all of that and more. But I had to experience these effects to fully appreciate and understand the impact on training and building muscle.

To give insight on what to expect from Surge Workout Fuel and to show how much I depend on it, here’s what Tim Patterson says about it:

Tim Patterson Describes Surge Workout Fuel Effects

Biotest doesn’t make supplements for the general fitness market. Our sole focus is on providing competitive advantages to elite athletes, first responders, battle-ready soldiers, and those whose lives and careers depend on their bodies performing beyond their known limits.

Each ingredient in Surge Workout Fuel is well-thought-out, competitively tested, and included for a distinct purpose.For example, a while ago, we discovered with our athletes that BCAAs didn’t work well and that L-leucine is the critical amino acid triggering protein synthesis. Later we were proved correct. Our exact dosing is in the Surge formula.

We had numerous conversations with the premiere beta-alanine research scientist, Dr. Jeffrey Stout, about dosing. Finding it was a cumulative process requiring 179 grams loaded over several months, we developed the full dosing protocol that delivers optimal performance, and that’s in Surge Workout Fuel.

Even the electrolytes we use in Surge Workout Fuel were tested in competitive cyclists in the summer heat at high altitude. These athletes were losing about six pounds of water from training. We kept the cyclists optimally hydrated and coming in from training at or slightly above starting weight.

You simply can’t out-train Surge Workout Fuel. You’ll gain muscle faster, significantly increase work capacity, sustain intensity levels, recover quicker, and virtually eliminate soreness. And the difference will be amazing.

Tim is right, Surge Workout Fuel does work better than he promised. And the best thing I can think to do is to deliver the same challenge to you.

I’ve designed a training system that takes full advantage of the Surge phenomenon, and you’re getting it all for free with no strings attached other than doing the plan and reporting your experience.

Surge® Workout Fuel Dosing and Mixing Instructions

You’ll need a Surge Base Kit to do the program effectively and gain the most. Pumping muscles with the Surge formula stimulates intracellular growth signaling and protein synthesis, optimizes intracellular pH, sustains boosted nitric oxide, and markedly enhances work capacity and performance.

A Surge dose before and during the workout creates a reactive pump that enables your muscles to train beyond experienced limits. It fuels gains, speeds recovery, and burns fat. You can’t do Metcon for Muscle without it.


Dose Size

Mix 1 scoop in 600-1000 mL of water.

Workout-Day Schedule

  • Dose 1: Completely consume exactly 20 minutes before training.
  • Dose 2: Drink throughout the workout and afterward if you’ve not finished during training.
  • Dose 3: Drink one hour before bedtime (optional).

Off-Day Schedule

Mix 1 scoop in 1800 mL of water and drink throughout the day.

Mixing Instructions

This short video (50 seconds) shows how to properly mix Surge® Workout Fuel:

Three Lifestyle Habits for New Muscle

We don’t want to overcomplicate nutrition and health suggestions. From our experience, keeping it simple and focusing on the important ideas works best when building new muscle.

Here are our three simple habits:

  1. Keep your nutrient-dense foods between 3500 and 4000 calories per day.
  2. Stay hydrated throughout the day with plenty of cold water.
  3. Sleep at least 9 hours each night if you can.

If you want to discuss these topics further, drop your questions in the forum.

Here’s what we need from you:

  1. Keep a detailed Training Log. Post records, notes, and updates about your workouts, size and weight measurements, super-pump and progress photos, and observations.
  2. Share and Discuss Your Progress Openly. Keep posting updates in the Surge Challenge thread. It’s the one place everyone can follow. Even though the topic is closed to outsider posts, it’s open to all observers.

Be “Awake” During Your Experience

When I look back at the last 60 years of my muscle-building quest, I have a priceless treasure of experiences. And we’re committed to delivering the same kind of old-school experience to you.

Challenge us to deliver the best training experience of your life by asking us questions and posting comments, photos, and updates.

Working out the kinks to get you the same results we see and expect is what we do.


  • The plan comprises six-week parts consisting of 3 two-week training phases.
  • Each part repeats the same 3 training phases using a different Stimulate rep method.
Part Stimulate Instructions
1 Standard
2 30-10-30 M/7: add 30-sec neg chin at end
W/11: add 30-sec neg dip at end
W/14: add 45-sec neg chin at end
F/18: add 45-sec neg dip at end
3 1-1/2


Thighs Shoulders Chest
Lats Lats Biceps
Triceps Biceps Triceps
Forearms Calves Legs
Triceps Legs Thighs
Lats Chest Shoulders
Forearms Biceps Calves
Calves Foreamrs Chest


Biceps Shoulders Lats
Triceps Calves Triceps
Lats Legs Biceps
Forearms Chest Chest
MON-10 WED-11 FRI-12
Thighs Chest Legs
Calves Lats Calves
Shoulders Triceps Shoulders
Biceps Calves Biceps


MON-13 WED-14 FRI-15
Thighs Biceps Lats
Chest Triceps Chest
Lats Shoulders Biceps
Forearms Legs Calves
MON-16 WED-17 FRI-18
Legs Shoulders Thighs
Calves Legs Lats
Shoulders Chest Triceps
Triceps Forearms Biceps


Method Exercise Reps Rest
Pump Wide-Foot-Pos. Squat 8 10 sec
Pump Narrow-Foot-Pos. Squat 8 10 sec
Pump Med-Foot-Pos. Squat 8 1-2 min
Stimulate Med-Foot-Pos. Squat 10 1-2 min
Flutter Trap-Bar Squat or Squat or Bodyweight with Bands 20 sec 1-2 min


Method Exercise Reps Rest
Pump Heels-Elevated Squat, Feet/Knees WIde 10 10 sec
Pump Stiff-Legged Deadlift 8 10 sec
Pump Heels-Elevated Squat, Feet/Knees Close 10 1-2 min
Stimulate Goblet Squat 10 10 sec
Stimulate Hack Squat 10 10 sec
Stimulate Dumbbell Squat 8 1-2 min
Flutter Dumbbell Squat 20 sec 1-2 min


Method Exercise Reps Rest
Pump Seated Calf Raise 12 10 sec
Pump Calf Raise Machine 12 10 sec
Pump Bent-Over Calf Raise 12 1-2 min
Stimulate DB Farmer’s Walk on Toes 40 steps 10 sec
Stimulate Calf Raise 12 1-2 min
Flutter Calf Raise 20 sec. 1-2 min


Method Exercise Reps Rest
Pump Barbell Bench Press 10 10 sec
Pump Dumbbell Bent-Armed Fly or Bands 10 10 sec
Pump Pushup on Floor 10 1-2 min
Stimulate Barbell Bench Press 10 1-2 min
Flutter Barbell Bench Press or Bands 20 sec 1-2 min


Method Exercise Reps Rest
Pump Overhand Bar Hang 40 sec 10 sec
Pump Dumbbell Lateral Raise 10 10 sec
Pump Dumbbell Upright Row 10 1-2 min
Stimulate Barbell Overhead Press 10 10 sec
Stimulate Dumbbell Lateral Raise 10 10 sec
Stimulate Trap-Bar or DB Farmer’s Walk 40 steps 10 sec
Stimulate Trap-Bar Shrug 10 1-2 min
Flutter Dumbbell Lateral Raise 20 sec 1-2 min


Method Exercise Reps Rest
Pump Barbell Row 8 10 sec
Pump Darden Pullover 8 10 sec
Pump Supinated-Grip Pulldown 8 1-2 min
Stimulate Darden Pullover 8 10 sec
Flutter Darden Pullover 20 sec 1-2 min

Darden Pullover

  1. Place a medium dumbbell upright on top of a standard bench.
  2. Sit on the floor on one side of the bench near the dumbbell.
  3. Ease your middle back and shoulders over and around the bench. Your feet should be on the floor.
  4. Grab the dumbbell on one end with both hands.
  5. Straighten your elbows and extend the dumbbell over your chest.
  6. Move the dumbbell backward over your face and head into a stretched position for your lats and ribcage.
  7. Arch your middle back carefully around the bench with your feet still on the floor. Feel your ribcage elongate.
  8. Stretch gradually your torso. As you get the hang of the movement, you’ll be able to progressively arch your middle back and lower your hips and thighs for an even greater stretch.
  9. Bring the dumbbell back over your chest.
  10. Continue the stretch-and-contract movement for 8-10 smooth repetitions. On your last repetition, move the dumbbell from over your chest to an upright position on top of the bench.


Method Exercise Reps Rest
Pump Narrow-Grip Barbell Curl 8 10 sec
Pump Chin-up 8 10 sec
Pump Wide-Grip Barbell Curl 8 1-2 min
Stimulate Dumbbell Zotterman Curl 10 0
Rotate DB to hammer
Stimulate Dumbbell Hammer Curl 10 0
Rotate DB to regular
Stimulate Dumbbell Regular Curl 10 1-2 min
Flutter Dumbbell Regular Curl or Bands 20 sec 1-2 min


Method Exercise Reps Rest
Pump Triceps Pressdown or Bands 10 10 sec
Pump Parallel Bar Dip 10 10 sec
Pump Triceps Pressdown or Bands 8 1-2 min
Stimulate Overhead Triceps Extension with One Dumbbell 8 0
Decrease wt. 5 lb
Stimulate Overhead Triceps Extension with One Dumbbell 8 1-2 min
Flutter Overhead Triceps Extension with One Dumbbell or Band 20 sec 1-2 min


Method Exercise Reps Rest
Pump Seated Barbell Wrist Curl 10 10 sec
Pump Reverse Seated Barbell Wrist Curl 10 10 sec
Pump Standing Reverse Barbell Curl 10 1-2 min
Stimulate Seated Barbell Wrist Curl 10 1-2 min
Flutter Seated Barbell Wrist Curl 20 sec 1-2 min

Dr. Darden, I noticed the different recommendation for training to failure (avoid it). Can you elaborate a little on the change in philosophy?

Been lifting since 1983.
In 1987 found your High Intensity Body Building and followed that for the next 30 plus years.
July 2022, started doing your 30-10-30.
This, for my young body, was a revelation. I actually pushed past my “biggest” stage and found new size. Also, my tendonitis of my elbows, shoulders and knees all disappeared. My muscles were recovering and new growth was taking place. In the last year, I had no sticking point where there were plateaus. There was consistent slow growth the entire year.
The BEST thing about the workout was that I never got tired of it. I actually wanted to go into the gym for that 15-20 minute workout, where before I would always burn out 3 months in, and it became a chore to hit the gym.

So, thank you Dr. Darden for 4 decades of coaching!

1 Like

Is there video of the Darden Pullover? I’m struggling with how is it different from other dumbbells pullovers?

The real difference is laying perpendicular on the bench instead of lying on the majority of it if that makes sense, laying the long way I guess like you were lying down to bench. You lay so your head is off the bench and your shoulders are on it. Then your legs are straight out. As the dumbbell extends toward the ground you can sink your hips to get an extra stretch.

You are saying in the Darden pullover you are perpendicular to the bench?

Yes. If the bench is facing north and south, you are lying on it east and west. There is a picture in The New High Intensity Training book, if you have that book.

ah ok, wanted to be sure. That is how I normally do pullovers so I guess that’s where I got confused.