Arthur Jones's Forgotten Formula Is Something to Sleep On
"I'll put half an inch of permanent muscle size on each of your upper arms – from only one workout," Arthur Jones, the inventor of Nautilus equipment, announced.
Jones's pledge was made to advanced bodybuilders who were readers of IronMan in 1971. These highly motivated men would do almost anything to add a fraction of an inch to their biceps and triceps.
Furthermore, Jones backed up his declaration with a remarkable guarantee:
"If you don't put half an inch of solid muscle on your arms, I'll pay your expenses to and from Florida."
All of these IronMan magazines from the early 1970s contained articles from Arthur Jones. Today, collectors hoard them.
As you can imagine, many bodybuilders made the journey to Jones's training grounds in DeLand, Florida. I witnessed Jones put dozens of men through his workouts. And crazy as this whole challenge seemed, he actually made good on his promise. I never saw any of these men ask for his expenses to be reimbursed.
A quick half an inch of muscle on each arm? What was Jones's secret? How was he able to stimulate growth so fast?
The secret to such growth was totally unsuspected by most bodybuilders.
An Uncommon Formula
Here's the formula that Arthur Jones devised:
Jones would meet the arriving bodybuilder at the airport, bus station, or a local restaurant. Almost immediately he'd get out his tape and measure the trainee's upper arms – on the first flex, cold, and unpumped – and record it appropriately in his yellow tablet, along with the guy's name, age, and the date.
Arthur was a vigilant record keeper. Then, over a large and leisurely meal, they'd talk about training and Jones's harder-but-briefer philosophy.
After an hour of conversation, Jones would check the visitor into a Daytona Beach motel, where he was instructed to spend the next three nights and days sleeping and resting. Invariably, the bodybuilder would ask, "But what about my workout?"
Jones knew from his dinner discussion that the bodybuilder was in a state of overtraining – as most were then, and are now – so it would be counterproductive to exercise him straight away in that condition. And Jones knew that the most overworked of all muscles were the biceps and triceps.
So what this visiting bodybuilder desperately needed was rest, relaxation, and sleep – plenty of all three – and no working out.
Sure, the trainee could enjoy the beach, the sun, the surf, and the fresh air. But no, absolutely no exercise of any kind. And Jones made the guy give him his word on this.
On the afternoon of the fourth day, Arthur would meet the bodybuilder at the Quonset hut gym behind DeLand High School. That was where Jones housed his early Nautilus equipment.
Talk about being enthusiastic, the guy would usually bounce around like a dog that's just been let off leash. After training daily, often twice a day, for years – the body feels simply great after three days of rest.
Before the workout, however, Jones would measure the trainee's arms again. With most bodybuilders, their arms would already be 1/4-inch larger. That's right, 1/4-inch bigger from no exercise – from just rest and sleep.
Three days and nights of forced rest and sleep – was Jones's unsuspected secret to quick growth.
If you even remotely think that you might be in a state of overtraining, coerce yourself to take three days off from anything related to exercise. Double-check your recovery ability by comparing accurate before-and-after measurements (three-days apart) of your flexed upper arms.
A slight increase in arm size is a clear indication that you're training too much and lacking in sleep.
But of course, there's more to bigger arms than a good snooze.
A Seriously Intense Arm Routine
The Jones workout never consisted of more than 10 exercises. Usually there were two exercises for the legs, two for the torso, and the rest devoted to the arms. Although Jones frequently applied his routine to Nautilus machines, here's how he did it with conventional equipment.
For the lower body, Jones would often have his trainees do the squat with a barbell and the one-legged calf raise with a dumbbell held in one hand. If he had a leg extension and leg curl machine available, he might do them instead of the squat and calf raise. For torso, it was usually the bent-armed pullover with a barbell and standing lateral raise with dumbbells.
After a 2-minute break, which included a drink of water, it was all about the arms, which were always worked in a very focused manner. Particular attention was placed on the contracted position of the biceps and triceps exercises. The turnarounds at the bottom were always done slowly and smoothly.
- Standing biceps curl with barbell while keeping the butt and shoulders against a wall, immediately followed by
- Seated thumbs-up curl with dumbbells, immediately followed by
- Chinup with underhanded grip, negative only
- Narrow-grip bench press with barbell, immediately followed by
- Standing triceps extension with one dumbbell held in both hands, immediately followed by
- Dip on parallel bars, negative only
Note: It's important to rush between the three bulleted exercises in each of the cycles. No resting, no drinking, no ogling fitness bunnies, rush.
Below is a brief description of how to perform each exercise.
Standing biceps curl against a wall
If you've never done this movement against a wall, you're in for a surprise. Place your heels about 12 inches away from the bottom of a sturdy wall. With a shoulder-width underhanded grip, pick up a barbell and lean back against the wall.
The idea is to keep your buttocks and shoulders in contact with the wall, which prevents much of the cheating that normally takes place during a curl. With this in mind, it's probably a good idea to reduce the resistance on the barbell about 10 percent from what you'd normally use.
Curl the barbell deliberately to the top. Lower it slowly and make a smooth turnaround. Repeat for maximum repetitions – which should occur somewhere in the range of 8 to 12.
Seated thumbs-up curl with dumbbells
Grab a couple of medium-weight dumbbells and sit on the edge of a bench. Position both dumbbells so the handles are parallel to one another and your thumbs are up. Sit tall and keep your knees together.
Curl both dumbbells at the same time. Lower the dumbbells smoothly to the bottom. Repeat for maximum repetitions.
Chinup, negative only
To get the hang of this movement, you need to practice it beforehand. Position a study bench or chair under a chinning bar. The idea is to do the positive work with your legs (by stepping up instead of pulling up) and then lowering your body with your arms only.
The position of the bench or chair is important because you don't want your feet and legs to interfere with the lowering process. A few practice reps will make it easier to figure out exactly where to place the bench or chair.
Climb to top position. Your chin should be above the horizontal bar and your hands should be shoulder-width apart with an underhanded grip. Remove your feet, bend your knees, and lower your body slowly. When you're halfway down, look up, lean back, and lower to a dead hang.
Your lowering time should take approximately 4-8 seconds. Keep your hands on the bar, stand erect, and step back to the top position. Repeat for 8 to 12 repetitions.
Rest for 1 minute and move to the triceps exercises.
Narrow-grip bench press with barbell
Lie on a bench with attached racks and place your hands on the bar so your thumbs are approximately 12 inches apart. Lift the barbell over your chest.
Lower the bar smoothly to the lower part of your chest and press it back to the top. Repeat for maximum repetitions.
Standing triceps extension with one dumbbell
Grasp a dumbbell on the inside of one end with both hands and press it over your head. Move your elbows close to your ears and keep them there throughout the movement.
Lower the dumbbell slowly behind your head and neck. Make a smooth turnaround at the bottom and push the dumbbell to the top position. Repeat for maximum repetitions.
Dip, negative only
Similar to the negative-only chinup, you'll need a bench or chair to place under your parallel bars to assist you in doing the positive work.
Step up on the bench or chair, lock your elbows, and balance yourself in the top position. Bend your elbows and lower your body slowly in approximately 4-8 seconds. Pause briefly in the bottom position. Place your feet on the floor and quickly step back to the top position. Repeat for as many repetitions as possible in good form.
Getting The Best Results
- Assemble the equipment: Make sure the barbell, dumbbells, bench, and chinning bar for the three biceps exercises are appropriately loaded and placed next to one another. Remember, it's important to move from one biceps exercise to the next, with absolute minimum rest in between. Ditto for the three triceps exercises.
- Recruit a training partner: Having a buddy who understands proper form push you through the exercises will lead to better results.
- Keep your neck and face relaxed as you progress through the last several repetitions of each exercise. Doing so will help isolate the targeted muscles.
- Perform only one set, but make sure you supply your best effort on each exercise.
- Do the last repetitions of the negative-only chin and dip as follows: When the speed of lowering is less than 4 seconds, despite your best efforts, pause briefly. Then, count to 3 – and try 1 more repetition.
- Can you continue doing the above routine? Yes, do it twice a week, but for no longer than two consecutive weeks. On the negative-only chin and dip, if you can do 10 or more repetitions, attach a 10-pound plate to a waist belt to make the lowering harder.
Throughout the 1970s, Bill Grant had some of the best arms in all of bodybuilding. I talked with Grant several times about training harder and briefer. Grant won the 1974 IFBB Mr. World.
Some of the bodybuilders would throw up after the three biceps exercises. Most of them wanted to. Regardless, there was no turning back. After a 2-minute break, you had to complete the remaining exercises – or face Arthur Jones in the parking lot later.
Arthur Jones knew intuitively, to the partial rep, exactly how far he had to push a guy to get the BEST RESULTS. It was a part of how he sized up someone during the initial meeting and how that person reacted to what was said. Being able to do that quickly was a characteristic that made Jones so special. It was an element of who he was!
After the session, bodybuilders I observed took long rests, flat on their backs or stomachs. Not a single one ever asked for a second set of any exercise.
An hour after the workout, and over another meal, Jones was back explaining his new philosophy. It was surprising how much more receptive and inquisitive the bodybuilder was after his introductory workout. After another hour or two, it was back to the motel for another night's sleep.
Jones would arrive early the next morning (day 5) at the motel for the climatic measurements and yellow-tablet comparison of the data.
On each one I ever witnessed or heard about, there was at least a 1/2-inch increase on each upper arm. A few gained 5/8 of an inch or more.
Only two guys came close to failing. They registered a 7/16-inch increase per arm, but after one more night's sleep, they were up another 1/8 inch.
Sound, Solid Advice
I've learned a great deal about strength training and bodybuilding from being associated with Arthur Jones for 35 years. But nothing I've learned has more salience than the importance of rest and sleep in building larger and stronger muscles. This was especially true for the biceps and triceps.
I've also read many articles and books on rest and sleep that complement Jones's beliefs. The importance of adequate sleep has been reinforced multiple times on Testosterone Nation by authors who point out that the primary hormones altered by lack of sleep are leptin, ghrelin, and cortisol.
I'm convinced that you'll achieve improved results from your training if you apply the following guidelines:
- Achieve 10 hours of sleep each night if you are a teenager.
- Get 9 hours of sleep each night if you are 20 years or older.
- Do less exercise, not more – if in doubt about the length of your routines.
- Focus more on the intensity of each repetition and make sure the turnarounds are slow and smooth.
- Limit any type of vigorous activity on your off days.
- Keep accurate records of measurements, workouts, and sleeping and resting schedules.
If you rest and sleep abundantly, your muscles will reward you by growing. Incorporate Arthur Jones's unsuspected secret into your training today.
I took this montage of photos during an actual Arthur Jones training session in 1983. To learn more about Jones, see my latest book, "The New Bodybuilding for Old-School Results." Part II contains seven chapters that discuss Jones's basic and advanced training techniques.
"Most lifters don’t want that bloated, drug-induced look of a modern pro bodybuilder. They'd much rather have that chiseled, hard, athletic look of Steve Reeves, Boyer Coe, and Casey Viator. I've taken those lost techniques of the masters — added today's science — and created The New Bodybuilding for Old-School Results."
— Ellington Darden, PhD