In 1977, Ed Jones had the seed of an idea in his head. It took about a decade to blossom before Jones opened a special fitness center for inner city youths. In the four years since, the club has continued to grow rapidly.

Jones, 43, a certified strength and conditioning specialist who graduated from North Carolina Central University and did his graduate work at the University of Maryland, conceptualized the fitness program as a vehicle for youngsters to stay in school and out of trouble.

In 1986, Jones presented his proposal to the District's Association for the Renewal of Education. The association agreed to fund the program and it quickly took off at Eastern High School, where Jones is also vice-principal.

"There is a lot of negative things going on around" these youngsters . . . "and sometimes you can stray if you don't have a bond," said Jones. "We want the fitness program to serve as one of those bonds . . . and as a means of improving their self-image as well as getting them to school on time."

The Z1000 school-year program started with 26 participants coming to work out before the school day began. When school ended in June, more than 140 youngsters were regularly working out and the participation has continued to grow with the program's summer extension.

Jones said the difference between a youngster staying out of or getting into trouble is having a regular pattern, and some goals, in their lives. The fitness program provides a pattern and a goal -- to improve upon individual fitness.

"I had a parent whose son was not going to school," said Jones. "I suggested that he come to the fitness program and {the youngster} improved and is back in school."

Jones starts each participant with a fitness pre-test and subsequently takes a picture of them. Five weeks later, he gives a test and takes another picture to demonstrate results.

Two years ago, Jones received a Cafritz Foundation fellowship grant and travelled to Bulgaria, one of the most advanced nations in weightlifting. "I picked up some techniques in Bulgaria, and what I saw, I brought back and utilized in our program," Jones said.

The fitness techniques have been so helpful that Jones said All-Met wide receiver Norman Williams of Eastern High significantly cut time off his 40-yard dash. Williams is going to Ohio State this fall on a full football scholarship.

Eastern football Coach James Fields likes the effect the program has had on his team. "It keeps my kids active, especially in the summer," he said. "And it instills a team concept because it gives them an oppurtunity to lift as a group."

One goal Jones has emphasized is for the program's youngsters to spread their acquired knowledge and skills for the good of the community. He has involved them in Lift America for the Special Olympics, where the youngsters get pledges for the charity based on how many pounds they lift.

With the program a proven success at Eastern, Jones is aiming to spread it to other areas of the District. Coolidge High is in the process of starting a similar program.

"We would want to do the kind of things that would get this in motion," he said. "We would very much like this program to be the model program in the city, as well as the nation."