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Mike Mentzer Heavy Duty Training

Posted by Paul

This is a great article about Mike Mentzer and Heavy Duty Training also called High Intensity Training that was published in MuscleMag International back in 1978 after Mike won the Mr. Universe contest.

The only thing I don't agree with in the article is that High Intensity Training causes joint problems. I have been using HD/HIT for over 30 years and I don't have any joint problems at all. Plus many volume trainers also develop joint problems, so it is not the training style, it's more likely caused by bad form and/or steroid use.

Heavy Duty Training

By Robert Kennedy

Mike Mentzer is an intelligent man. He has now won the premier amateur title of heavy weight Mr. Universe   at Acapulco, acquiring at the time a perfect score. That makes him Bodybuilding’s Nadia Commaneci. Now the doors to the Olympia contest in Columbus are open and no doubt close battle will ensue between him and the likes of Robbie Robinson, Boyer Coe, Roy Callender, Danny Padilla, Steve Davis, Ed Corney, Frank Zane and a dozen others…

Mentzer is a pre-med student now working for the Weider organization in Woodland Hills, California. He is busy running his mail order business, giving posing exhibitions and seminars around the country. His seminars are considered the most comprehensive, planned and informative in the bodybuilding field.

Basically, Mentzer states that there is something very wrong with bodybuilding today. “Who wants to spend hour after hour in the gym each day in order to build a body when it can all be done in forty-five minutes?”

“I’m just too involved with life; too busy to spend half my time working out,” he says. “And besides these bodybuilders who perform twenty and thirty sets for each body part, are so full of lactic acid the next day they are physically drained.”

“A bodybuilder should feel like a million dollars, both directly after a workout and the next day.  I just can’t go along with the current bodybuilder ‘powers’ who say one must train in such a drawn out way.”

For those who think that Mike Mentzer may just be opposing the accepted principles of bodybuilding to capitalize financially on the newness of his thinking, it should be mentioned that he does indeed follow his own methods. As does his brother, Ray Mentzer, Dr. C.F. Smith, and several other notable bodybuilders.

In theory his system makes enormous sense. In practice he has proven his theory at least works in his own case. Because of his seminars, scores of them, Mike has a large army of intermediate bodybuilders currently working on his system. If his methods are workable for these guys, then the next few years will see a new set of champions. Mentzer protégés…

I have seen Mentzer train, and heard him talk about training. He has an iron will when it comes to workouts. Typical breakdown of a set would be the initial choice of a substantial weight, concentrated slow strenuous reps, followed by even slower “negatives” (the lowering of the weight). Then at a later part of the set the introduction of forced repetitions, help from a partner and the final “negatives only, as the set is completed. At the end of the set Mentzer is quite exhausted; the area around his eyes, purple with effort; his muscles throbbing with pain; his veins bulging under the stress.

It should be understood that Mike Mentzer has a very powerful constitution. He has to have to survive this type of training. Even standard weight training is considered to be too severe for a certain percentage of the populace. Some people (a very few) just do not have the constitutional tolerance for such strenuous activity even when an attempt to tailor poundage to their specific metabolism is made. Accordingly one can see that the Mentzer Heavy-Duty method is not for anyone in less than 100% good robust health.

The question now being raised: Is the Mentzer method just another fad, such as Isometrics or P.H.A. (Peripheral Heart Action Training) or is it really a revolutionary form of training ultimately to be accepted as the best way. The only way. Is it better than the now conventional multi-set system or the slightly more advanced super-sets or compound training.

It should be noted here and now that not all exercise is beneficial in every way. Vigorous exercise is good for you, but depending on the activity there are often side effects that are undesirable.  For example, cyclists and boxers tend to become round shouldered. Runners often get shortened hamstrings. Ice skaters develop faulty lower back posture. Soccer players get cartilage trouble.

Even bodybuilding has its negatives. Some movements can cause joint troubles, tendon soreness and back problems. Watch an older bodybuilder train and you will see that he exercises with a certain caution. He performs movements which are kind to the muscles. Gone are the bouncing, twisting, Earth crushing cheating movements of youth. Warm-ups are now important, although ignored in younger years. Styles are stricter, exercises smoother, more rhythmic and done with a new concern for the body … ‘care reps’ are in.

Bodybuilding is something we like to do forever. Most of the past greats kept going into old age. Men like George Hackenschmidt, Thomas Inch, George F. Jowett, Ottley Coulter, Fred Tilney, Charles Atlas, Ted Aston, Paul Bragg, Mighty Atom and Bill Pullum.

In my correspondence and through talking to most of these old timers of the past I found a common concern. Most of them changed their mode of training to a system of less harsh treatment of muscles, tendons and joints.

Even some of our not so old living champions are treating their bodies with more respect. Dave Draper told me, “I exercise regularly but I no longer abuse my muscles with all-out training madness. I like to be kind to my muscles.”

Reg Park is another who had trained too heavy for too long and suffered numerous aches and pains. Mentzer himself told me that the only drawback to his training style, in his particular case, was the fact that he was suffering joint problems.

Yes, although Mike Mentzer advocates a quick light warm-up set prior to his super Heavy Duty  sets, he nevertheless agrees that his methods have caused him personally, joint discomforts and abnormal soreness.  So we can see that the new Heavy Duty method may be less than perfect. But what of the 20-30 sets per bodypart methods practiced by people like Pete Grymkowski, Frank Zane, Serge Nubret, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Reg Park. These fellows would still only be on their first bodypart when Mentzer walks out of the gym – Workout complete!

It seems that in order to build a good sized body one can do very well following moderate workout principles such as advocated by Vince Gironda (5 sets of 8).

However, in order to advance to the very highest degree of muscular size possible it appears that one has to perform an inordinate amount of extra sets to accomplish even the smallest muscular gains.

To put that more simply: You may be able to build 17/18 inch arms with six hours training a week, but in order to advance even another inch you may have to be in the gym fifteen hours a week.

Criticisms of the Mentzer method revolve around the following questions:

a)     Is excessive strain harmful to the joints, tendons and overall system?

b)     Is sufficient blood kept in the isolated areas to promote growth in a high percentage of trainers?

c)     Can one or two high intensity sets per bodypart stimulate as many fibers as twenty sets per bodypart?

d)     Does the method require outstanding resolution, concentration and the ability to endure pain?

e)     Does the heavy duty method work only in conjunction with heavy steroid intake?

Criticisms of the high set system revolve around the following points:

a)     Are long hours in the gym justified in relation to the added muscle obtained?

b)     Most bodybuilders who use this method are often totally depleted after workouts, and hardly have the energy to walk home.

c)     The muscles acquired with excessive sets are not as rugged, strong or permanent as those built with one or two sets of all out effort.

d)     The lactic acid built up from the high sets is so large that the bodybuilder feels so totally drained throughout the next day, that he can hardly get out of bed, feels tired and listless and in fact is happy if he recuperates sufficiently to go through his next workout.

            There are of course other methods of training that have a wide following. Super setting exercises certainly saves time as does compound training. The P.H.A. system was far less a bodybuilding system, but more an overall conditioning program.  Like so many less than perfect systems it worked ok for those who were willing to risk heavy doses of steroids. Same with Isometrics.

         Even Nautilus training for the bodybuilder fell below its early promise. Were we not all told that scores of new champions would be made in a fraction of the time, training exclusively on Nautilus? At this time of writing not one single Mr. America, Mr. Universe or Mr. Olympia has built his body exclusively with the Nautilus apparatus.

         In summing up I feel it best for the individual to begin at least with the regular 3 sets of 10 reps system, using free weights, going through about 6-8 basic exercises. Graduate then to the intermediate stage of 5 sets per exercise increasing your exercises to about 10.

         From there on a large part of your decision should be based not on what you read or hear from others, but on your own feelings and intuition. Experiment with the different techniques, try at different periods, increased sets, decreased sets, stepping up intensity, compound training, pre-exhaust, super-sets, decreased rest periods and Mentzer Heavy -duty.  Remember even Mike Mentzer himself spent ten years building a foundation using the multi-set principle. And he would be the first to urge you to experiment to find out what method is right for you. As he did.


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