Heavy Duty: Mike Mentzer’s Most Productive Routine, by John Little

It was the essential basic Heavy Duty routine consisting of four to five sets per bodypart and broken into two workouts.

He stood only 5’8′ yet packed 215 pounds of rock-solid muscle on his frame. His triceps, in particular, when viewed from behind, reminded one of two large watermelons hanging out of a T-shirt. Reports varied as to the actual size of his arms. When Mike Mentzer was asked how big they were at one of his seminars, he responded with characteristic wryness, “Very big.”

I once asked Mike what his arms had taped at their largest, and his answer startled me: “About 18 1/2 inches.” I was incredulous. “But they look well over 20 inches!” I exclaimed. “Pumped, they probably are, John,” he replied, “but measured cold, which is how you should measure your arms, they never stretched the tape beyond 18 1/2.”

Upon hearing that, I quickly realized how much deceit was being practiced in the bodybuilding world, where champions whose arms were obviously far less substantial than Mike’s would loudly proclaim measurements of 21 inches or, in some instances that stretched credibility to the breaking point, 22 inches.

The Role of Genetics

Without question genetics played a huge role in providing the foundation for the muscular mass that Mike built, as he was the first to admit. In later years, however, he confided that he had reservations about making such a strong case for genetics. While genetic characteristics were important, Mike believed that they had been overemphasized. He worried that the notion that you have to have good genetics to achieve a championship physique had actually served to destroy the motivation of certain bodybuilders. “Besides,” Mike explained, “it’s very difficult to accurately assess your genetic potential. At best you might be able to get a suggestion of where you might go based on your muscle belly lengths, your bone structure and metabolism and neuromuscular efficiency, but the most important thing, I think, is motivation, everyone can improve themselves, and that’s important. Not everyone is going to become Mr. Olympia, but we can all improve ourselves.”

In 1986 I was living in Canada and searching for answers concerning the “ultimate truth” of bodybuilding, and I set out to interview those who, in my estimation, had tried to decipher this Rosetta stone themselves. I interviewed Lou Ferrigno, John Grimek, Paul Anderson, Doug Hepburn, Frank Zane, Lee Haney, Dorian Yates, Lee Labrada, Steve Reeves and both Mike and Ray Mentzer, among others. It was during a trip to California to interview Steve Reeves, in fact, that Mike invited me to stay with him as his guest at his apartment in Hollywood. I readily accepted, for I knew that it would afford me an opportunity to talk not only bodybuilding but philosophy, a passion that Mike and I shared for more than two decades.

Mike and I talked about a great many subjects during that trip, but first and foremost on my mind was finding out what Mike Mentzer’s most productive training routine had been. I knew that he’d been all over the board in terms of sets and reps throughout his early career, starting out with a whole-body workout performed three days per week, on which he gained no less than 70 pounds over three years, bringing his bodyweight up from 95 pounds at age 12 to 165 pounds at 15. From there Mike moved on to the routines advocated in the various muscle magazines that espoused 20-sets-per-bodypart training, even at one time extending that to 40 sets per bodypart. That brought his bodyweight up again, but only slightly.

When his gains eventually ground to a complete halt on high-set routines, he happened to make the acquaintance of Casey Viator, then the youngest person ever to hold the Mr. America title, and learned of the high intensity training principles advocated by Nautilus creator Arthur Jones. After speaking with Jones directly, Mike decided to switch back to a three-days-per-week whole-body routine, performing approximately five sets per bodypart in high-intensity fashion. He won the ’76 Mr. America contest at a bodyweight of 205 pounds while training on such a program, but he didn’t stay with it, switching eventually to a split routine performed four days per week. Then, prior to his Mr. Olympia appearances in 1979 and ’80’where he tipped the scales at a rock-solid 215 pounds, he spread out his routine even further, training only once every two to four days.

I wasn’t interested so much in his theories (they were not as advanced as they would become from 1993 on, when he reduced the sets to one on a split routine that saw his clients training but once every four to seven days) as I was in learning what he actually did; i.e., how he’d trained to build the incredible muscle mass that he was known for and what he’d personally found to be the most productive muscle-building routine of his entire career. Mike was seated at his desk, and I was directly across from him on a sofa in the living room when I first asked him about it. Mike smiled, knowing that it was the question all aspiring bodybuilders wanted the answer to and, indeed, the very question he himself had posed to his idols, like the great Bill Pearl, when he was starting out in bodybuilding.

“The routine I followed was the essential basic Heavy Duty routine consisting of four to five sets per bodypart and broken into two workouts,” he began. “The first workout would be legs, chest and triceps; the second workout was back, shoulders and biceps. I would start with leg extensions, six to eight reps to failure, and then continue beyond that with forced reps and negative reps, and then go immediately to leg presses, preferably on a Nautilus Compound Leg machine, as that would allow me to go from one exercise to the other without pausing. After that I would do one set of squats to positive failure, usually in the neighborhood of 400 to 500 pounds, and then proceed on to leg curls for two sets.

“Then I’d work calves, typically two sets of standing calf raises on a machine, followed by one set of toe presses on a leg press machine to failure. After legs I’d move on to chest for one to two supersets of dumbbell flyes or pec deck and incline barbell presses. I’d follow that up with one or two sets of dips. I always selected weights for my exercises that allowed me to get at least six good positive repetitions and then continue with forced and negative reps. With any preexhaust set, such as leg extensions to leg presses or pec deck to incline presses, I would take no rest at all between exercises, but I would rest long enough to catch my breath, and I’d only do the negatives once a week on each exercise. Moving on to triceps, I’d limit myself to fewer than four sets for triceps, doing one preexhaust cycle of triceps pressdowns followed immediately by a set of dips. Then I might finish off with two sets of lying triceps extensions. That would be it.”

“What about your second workout of the week?” I inquired. Mike’s forearms rippled as he carefully placed a pen on his desk and answered, “That would be back, shoulders and biceps. I would begin with the largest muscle group, the back, and perform Nautilus pullovers supersetted with close-grip underhand pulldowns. I’d complete two cycles of those two exercises and then move on to two sets of bent-over barbell rows to finish up my lat work.

“From there I would move on to traps and perform two preexhaust cycles of Universal machine shrugs supersetted with upright rows. Then it would be on to shoulders, for which I would do two superset cycles of Nautilus lateral raises followed by Nautilus behind-the-neck presses and two sets of either rear-delt rows, performed by sitting backward in a pec deck machine and squeezing your elbows as far back as they can go, or two sets of bent-over dumbbell laterals. And finally, I’d finish up with biceps, where I’d do one set of standing barbell curls to failure followed by one or two sets of either seated concentration curls or preacher curls.”

Workout 1 (Monday)

Leg extensions 1 x 6-8
Leg presses 1 x 6-8
Squats 1 x 6-8
Leg curls 2 x 6-8
Calf raises 2 x 6-8
Toe presses 1 x 6-8

Dumbbell flyes or pec deck 1-2 x 6-8
Incline presses 1-2 x 6-8
Dips 2 x 6-8

Pushdowns 1 x 6-8
Dips 1 x 6-8
Lying triceps extensions 2 x 6-8

Workout 2 (Wednesday)

Nautilus pullovers 2 x 6-8
Close-grip pulldowns 2 x 6-8
Bent-over barbell rows 2 x 6-8

Universal machine shrugs 2 x 6-8
Upright rows 2 x 6-8

Nautilus laterals 2 x 6-8
Nautilus presses 2 x 6-8
Rear-delt rows 2 x 6-8

Standing barbell curls 1 x 6-8
Concentration curls 2 x 6-8

“Was there anything else you did differently with this routine?” I asked eagerly.

“Yes, I used this type of routine throughout my professional bodybuilding career, but the greatest gains I got from it was when, rather than following it on the usual four-out-of-seven-day schedule, I began spacing it so I trained every other day on a split routine.

“For instance, rather than train Monday and Tuesday on a split routine, working half the body on Monday and the other half on Tuesday, I would do the first half of the body on Monday, skip Tuesday to recuperate and then train on Wednesday, rest on Thursday and repeat the cycle again, starting on Friday. That was the most result-producing routine that I ever used.” I asked Mike why he thought that such a split routine was more productive than the three-days-per-week whole-body program that had carried him through to victory in the Mr. America contest.

“Well,” Mike replied, “it was back in 1979. I remember meeting my brother in the gym for one of our usual workouts. I think it was the second day of a split-routine schedule, and we were both quite fatigued, apparently still not having recovered from the previous day’s workout. All of a sudden it occurred to me that it would be useless to train with anything less than all-out intensity, since that was required to induce maximum growth stimulation. And if, in fact, I had not recovered, and it was obvious to myself and my brother that we had not recovered, as we were both extremely tired, why train at all?

“Recovery always precedes growth, and growth was our ultimate goal. If we had not recovered, then, in fact, there was no way we could have grown from the first workout. In that kind of a case the best thing that can happen would be that you merely wouldn’t make any progress; you’d just spin your wheels. But carried on for too long, that kind of effort actually causes you to lose muscular mass and strength, you’ll always be making inroads into your recovery ability and never allowing yourself to recover, let alone grow, which is secondary.

“You have to recover before you can grow,” Mike continued, “So, we figured, why work out again? We had to recover first. And there were times when we skipped even two days in between workouts, 72 hours. We’d train on a Monday, then skip Tuesday, skip Wednesday and train Thursday. We’d do that because we’d meet on Wednesday morning or discuss it Tuesday night, and it was obvious that we were still tired, that the forced reps and the negatives we’d done on Monday with our leg and the chest work, for instance, were so exhausting that we hadn’t overcome the effects of the workout. How the hell were we going to grow unless we at least let that happen? We knew that recovery was important in terms of overall, or systemic, recovery. We weren’t worried about localized recovery of a particular muscle. We knew that happened relatively quickly after a workout. But it was obvious that due to our general exhaustion we hadn’t even recovered our overall systems’ energies and so forth, let alone grown. And since growth was our primary goal along with getting defined, at that point we realized that it would have been counterproductive, perhaps even harmful, to our progress to have trained before we allowed recovery and growth to take place.”

It struck me that Mike had been the only high-intensity advocate who actually broke with Arthur Jones on the point of employing a split routine. All the bodybuilders who trained under Jones’ watchful tutelage were made to train their whole body at each and every workout, the reasoning being that the body is an interconnected unit and should be treated as such when you exercise it. (And there is much merit in that approach.) Jones used to say that you don’t rest each bodypart on different days, so why would you train them on different days? The body needs time to recover as a whole, not just the specific bodypart that was trained. Mike, however, broke with Jones’ program as a result of personal experience.

“I was training on that kind of routine; that is, the full-body, three-days-a-week routine performed on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, when I was at college,” he related. “And while keeping up that kind of training in addition to a full college schedule, a part-time job with a physician and the demands of an ongoing relationship with a nice young lady, I found that I just didn’t have the energy. That three-days-a-week program left me so exhausted that when I did another full-body program on Monday, I was so shot afterward that all I could do was go home and sleep for a while.”

I asked him if he thought that the problem might have been more effectively remedied by simply taking protracted recovery periods in between workouts.

“No,” he said, “it was the immediate response, the immediate fatigue. It wasn’t the long-term recovery that was required. It was just too much all at once. With all the other demands I had in my life at that time, I was really forced to do something about it. I knew that high-intensity training was the best, there was no question about that, but I couldn’t put up with that kind of exhaustive effect immediately after the workout; I had to either go to a job or back to school, and all I could do was to collapse in a heap and sleep. Really, the buildup of lactic acid was so quick, so dramatic and so severe that until my body metabolized it, usually about two hours later, I was almost incapacitated.

“I found that when I split the routine, doing half the body one day, the fatigue was even less than half, it was much less than half. You would think it would only be half, but apparently, after a certain point, in terms of volume of training, the exhaustive effects grow geometrically as opposed to arithmetically. I found that I could get the same benefits from the high-intensity training while avoiding the overwhelming exhaustive effects of the three-days-a-week routine.”

I asked him if perhaps exhaustion, such as that experienced on the whole-body routine, was, then, truly a requisite for growth stimulation, bearing in mind Jones’ adage that unless you were made nauseous from a set of barbell curls, you didn’t know what hard training was. Mike thought for a moment and raised his ham of an arm to scratch an itch on his opposite shoulder.

“No, perhaps not,” he said. “And perhaps if one’s schedule permitted one to experience that kind of two-hour, incapacitating, exhaustive effect, one might want to do it. I suggest that anybody who is not familiar with high intensity but wants to try it might start out with that three-days-a-week routine. If they find it’s too exhausting, try the four-day.” Finally, I asked Mike to summarize his experience for the benefit of all those bodybuilders looking to build mass.

“The formula is: brief training, intense training, infrequent training,” he said. “Young bodybuilders reading this should be cautioned against doing too many sets on too many days for all bodyparts. Their enthusiasm is often a hindrance; they’re so willing and able to train marathon-style to acquire a muscular physique that they often overtrain. I train in Gold’s, when I do train, and I see this as probably the most pervasive mistake among bodybuilders, including advanced bodybuilders. I would just suggest that no matter what methods you use, you don’t do more than four to six sets per bodypart, use strict form, train to failure, use forced reps occasionally and don’t overtrain. That is, don’t train so frequently so that you exceed your body’s ability to overcome the exhaustive effects of exercise and don’t have enough recovery ability left over for growth.”

As always, Mike’s words made perfect sense. And, as I stared in disbelief at the massive shoulders and arms he was sporting that day, I had empirical proof of the efficiency of his “most productive routine.”

Actualize Your Muscular Potential in One Year: Part 3

Last month, in part-two of this three-part series, I denounced the exercise science establishment for failing to properly define, or identify, the nature of the training stress responsible for inducing growth stimulation. Lacking knowledge of the nature of the exercise stimulus, one cannot know anything else of value about exercise. (Remember, too, that exact definitions are an absolute, objective prerequisite for using logic.) Later in that article, I explained that many exercise scientists today deny the existence of the one fundamental that makes all science possible—namely, the universality of principles.

Recall the quote from Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky, professor of exercise science at Penn State, denying universal principles: “Each of you is unique in every way”; who then unconscionably contradicts himself later by advocating all bodybuilders perform 15-20 sets per bodypart, virtually every day, with up to 60 sets a workout. And how might he have arrived at such numbers? He claims in his book “Science and Practice of Strength,” that such were arrived at “from studies which show greater hypertrophy from high volume training,” and – here’s the clincher – “from observations of professional bodybuilders.”

A number of years ago, a book was published which maintained that many famous scientific studies at the highest levels of academia – even Galileo and John Hopkins University were accused – are bogus; all in the name of “publish or perish.” Do you think exercise science would be the one academic arena exempt from the publishing of fraudulent studies? I seriously doubt it.

Not only did I contend that studies “proving the superiority of high volume training” were never done – but, later, that the contention of Zatziorsky’s regarding volume training coming “from observations of professional bodybuilders” meant that he mindlessly lifted, or stole, the notion from Weider and some of his top IFBB professionals. Of course, neither Mr. Weider nor the exercise science establishment informs us that any results obtained from 60 sets per workout training is possible only with the attendant use of nightmarish quantities of steroids, growth hormone and a panoply of other drugs, many of which I have neither the time nor interest to learn how to spell or pronounce. Make no mistake, dear reader, these drugs are extremely potent recovery ability enhancers that allow a few to get away with what otherwise would constitute chronic, gross overtraining.

In part-one of this series, I made the point that Weider (and the exercise scientists) regard their operative principle ‘more is better’ as self-evident; which is not true. Nothing is self-evident except the material provided by sensory experience, e.g., the “redness” of tomato, as it is immediately evident to man’s sensory-perceptual apparatus, requiring no proof. It is this type of epistemological ( intellectual ) savagery – failing to precisely define your concepts and mistaking the self-evident for abstract knowledge – that has left exercise science stalled indeterminately at an intellectual dead end, until recently.

I concluded part-two, contending that the two dominant training ideologies are both fallacious: Weider’s and the scientists’, with their “more is better” premise; and Jones’ -despite his cognizance of the fact of a limited recovery ability – with his notion “less is better.” With a truly scientific approach the guiding, operative principle should be “precise is best.”

Medical and Exercise Science

One of the major philosophic themes of my articles over the past few years has been, in effect, because there is only one reality – which is an objective absolute guided by one set of never-changing principles – there can be only valid theory of anything. The following is a discussion of one aspect of this issue from my most recent book, Heavy Duty II: Mind and Body.

“Recently, I was discussing the ‘one valid theory of bodybuilding exercise’ controversy with one of my favorite clients. My client is the esteemed Gregory Kay, MD, a highly trained Western, theoretical medical scientist. An experienced cardiac surgeon, who performs close to 300 open-heart surgeries a year, the good doctor has close to a 100 percent success rate in the surgical suite. Dr. Kay made the point, in effect, that his success, not to mention the overall success rate of modern medical science is proof positive that ‘there is – and can be – only one valid theory of medicine.’ And I happily rejoined, “. . .indirectly it proves the same for exercise theory.

“To stress the point one more step: If you were to find yourself in the jungle tomorrow, and you happened upon a voodoo witch doctor, he would have close to a zero percent success rate with his patients. Then, suppose you were to introduce him to this miracle: Western, theoretical, medical science, i.e., logical diagnostic procedure, antibiotics, analgesics, sterile technique and surgery, etc. All of a sudden the witch doctor’s success rate skyrockets off the charts. He can’t figure it out; he thinks you’re in league with God and the Devil.

“To say that there cannot be one valid theory, or, that all theories have merit, is tantamount to stating that the intellectual method of the voodoo witch doctor is as likely to correct a brain aneurysm as would that of a highly-skilled neuro-surgeon. (The phenomenon just described is close to the intellectual state of bodybuilding today.)

“Obviously, there is a life-and-death difference between the application of false ideas and the application of true ideas. Knowledge (truly valid ideas), remember, is man’s means of achieving all of his goals, including that final goal, or end, which makes all the others possible – the maintenance of his life.”

If you were to undergo surgery, you would obviously very much want the anesthesiologist to apply the precise amount of chemical compound required to induce a state of anesthesia. If, instead, as you were being wheeled into the surgical suite, you overheard the anesthesiologist say, “Pump him up,” something like is said in bodybuilding, “pump the patient up! Give him more, more anesthesia is better than less,” you wouldn’t feel very confident about the situation. In fact, even a semi-rational individual would jump up and run out the door. Or, if you heard the doctor say something slightly different, “Let’s give this patient less anesthesia than we gave that one yesterday; we killed the poor man” you wouldn’t feel much better. In this particular case, where life-and-death clearly is the issue, it’s quite easy to grasp why scientific precision is so very important. However, that same principle from medical theory carries over and has direct practical application to bodybuilding/exercise science theory. (Keep in mind that exercise science derives from medical science; and that the ideal in both situations is to correct, or improve, human physiology with as high a degree of precision as is required.)

In bodybuilding, the idea is to impose a training stress onto the body that will serve to induce the biochemical changes which result in muscular hypertrophy. Applying any more of the training stress (high-intensity) than is required by nature will result in the equivalent of over-dosing on a medicine; or, as we say typically in bodybuilding – overtraining.

A person exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays at the equator in summer would not have the slightest concern whether the intensity of the sunlight stress is high enough to disturb the physiology sufficiently to induce an adaptive response, i.e., the buildup of a suntan. His only concern, his overriding consideration, would be to properly regulate the volume (or duration) and frequency of exposure time so as not to overdose on the stress/stimulus; and, thereby, incur a sunburn or, in extreme cases, death. A person seeking to develop a suntan at the equator, or wherever the intensity of the sunlight is high has no concern that he will develop a suntan; but only if he doesn’t overexpose. (Note that bodybuilding science is largely based on the medical discipline of stress physiology. Also, that the end result of the healing of a sunburn is not a suntan, just as the end result of the healing of overtraining is not greater strength or added muscle.)

Bodybuilders utilizing the blind, nontheoretical volume approach to training do fret continuously over the prospect of ever developing their muscles because they know next to nothing about the nature of the specific stress/stimulus required to induce a buildup of muscle tissue beyond normal levels. Their obsession is with the volume, or amount, of training. Unlike the suntanner, however, who is rationally concerned with the proper regulation of the imposition of the sunlight stress, the bodybuilder has an irrational obsession with (over)imposing the training stress; and, unwittingly, allows his workouts to degenerate into an endurance contest.

An Air Bubble in the Sea of Causality?

Since I had my earlier clients performing considerably less than what Jones advocated—7 to 9 sets three days a week versus 12-20 sets three days a week—I initially found it near impossible to believe that their less-than-satisfactory, long-range progress was due to overtraining. I, also, realized that it couldn’t be the effect of undertraining. So, what was the cause?

At about the time I was considering this question, I signed up a wildly enthusiastic training client, one who had studied Heavy Duty, high-intensity training theory rather seriously; and thought he had found the “answer,” after years of practically no progress with volume training. Interestingly, after two months on the seven to nine sets of three days a week training, it became starkly evident that the program was not working. His strength had only increased negligibly at best; and he had even started decompensating—losing strength—slightly by the end of eight weeks. And, of course, there was no visible increase in muscle mass.

Since I had informed this young man of some of the results my other clients were obtaining with the same routine, and we were both conversant with the theory, it was decided to reduce his program to only five sets once every 72 hours, or third day. And after a few weeks, it was once again apparent that something was wrong, as he made absolutely no progress.

This threw me into a bit of a quandary. This was the first time that I had ever trained someone who was so thoroughly nonresponsive to high-intensity; at least as I was practically applying it; and, to the best of my knowledge, I was the only trainer in the world who had any of his clients performing so little exercise. Could it be that I was wrong about the universal validity of these training principles? Or, was this a species of metaphysical churlishness, an air bubble in the sea of causality? I knew better, of course, because the laws of nature are universal and immutable. Just because I had a firm grasp of the theory, however, didn’t mean I possessed certain ancillary knowledge that might be crucial. There had to be something about this individual’s physiology which could be cited for his lack of progress with the given routine. There had to be something that would explain why on so brief and infrequent a program, this individual was still overtraining.

This led me to review some of what I knew about the role of genetics. I reasoned that, since genetically mediated traits such as height, sunlight stress tolerance and intelligence were expressed across a broad continuum, such would most likely be true of individual exercise stress tolerance. With regard to height, there are midgets at the left end of the continuum and giants at the other. In the area of individual sunlight stress tolerance, there are light-skinned people, such as Scandinavians at one end, who tolerate very little in the way of sunlight stress, and dark-skinned people who obviously tolerate more. And with intelligence, you have literal medical morons at one extreme and super geniuses at the other. I was very excited upon recognizing that a similar situation had to be true for individual exercise stress tolerance, with those at one extreme who tolerated a lot less exercise than those at the other.

As my client liked to tease and cut up a lot, I met him at the gym – armed with my new understanding – and referred to him as a midget, or moron, of recovery ability. Although even hard for me to accept at first, my conclusion about genetics led me to reduce this fellow’s workouts again – this time to only three sets once every four to seven days. And it worked; he finally began growing stronger and larger on a regular basis, although his progress was never dramatic. He properly concluded that he didn’t have the genetic predisposition to gain in strength and size at the greater rate exhibited by some of my other clients.

Where I had been very apprehensive earlier at the prospect of reducing training volume and frequency to so low a level with other clients, my success with our “recovery moron” emboldened me. It was at this time, about five years ago, that I finally reduced all my clients’ training to three to five sets once every four to seven days, or less, depending upon their innate recovery ability, or individual exercise stress tolerance. (Interestingly, while thousands of people around are the world are individually establishing their own exercise prescriptions based on their own exercise stress tolerance, the orthodoxy and the exercise science community are still advocating everyone train everyday with up to 60 sets!)

What’s Possible

With a properly conducted high-intensity training program, the individual will grow stronger every workout, without any serious breach in progress, until he has actualized his strength/muscular potential. I had a client several years ago who improved the functional ability of his quadriceps such that he was able to perform 10 reps with the whole stack, or 250 pounds, on the Nautilus Leg Extension after only being able to do seven reps with 170 pounds two months prior, a tremendous increase. (This type of response is not experienced by every one of my trainees; but it is far from atypical.)

The strongest client I ever had was able to perform 33 reps on the Nautilus Leg-Extension with the whole stack. And that was an incredibly well-developed, strong “genetic freak,” the famed David Paul of the Barbarian Brothers. When David first started having me supervise his workouts, he performed 15 reps on the Leg-Extension and then went immediately, in superset fashion, to the Nautilus Leg Press where he performed 18 reps to complete failure with the full stack, 510 pounds. One week later David performed 25 reps on the Leg-Extension and immediately ran to the Leg Press where he did 38 reps. Impressive? You better believe it. But, keep reading.

One week after that, he did 33 reps on the Leg-Extension followed by a hard-to-believe 71 reps on the Leg Press! In both exercises, he again, employed the entire weight stacks. No, the above is not a misprint. David improved his Leg-Extension from 15 to 33 reps and his Leg Press from 18 to 71 reps as a result of only two leg workouts that lasted less than 15 minutes each. That represents an improvement of 388 percent in the functional ability of the quadriceps of an already highly advanced bodybuilder. In the one month I trained David, he gained seven pounds of muscle. These are phenomenal increases, especially when considered against the fact that for the previous five years, David’s volume training, involving training sessions that lasted for at least two hours (sometimes twice a day ) six days a week, yielded zero strength and size increases.

Since David was capable of such a rate of improvement, imagine what a rank beginner (with similar genetics) might achieve on such a program. I’ve already provided you an indication, with the description of the first individual. If a beginner can improve as I described above, going from 170 for seven reps to 250 for 10 reps on the Leg-Extension in two months, he has only 23 reps to go with the same weight before achieving the functional capacity of a super genetic freak. How long would that take him? He’d probably never achieve it, as he, by all appearances, was only average – or slightly above – in genetics. My point is: Given the enormous improvement he made in only two months, it wouldn’t even take year before he actualized his strength/muscle potential. (We’ll never know exactly; because of enormous career pressures he had to cease training after two months.)

Bear in mind that a prerequisite for growing larger muscles is that one grow stronger. Since the individual I described would cease growing in strength in less than one year, his muscle growth would cease soon thereafter.


I am not suggesting that everyone who buys my books and/or tries a Heavy Duty, high-intensity training program will actualize his potential in so short a time. This is because, as I’ve learned through conversations with those who have read my books, that they don’t always fully understand the theory’s proper, practical application.

My main point is that with a sound, valid theoretical approach to training, progress should be immediate, continuous and worthwhile all the way to the full actualization of one’s potential. Also, that the actualization of one’s potential, too, is a genetically determined trait; therefore, there will be those who reach their upper limits in a matter of a few months, some a year and others slightly longer.

Actualize Your Muscular Potential in One Year: Part 2

In Part One, of this three-part series, I made the point that for most of this century the predominant majority of bodybuilders and strength athletes sincerely believed that it should take 5-10 years to actualize one’s strength/muscular potential. This was because both the bodybuilding orthodoxy and the exercise science establishment were – are – unaware of the logical requirements of developing a truly scientific, theoretical approach to exercise; and that such was the direct result of living in a period of philosophical default. Today, many academicians are devoid of even a nominal grasp of the rudiments of rationality; which is why confusion is the intellectual hallmark of our time; and explains why bodybuilders are impotent against the ceaseless tide of false ideas, fraudulent claims and outright lies promulgated by many in the bodybuilding/fitness media. As a result, many are wasting hundreds of hours a year, year in and year out, in the attempt to develop a physique that they could have developed in one year!

The subject of logic is vast; a complete examination of which is certainly outside the scope of this work. I will address, however, one of the most crucially important aspects of logic – (completely overlooked by all of the bodybuilding orthodoxy and, to a large degree, by exercise science) – which relates to the role played by unequivocal definitions. Because man gains and holds his knowledge in conceptual form, it is the validity of his concepts, i.e., the precision of their definitions, which determines the validity of his knowledge.

To quote Ayn Rand, from Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, on this issue, “Since concepts in the field of cognition, perform a function similar to that of numbers in the field of mathematics, the function of a proposition is similar to that of an equation: it applies conceptual abstractions to a specific problem.

“A proposition, however, can perform this function only if the concepts of which it is composed have precisely defined meanings. If, in the field of mathematics, numbers had no fixed, firm values, if they were approximations determined by the mood of their users – so that “5,” for instance, could mean five in some calculations, but six-and-one-half or four-and-three-quarters in others, according to the user’s ‘convenience’ – there could be no such thing as mathematics.”

A theory, properly defined, is a set of principles, or propositions (statements of fact), which claims to be either a correct description of some aspect of reality and/or a guide for successful human action. A theory can fulfill its proper intellectual function only if the major concepts that make it up have precisely defined meanings. This is true of any theory, whether it be the theory of relativity, the theory of evolution or the theory of high-intensity training. The process of establishing precise definitions is rigorously demanding; which is why the mystics and skeptics (most people, today) turn away from the realm of the intellect. Concepts are the tools of thought; the better your tools, the better, i.e., more precise, the closer to the actual facts of reality, will your thinking be. (From Chapter Three, Another Kind of Definition, of my book “Heavy Duty II: Mind and Body.”)

Balancing the Theoretical Account

Since starting my personal training business in the late 1980’s, I’ve had considerable success with my clients. Their progress, early on, was primarily satisfactory (better than most); at times dramatic; and, in a few cases, phenomenal. In the very rare cases where progress was poor, such was the result of either very poor genetics and/or mistakes on my part, mistakes which I won’t make again.

During the first couple of years, all of my clients trained three times a week – Monday, Wednesday and Friday—averaging seven to nine sets a workout, on a split routine. (I had learned much earlier that Jones’ prescription of 12-20 sets per workout for the full body, conducted three times a week was too much for almost everyone.) While most trainers and trainees settled—and still do—for progress unpredictably in tiny dribbles every now and then, I, on the other hand, expected my clients to make progress, i.e., grow stronger, every workout.

The reader may be wondering how I had ever come to think that bodybuilding progress should be experienced every workout. Allow me to explain. I was in the midst of a period of very intensive study of philosophy, logic and the nature of the theoretical knowledge. I had arrived at a juncture in my studies where I clearly recognized that, if in possession of a truly valid theory, and the proper, practical application of the theoretical principles is made, then progress – no matter what the field of endeavor—should be immediate, continuous and worthwhile, until the goal has been reached.

My belief gained currency when I looked at other contexts of knowledge. In medicine, for instance, once the “germ theory” of disease had been discovered by Louis Pasteur in the 1880’s, researchers couldn’t work fast enough; and it was less than a century before they had discovered cures for practically every infectious disease that had plagued man from the beginning. In aviation, the Wright Brothers’ first successful flight of 1903 led to the Russian’s Sputnik orbiting the earth in 1957 and the United States putting a man on the moon in 1969. In physics, it was Einstein’s theory of relativity, developed in 1905, that rapidly resulted in the theory of fission and the discovery of the cyclotron in the 1930’s.

Given the knowledge and depth of understanding described above, I developed an intransigent conviction that the bodybuilding orthodoxy, the exercise science establishment and even the leading high-intensity theorists were off the mark. Yet, I couldn’t ignore the evidence regarding my own clients’ progress. While their progress was practically always immediate from the outset of their training, it wasn’t always continuous and worthwhile. Why not, if, in fact, I was in possession of a valid theory and was making the proper, practical application?

I was left to conclude that there had to be a flaw(s) in the theory of high-intensity as proffered by Arthur Jones; and uncritically accepted by just about everyone within his sphere of influence. Encapsulated, Jones’ theory held that, to be productive, exercise must be intense, brief and infrequent.

Recall from above that, in the field of cognition, concepts play a role similar to that of numbers in equations; but that they may do so only if the concepts are precisely defined.

If any of the major concepts of the theory of high-intensity training were improperly defined, practice would be skewed to that extent; and progress would be compromised. In checking Jones’ theory, the first thing I did was go to the cardinal fundamental, the principle of intensity; and found it properly defined. He defined intensity as “the percentage of possible momentary muscular effort being exerted.” (The theory of high-intensity training further maintains that to stimulate optimal increases in strength and size one must train to failure, i.e., where he’s exerting himself with 100 percent intensity of effort. If one doesn’t train to failure, where does he cease the set? Stopping anywhere short of failure is inexact and arbitrary.) Jones was correct, as he had defined intensity in terms of its essential characteristics. Using Jones’ definition, in other words, one could conceivably identify the intensity of any activity from low-intensity aerobics to training to failure with weights, where 100 percent intensity of effort is required. This stood in sharp contrast to the bodybuilding orthodoxy, who was using the term ‘intensity’ with greater frequency, but never defined it, often using it interchangeably with volume. Then there was the exercise science establishment, who had denied the validity of Jones’ definition-by-essentials; and defined it loosely, by non-essentials. Two of today’s more celebrated exercise scientists, William Kraemer, Ph.D., and Steven Fleck, Ph.D., defined intensity in their book Periodization Breakthrough, as “a measure of how difficult training is” and even more loosely, less philosophically acceptable – “a percent of the maximal weight that can be lifted for a specific number of reps.” (To what is one referring when pointing to the “difficulty” of training? And, once difficulty is defined, is it the difficulty of a set, a workout or what? And by identifying the percent of a maximal weight that can be handled for a specific number of reps, how was the weight and the number of reps to be performed arrived at? One may be instructed to perform six reps with 80 percent of his one rep maximum when, in fact, he’s capable of performing 10 reps to failure; therefore, his intensity of effort would be low; and little in the way of growth stimulation would be induced. As Jones has indicated, the number of reps performed by individuals with 80 percent of their one rep maximum will vary greatly, depending on the individual’s fiber type and neuro-muscular efficiency. In his own research, Jones found one individual who could perform only three reps to failure with 80 percent of his one rep max on the Curl, and another who could perform 27 reps with 80 percent of his one rep max on the same exercise!)

After having precisely defined intensity, Arthur Jones made a grievous mistake, one that seriously compromised the efficacy of a superior approach to training, such that I and thousands of others who thought we had happened upon the Rosetta Stone of bodybuilding quickly grew frustrated. It was here that Jones left the realm of science and cognitive precision, and slipped into the arbitrary. Whereas the dominant training ideology of the time, as espoused by Weider and Schwarzenegger et al, advocated that everyone train each muscle with 12-20 sets two to three times a week, for a total of six days a week, Jones properly countered, stating that such a regimen amounted to gross overtraining. His prescription for the problem, however, wasn’t much better: He suggested that everyone train the entire body three times a week, with a total of 12-20 sets per workout. This, too, given the higher intensity levels than advocated by the Weider approach, soon resulted in gross overtraining.

Jones’ theory, recall from above, stated that to be productive, exercise must be intense, brief and infrequent. However, what does brief and infrequent mean exactly? Jones equivocated, and left his legion of devoted followers—many of whom seemed to regard him as omniscient and infallible—bereft of rational training guidance.

In a very real sense, Jones was merely reacting to Weider in knee-jerk fashion. This was due to a critical blind spot on his part. Jones wasn’t intellectually ensconced in theoretical fundamentals as much as he was literally obsessed with discovering methods for making extremely accurate measurements of certain derivative aspects of exercise science; with things like torque, muscular friction, range of motion and stored energy, to name a few. As noble an endeavor as this may be, the appropriate integration and application of such knowledge is possible only within the context of having first fully grasped the fundamentals.

Science is an exacting discipline whose purpose is to discover the specific, precise facts of reality. Weider’s notion that one should perform 12-20 sets for each muscle is not exact, far from it. What is it exactly: 12 sets or 14 or 17 or 20 sets? And if 12 sets is sufficient, why do 20 sets? Since Weider never provided any explanatory context to support his notion, it amounts to nothing more than a groundless assertion. Jones’ response wasn’t based on a scrupulous process of thought either. To advise people to train with 12-20 sets for the whole body, instead of each muscle, is just as arbitrary as Weider’s prescription.

Scientific Precision

“A number of the bodybuilding orthodoxy’s self-styled “experts” have even alleged that there are no universal, objective principles of productive exercise. They claim that since each bodybuilder is unique, every individual bodybuilder requires a different training program. And then they contradict themselves by advocating that all bodybuilders train in the same fashion, i.e., two hours a day, six days a week.” (From Chapter One, Bodybuilders Are Confused, of my book “Heavy Duty I.”)

That allegation was leveled primarily against Joe Weider and his bodybuilding orthodoxy, at the time I wrote my book in 1993. I have since come to learn that the exercise science establishment holds the exact same belief; and that they lifted it from Weider. You don’t believe me? You don’t believe that exercise scientists, the supposed guardians of rationality and logic in this field, could be so wanting that they would steal false, contradictory ideas from that catch-all of irrationalists?

As evidence, I quote from the book “Science and Practice of Strength Training,” authored by Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky, professor of exercise science at Penn State: “Each of you is a unique individual in every way; and your resistance training program must meet your unique needs – for there is no one all-encompassing ‘secret’ program.” Dr. Zatsiorski – remember, he is an exercise scientist – inexcusably contradicts himself later in the same book when he recommends that bodybuilders perform 15-20 sets per bodypart virtually every day, with up to 60 sets per workout. And later, Professor Zatsiorsky spills the beans, confessing that he gained such knowledge from “observations of professional bodybuilders,” and from “studies which show greater hypertrophy from such high-volume training.” (Some readers may recall past writings of Jones and myself indicating that, all too often, alleged ‘studies’ in the field of exercise science were never conducted at all.)

If, according to Weider and exercise science, there are no universal, objective principles how could bodybuilding exist as a science since the purpose of science is to discover universal principles? And since this Zatsiorsky eschews the universality of principles, claiming we are all “unique in every way,” why, then, go ahead and advocate a universal training prescription?

So far, I’ve indicted Weider (and the orthodoxy), exercise science and, to a lesser extent, Arthur Jones; everyone there is to indict, in fact, as all training approaches – except mine – are based on the same basic principles, differing only in degree. The primary problem with the Weider and the exercise science approach is that it’s based on the premise “more is better.” The idea that “more is better” means precisely that – more is better means more is better. You see, there’s a (false) built-in guarantee, you can’t fail. If 20 sets is good, i.e., yields satisfactory results, then 40 sets would be even better, and 80 sets better still. The advocates of the “more is better” approach won’t go that far because they “sense” that there’s a factor involved that precludes the possibility of performing such a high number of sets. Factor X was first identified by Arthur Jones – namely, the fact of a limited recovery ability. Jones’ awareness that the human reserve of biochemical resources needed to recover from a workout is not infinite; and is what led him to state: “It is only rational to use that which exists in limited supply as economically as possible.” However, Jones didn’t carry that fact to its logical conclusion, and merely advocated “less is better,” i.e., less than Weider. The principle that I am advocating, the one that makes it possible for the bodybuilder to actualize his potential in a very short time, is that neither “more is better” nor “less is better,” but “precise is best.”

Actualize Your Muscular Potential in One Year: Part 1

Prior to the advent of most—no, all!—of this century’s greatest scientific discoveries, e.g., the airplane, the radio, the television, interplanetary travel and personal computers, how many of the great American unwashed would have granted any plausibility to such. Damned few, aside from the literal tiny minority of scientists researching those areas. It wasn’t that many decades ago that the philistine public had the attitude: “Go to the moon? Impossible!” And what about the television; which, to my mind, is the greatest invention in history? Before its invention, the overwhelming, predominant majority never even conceived that the television might some day exist. It’s not that they questioned the possibility, or plausibility, it might happen, as was the case with the airplane; after all, men had been attempting to simulate the flight of birds since time immemorial. The idea of an actual television never, ever occurred to them because there was no imitation of it in nature, nothing that existed provided the slightest clue that someday there might exist such a superlative, unrivalled device. Think of what is actually involved in television: the artificial generation of radio and TV waves, inserting perfect color images and sound into the waves; then broadcasting them to every millimeter of space in a prescribed area – and so on.

(An interesting side note: In the Spring 1999 issue of Exercise Protocol, Arthur Jones stated in his article Strength Testing VII — “Eventually, the Wright Brothers did build an airplane that would fly, but only after many years of trial and error tinkering, with no slightest help from the scientific community. In fact, most scientists continued to believe that flying was impossible for several years after the Wrights were flying on a daily basis in front of thousands of witnesses.

“Then, when a few scientists finally did become aware that flight was possible, the first thing they tried to do was steal credit for the discoveries of the Wright Brothers; both Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, and the then director of the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, entered into a criminal conspiracy to steal credit from the Wright Brothers. . .”

This conforms to the pattern, the mode of response, to Mr. Jones’ discovery of the Nautilus machines, exhibited by members of the bodybuilding orthodoxy and, to some degree, by the so-called exercise “science” community. I refer to the pattern using a mnemonic device – namely, IRACS; first they ignore the discovery, then ridicule it, attack it, copy it and, finally, they steal it. With no presumption of stature intended, this is happening to me, with my further development and promotion of the theory of high-intensity training. The most remarkable involves a widely-recognized, first rank physique champion of 30 years ago; one who, not long ago, claimed to have discovered (and is now selling) an “exciting, startling new approach to training centered around intensity and workouts lasting ONLY nine minutes!” Most interesting is that this same individual had written a few articles over the years attacking my theory of training; then, recently, purchased a sizable number of my books wholesale to sell through his own distribution company. He apparently had read my books, as soon after his receipt of them, prior to his “exciting new discovery,” I received a very laudatory letter from him indicating how great my ideas are, concluding with a sincere “thanks” for my having educated him on how to best proceed with training.)

For most of this century, everyone – not merely a majority – uncritically accepted the notion that it would take five to 10 years to actualize one’s muscular/strength potential. Why has that belief prevailed for so long? Why does it still predominate? Largely because of the inability or unwillingness of most bodybuilders to engage in the mental effort required to understand the requisite theoretical knowledge. (I say “inability” because, while that knowledge does exist, it is so lost amidst the reams of concrete-bound, unscientific hypotheses posing as scientific fact, that many never find their way to it.) The only source of knowledge for the small number of alleged misfits involved in the “esoteric” activity of weightlifting/bodybuilding early on was physical culture magazines; which published exercise information that revolved around the use of the Swiss ball, the Indian club, calisthenics, some weights and the specious, sophistic “notions” of their eccentric publishers.

It was at the conclusion of World War II that weight training gained a wider recognition. Doctors at that time realized the need for rehabilitation procedures to restore strength to various injured bodily areas was acute. The need for truly effective rehabilitation of war veterans prompted a scientific evaluation of weight training protocols; and it was the pioneering – albeit, rudimentary – investigations by De Lorme and Watkins that were primarily responsible for the increased acceptance of weight training by the scientific community; which, then, trickled down to the muscle magazines.

The continued research conducted in this area are not in close agreement, although a general overview emerged. The original work of De Lorme and Watkins recommended the following program:

1 set of 10 repetitions, with one half of 10 RM
1 set of 10 repetitions, with three-quarters of 10 RM
1 set of 10 repetitions, with 100 percent of 10 RM

In essence, De Lorme and Watkins were recommending three sets for each exercise, usually 10, all to be performed three days a week. As I’ve explained before, the number “3” has a certain traditional magic in our culture: there’s the three bears, the three stooges, the Holy Trinity, three square meals a day and the mystic belief that catastrophes occur in lots of three. (I found it interesting recently, while reading Aristotle, that he noted the ancient Greeks’ propensity for the number “3,” also.) And why would De Lorme advocate the performance of three sets; where the first set is done using one half of 10 RM; the second set with three-quarters of 10 RM; and, finally, the last set was with 100 percent of RM – all for 10 reps? The use of one-half, three-quarters and, then, 100 percent of RM, always for 10 reps, represent a misguided, but scientific groping.

De Lorme’s approach was quickly picked up by Bob Hoffman, the publisher of Strength and Health magazine, the premier muscle publication of the 50’s and 60’s, one that purportedly existed to advance “the science of modern exercise.” Hoffman’s publication advocated three sets of 10 reps for each exercise, with a total of 12 exercises (the “Baker’s Dozen,” as he referred to it) to be conducted three days a week. I’m always suspect when so-called scientific discoveries rely on convenient numbers, ones that are traditional favorites, like three, ten and twelve. As I’ve, also, stated before, there is no room in science for the arbitrary or the traditional. A truly productive, scientific approach to exercise involves the application of factual, theoretical principles discovered through a “genuine empiricism,” or logic applied to the material provided by sensory experience.

In the 1960’s, Joe Weider made his way onto the scene, intent on wresting the lion’s share of the bodybuilding/weightlifting market away from his nemesis, Bob Hoffman. In order to do so, he had to present the reading public with something new. He accomplished his goal by using more modern “hip” terminology in his articles and ads; making celebrities out of bodybuilders to use on his garish magazine covers and to sell his supplements; last but not least, he had to establish a new, superior, “scientific” approach to bodybuilding exercise. To this end, he started the “Weider Research Clinic,” a quasi-scientific forum, really, made up of his bodybuilding champions and writers, a few of which were exercise scientists. And Joe, like others in this field, sincerely believed that if an individual was an exercise scientist, with a Ph.D. affixed to his name, this somehow made that individual’s proclamations on the subject of exercise unquestionable and absolute; and that their contributions made his publications “scientific.”

(To the young, sincere and uninformed: No, not all scientists are hallowed seekers or guardians of the objective truth. Remember the Wright brothers and Alexander Graham Bell. And don’t make the mistake of thinking that a Ph.D. is a perfect reflection of a Platonic archetype in this, the real world. In fact, as Ayn Rand identified, because of the collapse of philosophy in the 19th century, science is following a similar, though slower, course in this century. This is as it must be, by the grace of reality, as philosophy is the fundamental, integrating science. Or, as Aristotle, the man responsible for the discovery of logic and, thus, of science, put it: Philosophy is the base of science. The purpose of philosophy, ideally, is to identify the fundamental nature of reality so that the special sciences can then study isolated aspects of the universe.

Unfortunately, there is little today that promises a Second Renaissance, or the return of philosophy to its proper role. This is because our universities are teaching the evil views of Immanuel Kant, who was a subjectivist – he held that reality is not real and that man’s mind is impotent – the man ultimately responsible for the collapse of philosophy mentioned earlier. It is our universities that are the major villains in today’s intellectually-morally bankrupt culture, as there exists an overwhelming preponderance of professors teaching Kant’s ideas, including the notion that absolutes don’t exist; therefore, fundamental principles don’t exist.

If nothing is of fundamental importance what does one think about? Anything or nothing, since no-thing is more important than anything else. It is people’s unwillingness or inability to think in terms of fundamentals, essentials and principles that leads to confusion; and is what prompted someone to designate ours the Age of Complexity. Inundated by a ceaseless profusion of data, facts, notions, information and (dis) information, the philosophically bereft, unable to identify what is of fundamental importance, cannot structure his thinking; and is overwhelmed by an unnecessary “complexity.” Such is why bodybuilders are agonizingly confused, never certain as how to best proceed with their training or nutrition, almost hysteric in their perpetual search for the “answer.”

Let me remind you that Ph.D. literally means Doctor of Philosophy. Considering that today’s philosophy departments are dominated by Kantians; and that philosophy’s role in the intellectual division-of-labor is to establish the epistemological (intellectual) criteria to guide human knowledge in general and the special sciences, it is little wonder that we are witnessing the continuing destruction, or dis-integration, of science, including exercise science. As I’ve explained in the past, many exercise scientists don’t even understand the simple fundamentals of their own field.

If you are thinking that this is too professorial or intellectual, let me remind you: It was 23 centuries ago, in the Golden Age of Greece, that men simultaneously exalted the power of the mind and admired the beauty of the human form. They clearly understood that to achieve one’s full human stature requires more than a healthy, muscular body; it requires “a healthy mind in a healthy body.”

The ultimate purpose of my articles is not merely to provide the readers with another training program(s), and expect him to blindly follow it. That would not be worth much long range. Instead, my purpose is to help you gain a firm intellectual/conceptual grasp and understanding of the basic principles of bodybuilding/exercise science; which is a prerequisite for learning how to think logically about it. Having procured a logical, rational perspective, makes it possible for one to become more or less intellectually independent on the subject; never again having to rely on the vascillating, suspect opinion of others. In the process of learning to think logically about bodybuilding, you’ll discover that you’ve learned something about the nature of thought itself; which can then be extended to other areas of human life. And with continued study and effort, you will progressively expand your intellectual range; and, thereby, mature as a human being should.)

The core principle that guided the Trainer of Champs and his minions was the bootleg logic “more is better.” To them it seemed self-evident: more knowledge, more money, i.e., more values, are better than less; therefore, more exercise is better than less. (In fact, nothing is self-evident except the material provided by the senses, e.g., the “redness” of an apple is self-evident, it doesn’t have to be proven.) The development of a practical, scientific approach to productive bodybuilding exercise requires knowledge that goes beyond the self-evident to the highly abstract, i.e., that which is not directly perceivable, e.g., the concepts “theoretical” “logic” “growth stimulation” “growth production “recovery ability” “fundamentals” ” derivatives” “principle,” and, yes, “ethics.” (Bear in mind, also, that since man’s knowledge is gained and held in conceptual form, the validity of his knowledge depends on the validity of his concepts, i.e., their definitions. Along with the fact that the bodybuilding orthodoxy’s conceptual range is profoundly limited, they never define their major concepts – making the use of logic impossible.)

Dealing with higher, abstract knowledge is exactly what today’s most celebrated “post-Modern” (Kantian) philosophers don’t want you to do. Revelatory of the post-Modern’s approach to the realm of the intellect is this quote from its most celebrated proponent, Michael Foucault, “My work irritates people because my objective isn’t to propose a global principle or analyze anything. . . .The conception of philosophy is no longer that of a tribunal of pure reason which defends or debunks claims to knowledge made by science, morality, art or religion. Rather the voice of the philosopher is that of informed dilettante.” And if you think that junk is relegated merely to ivory tower intellectuals, you are wrong. It has already penetrated bodybuilding (and every other area of human life), as two of my most virulent detractors have made statements reflective of Kant’s and Foucault’s influence. Jeff Everson, for instance, stated a few years ago in M&F, that “. . . in bodybuilding, there are no fundamental principles” – while more recently, Fred Hatfield exclaimed “All training theories are good!” These two statements express essentially the same thing because, if all training theories are good, then neither fundamental principles nor derivative principles exist. If fundamental or derivative principles don’t exist, then knowledge doesn’t exist; and for some, it doesn’t; at least it has little value to them. Fundamental principles of bodybuilding science do exist, dear reader; and by the time you finish this two-part article series, you’ll be able to grasp them and their important inter-relationships.

(The Greeks, as I stated earlier, lived in a Golden Age – precisely because they believed in the existence – the importance – of principles. Today we are no longer living in a Golden Age nor even a Dark Age — but, instead, a Black Hole; and it’s because of the abandonment of philosophy, i.e., fundamental principles. And when fundamental principles are denied, then ethical principles, too, are inexorably rejected since they are derivatives, i.e., based on and derived from philosophical fundamentals. Anyone with a child going to a public school need not be convinced that we are living in a Black Hole. Death and murder was the goal of Kant and it was the goal of Foucault. And it’s no co-incidence that Hitler and Eichmann were Kantians? After all, if reality is not real, then man is not real; so, why not butcher him? It won’t matter. No one will know because, as Kant posited, the mind is impotent. To those still reading this: keep in mind that the first requisite for building a healthier, more muscular body is that you have a live body, something that too many in today’s world, including the students at Columbine High, are losing prematurely.)

It wasn’t long before Joe Weider had taken over the market via skilled “manipulation of the masses,” as he was once quoted. Now, rather than training in a reasonably sane fashion as advocated by De Lorme and Hoffman, Weider had an entire generation of new bodybuilders training for two, or more, hours per session using the Weider Double Split System – involving two such long workouts a day – and later, three times a day – with the Weider Triple Split. Of course, this mad, marathon training conducted six days a week – (an arbitrary, blind, doubling of De Lorme and Hoffman’s three day a week protocol) – worked for none of his natural, non-steroid readers; despite their wasting of hundreds of dollars a month, in many cases, on his ever-enlarging inventory of “miraculous” nutritional supplements.

Many of his readers failed to realize that the heavily-muscled champs purportedly using this volume (over)training approach were taking ever-increasing quantities of steroids and other drugs to enhance their recovery abilities; and, thereby, compensate for what otherwise would have amounted to chronic, gross, mindless overtraining. (Who, in their right minds, would want to train for four to six hours a day, six days a week? And why six days a week? Well, there’s an easy “scientific” answer to that: the seventh day was off for Sabbath, or religious observance!)

It wasn’t until the early 70’s, that there arrived on the scene an unusual individual, one smart enough to boldly and successfully challenge the insanity, and to provide a more rational alternative to what Weider and Schwarzenegger was advocating – namely, Arthur Jones. While Weider operated semiconsciously on the unchecked, unchallenged premise “more is better,” Jones reacted violently (having developed a keen disdain for Weider’s intellectually sloppy, pseudo-scientific approach), and brazenly proclaimed that “less is better.” With that, Jones recommended, not 12-20 sets per bodypart involving six day a week workouts; but, instead, his notion of ‘less is better’ led him to advocate 12-20 sets, not per muscle group, but, for the entire body; and to be conducted three times (again, the magic number “3”) a week.

The more intelligent bodybuilders of the time immediately recognized that Jones was on to something, as we sure as hell weren’t making any progress with the Weider approach; and because Jones was offering what this field sorely needed – a truly theoretical approach to training.

Within a short time after Jones’ proffered his theory through the very pages of Ironman, myself and numerous others realized we weren’t experiencing the progress that the theory suggested was possible. Jones, in fact, stated repeatedly that the actualization of one’s muscular/strength potential should not require the 5-10 years as everyone had thought; instead the actualization of potential should require but two years! As much as this small minority believed in Jones and his revolutionary, theoretical approach, it was soon apparent that there was a flaw in it. As much as we hated to admit it, we weren’t realizing anywhere near the results we had expected; the progress being only slightly better than that delivered by the blind, nontheoretical, volume approach. Better, but not good enough.

It wasn’t until well after the end of my competitive career, in 1980, that I developed an impassioned, unswerving devotion to discovering the flaw in Jones’ theory of high-intensity training. . .

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