Monday, March 8, 2010



“Ours has been called an “Age of Complexity” with intellectual confusion as its primary characteristic. This is the result of people not learning to think in terms of fundamentals and principles. A system of thought based on fundamental principles serves as an intellectual blueprint that enables one to answer specific, concrete questions. Without such a fundamental base, questions continue to arise with no method for answering them, whether the subject is ethics, politics, training – or nutrition.”

- Mike Mentzer

When I first read the above passage, I immediately returned in my mind to a time when Mike and I were just beginning our friendship and he spoke to me, with a passion that I suspect few have ever experienced, about the relationship between Volume and High Intensity Training.

To Mike, the importance of this subject was paramount above all things when it came to training, since it was really the cornerstone of HIT (High Intensity Training). This was the umbrella concept, the main concept, under which all the other concepts existed. Without truly understanding this premise, and applying it, it really didn’t matter how well his students understood the more minor (relatively speaking) principles of HIT; they would be doomed to struggle for progress in the quagmire that is today bodybuilding world.

Mike told me many times, with the same passion, that bodybuilding was a science; in fact he viewed it as a subset of the larger body of medical science, much like the study of anatomy, biochemistry, genetics or pharmacology, to name only a few. Therefore, it almost infuriated him that the current crop of bodybuilding gurus, as did the crop that preceded them, were still regurgitating the same old doctrine, “Everyone is different, so everyone needs to train differently.”

Therefore, Mike very much approached bodybuilding as any scientist would any experiment. That is to say, as in any properly conducted experiment, the elimination of multiple variables is the goal, so as to leave us with one variable, which can then be studied and proved or disproved. Said another way, there is a PRECISE amount of exercise required to bring about the desired change and improvement; less would be ineffectual (to varying degrees) and more would be overtraining, which would be detrimental to progress and will even retard one’s current physical state.

Consequently, let us begin with the repetition, or rather the confusion about repetitions, and their logical, proper application. We have all heard one current bodybuilding flavour of the month or another espouse their preference of how many repetitions they use, but with no real science as to why that number was chosen. Mike was very clear on this point; a set (made up of a number of repetitions) should be terminated at the point of momentary muscular failure; this is the point at which the individual cannot do another repetition in the same form as the previous repetitions, without calling other muscles or outside assistance in to play. This indeed is the trigger or the switch that sends a signal to one’s physiology, spurring on muscular growth and progress. Doing more than this is like continuing to press a light switch once the light is already on; applying more force will not make the light brighter and if continued, will eventually break the mechanism.

Moreover, once we have understood this concept, then the next logical question would be, how many sets? Mike wrote about this many times, and the logic was so simple that it was brilliant. Since most bodybuilders never really explained how they came to choose the number of sets that they were performing, how could they really know what was working and what wasn’t working. For example, if one was performing 5 sets of a given exercise, how could they be sure that 5 was either enough or too many – was 3 correct, perhaps 2 more would be needed? Remember what we said earlier about eliminating multiple variables so that only one remained that could then be evaluated. This is the basis of all scientific experimentation and reasoning, regardless of the discipline.

Therefore, if we were to begin to decide how many sets to do, and determine if this number was effective, we should begin at the beginning, as Mike told me. Obviously, choosing “0” sets would be ludicrous, since doing nothing will produce nothing. If we chose two sets however, we would be making the same error of multiple variables that we just spoke of – so the only logical place to start would be doing one set to momentary muscular failure. Yes dear reader, one set to initiate that trigger or switch that we spoke of earlier, and no more; the PRECISE amount of exercise to product the desired result, which can then be measured for its efficacy.

Always remember what Mike said in his first book HEAVY DUTY, “The fact that the principles of anatomy and physiology are universal, and not subject to arbitrary change, is what makes it possible for medical science to exist as a viable discipline. In other words, if every individual’s cells, organs and muscles were constituted and functioned differently, doctors couldn’t make diagnoses, perform surgeries, or dispense medicines.”

Dear reader, Mike Mentzer led his life with a main purpose: to shed light on the ill conceived bodybuilding doctrine that has existed for decades that literally keeps people frustrated and spinning their wheels. THERE IS A CORRECT WAY to train for maximum results and measure those results precisely, allowing one to cut through the fog of misinformation that is today’s bodybuilding world.

Mike Mentzer was my friend and teacher and I plan to carry on the work he started – Stay Tuned!
AG Spinelli

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