Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Review of Mike Mentzer's High Intensity Training

Review of Mike Mentzer's High Intensity Training
By Matt Marshall

Background: In the early 70's Arnold Schwarzenegger burst onto the bodybuilding scene. And he brought the idea of "volume training" into the lime light. After all... if it made a champion out of Arnold, then surely pumping iron for 3 hours a day was the way to go. Right? Right?
Well... maybe not.

While many guys attempted to tackle the Herculean volume training regimen that Arnold developed... it flat out didn't work for 99.9% of trainers.
The reason? The volume of training that Arnold recommended was far too much for the average joe.

Enter Mike Mentzer.
Mike Mentzer made a name for himself by saying the opposite of what everyone else in bodybuilding was saying.

While all the muscle-heads were telling people to work out six days a week... Mentzer talked about working out once every 14 days.
When the pro's advised people to hit the muscle from all different angles and perform multiple exercises for each body part, Mentzer said that one exercise per body part was enough.

When most bodybuilders were recommending 15-20 sets per body part, Mentzer recommended just one set per exercise.
The Argument: While most bodybuilders believe that you had to include a variety of exercises and a large volume of sets to adequately work the muscle and activate the growth mechanism, Mentzer differed.

Mentzer reasoned that if you perform one set... and you perform that set until your muscles can move the weight no more... wouldn't that be enough to activate the growth mechanism?

The Experiment: I was intrigued by Mentzer's approach and I thought the idea of one-set to failure made sense. So in 1999 I hired Mike Mentzer for a series of phone consultations.

There wasn't much small talk, but I do remember Mike asking me specifically about a brand new website that had just launched at the time. It seems there method of attracting attention was to go after Mike and try to bash not only his theories but everything else about him as well.

Mike started me out with only two workouts per week. He also told me that the actual amount of protein, carbohydrates and fat I was ingesting per day wasn't important. He said that a balanced diet was fine and that I should eat frequently but not obsess over the nutritional aspect.

After a month, I had gained weight but my strength increases were moderate at best. Mike reduced my training workout down to one workout every seven days. Ultimately, he took this all way down to once every nine days but I still never gained much strength or made much progress in the gym.

The Result: The result of this training program was a failure. I gained very little strength and my over-all level of conditioning actually worsened from so much in-activity.

The Good: I personally believe that Mike Mentzer advanced the sport of body-building a great deal by questioning whether or not it's really necessary to do more than one set to failure.

This principle... and the logic behind this principle... still guides much of what I do today in my training programs.

The Bad: Unfortunately, I think Mike's version of High Intensity Training had some serious flaws.

First and foremost, Mike's thinking on nutrition was seriously flawed. Without proper protein intake, you simply cannot gain massive amounts of muscle.

Second, Mike only had one solution for every problem. You know the saying, when all you've got is a hammer... all the world looks like a nail?

Well, Mike took that to heart. For example, if progress stalled the solution he proposed was always to train less or take more time off.

At times, he took this to extremes. For example, I told him that my calves were one of my biggest weak points and asked him what we could do about that. His solution? Stop training calves all together and see if they would grow from the indirect work of squats and other leg training.

Needless to say... this approach didn't work. Although many a times I've wished my muscles would grow simply by not doing anything... it simply doesn't happen.
Another flaw of the program is assuming that every person is capable of generating the kind of intensity necessary to trigger muscle growth in just one set.

For example, it's relatively easy to fry your biceps with one set of bicep curls. But when was the last time you saw someone truly perform one set heavy barbell squats to COMPLETE muscular failure? Or go to complete muscular failure with 1400lbs on the leg press machine? Frankly, it just doesn't happen because it's incredibly exhausting both on the body and on the mind.

Overall: If you've been volume training for years and feel burned out, you might find Mike Mentzer's H.I.T to be a nice change of pace. You'll probably experience some new muscle and strength gains during the first few weeks.
But unless you address the nutritional and intensity flaws of the program, your progress will ultimately stall.

Average White Dude Final Rating For Mike Mentzer's High Intensity Training: 6/10.
Not the worst training program, but far from effective for most average dudes.
Matt Marshall is not a personal trainer or a professional bodybuilder. He's just a former skinny guy who figured out how average guys (with average genetics) can build muscle and develop outstanding physiques. To get your free book, visit

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Was Mike Mentzer a Genius or a Lunatic?

By Jason Ferruggia

If you don’t know who Mike Mentzer was I will give you some quick background. He was a famous bodybuilder who competed back in the seventies and eighties against none other than Arnold, himself. He was known for being a huge proponent of extremely low volume training. Mike was either loved or hated; there was no in between. He had some radical view points and an in-your-face way of expressing them. He even had the balls to call Arnold out about his high volume training protocols and say what a complete waste of time it all was.

Mike Mentzer’s basic ideas and theories were that we are all grossly over-trained in sets and overall volume but under-trained in intensity. He recommended somewhere between one and three sets per bodypart, once every 7-21 days. He also knew what I have since learned; that high protein diets are unnecessary and are just another scam perpetrated by the bodybuilding industry to force you to buy more protein powder and useless crap.

Many people thought Mike Mentzer was a genius and learned a great deal from him while making tremendous progress employing his advice. Others thought he was completely insane and needed to be committed.

I, personally, loved Mike’s attitude and rebellious nature. I also learned quite a bit from him and when I first read Heavy Duty way back in the early 90’s, it completely changed the way I thought about training. It also led to some outstanding results.

The problem was that at the time I was like many of you; constantly in search for the next best training program and always thought there was a better way of doing things. So I lost my way for a few years while experimenting with everything under the sun.
Sadly, you have to get off the right path and get lost for a while in order to realize that you were heading in the right direction all along.

It has been at least 15 years since I read Mike Mentzer’s training theories for the first time and I have experimented with quite a bit of different loading parameters and training methods since then. I can now state, unequivocally, that Mike Mentzer was a lot smarter and a lot closer to the truth than a lot of people I have taken advice from over the years.

Was he a genius?

No. But he was a smart guy and a rational thinker. He never just blindly accepted what everyone else did. He thought for himself and questioned everything.

Looking back I can say that Mike was a little off with his frequency recommendations and that the intensity he advocated was a bit too high and unnecessary. In fact, I think some of the extreme intensity techniques he advocated may have even been counterproductive. I also strongly disagree with many of his exercise choices.

But that doesn’t mean that Mike’s ideas weren’t effective. He is, after all, responsible for helping Dorian Yates win the Mr. Olympia contest.

Mike knew the dangers of overtraining and realized just how unnecessary and counterproductive all that useless junk volume really was. He knew that it didn’t take anywhere near as much training as most people think to produce dramatic gains in size and strength. Mike knew and preached to people that if they couldn’t get the job done in a fraction of the sets they normally used then they weren’t training hard enough. Or maybe they weren’t eating properly or getting enough rest… But whatever it was, their lack of progress was not due to their lack of training volume. In fact, their training volume may have been what was holding them back.

I respect what Mike Mentzer contributed to the strength training world and will always consider him a pioneer in our business.

To learn how I incorporated many of Mike Mentzer’s theories with my own (that are based on 20 years of in the trenches experience and endless discussions with renowned coaches and trainers) to create the best muscle building system available for drug free, genetically average lifters, go to now.

Train hard,

Jason Ferruggia

Another Day In The Gym 4-18-2009

Another Day In The Gym 4-19-09 from Elitefts on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Best Bodyweight Exercises: The Toughest Pushup You’ll Ever Love

Best Bodyweight Exercises: The Toughest Pushup You’ll Ever Love
Filed under: Chest Training, Mass Building — Jeff Anderson @ 12:19 pm

The best bodyweight exercise for your chest is the pushup. Duh, right?

Want to get “advanced”?

Elevate your feet on a bench and you’ll make the exercise harder and shift more of the focus to the “trouble spot” of your upper chest.

Still no surprises, right?

Ok, now do this…

Upper Body Bodyweight Blaster Exercise

Find yourself a sturdy wall (brick works best) and get in pushup position on the ground with your body perpendicular to the wall and your head facing away.

Now, instead of elevating your feet on a bench, elevate your feet to the same height as you normally would if they were on a bench, but place the bottoms of your feet (or even just your toes) AGAINST the wall!

Without a sturdy object (like the bench) to help prop your feet up, you’ll be forced to push your body toward the wall to keep them from falling.

The result is a giant-momma-step in focus to your upper chest, shoulders, traps, and triceps.

Essentially, it transforms into an upper body nuclear bomb of bodyweight exercise!

As soon as you hit failure (which will be surprisingly quick!), drop your feet to the ground and do as many regular pushups as you can.

At failure, drop to your knees (you little girl you! and do as many sissy pushups as you can.

Oooh that hurts so good!

Enjoy the pain (and results)!

Monday, May 10, 2010

100 Rep Sets For Muscle…A KILLER Mass Training Strategy

How to Build Muscle With 100 Rep Sets…

By Nick Nilsson

100 rep training is pretty simple: 1 set of a hundred reps. You do just one set of one exercise per bodypart and do a total-body workout each time you train. Very simple but VERY challenging.

So what could possibly be useful about this technique for muscle-building, I can hear you ask? Isn't the resistance you'd have to use in order to get 100 reps in a set be way too light for building muscle?
And the answer to that is ABSOLUTELY. The main purpose of this training is not to build muscle directly (though it does have some potential to build your slow-twitch, Type 1 endurance-oriented fibers). The purpose of 100 rep training is to improve what I call "microcirculation" in your muscles.
I'll explain…

In your circulatory system, you have blood vessels…arteries to carry blood to the tissues of the body and veins to bring it back to the heart. Where the real action happens is in the capillaries…the tiny blood vessels that are so small only one red blood cell can fit through at a time. THAT is where oxygen and nutrients get delivered to the muscle cells and THAT is absolutely critical for building muscle.
So think of microcirculation as those little blood vessels where food and oxygen feed your muscles.

Now think about this…the more of those little blood vessels your muscles have to feed them, the easier it will be for those muscles to GROW.
Think of the muscles that you have a hard time building…do you find it hard to get a "pump" in those muscles? THAT is poor microcirculation at work.
So the idea with 100 rep training is to increase capillary density and basically improve the food and oxygen supply to your muscles, setting the stage for better muscle growth when you go back to heavy training.

And as sore as you get from 100 rep training, that soreness ain't gonna result in a whole lot of muscle growth….we're just improving the plumbing, which will in turn help you supply your growing muscles with more nutrients to build with!
It does this by literally FORCING blood cells through the cracks, meaning you're going to force so much blood into the target muscles for such a long period that the traffic jam of blood cells will cause the body to CREATE new capillaries in order to deal with the overflow.

Think of yourself in a traffic jam on the road and think of how cool it would be just go off the road and drive through that field beside the road. THAT is what your body is doing…creating a new road where there was no road before, which helps deliver more food and oxygen to the muscles (and remove waste more efficiently, too!).

And the bottom line is, it WORKS.

This is where the rubber meets the road. 100 rep training is just what I said…one set of a hundred reps done straight through. Sounds simple but there are a few technical details I want to give you to help make it workable.
I recommend doing this training as a total body workout each time. Each workout will take about 45 to 60 minutes to get through. Take 90 seconds rest between each set/exercise. You can take a bit more time when using bigger exercises that generate more lactic acid (like leg press, for instance).

Train every other day with this style of training (you can add in an extra rest day if you need it) - it will result in a LOT of soreness the first few times you do it. When I used this program, I trained through the soreness - I find that actually helps decrease it. As long as soreness doesn't compromise training form, you'll be fine to train while sore.

Here are the exercises I used and the order I used them in. I've found certain exercises are better to use with this style of training than others, but feel free to experiment to find what works best for you.

You'll notice that these are more "bodybuilding" type exercises than "functional" type exercises. With this type of training, we want to just focus on cranking the reps out, not on having to balance and constantly adjust so it's actually BETTER to use more traditional movements…that's why I've listed leg press instead of squats here (more on that later, though - I've got a variation for you with squats that works GREAT).

Seated Cable Rows
Leg Press
Dumbell Bench Press
Lying Leg Curls
Seated Dumbell Shoulder Press
EZ Bar Preacher Curls
Seated Calf Raises

(on a side note, I haven't done regular floor crunches in literally YEARS - I usually do low reps and added resistance…this was a BIG change of pace!)
So to repeat…just do ONE set of each exercise and take 90 seconds rest (a minute and a half) between exercises. This will give you enough time to get to the next exercise and get it set up.

The first time you do 100 rep sets, you will basically have NO idea what weight to use. Start lighter than you think you'll need to (trust me). After you do your first set, you'll have a better idea of what it's all about.

I HIGHLY recommend keeping a log of your sets and weights so you know how to adjust for the next workout. I'll give you examples of how I adjust things and how to know when to increase or decrease the weight you're using.

Seated Cable Rows - in my first workout the first set I did was with 80 lbs. I managed to get a full 100 reps all the way through with no stopping. So in the next workout, I increased the weight to 90 lbs. I got 100 reps again in the next workout so I increased the weight again (to 100 lbs).

In THAT workout, I was able to get only to 70 reps before lactic acid got me and I had to take a brief rest. What that happens, set the handle down, shake out your arms for a few seconds then immediately grab the handle again and keep going (maybe 3 to 5 seconds rest). You might get another 10 reps before you have to set the handle down again and give the lactic acid a chance to clear.

Repeat this pattern until you get the full 100 reps, even if you're only getting a few reps at a time towards the end. The key is to just give the lactic acid a chance to clear a little then go right back at it.

This gets you past what I call "chemical failure" and allows you to really push the muscles harder. It keeps the blood in the muscles and really builds that microcirculation without letting lactic acid totally limit you.

And yes, before you ask, this style of training IS good for fat loss. The lactic acid you get from this style of training boosts GH release and can be used very effectively for fat loss.

But here's the only problem…it also results in a LOT of muscle damage (especially the first few times you use it). If you're on a low-calorie diet, your body doesn't have ample nutrients and energy to recover from it so it can longer to recuperate from.

The other issue is that when you're on a diet, your glycogen levels (and potentially water levels) are lower. This means you may not get the same volume of blood pushing through your muscles to help build that microcirculation.

Leg Press - in this exercise, you actually have a moment at the top of the movement where you can lock out the knees and release the tension in the muscles, which allows for some clearance of lactic acid. Take this into account when doing the exercise. The first set I did of this, when I hit 80 reps, I felt like I need a break but instead of setting the weight down, I locked out my knees and shook my quads out a bit and kept going.

Dumbell bench press - now we get into how to know when to adjust the weight you're using. On the first set of this, I got 50 reps. Then I used the short-rest technique to continue the set all the way to 100 reps. If I would have gotten UNDER 50 reps, I would have kept going but decreased the weight in the next workout in order to go straight through as much as possible.

As it was, because I hit the 50, I decided to remain at the same weight for the next workout and see how I improved. In the next workout, I hit 70 reps with the same weight and 80 reps the following the workout, before having to take brief rests. When I would have hit 100 reps straight through THEN I would have increased the weight and taken it from there.

*** So the rule of thumb is, if you get less than 50 reps on the first attempt, reduce the weight next time. If you get more than 50 reps, stick with the same weight next time. If you get 100 reps, increase the weight by the smallest increment possible next time.***

On exercises like leg press and preacher curls, you'll find there are points in the exercise where you can release the tension in the muscles and rely on skeletal support for a moment. This is a good way to keep the exercise going and keep the reps going straight through.

That's 100 rep training!
It's not too complex but these tips should help you make it work in your training. If you've hit a plateau in your muscle building, this could be just what the doctor ordered to get yourself back on track.

This type of training should be done for at least 2 weeks (or 6 to 8 workouts) but not any more than that, if you're looking to build muscle. It'll help build microcirculation but because the weights are so light, you don't want to use it for too long. It'll take you probably at least a week to get past the soreness…once you do, then you'll really be able to see what your body is capable of for endurance.

SQUAT TECHNIQUE - Delaying Fatigue
I mentioned that technique for doing squats with this 100 rep technique. Here's what I did…
20 sets of 5 reps with 5 seconds rest between sets, using 135 lbs on the bar.

I basically took a weight I could get probably 30 to 40 reps straight through and did 5 reps with it. Then re-racked the weight and took a few seconds then got back under and did 5 more reps with it. Naturally, the first 50 or so reps with this technique were fairly easy. The brief rests with an easy weight allowed me to keep going strong for a lot longer than if I tried to go straight through.

With an exercise like the squat, which is so demanding on the whole body and which requires good form and balance, this meant I could KEEP that good form and balance for longer than if I tried to go straight through.

Then the NEXT 50 reps is where it got harder…and those last 20 reps were BRUTAL.
This brief rest (if you've used EDT or my Time-Volume Training, this will be familiar to you) allows you to delay fatigue and keep going.

You can use this style of training on other exercises, too, especially ones that are more demanding, like deadlifts, etc.
I can promise with this technique you'll either love it or hate it (or love it THEN hate it :)