In 1978, Mentzer won the amateur Mr. Universe contest with the first and only perfect score. In late 1979, he won the heavyweight class of the apex Mr. Olympia contest (open only to champion professionals) again with a perfect score. Mentzer retired from competitive bodybuilding after the 1980 Olympia show at the age of 29 when most people agreed he should have beaten Schwarzenegger. He died unfortunately in 2001 due to an undiscovered genetic blood disorder unrelated to his body building activity. He remains a huge influence for more intelligent body-builders who want a scientific, logical and proven way to develop without drugs. For more info the link is:
Mentzer devised and successfully implemented his own theory of bodybuilding. His theories are intended to help a person achieve their full genetic potential within the shortest amount of time without the use of harmful steroids.
The essence of the system is as follows: maintain perfectly strict exercise form, move the weights in a slow and controlled manner (about 6-8 seconds per full rep), work the muscles to complete failure (positive and negative), and avoid over-training – allow time for the body to recover and grow.
What does this mean in practice? Leave aside the question of what exercises to choose and how to do them (form): we can discuss these aspects later (this is a huge subject, by the way, which makes it so interesting – each session becomes a scientific experiment! I would never have suspected that body-building was an intellectual activity!). In simple terms, stick to the basic, simple exercises and learn how to do them precisely and perfectly ….Lots of websites for doing that which I will return to exercises and form in another article. For now, remember whatever exercise you do, choose a weight where you can do the exercise in perfect form without “cheating” (i.e., using body weight, momentum or muscles other than the target group to lift the weight).
Now: the scientific principle of the Mentzer Method or Way is that muscles build size and strength in direct proportion to the amount of absolute weight they move at one time, not the length of time they move that weight over. This is why (for example) people’s legs get to a size relative to the weight of their body, but don’t get very much larger even if they walk or run or cycle extensively – the muscles increase in stamina relative to the duration of use (i.e., the person can shift the given weight for longer periods of time – which is what you train for in cycling or running), but not significantly in strength or size (although obviously an exercised limb will have more muscle than one that is not used at all).
So, the muscle will grow relative to the heaviest weight, the maximum weight that it has had to move once. The most a muscle can grow is thus related to the weight where the muscle simply cannot move it more than once. This is what is meant by training to “failure”. Put another way: if I can just bicep curl once with 25 pounds, then the bicep will allocate exactly the necessary fibres to lift 25 pounds once, no more, no less. If I want more fibres (bigger muscle) then I have to lift a heavier weight. There is no other way of growing muscle.
Let’s take a simple example: a dumb bell curl to impact the biceps. You can curl 10 reps per set with (say) 20 pounds. After a 1 minute rest, you curl the same weight for another 10 reps (another set). You do another set and another. By now your biceps are tired. By repeated training with the same weight you will increase the number of sets you are able to do. You have increased the muscle’s stamina (ability to repeat the movement), but you have not trained to failure and you have not increased in absolute strength (i.e., you won’t be able to lift much more than 25 pounds). And you may have spent 15 minutes or 20 minutes doing the sets. The next time in the gym, you repeat the sets…. And you may do this every day of the week. Your entire time can be spent in the gym – with no gain in size and strength. Indeed, over-training a muscle (i.e., not allowing it time to rest, recover and grow) can lead to injury and muscle loss – the opposite of what you are investing time and energy to achieve. This is the most common experience of people who go to the gym; disappointment sets in, they get injured and they stop training.
This time-based, high set number approach WILL NOT grow your bicep or add to your strength. I know, I tried it for years and wondered why the hours I spent in the gym and the hundreds of sets added absolutely nothing to my size or strength.
Using intensity training, the approach is different: by experiment, you find that you can just do 6 reps with a 25 pound weight. On the 6th rep, your bicep “fails”, i.e., you cannot manage to repeat the exercise. You wait one minute, and repeat, this time you just manage 5 reps before the muscle fails. You stop. You are at your absolute physical limit.
Now, your muscle has found a new weight limit. It has been severely stressed and needs serious time to recover. You do not repeat the exercise for one week. Recovery time is the other part of the intensity equation; muscles do NOT grow in the gym, they grow when they are recovering. You MUST leave enough time for recovery and growth. By the way, the bigger the muscle, the heavier the weight, the more stress and the longer time to recover…. I train my legs to failure with a (current) max 500 pound leg press only once a month, my back to failure (currently) with a 198 pound lat pull down once every 2 weeks and biceps once a week with (again currently) about 88 pounds. For these exercises I do 2 sets of 10 reps on the legs, 3 sets of 6 reps on the back and 3 sets of 10 reps on the arms.
The next time in the gym, do NOT simply repeat the 25 pound/6 rep/2 set exercise. Increase the weight by a small amount. You will find that you can just do the 6 reps with a heavier weight – your muscle has got stronger, and you will also see that it has grown. By small incremental steps in the absolute weight used, you will fairly quickly see increase in size and strength. And you will not be spending so much time in the gym – better results for less time spent.
A note on weight and age: there is a trade-off obviously. A young stud of 25 can half kill himself (indeed herself) lifting a real maximum weight and collapse at the end with failure….. Your average 50-year-old is asking for trouble doing that. As weights increase (and your strength with them) so the pressure on joints, bones and the arterial system increases. You can get to the point where your muscular strength simply outstrips the capacity of the support systems. So I am very careful to understand where my absolute max probably is – you can find out by cautious experiment – and then I back off slightly, substituting an even greater emphasis on form and slow speed for the top weight theoretically possible. I also stop as soon as I feel nauseous or in any way light-headed. In this way I have never been injured. As ever – consult a doctor if you haven’t used this intensity training approach before.
The guts of the approach then, is to use as heavy a weight as you safely can for 6-8 reps per set. Try another set to failure. Go slow (6-8 seconds per rep). You will find that the slower you go, the less weight you can lift (so again, you can substitute slow reps for heavy weights to protect yourself). If you can do more than 3 sets with the weight at your chosen rep speed, then it is not heavy enough. Rest and recover for about a week (Mentzer used to recover over a fortnight!), next time increase the weight for the same number of reps/sets.
It is essential to understand that moving the same weight for more reps and more sets is NOT increasing your strength or size, it is increasing your stamina (and you may want that). If you want to grow, the ONLY way is to increase the absolute weight for a fixed duration and allow longer recovery periods as the weight is increased (since the stress on the body also increases).
The results will be dramatic. You will see visible results in the mirror each week, In a month you will go from e.g. 25 pound bicep curls to 40 pounds – a measurable increase in strength. You will have spent less time in the gym (important as you get older and more prone to injury) and generally feel better because you are not constantly exhausted. Seeing is believing……. I have been AMAZED that at 58 I can grow in size and strength in a way I could never do before. No injuries, no tricks and a minimum of time pumping iron.
Boom Generation Fitness
Mind - body fitness and health strategies for powering thru later years
The blog is aimed at the generation that was born between 1946 and 1964 - the so-called Baby Boomers.
We are now into our middle-age and very interested in staying fit and healthy until well into our senior years.
This blog provides some of the tools to do just that. You can find posts here and lots more by clicking on the links to THINK FIT and THE FITNESS PAPERS (see left side column).
These pages are about any and all matters concerning wellness, mind, body and spirit and, of course, physical exercise of all sorts. A special feature is an emphasis on individuals who can provide examples for us all of a healthy, energetic and positive life.
Geoff Quartermaine Bastin
More about who I am on:http://www.visualcv.com/users/185930-fitnessman/cvs/223748