Actualize Your Muscular Potential in One Year! Part I. By Mike Mentzer

PART ONE: Actualize Your Muscular Potential in One Year! By Mike Mentzer

In this first of a 3 part series, Mike Mentzer begins to align his reasons, deliver the unassailable logic, responsible for his belief that fulfilling one’s potential should require very little time, less than even Arthur Jones believes possible! Although controversial, one must admit that Mentzer stimulates thought like no other writer in the field.

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.)

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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.”

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(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. Unforutnately, 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.)

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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. . .

Read Part II

Special thanks to Joanne Skarkey at Mike for allowing us to publish this 3 part article.