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Mike Mentzer workout progress chart

Posted by: Paul

Q: I've read that Mike Mentzer was a big advocate of keeping a log book or progress chart. It seems a huge inconvenience to have to carry one of those things around the gym every time I work out. I see lots of big bodybuilders at the gym I train at who don't keep track of any of their weights, sets or reps, and they seem to be making out okay. Is a progress chart really that necessary?

A: Mike made the point that becoming a massively developed bodybuilder takes a number of years in most cases. He also believed that the time would be reduced dramatically if trainees kept a journal from day one of training. Here's why:

"In very few arenas of human endeavor will you find anyone who takes the most direct route from objective A to objective B at the outset. Learning and moving ahead are accomplished by trial and error. Usually we begin by making a trial, miss the mark, note the error and make the proper adjustments and then proceed to our target or goal. I've come to view my own training as something of a journey, whose destination is the fulfillment of my physical potential. As it is with any long journey along an uncharted path, I am bound to take the inevitable detour. It is vital that if I am ever going to reach my destination, I must avoid hitting the same blind alley, the same detours twice; otherwise I will end up like a rat caught forever in a maze, frantically seeking the one proper path that will lead me to success. Keeping a training journal is like making a map of your journey. You must make a record of every proper turn as well as every wrong one. The road to building a great physique is just too long to remember all the mistakes."

Mike began keeping a training log in 1978 just as he was beginning preparation for the USA vs. World challenge match in Los Angeles. That discipline continued through another six competitions and extended to his workouts and diets in the off-season. According to Mike:

"My journal has evolved somewhat since those first recorded observations back in June '78. At first my journal served merely as a record of my diet and my workouts while preparing for a contest. With each succeeding contest, however, I grew increasingly aware of how my journal would serve me in the future for bigger contests. As time went on, I began keeping a record of my bodyweight before each workout, my other physical activities, as well as detailed analyses after each contest. Recently I've begun to keep charts that compare my fluctuating bodyweight with calorie intake and activity level so that when preparing for a contest in the future, I will know exactly what I have to eat and how active I must be each day to reach a certain condition or peak in an allotted period of time. In addition, I've begun recording mental and emotional patterns that attend contest training. While I haven't had the time to analyze this particular aspect fully, I have identified patterns that lead to motivation, emotional ups and downs, as well as progress. I now am beginning to understand much better my limits as well as my strengths. For instance, in the beginning of 1979 I turned professional and was anxious to enter every show possible, as I had looked forward to the prospect of turning pro for some time."

"Recorded during the preparation of my first pro show, the Southern Pro Cup, were words and phrases that revealed an almost unbridled enthusiasm and desire 'to prevail'. I did prevail and won that first pro contest. As the year proceeded, however, my contest preparation was disrupted by a lot of traveling for seminars and exhibitions as well as new responsibilities, like writing a book for a major New York publisher. Each new responsibility merely added to the stress I was under, and my progress began to suffer. The continuing presence of these and other diversions caused me to place second in my second pro show, the Night of Champions, in Pittsburgh on April 19, 1978. I found stress to be additive, and the stress of training and dieting for four continuous months along with other life stresses we invariably encounter caused me to approach my preparations for the New York pro show in May '78 with little enthusiasm. Even more notable from reviewing my journal was that while my preparation for the show was essentially the same as for the first two, my body was not responding the way it did for the first two. I placed a dismal third in that contest."

Losing didn't dampen Mike's enthusiasm. In fact, he recorded his analysis of the competition in his journal:

"I shouldn't have entered this contest. I could see as long as two weeks preceding the show that my body wasn't responding to the training and diet as it had previously. The physical and mental stress associated with preparing for three shows in as many months, along with certain emotional stresses resulting from family crisis ended up to be too much. I guess it just proves once again [stress researcher Hans] Selye's notions about stress, especially that we have a limited capacity to resist and adapt before we reach exhaustion and must deviate, or rest."

As you can see, in addition to simply recording training poundages and diet information, a workout chart or training journal can reveal patterns of progress, such as the effects of various training techniques on strength increases. Without it, you're a rudderless ship, blown about by any chance wind and doomed to make the same mistake many times over.

For a complete presentation of Mike Mentzer's Heavy Duty training system watch the Mike Mentzer Training Video.

If you have any other questions about Mike Mentzer or High Intensity Training email me and I'll get back to you with an answer as quick as I can.

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