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"Heavy Duty Strength Training"
by: Sean Robertson

What's the first thing that comes to mind at the mention of the name, Mike Mentzer? Or how about "Heavy Duty"? Many experienced weight trainers I know decisively answer in either a very positive, or negative context. To some, Mentzer is "crazy", because he believes one set to momentary failure is sufficient to sustain great progress. Still others cite Mike's interesting - if eccentric - personal life as supposed evidence that Heavy Duty is unsound.

The same trainers laugh at similar ideas regarding recovery ability and overtraining. Most have never tried Heavy Duty, but already seem to know that it "wouldn't work for them" and "isn't enough work to grow." Now, before I sent this article in, I also promised myself that I wouldn't bring up philosophy. But if you, dear reader, would stick with me for a few moments, you'll see why the following semi-philosophical analogies are in order.

The first time I encountered someone who refused to try Heavy Duty, I asked them, "Why won't you try the training? What do you have to lose?" They responded that everything they had "learned" and believed in for years - teachings propagated in the gym since weight training gained popularity - would mean little or nothing, according to Heavy Duty. In effect, he believed the old bodybuilding customs of 20 sets per bodypart, five day per week training, and so on merely because those myths were accepted by the majority! I pointed this out to him, but he reminded me that what I called "myths" had been accepted and worked for decades. "They work?" I asked.

"Sure," he replied, "Arnold 'did' arms at least twice per week. He did a hundred times the sets you say to do. And nobody has arms like his." He thought he had me there, cornered and beaten. But when I inquired as to why our mutual gym buddy John - who trained according to the high-volume, popular gym principles - didn't have 20" arms like Arnold, he admitted Arnold had great genetics for mass building. "So what you're saying is, volume training only worked for Arnold because he had great genetics?" I asked. He insolently said no. After wondering aloud how many people failed to make progress on routines much like Arnold's, this person left. We haven't talked about training since. The truth is, I know for a fact that hundreds of thousands of weight trainees fail to make progress when following high volume examples like Arnold. The success of a handful, versus probably 500,000+ unsuccessful attempts at building muscle with 20 sets per bodypart. Take your pick.

The thing is, I really can't blame most bodybuilders for not changing their workouts and trying new things. Change can be a tough thing for many human beings; turning their back on age-old custom to accept something eschewed by the majority, something new like Heavy Duty, seems almost blasphemous. But throughout history, new ideas are often forsaken for the old; that is, for awhile. When Jesus Christ was alive, the traditionist Hebrews condemned him; he was a radical who challenged ideas that were accepted largely on the merits of popularity. Call me crazy, but much later, I think Christ found a following. And for hundreds of years, most Europeans regarded the Earth as being flat. Those who postulated the Earth's true spherical shape were ridiculed. Their ideas, like those of Jesus, defied precedented - but totally unfounded, "facts"; as such, years, decades, and even centuries passed before it was cool to talk about that stuff in public. A still recent example is the Evolution theory of Charles Darwin. Because Evolution supposedly conflicts with the literal interpretation of the Biblical Story of Creation, many people refuse to accept the idea that man did not evolve from a more primitive primate. And some one-hundred years have passed since Darwin made his theory public. Still, people doubt him. Still, people cling to ideas just because they're old; because they want to. But believing something doesn't make it true. Believing volume training will produce a Haneyesque physique doesn't make it happen, despite what even Arnold - probably my favorite bodybuilder - says about the effects of willpower.

Instead of being one of those who takes 200 years to accept a new idea, I implore you to try Heavy Duty today; sooner, rather than later. Some will argue that Heavy Duty isn't near as revolutionary as the revelations I discussed above. They'll say that Mike Mentzer is a far cry from Jesus. Mike is a friend of mine and I like him a lot, but that's true! He's not God and is fallible, like all of us. But where Heavy Duty is concerned, I think he's really onto something, coming up with a quantifiable theory in a field, as John Little once said, "that is rife with mysticism." Still, Heavy Duty is denigrated: Weider probably wouldn't sell so many supplements if people didn't spin their wheels following his programs. Heavy Duty is attacked for reasons of finance, reputability, and tradition. How it would change the way serious bodybuilders trained would have ramifications similar to converting thousands to a new religion - no more patrons and blind followers for the volume guys. So Heavy Duty is very much an idea that seems ahead of its time. But it doesn't have to be. Oftentimes, a person's word is not enough of a catalyst to convince people to make changes. And I must say that had I not trained in the Heavy Duty fashion myself for three and a half of my nearly five years of training, and successfully so, I wouldn't laud its principles now. Heavy Duty worked for me where volume training, some periodized approaches, and customary workouts failed miserably. I started training in January or February of 1993, standing the same height I do now, 5'6". I also weighed a whopping 120 lbs.! Lean, yes. But tiny. This last May (of '97), after several successful years of Heavy Duty training, I weighed my heaviest at 252 lbs. w/ only about 14% bodyfat. Not bad, considering my height and age (19). Presently I'm 240, tighter and leaner than at 252 but retaining the size where it counts. This was without the assistance of steroids, and in my opinion, without the assistance of great genetics - after all, the progress I made with other training methods was comparatively very weak. Even given great genetics, that's nice progress. Progress that I think many people can duplicate if they'd turn their back on tradition and try Heavy Duty. To those who do decide to give Heavy Duty a fair shot and follow it to the letter, I hope my articles here can be of some assistance to you.

Best of luck,

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