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High Intensity Workouts

A Logical Approach to Muscle Building

Mike Mentzer was bodybuilding's foremost iconoclast, who smashed through suspect bodybuilding tradition with a revolutionary and logical training system that is supported by the world's top exercise physiologists but shunned by dogmatic, out-dated, non-scientific trainers.

Even today bodybuilding fans are still taking about the Mike Mentzer Heavy Duty Training System and want to learn more about it. Well, here it is!

Go to Mike Mentzer's High Intensity Workouts

Bodybuilding and Fitness Newsletter 3/15/2023

The 4 Differences Between Tim Ferriss' Workout and the Boise Experiment

Do you think it’s possible to build a lot of muscle — 20 or 30 pounds of muscle or more — in just a few weeks while working out a total of a few hours?

It sounds almost unbelievable, but it can be done under the right circumstances, and we have at least three dramatic examples to prove it.

Way back in 1973, Nautilus founder Arthur Jones helped put his company on the map when he guided bodybuilder Casey Viator through a four-week program dubbed The Colorado Experiment that yielded 63 pounds of new muscle.

Casey was regaining mass and he was a genetic freak, but that’s still an impressive accomplishment no matter how you cut it.

Then, more than 30 years later, Tim Ferriss of “4-Hour Work Week” fame decided to take on the challenge of building muscle in a short time frame.

In four hours of total training time spread over a month, Ferriss managed to pack on 34 pounds of muscle AND lose three pounds of fat!

Just a few years later, a couple of lifting buddies and bloggers calling themselves BigAndy and RonnieB decided to see how much muscle could be gained (both) and fat could be lost (BigAndy) over the course of 60 days using high-intensity training.

They called their journey “The Boise Experiment.”

As with Viator and Ferriss, The Boise Experiment produced tremendous results: 25 pounds of new bodyweight for RonnieB and a 16 pound loss (7% bodyfat loss) and strength increases for BigAndy in just nine total workouts.

All four of these men obviously made great gains using low-frequency, high-intensity training, and the more recent experiments verify what Jones preached all those decades ago: less training, with more intensity, can yield big changes in strength and body composition.

Even so, Ferriss and the Boise guys used different training methods.

Is one better than the other?

Let’s take a look at the similarities and differences to find out.

Classic High-Intensity Training by Tim Ferriss

If you read through The Colorado Experiment and then compare that to to Ferriss’s training routine, you’ll see that Tim employed something very close to classic high-intensity training, or HIT

The principles of HIT dictate that exercise be brief, infrequent, and intense. You should train your entire body in each workout, using one set per exercise and one or two exercises per bodypart.

Each set should be taken to momentary muscular failure, where you can’t complete another repetition.

Jones and his most recognizable student, Dr. Ellington Darden, advocated working out two or three times a week on non-consecutive days.

When your progress slows, you reduce training volume, training frequency, or both.

Ferriss put this advice into practice by constructing the following routine:

  1. Pullover
  2. Yates Bent Row
  3. Shoulder-Width Leg Press
  4. Pec-Deck
  5. Weighted Dips
  6. Leg Curl
  7. Reverse Thick-Bar Curl
  8. Seated Calf Raises
  9. Manual Neck Resistance
  10. Machine Crunches

He then performed this workout twice a week over the duration of his experiment.

Heavy Duty in Boise

Take a look at the routine that Boise guys used for their experiment, and you’ll see that it’s actually THREE separate workouts:

Workout 1

Workout 2

Workout 3

What’s more, rather than starting the sequence over for the fourth workout, BigAndy and RonnieB repeated Workout 2 before returning to Workout 1.

They also rested four or five days between each workout.

Like Tim Ferriss, though, the men took each set of each exercise to positive failure.

Why the differences?

The Boise Experiment was based on the teachings of Mike Mentzer, another disciple of Arthur Jones who preached even briefer and more infrequent workouts than his mentor did.

Mentzer called his system Heavy Duty Training, and the Boise Experiment is a prime example of the principles he espoused: split routines (as opposed to whole-body), very infrequent training, working legs at the same frequency as ANY upper body area.

That’s why you see a repeat of Workout 2 before returning to chest and back.

So Which is Better?

Considering the great results that all three lifters produced, it’s hard to say that one approach is better than the other, but we CAN summarize the differences in the two experiments:

That last point is especially important, because it’s MUCH easier to gain muscle when you’re first starting out than after years of solid lifting.

Both of these experiments show the power of HIT when employed properly, and which one you choose comes down to a matter of personal choice.

For the best of both worlds, you could try one for a month , take a brief break, then try the other.

Then you can judge for yourself!

If you have any 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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