I rented a video through Netflix that was described as being a talk on bodybuilding techniques and tricks by former classic bodybuilder Mike Mentzer.
Turns out it wasn't quite what I expected. It was basically someone's video taping of a lecture he gave in Ontario back in '98 on High-Intensity Training. The quality of the video was so poor it might as well have been on YouTube.
That aside, the video was my first exposure to what is apparently another major controversy within bodybuilding: the H.I.T. version vs. the traditional volume-based version. What makes H.I.T. so upsetting to some is it's claim that you can make huge gains through just a few very intense, highly compound exercises once a week.
So what's my verdict?
Here's where I agree with Mike:
1. It is important to be fluent in the basic princples of bodybuilding: intensity, frequency, recovery. These are the yardstick by which you can assess any training program or build one.
2. It is important to take up bodybuilding with a strictly scientific, mental approach. Don't just do what feels good or seems to work. Document everything you do in a journal: weights, exercises, date, body weight. It's the only way to gather emperical evidence to judge whether or not what you're doing is effective.
3. Most people who are in the gym don't know what they're doing, including some trainers.
4. Exercising to failure is the key to intensity. It is what triggers the body to grow additional muscle. In other words, the last rep of any set is the most important, not the first.
5. Controlled exertion and proper form lead to better, more consistant, faster results and less injuries.
6. Shorter, more intense workouts have, in my case, proven more effective than hours of labor. In Mike's words, "bodybuilding isn't a test of endurance."
Here's where I'm skeptical:
1. He says that there can be only one TRUE way to train for everybody because we're all human and human physiology dictates natural laws apply to everything about the human body, and that H.I.T. is it. Frankly, I'm instantly skeptical of anyone who makes the "mine is the One True Way" claim about anything. Humans are not idiots. Ideas that don't work aren't perpetuated. If an idea like volume training didn't work for SOMEONE, we'd all be HITers by now. Therefore, both types of training methods must have their merits, and what is effective for me will be effective for you, BUT something else might be more effective for you than for me.
2. He makes claims about specific clients he's had who have made incredible gains - from 145 to 210 in 4 months, for example - and emphasizes that these are typical gains under this program. I'm sorry, but if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
3. He describes training as "making an in-road into your body's reserves." He states that your body must first recover its reserves before it builds any muscle, and hence why bodybuilders should rest for a week or even longer between training days. Now, as I understood it, recovery and muscle-building were the same thing. When you train to failure, you create micro-tears in the muscle fibers which your body then repairs with more muscle fiber, leading over time to greater size. That's HOW your body recovers. So where is this "recovery before mass" idea coming from?
Final verdict: It's worth a try. Enough of it sounds plausible that it just might work for me. My experience as an ectomorph has taught me that if I train too long or for too many sets, my muscles will just absorb the stress rather than grow because I have so many more of the type of muscle fibers designed for endurance tasks than other body types. So it stands to reason something this short and intense might work for me.
If any of you wanna check out the video, it's "Mike Mentzer's Underground Seminar". You can rent it through Netflix, buy it on Amazon, or check to see if it's on YouTube.
Until next time, keep pumping, muscleheads!