For the previous a number of months, the Instagram algorithm has been blitzing me with content material about legendary bodybuilder Mike Mentzer.
Possibly it’s as a result of the algorithm has picked up on the truth that I’ve transitioned away from powerlifting and am doing extra bodybuilding-type exercises today. Or maybe the algorithm thinks I’d respect Mentzer’s superior mustache since its majesty rivals my very own.
Regardless of the cause, because of Instagram, I’ve been studying rather a lot about Mike Mentzer and his iconoclastic coaching philosophy that he known as “Heavy Responsibility.”
The younger bros on social media are completely bonkers about Heavy Responsibility. And I can perceive why.
First, there’s the attraction of Mike Mentzer himself. He had a tremendous physique (he was the primary and solely man to earn an ideal rating within the Mr. Universe competitors), and his Nineteen Seventies hair and stache gave him plenty of cool cache. On prime of that, he introduced a uncommon philosophical bent to bodybuilding. His tear-drop spectacles evinced his bookish persona, and he liked learning and discussing completely different faculties of thought (notably Ayn Rand’s Objectivism), artwork, and listening to good music. For lots of men, this mix of brains and brawn actually represents the best of manhood.
However Mentzer’s Heavy Responsibility program is getting a variety of hype today on social media as a result of it guarantees distinctive muscle development by doubtlessly solely doing a single set of workouts per physique half per week.
Mentzer’s concept that you would get hypertrophic development with rare and brief exercises flew within the face of the bodybuilding orthodoxy of the Nineteen Seventies and 80s. Throughout that point, excessive quantity was king. Bodybuilders again then, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, skilled for 2 hours, twice a day, day-after-day. The purpose was to slam your muscle mass with double-digit units to stimulate development.
Influenced by Nautilus inventor Arthur Jones’ philosophy of high-intensity coaching, Mentzer thought doing a lot coaching was a waste of time and led to suboptimal outcomes.
Intrigued by the hoopla and claims of Heavy Responsibility, I made a decision to take a deep dive into this system and its claims. Right here’s what I discovered about the way it works, and whether or not it really works.
The Rules of Heavy Responsibility
The very first thing to level out is that Heavy Responsibility isn’t a completely distinctive coaching philosophy. It’s a variation of high-intensity coaching during which athletes are prescribed to coach their muscle mass to failure. As talked about above, Arthur Jones pioneered high-intensity coaching. Mentzer in all probability did essentially the most to popularize high-intensity coaching because of his work with Dorian Yates.
Mentzer’s Heavy Responsibility philosophy developed over time. Most bodybuilders (and lots of sports activities scientists) suppose Mentzer’s early model of Heavy Responsibility acquired a variety of issues proper. Nevertheless, Mentzer grew to become extra excessive together with his views as he acquired nearer to his dying, notably concerning quantity and frequency.
It must be identified that Mentzer had genetics that made him well-suited to bodybuilding, and he achieved his physique partly by way of the usage of anabolic steroids. However he thought his really helpful lifting regimens equally utilized to common, drug-free people who wished to realize their pure muscular potential.
Depth is the important thing to Heavy Responsibility. For Mentzer, the depth of the train is what drove muscle hypertrophy, not quantity. So, what did Mentzer imply by depth?
He outlined it as “the proportion of doable momentary muscular effort being exerted.”
Mentzer (and different high-intensity coaching proponents) believed you wanted to get reps as near 100% exertion as doable to stimulate muscle development. And also you solely know in the event you’re attending to 100% exertion by lifting till failure.
Mentzer on depth:
That final rep the place you’re making an attempt as laborious as you may, and also you barely make it! That’s what activates the expansion mechanism in your physique. That final nearly not possible rep the place you’re bearing your tooth, you’re shaking throughout, you want help! That rep could be very particular, that rep could be very completely different. There’s one thing particular happening inside your physique when that occurs.
Scientific analysis has verified this declare. In my interview with bodybuilding coach Paul Carter, he defined the idea of “mechanical rigidity” as what stimulates muscle development. As you get nearer to failure with a carry, your muscle fibers begin experiencing extra mechanical rigidity. You recognize if you’re reaching mechanical rigidity if the motion of the carry begins slowing down and feeling laborious. These reps are the “stimulating reps.” They’re those that start a cascade of indicators in your physique to start out rising extra muscle tissue.
To make sure you obtain ample depth, the actions in your lifts have to be managed. Raise and decrease the load easily and slowly, with out jerks or sudden actions. You don’t need to add any momentum to the carry, making it simpler. A typical cadence of high-intensity practitioners is 2-2-4. Two seconds on the concentric a part of the carry, a two-second pause, and 4 seconds on the eccentric a part of the carry.
To extend depth, Mentzer advocated issues like “pre-exhausting” a muscle group, utilizing assisted lifting (the place you might have somebody enable you to with the ultimate reps), and holding the load regular at completely different factors within the carry. All of those strategies have been designed to assist a bodybuilder get nearer to failure quicker.
The massive takeaway from this precept is that to stimulate muscle development, you could do every train till failure. It’s acquired to be Heavy Responsibility, child.
Low Period (or Low Quantity)
The massive draw of the Heavy Responsibility methodology is the low quantity you do.
When you can obtain mechanical rigidity with a excessive or a low variety of reps, it’s simpler to realize the depth needed for mechanical rigidity with the latter.
In case you’re utilizing lighter weight, you’ll need to do extra reps earlier than your muscle mass begin moving into mechanical rigidity. In consequence, you’ll expertise extra fatigue, making it tougher to maintain up the muscle-building depth of your lifts.
In case you’re utilizing heavier weight, you are able to do fewer reps whereas leaping into the depth wanted to create mechanical rigidity sooner.
Consider it like this: in the event you’re doing bicep curls with 10-pound dumbbells, it might take you 50 reps to realize the depth wanted for muscle-building mechanical rigidity, and also you may get fatigued earlier than you even attain that time. In case you’re curling 50-pound dumbbells, you may obtain mechanical rigidity in simply 3 reps, saving you fatigue and time.
Mentzer figured you would use that saved time for learning philosophy or artwork.
As talked about above, Mentzer’s philosophy in the direction of quantity developed because the years handed. When he first offered Heavy Responsibility, he prescribed 1 to 2 units of 6 to eight reps for every train, carried out to failure. In case you might get to 12 reps in a set, you wanted to extend the load by 10%, drop your reps again down to six, and begin working your approach again up with the reps at that new weight.
So what does that appear like?
Let’s say you’re coaching your quads; a Mentzer-style Heavy Responsibility program may appear like this:
- Leg extensions: 2 units, carried out to failure
- Squats: 1 set, carried out to failure
- Leg press: 1 set, carried out to failure
That’s 4 complete units for the quads.
A high-volume exercise might need you doing 4 units of every train, providing you with 12 complete units in your quads.
4 units in comparison with 12 units. You possibly can see why Heavy Responsibility is taken into account a low-volume program.
Within the Nineties, Mentzer developed Heavy Responsibility II, which proposed exercises the place you solely did a single set for a complete muscle group. One recommended program regarded like this:
- Squats: 1 set, carried out to failure
- Shut-grip, palms-up pulldowns: 1 set, carried out to failure
- Dips: 1 set, carried out to failure
- Deadlift: 1 set, carried out to failure
- Presses behind neck: 1 set, carried out to failure
- Standing calf raises: 1 set, carried out to failure
As talked about above, most bodybuilders suppose Mentzer acquired issues proper in his earlier model of Heavy Responsibility. The scientific analysis appears to verify Mentzer’s unique quantity suggestions.
Based on Paul Carter, analysis means that, usually, past doing 8 units to failure per week per muscle group, there’s little to no profit to including quantity. In case you’re doing greater than that, you’re simply needlessly fatiguing your self. Whereas one set to failure per week will present stimulus for muscle development, it’s possible not sufficient for optimum hypertrophy. Based on Paul, the analysis means that 3 units per week per muscle group appears to be the ground for hypertrophic beneficial properties.
Nevertheless, some bodybuilders and a few analysis suggests that you just get extra hypertrophic development with extra quantity. Like within the 12-20 units per muscle group per week vary.
Which one is it? It’s been a subject of debate for a very long time.
Bros have been debating quantity on the bodybuilding.com boards 20 years in the past. They’re nonetheless yelling at one another about it on TikTok stitches at the moment. They’ll in all probability have flame wars about quantity on some 3D digital actuality platform 20 years from now.
So long as you carry to failure, doing both excessive or low quantity goes to work tremendous for rising muscle for the typical dude, so go together with whichever methodology you favor. The massive benefit of going the low quantity route is which you could get swole in much less time.
Restoration was a vital a part of Mentzer’s Heavy Responsibility philosophy as a result of restoration is when our muscle mass develop from the stimulus of weight lifting. To maximise restoration, Mentzer advocated for considerably spacing out one’s exercises. In essentially the most excessive model of Heavy Responsibility, he prescribed doing 1 to 2 units for a muscle group simply as soon as per week. The opposite six days could be used for restoration.
The analysis is blended on whether or not low frequency helps or hurts hypertrophy. One meta-analysis confirmed that so long as you get in sufficient done-to-failure units for a given muscle group throughout per week, it doesn’t matter in the event you practice a couple of times per week.
So, let’s say you goal to do 6 units per week in your chest, once more making 6-8 reps per set the best vary, typically going as much as as many as 12 as you get stronger, earlier than rising the load by 10% and going again down to six reps per set.
You possibly can have a chest day the place you get all 6 units for the week in that single exercise.
It might appear like this:
- Fly deck: 2 units, carried out to failure
- Incline bench press: 2 units, carried out to failure
- Cable crossover: 2 units, carried out to failure
You’d then do your chest day once more per week later.
You possibly can additionally break up up these 6 units over 2 exercises, like so:
- Flydeck: 2 units, carried out to failure
- Incline bench: 1 set, carried out to failure
- Cable crossover: 2 units, carried out to failure
- Bench press: 1 set, carried out to failure
Based on the meta-analysis referenced above, both breakdown could be tremendous.
However one other latest examine means that coaching a muscle group greater than as soon as per week has extra advantages than simply coaching it as soon as per week, even when the full units are the identical.
I couldn’t discover any robust settlement on frequency amongst bodybuilders. It usually got here down to non-public desire. So long as you’re getting your quantity between 3 to eight units per week for a given muscle group, how often you practice is determined by what you need to do.
For Mentzer, progressive overload is how you recognize if this system is working. In case you can add reps to a set earlier than you hit failure or add weight every exercise, the diversifications in your muscle mass that can assist drive hypertrophy are occurring.
One factor Mentzer identified is that relating to muscle development, power comes first. You’ll discover your self getting stronger earlier than you discover your self getting larger. That’s as a result of we purchase neural diversifications that permit us to carry heavier quicker than we create muscle tissue. Anticipate it to take a number of months earlier than you begin seeing noticeable will increase in muscle measurement.
How I’m Utilizing Heavy Responsibility Rules in My Coaching
I’ve included among the massive ideas from Mentzer’s Heavy Responsibility philosophy into my coaching. I’m coaching to failure utilizing a weight that enables me to finish round 8 reps earlier than failure. That’s been essentially the most important Mentzer affect on my coaching.
By way of quantity, I goal to get 6 to eight units per muscle group per week. It’s not the tremendous low quantity of Mentzer’s Heavy Responsibility II, however extra in step with his unique Heavy Responsibility methodology.
Relating to frequency, I do an higher/decrease break up the place I practice my higher physique on Monday and Thursday and my decrease physique on Tuesday and Friday. So I break up my units for every muscle group throughout two exercises per week.
And every exercise, I attempt to add reps or weight so I’m getting the progressive overload in.
It’s been enjoyable studying extra about hypertrophy and muscle development. Whereas I don’t suppose Mentzer acquired every thing proper, he’s served as a gateway for me into the fascinating world of high-intensity coaching. I’ve actually been having fun with it and am trying ahead to experimenting and studying extra.
To be taught extra about hypertrophy and develop your muscle mass, hearken to our podcast with Paul Carter: