Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Rest-Pause Training - Mike Mentzer (1979)

 

 Article and Memory Courtesy of Liam Tweed
Much Appreciated! 

 



 


LSM smelting mine. Location 20 minutes outside Sinoia, Rhodesia. 

1978. The final years of the Rhodesian War. 
 
A sad time, with horrendous casualties on both sides of the conflict. "Surreal" would be a good description. 
 
Living as if all was normal while knowing your "side" was losing . . . 
 
Golf is played on the mine course on Wednesdays and there is an Uzi submachine gun in the golf bag . . . 
 
I am 17 and spending my end of year school holiday with my sister and brother-in-law. Days are spent working in the accounting office with him, evenings I spend hours drilling the Olympic lifts under the watchful eye of my coach/brother-in-law.
 
The double knee bend is the lesson of this holiday and it's humiliating to learn the pull all over again. 
 
It is December and HOT. 
 
Training is done on a non-Olympic bar and a solid non-adjustable set of squat racks. I have to go up on my toes to remove and to re-rack the bar. 
 
One night we moved the weights and racks out of the garage and into the garden. There was only one exercise on the prescription today; must my luck . . . 
 
The SQUAT. 
 
And I noted I was the only one training . . . 
 
Little did I know but many or the workouts I was subjected to were fresh out of that month's IRONMAN magazine. I was the "guinea pig" it seems. 
 
The workout was explained. A weight would be loaded on the bar on the racks and all I needed to do was one rep.
 
One Rep every minute. 
 
Sounded pretty easy. The weight was only 220. Well below my training squat weight. 
 
As he stood by me and called out the sweep of the second-hand on his watch I was told to "get set" to squat at the 45-second mark. 
 
And so it began. 
 
The workout turned into a torture session somewhere around the 25th single. There wasn't enough time to fall onto the ground between reps . . . all I could do was hold myself up by hanging my arms over the racked bar. The only sound was my frantic gulps for air and my mad professor brother-in-law counting down the seconds. 
 
"15 . . . 30 . . . 45 : GET READY . . . SQUAT! 
 
The nightmare ended after the 40th rep. I collapsed on the grass and lay there for 15 minutes staring at the stars in the night sky . . . and some that weren't. 
 
Him - "That looked pretty tough . . ."
 
There was steak on the table that night.   

I battled to walk for three days. 

Decades later I would realize I was doing a brutal Rest-Pause workout.
 
With an evil Rhodesian "twist." 

One of my best ever memories as I close in on my 60th birthday. 

Life . . . don't take it for granted. 
 
 
 
 
The Article . . .
 
Prior to the Southern Professional Cup held in Miami, I came into possession of a revised methodology that proffered tentative if not theoretical sortie from a recent impasse in progress.
 
I knew that it worked nearly as well in practice as it did on paper. I would soon experience the greatest improvement in my life.
 
It was back in late November while in Chicago at an exhibition for former Mr. America, Bob Gajda, that I was fortunate to meet Tony Garcy, Olympic weightlifting champion in the '60s and currently a Ph.D. in exercise physiology. After my seminar the following day at Gajda's Sports Fitness Institute, Garcy and I discovered that our thoughts regarding intensity, the adaptive response and recovery ability were along the same lines.
 
Garcy agreed that intensity was the single most important factor in building muscle. I explained to Tony how I had been using pre-exhaustion and relatively heavy weights to up my training intensity, but that recently my progress had slowed almost to a complete halt despite my most intensive efforts.
 
Drawing upon his extensive knowledge of the physiology of stress, Tony pointed out that I had apparently adapted to my current level of intensity with a certain increase in capability to deal with that level of stress, namely an increase in size and strength. What I required now was an even further increase in training intensity to further stimulate the adaptive response.
 
In other words, if we desire to progressively increase our muscular size and strength to the absolute limits of our genetically prescribed potential, then something in our workouts must progressively increase. That something, obviously, is the intensity factor.
 
The problem for the advanced bodybuilder such as myself lies with the physiological changes that attend muscular growth. As the individual progresses, gets bigger and stronger in the process of adapting to increasing levels of intensity, new and revised methods for increasing the intensity must be found.
 
For the beginner and intermediate bodybuilder, this is a relatively simple matter, as regular increases in the weight he uses along with decreases in training time will provide the intensity increases necessary to stimulate the adaptive response. As the individual proceeds from the intermediate to the advanced stage, the formula becomes more complex by the increasing presence of those mitigating physiological changes. Specifically, the bodies' recuperative sub-systems are less proficient in coping with the demands placed on it by very, very intense muscular contractions. 
 
Physiologists have discovered that the average individual has the capacity to increase his strength 300 percent, while his ability to tolerate and recover adequately from the stress of exercise, or recovery ability, increases only 50 percent. A 20-inch arm contracting with maximum force and intensity places much higher demands on the body's resources than does a 12-inch arm contracting maximally.
 
I found myself at the point where I was getting so strong from my high intensity pre-exhaustion training that each rep of a 6-10 rep set was so intense and severe that the oxygen debt and lactic acid buildup was immediate and dramatic enough from the first rep, literally preventing the possibility of a maximum intensity of  contraction on any rep. 

According to Tony, I had adapted fully to the pre-exhaustion method which was no longer sufficient in intensity to induce growth stimulation. What I required was a new training method which provided for the possibility of even more intense contractions, while avoiding the oxygen debt (ischemia) and buildup of metabolites such as lactic acid that might prevent such ultra-intense effort.

The requisite increase in intensity was provided for by using a weight that allowed me a single maximum repetition. On the Universal incline press, for instance, I used about 245 pounds as measured on the weight stack on the left side of the lower numerals - about five pounds shy of the whole weight stack.

I would perform my first maximum rep. Then, as a means of circumventing the oxygen debt and latic acid buildup, I would put the weight down and rest for 10-15 seconds while my training partner counted. After the 10-15 second rest-pause, I would perform my second rep with the same weight and then rest-pause again before proceeding to the third rep, and so forth until I had completed four or five reps. 

Usually by the third rep I was too fatigued to complete a full maximum rep with the same weight despite the rest pause. At this point my training partner would lend just enough assistance so I could perform the rep with tremendous effort and at about the same speed as the preceding reps. I would do this particular exercise for one set as well as one or two other exercises for the same muscle performed in rest-pause fashion. I never did more than three sets per bodypart and very often just two.

Remember that for every increase in intensity, there must be a corresponding decrease in the amount of training. Since the rest-pause provided for a quantum leap in intensity, the required cut back in amount was dramatic. Some workouts I performed only a total of seven sets and never more than 13. 

My balance of intensity and duration was correct as my fantastic improvement in a mere six weeks bore eloquent and undisputed testimony. My Universal bench press went up 115 pounds in little more than a month with an average increase of 66-23 percent in all of my exercises. My muscle mass increased noticeably each week and coupled with my low calorie diet, my definition improved every day. (Okay, Mike. Sure thing.) 

Note: several paragraphs here I chose to omit. 

Rest-pause training is the most advanced, intensive, stressful form of training to date. Its effects are immediate and very dramatic, uh, right, but if you aren't cautious and do more than three sets per bodypart without adequate rest between workouts, you'll decompensate rapidly and actually lose size and strength. Stress can have a positive effect on the body or a negative one. 



                      
 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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