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My Heavy Duty Evolution
by Kevin Dye
My training journey began when I was twelve years old on holiday in the U.K. with my mum. Having had enough of living the sickly, underweight existence I had suffered all my life, spending excessive periods of time in hospitals undergoing test after test to try to discover the sources of my afflictions, I finally made a conscious decision to do something about my fate. In the freezing bedroom I was staying at in my nanny's house, I started doing pushups each morning as soon as I awoke each day. Once my mind was set, nothing got in the way of adhering to my daily ritual. That was the first step of a quest that would change my life.
Initially, when I was two years old, I used to stop and stare at the TV when a muscleman came on and flexed his muscles to the "popcorn" music (to my parents amusement). Throughout my childhood, Hercules captivated my attention in the endless array of Saturday afternoon movies, as did Tarzan in his many recreations. The more muscular the actor, the more enthralled I became. Gordon Scott was my ideal Tarzan, due to his thick muscular arms and fabulous V-shape . . . the way Tarzan should look from swinging in the jungle all day.
Among the comics I avidly collected, The Hulk was my favorite "hero." Discovering Bruce Lee when I was ten years old, and seeing his incredible lat spread in "Way of the Dragon" was the final enticement to embrace a bodybuilding lifestyle. In one way or another, muscles played a significant part in my upbringing.
Gordon Scott (Tarzan), Steve Reeves (Hercules), The Hulk (Himself), Bruce Lee.
Advancing from pushups, I added chinups to my regimen. From 12 to 15 years old, those were the only two exercises I performed. Forget about leg work, what avid bodybuilder cared about his legs? All I wanted was huge arms and the widest back imaginable. Those were the traits my adolescent innocence associated with being a man. After all, didn't a V-shape separate the men from the boys? In my naivety, possessing a V-shape was the equivalent of the Golden Fleece. I wanted a wide set of lats so badly, there was a time I seriously toyed with the idea of "instant results" . . . a paper mache replication of actual muscle. If I had worked out a way to keep them in place under my T-shirt, while not chafing my triceps, I would have happily enacted my wild, outlandish scheme. But the concept wasn't practical, so I had to go along happily with what everyone else did . . . regular exercise.
The next step from bodyweight exercises was the Bullworker I received for my 15th birthday. Unconvinced at the time that weights were needed,now I had the latest and greatest means towards my goal. After all, the guy in the instruction booklet that came with my new treasure was massive . . . and he relied on a Bullworker to get his incredible build, right? Three days a week, every morning before school, I'd avidly attack my Bullworker workouts. I'd give nothing less than my absolute all one each and every exercise outlined in my wall chart. As far as I was concerned, it was only a matter of time till I'd be a cloned version of 'Mr. Bullworker'. And although it got me so far, nine months later I started to question whether it would take me all the way to the muscleman proportions I envisioned.
Christmas 1978, my parents surprised me with a set of dumbbells, along with 50 lbs. of weights. Maybe the badgering months earlier leading up to Christmas enticed them to choosing my Christmas gift? No matter the means of obtaining my newfound treasures, I was now in possession of what all musclemen relied on to build their bodies . . . free weights!
Now, how to use them? What else but turn to the glossy muscle magazines I spied at the paper shop. But which routine was best? I chose a champ who was closest to my build, being among the slenderest . . . Frank Zane. Five days a week I'd train my muscles using 12 sets per bodypart. I took to free weights like a duck to water, and couldn't wait to roll my dumbbells from under my bed each day and start my one-plus hour workouts. About three months in and something was amiss. I wasn't seeing what I'd hoped for from my efforts. Then something happened that, in hindsight, was fate.
Visiting my close friend Roy, who had also been bitten by the muscle-bug, he showed me a vision that changed my whole training outlook. Having accumulated a decent collection of muscle magazines between us, we'd regularly swap and banter for issues the other had. On that fateful Saturday night, Roy showed me a Muscle Builder magazine with Hercules himself on the cover . . . Mike Mentzer.
Not only did this thickly-set muscleman possess muscles beyond my imagination, the means by which he trained was unlike any other champion of the day! Instantly I knew I had to own this magazine. Roy took advantage of my enthusiasm, but I didn't care. After agreeing on a cassette rack and two magazines in return, the gem was mine.
I stayed up late that night, absorbing everything Mike said. He made such practical sense, and didn't rely on hearsay or dogma, which dominated the training style all the other champion bodybuilders relied upon. "Monkey see, monkey do" was the flavor of the day, along with the catch-cry: "If it was good enough for Arnold . . "; hardly a solid base to formulate an efficient training strategy. I revamped my workouts to what I now understood about scientific principles. A short while later, one Friday morning, my father stepped through the back door, having gone out of his way, after working a 12-hour shift, to purchase Mike's "Heavy Duty" booklet (1978). Finally I had my bible! My workouts and training would never look the same again.
Instead of training 5 days a week using an indiscriminate arrangement of exercises, I cut back to 4 days a week - Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. In addition, I cut my sets per muscle to less than half while increasing my effort tenfold. I felt a new surge in enthusiasm and my body responded accordingly. Instantly, it felt right. I liked what I was seeing in the mirror and knew, instinctively, I was on the right path. Over the coming weeks I'd ask my dad to go out of his way to the small bodybuilding store to purchase all of Mike's courses. I couldn't get enough of mike, nor his new and exciting style of training. Along with building up my gym equipment to assist with my new training style, I eagerly purchased any magazine that had Mike in it, which wasn't hard with Mike adorning an array of magazine covers in the '70s.
This was how I trained during the remainder of the 70s, until the early 80s. Averaging 4 sets per muscle and training 4 days a week. It felt right and my body was growing bigger and stronger. Then I read an article where Mike and Ray got together one day, pre-workout, to discuss how their workouts were progressing. Being practical about their endeavors, using their minds to direct their efforts, they came to the realization they hadn't yet recovered from their previous workout, so why train again if they weren't 100%? The answer to their dilemma was to reduce their weekly workouts to three days a week. Naturally, I followed suit and dropped back also, with an accompanying increase in enthusiasm and results.
The brothers Mentzer laid the groundwork, I needed to direct my efforts and when they made changes, I followed suit. After all, they didn't simply change Heavy Duty on a mere whim; instead, all changes came about based on new findings and discoveries, their ever-evolving physiques reflecting the impact of their alterations . . . as did mine. For many years in the 80s, I trained three days a week. 1/2 body alternated Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Having one less workout a week to contend with was kinder on my joints and central nervous system, while boosting my already insatiable passion for training as intensely as possible.
Under their mentor Arthur Jones tutelage, Ray Mentzer became one of the biggest bodybuilders of the day, at 260 pounds . . . one of the first "mass monsters." Being the same height, 5'10", Ray became my source of inspiration. Ray was training differently from his famous brother, far less than either brother in their heyday. He was down to 8 set full-body workouts, twice weekly! So from 1984 throughout the 80s, I swung between full-body workouts and my prior 3 days a week routine.
When Mike returned as a trainer, in the early 90s, it was a dream come true! I had my mentor in my life again. I promptly called him to discuss his new outlook, bought his new "Heavy Duty" book, then became a phone-consult client in 1995.
Instead of training a muscle twice weekly at least every other week, Mike was now of the opinion once weekly was adequate. This was quite the revelation! But as muscles grow during rest and not during the actual workout, it made sense -- rest enhances the muscle building process. So I went on a push/pull/legs split, 1-2 sets average per muscle. These were by far my best workouts so far. I felt better recovered and being fully recovered I as able to apply myself 100% to each and every workout.
This was how I trained until the mid-90s, thrilled with how much better I looked and how much fresher I was for each workout. There wasn't a workout I didn't feel ready and raring to attack. Mike's infield testing, from 2,000+ clients, was what he used to shape his methodology.
Then I bought Mike's "Heavy Duty II: Mind and Body" book, and immediately switched to his new formulation . . . legs between two 1/2 upper-body workouts, Mike's Ideal Workout. This worked well, but possessing better-than-average recuperative abilities, I resumed my former 3-way split (Push/Pull/Legs).
Late 90s, I started hearing about the success Mike was having with his "Consolidation Routine (CR). Mike and I discussed it and to entice me over he linked me with David Staplin.
"Understanding Recovery: A Wound Healing Model" by David Staplin -
Dr. Staplin was a big advocate of Mike's CR at the time, as were his many protégés. I did my own research, befriending Mike's biggest client, Aubrey Francis, who was 285 pounds and still growing! Aubrey was a poster child for the potential of brief and infrequent workouts. He was down to 2 sets once weekly and was growing bigger and stronger! Genetics aside, I had to find out what all the hype was about, so I started training every Sunday afternoon, following a nap so I was fresh and ready to HIT the gym. Using a mere 3 sets per workout, a single set of 3 different exercises, I thrived nicely on Mike's CR. In a month, I grew all over! My downfall was psychological, as I'd obsess over being out of the gym, especially as the week progressed and it was Thursday or Friday . . . 4 or 5 days since I last trained. I switched between Mike's Ideal Routine and his Consolidation Routine for many years, one nicely offset the other. Until that time, it was the perfect combination.
Ultimately, I discovered thrice-weekly workouts suited my training needs, psychological and physiological. Once or twice-weekly workouts leave me wanting . . . though I have gained from both. My "home routine" is a 3-way split, 3 sets total per workout. I prefer a push/pull/legs split. Training legs midweek is like getting over a hump. Back day, being one of my earliest obsessions, is one of my favorite workouts. It enables me to end my training week on a high. I now focus predominantly on the basics, the "beast moves," to ensure I get the most bang for my buck. I continue to progress each and every workout, proving Mike was right again -- when a trainee is on the right routine, making adjustments in accordance to their strength levels, progress should be regular and consistent.
I have come a long way on my journey from a naive teen relying on a Bullworker to achieve all his dreams but also, so has my size and strength. If Mike taught me anything, it was not to blindly accept anything, to question it and test out its merit. Over three-and-a-half decades, Mike's words of wisdom continue to direct my training needs, and with each passing year, Mike's words ring truer and truer. He as a ground-breaker, one of a kind, there will never be another. I am thankful Mike came along when he did, at a young and impressionable time of my life, when I needed fact not fiction. For those in search of the truth, Mike's legacy burns bright!
"You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself."
- Galileo Galiei
In Part Two . . . My Heavy Duty Life.
Enjoy Your Lifting!