When you talk about an exercise session or performance of a single exercise there are two factors to consider:
1) The Intensity Factor
2) The Duration Factor
Duration is the amount of time spent training, and intensity refers to the percentage of momentary effort. This term intensity tends to be misunderstood and most people think that by increasing the duration of their workouts they will be increasing the intensity, which is ridiculous!
In fact, it's just the opposite. Every time you increase the duration you must decrease the intensity. These two things exist inversely over each other. They're mutually exclusive. You can't have a lot of one and a lot of the other. This is demonstrated by a very simple inverse ration graph which demonstrates the universal relationship between intensity and duration.
This is not a bran child of Mike Mentzer, this is a basic law of physics. It applies to all activities, not just weight training. Chopping down trees, studying books, sex, whatever.
The more intensely you do something then the duration of that activity must be decreased, and if you want big muscles fast then you've got to train as intensely as possible, because that is the one major factor in building muscular mass. And if you want to build mass then you've got to train for short periods so that you will be able to train intensely. That's the nature of the relationship.
You can either train hard, or you can train long, but you can't train hard and long at the same time. Not because I say so, because it's just impossible. Is there anybody here who can sprint for a mile? No, the longest sprint race is not the mile, not is it the 800 meters, but it's the 400 meters. So you see, trying to train intensely for two hours is just laughable. It's downright ridiculous!
When I talk about hard I mean maximally or all out effort for two hours. If you train as hard as you possibly can each and every set then the majority of you in this room would be unable to work out any longer than 30 minutes. I'm talking about every set done to absolute failure with minimal rest in between sets.
Just enough rest rest in between sets so that you can work the next set into muscular failure as opposed to cardiovascular failure. You should not work so fast that you fail due to cardiovascular failure.
I always use the example of the long distance runner versus the sprinter. The sprinter always has a large, muscular calf. Whereas the long distance runner always has a stringy little calf muscle because he's chronically overtraining, and I would venture to say that most of today's top bodybuilders who are regularly training more than two hours a day would look like distance runners if it wasn't for the drugs that they use.
Remember, you must first stimulate growth and then you must allow enough time for recovery so that growth can occur. If you do those three things: number one stimulate growth, number two allow enough time for recovery because it does take time, up to 48 hours in some cases depending on the volume and severity of the exercise. Number three requires another period of time for that growth to manifest itself.
GROWTH NEVER PROCEEDS RECOVERY, RECOVERY ALWAYS COMES FIRST. If you didn't continually recover from exercise obviously you would rapidly die.
If you train before recovery takes place then obviously the growth process can't take place, because now you've got to recover from that next workout again. If you allow enough time for recovery to take place but not enough time for growth to take place you still won't grow. It takes time to recover and it takes time to grow.
So what I'm saying is you should rest anywhere from 48 hours up to 72 hours. That's 72 hours in between workouts. Six days a week training for the purpose of building muscular mass is always a mistake. If you want to build muscular definition then you can't be active enough. Train every day all day or whatever you want to do.
I'm talking about recovery of the physical system as a whole. Localized muscular recovery actually takes place very rapidly. But you do 10 sets of very heavy squats on Monday and your legs may well have recovered by Tuesday but try and do a heavy back workout on Tuesday. You will not feel the inclination because your WHOLE physical system has been called upon. Demands have been made upon the body's recuperative substances. Not just the legs but the whole system has been called upon. You've got to allow the whole body to recover, not just the legs.
I'm often asked about red and white muscle fibers. I was recently in Holland and talked to Dr. John Voss, an eminent exercise physiologist who was actually the first guy to ever do research on red and white muscle fibers, and claims the whole thing is just a bunch of HOKUM! Because your actual muscle fibers change color from minute to minute. He actually did muscle biopsies on his own leg when he was a distance runner 10 or 15 years ago. He would take biopsies from his calf muscle every day and he found that they nearly always were a different color each time. He believes they will change color from minute to minute depending on such things a temperature, activity, metabolic rate and so forth.
So there's no way you can devise an exercise program based on what you think is your predominant muscle fiber type.
Even if you did have more fast twitch muscle fibers as opposed to slow twitch muscle fibers you still have to perform all your exercise movements in a slow and deliberate fashion. Slowly and under control at all times because once the speed of an exercise exceeds a certain rate then momentum takes over. Muscular involvement is therefore diminished.
Intensity refers to the percentage of momentary muscular effort. Anything that reduces momentary muscular effort reduces intensity and thereby reduces results.
The biochemical changes leading to muscle growth in Mike Mentzer are the same in Robert Kennedy, Chris Lund and all of you. It follows from that, that the specific stimulus required to induce those biochemical changes leading to muscle growth in Mike Mentzer, Robert Kennedy, Chris Lund and you is the same. That stimulus is high intensity muscular contraction!
What causes all the confusion is the fact that we all grow at different rates of speed. I might grow faster as a result of high intensity training but we will all grow faster when each of us trains more intensely. If you're not gaining much now you will gain faster when you train more intensely.
An individual will gain more rapidly when he trains more intensely although he may not gain as rapidly as me but then again he may gain more rapidly than me. We all have different adaptabilities to exercise. Age, existing physical condition, motivation, are all different factors. But the underlying muscly physiology is the same. So people who say we all have different training requirements are entirely wrong.
They're ignorant of the basic facts regarding muscle physiology. If we all had different physiologies medical science could not exist. A doctor would have to study each individual as a separate physiological entity and then learn all the intricacies of his physiology. Then he would have to devise medicine around this one individual. The very fact that we all share the basic principles of physiology and that it can be applied to the whole human race is what makes medical science a viable discipline.
I can't make it sound any simpler than that and even with all the theory and academic bullshit aside it's just common sense that the harder you train the faster you grow, but it's also true that the harder you train the less time you can spend training. It's just like the faster you run, the less distance you can run. Sure, you can train intensely for 30 minutes and then if you diminish the intensity you could train for another eight hours. But that's not going to result in anything except reduced progress.
Tom Platz trained extremely hard all year for the IFBB Mr. Olympia. He was the one guy at Gold's who trained hard all winter long. He just went to failure on every single set and I remember saying to my brother Ray that this guy is serious. I had no idea what he was looking like underneath his sweat suit but when I saw him by me poolside just before the contest I just couldn't believe my eyes. He had put 12 pounds of pure muscle onto his upper body alone. Now his delts, pecs and lats almost equal his incredible legs, which are among the greatest medical phenomena I've ever seen!
A lot of people point out to me that many of today's top pro physiques spend hours and hours training in the gym and they still have great bodies. It's perfectly true that a guy like Roy Callender who has one of the world's most massively developed physiques trains anywhere up to eight hours a day, but you try training eight hours a day and see what happens. You'll end up looking like a jockey!
You're really got to look back to the early careers of these guys when in fact they were actually making their biggest gains in muscular size. Arnold was a powerlifter in Austria and he had just about as much mass as when he came to America than he did when he was in Germany. What he succeeded in doing when he got here was getting rid of all of his baby fat. Which he did though sheer physical activity. If you do anything for four hours a day on a reduced calorie diet you're going to get ripped. You don't have to lift weights to get ripped. You don't have to do concentration curls to get defined biceps. You don't have to do thigh extensions as Arnold told Wide World of Sports and 30 million people, to get thigh definition. I couldn't believe that one. "Don't do squats," he said, because they'll make your thighs smooth." If anything, squats are by far the best definition exercise. Because they burn more calories. It is the burning of calories beyond what you take in the form of food that leads to the creation of definition. The more calories you expend the more likely you'll become defined. Thigh extensions don't burn anywhere near the amount of calories heavy squatting does. What's the logic anyway? Why should thigh extensions lead to the creation of more definition than squatting? What am I missing here? Can anybody explain it to me?
Another bodybuilding wonder which we talked about before is wide grip chins. It's a long held traditional belief to quote the so-called science of bodybuilding that if you want to widen your lats and stretch your shoulder girdle then you should do wide grip chins. This was Arnold's advice to Tom Platz when in fact just the opposite is true. Picture your lats as a rubber band stretched between two points. Your lats attach right under the tricep and then onto the lower back When are those two points farthest apart and when is that rubber band stretched the greatest? Well, it's when your arms are stretched out overhead in a close grip position. It's a 180 degree angle When you go to a wide grip look what happens to that angle. It's closer and closer to a 90 degree angle and the stretch becomes reduced.
If you want to stretch your lats do close grip chins not wide grip.
More conventional training wisdom is that EZ curl bars are great for building biceps. The primary function of the biceps is not to flex the forearm but to supinate.
You can prove it to yourself by putting your arm in the goose neck position like this Then pull your arm back and put your other finger on the bicep and you'll feel it's not even tense, it's soft. Now supinate the head and see what happens. An EZ curl bar pronates the hand and takes the tension off the bicep. What you want to do is hyper-supinate the hand. You've got to use at least a straight bar to work the bicep. The EZ curl bar works the brachialis and the forearms. It practically doesn't work the bicep at all, and again this is conventional bodybuilding wisdom. You've got to use an EZ curl bar because Arnold uses one!
One question that I'm regularly asked at my seminars is, "Do you need a training partner?" While it helps to have a training partner when using forced reps and negatives, etc., it is by no means an essential requirement. If you use a little innovation most exercises lend themselves to doing forced reps. For example, in doing dips you can stand on a small stool or chair and then lower yourself from the top position. If you don't have a training partner and you want to do forced reps for your arms you can do concentration curls using the free hand to assist.
If you're doing dumbbell laterals for shoulders and you want to continue doing forced reps or negatives after you can't do any more positive reps you can curl the dumbbells to your shoulders, extend the arms out and then slowly lower under control.
In chinning all you have to do is stand on a chair so that you reach the top position. But even if you can't do those things you should still train as hard as you can and at least go to positive failure.
It may be that you don't have to train with 100% intensity. It's never been proven exclusively that you have to train with 100% intensity in order to induce maximum growth stimulation. Maybe it's only 85% but there is definitely a threshold of intensity which you have to pass beyond to stimulate muscular growth. There's a certain threshold called the "threshold of intensity" beyond which you have to go to stimulate growth.
But I ask you this question. How do you measure 85% intensity? There are only two measurements of intensity you can measure accurately. Zero percent and 100%. When you're not exerting yourself at all, then that's zero percent intensity, and when you're exerting yourself maximally as hard as you possibly can and when you can't push any harder, that's 100% intensity. And when you're pushing with 100% effort and you can't work any harder then you know you've passed the threshold of intensity.
Maybe you need 90% intensity, so as long as you pass over 90% then you know you're safe. You know you've stimulated growth. There are some people who simply don't want to train this way because it is only recommended for those interested in building maximum increases in size and strength. It's not for the casual enthusiast. It's for the serious bodybuilder!
Enjoy Your Lifting!