Mike Mentzer: How Logic Forged a Valid Theory
By Paul Skinner, MS
Registered Dietitian and Licensed Nutritionist, Certified Personal Trainer
In addition to the articles I’ve been honored to write for the Mike Mentzer website on nutrition, I wanted to recount a presentation I gave to a graduate class on nutrition and physical activity at Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, Illinois, on the concept Mike Mentzer promoted of the “one valid theory” of high-intensity exercise”. The talk was titled “The Evolution of High-Intensity Training,” which I had prepared with PowerPoint slides and pictures of Mike, and is a subject about which I am passionate and dedicated to promoting. I earmarked certain pages of four of Mike’s books to explain intensity and volume - and their inverse relationship. It was really Mike’s words flowing from my mouth describing the principles of intensity, volume, and frequency. I talked about Mike’s meeting long ago with Arthur Jones, during which time Mike discovered why his three-hour workouts were unproductive. Then, when he began training H.I.T. style, he adapted quite quickly to the protocol.
I was very enthused about discussing Mike’s one-set analogies, and how a certain bodybuilder once teased Mike about this “one-set” theory. Mike then replied to him that it takes only one sperm cell to produce a fully formed human being. It was that lesson in reproduction that got through to the bodybuilder, and he declared he would never doubt Mike again.
At the end of the presentation the questions came pouring in. One gentleman expressed his confusion that he had been training six days a week for two hours a day and was not really making any progress. I explained to him that he was overtraining, and I suggested he take a three-week layoff from exercising so that his body would recover; then he would resume with the Ideal (Principled) Routine. Many of the ladies had questions on nutrition. Some students had questions on the safety of lifting heavy weights in high-intensity training. Others wanted to know if they required large amounts of protein to build their bodies (the most frequent question I am asked on a day-to-day basis). One student was skeptical and asked, “Isn’t training this way unhealthy and extreme like the Atkins diet?”
I explained to those who had questions about Heavy Duty™ and its safety that this type of training is not only the most efficacious but that in order for it to be efficacious, exercises must be performed in a slow, deliberate manner - without yanking or jerking the weight, which would make the exercise unsafe and unproductive as well. It is when “momentum” creeps into one’s training that the possibility of tearing a muscle or damaging a joint is most likely.
The skeptical woman’s concern about health was, I believe, the most important of all. The majority of the class seemed to understand and grasp the concepts; however, I wanted to understand why this student would generalize the Atkin’s diet to HEAVY DUTY™ training and the possibility of its being unhealthy. I posed the general question, “What constitutes health?” Mike had brought to our attention Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s conclusion that gross overtraining can lead to chronic diseases, cancer and heart disease, and that there have been well-known athletes who are examples of this theory. Further, I cited an article posted on Mikementzer.com Articles Section written by Dr. Doug McGuff, on Body Fat: Hard Facts About Soft Tissue, By M. Doug McGuff, MD. He had pointed out that primitive man was neither more nor less active than modern man. He summarized that the real problem today is the over-consumption of calories. The best route to go, he stated, was to stimulate muscle growth, therefore building more muscle and causing one to burn more calories. According to Dr. McGuff, a gain of five pounds of muscle allows one to burn an additional 250 calories a day. I asserted that under those conditions, if one keeps their calorie intake at maintenance level, they will lose a half-pound of fat a week. My point here was that keeping one’s bodyfat under control and not becoming overweight (particularly “android obesity”, where fat accumulates around the waist) is a strong factor in maintaining health.
Well, exactly what is health? Is it running daily for an hour? Is it eating all you want without concern to unhealthy foods such as refined carbohydrates, simple sugars, and trans-fatty acids? Is smoking or drinking alcohol, whether moderately or to excess, acceptable as long as one does enough exercise? My answer would be no! There are many who attempt to ignore the fact that one cannot over-exercise away their bad habits. As Mike has said, “Precise is best.” Simply put, there is a precise amount of exercise that needs to be performed and a precise amount of nutrients required for growth and maintenance. I went back to one of Mike’s examples of precise exercise where one of his clients finished a workout in about 15 minutes. He told Mike that he felt as though he could do more. Mike stated, “Sir, then I could have you continue working out until you pass out and had to be literally carried away in an ambulance to the hospital. It is incumbent upon you to explain why the workout should continue any longer.” Mike never had a client give him a reasonable explanation for doing so. Furthermore, taking drugs, smoking cigarettes, or drinking alcohol is putting toxins and carcinogens into a healthy but basically fragile organism we call the human body. True, George Burns drank four martinis a day and smoked cigars and lived to be 100 years of age, while one champion marathoner dropped dead at forty while jogging to the health food store. Therefore, genetics also plays a vital role, but it’s wise not to play Russian roulette with one’s health.
After the presentation, I met with a woman who told me how impressed she was with one of the articles on the Mentzer website. This woman informed me that as she read the article, she found herself so transfixed and was unable to stop. By the way, she was the head of the Nutrition Department at the university! The effect that Mike and Ray Mentzer have had on their fans, and the wonderfully comprehensive and commemorative website maintained by Joanne Sharkey, President of Mentzer-Sharkey Enterprises, Inc., honor Mike and Ray in a manner that continues to enormously benefit its readers.
My thoughts in concluding this tribute are many. Mike impressed me as a rational and intelligent man, and his books and articles gave me the tools to think for myself. Mike once said, “We should not have an ‘open mind’ because that means we grant plausibility to anything, however, we should have a discerning mind.” Mike was very precise with the words in his extensive vocabulary; and in Webster’s New American Dictionary, “discerning” is defined as “… revealing, insight, or understanding.” So when I walk into the gym and train, using HEAVY DUTY™ methods and come back stronger each time, I am confident and self-assured in what I am doing -- there is no guesswork or confusion. It has been five years since Mike has left us in the physical sense. So why do so many trainees, champion bodybuilders, and top muscle magazines continue to pay homage to such a man when other bodybuilders are long forgotten? Well, those of you who have read Mike’s books and articles, or who have listened to him, and those of you who are just now partaking of his intellect and wisdom — know the answer.
Paul Skinner, MS
Registered Dietitian and Licensed Nutritionist
Certified Personal Trainer
This article is written exclusively for www.Mikementzer.com and Joanne Sharkey. It cannot be used as a download for another website or used in any form of publication in part or in whole, unless written permission is granted. © 2002-2006.