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Interview With The Renaissance Man

Recently, I had the pleasure of talking to Mike Brown about training. Mike is a real Renaissance man and knows a great deal regarding a variety of topics. Everything from how to gain weight, to how to take care of legal work without a lawyer.

It is always interesting to talk to someone that has been around the iron game for a long time. It is also kind of depressing to hear about how things used to be and look at how they are now. There was a time when serious men and women trained for functional strength and relied on hard work and common sense to achieve their goals. Recently, I had the pleasure of talking to Mike Brown about training. Mike is a real Renaissance man and knows a great deal regarding a variety of topics. Everything from how to gain weight, to how to take care of legal work without a lawyer. Mike has been around the iron game for several years and he has written several books on strength training. Mike is currently looking for a publisher for his new book to be entitled, "Diagnostic Bodybuilding." ___________________________________________________________

MIKE MAHLER: How did you get into fitness?

MIKE BROWN: It all started after I got out of the army in 1964. I was 6'1 and weighed 160lbs soaking weight. I was so skinny that I was ashamed to take my shirt off at the beach. I started working out at a local gym in my hometown of Honolulu and in three months I was up to 185lbs. I was very excited and started to feel human. Unfortunately for the next year and a half, I did not get anywhere. It was really frustrating.

MIKE MAHLER: What did you do to breakthrough your plateau?

MIKE BROWN: I had the good fortune of having the opportunity to work with Mits Kawashima. Have you heard of Mits?

MIKE MAHLER: Cannot say that I have.

MIKE BROWN: Well, I am sure that you have heard of one of his workout partners, Arnold Schwarznegger. In 1966 under Mits' tutelage, I went from a bodyweight of 190lbs to 230lbs in five months. My bench press went from 220lbs to 340lbs in five months.

MIKE MAHLER: That is incredible that you made such an amazing amount of progress naturally in such a short time span. What were some of the things that Mits taught you?

MIKE BROWN: Mits was real big on basic exercises and diet … he wouldn't allow me more than 1 oz of protein powder a day, more than that was counter-productive. More than that requires more fat for proper utilization and is hard on your kidneys.

MIKE MAHLER: Interesting, have you worked wit any other exceptional trainers?

MIKE BROWN: Well, After training with Mits for a while, I decided to move to California and had a chance to train With bodybuilding legend Vince Gironda. Let me tell you, Gironda was not in Mit's league.


MIKE BROWN: Mits took care of and trained and supervised everyone in his gym, including me. Vince Gironda "couldn't be bothered" with anyone except his physique contestants. Mits outlined a diet program for everyone, never saw Gironda do any such thing. I started training a few people in CA using what Mits taught me and had great success with my clients. I took one guy from a bodyweight of 185lbs to 250lbs and got his bench press from 135lbs to 400lbs.

MIKE MAHLER: Incredible! What kind of program did you put these guys on?

MIKE BROWN: Basic program, squats, bench press, deadlift. I also had both guys do a five day fast. After five days of fasting, you can convert old newspapers into muscle tissue. Regarding diet, I had them eat tuna fish, raw milk, desiccated liver, and follow the dietary laws in Leviticus 11.

MIKE MAHLER: How long did it take for your client to increase his bench press from 135lbs to 400lbs?

MIKE BROWN: It took him nine months.

MIKE MAHLER: Impressive! You were training around the same time that the whole Nautilus craze took off. What do you think of Arthur Jones and the whole Nautilus craze?

MIKE BROWN: Well, it did not take me too long to realize that training to failure and Nautilus machines are both nonsense. Unfortunately, this was after I bought one of Arthur's machines. I did not get as big as a house as I was supposed to and have since then figured out that track machines are harmful.

MIKE MAHLER: What are the major problems with track machines?

MIKE BROWN: When you are on a track plane, you have a very limited range of movement. What happens with machines is that the muscle fibers that are being engaged become stronger. However, the muscle fibers that are not being engaged become much weaker.

MIKE MAHLER: Thus, weight machines are similar to walking around on crutches. The muscles that are not being used will atrophy.

MIKE BROWN: Very good analogy. As much as a hustler as Arthur Jones was, I do have to give him credit for being an original thinker and for realizing that a human muscle has more power the further it contracts. That was something that I could work with.

MIKE MAHLER: How did you put that into action?

MIKE BROWN: In 1974, I started a system of partial movements and the theory was that I was going to train from the strongest point down. Rather than the weakest point up. I started doing bench presses focusing on the first two inches of the move in a power rack. This worked real well for me and I got up to 800lbs. I wanted to get up to 1000lbs and then lower the pins an inch at a time until I could do a full range press with 1000lbs. Unfortunately, I got arrested and was a guest of big brother for three years. When I got out, my wife had sold all of my equipment and we moved to Utah. Nevertheless, I did prove to myself and others that you will get a lot stronger by working from the strongest point up rather than the weakest point down.

MIKE MAHLER: Sounds similar to "Power Factor Training" in which you hold a heavy weight an inch from the top position for time.

MIKE BROWN: I have heard that under a different name called "support training." Unfortunately, with that type of training, your bones are supporting the weight rather than your muscles. I think that it makes a lot more sense to move the weight rather than just hold it for time.

MIKE MAHLER: What are some methods that you have used to help lifters break through weight gain plateaus?

MIKE BROWN: I can put muscles on a lamppost! That is the easiest thing in the world. Let me give you a specific example that always works. Keep in mind that one of the reasons that some lifters have a difficult time gaining weight is due to the high levels of protein that they consume.

MIKE MAHLER: Really, I would think that high protein intake would expedite weight gain.

MIKE BROWN: Well, it can if protein is taken with the right amount of fat. One thing that you need to realize is that protein burns 1 and ½ its weight in fat. If you are not taking in enough fat on a high protein diet, you will lose a lot of weight.

MIKE MAHLER: Okay, so how do you increase the fat intake?

MIKE BROWN: One method to bulk up that works really well is to consume coconut milk. I take coconut milk, with bananas, pineapple juice, and protein. Try this combination and you will definitely gain weight. I did this for 18 months and went from 183lbs to 244lbs. Using this system, I took a personal trainer friend from a bodyweight of 192lbs to 216lbs. In addition, his bench press went from four reps with 200lbs to four reps with 250lbs in four months. I took a nineteen year old kid named John Rust from a bodyweight of 215lbs and a bench press of 195lbs to a bodyweight of 270lbs and a bench press of 410lbs in nine months. Having a good amount of fat in your diet with some protein and following the dietary laws in the Bible in the book of Leviticus, you will go a long way. I tell people that if they want to gain quality weight, they have to cut out soda pops. Carbonated beverages stop protein digestion. I also think that Pork, Lobster and Shrimp are poisons that should be avoided.

MIKE MAHLER: How much of getting bigger is nutrition and how much is training?

MIKE BROWN: Getting bigger is 80% nutrition. You do not get bigger by working out for several hours. You get bigger by working out and giving your body the nutrition to grow. If you are training for size you really need to keep your workouts to an hour or less. If you train for more than an hour, your testosterone levels actually start to drop off. In two hours, you will make yourself sick. In fact, if you workout to the point that your hands are shaking, you have just damaged some nerves. I do not allow any of my clients to go there or to use track machines.

MIKE MAHLER: What is wrong with training to failure?

MIKE BROWN: Let me explain it like this: The whole reason of lifting weights it to stimulate the muscles, not to destroy them. If you can train to failure and maintain correct form, it might work. However, how many people have you seen that can do that?

MIKE MAHLER: Not too many

MIKE BROWN: Exactly. Let me give you an example with the military press. Let's say that you can do nine reps comfortably, but you decide to grind out ten reps. Well in order to get that last press up, your back is going to bend, your hips will get out of line. When you do a military press, you do not want to bend backwards and place stress on the lower back. If you are using improper form, you are setting yourself up for an injury. If you do a study of a lot the old-time strongmen you will realize that none of the really successful ones ever trained to failure. They never lifted a weight that they could not do without major strain.

MIKE MAHLER: What exercises do you believe are bad news for trainers?

MIKE BROWN: I do not allow my clients to do seated dumbbell presses. When you are seated you are compressing the spine. The old-time strongmen never did seated presses. Second, when you put your back against a board, you have just substituted a board for the stabilizer muscles in your back. The muscles that you are working will become stronger. However, the stabilizer muscles that you are not working will become much weaker. When one of these guys is in a situation in which he has to use those stabilizer muscles, he is going to get injured. I am a firm believer in stabilizer muscles. To the point where I think that Pilates are great.

MIKE MAHLER: Really? What are the benefits of Pilates?

MIKE BROWN: About ten years ago, there were only about five thousand people in the US doing it. Most of those people were dancers. Pilates exercises all of the muscles that you cannot get to with weights. I have been doing Pilates for four years and have only hurt myself once. Before that, I used to get injured all of the time.

MIKE MAHLER: How many times a week do you do Pilates?

MIKE BROWN: I do it three times a week and my Pilates trainer changes the exercises every time. Pilates primarily concentrates on the abdominal cavity. However, it hits so many stabilizer muscles that cannot be hit with just weight training.

MIKE MAHLER: Pilates sounds like a great way to prevent injuries and break through strength plateaus?

MIKE BROWN: Absolutely, most people hit a plateau due to an injury and Pilates prevents injuries by keeping your stabilizer muscles strong and healthy. In addition, it increases flexibility tremendously.

MIKE MAHLER: Well, that about wraps it up Mike. Thanks again for taking the time to do the interview.

MIKE BROWN: You're welcome and for more information on my products and services, people can visit my website at

Mike Brown is planning on doing some bodybuilding workshops in Kansas City. His first workshop will be called "You Can Have the Body You Want." It will be for both men and women. Please contact Mike for more info at


Mike Mahler will be conducting a kettlebell workshop in San Jose on November 9 at San Jose City College. Please visit Mike's website at or call him at 310-393-8268 for more information.