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What Am I Supposed To Do?

People in search of muscular gains look to others who have the desired look. While this practice can be viable, we are all individuals who will respond to various agents differently.

You probably been in the situation or seen it a million times. A pencil neck in your gym trying desperately to transform himself from a gaunt, thin weakling into a mountain of muscle. He pumps away at the bench press and with curls, but with hardly any change, then one day another member of the gym walks in and he is transfixed. The man has pecs that look like mounds of granite, sinewy pipe-like arms, tree-trunk legs, back width and thickness evokes something between a dinosaur and an eagle with its wings spread ... so the pencil neck walks up to him, asks him how he got so big and proceeds to follow the man's training to a tee, hoping beyond hope to attain the physique of his dreams. The big guy (if he has any wits about him) will give advice to his apprentice, but will advise him that he should find what works best for him ...

The situation above is not uncommon in the gyms on the globe. People in search of muscular gains look to others who have the desired look. While this practice can be viable, we are all individuals who will respond to various agents differently. What works for the big guy in the gym with the perfect body parts and mounds of muscle will necessarily work for the pencil neck. The agents in bodybuilding include training, nutrition and supplementation. Your response to these agents will be individual and what really matters in the end is what works best for you.

In this article, I will explore the multi-factorial agent of training: various methodologies and those who practice them, the possible pros and cons they offer.

H.I.T aka Heavy Duty Training
H.I.T, an acronym for High Intensity Training, or the Heavy Duty method was popularized by (late and great) Mike Mentzer in the early 1980s and as continued its acclaim through the present. The basic premise of this style is based on training as intensely as possible while limiting the sets to 2-5 per muscle group.

Mike Mentzer, was an extremely intelligent man, well read and studied in the areas of sociology, philosophy, science and metaphysical studies. He insisted that the Heavy Duty method was the most productive training method and that it was the only one founded on logic. Whether the controversial Mentzer was right or not, the Heavy Duty method does have some distinct advantages and disadvantages.

The system has a heavy reliance on intensity boosting techniques such as Rest Pause, Negative reps, Pre-Exhaustion and Supersets, and Forced Reps. Mentzer believed that other training styles which used higher volumes caused individuals to overstrain, hampering recovery abilities and delaying gains in muscle mass and strength. According to Big Mike, the most productive way to train was heavy and intensely, briefly and infrequently.

Here are some sample workouts Mentzer used:
-Nautilus Pullover Machine 2 sets of 6-8reps
-Machine Flyes 2 sets of 6-8 using forced reps
Superset with
-Incline Barbell or Incline Machine Press 1 set to failure
-Lat Pull-down 2 sets of 6-8reps getting 6 reps then 3 rest-pause reps, 2 forced reps,
-Weighted Hyperextension 1 sets of 8-12 and finally either some negatives or a drop set.

In many ways he was right; many people are over zealous interns of training and end up overloading their systems without a thought to recovery. He felt that using intensify techniques and low training volumes was the best way to stimulate the muscles while not dipping into energy reserves needed for recovery. By training in the H.I.T style one can insure that they are gonna give their muscles a reason to grow. Employing such techniques is a sure fire way to stimulate the muscle groups albeit with negative aspects.

Since the Heavy Duty method relies on only a few sets, it is often necessary to use the heaviest poundage's which can increase the risk of injury. Many bodybuilders who train this way fail to warm-up the muscle and connective tissue, since Menzter preached minimal warmups as he felt they wasted energy that would be needed for working sets.

H.I.T's Offspring:
Some training styles mirror the Heavy Duty method in in that they make use of intesnity techniques but with slightly higher volume. Dorian Yates trained much like this. He might complete only 2 working sets to failure but precedes these with sets that he takes just short of failure. Here is a sample back workout:

Exercise Sets Poundage
Hammer Strength pulldowns 1* 15 135 lbs
1* 12 220 lbs
1 8-10 285 lbs
or (alternated each workout)  
Nautilus pullovers 1* 15 220 lbs
1* 12 320 lbs
1 8-10 440 lbs
Barbell rows 1* 12 285 lbs
1 8-10reps 375 lbs
Hammer Strength one-arm rows 1 8-10 245 lbs
Cable rows (overhand grip) 1 8-10 200 lbs
Hammer Strength rear-delt machine 1 8-10 2x55lbs
Bent-over dumbbell raises 1 8-10 2x95
Hyperextensions 1 10-12  
Deadlifts 1* 8 310  
1 8 405 lbs

* Warm-up set
With every exercise Dorian performs a warm-up set although in this case the warm-up is enough to get his blood going -- he stops a few reps short of failure on these earlier sets. Many other bodybuilders have trained like this including Lee Labrada in the 1980s, Team Universe Champ Skip LaCour and bodybuilders like Jay Cutler and Aaron Maddron.

Moderate-to High Volume Approach

A very large majority of bodybuilders train with moderate volume (no less than 12 and usually no more than 20 working sets per muscle) hitting their muscle groups with 3-4 exercises each for 3-5 sets and completing anywhere from 6-20 reps (the norm is 8-12 reps). There is often times quite a bit a variety with how this approach is structured in terms of reps and exercises but most will concentrate on heavy compound free weight (sometimes machine driven) exercises for low reps and heavy weight and then they will progress to detailing and or finishing movements. Take for example a Chest Routine that Mr. Olympia contender Chris Cormier might use.

Incline Barbell Presses 20 reps with 205, 15 reps with 315 and then 5 pyramid sets of 6-10 reps (Chris can go as heavy as 525 for 6-8 reps on his last set.)

  • Machine Decline Presses 4-5sets of 8-12 using around 360 lbs
  • Wide Grip Bench Press Machine for another 4 sets of 8-12
  • Pec-Dec 3 sets of 12-15reps
Current Mr. Olympia Champ Ronnie Coleman would use a similar arrangement of exercises put prefers to keep is repetition moderately high at 10-15 reps ... AS YOU CAN SEE, IT IS IMPORTANT TO DO WHAT WORKS BEST FOR YOU!

Blitz and Burn -- Ultra High Volume Training
For some bodybuilders the concept of a full day's work is taken to heart. High sets in the range of 20 or more have been used in bodybuilding ever since the 1950s with Reg Park and its devotees have continued through the ages; Sergio Olivia and Arnold both used high volume, in fact Arnold admitted to doing as many as 60 sets to bring up is legs, 35 sets for his pecs and as many as 50 sets for his shoulder workout. Other modern trainees use high volume including 1980s Mr. America John DeFendis and contemporary bodybuilders like Lee Priest, Melvin Anthony and Marcus Ruhl.

High Volume training does have its good points. Hammering your muscles set after set will definitely give you a killer pump and induce overload on the muscle fibers forcing them to grow. In a workout in which say, Lee Priest complete 25 sets for his chest, his pecs are contracting thousands of times. All of these contractions (over time) cause amazing adaptation and the definition and striations are more prevalent -- this is why many bodybuilders train with higher volume as they get closer to a contest.