"When Pigs Fly!
by Jeff Everson -- 1995
In an article in the September ′95 Flex ("A Case of Mystic Delirium"), Mike Mentzer mystically ignores my concerns raised over his one valid training theory behind bodybuilding success when, shades of Charles Atlas, he suggests I order his courses.
While he admits growing tired of answering his critics, Mike erroneously accuses me of attacking him personally. As I pointed out in an article I wrote for another magazine, I gain nothing by demeaning Mike Mentzer, nor would I want to demean him, nor could I, for that matter. I like and respect Mike for standing up for what he believes. Not too many people do that today.
I do feel Mike overreached in his response to my article, accusing me of vile impertinence and impeachment of his character (check out the quote in another issue of Flex wherein Mike refers to Franco Columbu as "Arnold′s weak-willed namby-pamby lackey"). Mike′s response reminds me of the saying, "If you can′t convince someone of something, then try to confuse him."
Mike argues that unlike his and Arthur Jones′ bodybuilding teachings -- which are the only rational, scientific and valid theoretical-based teachings in his opinion -- the rest of bodybuilding is predicated on what he calls pseudo science, a hopeless batch of erroneous assumptions strewn together haplessly, in no particular way, and this is why so many bodybuilders fail to make the grade.
Sounds convincing, I can agree with Mike that bodybuilding is at best a pseudo science, but where we differ is that I believe bodybuilding doesn′t really need to be anything more than that, and I don′t think it ever can be. Unlike an exact science like geometry, universal dogma has little place in bodybuilding. Sometime it makes little sense to apply scientific principles to art, too.
As I alluded to, the one-valid-theory premise -- in relation to intensity, volume, adaptation and training -- doesn′t explain the results an methods of many successful bodybuilders and other athletes, including Serge Nubret, Dan Gable, Phil Grippaldi, Eric Heiden, Mike Webster and numerous others who broke the Heavy-Duty training paradigm, genetics notwithstanding.
It would be silly for me to argue that Mike′s Heavy-Duty approach doesn′t work. It obviously does for numerous people, and I certainly have never denied this! In fact, for all I know -- and for all MIke knows -- it may be the best system ever devised. More power to Mike′s phenomenal success.
Even if that were true, and we could verify it some way, it′s my opinion that anyone who uses the words "only" and "scientist" in any discussion of bodybuilding training significantly errs. It′s perhaps noteworthy that none of the other popular training gurus who have attempted to provide a rational theoretical bodybuilding base -- such as Shawn Phillips, Steve Holman, Stuart McRobert, John Little, Fred Hatfield, Leo Costa, Fred Koch and others -- claim to know the only path, or the only valid scientific say to realizing a big, ripped body.
Once more, nothing Mike or I or anyone else has ever stated consists of anything but opinions and theories -- not facts but opinions and theories.
THEORY VS. FACTS One can argue until the cows come home (I′m from the Midwest) that there is really any functional difference between the central base of a theory and a hypothesis. When one theorizes, what does one do? While a theory can be a systematic organization of the best available data or beliefs, a theory always reflects, in part, abstract reasoning, suppositions, contemplation and an attempt to organize a set of assumptions, not validated facts.
Albert Einstein built upon the existing factual basis of the universe, as humans understood it. He added his logical assumption and suppositions to compose a theory of general relativity, offering an explanation for the very special characteristics of energy, mass, time, velocity and light. Later, Stephen Hawking, enlarging upon Einstein′s work, explained back holes, while other scientists gave us the missing quark.
The world′s best astronomers continue theorizing, making hypothesis upon hypothesis. Paleontologists can′t even definitively figure out what killed the dinosaurs.
Alas, bodybuilding is not Pythagorean mathematics, although it is kind of quirky with its own type of dinosaurs. So if Mike and I agree that bodybuilding is filled with pseudo science, you may then ask, what is my beef with an "only one way" to bodybuilding success, or high-intensity training, as Mike calls it?
Well, every reasonable person acknowledges that to accumulate muscle mass, strength or power, training with appropriate intensity is critical, and absolute necessity and, no doubt, by far the most important factor. However, it′s undeniable that no one knows the exact parameters for applying training load across a group of different individuals, nor across time, in an attempt to achieve optimal results. It has not been defined or investigated. If someone insisted he did know, then, like Arthur Jones said, he would be a fool or a fraud, with no other choice available.
Likewise, it should be common sense that when referring to high-intensity training, the word "intensity" must first be defined Are we using the standard physiological definition or a metaphorical definition? Assuming one is the proper definition of intensity training on a more or less continual basis is not suitable for several training populations. This includes non steroid users, adolescents, children, older people, hormone-compromised or injured individuals, bodybuilders who have become successful using other methods and women (or men) in high heels.
SCIENTIST BODYBUILDERS? In a past article in Flex, Mike compared Arnold Schwarzenegger′s rate of muscle gain over a certain time period in relation to Casey Viator′s. The comparison is specious. Casey, in the Colorado experiment, showed that one regains lost muscle tissue quickly with training, especially when starting from a conditions far below normal, as Viator did. He was coming back from a severe infection, literally almost a gangrenous condition as a result of an industrial accident that almost caused his demise.
Mike ignored this in his discussion. Plus, there is substantial evidence that Casey did more than just train a total of six hours using strict Nautilus protocols during that period, and that he spent a considerable amount of time using free weights in other sessions. (If anyone is interested in the true story, talk to Boyer Coe.)
I have used myself as a paradigm for a similar study,. In my comeback for the over-40 Masters Nationals, my six-month changes were fairly impressive, but as every bodybuilder knows, once you have attained good condition, you can come back much faster -- especially after being in such goofball shape as I was after I took six years off to drink beer and eat glazed doughnuts, which I did on a disgustingly regular basis.
We should ask if it was genetics that allowed Arnold to be superior to everyone else in his day, or if it might have had to do with what Arnold did during his first three years of training.
In another Flex article, Mike responded to a statement by Rick Wayne (perhaps the guru of training practicality) that each bodybuilder needs to be his own scientist to find what works best for him by replying, "What if that bodybuilder is not a very good scientist?"
To this I respond, so what? Bodybuilders will need to prove themselves scientists when pigs fly. A wise man once said that science exists only to disprove, not prove things. Alas, science can prove anything you want it to. How does that relate to bodybuilding training?
If, as Mike has intimated, humans as organisms are essentially the same when it comes to nutrition and responses to training, couldn′t we take any 10 high school freshmen have them do exactly as Lee Haney did and expect that they will all win the Mr. Olympia at some point? That′s a tenuous assumption, even if they became scientists first.
I agree with Mike that bodybuilding has often been an arena for the absurd, based on unsubstantiated beliefs. But do we have to be good scientists to be good bodybuilders? Do we really have to be able to scientifically differentiate among types of vanadyl sulfate, glutamine and creatine to grow muscle? Gee, how did Reg Park and Steve Reeves ever make it?
If your central thesis is that your system is the sole rational one, the only one based on sound underlying principles, and if you further claim to have the only single valid way to train for bodybuilding success, then there had better not be any examples of any bodybuilder who trained under alternative premises and achieved success, or you have trouble with a capital T. In other words, if Serge Nubret can do 20 sets of 20 reps and eat 5, 000 calories at one sitting and look the way he does in his mid-50′s you have a problem.
Are bodybuilders, scientists? If you read a page from "The Articles of Confederation" are you a historian? If you pump your own gas and add oil to your car, are you an automobile mechanic? If you figure that doing two sets of 10 reps of dumbbell curls seems to enlarge your biceps, are you a bodybuilding scientist? Nonsense.
Bodybuilders are not scientists, unless, of course, they stop bodybuilding and study quantitative analysis or explore the DNA helis of tobacco-worm chromosomes. Study science, in other words.
UNIVERSAL TRUTHS As I said, though I wholeheartedly agree that Mike Mentzer is right on about the general training ideas, should anyone espouse universal dogma about bodybuilding when bodybuilding science is at best, an oxymoron?
Why is it that Mike Mentzer is the only person who clings to the idea that there is only one valid theory behind bodybuilding training or that only he has deciphered the scientific code to success? It′s noteworthy that Mike′s patron saint, Arthur Jones, himself once said, "Simply believing something doesn′t make it true."
Perhaps that′s why Jones didn′t go quite as far as Mike would have liked, stopping short from defining the correct amount of work for bodybuilders. While Jones rightly acknowledged that he was one up on most people with regard to his intelligence, or at least with his ability to observe, he also was forthright to admit he didn′t know the exact requirements for exercise, and nether did anyone else.
For most people, I submit that the more time they spend on being scientists, the lousier bodybuilders they will be and the more time they spend on education per se, the more confusion they develop when trying to become a great bodybuilder. In point of fact, as I have become more educated and more scientific, I have also become a worse bodybuilder. (What the hell? No great loss.)
Consider those who are respected as having investigative minds, knowledge, education and intelligence -- as being "scientific" in our industry. In no particular order, who are the scientists in our sport who also avidly bodybuild? Dr. Scott Connelly, Anthony Almeda, Dan Duchaine. Dr. Tom Deters, Dr. Brain Leibowitz, Dr. Michael Colgan, Dr. James Wright, Dr. Fred Hatfield, Jerry Brainum, John Parrilo, John Balik, Fed Koch, Chris Lydon, Arthur Jones, Steve Holman, Charles Pilliquin, Clarence Bass, Keith Klein, Bill Starr, Steve Wennerstrom, Dr. Mauro Dr. Pasquale, Dr. Bob Goldman, Dr. Terry Todd and a few others I surely missed.
With apologies to all, none of these individuals are, or were, great bodybuilders in the Robinsons / Wheeler / Coe mold.
All are fairly good but not great. If they know so much about science and also bodybuilding, why is that?
While a suspect profession for a "scientist" might be training bodybuilders at Gold′s Gym (didn′t Robert Oppenheimer train bodybuilders at Gold′s just before he landed the contract for that Manhattan Project thing?), most of the scientific individuals named above have devoted their brains to something else most of the time -- such as being scientists.
Consider all those self-styled "scientists" who inject themselves with massive doses of GH, HCG, testosterone, insulin and other toxic nonsense on a daily basis --is that scientific? I believe that most great bodybuilders are too unscientific to worry about what they might doing to their insides and will inject away with anything they can get their hands on. Call it "weird" science.
Are some bodybuilders scientists? Lee Labrada has a degree in engineering. Is building a bridge a bridge like building biceps? We can say something cute, like Lee Labrada engineered his symmetry. Although I have always said his head was too big for his body, Lee′s not a scientist and, to his credit, never claimed to be.
Frank Zane taught math and has a master′s degree. However, we refer to Frank as a chemist. If you think this had to do with stereoisomerism, think again, Sherlock. Besides, most scientists don′t float in water tanks. Such action disqualifies. Bob Paris was burning when he stated that bodybuilding was not rocket science.
What about the Oak? If Arnie was scientific enough to develop those great arms, what about his thighs at the Mr. Olympia in 1980? Maybe Arnold was an upper-body scientist, but a lower-body janitor. Was the greatest bodybuilder in history the greatest because he was the best exercise scientist?
Indeed did Arnold become the chairman of the President′s Council of Physical Fitness because of his scientific experiments on the displacement of the oxygen-hemoglobin curve, correlated with the acid-base balance of the kidney and respiratory alkalosis in bodybuilders using a stair climber at altitude? Or might it be for other reasons, like that George Bush as a Republican, and those two, like many of the rest of the "civilized" world, wanted to bomb the s--t out of Saddam Hussein? You figure it out.
Bob Kennedy once suggested that Schwarzenegger would go further and be bigger if he trained his biceps more scientifically. Bob felt that the young man from Graz, who worked his arms nearly every day, was working them too much. Arnold was wrong --- so wrong that he went on to develop biceps never equaled, and win seven Mr. Olympia titles in the process.
Perhaps, Arnold knew little about formal scientific methods, but he knew how to train hard, and he must been a better scientist than everyone else in 1980 because he won Mr. Olympia, right? Not!
What about my gorgeous ex, Cory? She was valedictorian of her graduating class (in interior design) at the University of Wisconsin. Did she apply scientific methods to her nutrition and training to become a six-time Ms. Olympia? Cory didn′t know what the Cory Cycle was, let alone how it related to protein as an energy source, keotine bodies or glycemic index. And I doubt if the knows (or even cares, for that matter) that three sets of pulldowns have been scientifically proven to be better than four or five sets. Has it been? S--t, it hasn′t even been investigated.
Cory trained long and hard, good scientist that she was. Lately, Cory has stated in articles that she now realizes she was overtrained while winning the Ms. Olympia six times. Pray tell, what would be the evidence of such a claim?
To justify the statement, Cory would have to train just as she does now and still win the Ms. Olympia six times. With that logic, if you need a definition for overtraining, try this: Overtraining is doing that amount of training such that you win the Ms. Olympia six times in a row. Now there′s and example of a non-definable floating abstraction, as Mike calls overtraining. We should all be so overtrained.
Consider two of the biggest, most impressive bodybuilders who ever lived -- Sergio Oliva and Vic Richards. Vic Richards couldn′t explain what workout he did yesterday, let alone what he did several months before, or why he did what he did. He couldn′t tell you his reps, sets or exercises ( the Muscle Confusion Principle in action). Yet Vic is bigger than Uranus.
In fact, when training his 34-inch thighs, Vic might just do leg presses nonstop for 45 minutes. Call that the Everson Hodgepodge Principle. I watched Olympic speed skater Eric Heiden do the same sort of thing ( one hour of leg presses, sets of 600 pounds for 100 reps). Eric, like Olympic wrestling gold medallist Dan Gable, sometimes trained eight hours a day.
Too much? Tell that to Heiden′s competitors sucking ice or laying on their backs looking up, as the case may be. In fact, at the height of this medal-winning glory, Heiden had thighs that would make bodybuilders drool, and that was without steroids. Heiden trained with an interplay of volume and intensity, like Tom Platz, who also has a set of thighs for the Guinness book.
Sergio? He became one of the best ever by working double shifts as a laborer, dining on sugar cane, banana pancakes and quarts of regular Coke: and training long and hard, of course. I used to watch Oliva train: He did a lot of half and three-quarter reps; a lot of sets, exercises and reps; and he trained every day. So did Bill Pearl. Still, I can agree with Mike Mentzer: All of this proves nothing, which, of course, is precisely my contention.
In a past article Greg Zulak highlighted the training programs of two amazingly developed bodybuilders. Mike Francois and Dennis Newman. If you look at the routines of each, your conclusion would be that there is more than one applicable training theory.
About Francois, Zulak writes, "In true power bodybuilding style, Francois′ reps are performed with explosive positive movements followed by controlled return movements. His workouts consist of four or five exercises per bodypart, and he generally does four sets per exercise. His rep range usually between 6-10 reps."
About Newman, he wrote, "in contrast to Francois, Newman never uses training partners. He trains his whole body over four days. Rather than training within power bodybuilding parameters, Newman prefers the medium rep range, no less than 10 and as many as 15 per set. Under the theory that poor form causes injuries,
Dennis performs his reps at a rather slow, controlled pace, as opposed to the power-blasting explosive reps done by Francois.
While Francois rests long enough to use maximum poundage, Dennis shortens his rest periods to 30 seconds between sets and often alternates exercises in superset and tri-set fashion."
Finally, the article relayed that Francois meticulously counts and varies his calories from 10,000 to as low as 3,700. Newman, on the other hand, never counts calories. Newman consumes 70% protein and 20-30% carbs as a percentage of calorie intake, while Francois takes in 55% carbs and up to 45% protein.
Zulak concludes, like Rick Wayne once did, that all bodybuilders must discover the method that works best for them. Curiously, he doesn′t mention anything about being a scientist. Guess what? That′s because, until pigs fly, you don′t have to be one to be a bodybuilder."