T Nation

Mike Mentzer

I have been doing alot of research on Mike Mentzers theory of one set to failure. I would like a experts second opinion on this subject. I have never really heard one set to failure talked about on this web site. So would anyone suggest this theory? Also has anybody applied Mike Mentzers theorys and what kind of results have you had. Thanks in advance.

Hi Joel. Given that you’re asking about Mike Mentzer’s training theories, I’m guessing that you’re either new to the iron game or not making much progress with your current program and looking for reasons why. The reason you don’t hear much talk about Mentzer 'round these parts is that T-Mag readers, who are by and large a very educated bunch of bodybuilders, don’t put much credence in Mentzer’s theories or in the man himself.

First off, Mentzer is extremely dogmatic. As far as he’s concerned, he holds the patent on the ONLY correct way to train. This turns many people off to him from the get go, as most of us have learned to be skeptical of anyone who thinks they have all the answers.
Leaving aside the ad hominem attacks for a moment (as warranted as they may be in this case), the fact of the matter is that Mentzer’s theories do not jive with real-world empirical evidence regarding strength training. They simply are not in accord with what 99.99% of the world’s top strength coaches and exercise researchers have found with regard to weight training through repeated, controlled experiments and good ol’ trial and error. Mentzer thinks that one can arrive at the ideal bodybuilding formula solely by using a priori philosophical reasoning, but that just ain’t so. This is the single biggest problem with Mentzer’s theories. My college degree is in philosophy, and I can tell you that the way the human body operates is based on biology, chemistry, and physics, not logic (especially not faulty logic, which is the kind Mentzer employs).

Now, all this is not to say that Mentzer has nothing valuable to contribute to the bodybuilding world; on the contrary, most bodybuilders, who tend to overtrain chronically, would do well to take his message of low volume to heart every now and again. Most of us believe that variety is very important to keeping the muscle gains coming; to this end, you may certainly think of Heavy Duty training as one tool in your training toolbox. Just be careful not to rely on it all the time, or much at all for that matter. If you're like the vast, VAST majority of the world's population, you'll be sorely disappointed if you do.

Best of luck,

Well stated Zev.

Don’t write HIT off just because of Mike Mentzer! I tried a Heavy Duty routine about two three years back and got nothing. Recently I started reading the works of Arthur Jones. Now I train twice a week, full body, 1 set to failure and it’s working very well for me. Please do NOT think that Mike Mentzer = HIT. That’s just one way of applying the HIT principles, and in my opinion, certainly not the best.

If you want to train the way Mike Mentzer actually trained - 3 or 4 warm up sets then one set to failure, go for it. That’s the way most of us train anyway. Just understand that while Mike is talking about 1 set to failure, he is not actually going into a gym and starting off with a 405 lb bench to failure, or a 600 lb squat to failure. But he never discusses the use of warm up sets because then its not “one set to failure” its “3 or 4 warm up sets, then one set to failure.” And once you include extra sets into the theory, then he has to admit that not everyone is going to use the same number of sets to grow.
For example - Lifter A might use a 305 lb bench to failure while Lifter B is at 185 lb bench to failure.
Lifter A might need to do sets at 135, 185, 225, 260 and 285 before going to 305.
Lifter B might only need to do 95, 135, and 155 before doing 185 to failure.
Lifter A is growing on 5 sets, Lifter B is growing on 4, and Mike has just lost out on a $225 consulting fee.
If you think people really do one set to failure, load up a bar with your 6 rep max in the bench, have a friend dial 9 -1, then when you pull the weight off the rack cold, yell at him to dial the last 1 to get the ambulance there for the pec tear you’re about to experience. And have a couple of spoters standing by to pull the weight off of you.

Mentzer’s theory is based on his idea that is is better to do one very intense set, than serveral wussy sets. Generally he prescribes a plan of several warm up sets prior to the failure set. Basically, he renames what most people have been doing all along any damn way. To base an entire work out theory on it is kinda dumb. I prefer to push the limits of failure. An example would be German Volume training, which entails the pushing past several points of failure to achieve the next level. The Mike Mentzer method is out dated at best and horrifically inadaquate at worst. It would work for a while though, particularly if you are a beginer.

Mentzer is arrogant enough to state that he holds the only valid theory of exercise science. He also raves about how most people train wrong, and is still preaching that you should be able to reach your genetic potential in less than a year.
So where are all his world beating clients, given that he should be turning out a new crop of top bodybuilders every year?
While some of his methods may have merit, his holier than thou’ apprach sucks.
Heavy Duty 2, 3 pages on bodybuilding, the rest dribbling on about Ann Rynd!