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Ep. #1145: Mike Israetel on Mike Mentzer’s “Heavy Duty” HIT Training


Mike Israel: Very low volume and very high relative effort are the key cornerstones of Mensur system. And the philosophy behind it is one that says recovery is such a huge limiting factor that doing less will give you more recovery and thus give you more results in the longterm, which has some very, very good validity to it, but isn’t valid in all cases and all times.

Mike Matthews: Hello there, I am Mike Matthews. This is Muscle for Life. Welcome to a new episode on Mike Menser’s heavy duty, high intensity style of training, which has experienced a bit of a resurgence in popularity lately. You’ve probably noticed this if you spend any time on social media. rummaging around the fitness space you’ve seen over the last probably six to eight months.

A lot of people talk about mensers. Unusual style of training. And you may have wondered, does it work or minimally does it work better than what you’re doing right now? Would you get better results with Mensor’s methods? You may have also wondered how Mencer’s training methods compare to the scientific literature, compare to the body of evidence that underpins, I guess you could say, the current training paradigm in the evidence based fitness space, which has some similarities.

to what Mike taught and did, but also has some pretty major departures, some pretty major differences. Well, you are going to get comprehensive answers to those questions and more in today’s interview with Dr. Mike Isretel. And in case you are not familiar with Dr. Mike, he is a repeat guest on my podcast, someone I always appreciate speaking with.

He is a true expert in the field of sports science and hypertrophy. He has a PhD in sports physiology. He has many years of at the coalface experience as a competitive bodybuilder and a true wealth of practical knowledge. He co founded Renaissance Periodization and he has worked with thousands and thousands of people over the years.

And he understands how to bridge the gap between theoretical science and real world application and results. This episode is sponsored by me. Because I don’t have any show sponsors. Because I have never had any show sponsors. And probably never will. Because I would rather you just check out my stuff.

Check out my books. Check out my sports nutrition company, Legion, which currently is holding its big Spring site wide sale over at www. mfl. show slash spring. And that means that for the next week or so, you can buy one, get one 50 percent off site wide. All of our products, every supplement, buy one, get one 50 percent off.

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mfl. show slash spring. Check out everything legion has to offer. See what catches your fancy save big on it and enjoy. Hey Mike, it’s good to see you again. Hey Mike, what’s up? How are you? Uh, with your, your patented, I like the simple, clean background, just the black chair. And 

Mike Israel: the white wall, which reminds me that I’m soulless and have no feelings.

Ha ha ha. 

Mike Matthews: We’re gonna, we’re gonna talk about Menser training, which at least as of let’s say a month or so ago when Damien reached out, it’s, it, it, I guess it, it was having a bit of a moment. I don’t know if it still is, but it certainly was just, just as of a month or two ago. Yeah. I don’t, I don’t actually quite know why I am assuming it’s social media’s fault.

It must be. Yeah. Uh, but quickly, quickly, a lot of people were, were talking about mens. Uh, high intensity training, and this is, this is a protocol that you’ll, you’ll get into the details and so forth. And I wanted to have someone like you on an expert to, to have a discussion about this. So, so people listening can get more than they’re going to get just flipping around on social media, because I’ve seen, I’ve seen a lot of silly.

Silly claims about this type of training and, and essentially why, why it’s just the way to go for everyone, all circumstances, just the best. And look at how jacked Mentzer was. Don’t you want to be jacked? So just do what he was doing. Ah, logic. It’s, I mean, that’s, that’s pretty, that’s, that’s how syllogisms work, right?

I mean, come on. Yeah. So maybe we should start with who, who, uh, was, was Mike Mansour, just for people listening, a quick little explanation of why is that a name? And then what is this training style? 

Mike Israel: Mike Mansour was a competitive bodybuilder in the early to mid 1980s. It was quite good. He, um, was a finalist in the Mr.

Olympia contest. And he was a bit more cerebral than the average bodybuilder of the time and probably more than cerebral than the average bodybuilder in any era. And he kind of based his practices on his interactions with Arthur Jones, who developed a system of training in which you go to all out muscular failure, concentric failure.

And typically that is paired with low volumes. So something like a few sets per muscle group per session, think like one to three sets for chest a few times a week versus like something you would have seen back then as typical in Arnold’s time would have been 15 to 30 sets of chest twice a week also.

So a very, very big difference, a huge scaling down of volume, but a massive emphasis on the volume. On what we in sports science call a relative effort, how close you are to your own abilities. So very much a huge advocate of failure training and Arthur Jones original system was called hit high intensity training.

And I believe Mike Mentzer is a offshoot method was called the heavy duty method. Now it’s just some slight modifications barely worth discussing, but, and you know, to, to credit the people that adopt his methods today. And um, one of the biggest adopters of something like his massive methods was a six time Mr.

Wimpy adoring yet. Uh, one to, to the, to credit of both Dorian and, and the people that have adopted it since, and even today, very few people are literalists about exactly what Mencer did and recommended. And to Mike Mencer’s credit, his system was a little bit adaptive in such that there wasn’t a specific, this is the only thing you do.

So it’s best for intellectual honesty and for us to learn more, uh, to treat Mencer’s system as a bit of a couple of bullet points of on average, this is kind of what it looks like. If, if you tell me, you know, how big is a mouse? I’m not going to, I’m not going to say as you have 3. 15 inches in length, is it’s just one species of mouse, one individual mouse specifically.

But I said, look, it has something that fits in your hand, but isn’t the size of an insect. Like, so for Mike Mencer stuff, it’s like. You do a few sets and they’re to failure or beyond failure. And you do it no more than twice a week, typically for the given muscle. And sometimes as infrequently as once a week, and even once every one and a half weeks.

So very low volume and very high relative effort are the key cornerstones of menstrual system. And the philosophy behind it is one that says recovery is such a huge limiting factor that doing less will give you more recovery and thus give you more results in the longterm, which has some very, very good validity to it, but isn’t valid in all cases and all times and for all people.

And so using it as kind of a shibboleth as a, this is the one true thing can get you into just doing something that doesn’t 

Mike Matthews: work all that well. And why do you think this heavy duty system is, is having a bit of a resurgence? It’s a good question. Next you’ll ask me why Sam Sulek is popular. I think there, we could, we could deduce a few things.

I mean, he, he’s jacked. Okay. So that’s 

Mike Israel: How, how jacked is he? 

Mike Matthews: He’s, he’s maybe not, he’s maybe relative to, to me. He’s, he’s fairly jacked. He’s bigger than I am. Do 

Mike Israel: you know how many competitive bodybuilders are bigger than Sam Sulek? Taking nothing away from him. He’s absolutely jacked, but there, I mean, there are people that make him look like he started the day one training.

So why aren’t they crazy popular? 

Mike Matthews: And so I haven’t seen too much of his stuff, not to go off on a complete tangent, but I’ve been asked, this is a recurring question. Question when I do my little Instagram q and as. Yeah. Yeah. Big mystery. And, uh, and I, I really haven’t watched that much of his stuff, so I don’t have a great answer, but, okay.

So he’s probably, I’m guessing he’s popular with young men. I’m guessing that’s that’s most of the, probably people who are probably right. And, um, I think he started his rise on YouTube, TikTok, originally it was a tic. Oh, TikTok. So there you go. And YouTube, right? Mm-Hmm. . It’s gonna be, it’s gonna be young.

It’s gonna be young, but it’s gonna be boys. Uh, yes. And, and. Young young men and so relative to, to, to them, he’s jacked because I’m guessing a lot of these boys are just getting into weightlifting, 

Mike Israel: but a relatable level of jacked because knife me pro. You just can’t even make sense of it. You’re like, what the hell is that?

Mike Matthews: And then, and then there’s the age similarity. So that automatically just makes him more relatable than, uh, than, than, than me or, or than you. And I guess there’s, there’s something in his, in his demeanor. He, he has, maybe you’d say, I know it’s a, it’s a, it’s a buzzword, but. He comes across as kind of a humble, kind of authentic, nice guy who would be fun to maybe, maybe train with or go grab a beer with.

Uh, and he doesn’t seem to take himself very seriously. Um, and I think there’s some combination of personality traits that, Uh, his, his boy followers also just find likable, but I haven’t looked into it. Sure. That’s about the, that’s about the most I’ve thought about it. So I don’t know. That’s awesome.

Mike Israel: Cause that actually dovetails right into my hypothesis as to why the menstrual resurgence occurred. It’s a couple of things. One, I legitimately think a part of it is, um, eighties glasses, fashion styles and hairstyles are coming up kind of a trend. You see like the, the young law kids kind of doing that, like sort of Jerry curl look in faux Hawk thing 

Mike Matthews: with the gold rimmed glasses.

I see him in the gym with the gold rimmed glasses. 

Mike Israel: The, the broccoli hair, the broccoli 

Mike Matthews: hair, that’s back. So the same, the same type of tattoos, the men, the men’s jewelry, the crocs. I mean, 

Mike Israel: they’re clones of each other. A hundred percent. A hundred percent. So I think like that style started coming up and then people were like, what the hell?

Who the hell is Mike Benzer? He’s been doing this for all a long time. A couple of us got a sick mustache. Oh, the mustache is back the whole, the whole thing. So there’s actually a guy who is a very good lifter. Seems like a very nice guy. We’ve done a, did a review on our YouTube channel about his training and it’s um, Max Taylor lifts hugely popular young lifter, competitive bodybuilder.

And we’re like, it looked like he just tried to cosplay as Mike Mentzer. Like that’s his whole look. And you’re like, okay, this can’t be by accident. And he trains in Mentzer style, no surprise. And the other thing that Mentzer advocated that I think really resonates with people is a couple other things.

One, Uh, on a, none of a, not a darker side, but a me being snarky side is low volume, right? And not that many sets. And it’s just like, uh, absolutely easier to train with fewer sets than more sets. So it’s easy to sell that, you know, like people are, Hey, do you want to do 20 sets of 20? Masochists might catch on on the squat.

Uh, right. Exactly. I mean, anything else also, no. Right. So, uh, just like, you know, when you say like, all you got to do is one really hard Uh, it’s not that hard. So automatically the, uh, kind of umbrella of how many people you catch is, is bigger because there’s more people are better. Yeah. One side, that sounds great.

Another thing is because it’s all out to failure. It has that, uh, raise the sword to the whole Roman army bravado kind of thing. Like I’m a. Fucking warrior. And I’m going to slay and it’s cool. It’s fun. Like you really get to show off, you get to scream, you get to push yourself. And a lot of like the Samsung thing, young men really want that sort of thing.

When I was younger in my early twenties. Oh my God, dude, I wanted to die in the fire. Like a hundred percent. That’s awesome. So. There’s that, that has an appeal. Another thing is that Mike Menser spoke with a very distinct air of certainty about the validity of his methods, about the theoretical validity of his methods.

He made a few postulates that he was quite convinced of something like one of them is any set number, any number of sets. Uh, that isn’t one is arbitrary. Of course, my retort to that is one is also arbitrary. If it’s neither here nor there, no one ever corrected him on that. I guess he had these very objective things.

The technique looks like this. The sets look like this number. You go to absolute failure, which is also not arbitrary according to him. And he’s more right about that than not at least somewhat objective. The second is failures like. Uh, pretty, pretty straightforward, at least in your head as to how that works.

Thus, the simplicity and assuredness of this program is very high. And when you give people something that they can try really hard at, it’s simple. It’s not very difficult as far as total accumulated work volume, and it gives them the assurance that they’re doing objectively the right thing. Hey man, that sounds like something I want to try.

Now, do those things actually lead to better results? Well, you know, that’s probably the topic of this podcast, but, uh, that’s my best hypothesis along with the fashion old trends thing that, uh, basically a mentor high intensity trend during Yates had one, they come and go all the time. A lot of these are like waves, like core training for abs as a wave.

And this wave came and it kind of hit in the right spot. And, uh, you know, mentor also says some, some really assure very, very sure of himself, kind of very discreet, this is right, and this is wrong, and this is the way. And a lot of people think that training is overcomplicated. You can share a shit, get quite confused on social media with how training works.

Menser kept it so simple. And he said, this is the exact way to do it. That it’s a, for lack of a better term, very, very real able right. Very tech talkable. Like if you ask, uh, you know, one of my colleagues and, uh, you know, folks that I looked at with great esteem, um, Dr. Eric Helms. PhD in sports science and it’s one of the most nuanced thinkers in the space.

He’s just not very realable in a sense that like, whenever you get out of him, a 30 to 60 seconds is the beginning of a very nuanced conversation from which you will learn a lot. But his probability of getting very popular on tech doc is quite low. And while I’ve been pretty popular on reels, mostly because of ridiculous examples and dirty jokes, um, it’s difficult to convey a lot of information about a holistic training system in 30 to 60 seconds.

But if you’re Mike Menser. That’s really all about the, the complexity of your method can be conveyed in 30, 60 seconds. And since that’s the tech talk attention span, you got people like looking at it and be like, Holy shit, this guy’s got the answers and anything sufficiently more complicated means, you know, you need to get on and log on and watch Alexander Bromley on YouTube.

Who’s a great creator in his own right. These videos are 30 minutes long. He’s awesome. But I don’t have time to watch that shit. Menser says, this is how you do it. I’m not into nuance. I’m just going to take that. So that’s probably one of some of the reasons why in my, in my idea, Menser. I got a resurgence and populated and there’s ease of understanding too.

Mike Matthews: Yeah. The simple, it is just easy to understand. Super simple to understand. You, you feel smart, you just learned something and you can go do it. And if you’re new, you’re going to get results. It’s going to work. And so there’s that as well. Yes. Versus some of these other examples you’ve shared where if you’re brand new, you’re going to have some trouble understanding a lot of the stuff that they’re talking about.

Because I mean, you could start with terminology alone. You’re going to. To, to get through that 30 minute YouTube video. Oh, yeah. You’re, you’re gonna, you’re gonna have to. Go over to now, you’d probably go over to chat GPT, uh, and, and have it explain things to you every, every minute, there’s going to be something if 

Mike Israel: you have the patience to 

Mike Matthews: understand what it’s saying and really 

Mike Israel: trying to read a lot of texts.

Mike Matthews: But if you don’t do that, you just get confused. You feel stupid. And then you don’t though people, and this is just humans. This is all of us. We don’t instinctively think, well, it’s my fault. I’m the stupid one here. Uh, I’m just not understanding it. We think. This guy is an asshole and he sucks at teaching and I’m closing this video 

Mike Israel: to paraphrase a, um, uh, the guy who made created the boondocks cartoon.

I don’t know if you’re familiar. Yeah, he had a couple of comedy guys in a circle and they were all super hilarious. They made a bunch of YouTube videos back in the day. And they were like lampooning, he came out with like a comic book, like went to stores and he, this guy’s like thumbing through it. And it’s all just a joke.

He’s like, the only thing he says about it, he’s like, there’s all these words on this motherfucker, man. I’m not trying to read that shit. It’s the greatest critique ever. Why is this here? So it’s like, You know, depending on our mood, we all feel like that at times. Like, man, somebody trying to explain some shit to me.

Just tell me what to do. Holy shit. And especially if you really like lifting, but you’re not a totally obsessed science geek, sometimes just what do I do is better? Like if I’m like, you know, if I have some money and I’m like. And do I get a Corvette or do I get a Mustang? And so I talked to some mechanic or car enthusiast, like, well, like traction and torque.

I’m like, dude, but just tell me what to do, man. I know, but I don’t want to get into this bullshit. So mentors like one set, two failure, once a week per muscle go. And you’re like, what else? He’s like, that’s it. You’re like, all right. And then it works pretty well for you. You’re in. 

Mike Matthews: Exactly. A guy who works with me has been really into crypto for a while.

Smart guy. He’s made a lot of money with it. And, uh, so years ago, his name’s Matt. I said, Hey Matt, I’m going to, I’m going to gamble some money. I understand it’s gambling on crypto and it’s going to be an amount of money that I don’t care about. So don’t feel bad. Yeah. Don’t feel bad if it goes to zero. Uh, I, you know, a lot about this, you’re smart, so what should I do?

And you don’t have to explain anything. I don’t need a single detail. Just tell me what I should do. Where to put my money. And, and, and he, and he says, all right, fine. Put 60 percent in Bitcoin, put 30 percent in Ethereum and put like 10 percent in Litecoin. Yeah, that’s a good idea. Great. Thank you, Matt. And I love it.

And I think, I think that’s a five or six times now what I’ve done. And so there’s a perfect example. Like, I don’t want, I don’t want any explanation. Don’t worry. Just tell me what to do. Yes, exactly. Um, all right. So what’s good. Let’s, let’s start with what’s good about mensers methods. And then we can talk about some of the deficiencies.

Mike Israel: Yeah. So a lot of good things. One is super emphasizing recovery. You’re not going to over train a menstrual system. It’s highly unlikely. And that’s really good because people can beat themselves to death with volume and just like get weaker for weeks and wonder what’s going on. And they blame themselves and they’re not doing enough.

So they do more volume and it’s a terrible idea. 

Mike Matthews: Especially, especially people who are new on social media, seeing Jack influencers doing 30 sets of chest three times a week. And the 

Mike Israel: way people think is, well, if I do 32, I’ll be even bigger than that guy. And I, yeah, one does not simply. So that whole thing, that’s really good.

Mentor, although he didn’t talk about it too much, or that’s not what he got famous for. There’s a technique stickler. So it was very good technique, no momentum, no swinging, use the muscle. He was always really, really good about that. So that’s really awesome. Another one is a folks that, uh, have trouble trying hard is like, you know, very, very good about telling people what muscular failure looks like and about the fact that you want to chase it and really go after it.

And also mentor was really, really incredible. Um, and, and, and to this, I think all of bodybuilding owes him a, really a cultural and transformational change that I think Dorian Yates really carried the torch forward on is the log book. Like people. A lot of times still don’t write their training down. Now we have the RB hypertrophy app, which is like a super log book on ultra cybernetic steroids or something.

And not only do you write your shit in, but it tells you what to do next and predicts all the stuff and does feedback. We owe something to mentor for even the existence of the app, because. He was like, you write stuff down, you write down your sets and reps that you did. And next week you try to add a little bit of weight and you tried an extra rep and you go a little further.

People go in and you just kind of do stuff. And then they’ll come back getting gains. And I would ask people, well, how has your strength been over time? I think it’s going up. Motherfucker, what do you mean? Think, are you out of your mind? Don’t you care about training? Like, did you make gains? If you can’t tell, Oh my God, it’s terrible.

You know, imagine trying to race your car and going to the mechanic. I’m like, I don’t think it’s fast. He’s like, well, what’s your top speed this time on the track? You’re like, I’m not sure. I didn’t look. He’d be like. I don’t know, is this a joke? Is there, are there cameras? Is Ashton Kutcher going to pop out?

So logbooking and being very meticulous about trying to hit little mini PRs over time was a huge, huge deal that Madison introduced that, that, that doesn’t matter if he was wrong in 10 other things, I mean, this is a massive contribution and it’s an awesome, awesome thing. 

Mike Matthews: I didn’t know that. And, and that, that point alone can be transformative.

You could do a lot of other things fairly well in the, in the gym. If you’re not tracking your training, you’re all but guaranteed to plateau. You’ll, you’ll get over, you’ll make some newbie gains regardless. But once, once it gets hard. To continue gaining muscle and strength. 

Mike Israel: And here’s the thing, everyone plateaus anyway, but the log book allows you a set of kind of diagnostic criteria about what it was, how am I plateauing?

What is it that I’m doing? Uh, and how can I change it? It allows you to experiment, record, experiment, record, and find some, some truth to it when the most foundational thing about training is you should go hard when you’re tired, don’t lift or lift less when you’re got a lot of energy, lift hard and everything kind of takes care of itself.

But That only works when it works and it doesn’t work when it doesn’t work. Um, every now and again, there’s kind of an anti intellectual movement every now and again in bodybuilding circles. And you get somebody on an interview on a podcast for an hour talking about volume sets and wraps. And there’s, there’s a call, inevitably a couple of fucking idiots in the comments, like, man, it’s not that complicated.

Just lift and eat and I’m like, okay, what if I’m not making gains, what do I do? And then of course they never have an answer to that lift more and eat more idiot rice. Can you imagine telling like a formula one driver, like just step on the pedal and turn the wheel. He’s like, okay, this guy’s an idiot.

Get him out of my face. Like. That’s yes, that is the requisite for going fast. This is not a requisite for running races. It is not a requisite for making the pro tour. It’s, it’s like a child’s like understanding of how the world works. So there, at some point, you know, if you have a log book, you can be a bit more intellectual about what is it that could be doing better.

Sometimes we are, our mind plays tricks on us. You say, man, I’m not feeling any stronger. You look at your log book for five months, you’ve added like 10 pounds a month on your fucking dumbbell press or whatever, like random example, leg press. What’s it like? It looks like it’s going pretty well. And I go, I guess I’m just getting paranoid.

So the logbooking and for note mentor, as far as I’m aware, did not invent the logbook. He just had a cultural influence that was like, logbooking is important. And then Doreen Yates was like, if it wasn’t his logbook, he wasn’t getting done. Do I also logged all of his macros? And all of his, uh, calories and all of his training, and he has all those log works, they stacked up, they’ve been kind of published in various places over basically his whole career.

But that’s a really serious dedication. I mean, when a lot of guys were trying to beat Dorian at the Olympia, which essentially never did until he retired, uh, he was like, you know, how do you beat this guy? We’re like, this guy’s thinking about. Every single variable and Menzer started that tradition in a really big way.

Like in Arnold’s day, you kind of go in and you thought about stuff, but you kind of did stuff, chill with the boys after, which is dope, but Menzer really tried to think about it and really tried to track it. And even if he did some of the stuff wrong, which he did, that cultural tradition is hugely, hugely valuable.

Mike Matthews: Hey there. If you are hearing this, you are still listening. Which is awesome, thank you. And if you are enjoying this podcast, or if you just like my podcast in general, and you are getting at least something out of it, would you mind sharing it with a friend, or a loved one, or a not so loved one even, who might want to learn something new?

Word of Mouth helps really bigly in growing the show, so if you think of someone who might like this episode or another one, please do tell them about it. Let’s talk about what he got wrong, especially in the context of what is, what is known today. 

Mike Israel: Yeah, outside of the first several weeks of training, it’s been demonstrated, uh, unequivocally that doing two or more sets to failure is superior to one set to failure.

Um, 

Mike Matthews: I, I don’t understand that statement that more than one is arbitrary. I mean, how, how, how are we defining arbitrary? I mean, my, my understanding of arbitrary is, is kind of decided on a whim, not according to a system or rules or. Yes. Okay. So could, could one not be arbitrary then is what am I missing?

Definitely 

Mike Israel: arbitrary. Anything’s arbitrary unless it is grounded in some kind of. Framework of like evidence or theoretical rationale. Uh, so, uh, yeah, so the one who’s are there. So he was really on like the one set and, and we don’t even have to hold them to that because there’s kind of interpretations of his abuse that other people have taken, which is like low volume is good, but that’s not true.

Right? The volume that’s good is the volume that’s good. It is somewhere between the volume that gets you the minimal amount of gains and the volume so high you cannot recover from it. But there’s a lot of right answers in that bandwidth. And for many people, that bandwidth is anywhere from 5 sets to 30 sets per muscle and everything else, or per session, and everything else is details and nuances and Has tons of context to it.

So the idea that like just one or two or three sets is optimal is a, is quite, it’s quite literally make believe like it’s something that’s are just made up. And he was convinced of it, but nonetheless, it just make believe. So the whole idea that low volumes are superior to high volumes has, uh, in all of the accumulated research history since.

Been just turned completely on its head so much so that if systemic fatigue is not a concern to you and you’re not very big and strong, but you’re decently well trained to take a lot of volume, you could do 30, 40 or 50 sets per muscle per week for weeks on end and get better gains than if you did 10, 20, 30 sets.

And this has been done over and over and over. There are like five studies now confirming this. And so, uh, you know, back in the day I was doing my early theoretical work and I had postulated that there was a certain number of sets beyond which you would get worse gains or no gains at all. And we still haven’t been able to really reliably tap into what that number is in context, we found it, but generally we haven’t because what’s called maximum recovery volume is, can be so high.

So it turned out that the truth was backwards. To what mentor said, he would have been more correct saying, look, more volume is better if you can recover more volumes, better than he said, less volume is better. So it was actually backwards on that. And, uh, now in some context, low volume is great and some people will experience very good gains from it.

And it’s something you can train very consistently with because you never accumulated enough chronic fatigue in order to make a deload or have a week off or anything like that. But yeah, he was definitely incorrect about that. 

Mike Matthews: And like you said, your workouts are easier to, to just mentally face you’re, you’re, you’re walking into the, into the gym.

It’s, it is different to think, okay, I just have to go hard for 30 minutes and I’m done and I’m done versus, yeah, I’m going to have to. Grind to an hour and a half. Oh, yeah, 

Mike Israel: sure. So speaking of grinding, the other thing he got wrong was his insistence on going to failure. And it turns out that failure training is not superior to keeping reps in the tank and that if measured on a stimulus to fatigue ratio basis, how much growth do you get from training to failure versus how much excess fatigue you get from training to failure, training to failure is not a really good way to train.

In some contexts, you can rig it, especially with lower volumes, that it’s a very effective way to train. But if you’re going to say training to failure. Categorically the most effective, which Mansour said, you’re going to be up shit Creek with no fucking paddle because research study after study, after meta regression, after meta analysis shows the training of failure is at best an equivalent method to get to muscle size and at worst an inferior method, given all contexts, there was a meta regression.

Uh, by the guys at Data Driven, Data Driven Strength. They’re excellent, excellent folks out. People should Google them and follow their Instagrams and stuff. And they basically said that, uh, failure training does have an advantage in hypertrophy, uh, versus non failure training. And of course, everyone ran with that.

That was a big deal. That really boosted those mid, in the middle of the mentor, the thing. And people really ran with that. Except they only read the title of the study. They didn’t read this, uh, abstract. And some people read the abstract. They didn’t read the whole study. Okay. When you read the whole study and the discussion methods, they say, okay, the, the, uh, relationship seen that failure is beneficial disappears with the following inclusion of variables.

When you’re more advanced, when you’re stronger, when you’re used to trying really hard, when you a high volume program with multiple other muscle groups of multiple other training days per week, which is almost everyone that really cares about this kind of stuff. So like, if you’re a housewife, you train twice a week, whole body.

You should go to failure because your recovery window is up here and what your training is here. And if it’s failure, it’s here. And if it’s not failure, it’s a little lower. And so it’s like, go to, I’ll give you a quick, a quick example. Your friends are getting ready to go in the car. And like, you got a drunk, uh, designated driver and you’ve got a pre drink real quick.

Cause you’re going to the club and you got like, you can, you can chug a glass of vodka, right? But there’s a third of a glass. How fast do you drink it? You don’t sip that motherfucker. You go boom and you get in the car. Like, let’s go. It’s not, you’re not going to throw up. Everything’s going to be fine.

Right. That that’s a very different from saying like the optimal drinking strategy in the club is to just drink as much vodka as fast as you can. It was like, dude, you get to 10 or 12 shots, you’re going to die. That’s not a reliable way to just drink. So failure training is supreme when you’re way inside your window of recovery ability.

But when you start training three or four days a week, you start getting stronger. You start getting more into training other muscle groups versus just one or two at a time or whole body, your systemic fatigue generated gets so high that failure training starts to be something you’ve got to treat with a little bit of respect and maybe not always do it.

And then it, it definitely loses its superiority. And what I would say, and there are not so many studies, uh, looking into this because mostly they don’t do studies on advanced bodybuilders in the context of people who are very, very strong, trying very hard and training their whole bodies five or six days a week.

I think failure training, my hypothesis, isn’t just downright suboptimal, uh, because it creates so much fatigue. Systemically that it just erases your ability to put weeks and weeks and weeks in the log book, you’re better off starting at two or three reps of reserve and then getting close to failure over time and then deloading in my, in my humble opinion.

Uh, and, uh, and so the failure training, he was just, uh, way off base on that. And what about beyond failure? Because that’s also part of the mix, right? Sure. Yeah. Depending on the interpretation. Yeah. So like four straps and assisted raps and all this other stuff, drop sets. I mean, look again, if you are way, way below your recovery ability, those are excellent tools if you have very little time at the gym, bro, it’s all drop sets, all the way down, drop sets, supersets, psychotic failure, the whole thing, do you have very little time to put in the work you’re very under your recovery ability.

You got a jam, bro. You have to jam. Uh, but, uh, you know, in the context of, uh, uh, an overall whole body program, forced reps, drop sets, et cetera, they’re just, uh, extra ways of providing a stimulus, but they come with a lot of psychological fatigue and they just drain you like spiritually is a real hard. And is it worth the gains?

Probably not. You, you can just get better results by doing another half of a set, uh, or just another set for sure beats going to failure on sets and then doing a drop set. So the best way to think about training so far that I think we’ve discovered and it matches kind of the likely biological reality inside a muscle cell is, uh, the stimulus you get from muscle growth training is like a cup.

And. You got to fill the cup. And if you fill it with one set at a time with three minutes of rest and you get 10 sets, it fills it up to two reps shy of failure. If you do maybe nine sets, but they’re all really all the way to failure, then it’s going to fill the cup in nine sets instead of 10, something like that.

But. If, if we can conceptualize a sub maximal failure as when you just hit the water fountain and smooth water comes out and then you can top it off, failure training is like when it sprays out of a fucking fire hose, water goes everywhere and that’s, you know, symbolizes fatigue. So yeah, you’ll get to where you’re going a little faster, but it’s going to cause a lot of fucking chaos as well.

And anyone who’s gotten bigger and stronger and trained, uh, to failure consistently can say like, yeah, it’s fun and it’s great. It’s effective. But what exactly say like I train like this to maximize recovery, uh, you wouldn’t arrive at that logically in any sense. So there’s that big downside as well. 

Mike Matthews: I guess you could, you could think of a financial analogy of the relationship between return and risk.

If all you do is look at returns, you can come up with some pretty high return strategies that That are great until you lose all your money, then that is not so great. 

Mike Israel: Yes. So to kind of finish the analogy off, if you’re gambling with a very small fraction of your money, fucking risk it away, everything in crypto.

But if it’s your whole lot, man, you got to rethink that strategy because there’s a lot of downside. 

Mike Matthews: And are there some other components of the mentor’s style and I understand that there are different, uh, different formulations of this, but, um, of the ones that, uh, just other elements that you also feel that are not optimal or are just outright wrong.

Mike Israel: Yeah, well, so just one, one of the really good ones is he really was a stickler about technique. And making sure you feel the tension in the target muscle. And that’s really, really good. He was not just move the weight around, which is awesome. Hugely to his credit, but like, if mentor saw you cheat curling, he’d be like, what are you training?

And you’d be like, I don’t really know, sir. I just started curling and it all got away from me. But, um, it 

Mike Matthews: looks cool though, right? It 

Mike Israel: looks cool. I guess for the gram. So I’ll say that. But another one of his things that I think didn’t survive the test of time and science. Yeah. Which is insistence on low frequencies.

And he would say, you know, training a muscle more than once a week is, you know, at various points in his life, somewhere between suboptimal and lunacy. And this is something you would, you would probably call it. And, um, because he’s, he thought recovery was so important and it turns out now we have pretty good data on recovery and within a pretty wide range of volumes, anything from like five to eight sets per session per muscle taken to failure, by the way.

And by people who are at least a little bit trained six months of decent training under their belt, I mean, they recover in most measurable ways, probably after about half a week. And so if you have to say, look, you have to have a week of rest between training muscle. The fraction of cases in which that’s true is a way smaller than the fraction of cases in which that’s false.

So much so that in the empirical literature, three sessions beats two, two sessions beats one per week, three sessions beats two by a small margin, four sessions beats three in context. And in a real adjustment context, five sessions beats four, and they haven’t found a lot of examples for muscle growth where the reverse is true.

So if you go looking for studies that show one session is equivalent to two, there are contexts in which that’s the case. Like you limit the total volume. So either someone does four sets on Monday or two sets, Monday, two sets, Thursday, they might get the same growth or similar, but if you go looking for, okay, this is a frequency per week.

Let’s say six times a week, that is hypertrophy over the course of two or three months of training. Mike, you won’t find that. There may be no one study that finds that maybe one or two floating around here and there, but out of, out of a group of maybe 20 or 30 good studies. When 28 studies say generally higher frequencies better, at least convincingly up to two or three sessions per muscle group per week, and one or two studies say, yeah, five or six is kind of like, uh, inferior to, you know, four or five or three or four, you got a problem.

When you hung your hat on the idea that one session per week per muscle, chest, Monday, period, no more chest the rest of the week. If you hung your hat on the idea that that is categorically superior than two, or definitely three, and for sure four. When the reality turns out to be nearly backwards. You, you have a big, big problem.

It’s, it’s like when you say low frequency is King, there are definitely times where that’s true. For example, if you train your chest and it still has delayed onset muscle soreness after six days, yeah, don’t train it yet. Seems at least sound in some kind of hypothetical. It’s not healed. Don’t train it totally.

If you train your chest. Monday, and by Wednesday, you feel exactly as strong and even stronger than Monday. You have no soreness, no tightness, and someone’s like, bup, bup, bup, don’t train your chest yet. Why not? Why not? At least give me some physiological rationale. There is no rationale that never happened.

And the worst thing is empirically these, these results failed. So if you’re a true mentor, psychotic, all the way to the grave kind of person, you have a really big problems to contend with. And the biggest problem is that direct examination on thousands of real people in the science, Contradicted most of the central claims.

That’s not to say that in many contexts, people can get a lot of wisdom because some people overdo it. They got it. Six sessions, 10 sets each every week, no deloads, everything all out. I’m going to get huge. Also, I’m not eating well. So here we go. And I don’t sleep well, that person can do less and benefit greatly.

For sure. Or when you see someone do six sets of 10 and you watch them do it, you’re like, how far from failure is that set? And they’re like, I don’t know. Are you still 

Mike Matthews: warming up? Or what’s 

Mike Israel: going on here? Like, isn’t that funny when you look at someone training, you’re like, I can’t tell if they’re warming up or training.

Like Mencer crushed that one out, right? So there’s definitely tons of wisdom to extract from Mencer, but a wholesale acceptance of his paradigm. I’m. Is the acceptance of a very more than incorrect paradigm backwards in most cases, paradigm, you know, like if you think, for example, that like tough authority is the way to handle problems.

If you’re the chief of police, you’re right. If you are democratically elected leader of a foreign country, You’re not Kim Jong un, motherfucker. No one wants that. This is not, that’s not the place to do it. And on average, authoritarian leaders cause worse outcomes for nations than more democratic and nuanced leaders.

Is that, does that mean that authoritarianism never works? No, God, no. And sometimes if you’re super soft on a crime, you just get to have a crime ridden city until you put the fucking law down. Right. But that’s a very different, that’s very contextual. Very contextual. It’s not a writ large, like, yes, always the strong man, like authoritarian.

That’s the best way to do things. Like, no, that’s actually more, more wrong than it is. Right. And, and so if you want to look to mentor, examine your own program and see what can I get out of this that can enhance my approach? Oh my God, there’s tons. But if you go to mentor and you’re like, this is, you know, hashtag the way.

Uh, you may not be training in the most optimal way. And the last resort of the men’s or acolytes, like with many acolytes of many, uh, uh, sort of, uh, 

Mike Matthews: the dead 

Mike Israel: enders as they’re called. Yes is, um, well, I just like to train like this. And I had two responses to that. One is why the fuck did you talk about what’s right and wrong in science?

Dummy. Yeah, I don’t care what, I 

Mike Matthews: don’t, I don’t, I don’t trust science anyway. Right. 

Mike Israel: And the second thing I have to say is, dude, I love that spirit energy dope. I’m going to support you a hundred percent. You got to do what you like in the gym until and unless you need results more than you need to like the gym.

Uh, so like liking the gym is fucking important. Uh, and so if you just like to do 

Mike Matthews: it. Especially when you’ve been doing it for a while. I mean, I can speak personally. I’ve accepted that I can’t stay natural. Stay lean, uh, and continue to gain muscle and strength indefinitely that there there’s, there’s only a so much and I’ve more or less reached that limit for my genetics.

Now, if I was willing to, uh, take, take anabolics or if I was willing to minimally just carry around more body fat, eat more food, hyper optimize your life to with the one goal of gaining exactly. Try and reduce all other stress. Exactly for, for that extra pound, uh, which won’t go to my calves. I’ve already accepted that it never does, does it then, uh, then fine.

But so in my case, I understand that that maintenance, especially also when I consider, uh, I’m not willing to be in the gym more than three to four hours a week right now, lifting weights. I do cardio in addition to that, but that’s what I’m willing to give to my weightlifting right now. And so I have more leeway.

I can do just workouts that, uh, are they. Optimal. If I were trying to make progress, uh, in, in terms of gaining muscle and strength, no, but I’m not. So are they optimal for what I’m trying to do? Well, actually they are because I’m maintaining my muscle and strength. And I’m enjoying them. 

Mike Israel: Yes, totally. And many people for decades and decades can make excellent gains with a menstrual aid program, and they’re going to like it, but that’s a different discussion than, is this the best way to train?

Because once you start talking about the best way to train, I think in many, in many cases, for some people, the two factor approach of I like it and if gets me good results, it’s not. Is enough and 

Mike Matthews: God bless those people. I agree for, for so many people, a lot of people listening who they have a life and fitness is, is not at the center of that life.

They care about it. They want to get into good shape. They want to stay that way. They have three to five hours a week and on and on and on. 

Mike Israel: Yeah. And then, so like, you know, my wife and I, uh, have one car, it’s a 2017 Subaru Outback. If it gets me to point A to point B, and it’s a fine car and that’s good enough.

But for some people, those two things of it works and it’s, it’s getting me results. And I like it isn’t enough. They have to think it’s optimal or the best or sciencey or has really good reasons behind it, similar to if I was to say like, well, look, 2017 Subaru Outback really kind of as a superior car for my life, anyone who knows about cars would be like, that’s wrong.

You’re wrong. Don’t, don’t, don’t. You don’t even know what you’re waiting into. You have no idea. You don’t even know the specs of your car enough to argue this, but like, well, how much, how much horsepower does your car have somewhere between a hundred and 200 or something like that, get out of here. Right.

So some people are totally cool to just do their thing, go to failure a couple of times a week and they fucking love it and sweet. But some people be like, this is the way to train, man. This is optimal, like dude. And then they get the whole personal anecdote thing, which never ceases to amaze me how many people just maybe just never learned theory of science, but they give their personal stories.

You, you make a YouTube video about menstrual training is suboptimal. And this is like long paragraph triest about like, but it worked for me, man. And you’re like, you do understand that first for other people, on average, doesn’t work as well. And two, something else could have worked even better for you.

These aren’t very intellectually weighty concepts, but then it comes back to that other thing. Like when you said, you know, when people are just starting out, they want simplicity. I have something I’m sure pretty politically correct to say, but I’m getting real, real tired of political correctness, um, blocking our ability to speak real obvious truths.

And here we go. Here we go. Ready? Some people just aren’t that fucking smart, man. And in many respects, I’m a fucking dummy. And it’s okay to not be able to understand a lot of complicated shit, but you don’t have to pretend that your fucking shit is better and everyone’s a fucking overthinking idiot.

She’s, she’s not that smart. And it’s totally cool. I walk into a fucking, you know, like my wife and I had to like, uh, get some, like, uh, the tires changed or some shit, oil. I don’t even know what it was. That’s how. Fuck he’s stupid. I’m with cars. We went to the car person mechanic. I don’t know what they’re called.

And we had needed to do things. So that guy could have told me anything, dude. I would give her money, but I’m not like pretending. I know shit. I’m just like, I’m a fucking moron. Just tell me what’s wrong with the car and I’ll pay you money. God damn it. Hopefully it’ll rid me off read the better business bureau thing on the fucking website for like, this guy seems nice.

That’s it. But people out there are like, nah, ma’am, this is the way everyone’s overthinking. It’s like, no, dude, you’re just not that smart. And it’s totally cool. Not everyone’s fucking Neil deGrasse Tyson. And at some point I thought life taught most people the fact that they had intellectual limits, you know, like.

I’ll watch a fucking, you know, I’ll get high and watch some kind of PBS special about quantum space time. And 90 percent of them, like the fuck if I know what that means, but some people will be in the comments, like, well, technically speaking, a positive shot. And some of those actually guys are real smart, but then they make sense.

But it’s a very different thing to be like. This is overcomplicating it. Quantum mechanics is bullshit. And you’re like, dude, I’m sorry. You’re just not on the conversation. You’re not in the conversation. There’s no other way to say it. 

Mike Matthews: Well, I know we’re, we’re coming up on time. Uh, so I want to ask one final question and.

That is for people listening who would like to give the mentor style training a go, they could go back and or if they’ve been taking notes, they probably could piece this together based on everything that that you’ve shared so far. But maybe if you could just quickly give people a simple, so yeah, just just a simple little.

Hey, here’s here’s a mentor style. You know, routine that you might enjoy if you want to try out this kind of higher intensity, lower volume type of 

Mike Israel: totally, I got a real simple one with an example, even upper body Monday, lower body Thursday. I’m sorry. Good, good. Good God. I already started off wrong. Upper body Monday, lower body Tuesday, Wednesday off upper body again, Thursday, lower body Friday, the weekend all start with one set of every one exercise and one set for every muscle group that you’re training chest, pick an exercise, one, or, you know, warm up one working set.

Go to all out muscular failure, write down how many reps you got with how much weight. Next week, repeat the process, except increase the weight just by a little, or like do one extra rep, see how it goes. And then keep doing that. If you notice that you’re not really tired, not really sore and you’re dude, I can recover so much fucking more and a set, just go to two sets of everything.

And not even everything you see, man, my hamstrings are getting pretty toasted, but my biceps can do more. One set of hamstrings, two sets of biceps. Stay on the low end. Never go above two to four sets per muscle per session. And that means you only ever need to do one exercise per session per muscle, which is fucking sweet.

You’re going to save a lot of time. Try to do that, sticking mostly to sets of 10 to 15 repetitions and do that for a few weeks. It’ll probably get you some good results. If you like it, like from a spirit perspective, which I love the way this training feels. I can rock on after a few months, you get tired, take a week off, go back, switch exercises, try something new, go back to one set for everything.

Recycle a plan and keep going. It’s immense or like you get to go to failure. The volumes are very low, plenty of time for recovery, but the frequency is twice a week. So you get better gains than if you just do once a week and almost everyone will recover from this. No problem. That would be my way to start that off.

Mike Matthews: And for someone wanting to just maintain, they probably could just do the, the upper lower two workouts per week. And if those sets are taken to failure, I would suspect that. Oh 

Mike Israel: yeah. Two sets to failure will be maintenance for almost everyone unless you’re really, really jacked and then. You’re probably not having these kinds of discussions because you know what works well for your body by this point.

There’s no one in the Olympia stage that’s doing one set per week of one muscle. It’s nonsense. 

Mike Matthews: Well, uh, this was, this was great as always. I always, uh, like having these discussions, so. I appreciate it. I know you have to run. Why don’t we just wrap up quickly with our people can find you, find your work, anything in particular, uh, that RP has that you want people to know about, maybe something new, exciting.

Mike Israel: Sure. Nothing new, nothing exciting. We’re done making new things. Uh, we’re going to shut down the company real soon. I’m tired of this bullshit. I, uh, JK, just, just give it away. Just give it away. Here you go. No one wants it. You can’t even give it away. Um, RP hypertrophy app. It’s something that we talk about all the time.

It’s available through links in various, uh, RP strength, YouTube videos. So RP strength on YouTube is the way to find us best at this point. And, uh, we got tons of free information, tons of links to even more free information. The RP costs a little bit of money, but it’ll just take care of all of your training.

And that whole like pick exercises, do them twice a week and add a little weight, a little reps. You can do that in the app so seamlessly, and then it guides you the rest of the way with example videos. It’s just, I love the app. I use it all the time. I don’t, I, I am. I like, uh, had a test version of the app for awhile and then the engineers needed to reboot it.

So I had a couple of days of not using the app and I was like, how am I supposed to do with my training? It, I don’t want to open up Apple notes again. This is off. So I love it. It’s great to use. Obviously you don’t have to use it. So come to YouTube, RP strength on YouTube. You’ll see my giant ugly head.

Click on a video. Don’t click around your children. Cause I say I’ve seen things all the time and then we’ll have a good time and learn. Or, or just have the headphones, you know? Yeah, sure. I mean, you know, there may be things that I say that you would want to forget. So maybe you shouldn’t. What’s the, what’s the drug that the, the, the dentist, uh, gives you that, that laughs or gas or whatever.

Yeah, whatever. So I find out that is, yeah, that’s always have some of that handy, you know, laugh yourself out of memory. Yeah. When the trauma, when it, when it just gets to be too much. That’s it. Well, thanks again for doing this. I look forward to the next one. Thank you so much, Mike. Take care. 

Mike Matthews: Well, I hope you liked this episode.

I hope you found it helpful. And if you did, subscribe to the show because it makes sure that you don’t miss new episodes. And it also helps me because it increases the rankings of the show a little bit, which of course then makes it a little bit more easily found by other people who may like it just as much as you.

And if you didn’t like something about this episode or about the show in general, or if you have. Uh, ideas or suggestions or just feedback to share, shoot me an email Mike at muscleforlife. com muscleforlife. com and let me know what I could do better or just, uh, what your thoughts are about. Maybe what you’d like to see me do in the future.

I read everything myself. I’m always looking for new ideas and constructive feedback. So thanks again for listening to this episode and I hope to hear from you soon.





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