By Mark Dugdale Flex
Bodybuilding is a pursuit of passion. If that passion grabs you early enough, it will rise with almost superhuman success to meet adversities in life outside the gym. It can contract time, multiply your strength and unleash your will. The impossible becomes possible. Don’t tell me what you can’t do — you don’t know what you can’t do. What you think you can’t do is only what you won’t do.
I started bodybuilding when I was 18. For the first nine years, I was in the gym all the time — two hours per workout, hitting every bodypart with 20-25 sets. That, I was taught, was how I had to train. I was fine with that. I loved it, but life soon conspired against it. Family and career responsibilities increased, chopping my training time to one-third of what it had been. However, I refused to compromise my bodybuilding progress. Somehow, I had tocompensate for my loss of training time by making my workouts three times more productive. The Dorian Yates-Mike Mentzer method satisfies that requirement if appropriately applied and it worked for them, but it demands multiplying your intensity manifold. That I could do.
With this method, I typically train a bodypart with three — sometimes four — exercises. The first and heaviest exercise begins with only a couple of warm-up sets. I then go directly to using maximum weight for two all-out sets of six to eight reps, followed by one to three forced reps. For exercises thereafter, I usually go directly to the maximum weight without warm-ups for two all-out sets. This differs slightly from Yates’ one all-out set, but in a couple of years, I’ll probably be down to his single. Experience is enabling me to concentrate harder, generate more intensity, and more thoroughly wipe out the muscle. That’s the crux of this type of training. It’s all a matter of mental maturity. Perfect the Yates- Mentzer technique, and you’ll find it impossible to do more than one all-out set. Already, I’ve discovered that’s the case with two sets.
You will learn over time. You may think it’s easy, but perfecting the method takes great effort, concentration and plenty of practice. Getting focused starts at home, and it intensifies as you approach your workout. The moment you step into the gym, you need to have the mindset that everything will be done in 60 minutes or less, and that you will get more out of it than the last time. Every second you’re in there has to be experienced at 100%. When I leave home, I’m already on autopilot. All I have to do is enter the weight room, and I’m ready to go. Literally all day, I’ve been performing every single rep in my mind, with the exact weight I want to use, feeling exactly how much extension I’ll get, at exactly which point failure will set in and exactly how that will feel, as well as how much “forcing” will follow.
During my workout, I’m oblivious to my surroundings. I’m lost in each repetition, making sure I go through the full range of motion. Anything less means I’m just moving the weight with ancillaries, without involving every fiber of the target muscle. I also go very slowly during the negative, then explode upward. I never knew I went so slowly until I trained with other pros who have a fast pace, in comparison. That might also be the reason why I haven’t injured myself. Going slow during the negative builds tightness and control, so there’s not as much joint shock.
Rather than pump the muscle until it balloons with blood, I need to feel its fibers strain against the weight. When asked how much weight should be used for the first set on a machine that I haven’t used for a long time, my answer is “Let’s use the complete stack.” I’d rather err on the side of using too much weight rather than too little. A set that isn’t maxed is wasted.
I didn’t start using heavy weights until I trained with a powerlifter about five years ago. I went to one of his meets to watch him compete, which was more motivating than a bodybuilding show. Guys half my size were squatting twice what I could. Prior to that meet, I couldn’t squat 500, but less than a year later, I was squatting more than 600 pounds. I’d always hated to train legs, but I realized my attitude was impeding the achievement of my goals. From then on, I hypnotized myself, saying, “I love to train legs.” After five years, I’ve tricked myself into thinking it’s my favorite workout.
That led me to realize that the problem with trainers not lifting heavy enough is merely a mental impediment. They think, That looks heavy. I can’t lift that. Almost every training partner I’ve had will see me lift what I do, and they’re scared to even come close to trying it. I usually throw on another plate and assure them, “I’m here to spot you. I won’t let you hurt yourself.” With that confidence, they try it, and they almost always succeed. The saying goes “the mind is willing, but the flesh is weak,” but I think it’s the converse: the body is capable, but the mind is afraid.
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