Muscle building is not a social ritual

I remember it like it was yesterday… the first time I saw the dungeon.

I was about 14 years old and had just joined the YMCA. My parents thought it would be a great place for me as there was a pool, billiards, ping pong and many other things to do. There are many classes in progress, etc. however, he had other ideas. It was the first time I saw Roger DeCarlis.

Roger was a Mr. America caliber bodybuilder with a phenomenal physique. To me, a young mother, she looked larger than life.

The weight room at the Y could be considered a dungeon. No heat in the winter and no air in the summer. Temperatures reached close to 100 degrees on some summer days and it was wise to get in and out early.

You had to go down a flight of concrete stairs and enter a 14 x 14 room. The walls of the room were block…painted yellow. Connected to the first room was another room approximately 20 x 14 in which there was additional equipment. This was a weightlifting gym in its own right and all you saw were 100 pound plates, Olympic bars, power racks, squat racks, benches, and a myriad of dumbbells with absolutely no visual value…again, it seemed a dungeon Along with that was a plate-loaded leg extension machine that doubled as a push-up. There was a cable pull, a leg press machine, not a sled…and a set of dip bars. They were all dressed in rust. That was the extent of it. The windows, on one wall…I think three, were shoulder-high, looking out onto the street where passers-by peered out. There they would observe the screaming, grunting, metal banging, chalk everywhere, and the smell of ammonia capsules just before performing a record squat, deadlift, or bench press. This was not some pamby namby gym you would find today that has alarms if you growl! No way! This was serious stuff!

In those days, we were considered another species of culture, we hardly understood why we put our bodies to that kind of physical stress. Little did they know that we were competing against ourselves in the deepest parts of our souls.

Roger got up from the leg extension machine and could hardly believe his eyes. He looked like superman to me. The first thing I saw was a huge chest, thick shoulders and massive arms. His small waist added to the symmetry of his physique and made everything seem even bigger.

Roger normally weighed around 190 at 5’7 but was always rock hard. Over a 30-inch waist with close to 19-inch arms (yes, I saw them measured) he was amazing. His legs were big but not as developed and with the muscular separation of his upper body, but certainly not for the reason of not working them hard. I’ve seen him do 20 reps with 640 pounds in the squat below parallel on each rep. Think of that for a bodybuilder weighing 190! His entire bodybuilding career, Roger would literally go through hell trying to bring his legs to his upper body development. His back was also a sight to behold, huge thick erectors and a thick, wide dorsal spread and square of traps. Roger was all business, as he would soon find out. He wouldn’t say a word while he was in the gym in any social way and his focus was that of a man possessed. You always thought he was just mad, but the funny thing is that he really didn’t care what you thought… all that mattered was his mission that day… training! I learned focus and discipline from this man.

It didn’t take long to realize that this was not a social ritual. I must have been a real nuisance in those days because Roger finally got tired of all my questions and went around and agreed to let me train with him. Our workouts were just as I witnessed them when I first met Roger… all business. There was absolutely no problem during training. Each repetition was deliberate, without impulse, and I learned to focus each repetition with my mind, to visualize and feel the repetition. Roger moved with very little rest despite using weight in exercises that were almost ridiculous, he was extremely strong. He built his entire physique with barbells and dumbbells, but he attributes his advantage to his mind and focus.

Fast forward a few years…it’s no longer around 1971 but around 1977. Roger and I, although we no longer train together, are still great friends…as we are today. By now, I’ve been introduced to high intensity training by people like Mike Mentzer who burst onto the bodybuilding scene by storm. He called the Heavy Duty version of him and it was. Mike, after working with Arthur Jones, turned bodybuilding on its head. He showed bodybuilders how to use their ability to think critically while proving that the theory of more is better does not apply to bodybuilding. Further proving that we don’t need to be our own scientists as the muscle magazine implies… searching in the dark for what works for us. His theory of high intensity training lives on today and his rational approach to bodybuilding is a guide for all. He was considered the thinking man’s bodybuilder.

Although I didn’t know about High Intensity Training theory before that, my training was brief, infrequent, and intense by necessity. At the time, my goal was to get as big and strong as I could. The only way to do it was to get rid of all the fluff exercises that got in the way and stole my energy and focus and just do the moves that made me stronger. And I got strong.

It was and is all about focus! I only did one working set… I mean, one set to failure for each exercise. I just did the basics…bench press, squats, rows, deadlifts, leg press, close grip bench, dips and partials. I completely eliminated from my workouts any direct bicep exercises, shoulder exercises, calf exercises, chin ups, dumbbell movements like flies, etc. I only did what would help me become stronger. And knowing that strength and muscle size is relative… what do you think happened? You got it! I grew up and became the strongest of all time and in doing so the greatest of all. At that time I was training maybe three days a week…sometimes two…what I learned later was still too much. I was doing about three sets per workout… period… but with immense focus… it was all business as I had learned early in my career.

Oh yes, others walked into the gym and went through the motions without the mental focus…true…but they never changed, they lacked the same focus and the same vision that would lead them to their goals…it was a social problem. ritual for them. They enjoyed being there. Maybe their goals and purposes didn’t exist or maybe they didn’t know how to focus on them… I guess we’ll never know, never mind.

My preparation for each training was like a planned mission. I would focus and really see what I was going to do. I would keep a log book and check the weights. I was doing a self-hypnosis visualization routine every day in preparation for the next workout, this alone helped me in an amazing way to reprogram my mind for success. When I went to the gym, it was all business. I never spoke to anyone and everyone knew it. It was like the movie “Over the Top” with Sylvester Stallone when he’s ready for wrestling and turns his cap backwards like he flips a switch, which is his signal that it’s time to do business. In fact, I still have a t-shirt I got 35 years ago with the Tasmanian Devil on it… you know, that Looney Tunes character that spins around! The twin brothers who gave it to me told me this is what I looked like when I walked into the gym and started my workout…like a person possessed.

I still train this way today. It’s all business and certainly not a social ritual. Of course, I have a deep understanding these days of anaerobic exercise and understand now that training is just a stimulus and always a negative in the equation because it takes away growth reserves. Looking back like a wise man in a movie, I think to myself… “If I knew then what I know now,” I would have trained less often and with more rest.

My own personal workouts today are 7-15 minutes long…done once every 6-8 days, thanks again to the wisdom of Mike Mentzer and his work on high intensity training theory.

I often see trainers (not all) wasting precious time with clients at the gym…burning through an hour easily…probably because that’s how they get paid. The sad thing is that it is truly a social ritual. They have them doing dumbbell curls while balancing on a ball (only half exaggerating)… standing on their heads while talking about how the weekend went, while throwing the weight up and down. His understanding of anaerobic exercise is very limited and his approach conveyed to his clients is less than desirable to reach his intended goal. My clients train no more than 7-15 minutes because it is impossible to train more than that.

As Greg (Anderson, another HIT trainer and colleague in Seattle) said in his article, High Intensity Strength Training: More Aerobics than Aerobics… “It usually takes a few workouts before the client understands the depth and magnitude of cardiovascular compromise possible from strength training As one of my students recently commented (after a set of squats to total failure followed by 20 seconds of effort against the bar in the bottom position): “OMG! (gasp, gasp…) this is more aerobic than aerobics…”

In fact, when we talked a couple of weeks ago, we were laughing about how little exercise is needed when you’re focused and working hard instead of long. One in particular was about another athlete in Seattle, I think… a die-hard HIT who trains for minutes every 9 days.

Building muscle is nothing more than a stimulus. Stimulate your muscles with an intense workout, and then leave the gym to allow adaptation to take place…that is, your entire body to build additional muscle for the next round. This requires focus and vision and is as far removed from a social ritual as there is. And the most important thing to remember, because the body has the ability to increase strength by 300%, while its recovery capacity increases by at most 50%, then as you get stronger, you have to reduce both the volume as the frequency to continue progressing towards your genetic potential. . It is never necessary to take a layoff due to overtraining, as there is never any overtraining if it is managed properly.

If you’re serious about your progress, HIT IT HARD, 7-15 minutes is all (H)IT needs! And don’t forget to focus and prepare for your mission!

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