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* Strength Oldschool was given permission to publish this article on the Author's behalf. * An Eyewitness Account of Mike Mentzer's Training Seminar by Magnus. Edited by: Strength Oldschool * If you haven’t read Part 1 yet click here. Hello everyone, and welcome to my account (finally!) of the day I attended Mike Mentzer’s seminar. This event took place the day after my unexpected chat with him that you read about in my first Mentzer topic. The seminar consisted of an explanation of Mike’s Heavy Duty training system, a workout that was intense (no demonstrating with light weights here!), and Mike performing his posing routine, followed by questions from the audience. Two things to bear in mind: First, this took place in the early 1980s and was possibly the last time that Mike was in good shape, and second, if you are expecting a lot of Ayn Rand - inspired philosophical chat from Mike it did not happen, as Mike had not yet got around to being entranced by Objectivism at this point in his life. Okay, back in time we go to pick up my thoughts as I finished work for the day and headed for Swindon and the gym where I had been lucky to have that one-on-one discussion with Mike the night before. My mind was buzzing with anticipation: Would Mike get angry or abusive if anyone questioned his training? Was the seminar going to be mostly talk with maybe demonstrations of exercises done with light weights? AND important to a young bodybuilder that had connected with Mike’s wavelength, would he treat me differently to everyone else who attended – my ego was expanded and wanting even more stroking! I walked in the gym and there was Mike by the reception desk already surrounded by lots of young bodybuilders asking questions. Clearly enjoying the attention, it was obvious Mike loved to talk and ‘correct’ any opinions on training which did not agree with his. Looking over he caught sight of me and gave a very slight nod to acknowledge my presence, then went back to the group of around fifteen guys around him – a mental image of Jackals around a Lion came to mind – but if the intention of any of these guys was to criticise Mike I felt sure they would find him to be unbeatable in a debate. The gym owner appeared behind the desk and I purchased a seminar ticket and slowly wandered around the gym, eagerly awaiting the official start of the seminar as staff wandered around the gym telling trainees who did not have tickets that the gym was closing. While this went on I overheard one of the young guys talking while waiting for the seminar to begin (young? I am forgetting I was in my early twenties then so I was part of the same crowd!). He was telling a small group about Mike’s training which he had witnessed a couple of days before. Mike had trained legs, chest and triceps and incredibly did only one set per exercise and no warm-ups! Leg work started with Nautilus leg extensions followed by conventional leg presses (the gym did not have the old Nautilus leg extension/leg press machine that was as big as an army tank, instead it had the much smaller leg extension unit and an ordinary vertical leg press). No mention was made of the amount of weight Mike used on the leg extension, but his style was described as very strict, holding at the top of each rep for a couple of seconds, and on the last three reps he had a gym member press down hard on his ankles as he lowered the weight back down, to make the negative movement much harder ( I read an interview with Tom Platz in which Tom said he saw Mike training this way at Gold’s gym and tried it out on himself and his training partner. Tom concluded that using this technique turned up the intensity to a whole new level.). Unlike his training booklet which recommended going immediately to the leg press to take advantage of the ‘pre-exhaustion’ principle (Mike called it ‘pre-fatigue’), Mike rested for a couple of minutes before pounding out eleven rapid leg presses with seven hundred pounds. Not very heavy compared to today’s bodybuilders? Remember this was on a vertical leg press – much heavier weights can be handled on the inclined leg presses all gyms have now (I have talked to an equipment manufacturer who told me that, depending on the angle of incline, seven hundred on a vertical leg press could equal as much as twelve hundred on an incline leg press machine). Mike took his time between sets and about five minutes later he did one set on the Nautilus leg curl machine for seven reps, then used the whole stack on the calf raise machine, also done as you might be expecting by now, for one set. I vaguely recall the stack was marked as nine hundred pounds. By now half the people in the gym were listening to the guy talking about Mike’s training, and he went on to tell us about Mike’s chest workout. Standing between the pulleys in the cable crossover machine Mike performed two hard sets in a style essentially the same as Arnold used in Pumping Iron. Why two sets instead of one? Mike’s weak point was chest – his pecs were almost flat and it seems even he thought that a bit more work might help with that problem. Following the crossovers Mike did a set of incline presses and a set of dips with his elbows out wide and leaning forward as he descended. Finally Mike hit his triceps with one set of pushdowns, using a v-handle with his thumbs touching each other and allowing the handle to rise as high as his nose on each rep before pressing it down. All along the young guy telling us this, did not mention the weights Mike used except for the leg press, but the final exercise performed must have made a big impression on him as he mentioned the weight three times. It was triceps dips, elbows held in to the sides, and even after the pushdowns Mike strapped on a 125 pound dumbbell and managed seven reps! As if the timing had been planned, as the description of Mike’s training came to an end the gym owner came over and introduced Mike as “Mister Heavy Duty,” further adding that Mike was “a bodybuilder that uses scientific fact to guide his training, and has changed the face of bodybuilding training. Listen to what he says then try it out, you won’t regret it! ” I looked around the gym and saw we were all together, about fifteen guys and a couple of girls listening intently as Mike started talking. Mike assumed the air of a genial teacher helping novice pupils to understand their lessons, and I was relieved that the scowling, cutting foul-mouthed cynic who had amazed me the day before was not on display. Mike’s true calling was writing and teaching, his enjoyment of the seminar plain to see as he was in a relaxed and happy mood – even the occasional dumb question from his audience was met with patience and a look of amusement. Mike pointed at barbells and dumbbells and a couple of Nautilus machines and said “can anyone tell me what the difference is between these things when it comes down to training? I’ll tell you: The barbells are the Stone Age and the Nautilus machines are the now and the future of training. Your joints initiate movement by rotating around an axis or fulcrum point, and Nautilus machines with their odd-shaped cams provide a strength curve that matches these movements, allowing you a fuller range of motion and resistance at the point of complete contraction. This peak contraction is the only point in any movement where all the muscle fibers can be contracted, providing you use enough resistance of course. Do one set to failure then walk away. Train this way and you should make gains after every workout. Those bodybuilders who say you have to train for months on end to gain anything have got it all wrong! If you provide the right training stress then you should get stronger every workout until you reach your genetic potential. Think of it this way: If you sunbathe, too short a time in the sun will be insufficient to tan you. Too long in the sun will overwhelm your system and burn you. But time it right and you will tan and this will happen every time. Training is the same, in other words you apply a specific stress to your muscles and you get a specific response, and this response happens every time if you get the stress right – like getting a tan, you would not need to hope you will tan, or hope you won’t burn. If you apply the right time you will tan….every time! And if you apply the right stress to your muscles you will grow stronger and bigger after every workout guaranteed! ” Mike answered several questions from the audience as some of the guys seemed to find this a bit confusing. I was a bit confused myself as to why they were unsure of Mike’s explanation as it seemed quite clear to me. Mike changed course now as he said “I am due for a workout today, so how would you like to see a Heavy Duty workout in action? The only difference compared to training back home is that my brother trains with me there and knows exactly how much help to give me for forced reps, without him I will only go to positive failure.” Mike repeated the fact that he trained much harder at home several times during the workout he performed – did he think some of the audience would be disappointed by what they saw him do that day? Mike moved over to the Nautilus pullover machine, sat down on the seat and began adjusting the height of it relative to the position of the arm pads, explaining that the point of rotation needed to be in line with the shoulders to allow a full-range movement. Mike continued talking the whole time as he selected a weight about two-thirds of the way down the stack, sat back in the machine and buckled the waist belt to hold himself in, then pressed the foot pedal far enough to get his elbows and forearms on the pads. The weight stretched Mike as far back as he could reach when he released the pedal, then he began to perform rapid repetitions. Now for the first surprise: Mike tried to continue talking as he trained but came to a sudden stop after three reps and declared the weight was too heavy! Having read about Mike using the whole stack on most of these machines it was completely unexpected when he stopped, extricated himself from the machine and reduced the weight to half the stack. He started again and this time stopped talking after the fourth rep, going on to finish with nine reps. The other thing that I found surprising and at odds with his training articles at the time was his rep speed. In most of Mike’s writings which appeared in Weider’s Muscle Builder magazine he strongly emphasised holding the peak contraction in exercises that allowed it (and the Nautilus pullover did ), and he recommended momentum be kept out of exercise by performing reps slowly, and even slower on the eccentric phase (lowering the weight) – yet here was Mike doing his reps very fast and not holding the peak contraction at all. Who knows, maybe Mike was having an off day for training and just wanted to get through it. Whatever the truth may have been, I thought to myself "that guy describing Mike’s workout before the seminar started: Did he exaggerate what Mike did, or could he even have read about it in a magazine and pretended he had watched Mike train when he told us about it? ” There did not seem to be any reason why he would have made it up, so I concluded that either Mike was distracted by talking to us and could not really get into his exercises, or maybe it was simply the fact that he was relatively stronger in his legs and triceps than his upper back (his triceps certainly were incredibly impressive-looking). As Mike caught his breath he explained the virtues of the pullover done Nautilus-style: "You could do pullovers with a barbell or a dumbbell if necessary but they don’t come close to the Nautilus version because the effective range of motion, thanks to the offset-cam, is more than doubled on the machine, and pushing the pads with your elbows, not your forearms or hands, removes the weak link between the weight and you, enabling much more direct effort on your lats. The inventor of Nautilus, Arthur Jones, called this pullover ‘the upper-body squat,’ and he believed it would lead to bigger lats than had ever been seen before. I think Jones had a point there, but personally I think parallel-bar dips for pecs, delts and triceps are more worthy of the name ‘upper –body squat.” Mike wiped the sweat from his face, put his glasses back on and said “have you ever tried working out with a bunch of people watching you? You should try it sometime! ” This confirmed in my mind my opinion that maybe Mike found training in front of everyone a bit off-putting, leading to a reduction in his performance. “The purpose of the pullover is to pre-fatigue the lats, then we move onto another exercise which uses our biceps as well. Because our biceps don’t get hit by the pullover they are still fresh and can help drive our lats to total exhaustion when we perform a compound exercise such as lat pull-downs after the pullovers. Of course, to get the maximum effect we should go from the pullover to the pull-down with no rest, but, as I am explaining all of this to you all, I am taking time out between sets to talk, and I cannot do that if I train as fast and intensely as usual.” As Mike explained the above he put on a pair of wrist straps then put the pin in three different spots in the weight stack of the pull-down unit and tested the resistance. The pull-down unit was not a Nautilus pull-down (it seemed odd that the gym had some of the Nautilus range but not all of them, but back when this seminar took place it was the only gym within sixty miles of my home that had any Nautilus machines, so we were thankful for what we did have). Satisfied with the weight selected, Mike strapped on to the bar using a curl-grip, his hands closer than shoulder-width, then asked two guys from the audience to help him pull it down. Mike locked his legs under the roller pad and carried on alone, once again using rapid reps, although he did briefly hold the bar at his chest on each rep. Mike squeezed out seven reps then straightened up and unstrapped himself from the pull-down bar. As he turned toward us a couple of guys indicated they wanted to ask a question. Mike nodded and the first guy said “why don’t you use a wide grip? Arnold says you have to do wide-grip chins for wide lats.” The second guy chimed in with “yeah, and he says you need to do enough sets to get at least fifty reps in per workout, or it wouldn’t be enough to build your lats! ” I found this a bit amusing, as Mike had huge lats despite not following Arnold’s approach. For a second I thought Mike was going to get angry with these guys, but instead he chuckled and looked at them for a few seconds with a look on his face that I could only describe as his ‘forgive them for they know not what they say’ expression, then he replied: “Let’s look at this logically – see where the origins and insertions of your lats are? They attach to your upper arm and around your hip area. Now put your grip out wide and the distance between these two points is less but with a narrow grip see how the distance is greater? And a longer range of motion trains the lats more completely, so using a wide grip to get wider is just nonsense! Oh, before I forget to mention it, you should use a palms-up grip the same as you would use for barbell curls, because this puts your biceps in their strongest position to help your lats in the pull-down. Chins and pull-downs with your palms facing away from you don’t make sense because your biceps are in a weaker position. You can prove this by trying reverse curls – you will find that with that grip you cannot curl as much as with your palms up.” Mike had moved to the pulley row as he was explaining the above and he strapped on to the V-bar after putting the pin in the hole on the stack that was marked as 300 pounds. He pulled back and sat down, did two reps then released the weight and asked for the pin to be put in the 260 pound hole, then got back in position and rapidly performed nine reps of close-grip rows, the bar hitting Mike’s abs with a loud thunk on each rep – it sounded like someone banging on a door! Mike got back on his feet and said “that’s a great exercise, I love doing it! Okay, that’s back finished, let’s do deltoids next! ” We followed Mike across the gym to the Nautilus lateral raise machine – this was not the original double-shoulder machine that also had an overhead press on it, instead this machine was for side raises only. Going off at a tangent for a minute, I had not mentioned it in my first Mentzer article but after seeing Mike for the first time the day before the seminar I had trained in the gym and tried Nautilus laterals for the first time. Wow! Dumbbell lateral raises don’t come close to the isolation you feel on the medial heads of your deltoids. As I reached failure I was surprised to see Mike appear and assist me with two forced reps, after which he said “that was a good strict set! Don’t forget one like that is enough. What else are you planning to do? ” I replied “I was going to do presses but I don’t think I could do much after this set – what would you suggest? ” Mike nodded and said “you don’t need presses at all. The front delts get plenty of work when you train chest so forget presses and just do side and rear laterals instead.” I took his advice and did not do any pressing, but Mike had obviously changed his opinion of presses at some point because I had seen photos of Mike in the magazines doing Universal machine presses and smith machine presses. Back to the seminar! Mike explained to the audience that presses were unnecessary and threw me a compliment, saying “this guy talked about that yesterday with me, and he understands Heavy Duty well because I watched him train and he did things correctly. When I have gone you could always ask him if you are not sure of anything.” I thanked Mike while feeling a bit embarrassed by such a resounding endorsement, but my ego was certainly nourished that day! Mike put the pin in the 100 pound hole on the stack then did a set consisting of ten reps, each lateral raise going up fast as Mike pushed up and out with his forearms, his hands staying relaxed, and holding at the top for a second on each rep. Then, for a change of pace, Mike asked for volunteers to try the machine and took two guys through a set each, then he turned to rear deltoid training for which he was forced to use dumbbells. Bent over parallel with the floor Mike performed lateral raises with a pair of thirty pounders, his arms slightly bent and his thumbs pointing down for nine fast reps. Mike dropped the dumbbells and said “that’s it for deltoids! I know it seems very brief to most of you, but remember that when you train chest, back or arms your deltoids are also working, so doing a lot of direct work would overtrain them. Okay, to finish today I am gonna do a set of biceps! ” Visions of Mike barbell curling 200 pounds and preacher curling 150 pounds in the magazines came to mind, and I was eager to see what he could curl that day so was a little disappointed when he sat on a bench and did dumbbell concentration curls instead. Starting with his left arm he put his elbow against his leg and held the sixty pound dumbbell with his little finger against the inside weight plate, the other end of the dumbbell slanting downwards. Mike explained this put his palm in the preferred supine position allowing fuller contraction of his biceps, and then he proceeded to grind out eight very hard reps. Switching to his right hand, Mike struggled even harder with his reps and spotted himself in a most unusual way. Instead of holding his wrist with his other hand to help the weight up Mike made a fist with his left hand and punched upwards against his right hand a couple of times on each rep, driving the weight up in a way that I had never seen before (or since) until he had completed seven reps. Mike got his breath back and explained that punching his hand up made each rep possible but ensured all the weight stayed on his working arm, whereas holding his wrist to spot himself could lead to the assisting hand doing too much of the work and reducing the intensity – a very definite no-no in Mike’s book! Now Mike invited questions, and it struck me that he had not done any direct trapezius or lower back exercises which he always advocated in the magazines. I must admit I did not make a note of all the questions asked, but here is a brief list of the answers I do remember: Mike was asked what it was like to work for Arthur Jones, to which he explained he no longer did work for him. He stated that Jones was a “true genius, and the only person I have ever met who really understands productive training, but he is impossible to work for. He is not only a genius; he is also a very unpleasant, arrogant know-it-all. Bodybuilding owes him a debt of gratitude for advancing training technology into the twentieth century, but even so there’s no way I could work for him again.” Read my first Mentzer article where I mention Ellington Darden’s book which has a chapter about Mike and Ray Mentzer’s time working for Jones. Darden explains what really happened and some of the unpleasant events later on when Mike cracked up. Mike was asked to demonstrate dips as he had said they were ‘the upper body squat’ in his opinion, and we followed him over to the dip station, which had two sets of bars for both narrow-grip and wide-grip dips. Mike turned to us and said “the wide bars are unnecessary, why are they here? ” The gym owner explained that Vince Gironda (pictured below) recommended narrow bar dips for triceps and wide grips for pecs, and they took his advice. Mike had an expression of contempt on his face as he said “Gironda is just a crazy old hippie who does not know what he’s talking about. Elbow position is the key on dips – elbows out and forward leaning hits your pecs, and elbows back and close to your sides with an upright torso hits your triceps, so you don’t need the wide bars.” This answer satisfied the audience but left me feeling uncomfortable because I had worked on dips done the Gironda way, and there was no doubt in my mind that Gironda was right. His wide grip dips carved a line under my pecs and made them look much wider in a way that no other exercise did, and the position of your head, feet and body shape came into it as well. The gym owner called for us to pay attention to him then said “Mike is going to get ready and pose for you now, and I want two volunteers to work the lights and music for him.” Mike went over to the cable crossovers and proceeded to perform five sets of fifteen reps with light weights, trying to pump up his pecs. Amazingly, he did not do any other body part pumping before he went in the back and changed. The lights were dimmed and a huge silhouette quietly padded over to the posing spot, then the music started and I recognised a part of ‘the ring’ by Wagner, a very dramatic classical piece. Dimly I could see Mike raise his arms up and out, and then the lights came on! Mike was not tanned and not contest-cut but what a sight! With his arms straight out at shoulder-level he looked incredibly wide, massive shoulders and lats tapering into a small waist held in a vacuum pose. Mike’s posing routine lasted three minutes and was not a fast fancy-moves type of routine but slow, each pose being held for several seconds. I recalled Bill Pearl describing Mike’s physique as “looking like he could walk through a brick wall- I’m not saying whether he really could or not, but he looked like he could! ” I agreed with Bill’s assessment as Mike looked like Hercules reincarnated in every pose, and I could easily understand why Arnold was frightened by Mike when they had words at the 1980 Mr. Olympia contest. The lights went out, Mike went back to change, and I listened to some of the comments made by the audience after the lights came back on. Most of the remarks revolved around the size of Mike’s arms, everybody seemed amazed by them, including me. Mike reappeared in a Heavy Duty sweatshirt and stood by the reception desk, taking more questions from the crowd who were now wired up after witnessing his posing routine. The subject came around to nutrition and Mike set about contradicting nearly every bodybuilding convention I knew at the time. During his talk he mentioned bagels as his favourite breakfast but none of us had heard of them at the time (food choices were much more limited thirty years ago compared to today in the UK). I would have loved another chat with Mike but my time was up, I had forty miles to drive to get home and needed to be fresh for work the next day. Mike nodded in my direction as I indicated it was time for me to go, then went back to his audience who were hanging on his every word. I hoped to see Mike again but when I visited the gym a week later he had gone. So there you have it – an eye-witness account of a seminar with the intellectual of the bodybuilding world – MIKE MENTZER. By Magnus * Please note: This article is copyrighted and may not be used on another website! Readers do have permission to share this article (greatly appreciated ) across social media by clicking the "share" button link. * * Listen to this great Interview by John Hansen where Author John Little remembers Mike Mentzer... * Radio Interviews with Mike Mentzer... For more great info on Mike Mentzer check out http://www.mikementzer.com/
* Strength Oldschool was given permission to publish this article by Magnus. Much has been written about Mike Mentzer (1951 - 2001) over the years. Even now, ten years after he and his brother Ray (1953 - 2001) died, he still gets quoted, misquoted and has many fans and foes debating the efficacy of his “Heavy Duty” training system. Added to all the above is a hefty archive of Mike’s own books, videos and magazine articles – he loved to write and unlike most bodybuilders articles these were all his own works, no ghost writers involved! He was also noted for not being shy in saying what he thought about anything, regularly upsetting people to the point of personal danger (remember when pro bodybuilder Mike Matarazzo (photo below) got very upset when he read Mentzer’s opinion of his physique and it almost came to blows in the gym? ). I personally experienced Mike’s directness and opinions when I was fortunate enough to have a one-to-one chat with him years ago. This took place back in the 1980s when Mike spent some time on a seminar tour in Europe and the UK. By a serendipitous event I ended up alone in the Swindon UK gym with Mike one evening after the gym closed – where the gym owner vanished to for an hour I never found out but took my chance to talk to Mike. Luckily for me, I had been introduced to Mike earlier that day after making a special trip to train there and see him – I got the day wrong as his seminar was the next day and Mike was sat on a pec deck machine telling several guys what was wrong with the 1980 and 1981 Olympia results. He was covered up and one guy said “Bet you would like to see his 20 inch biceps eh? ” I replied “No, I would like to see Mr Mentzer’s triceps – he has the best triceps in the world! ” At this the guys laughed but Mike looked my way with a look of interest on his face and said “No, no guys he is not crazy, my biceps are okay but not outstanding but my triceps…well I agree they are my best bodypart and the best in the world.” Then the gym owner came over to speak to Mike about next day’s planned seminar so the conversation went no further, but the ice had been broken and that evening Mike was keen to “have an intelligent conversation for a change.” At the time I was a staunch heavy duty HIT supporter so I started by asking several questions about training – Mike obviously loved talking about his system but could not resist getting quite loud and fired-up as he talked, and I had to try hard to look relaxed while feeling a bit intimidated inside. SO….I bit the bullet and openly told Mike that I felt nervous in his presence and that although I knew I was safe it was like a young gorilla being unnerved by a silverback – Mike was not very tall, about 5 feet 9 inches but he was BIG! Mike’s waist and legs looked smaller than in photos I had seen of him but, even fully dressed his torso looked very broad and his arms strained the seams of his tracksuit – I mean they were HUGE! At this time in my life I had seen such luminaries of the BB world as Boyer Coe, Tony Pearson, Jusup Wilcosz, Tony Emmot, Bill Richardson and many more but none had arms as big as Mike’s when relaxed (those massive triceps see!). Anyway, Mike chuckled at this and said “You know you’re right, sometimes when I get close to friends of mine they shy away as though they were scared of me! ” He then became a bit quieter and cast his eye around the gym which was one of the first in the UK to have lots of Nautilus machines and dumbbell racks going up to around 150 lb bells. "That ”, said Mike pointing at a barbell, “is stone age technology, these Nautilus machines are the present and future of training. You could scrap all the free weights in here and just use Nautilus because of their superior accommodating resistance that works around a rotational axis " but interestingly enough Mike never suggested scrapping free weights altogether in his articles. I followed Mike’s train of thought by asking about his association with Arthur Jones the infamous Nautilus inventor. Mike stared at me then astounded me as he said “Arthur Jones is the greatest genius I ever talked to and moved bodybuilding from the stone age into the future – no one else comes close, that’s why Weider attacks machine training in his mag because Weider knows nothing and is frightened of Arthur’s knowledge! ” Mike then said he was thankful to Joe Weider for the opportunity to write articles as he loved to do so, but claimed most of the other bodybuilders training articles were ghost written and that “the truth is none of them really know the first thing about effective training, they all listen to Weider and overtrain all the time – without steroids they would all burn out! ” Mike then looked at his watch and said “I miss my girlfriend and Ray my brother, I wonder what they are doing right now? Be glad to get home and see them again.” Mike swung back to Arthur Jones (pictured below) and declared that “Jones says the human brain is an evolutionary f–k-up! Our vastly increased mental capacities have enabled us to create weaponry so powerful it threatens us all, and he says the human race will destroy itself! More than once Arthur said to me “Michael, the last moments of humanity are going to be un-f–king-believable! Everything’s gonna be blown away because our brains are more advanced than our morals, so everyone ends up being f–ked! ” I was a bit taken aback at this. Having read most of Mike’s articles at the time which generally were well-written and calmly logical, I was not ready for him to get loud again and to f and blind so freely but managed to remain relaxed enough to say “Yeah, he could be right he certainly is a genius but I am hoping that this is one thing he gets wrong. Do you think he could be right about nuclear war?” Mike looked amused for a second then got serious again with “Jones thinks he’s right about everything! You cannot debate with him because he won’t listen to any argument and never stops talking - the man is a true genius but he is a f–king c–t and no one can stand working for him for long." (what about Ell Darden then? But I dare not interrupt as Mike was getting hot under the collar again!). Photo below: Casey Viator, Dan Lurie, Arthur Jones and Sergio Oliva (1971) "The most amazing night I ever had was an evening at Arthur’s with Joe Weider and (cannot remember for sure but others may have been Ell Darden and Casey Viator, but Mike definitely said Weider was there) others. Arthur never stopped talking and it was the most scientific indepth talk about training ever! No one else got a chance to speak and Joe looked stunned because Arthur’s stuff was beyond him, that’s why Joe was afraid of Nautilus and tried to put them down in his magazines. Joe acted disgracefully doing that but he had to be number one in the bodybuilding world so came out with several articles supposedly written by his champions saying they tried out Nautilus machines and they did not work – f–king bullshit lies! " * Photo below: Arnold using the Nautilus Pullover Machine designed by Arthur Jones. * Photo below: Franco Columbu using the Nautilus Pullover Machine. * Photo below: Sergio Oliva Training with Arthur Jones - Nautilus Equipment (1971) * Photo below: Arnold and The Myth Sergio Oliva Pumping Up Backstage at the 1972 Mr Olympia contest. "Hey, Sergio Oliva trained with Arthur for awhile in 1972 and was in his best shape ever that year in the Olympia but Joe wanted Arnold to stay on top so that’s what happened. Sergio got f–king screwed and quit the IFBB for years. I know what he felt like because I was shafted in 1980 and they gave the O to Arnold again when he should have lost.” (My comments on the above can be found at the end of this article). Mike was talking a bit slower and quieter now and his voice was tinged with regret. There was no doubt in my mind that he bitterly resented his 1980 loss and this disappointment was so visible in his manner as he talked that I am sure he felt unfulfilled for the rest of his life. Mike carried on with his assessment of the 1980 Olympia. “If Arnold had been in his 1974 shape then I could have accepted his win, but on the night he was nowhere near that condition, I would have put him 5th or 6th but Weider wanted him on top and me shafted because I had been talking against his and Arnold’s ridiculous 20 sets a bodypart training routines. Joe thought it would show his training was superior to heavy duty if I lost and Arnold won. And I was not the only one shafted – Boyer Coe and Roger Walker both looked great and should have placed above Arnold.” * Photos below: Arnold Schwarzenegger from 1974... Frank Zane and Chris Dickerson who came third and second had not been mentioned by Mike so I asked whether he thought they should have beaten Arnold. Mike replied “Yes they should but I will qualify that by saying they should not beat big guys in shape – this is bodybuilding not ballet dancing! Zane is too small to be Mr Olympia yet they gave it to him three times, even beating me in ’79. And Dickerson (pictured below) may have great calves but look at his arms! He’s got no biceps to speak of yet still wins shows, it just proves things are fixed.” * Arnold vs Chris Dickerson * Arnold Schwarzenegger vs Chris Dickerson vs Frank Zane I took a deep breath and dared to ask Mike about the controversial 1981 Olympia, when a dazzling Tom Platz came third and Franco Columbu returned from retirement to win with the poorest legs in the contest. Mike was incredibly dismissive of Franco, saying... "That was another fix, no way should that mental midget have beaten Platz but once again one of Arnold's cronies was looked after by Weider! In the muscle magazines afterwards they claimed Joe did not agree with the result but he was just saying that to cover himself - the result stayed the same even though the whole audience disagreed with it. You can’t fool people all the time and putting that dimwitted quack first was an insult.” * 1981 Mr Olympia: Danny Padilla vs Franco Columbu * 1981 Mr Olympia: Franco Columbu vs Tom Platz I happen to agree that Franco should not have won that year, but instead I asked Mike to explain his use of the word “quack.” “He calls himself a doctor but he’s not a real doctor he’s a chiropractor. These bone crackers are not real doctors it’s all nonsense, it’s all based on erroneous science to do with facial nerves. I agree my back needs adjusting at times but I lay on the floor and crack it myself, I don’t need any bone cracker messing me up. I respect the medical profession but not these fringe practitioners, chiropractic belongs with other nonsense like homeopathy not with genuine doctors.” Mike then started to talk about nutrition and his opinion that “A well balanced diet is all you need, taking extra vitamins and protein supplements is a waste of money! The muscle mags want you to believe taking supplements will give you a contest physique but that is complete garbage! The supplement industry makes massive profits out of gullible guys desperate for progress, but the truth is you cannot be a champion without steroids! Everyone lies and says they are drug-free but not me. Taking steroids is necessary if you want to be a pro, I use them myself, I don’t think it’s immoral to use drugs but I do think it’s immoral to lie! As a result all these young guys piss away lots of money on supplements that don’t work whilst believing their idols supplement endorsements. Look up nutrition in medical textbooks and you’ll see the truth… you really don’t need much protein and energy to train comes from carbohydrates so you should focus on them.” Unfortunately, at that moment the gym owner reappeared, looked at me and said “What are you doing in here? ” Before I could reply Mike said “We have been having a very interesting discussion, would you like to join us? ” No such luck, the gym owner stared at Mike and said “Interesting discussion? It’s late and we’ve got to go and he should not even be in here.” He turned to me and said “Times up say goodbye to Mike.” Mike looked disappointed as he had been in full flow and obviously loved talking as much as me, but being temporarily on the gym owners payroll he went along with his orders and simply said “Thank you for such a stimulating conversation, will you be at my seminar tomorrow? ” I replied in the affirmative then thanked Mike and stepped out into the dark, mind aglow with my experience. I made notes of our chat when I arrived home but most of what Mike said is still very clear in my memory. In the years that followed Mike became entranced by Objectivism and Ayn Rand and his speech was full of her philosophy but you have just heard Mike talking before all that. He also changed his mind about a few things as time went on, for example his last two books with John Little gave free weights much more respect. Mike no longer believed that “stone age barbells” should be scrapped. Mike fell into a psychological breakdown and was mentally ill for sometime – I often think if he had won the Olympia he would have been very different to the man he became who claimed to be very happy with his life, yet seemed to me to be unhappy. At the end Mike was in very poor health, on lots of medication and sounded like an old man yet was only middle-aged. Typically stubborn he smoked a lot and said “I love it ” when challenged to quit smoking. Mike’s integrity remained to the end – for example in Muscular Development magazine when asked who was best Arnold or Dorian Yates (pictured below around 1993) he stated that Arnold in his 1974 incarnation was clearly the best even though he intensely disliked Arnold and Dorian was a friend and fellow HIT advocate. Believe me, if Mike said anything he was always 100% sincere and never worried about upsetting anyone, his favourite saying being that it’s not about who is right or wrong, but what is the truth? I respect Mike’s stance on the truth but was everything that Mike said true, or had his mind played tricks on him even as far back as our conversation? I have some doubts in my own mind as to whether some of what Mike believed was true. Referring back to Mike’s Nautilus and Arthur Jones statements – did Mike really attend a meeting at Arthur Jone’s with Joe Weider? I find that highly unlikely as Jones and Weider were business rivals, with Joe printing articles rubbishing Nautilus machines, and Arthur declaring that no one but he understood anything at all about bodybuilding. But who knows? Maybe it did happen! Also Mike said Oliva trained with Arthur in 1972 when he appeared in his all-time best shape at the Olympia, but Ell Darden would tell you Sergio was at Nautilus HQ in 1971 NOT 1972 – so was Mike just being forgetful? Another bone of contention is the way Mike, just like Arthur, regarded practically everyone else as being ignorant/misinformed/or just plain stupid when their opinions differed from his. Note especially his dismissive view of Franco. Whether or not Chiropractic is a valid medical science, anyone qualifying to be a DC is most unlikely to be a “mental midget.” Also Mike owed Joe Weider gratitude for giving him publicity and a job on his editorial staff, and Joe helped Mike launch his own “Heavy Duty” mail order business, but when Mike went his own way he was telling everyone that Joe knew “nothing” about bodybuilding. Finally, the way Mike ranted about fixed contests to me, a complete stranger, revealed a personality near the edge, and later he did crack. Try reading Ell Darden’s book “The New High Intensity Training” where Ellington devotes a chapter to his experiences with the Mentzer brothers, sad reading about the delusional state Mike suffered for some time. I have to say I don’t agree with quite a bit of what Mike said, but I respect his views and have written it here as he said it. AND what of the seminar that took place next day? Well, that’s another story that I might write down one day but not today. Finally, if this does get published remember it’s about what Mike Mentzer said NOT my opinions so if anyone reading this gets offended please don’t come looking to sue me, I am only the journalist on this article repeating what Mike said that interesting night and, although I question some of what he said, I can neither verify or disprove what he said. By Magnus * Please note: This article is copyrighted and may not be used on another website! Readers do have permission to share this article (greatly appreciated ) across social media by clicking the "share" button link. * * To read Part 2 click here. For more great info on Mike Mentzer check out http://www.mikementzer.com/
2001 Interview with Sergio Oliva By Brian D. Johnston Edited by: Strength Oldschool * At the time of this interview, Sergio Oliva was 60 years old. BDJ: How did you meet Arthur Jones; what lead to your involvement with him? SO: Jones initially contacted me from Deland, Florida. He wanted me to fly to Daytona Beach to check out what he was doing, and to give an opinion of his machines. So, I flew down and tested them, and I found them to be quite different from other, regular machines. He then asked if I wanted to go through one of his routines while under his supervision. And I said, "yes." It was very intensive... very powerful... and very different from other routines. BDJ: Provide an example of a routine you did at that time? SO: Jones would put you in a routine starting with legs. The exercises were carried to the point where you could not possibly do any more reps -- to the point of not being able to move the weight. A routine, for instance, would have you start with a squat to muscular failure. Then when you were finished, he would put you in the Nautilus squat machine and that combination would beat the hell out of you. By the time you finished, you would not have the energy to do anything. Then he has you immediately doing the regular free weight bench press, followed by a Nautilus chest machine... then more exercises for the remainder of the body. BDJ: So, Jones had you alternate between free weights and machines? SO: He would only recommend the machines, but I wanted to use free weights also. But when we started to get close to the competition, there was no way I could do both... no way. The machines alone would do it for me. If you don't use the machines the way we did, then it's a piece of cake and you can easily include other exercises in between. But with Jones's method, there is no way... you keep going until you can no longer move. And when you think you're going to rest, he has you going to another machine! By the time you get to the other machine, you feel like you're going to die, pushing yourself to the maximum again. When finished, all you can do is lay down on the floor. BDJ: Did Jones train in your presence, and if so, did he train that hard? SO: He had his own routine and method of using those machines. I saw other people use the machines, but it was not the same way that Jones used them. He had a machine for each muscle, and the way he used them and instructed people to use them, it felt like you were going to throw up. Sometimes he would get people to use machine after machine, and when you thought you were finished, he would get you to do a squat! It was unbelievable. BDJ: A legendary workout had you train immediately after Casey Viator, performing a full body workout. Reports indicate that you could not complete the workout very well and was reduced to using relatively light weights in order to complete it. Is that account very accurate? SO: Yes. That was my very first workout when I went down to Florida. Casey already lived there with Jones and was used to the workouts. I wanted to also workout, and I thought, "Jesus Christ! " I believed that I could not do it, even after having trained so hard for so long. That's when he put me through all the machines. By the time I got to the last one, I thought I was going to throw up on the floor. But as you continue going every day, your power, endurance, determination increases so much that you are able to handle that kind of routine. It was the way that he did it that was different. Too many people used them like they were using free weights pumping and resting. BDJ: I believe you may be the only person to officially develop a muscular arm with a height (from the top of the biceps to the bottom of the triceps) greater than the height of one's head. Did this phenomenon occur while training with Jones? SO: This occurred with Jones, around the time of the 1972 Mr. Olympia in Essen, Germany. You see, Jones tricked everybody. He would invite them down and pay for the trip to test his machines. Everyone went down... Columbu, Arnold, Zane... everybody. And as soon as you arrived he would start measuring your arms cold, then he would tell you how much you can increase in a couple of days, and nobody would believe it. All those Weider magazines claiming 21-22" arms would have everyone coming down to 18-19"... and the only 20.5" cold was my arm. After going through his workouts, my arm was almost an inch bigger, and that happened for everybody. Arnold's arm was 19.75", and Weider had him in the magazines with 22.5". It was ridiculous -- all their measurements came down when Jones measured them. It was during that time that Jones measured my arms and my head, and I couldn't believe that my arms were bigger than my head... I didn't pay attention up to that point. BDJ: I believe your initial meeting with Jones was around the same time that Arnold beat you during that very controversial Mr. Olympia in Essen, Germany? SO: Yes, it was around then that we started training together, but was actually about a year before when I started training with Arthur to prepare for the Mr. Universe in London. BDJ: The one picture I remember of you from Essen, Germany was when you held your arms up over your head -- it was very striking. You're also, perhaps, one of the few who can hold that pose and look good? SO: Ah, yes, the Victory Pose. A lot of bodybuilders try to do it, but the problem with the Victory Pose is that you have to have so much muscle. Your lats have to be tremendous, and the waist very tiny. Plus the lats have to be linked to tremendous triceps and the chest has to be huge; otherwise you look flat from the front when you raise the arms. And when you work your way up, the forearms have to be huge, otherwise they look small connected to the triceps. And that pose came out of no where; I did it, but don't know how or why. I was posing in a country in the 1960s, I lifted my arms up, and everybody went bananas! From that day on everybody started calling me the Myth, and named it the Victory Pose. And after that if I didn't hold that pose they wouldn't let me off the stage (laughter). BDJ: Judging from past photos, I believe you were your biggest while training with Jones. SO: No question about it. And it's too bad... I should have stayed with him. When I went to London in 1970 for the Mr. Universe, everyone knew I beat those guys, including Bill Pearl... I was given second place. NOTE by Strength Oldschool: I believe Sergio was referring to the 1971 Mr Universe as that's when Bill Pearl made his return back to competition and won against Sergio. SO: From there I was to go to the 1971 Mr. Olympia, in Paris. I spoke to Serge Nubret who asked that I go to the Mr. Olympia since Joe Weider wouldn't be there to fix the contest. I then flew to Paris, and while there Joe found out I was going to compete. And he refused... he would not let me compete. He said I was suspended for a year because I competed in the non-IFBB sanctioned Mr. Universe in London the year before. He used any kind of trick. He allowed me to do a posing exhibition, but not compete. In 1972, the Mr. Olympia promoter called everyone to go, and everyone did. But Joe didn't want Arnold to go, but Arnold wanted to compete. (I have nothing against Arnold, he has done very well; many people used him in the beginning, then he used them.) Arnold competed in Essen. By that time, the training I had with Jones allowed me to win the contest by miles. People are still talking about Essen '72. Even Arnold himself said that he didn't win, that it was nothing but politics... it was nothing but politics, but they gave it to him. After that contest Weider put the promoter out of the promotion business. Serge Nubret used to be the big man when it came to running contests. Weider also put him out of the business because Serge did not want to run the contests the way Weider wanted to run them his way with the placings predetermined. * How Sergio Oliva looked in 1971 at around 30 years of age... BDJ: After you left Jones's instruction and went your own way, did you continue training with a HIT approach, or did you return to volume training? SO: Well, I went back to free weights because I did not have access to his machines. I was definitely more powerful after the experience and was lifting more on the free weights than ever before. I did maintain the same intensity afterward, however. BDJ: The reason I brought that up is that previous issues of muscle magazines, and throughout various Weider encyclopedias and books, it suggested that you performed a much higher volume of training, up to 15-20 sets per muscle group. SO: I definitely did not do that many sets, but don't forget I didn't have the machines, which were much more intense -- requiring less volume in comparison to free weights. So I had to make up for the reduction in quality. It's politics, the Weider bullshit magazines. But they control everything. If you try and fight it they will do everything to get you out of the way. They control all the contests, equipment and bodybuilders. And bodybuilders have to go with Weider because where else are they going to compete? They have to bend and go with them. But me, I did not care. When I went to Weider I was already Sergio Oliva, so he could not say that he 'made' me. People already knew me from before and that I was with the AAU before going for the IFBB. He could not use me, perhaps to the point where he could claim that he took me out of my mamma's belly. BDJ: Well, Weider claims to be Trainer of Champions. SO: When he took Arnold under his wing, Arnold was already competing in London, England for Mr. Universe. He only trained a few people, but that's the propaganda. They also call him the 'Master', but I don't know the master of what... maybe the master of breaking your back and your brains. A lot of politics, and it's too bad. For the younger bodybuilders they have no choice. If you use the drugs, have the physique and want to make money, then you have to go with him. Otherwise, don't use the drugs because you won't have any other place to go. It's all Weider: the Mr. Olympia, Mr. Universe, Night of Champions. They have every body back and front. BDJ: What opinion do you have of Arthur Jones? SO: Anything I have to say about Jones is good. He is the only honest man I met in bodybuilding. If he says "I'm going to pay you so much", he does. If he says that he's going to train you a particular way, and next year you're going to look a certain way, then you will look that way. He's the type of person you like to be around; the type of person you like to deal with since he won't screw you or use you. Totally different from those other assholes. And everyone who went down to Florida knows that. And it's too bad... if Jones was the one running all the competitions, there would have been a lot of changes. He should have been the one to run the Mr. Olympia and other contests. BDJ: What is your opinion on the competitors of today, compared to your competition days? SO: When I see what they are going through, and what they have to take to be what they are... I wouldn't want it. You can even see how differently the muscle develops on bodybuilders of today versus those of the sixties. The amount of steroids that they use is way over the limit. And that's why you see those physiques... they're tremendous. * Photo below: Sergio Oliva in the late 1960s. BDJ: I find most of the physiques today look like one another; almost clone-like. Competitors of the sixties and seventies each had a special unique look or style. SO: Yes, they all look the same. And if they have a little bit of shape, they all have the same kind of shape! They all have the same look. And it's hard to differentiate one from the other. BDJ: What are your thoughts on some of the past Mr. Olympias, in regards to political tampering? How about the 1979 Mr. Olympia between Zane and Mentzer? SO: Mentzer all the way. There is no doubt about it. But don't forget, Mike came from the outside; Zane was with Weider. Don't let anybody fool you. Zane, Arnold, Columbu, Haney... all those guys were under contract. Now, Lee Haney is my friend and I have a lot of respect for him, but there is no way in the old days that Lee Haney would have won the Mr. Olympia. His physique is unproportional -- a man with a back, but no arms or calves. Then there's Dorian Yates. He has a belly like a cow and no arms. That is not a complete physique. That is not proportional or symmetrical. But being under contract.... Now, if they put Zane and Mentzer together in a contest that was not Weider dominated then Mike would have won. Zane knows that, and Zane is my personal friend. * Photo below: 1995 Mr Olympia - Sergio Oliva at 54 years old with Lee Haney BDJ: Do you think Haney deserved any of the Mr. Olympia wins? SO: He may have deserved some Mr. Olympias, but not all... not the guys he competed against. But, he knows. Everybody knows. BDJ: Could you relay your own experience with drug use? SO: This is an area of great interest for people. I don't care who wants to take steroids, because that's a personal choice... that's his life. Now, today, everybody has access to them. I even saw in one of the big magazines that Arnold denies having used them, but Arnold was one of the first to bring steroids over to America. And everybody in the old days used them: Zane, Columbu, myself, Arnold, Larry Scott, Harold Poole, Dave Draper, and even Steve Reeves. There's no way to deny it. It wasn't much, nothing like today. But the development of drugs is much different. I used decca and dianabol, and that was something really big at the time; and decca was not considered that bad. It was even prescribed by doctors to help make your bones strong. Today you have guys weighing 200 pounds, and six months later they weigh 250-300 pounds! So you know these guys are taking something unbelievable. When they say they haven't taken anything, you know that it's phony. BDJ: I could only imagine what you would look like if you have access to the drugs of today. SO: Geez... I wouldn't even want to think about it. My God... (laughter). We used to talk about the big deal of taking decca and dianabol. Now the talk is about growth hormone. I see what they are using... the way they look... I tell you, it's scary... I would pass on that. Anybody can go work out and get a physique without steroids, and that is what I recommend. The drugs today is not worth the money or the way it makes you look. The consequences later are going to be big. BDJ: I notice a lot of people take steroids because they are too lazy to train hard mostly teenage boys. SO: Yes that's what it is. But they're making a double mistake. When you take steroids you have to train even harder... otherwise the excess weight later turns into fat. If you train hard, eat well with quality protein, and take a good vitamin and mineral, then you can achieve a good physique. And a good physique comes from about 45% of your genes, whereas the rest is from training. So, if you're going to be something, then you're going to be something. If you're not, then you're not. But with all those steroids, you're going to be one of the group... you're not going to be different. I wouldn't recommend them to anyone... to my friends or any of my family. BDJ: You're still training to this day. Tell us about it. SO: I'm 60 years old and I go to the gym five days a week. I enjoy going to the gym very much. When I competed I trained 5 days a week, year round. I'm not like some of the competitors who only trained for six months for a contest then laid back. * Photo below: Sergio Oliva at 61 years old (2002) BDJ: Physique wise, who do you consider to be the best bodybuilder? SO: There are a few. One of the best right now is Flex Wheeler (photo below). I also like Shawn Ray and Ron Coleman. I compare myself to Flex Wheeler, a little bit. He reminds me of myself, with a tiny waist. My back was much bigger, though. He is the only one with a really complete physique. BDJ: Your last year of competition was 1985. I've heard from some spectators that they did not care whether you won the contest; it was worth attending just to see the legendary Oliva. Tell us about that. SO: I could have entered that contest much better, and much bigger... that night was not the same physique that I always carried. I felt sick, like a Zombie. I followed my wife's (Arleen Garrett) suggestion in changing my diet. I've always had a problem with my diet. Thank God I had good genes to be able to eat what I want. So it seemed everything that I ate, I turned it into muscle. Anyway, she wanted me to follow the diet that Frank Zane followed. But she made a mistake. The diet was all right for Frank Zane's metabolism, but for me, it was not doing the job. I had no power to train and I felt too weak to workout... it was a disaster. If I did it my way, I would have looked unbelievable. The second thing is, and I found this out, that even if I looked like King Kong and cut, they would have given me the same placing. Weider indicated no other placing for me but eighth. BDJ: A similar thing happened to Mentzer in Sydney, Australia, in 1980 when they gave him fifth place. SO: That's right, and believe it my friend. And I could not do any better than eighth place because all those guys on the stage are the same ones endorsing his vitamins, proteins, magazines, equipment... I didn't do anything for him, because he didn't do anything for me. As a matter of fact, he took away from me. But I decided to come back for that contest. And who picks the judges? Weider. So, how can you win? NOTE by Strength Oldschool: To read Mike Mentzer's thoughts on the 1980 Mr Olympia contest click here. * Photo below: Sergio Oliva from 1983 at 42 years old. * Photo below: Sergio Oliva from 1993 at 52 years old looking massive! BDJ: What projects and plans do you have for the immediate future? SO: I regularly do seminars and guest appearances. And I do my seminars different from everyone else. I tell it like it is and allow the audience to ask me questions. Other bodybuilders only talk about the good things. I talk about the good and the bad. People don't always want to hear about the blue and the red, but the black and the white. That is why I'm asked to do seminars all over the world, and people really enjoy them. I'm also working with someone (Francisco G Marchante) on a book about my life story and competition days. * Photo below: Sergio Oliva and Francisco G Marchante - at the 1995 Mr Olympia contest. I was supposed to do this book before, but I like to say things the way they are and it was difficult to get interested writers willing to put it all on the line. I don't push or drink protein powders and I won't endorse things I don't believe in. So, in a business sense, I was bad for the business. And this also affected some of the contests in which I competed. The book will discuss these things, but also my Olympic lifting days before bodybuilding, when I prepared for the Pan American games, when I prepared in Russia, all the sports I did in Cuba to escape... basketball, volleyball, boxing, running... I was doing everything, but the competition was too high. I did so much in life that it is not necessary to add or take away from my stories, but it is hard to find someone willing to print the truth. I will tell about the politics and the contests Joe fixed. A lot of people will be against it, and a lot of people are going to know a lot that they don't already know. Also, I'm still working on the police force with about 6-7 years to go. NOTE by Strength Oldschool: Sergio joined the Police Force in 1976. He would later retire in 2003. BDJ: Thank you for your time. NOTE by Strength Oldschool: Photo below shows Sergio Oliva at 69 years old attending the 2010 Mr Olympia. He would pass away just two years later in 2012 at the age of 71. But let's remember The Myth as the powerhouse he really was... Sergio from 1969! RIP Sergio Oliva (1941 - 2012) * If anyone has any stories on Sergio please comment below. It would be great to hear any Chicago Cop stories or training in the gym etc. If you have a rare photo of Sergio, consider adding it below. Strength Oldschool