My HEAVY DUTY™ Lifeby Kevin Dye
My introduction to Mike Mentzer and HEAVY DUTY™ began the winter of 1978 while I was visiting a friend. We both started training at the same time, a year earlier on our 15th birthdays after both receiving Bullworkers (I progressed to free weights Christmas 1977, after realizing my Bullworker could only take me so far). During my visit with my friend, he was proudly showing me his muscle magazine collection, when one grabbed my attention...a 1976 Muscle Builder with a moustached guy on the cover that could have easily been mistaken for Hercules himself! Aware of my eagerness to acquire this particular magazine for my own collection, my friend bartered hard, but I didn't care, I had to have that gem regardless of the cost. We finally agreed on two muscle magazines and a cassette holder. I proudly took my newly acquired bounty home to devour the contents. Amazingly, here was a guy promoting a system so far removed from the style of the day, it was akin to discovering aliens lived amongst us!
Until then I had slaved away for 3 months on a Frank Zane style routine, 12 sets per muscle, 5 days per week, but I can't say I had seen anything spectacular for my efforts. That was "the way", so who was I to contest it? Yet Mike did, with conviction and science to boot! I was enthralled by Mike’s approach, and immediately became a fan, buying anything and everything with Mike Mentzer on the cover or within its pages. Like my vast Bruce Lee collection, my Mike Mentzer amassment soon expanded extensively. Then my Dad came across a small bodybuilding shop across the other side of the city that imported various products from the USA, best of all it stocked Mike's HEAVY DUTY™ courses! Talk about "the golden fleece"! My Dad would go out of his way to get me a booklet each Friday morning...despite working 12-hour night shifts. As soon as he walked in the door with my latest treat, I'd retreat to my bedroom where I'd read and reread it for hours until it was firmly ingrained in my subconscious. I embraced HEAVY DUTY™ because it made sense. Monday and Thursday I trained legs, chest and triceps. On Tuesday and Friday back, delts, and biceps.
When I was 18 years old, I got the most incredible news...Mike Mentzer was coming to Australia! (where I live). This was a few months before the 1980 debacle that changed Mike's destiny and my perception of bodybuilding contests. I was so excited about going to greet my teen hero at the airport; I literally lost my voice the day of his arrival. I was devastated, I had so much to ask Mike, yet all I could do was to squeak out a request for Mike to sign my HEAVY DUTY™ booklet and a picture I had drawn of him. But before we met, I struggled to find him in the airport. I frantically looked around, without avail...until I spotted an Arab looking guy with a rugged jaw-line that reminded me of Roger Ramjet, next to him stood Cathy Gelfo, Mike's girlfriend at the time. He was bronzed; just how I envisioned my hero would be. What amazed me immediately was how Mike's chest jutted out from atop his shirt, reportedly his weakest body part. I remember thinking if this was his weakest muscle; I can't wait to see his strongest! What struck me next was how his calves stretched the bottom of his pants. Being a calf nut all my life, I was mesmerised, following Mike around the airport like a zombie. My girlfriend and I drove away that day leaving Mike standing next to Paul Graham as they awaited their lift. The rest of the day my head was buzzing as I anticipated seeing Mike pose that evening at a bodybuilding contest for which I'd bought a ticket to attend.
Arriving at the contest, Mike stood in the doorway in a short-sleeved brown velvet top selling his courses from a suitcase. What could be mistaken for legs, hung from his wide shoulders! I had to get a closer look, but trying to be discreet I went to the bar to order an orange juice - drinks were included in the admission price. While waiting for my order, I snuck a look at Mike standing behind me...there they were, Mike's freaky triceps...hanging over his elbows! I had never seen anything like it, and haven't since, despite meeting most of the champs since then, the cream of the crop in their prime. Champs like Matt Mendenhall, Lee Haney, Lou Ferrigno, Rich Gaspari, Gary Strydom, Lee Lebrada, Dorian Yates, Robby Robinson, Albert Beckles, Paul Dillett, Lance Dreher, and Kevin Levrone. While most out-weighed and out-muscled Mike, none had the impact Mike did. His charisma was unmistakable! Then again, nothing comes close to meeting your teen idol in the flesh.
Mike ended the bodybuilding show with a rugged posing display, which was the final proof I needed about the validation of HEAVY DUTY™. I was enthralled to see Mike in all his glory hitting Herculean pose after pose, like I'd statically seen in all the various bodybuilding magazines. Mike then answered a few questions, which was ruined by a drunk in the audience who kept badgering him about eggs. Until Mike ended his tyrant mirthfully asking, "You know what eggs are, don't you"? That cracked the audience up! Then the time was up so Mike left the stage. The night was over and it was time to head home. I barely recall the drive home that Sunday night; my mind was swirling over from what I had just witnessed. The next day my HEAVY DUTY™ workouts took on a whole new perspective, and my outlook was cemented about which approach was the best means to achieve my goals - I have never looked back since then.
Later that year the bizarre happened; Arnold regained his Mr. Olympia crown, Mike was shunted to 5th place, and bodybuilding contests lost their interest to us both. Being just 2 states away, I spoke to those who were there, who confirmed the fiasco, some witnessing champs smashing their trophies in the car parking lot! Shortly afterwards, Mike disappeared from the bodybuilding scene, and despite a brief period where he published his 'Workout' magazine in 1983, he went AWOL. I continued to train HEAVY DUTY™ style, but with an added rest day each week on an ABA BAB set-up like Mike and Ray did before their departure. Despite being in my early 20's, the added rest day was a bonus, as I felt better recuperated. That was how I proceeded with my workouts throughout the 80's, despite dabbling with HIT full-body workouts now and then via Mike's mentor, Arthur Jones. Being the only HIT advocate around, I was keen to discover for myself what his version of HIT could deliver. My best gains were 2 kgs in 2-weeks! That was, despite my best efforts, after being stuck fast at 78 kgs for 2 whole years.
Early 90's I returned to studies to earn a university degree, and coincidentally Mike resurfaced as a trainer. Mike was rewriting his HEAVY DUTY© book, so I called him to place an order and to chat. It was great to hear his voice again, Mike sounded firmer than ever about the validity of his system, based upon a better understanding of the practical application of his principles he’d gleamed from his in the gym clients. Despite already being a HEAVY DUTY™ advocate, Mike's return reinvigorated me. I even underwent hypnosis sessions to boost my pain-threshold and intensity levels. I saved up, being a poor university student, and in 1995 I became one of Mike's phone clients. This was during Mike's HEAVY DUTY II: Mind and Body™ stage, where he was getting all the pieces together to formulate his next stage of evolution. He even offered for me to go into business with him, selling his new HEAVY DUTY™ book in Australia, but I had to turn him down due to my tight study schedule. Mike had some new tweaks he'd been testing out on his clients, yet he was still in an experimental stage. He even stated to me; "you are part of an experiment". His next book was a year away; Heavy Duty II: Mind and Body. I resumed with what worked before, and I did quite well on a 3-way split Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Late 90's, I contacted Mike's biggest client, 280+# Aubrey Francis. Aubrey was doing 2 set workouts using Mike’s Consolidation Routine, every 7-10 days...and growing bigger and stronger! That peaked my interest and curiosity, and shortly afterwards, Mike linked me with Dr. David Staplin, who also successfully using the Consolidation Routine. Mike's push to get me to change to his ultimate inclination of HEAVY DUTY™ was the final prompt, so I switched routines to his Consolidation Routine. Every Sunday afternoon following a nap so I was 100% fresh, I'd HIT the gym. And while I did well the month I kept with it, the mental anguish of being away from the gym became overwhelming, so I went back to what Mike taught me years prior. I've since come to realise I possess better recuperative abilities than most, hence my ability to train more frequently than many trainees and still make consistent progress.
On June 9, 2001, I wrote to Mike informing him of a web site who posted a negative analysis of Mike’s HEAVY DUTY™ system in an attempt to squash what had previously been a feud due to differences in values. The following morning I awoke to a slew of emails from around the world informing me of Mike’s demise! I went into shock! I had a young son by then, who I went out on daily walks with. The next couple of weeks, we went for long, silent walks each day, because I couldn’t come to terms with the fact that Mike was gone. It took me two weeks to even let my wife know! She knew what Mike meant to me, yet I couldn't find the words to tell her. Fortunately, the good that came from the bad during that grave period, was the close, cherished friendship I built with Mike's heir and successor - Joanne Sharkey. She supported me through that horrid time of my life, and we continue to stay in touch, despite our hectic schedules; her keeping the Mentzer legacy alive, me earning my second degree. Joanne helped me cope by confirming mine was one of the last emails Mike read his last fateful night on earth. I find deep solace knowing that. Mike touched both our lives, and made us better people for having known him.
Mike's teachings remain with me; they have taken me a long way from the bony skeleton I was back in 1977. My workouts are a far cry from what they once were, out of necessity, due to the poundages I now handle and the intensity levels I generate. Nowadays, three sets per workout is my lot...six intense minutes that takes me to my limits! And I continue to progress every workout!
There are a vast number of trainers worldwide who follow Mike’s Heavy Duty system and that number continues to grow, which speaks volumes for Mike's teachings. As I enter my 50th year on this ball of dust, each year I get reminded how right Mike was about bodybuilding. He was a man, he wasn't a deity, but I can say whole heartedly he was more right than wrong. I am living testimony to that. Mike was a thinker; his ultimate goal was to get others to think for themselves. The dogma that directed bodybuilding is what started Mike challenging "the powers that be". If Mike left anything behind, it was the belief every aspect of training, and life, should be critically analysed and assessed and not blindly accepted. That magazine I bartered for at a young, impressionable age was the catalyst that changed the destiny of my life. I had a wonderful teacher, one that's served me well throughout my life. He left a profound impression on me, one that lasts the test of time.
"A teacher affects eternity: he can never tell where his influence stops."
– Henry Adams
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