Remembering Mike - “Blast those pecs, Rick!”
Rick Morgan, England
For me, my experience with the only rational method of bodybuilding began long before I actually realised it. During the mid 1980’s, I had read magazines that contained pictures of Mike Mentzer and sometimes an article or two by his hand. At the time, I took little notice that my young head was in the clouds, after all I had read a book by a certain champion from the 70’s, and he was the best, wasn’t he?
When I began my early interactions in the gym, it was with a vast confidence that one day I would be the next world famous body builder, adored by millions with a fat movie deal in my back pocket - nothing was going to stop me, ever, and the dream would become a reality! Maybe I was misleading myself just a little bit in this regard, due to eager youth I guess. However, time would prove that although I do have fairly good genetics, the moral viewpoint of bodybuilding competition, and the means at which I would have to compete, didn’t fall well into my honourable, moral code, and the necessary assumption that you are good enough only by someone else’s standard.
Before that realisation, I trained like a demon in those early days - 2 hours a day, six sometimes seven days a week. I was strong naturally and initially I grew for about 6 months, and then slowed to the proverbial snails pace, when illness and lethargy was my companion for what would turn out to be about eight years. During this period, Mike emerged again, in the guise of two budding bodybuilders who came to my gym; they trained like animals, hard and heavy for what appeared to me to be an almost laughable amount of time. I mocked them, for surely I was right, with my illness inducing marathon workouts prescribed by the medics of modern bodybuilding culture.
Then some time later, a myth of a man appeared on the bodybuilding arenas - an English champion called Dorian Yates. He spoke of training in a high-intensity manner with a miniscule amount of sets, and he mentioned Mike Mentzer. When I spoke to him at a seminar, I remembered that name, and I began to think and to research, maybe there was something here, could I have been wrong?
In the early 90’s, I began what I believed was as good a version of Heavy Duty that I could think of which consisted of 3 to 4 days a week, reduced sets and exercises, and blasting myself to dust; things worked, of a fashion, for a time. I had a bicycle accident in the summer of 1994 that left me unable to train for 3 months, some accident! I did what I was capable of plus a little more, eventually I began to train in earnest and this is when I came across something shocking. I was training 2 days a week at this juncture, and it was during my return to chest training that my eureka moment occurred. I began with 20kg for flyes, and they progressed almost every weekly workout until I reached 45kg, then I hit one all-out set of 13 reps, I was blown! The next week, I hoisted up those 45’s and performed 6 reps, and the next week performed 8; I never reached those 13 reps again! What on earth was wrong with me? A light bulb went on in the back of my mind, Mr Mentzer would know!
In the spring of 1995, I constructed a letter to Mike Mentzer in care of Gold’s gym, making mention that I was travelling to Santa Monica on vacation and would very much like to learn more about his HEAVY DUTY™ training system and partake of some in-the-gym training under his supervision. Since I had given up purchasing bodybuilding publications years before, I knew of no other way to contact him! Imagine my shock when Mike rang me at home one night to make arrangements! I have no idea why it didn’t occur to me that Mike might call, and I was so nervous and skittish that I must have sounded like an actor in his first nude scene!
I arrived at Gold’s, still nervous and apprehensive, when Mike wandered over to me and made his introduction. I must have been a bit obvious, white as a ghost (us British are renowned for our suntans!) and looking lost in this vast mecca of iron. He took me aside and we chatted about the goals of the next workouts, the principles of what we were trying to achieve, and how I had come to understand some of the methods. He did, however, happily dissect my own current workout, which I was quietly proud of. Although I did have some idea of the concepts of HEAVY DUTY™ training, I needed some rapid brushing up! Mike always had this habit of making me eat my words - I wasn’t right, I could see that, I was still clinging to some of my old irrational beliefs, but since I had come to my own conclusions and attempted at least to try my hand without any guidance, it wasn’t that bad!
Amongst many things Mike imparted to me was the ability to reason and question the ethics of not just bodybuilding, but everything! He didn’t ask me to believe him or demand that I must listen; Mike just spoke to me in a manner that in some respects asked me more of a question as to my realities and where I found them. A humbling experience and certainly a life-altering moment indeed, when someone helps you to think; a switch was turned on inside my mind that remains on still!
Needless to say, I was out to impress during my first workout, and I had never been so fired up in my entire life, weights felt like nothing, the presence of the legendary Mike Mentzer gave a life to those workouts that is hard to imagine. Mike said to me that I reminded him of himself when he was training, and I couldn’t have been more pleased - plus his comment certainly spurred me on even more!
Time had no meaning during that first workout. I can still remember almost every rep and set and the ferociousness that I found, thanks to Mike! It still seems like a dream – as though I am watching things take place, like a play, where I, and all the rest in Gold’s, looked on in fascination. After about 15 minutes and feeling a tad tired, I left the gym and promptly threw up in the bushes near the doorway, found a seat and slumped down in a heap; a sorry state I was in. It was not so much the hard work I endured, but more likely the enormous waffle I had 45 minutes prior, and I didn’t make that mistake again during the next workouts I can tell you! I was still there, in a heap, when Mike came out with a client, I’m ok I said to Mike, when he inquired as to my opaque appearance, “getting some air”! Eventually I returned to my hotel, where I had to lay down for a few hours!
The following workouts that Mike took me through are likewise etched in the memory banks for all time. I call upon those workout memories whenever I feel a bit low in the enthusiasm department - Mike shouting at me “that if I wanted to do aerobics then Gloria’s is around the corner”. “Blast those pecs, Rick!” It was an inspiring time and a wonderful learning experience, and a perfect backdrop for a fine vacation.
I left Santa Monica and returned to little old England charged with my new found knowledge that I applied with gusto, while my training partner was soon being yelled at and bullied into yet more realms of muscle growth, and I expected nothing less in return! To say that my growth and progression was excellent would be an under-statement. In just a few short workouts, I had maxed out the Pec-deck, the leg extension and other machines, which earned me a warning from the gym owner as I tried to harness more weights onto his under-rated equipment! I worked out to the point where I was training but once a week, my bodyparts being exercised just twice a month, and I was still progressing. I was never a fast gainer, strong and determined always, slow and sometimes consistent in the growth area, but I gained around 12 lbs of solid mass in two years, which I was over the moon about. Using HEAVY DUTY™ principles, I had surpassed my fruitless years ‘jogging’ my muscles with a boggling (to me!) amount of mass. I never used drugs or really any supplementation at all, except for the odd protein drink and vitamin supplement.
I kept in touch with Mike over those 2 years eager for a “rematch”, and I returned in the summer of 1997. The first thing Mike said to me when he saw me was, “look at those thighs Rick!” True enough, in those two years and what is possibly only about 50 training sessions, about 3-4 minutes each and 100 sets (if you count the separate exercises of the leg extension/leg press superset), I gained 2 inches or so on those pins of mine! I used to perform more sets than that in one of my old 2-hour plus workouts! It was great to see and train with Mike again, and I even helped him in training a few of his clients, which kind of made me feel just a bit special that I had been entrusted as his aide. As always, Mike spoke so intelligently and with such confidence that it was a pleasure to let him keep on chatting. On our final day, I had to have a little bit of fun at Mike’s expense, so when he climbed into his enormous silver car, I stopped him and made mention that if he was true to his principles, then he would realise that any car bigger than the least amount required was a waste of space! He promptly replied that it was so he could “drive on into the ocean to England!”
I returned to the UK feeling confident, happy and keen to keep on training like a demon – THE MIKE MENTZER WAY. Since that final day in 1997 to the present day, various things occurred in my bodybuilding world, my training partner quit, which threw things for a while. Later when I had gained ½ inch on my arms in 2 months during a serious return to HEAVY DUTY™, my gym closed, then, I ruptured my left bicep performing the tiniest warm-up set in the world with 30lbs. And by far the worst thing of all, Mike and Ray Mentzer both died within such a short time of each other. I had intended to return to Santa Monica to train with Mike once more, because it was always a pleasure and a highlight of my holiday; I only wish I had made that trip before that fateful day. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and there are so many more things I would have liked to have asked Mike and to have learned more of his life and interests, sadly that isn’t going to happen.
Since the recovery of my ruptured bicep, which took an inordinate amount of time, training once more using HEAVY DUTY™ has seen an unprecedented amount of progress, in just one year I have gained upwards of 8 lbs of muscle mass and progressed every single workout!
My arms are now over 18 inches cold (an increase of nearly an inch), my chest up over an inch to nearly 50, thighs up an inch, and those troublesome calf muscles up ¾ inch, not to mention the staggering strength gains! I used to struggle with squats, now after incorporating Mike’s techniques it’s almost become easy, 400 lbs. used to be tough, now I use it for reps! I have never had such success before with any training method, and I’ve tried them all; and it certainly proves that after 22 years of training understanding fully the principles outlined and taught to me by Mike speak for themselves.
I have two books of Mike’s that he kindly signed for me when I was there, with a few words of encouragement alongside; they are read often and are cherished items, which serve to lift me to push myself a bit harder now that my arm has healed. Without Mike to email or phone, it is all that I have as a reminder of those days in the gym - with the ever-watchful Mike pushing me as hard as I could go - my own imaginary training buddy. To me, it is an event that has no time, it happened and it was truly shocking and awful. The world, on that day, lost one of its brightest flames -- an intellectual whose wisdom, honour and integrity shone far brighter than so many, someone who valued his own mind and wasn’t prepared to be a submissive nobody to the collective.
Being of a similar ilk to Mike in the philosophical sense, I can truly appreciate his desire to seek the correct and proper truth in all his endeavours; HEAVY DUTY™ was one of his life’s works. His drive to prove the fundamentals of this technique, and its direct relation to exercise stress physiology, is a testimony to the man himself. The results of thousands, including me, speak for themselves and for Mike in unison. All those whose lives they touched will sadly and deeply miss Mike and Ray in many ways. To their closest friends and family, my thoughts will be with you as you remember, with a smile, these men who were once with you, and I will remember in my own fashion, the person who was in every sense of the words “my only friend in America”.
This article is written exclusively for www.Mikementzer.com and Joanne Sharkey. It cannot be used as a download for another website or used in any form of publication in part or in whole, unless written permission is granted. © 2002-2006.