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Mike Mentzer Interview, Part 2

It’s only on the basis of properly understanding and employing the fundamentals that the derivatives take on any meaning.


This month IRON MAN brings you the second part of a never-before-published interview with Mike Mentzer, conducted in 1995, just before the release of his classic book Heavy Duty II: Mind and Body.

Q: It’s strange that more people don’t encourage a pursuit of truth.

MM: You and I have enough experience to know that anyone who’s innovative, no matter what the field, is going to be attacked. Arthur Jones spoke to me about that a number of years ago. We were sitting in his favorite restaurant in Deland, Florida, and he was railing on and on about all the people who were attacking him. He pointed out that the pattern followed is almost always the same: First you’re ignored, then ridiculed, then attacked, then copied—they steal your idea. I use a mnemonic device: IRACS—Ignore, Ridicule, Attack, Copy, Steal. And it’s true. In the very beginning Nautilus was ignored, then ridiculed, then attacked. Then all of a sudden everyone was building cams “like Arthur Jones” or, as they thought, “like Arthur Jones did,” but, of course, their cams weren’t created on the basis of any scrupulous thinking; they just drew a cam on a piece of paper.

Q: Why do you think this IRACS phenomenon exists?

MM: Because bodybuilding is a reflection of the culture at large—in politics you see the same thing. For people who understand the power of ideas and the role that they play in human life, it amazes me. I still shudder in contempt, for instance, when I see how little value politicians place on the power of ideas. It’s just disgusting beyond belief. Let me go back to bodybuilding in the same context—allow me to quote myself from Chapter 7 from the book Heavy Duty II: Mind and Body, entitled “Either-Or,” which was my favorite chapter to write:

“Having grown justly contemptuous of the vicious irrationality and assorted outrages he witnessed in the field of exercise science and bodybuilding of the sort seen in every sphere of human life and crippling the progress of mankind, Arthur Jones has often stridently intoned: ‘Either you’re part of the problem, or you’re part of the solution. The choice is yours. The issue is either-or. Let the chips fall where they may. The stakes are your ass. There’s no other possibility.’”

I go on to say:

“In my earlier contact with Mr. Jones such remarks excited something in me that at the time I couldn’t identify. It was my strong moral sense of life as well as the nascent, explicit understanding I possessed of the actual serious nature of the ethical issues Jones was expounding. Today I have a thorough conceptual grasp and intellectual understanding of the issues of morality and justice, and I fully concur with the motives and premises prompting Jones’ righteously expressed indignation. There is a certain point beyond which the willful evasion of knowledge and the associated violation of life-preserving ethical principles become evil depravity. Each has a responsibility to learn how to judge critically so as to protect himself, and each has a responsibility to abide by objective ethical principles.

“Only recently has the field of bodybuilding fitness been grudgingly accorded a minuscule respect by the scientific and medical community. The actual value of bodybuilding goes largely unnoticed because of the influence of low-grade mentalities controlling it. Unlike the hallowed researchers and practitioners of Western theoretical medical science, who rightfully pride themselves on exacting ethical principles, too many of the individuals involved in regulating bodybuilding have no explicit intellectual standards. Worse, their degree of control has emboldened them to actually take pride in flouting ethical principles. Unfortunately, too many of the self-styled experts in our field not only fail to make a nominal effort to stay abreast of the state of the art, but they actively evade such knowledge and even work diligently to suppress valid ideas that would help people achieve greater progress as well as protect their health. Sheer, innocent ignorance is one thing, but the conscious evasion and willful suppression of life-enhancing knowledge is another. The motive of such people is the irrational desire to project and protect a false image of uncontested superiority and infallibility. That only makes them look pathetic and poses a threat to the young and innocent, who are apt to be duped by the blandishments of these not-so-big big shots.”

Q: I think one of the worst manifestations of that is the concept that some product will make the user of that product look like the guys in the magazines. It creates a standard that is unattainable. Long-term thinkers realize that they’re undermining their own market.

MM: Yes, they are—and that’s what really irritates me. Cynicism is resulting in the ongoing deterioration of the sport’s popularity. Whatever pinnacle it achieved a number of years ago, it’s definitely on the downside now. For people who have a proper, ethical interest in it, to see such willful flouting of ethical principles, knowing that it will lead to destruction, I find that contemptible.

Q: Getting back to your book: When you say that it’s an almost total integration of philosophy and bodybuilding and a correct theory, it makes me wonder if you’re going to have much more to write on the subject of bodybuilding. Not that there isn’t more to write, but I’m wondering if you have plans down the road to move on to something else.

MM: I do, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t keep a foot in the bodybuilding waters. At times I saw my thinking was going in the direction of leaving the industry entirely. I stopped myself and thought, “There’s no reason to do that necessarily.” With regard to further research, study and thought, I’m convinced that I’ve mastered the fundamentals. The only thing I have left to study are the derivatives—aspects of exercise that are based on and derived from an understanding of the fundamentals. Namely, the importance of range of motion, speed of rep and things like that. All those things are important but only in the context of understanding and properly employing the fundamentals. In other words, what’s the difference if you understand the importance of range of motion or speed of reps if you don’t understand the necessity of precisely regulating volume and frequency?

Q: And intensity.

MM: Right. It’s only on the basis of properly understanding and employing the fundamentals that the derivatives take on any meaning. 

Editor’s note: For a complete presentation of Mike Mentzer’s Heavy Duty training system, consult his books Heavy Duty II, High Intensity Training the Mike Mentzer Way and the newest book, The Wisdom of Mike Mentzer, all of which are available from Mentzer’s official Web site, www.MikeMentzer.com.

John Little is available for phone consultation on Mike Mentzer’s Heavy Duty training system. For rates and information, contact Joanne Sharkey at (310) 316-4519 or at www.MikeMentzer.com, or see the ad on the opposite page.

Article copyright © 2008, John Little. All rights reserved. Mike Mentzer quotations are provided courtesy of Joanne Sharkey and are used with permission.  IM

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