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Muscle-Building Myths Exposed! PART 2

Last month Bodybuilder X revealed how some of the top pros, like Danny Padilla, trained in the 1970s and ’80s and talked about drug use in the bodybuilding subculture back then. He also touched on how drug-free bodybuilders can apply his experience in the gym for better gains. Here he continues with what it was like to hit the iron with the Mentzer brothers.

IM: Let’s talk about the Mentzers. They made good gains on fairly abbreviated routines—at least compared to others. And how about Casey Viator? Was it the drugs or genetics?

BBX: Around 1983 I moved to Redondo Beach, California, and was training at a place called Muscle Mill. Ray and Mike had just returned from working for Arthur Jones for about a year, and Ray had just bought the gym. Over the next few months I hung out with Mike, Ray, Benny Podda and several regulars at the gym. One night during our after-the-workout meal Mike got into the subject of steroids. He told us that his entire physique morphed after he started using Dianabol and Deca for the first time.

In fact, at one point Mike was quite down in weight and size, and I watched him change literally from workout to workout. I had seen this happen with other pros as well. As Mike said, “Steroids are very powerful and effective drugs; you don’t need a lot to go a long way, but they will transform your physique.” He was making a statement, not a recommendation.

Drugs or genetics? I think it was both. Look at the differences in the physiques of the two brothers. They trained the same, probably took the same drugs, but their physiques were completely different.

One thing you have to remember is that steroids were still legal back then. The Anabolic Steroid Restriction Act of 1989 had not been passed. That meant steroids were produced by some of the bigger pharmaceutical companies in the United States in reliable facilities with ingredients and amounts known. You’d go to a doctor, get a prescription and get it filled at a pharmacy. Everyone went to the same three doctors in Los Angeles.

Another revelation to me was that although all three doctors recommended lower dosages, they also recommended much longer cycles than I had ever heard about. Cycles lasting six to nine months were not uncommon.

After the law was passed, everything went to the black market and underground facilities. Stuff was coming in from South America, Europe and Russia. I remember one of the guys was getting steroids said to be produced by Noriega’s drug cartel. I remember getting a few bottles and getting zero results. No one knew what was contained in anything after that or what the real dosage was. That’s another thing that caused guys to up their dosage—poor and inconsistent quality coming from the black market.

As for Casey, he was training at Gold’s around the same time I was training with Samir [Bannout] during the summer of 1981. Mike and Ray stopped training with him because Casey felt that he needed to do around 40 sets a bodypart to get ripped for competitions. They kept trying to get Casey back to HIT, but Casey wouldn’t have it.

Casey manhandled heavy weights. He was very friendly and a great guy. I don’t know anything about his steroid use because we never talked about it. His training partner liked Anadrol-50. I try to separate out hearsay and rumor from what a guy tells me directly.

IM: But he seemed to thrive on high-intensity training—or was that all hype?

BBX: Did he thrive on HIT? He probably did when he was in Florida with Jones. I think most of the guys changed their training from time to time. The training he recommends now is different from the four-set routines he followed then and different from what he did with Jones. I think the hype about Jones’ program was that all the guys he put up as “evidence” that his system was superior used drugs. I don’t fault the guys for that, but let’s not claim the training system as being responsible for the growth. My B.S. meter redlines on that.

IM: What was your experience training with the Mentzers? Did you make any gains? Were you and they on steroids at the time?

BBX: My experience with the Mentzers occurred during two time frames, the first being the summer of 1981 and the second a yearlong period from ’84 to ’85. In the summer of ’81 I trained with Ray and Mike on three separate occasions. They were doing two work sets on most exercises and usually two and sometimes three exercises per bodypart then. Each bodypart also got two to four warmup sets on the first exercise. And, yes, I was on drugs at the time, so it’s not enough to tell what the impact of the training was.

IM: What happened in ’84?

BBX: In 1984 I had been training drug-free for a period of nine months. I was following a good diet and was in pretty good shape. I was already training at the Muscle Mill when Ray bought it. As I said, he and Mike were freshly back from working with Arthur Jones in Florida. The Mentzer influence prevailed at Muscle Mill, and I soon found myself following the A/B workouts three times a week, being driven through the workouts by Ray’s training partner, Benny Podda. These were not the same workouts that Mike, Ray or Benny followed themselves, but they were the same workouts they put everyone through at Muscle Mill.

What I can tell you is that a few people made progress on the one-set-per-exercise program, but I was not one of them. I went backward, got pudgy, lost muscle size and my strength went nowhere. I just don’t think that one set per bodypart is effective. Ray promoted that program but trained differently, as I said. Ray, Benny and Mike followed a program that was more along the lines of what I described earlier—with higher volume—and they did go beyond failure.

One of the gym members was a machinist for the MGM Studios in Culver City (now Sony) and made a superpowered hydraulic unit that they transferred from exercise to exercise on a Marcy multistation machine—similar to the old Universal machines. It allowed them to add more resistance during the negative part of the exercise. They went crazy with that thing. I’m also certain they were using drugs, as Benny confirmed that to me many times. We’d often gather up a group of guys after the workouts and go to a local restaurant. Mike and Ray always turned dinner into a seminar. Mike wasn’t training much at the time. He was running his magazine, Workout, and it was going south, so he was under a lot of pressure.

IM: You trained with Mr. Symmetry, Rory Leidelmeyer, for an entire year. What was the training like, and how were your gains?

BBX: Rory believed in eating big. Many times I had to force down my last two meals, as they were high-quality food, and he wanted me eating 7,000 to 8,000 calories a day. It’s not easy to do that without feeling stuffed to the gills most of the time. Rory believed that food had its own anabolic response.

Volume and training splits were changed every four weeks, and he had some unique ways of bringing up troubled bodyparts. Mostly he believed in training very heavy, but with troubled bodyparts or when a guy had been training heavy for a long time, he’d go to a technique he called 100s—three exercises on a bodypart done for 100 reps. You’d try to force your way to 60 or 70 reps on the first set, rest 30 seconds and get as many as you could, rest 30 seconds and just do as many sets as needed to get to 100 reps. It sounds easy, but the pain and burn set in, and sometimes it would take four or five sets to get your reps. It helped increase your pain threshold and the mind/muscle connection on slow-growing bodyparts.

In general, Rory’s training was high volume and very heavy. He believed in handling ultraheavy weights, but he differed from traditional training was in two areas. He believed in heavy weights on shaping movements like laterals and rear laterals, leg curls—things like that. I think he was up to something like 120-pound dumbbells on “slightly cheated” laterals at one time, with other movements being similar. I got up to using 70s.

He also treated each section of a muscle like an entire bodypart and gave it eight to 12 sets. For instance side delts would get two to three exercises for four sets each. Likewise for rear delts, top of the forearms, bottom of the forearms, hamstrings and seated calf raises. For chest he did eight to 12 sets on upper chest at one workout and the same quantity on lower chest and flat-benches at another. For legs it would be wide-ballet-stance squats or leg presses at one workout and then narrow-stance squats or leg presses at another, always for eight to 12 sets total.

Generally, his training was four days on/one day off. Here’s an example:

Day 1: Chest, front and side delts, calves

Day 2: Back, rear delts and traps, abs

Day 3: Biceps, triceps, calves

Day 4: Quads, hamstrings, abs

Day 5: Off

IM: That all sounds like overkill, but it sure worked for Rory. Great physique. I don’t know that a drug-free guy could make progress with that brutality. How were your gains—and were you on drugs at that time? Did he alter it for drug-free guys?

BBX: Yes, he would give more rest and slightly fewer sets for drug-free guys. Rory was adamant about getting all you could get from food and heavy training before turning to drugs. He was also adamant about keeping training logs. You can’t beat last week’s workout unless you have a record of what it was. In the year I trained under Rory’s advice, the first seven months was drug-free. I made very good gains. In fact, I made better drug-free gains with him than at any other drug-free time in my life. Of course, when I did begin using drugs again, I had already taken it as far as I could. I learned a lot during that time.

I’d say the volume of his workouts would need to be adjusted downward about 15 percent—with a day or two more rest during the week.

IM: You trained with Bill Grant as well, right?

BBX: Yes, Bill and Jerry Brainum. Those guys are a riot. Jerry was always busting on Bill. Bill likes to split the body two ways and train four days a week. Since he trained on volume, the workouts got too long for me—but look at Bill today. I think he’s approaching 70 years old and looks absolutely terrific. He’s barely changed. I’d say his system works really well for him. And something like 25 years later Jerry is still busting on Bill.

IM: So wrap it up with your suggestions for how drug-free bodybuilders can take all you’ve learned and apply it in the gym.

BBX: I think that drug-free trainees can make very good progress if they follow certain guidelines that I’ve learned from all the top-level guys I trained with. The first thing is food. While almost every pro used supplements as a training aid, they all ate a good amount of high-quality food, and they didn’t miss meals. They also didn’t eat a lot of junk—if at all. They were consistent with their food.

Most of the guys trained more often and with more sets than the drug-free guys should. I think a drug-free guy will do very well training four or five times a week but not more than two days in a row. I would split the body three ways on a volume routine or two ways if they are doing an HIT-style routine.

Now the argument becomes volume or HIT. I say use both. Notice I did not say try both. I go three weeks on volume and then three weeks on HIT. They each provide a benefit. The guys I’ve seen make progress on HIT had been on volume and then switched and made progress, gained for a while and then stopped making progress. I’ve been using the three-weeks-of-volume/three-weeks-of-HIT approach for quite some time and found it works really well.

In terms of developing balance and symmetry, I think most trainees make the mistake of not focusing on their weaknesses. If people have good quads and are strong on squats and leg presses, they tend to work them harder at the expense of hamstrings and/or calves. They should do just the opposite. Focus on weak points. It’s rare to see someone with overdeveloped hamstrings or calves, or side and rear deltoids or forearms or lower biceps and triceps. Those areas are often neglected.

The common denominators I found with all champions in their training were focus and pace. A bomb could go off next to them, and they’d train right through the set. They never lost focus. And the pace of the workouts was always fast.

When we trained at Ray Mentzer’s gym, we trained with three guys, but it wasn’t set for set. Two guys would run the first guy through the entire workout, literally rushing from exercise to exercise. After he went through the entire sequence, the next guy would go. Arthur Jones called it “the rush factor.” Vince Gironda called it “training over your head.” You call it density training.

When I trained with Danny Padilla or Samir Bannout, we moved quickly—less than a minute and more like 30 seconds—between exercises and sets. Danny said that he got that from Arnold. You just didn’t see guys dawdling through a workout. I find that philosophy productive. So that’s where the bridge between HIT and volume lies as far as I can tell. Everyone looks at sets and reps as the most important factor. In my opinion, they are looking in the wrong direction. Ah, but that’s a subject for another interview.

Editor’s note: For more on applying champ-style training to your drug-free workouts, see the new e-book X-traordinary 4X Mass Workout, available at IM

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