more info on periodized training, and folks claiming
Jones/Darden/Menter style training is the scientifically
validated training method. Its time for the HIT - Periodization
battle to the death.
Before we start, briefly recall my background so you know
where I'm coming from: I've been training almost 16 years
now. I presently train at the Mecca, Gold's/Venice.
I started when I was 13 years old. My training history
2 years Arnold style (train 10--12 hours per week)
2 years Mentzer style (train 3 hours per week)
4 years Jones/Darden style (train 1 hour per week)
3 years Mentzer style
4 years high volume periodized (10--18 hours per week in the gym)
I made great gains my first year, which I now attribute
to be a beginner. Around 20 lbs (but I grew an inch or two, too).
Second year my gains slowed way down, which I now attribute to overtraining and
lack of variation in the workout. I lost enthusiasm
for the long hours with little results. So I was attracted
to the then fairly new (and hyped) J/M/D styles of training.
I made very slow, steady gains on the J/M/D style. Its hard
to quantify during my growing years, but once I stopped getting
taller, they were only ~ 2 lbs of bodyweight per year.
What I can say for sure is my untrained adult weight would be
about 150--160 lbs at 5'9'', based on other members of my family,
and predicitons based on size of frame (I have a scrawny frame, small
joints, and come from a family of scrawny people.) Instead, at the
end of all the J/M/D 9 years of training, I weighed 170, so
those nine years of training probably added about 20 lbs of fairly
lean mass to my frame.
In my first year of periodized training, I went from 170 to
195 lbs. The next year I pushed it up to 208. Those were my best
gaining years---25 lbs the first year, 13 lbs the second.
These gains were all drug free, by the way.
(As for my current size and strength:
I ultimately got mass up to 225 lbs. At my peak weight, I was
about 16% bodyfat, 18'' arm (cold and flexed), 49'' chest
(cold and flexed), 26.5 inch quads (cold and flexed).
As for stength: My bench
is at 420 lbs, squat 650 lbs, deadlift 575 lbs presently
(done in the legal pwerlifting style, no cheating). These
are up from about 320, 450, 400 prior to starting the periodized
My personal conclusion is that I was undertraining on the
J/M/D styles, and that as I increased the training time,
the gains increased in proportion. However, the increase in training time to 10
or so hours per week was only possible by using periodization to avoid
overtraining. As further proof that I am really a hard gainer type, note that
training hard 10 hours per week, I would stagnate
after approx 3 weeks of training. Only by periodizing was I able
to jump over these hurdles and make gains consistently the
Also, I followed Jones/Mentzer/Darden training advise very thoroughly.
There is no chance that I misapplied their directions, or
did not train intensley enough. I can vouch for this because I
see mentzer train clients evry day, and I worked harder, and
with better technique, than the majority of his trainees do.
Same for nautilus---I followed their advice to the letter.
As for my goals: I always wanted to be as huge and strong as possible.
I was and am a hardcore weightlifter. My goal is to reach my
potential, or get very close. many people do not share this goal,
and so that will influence what type of training is right for them.
Warning:I am only interested in the training styeles that can carry a
person to their limits of growth and strength, not the most
time efficient methods. M/J/D training is time efficient---you put
in a little time, you get out a little gain (beginners exempted).
Now, lets establish what I consider to be the best book
I ever read on training methods. It turned me on to periodized
training, and is thus responsible for the bulk of my gains:
Weight Training: A Scientific Approach,
by Michael Stone, PhD and Harold Obryant, Phd.
360 pages, illustrated.
copyright 1987. cost: about $27.
You want credentials, well these guys got it up the wazzu.
This ain't no Ellington Darden Phd. and Nautilus Corp. hired
gun. Both gys are university professors, strength coaches
for champion collegiate teams in weightlifitng and gymnastics,
and heads of sports physiology research laboratories, as well
as weightlifters themselves. They are not selling any thing,
and they sure don't earn their living from this text book
(unlike folks like Draden, Mentzer and Jones). They provide
an incredibly well researched survey of what modern sprots
science says about weight training. Guess what: state of
the art is not HIT! Jones and Darden are not
leading weight training researchers! Their techniques
have been shown to be generally inferior to others for
strength and mass training! Big surprise....
(It actually was to me when I first came acrosss the book.)
If you really want to know the scientific status of
weight training and techniques for it, it you must read
this book, period. This is a college text on weight training, intended for a
sports physiology/ athletic trainer course at the college
level. It covers all aspects in detail: nutrition,
biomechanics, physiology os muscle growth, theories of
training, training techniques, exercise technique, steroids,
etc. Each chapter has 100-200 references from the recent scientific
literature. In particular, it has an excellent chapter
on training, concerning number of sets, reps, volume, intensity,
the value and technique of periodization, etc.
The reason I try to promote this book is to counter that
pseudo-scientific pop crap that guys like Jones, Darden and Mentzer have
produced. Jones and Darden are actually referenced in this book,
but it usually takes the form:
certain people (ref Jones, Darden) have claimed X,
but subsequent research (...zillions of refs...) has
generally found this to false
This will undoubtedly be a big shock to those in the Jones/Darden/Mentzer cult.
It was to me when I forst encountered
it. When I trained their style, I would argue quite vociferously
that they were scientifically validated, etc,etc. I was sucked
in by their pseudo-scientific jargon and trappings, and after
all, I was traing their style and making my slooow but sure gains
in just a few minutes per week. Only later when I found this
book did I realize it was possible for an advanced trained to
make the big gains necessary to reach their potential, which I
have subseqently done.
I know most of you will not ever find this book, becasue it
isn't at the B. Dalton's like the Jones/Darden/Mentzer stuff.
It is not illustrated with steroid bloated pro bodybuilders
lifting fake plates and doing their fake screams---so it
is dry by comparison. I found it by accident in the sports
phys section of a medical bookstore.
(but if you don't get this book, at least read up on periodized
training, such as the Ironman routine, or the Powerbuilder
routine in Muscle Media 2000, etc---it is definetly the way to
train for long term max gains, beyond the beginner level).
So, I will qoute to you---at great expense, since my typing sucks
as you surely have noticed---a few passages most relevant
to these claims that HIT is the predominant scientifically validated training
Page 109, Chapter on training principles modes and methods:
"At least one machine manufacturer recommends that only one
set of an exercise be performed to exhaustion, and that this represents
a sufficient workload for gains in hypertrophy, and strength
(11,43). This method of training greatly reduces the total workload
made possible by multiple sets, which means the activated motor
units recieve less training. Part of the reasoning behind using
sets to exhaustion is that, due to fatigue, the nth repetition
would be maximal. This confuses relative and absolute maximum tensions;
fatigue *inhibits* the use of some fibers, whereas all fibers
are active with absolute maximum tension (3). *Tension* , not
fatigue, is the major factor in developing maximal strength (3).
One set to exhaustion likely reduces the training effect and produces small
gains in lean body mass. Stowers et al (67) observed inferior
performance gains (measured by 1 rep max squat, vertical jump)
from one set to exhaustion compared to multiple exhaustion sets and a program
periodized over 7 weeks."
And page 115, same chapter:
Machines versus free weights.
The studies and observations of this section are of a practical
nature. They compare free weight training programs to machines
using recommended training programs. Free weights generally produce superior
results to machines (...refs...) as well as superior
results in power movements (...refs...).
Now some better stuff for our discussion: from
the chapter Practical Considerations for weight training,
Frequency of training
exercise scientists and physical educators have generally recommended training
3 days per week (17,30,126). This recommendationn has been base
largely on experiments dealing with ... untrained subjects.It
has been believed that training 3 days per week provides optimum recovery and
allows efficient increase in strength... but many athletes,
including weightlifters, train 5 and 6 days per week, often using multiple
training sessions per day. ... Gillam (63) observed that
increased frequency (2--5 days) of training produced superior results
in the bench press, lending additional credence to empirical evidence,
Training theory and principles (see Chapt. 6) suggest that
the frequency of training should be as high as possible
*without* over training. Weight training is no exception.
As pointed out in chapter 6, overtraining can be reduced
through variations in volume and intensity. Thus frequency
of training can be high if proper variation is introduced.
A third factor (in frequency of training) concerns the training
status of the athlete. As in other sports activities (...refs...)
beginners may not have made sufficient adaptations to recover as fast
as advanced weight trainers. Beginners may need more days of rest to avoid over
To a large extent, frequency of training depends on the
goals of the individual. Three days per week may fit the
ohysical and psychological needs of some weight trainers, but
both empirical evidence and careful scietific observation
strongly suggest that frequencies great than the typical three
day per training can produce superior results in strength,
power, ... especially is *advanced* weight trainers, including
weightlifters, powerlifters and bodybuilders.
These selections pretty much indicate the tip of
(1) the training claims of Jones/Darden are not
accepted by the sports physiology community as the most
effective methods for building mass and strength, nor by the
athletic community. And many of their claims are actively
(2) more training is better, as long as you don't over train.
(3) Train however suits your lifestyle, but you won't reach your
maximum potential on a couple hours a week.
The book of course shows how to set up suitable periodized
training shcedules for those interested in going beyond the
limitations of simple training systems, and shows sample schedules
used by elite wtrength athletes. Bodybuilding is not their
prime focus, do they do discuss a periodized programfor thast, but you
can easily apply what they say to setting up a bodybuilding program.
It aslo convers nutrition. Again contrary to J/M/D, you need plenty
of calories and protein to increase lean body mass during high
volume periodized training.
My personal experience agrees well with this text. After
9 years of mentzer/darden/Jones type training, I was 5'9'',
170 lbs and lean, so fairly muscular---people often asked if I was a gymnast or
wrestler. It resulted in limited muscular gains. After
*just* 2 years on a periodized, *much* higher volume schedule, I
was 208 and big---everbody knew I was a bodybuilder then.
So, what is my final message to those folks who have made
satifactory gains using HIT, M/J/D styles? It is this:
Yes, you can make some gains on those styles, esp if you are a
beginner (I would even recommend them for a beginner). And yes,
they certainly are time effective. So, if you can get the gains
you desire that way, excellent. But don't expect to be able
to get close to your potential with those training styles. I've
not heard of any advanced lifter making the sort of gains I
have made using such low volume techniques, and it for sure didn't
work in my case. And the J/D/M approach has yet to produce a top builder or
powerlifter who trained predominantly that way, even though their techniques
have been out and popularized for 20 years now, and their have been thousands
of nautilus gyms for nearly two decades now producing trainees. That is a
substabtial body of evidence against
their claims of superiority.
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