I’ve noticed a trend in my gym, toward using less weight and higher reps. I know that you were an advocate of using heavy weights for fairly low reps. How do I know which way is right for me?
Yours is an excellent question and one that I faced early in my bodybuilding career.
I wasn’t born an advocate of high-intensity training. Instead, when I decided to become a bodybuilder, I began to read all the information I could find on the subject. The vogue at the time was six-days-a-week training, working all bodyparts twice a week for up to 20 sets per bodypart.
Early in my training, I had discovered Mike Mentzer and greatly admired both his Herculean physique and his systematic approach to bodybuilding. The more of Mike I read, the more I found myself agreeing with his training principles, which included using less volume, less frequency and greater intensity. I decided to put his philosophy to the test and fashioned my own form of training from his “Heavy Duty” system. Long story short, I went on to win six consecutive Sandows and built a reputation of being a rather good bodybuilder.
I obviously found a system that worked well for me and, as a result, I tend to advocate high-intensity training to others. But I do so with a caveat: don’t take my advice as gospel. Consider it time-tested information that you can use to bolster your own bodybuilding efforts.
One issue I have with some high-level bodybuilders is the dogmatic approach they take to educating younger trainees who seek their tutelage. Neither I nor anyone else knows definitively what works for you and what doesn’t. That is knowledge only you possess.
Over the years, I have heard many would-be scholars of bodybuilding telling others that they must do this or that to grow. We do know a few general rules of muscle growth (e.g., resistance training and protein both help to build muscle), but there are obviously some differences from person to person that cannot be summed up with generalizations.
When you write that you see a trend of trainers gravitating toward lighter weights, that indicates to me that these people are not thinking for themselves; rather, they’re throwing up their hands and letting fashion dictate their training. If you do that, you can no longer expect to make great gains because you’re following a formula that works for someone else, but not necessarily for you.
Essentially, I am saying that you must find what’s right for you by following your instincts. If something works for you, great, keep it. If not, discard it and move on. I highly recommend giving my version of high intensity training a try, if you haven’t already. If for some reason it doesn’t quite work for you, adapt it to suit your own specific set of tolerances or consider trying a different style of training. It’s OK, you won’t hurt my feelings — I’d rather know that you’re reaching your bodybuilding goals, not just trying to please me. - FLEX