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The Bodybuilding Professor

Bryan Haycock MSc

Bryan haycock is an exercise physiologist, university instructor, writer, and consultant for the bodybuilding industry.

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Mike Mentzer's Heavy Duty Training System

What’s your take on Mentzer’s Heavy Duty training system?

I have no problem with Mentzer’s approach to performing a set or choice of exercises. What I have a problem with is his approach, specifically, to his philosophy of what causes muscle hypertrophy. In essence, he relies too heavily on  Hans Selye’s General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) model.

The GAS theory is based on the non-specific response of the body to different unpleasant stressors. It was never intended to explain muscle cell hypertrophy. Keep in mind that even Selye admitted that “stress is an abstract concept,” and he admitted that “stress has never been adequately defined.” Dr. Selye’s own definition of stress is the “non-specific response” of the body to any stressor. So how did Selye’s GAS get mixed up in bodybuilding? Look to American bodybuilders’ fascination with all things that used to come out of the Eastern Bloc.

The literature on Selye’s GAS theory was banned in Russia. After World War I and through World War II, the Russian government began to promote the idea that Russian scientists were superior to the rest of the world. They eventually cut off all but a very few scientists from having any contact whatsoever with academics from foreign countries. This Iron Curtain caused isolation of Russian scientists from the rest of the scientific community, and like the species of the Galapagos Islands, their physiologists evolved some unique perspectives and theories.

Russian physiologists studying neurons still followed what little they could learn about Selye’s ideas about stress to try to understand the nervous system. This had nothing to do with muscle “growth” or muscle cells, but instead was an attempt to understand the physiology of neurons. Wannabe gurus then garnered whatever they could from what was coming out of Eastern Europe. Part of what they could decipher was that Russian scientists were studying GAS and exercise. It was all a misunderstanding started by Americans who had no business writing books about the science of muscle tissue.

I’ll quit now, but you see that this is a sensitive topic for me. GAS has really hampered people’s understanding, and worse, their acceptance of actual science involving muscle physiology. It’s all just been a heavy-duty setback to progress and has even caused some to choose philosophy over physiology.