I am trying to figure out how to think about recovery when wanting to muscle build. So far I've been going about seven weeks a day, but seeing videos of people like Tom Platz, Mike Mentzer and Dorian yates, I think it's been something I've been neglecting.

Here is how I think of it so far, muscle being in a threshold damaged state leads it to replicate and increase more in size. So, I thought to myself to train everyday such that from the recovery of the muscle from day before, I'd send the muscle fibers back underneath the threshhold damaged state for muscle building.

But, this seems like the wrong mental model. From seeing videos of the mentioned speaking on this topic. So, how do I think about it in a way which is consistent with mdoern research?

1 Answer 1


The most common model for recovery is the Stress Recovery Adaption cycle (x-axis: time, y-axis: strength): enter image description here

How long recovery and adaption takes depends on several factors some of which are:

  • how fatiguing the workout was on the muscles
  • how fatiguing the workout was on the central nervous system
  • how many years you have trained
  • the muscles involved

For beginners it is recommended to start either with a 3 days a week full body program (such as Starting Strength) or a 4 days a week upper/lower split.

This means that each muscle gets 48-96 hours of recovery and adaption.

The "Heavy Duty" protocol developed by Mike Mentzer is very different. For each muscle 2 warm-up sets are performed followed by 1 working set to absolute failure (1). Going to failure leads to a very high fatigue. As a result the recovery and adaption period is very long.

Now going to the gym only 1 a week and getting results like Mentzer sounds like a sweet deal even if one has to almost kill oneself each workout. But will it work?

According to Layne Norton (2):

"The consensus of the research is that volume load is the biggest predictor of hypertrophy and that training to failure too frequently is likely sub-optimal due to central fatigue. So, I would say it's not optimal. Can their methods work? Certainly, but likely not optimal for most."

I would argue that Mike Mentzer built most of his muscles using traditional programs, starting with a 3 x a week full body program, and maintained his muscles using the "Heavy Duty" protocol.

Mike Mentzer got much of his ideas from Arthur Jones the creator of Nautilus training machines. For Arthur Jones it was vital that gym customers spent as little time as possible at each of his machines. That way the gym could have more customers, and he could charge more per machine.

Further Mike Mentzer was a genetic freak and used steroids.

However it may be a good idea to do a very low volume high intensity protocol for a short period to learn what high intensity is (3).

(1) We Tried Mike Mentzer's High Intensity Workout

(2) Layne Norton on Twitter

(3) Was Mentzer Right All Along? (Low Volume Training)

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.