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Thread: The Minimalist by Martin Berkhan

  1. #1
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    The Minimalist by Martin Berkhan

    The Minimalist
    9:57 AM | Posted by Martin Berkhan

    When it comes to training, I'm a minimalist.

    I don't "attack the bi's from different angles". I do chins with an extra 100 lbs around my waist.

    I don't spend any time "working the core". I never do ab work. I squat and do triple body weight deadlifts.

    I don't "feel the burn". I give every set a 100% and only concern myself with adding an extra rep, or another 5 lbs, on the bar.

    And most importantly, I don't go to the gym to have a nice and cozy time.

    Sometimes people ask me things in between sets.

    "Nice arms, man. How do you get that veiny look - do you go for the pump to really bring those cuts out? And what's the lowdown on preacher curls with a straight bar vs the EZ-bar?"

    "I don't curl"

    "Yeah right, c'mon..."

    I then give them The Look. The Look let's them know I am dead serious and that the conversation is over.*

    -------------------------------------------------------------

    I think it was Iron Addict that once said

    "The people that should not be touching a high volume/high frequency routine are usually the first people to do them"

    That was true for me back in the days, wasting my time in the gym 5-6 times a week. While I did gain a bit the first few months, I certainly didn't get the same results as most of my buddies I trained with at the time.

    Now, I am competitive by nature. I couldn't stand watching my friends outlift me. I figured if I can't beat them in the genetics department, I have to beat them on smarts. I needed to find a superior training routine or suffer humiliation every time I went training with them.

    I started looking around online, and was lucky enough to come across a site called Cyberpump. Here, I found a very different perspective on weight training. Articles by Ken Leistner, Arthur Jones and others, talking about high intensity training and how people screw up by trying to emulate the genetic elite.

    A minimalist approach, very different from what I had been doing up until then. I had my doubts of course, but I figured I didn't have have much to lose. And boy, did my gains take off.

    Now, if I remember correctly, this is how my training routine looked back then.

    A (day 1)

    Bench press
    1 set to failure
    Immediately followed by pushups to failure
    Followed by another set of bench (with a lot less weight)
    Immediately followed by pushups to failure
    and repeated one more round.
    10 mins rest
    Chins for 2-3 sets to failure

    B (day 4)

    Breathing Squats (20 reps)
    Leg extensions, 1 set to failure

    C (day 7)

    Deadlifts (started at 20 reps here, added weight and decreased reps until I was working in the 3-5 rep range after several months).
    10 min rest
    Pullups for 2-3 sets to failure

    And then days 8-10 were spent resting. And eating.

    How much did I gain on such a routine? I remember that quite well. I started benching 135 for a few reps, ended up with 225 lbs after a few months. Squats went from about 200 lbs for 8-10 reps to 300 x 15-17 and deads from 175 x 6 to 380 x 3. Weights jumping op 5-10 lbs each session and often with a few extra reps to boot. It was amazing; like newbie gains multiplied by ten.

    Was it a walk in the park and do I think everyone should be doing HIT from now on? No. The intensity used for each set was ridiculous. The sessions were painful and I dreaded them every single time. Was it productive? Yes, it was time extremely well spent. Since the training frequency was low, I made sure every session counted. It wasn't long before I outlifted my friends who were still in the gym 5-6x per week.

    Since then, I've always taken a minimalist approach to training. Though I've added some lifts to my arsenal, my training routine is still quite spartan by any conventional standard; however, the few lifts I train, I give a 100%.

    My point in writing this isn't to say that high intensity training is superior to any other form of sensible training ideology. There are other training approaches out there that I agree with; Starting Strength, 5x5, DC, RPT, and so forth. All of these put focus on principles that really makes the difference (hint: it's not about swiss balls or working different angles). HIT just happened to be the turning point for me, and has influended my view on training ever since.

    The take away message here is twofold.

    Part of it is a homage to abbreviated training routines, which I feel deserve more attention. You can go a long way just focusing on pressing, squatting, deadlifting and chinning. Throw in some calf and ab work if it makes you feel better.

    Another part of it is encouraging change. If your training routine isn't working for you, ditch it and maybe start at the other end of the spectrum of whatever the hell you were doing before. You have nothing to lose.


    *Ok, I made that up. I don't really give people The Look. The rest of it is true though.




    *****Pretty interesting program and training philosophy. Martin, btw, is jakked to hell.



    And no, those pics of Martin are NOT during a contest-prep phase. That's his walking-around level of leanness.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Sensei's Avatar
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    I'm all about abbreviated, but I just don't believe in using high-intensity methods long term (or anything close to long term). JMO.
    A child does not learn to squat from the top down. In other words, he does not suddenly make a conscious decision one day to squat. Actually, he is squatting one day and make the conscious decision to stand. Squatting precedes standing in the developmental sequence. This is the way a child's brain learns to use the body as the child develops movement patterns. Therefore, a child is probably crawling, rocks back into a squatting position with the back completely relaxed and the hips completely flexed, and stands when he has enough hip strength. This approach makes a lot of sense and can be applied to relearning the deep squat movement if it is lost. -Gray Cook
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  3. #3
    Moderator Off Road's Avatar
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    Amen Chevy!

    And I agree with Sensei, High Intensity can take its toll after a while. That's why I believe in Stuart McRoberts' Hardgainer methods. It's basically HIT with the addition of cycles, which keeps the intensity waved.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sensei View Post
    I'm all about abbreviated, but I just don't believe in using high-intensity methods long term (or anything close to long term). JMO.
    Can I ask why Sensei?

    What would be a program you prefer for muscle gain?

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    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    The guy looks fantastic, but he is making some training mistakes if his goals go beyond the cosmetic. That would include some isolation work and definitely core specific work.


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    Quote Originally Posted by chris mason View Post
    The guy looks fantastic, but he is making some training mistakes if his goals go beyond the cosmetic. That would include some isolation work and definitely core specific work.
    Not too sure if they do or not. Dude's pretty strong, though, he pulled 600 for 3 a while back.


  7. #7
    Rory Parker Behemoth's Avatar
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    His success is more about him finding something where he was able to give it his all more consistently and long term. I won't say that many people can't benefit from less, but all you need do is look at someone who has had great success for a long time with the opposite approach.

    People think they can win against their own mind. They can, but only short term. In the end it always comes to a weakened or less than optimal mindset that causes one to progress or sustain less than their best.
    Last edited by Behemoth; 03-22-2011 at 07:10 PM.
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  8. #8
    Moderator Off Road's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Behemoth View Post
    His success is more about him finding something where he was able to give it his all more consistently and long term.
    Excellent point. You have to enjoy the way you train in order to stick to it and be progressive.
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    Senior Member kornmong's Avatar
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    That guy is ripped as hell and strong but in his ripped pics he look strange, i cant tell why though. Because hes not a body builder Im guessing his proportions don't make him look ideal or what ever, Also by no means am i trying to bag him, can some one tell me why his look does not appeal to me but a lean powerlifter / bodybuilder look does
    Bodyweight : 195 - Height: 5' 9

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    Administrator chris mason's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chevelle2291 View Post
    Not too sure if they do or not. Dude's pretty strong, though, he pulled 600 for 3 a while back.

    He's pretty strong, but that means nothing really. You can tell by looking at him he is built to pull. People that are built to pull with be quite good at it almost regardless of what they do. If he trained properly for strength he would pull even more. You can't optimize your absolute strength without core work.


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    Moderator Off Road's Avatar
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    He just looks like your average skinny guy in his clothes.
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    Senior Member RichMcGuire's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Off Road View Post
    He just looks like your average skinny guy in his clothes.
    lol, I thought the exact same thing when I saw the video. Just goes to show you how much size is an illusion.
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by RichMcGuire View Post
    lol, I thought the exact same thing when I saw the video. Just goes to show you how much size is an illusion.
    Ive been saying the same thing for a long time. You can look good with clothing on, OR without, but both is very hard. And this applies to both men and women.


    X 2 on what Chris Mason said. Look at how long his arms are. It almost looks like he can reach the bar without bending over LOL. Not trying to take anything away from Martin's success.

    Anyone have an idea of what his squat and bench are?
    Last edited by Dan Fanelli; 03-22-2011 at 10:40 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kornmong View Post
    That guy is ripped as hell and strong but in his ripped pics he look strange, i cant tell why though. Because hes not a body builder Im guessing his proportions don't make him look ideal or what ever, Also by no means am i trying to bag him, can some one tell me why his look does not appeal to me but a lean powerlifter / bodybuilder look does
    Not really sure what you mean? . He's pretty dry and pale, perhaps that is why? He looks a bit like Nunez (natty bodybuilder) looks when he's in contest shape (see pic).



    Quote Originally Posted by RichMcGuire View Post
    lol, I thought the exact same thing when I saw the video. Just goes to show you how much size is an illusion.
    For a natural, he's pretty damn big. His bodyspace says he's 6'1" at 195 with 5.5% bodyfat. That's a pretty big dude if you think about it. But yes, he does look small in clothes. Most guys do when really lean.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Fanelli View Post
    Ive been saying the same thing for a long time. You can look good with clothing on, OR without, but both is very hard. And this applies to both men and women.


    X 2 on what Chris Mason said. Look at how long his arms are. It almost looks like he can reach the bar without bending over LOL. Not trying to take anything away from Martin's success.

    Anyone have an idea of what his squat and bench are?
    Bodyspace says 310lb bench (1rm estimate, who knows what it really is) and a 451 lb squat estimated 1rm.

    Here's a vid of him squatting 390x4. He says he's repping 425 for 3 now.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Meat_Head's Avatar
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    So 17 days between the same workout? 2.5 weeks before you bench press again? No isolation exercises? No wonder his legs look like twigs! Not to take anything away from the guy, he is ripped to hell, but I would like to carry a little more mass than that. Pretty strong dude, but he might want to rethink all of the things he says he doesn't do at the beginning of the article, those kinds of things can help get you beyond that level of development. I would not want to look like the guy squatting and deadlifting above, therefore I'm going to continue to do those things he just advised against as curls(surprise) actually do make my biceps bigger.
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    Moderator Off Road's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Meat_Head View Post
    So 17 days between the same workout? 2.5 weeks before you bench press again? No isolation exercises?
    Not all the HIT guys believe in that nonsense. Most still advocate hitting the big lifts 2 or 3 times a week. Many allow for some isolation work as long as the big compounds make up the majority of the program.
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    I think the take home message isn't necessarily to follow his program exactly. Here is what I get from the original posts.
    1) Pour most of your effort into the big exercises, especially if you aren't very strong at them or don't have a ton a lifting experience.
    2) Make sure you have a very good reason for why you are doing or adding any particular exercise. Many people indiscriminately throw a million exercises into their program (myself included at times) and thus take the focus too far away from the basics.
    3) Make sure you are getting adequate rest and recovery. Obviously not everyone will take it as far as he does, but their are likely many who don't rest enough. Also remember he is very lean so I am assuming he may have been operating on a calorie deficit or caloric maintenance level and thus doesn't recover as quickly as someone in a caloric excess who is trying to gain weight.

    I do believe it gives those who have a tendency to want to do a million different exercises (especially when they are beginners) something to think about.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Meat_Head's Avatar
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    I believe it OffRoad, and I have nothing wrong with most of the HIT philosophies. Last night I did 3 sets of squats followed by 3 sets of leg presses. The first set of squats was all out, I couldn't have gotten another rep, and really that was 75% of the workout. The other sets were just extra volume to supplement the main set and spur some hypertrophy. Those following sets comprise the stimulus that I think a lot of HIT guys are missing out on. If you want mass, a few sets to finish the muscles off can do a lot for hypertrophy. Do you agree?
    Last edited by Meat_Head; 03-23-2011 at 08:00 AM.
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    Moderator Off Road's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Meat_Head View Post
    Do you agree?
    Of course I agree. Volume is a variable that can manipulated just like all the other variables depending on your goals at the time. I love hitting the main lift with intensity and following it with an accessory lift for some volume. But I have to admit, overall, intensity has more impact on my progress than volume.
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    mrelwooddowd Patz's Avatar
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    "I don't curl"

    "Yeah right, c'mon..."

    I then give them The Look. The Look let's them know I am dead serious and that the conversation is over.*


    I find these quotes very annoying. The attitude some people develop because they're "in the know" about certain things is ridiculous. Maybe that particular guy wouldn't take the advice to skip the curls and do the pullups, but there ARE people out there who will value the advice. Brushing them off like you're some kind of badass does no good in the grand scheme of things with regard to encouraging and furthering the cause of the bodybuilding culture.
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    mrelwooddowd Patz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kornmong View Post
    That guy is ripped as hell and strong but in his ripped pics he look strange, i cant tell why though. Because hes not a body builder Im guessing his proportions don't make him look ideal or what ever, Also by no means am i trying to bag him, can some one tell me why his look does not appeal to me but a lean powerlifter / bodybuilder look does
    I think it's because he has super small traps, proportionally.
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    Senior Member Raleighwood's Avatar
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    Martin is pretty legit. His site is chalk full of great information. He is very honest and backs all his claims with scientific evidence.

    The reason he advocates focusing on the core lifts and cutting out the rest is largely due to his nutrition style, which is intermittent fasting.

    If you aren't getting enough calories to support recovery, or are in a deficit, you simply cant handle the extra volume that isolation and accessory lifts are going to add.

    I am a big fan of him as he puts out great information, is very honest, and works his ass off.
    Last edited by Raleighwood; 03-23-2011 at 10:16 AM.
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  23. #23
    mrelwooddowd Patz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raleighwood View Post
    Martin is pretty legit. His site is chalk full of great information. He is very honest and backs all his claims with scientific evidence.

    The reason he advocates focusing on the core lifts and cutting out the rest is largely due to his nutrition style, which is intermittent fasting.

    If you aren't getting enough calories to support recovery, or are in a deficit, you simply can handle the extra volume that isolation and accessory lifts are going to add.

    I am a big fan of him as he puts out great information, is very honest, and works his ass off.

    ooooh yeah..I knew he looked familiar. I agree, his site is pretty solid.
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    Senior Member Meat_Head's Avatar
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    Didn't know that Raleighwood, he's definitely shredded, works for him!
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrelwooddowd View Post
    "I don't curl"

    "Yeah right, c'mon..."

    I then give them The Look. The Look let's them know I am dead serious and that the conversation is over.*


    I find these quotes very annoying. The attitude some people develop because they're "in the know" about certain things is ridiculous. Maybe that particular guy wouldn't take the advice to skip the curls and do the pullups, but there ARE people out there who will value the advice. Brushing them off like you're some kind of badass does no good in the grand scheme of things with regard to encouraging and furthering the cause of the bodybuilding culture.
    Normally, I agree. But he did say that he didn't really give them the look at the end of the post.

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