Optimal bodybuilding? My perspective, there’s no such thing.
Let me rephrase it, there’s no such thing as a “static optimal”.
Static; lacking in movement, action, or change. Optimal; best or most favorable.
Things change all the time, so optimal is probably dictated by the context, and in the moment, likely determined subjectively.
The word optimal sucks you in, it sometimes can be considered “click bait”, and those who use it often do so from a place of authority (typically self-appointed). They rely on your lack of experience and insecurity to establish and reinforce that authority.
“But Jeff, this podcast says this is optimal, that podcast said that is optimal, that dude on YouTube says this over here is more optimal…” F*** my life lol.
I get it, this guy and that guy has you running around like a dog chasing squirrels.
My answer almost always is, “It depends on context.” I digress though, optimal does exist, but it resembles a moving target as opposed to a static one.
My experience working with many bodybuilders, with varying dynamic lives, is that it’s hard to predict what will be truly optimal ahead of time. What you’re doing this week might be optimal, but might not be next week, month and surely not next year. Not only are your lives changing, but so is the science.
Shit, I bit on Mike Mentzer’s HIT training in the early 90’s. I went from 165 to 190 in 3 months, saw my fastest gains, and Mentzer became the god of bodybuilding in my mind. I thought everyone else didn’t know shit; hook, line and sinker! In hindsight, I now see I lacked perspective.
So, it’s understandable how I got sucked in. But after 34 years of lifting and 49 years of life, I feel fortunate that I have now developed depth with my perception. Individual context matters…a lot!
Prior to Mentzer’s HIT, I resembled maybe your story: “skinny fat”, over trained (6x/week, bucket of exercises, lots of volume, wife complaining about my gym time, etc.) and I was under fed (of course I also wanted abs).
Simply put, the demand outpaced the supply. Thus, Mentzer’s HIT gave me appropriate structure to balance my out-of-whack supply and demand at the time. “Lower volume/more effort and more food…a lot more” (said Dave, who taught me the Mentzer ways). Wouldn’t you know it…As a result, I made a lot of progress.
But wait, let’s take a closer look with slightly more context.
What would have happened if I had stuck with the same training, and simply ate more?
I’m positive I would have made similar gains. So, knowing that, what was more optimal?
Higher volume/moderate intensity or lower volume/higher intensity? I honestly don’t know. I didn’t run a controlled study on myself, but when demand outpaces the supply, regardless of the method(s), it’s not going to be an ideal training environment.
Looking at the big picture, you train to induce a stimulus (demand), and make sure you can keep up with the pace (supply).
That looks different person to person and even within the same person based on their changing body, mind, and context over time.
I’ll end with this: the great progress I made with Mentzer’s HIT, if I shared it on social media in today’s era, and spoke of how optimal it was, you might bite the bait like I did long ago.
The point is, if you’re a fish, smell the bait thoroughly before biting it.
Because if it smells too good to be true, there’s probably a hook.
Also, if you’re the fisherman, you have a license to fish, but please do so with integrity.