A Journal of Strength, Health, and Self Cultivation
Through his writings, Napoleon Hill taught me to ask myself what my mentors would advise to solve a problem or to make something better. Public domain photograph.
A few weeks ago or so, I wrote a post about the one-leg toe raise. In this post I stressed the importance of performing this exercise strictly, with a full range of motion, and with a brief pause and both the top and the bottom position.
Typically, I perform each set of the one-leg toe raise until I can no longer move upward with my toes without assistance. Then I switch to my other leg and carry on. However, this morning I did something a bit different – something that dramatically increased the intensity and the brutality of my calf training. It all came about when I was thinking about what Mike Mentzer would tell me if he were still alive and coaching me while I performed the one-leg toe raise. And this is what happened:
When I could no longer perform another repetition of the one-leg toe raise with my left leg, I “heard” Mentzer tell me to continue the exercise by using both feet on the upward portion of the movement and then SLOWLY lower myself using my left leg only. Then, after a full stretch at the bottom position was achieved and held for a two-second count, Mentzer “instructed” me to again use my right leg just enough so that I could raise back up to the top position. Then, I was “ordered” to very slowly lower myself again and repeat the sequence until my left calf reached 100% total failure. In all, I performed six extra reps under Mentzer’s “directives,” and by the time I was done with the first set my left calf was on “fire.”
With the left leg completely torched, I immediately moved on to my right calf and gave it the same “Mentzer” treatment. I then took a brief rest and went back to the left leg and repeated the approach. In all, I did three sets of toe raises with each leg – each to total failure, and that was plenty to stimulate new growth.
The “assisted” approach I mention here should work well with any one-arm or one-leg movement. For example, I can envision this method being used to increase the intensity and effectiveness of the dumbbell press, the one-arm row, the one-leg squat, one-arm pushups, and so forth. A warning though – the “assist” method described above DRAMATICALLY increases the exercise intensity, and use of it should be restricted to ensure that over-training does not occur.
By the way, it can often be a productive mental exercise to ask yourself what your mentor or an established personality would do to solve a problem you are facing. Napoleon Hill, the author of Think and Grow Rich, used this powerful technique quite a bit to stimulate his thinking. He would hold imaginary meetings with Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, John D. Rockefeller, and other influential people of his day to “help” him come up with a solution to a problem which he could not seem to lick by himself. Hill claimed that this approach did wonders for him. And, thinking about what Mike Mentzer would advise me to do to improve the toe-raise exercise certainly did wonders for my training.