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Blood and Guts program – the legacy of the HIT workout

Developed by Dorian Yates in the 90’s while training for his Mr. Olympia competitions, the Blood and Guts program has its roots in Arthur Jones’ HIT system and Mike Mentzer’s Heavy Duty system. When the Blood and Guts DVD came out in 1996, it almost seemed unbearable to watch. People were used to seeing bodybuilders show off their gains on stage, but access to their training methods was scarce and very few people really understood the dedication, determination, and discipline the sport required from its best athletes. The Blood and Guts DVD showed the world what it takes to be a champion. But the program itself was part of a legacy that streched over several decades of application, a legacy built upon high-intensity training.

The story of the HIT system started with billionaire Arthur Jones. Jones was one of those strong characters that was unlike anyone else. In fact, if you cast him as the lead bad guy in a movie, he wouldn’t have been out of place. The man imported crocodiles and elephants he personally caught in the wildest parts of Africa, on his personal Boeing, back to his estate in Florida – just for fun.

Arthur Jones described himself as being politically 64000 miles to the right of Attila the Hun. Others described him as the last free man in America. He always packed a gun but he never showed it, remarking “If you see my gun, you’ve already committed suicide”. His favorite motto was “Younger women, faster airplanes and bigger crocodiles”.

Arthur Jones eccentric billionaire machine gun elephant

But Jones wasn’t always a rich man. In fact, he was so broke at one point that he didn’t have a place to stay or anything to eat. He said “you only learn from mistakes, and being homeless is the kind of mistake that gets your attention.”

Having grown in a family of physicians, Jones read all his parent’s medical literature and was always interested in bodybuilding – which he practiced on and off for a long period of time. Wanting to learn everything he could about the sport, he went out to California were “the experts” supposedly were.  After spending some time with “the experts” he found out that they did not know any more than he did, so he developed his own style of training which he formulated based on his scientific knowledge and general observations of nature.

Legend has it that Arthur formulated the High Intensity Training theory while watching a Gorilla do a one-arm pull-up with ease in the jungle, on one of his many trips to Africa . How could this animal be so strong ? He concluded that in nature, animals don’t exercise, but when they do they use 100% of their power, in short, intense bursts.

His great insight was that it is not the volume of activity or work you are engaged in, but rather the intensity of it, and the resistance you encounter while doing it. It is this principle that’s an essential part of the Blood and Guts program. One could not apply the same terminology used in physics to the human body.

Arthur Jones workout Nautilus machines

The term power, for example, is meaningless when applied to a human being. Power is the rate of work. Work involves movement. A muscle can work without moving, and therefore without producing power. But if you take a barbell and curl it to the mid range position, can you stand and hold it there forever ? Obviously not. According to the definition of work, you’re not working. But that muscle is surely working. You’ll find out very soon, as your muscle will get tired. So it isn’t really the amount of work you do, but the resistance to it that causes the most stimulus. If you lift a pencil, you will move fast and do a lot of lifting. But if you lift a heavy, challenging weight, you will move slow.

Some of Jones’ most famous disciples were Casey Viator, winner of Mr. America and 3rd place in Mister Olympia; Eddie Robinson, Mr. USA and long time career powerlifter and bodybuilder; Mike Mentzer, Mr. America and Heavyweight 1st place at Mr. Olympia; and most famous of all, Dorian Yates, the ultimate hardcore bodybuilder of all time and 6x Mr. Olympia.

The first to try Jones’s theory was Casey Viator. Together with Arthur and under the supervision of a doctor, they both went through the Colorado experiment – a one month long training program using only Nautilus machines Jones invented himself and performing only the HIT method. Both Jones and Casey were coming from a period of non-activity, so muscle memory was involved in their gains, but still, results were impressive: Casey gained 63 pounds of muscle, while Jones gained 15. After hearing about these results and studying the technique, even some professional football players from the Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, and Miami Dolphins incorporated HIT into their training with great results.

As one of the top bodybuilders in the 70’s , Mike Mentzer also adopted HIT as his method of choice. He met Arthur Jones, after fellow competitor Casey Viator introduced the two in 1971. Mentzer took HIT and applied it to his regime, going on to win Mr. America in 1976 , and Mr. Olympia in 1979 in the heavyweight class. He later had an enormous influence on the young up-and-coming Dorian Yates, convincing him that growth stimulus is not related to the volume but rather to the quality of the workout.

Mike Mentzer HIT training workout

Later Mentzer was quoted as saying  “if more training is what produces results, then those who train the most would have the biggest muscles, but that is simply not true. If 20 sets are good , 40 would be even better, 80 even better, and 100 even better still. Just work 18 hours a day and in 3 months you’ll look like Dorian Yates… well… we all know that’s not possible! “

Starting his professional career in 1983, Dorian Yates studied every material he could lay his hands on to improve his results. Through continuous research he found out about Arthur Jones’s High-Intensity Training and Mike Mentzer’s application of it in competitions. For Dorian, it all seemed logical. The cause and effect relationship of intensity to results and also, critically, letting the muscles recover and rebuild before damaging them again – it all made perfect sense.

Blood and Guts Dorian Yates HIT barbell rows

Dorian took the information and applied it to his own training and, as expected, it worked. If he trained more often or did more in the gym than Jones and Mentzer recommended, his progress would slow down or it would stop. As soon as he would cut back on the work load, and made the workout shorter and more intense, he progressed. So it was pretty early on in his career that he learned to train. This helped him enormously and with this method he was able to compete professionally in a World Championship after just a year and a half of preparation, a time span that was never achieved before.

Slightly adapting the HIT system to a competitive regiment to cover all muscle groups, Yates morphed it into the notorious Blood and Guts program, the insane training method that was immortalized in the homonymic 1 hour documentary and the pre-workout that is now part of the Shadow Line.  Dorian incorporated Jones’s key insight that the exercise movement consists of not just one phase – lifting – but three different phases: lifting (the positive), holding (the static), and lowering (the negative), and that each of these phases required different levels of power.

If you can’t lift it, you can still probably hold it, and if you can’t hold it, you can still probably lower it. By emphasizing all three movements with flawless technique and with the help of training partners to push him beyond his normal capacities, he achieved 100% failure and maximum intensity – Blood and Guts!

Dorian’s  hunger for success, combined with his razor sharp focus, unparalleled dedication, and fixation on results, allowed him to present to the world a physique that was never seen before, unmatched in it’s mass and definition. His Blood and Guts regiment produced results that truly revolutionized the sport. By his own admission, looking back Dorian is to this day impressed by what he was able to achieve using the High-Intensity Training philosophy.

Posted by Adrien Hunt