Markus Reinhardt

If you’ve been reading bodybuilding magazines for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed that most of the top bodybuilders train in a remarkably similar fashion. They’re in the gym five or six days a week, hitting bodyparts with 12-20 sets. Sometimes you could almost switch the names and pictures around on the articles and few would notice the difference. Enter Markus Reinhardt. You’ll soon discover that his methods are a radical departure from the rest of the bodybuilding herd, based on principles of reason and logic rather than merely a blind imitation of those around him. If you have been following the standard pro types of routines and getting nowhere, he might just have the answer to unlock your muscular potential.

Markus was born in 1970 in Stuttgart, Germany, which car aficionados will recognize as the home of the Mercedes-Benz. His father was a long-haul truck driver while mom took care of him, his older brother, and two sisters. Unfortunately, Markus lost his older brother, who was close to seven feet tall, in a drunk driving accident in 1979. To add to the tragic events of his youth, his father had a heart attack and died the year after. Young Markus felt lost, confused, and in dire need of something positive to focus on.

At thirteen it was his cousin, an avid weight trainer, who introduced him to what would soon give him an outlet for all his repressed feelings and give him direction in life. While learning the basics of weight training at his cousin’s modest little home gym, he became enthralled with the pictures of Arnold Schwarzenegger pasted up on the walls. He also couldn’t stop flipping through his cousin’s stack of Sport Revue bodybuilding magazines, published by Germany’s answer to Joe Weider, Albert Busek. Very soon Markus had his own weights at home. “All I had at that time was a bench and a barbell, a chin-up bar wedged in my doorway, and five and ten-pound pairs of dumbbells. I didn’t know what I was doing, but I knew I loved it. My mother thought I was weird, spending so much time cooped up in my room lifting weights. Now, of course, she’s very proud of me and my biggest fan.” At fifteen he got a job at a local YMCA which gave him access to a boxing area and the weight room. “I didn’t know which one I really wanted to do for a while, but I gravitated more toward the weights,” he remembers. “There were charts on the weight room wall showing you how to do all these different exercises I had never heard of. As soon as I started doing them all, I began to develop pretty well.”

At sixteen Markus entered his first bodybuilding contest, the Teenage division at the Mr. Germany. “I took 7th out of 27 kids, but I was pissed at doing so badly,” he laughs now. He returned at eighteen as a Junior and took third. “Gunter Schlierkamp won my class, then when the drug test results came back the second-place guy had failed. So you could say I technically took second to Gunter. He was big and freaky even at that age.” He graduated to working at a large gym, and soon became the jack-of-all trades. “I was the manager of the place, I was training people, even cleaning the toilets. I did it all! I was making very good money and still living at home, so I had a lot of disposable income. But I was in there ten hours a day, seven days a week. I felt trapped.”

Coming to America – Markus had a good friend who had moved to America several years before. “I was talking to him in ‘91 and told him I had a two-week vacation coming but didn’t know where I was going to go. He offered to let me stay at his house in L.A. and see the sights. It was a whole new world. We went to Hollywood, Venice Beach, Gold’s Gym, then to Las Vegas and San Francisco – all the typical tourist stuff. But I said, man, this is the place for me. Germany has too much of a collective mentality, where the group makes all the decisions and the individual isn’t really valued so much. America is all about independence and being your own person. I knew it was where I had to be.” Upon returning to Germany, he quit his job, sold his car, and said his good-byes to family and friends. “Everyone thought I would be back in three or four months after I ran out of money.” And the early days in California did turn out to be a financial struggle. “Luckily my English was very good, so I got a job right away in security for a company that only hired bodybuilders.

Sometimes I worked concerts, but more often they would put us in jobs in really bad neighborhoods. I guess they thought the gang-bangers would be scared of us because of our muscles. Let me tell you, they weren’t. These guys were all packing guns, and we were unarmed. I was the one who was scared!” By 1994 Markus was back in the gym business, working full-time at the Powerhouse Gym in Venice, just across from the Firehouse restaurant.

He had also begun competing again in his new home, in both natural and non-tested contests. “I did a few cycles of steroids off and on through 1994,” he admits, “nothing major.” After 1994 he decided to give them up completely. “I have good enough genetics that I don’t need to weigh 250 pounds to look impressive. Plus, my waistline is smaller, my face looks better and younger without them, and everybody I knew was telling me how great I looked clean.” Indeed, that was when his career as a fitness model really took off, and now his image has been seen in various print ads, magazines, on magazine covers, and even on an album cover.

Still, Markus remained a bodybuilder at heart and knew that his physique wasn’t living up to what he felt was its true potential, even without drugs. “I started to wonder if the way I was training was really that effective. I had never done twenty sets a bodypart or more like a lot of guys. I modeled my training sort of after Lee Labrada, who would do 6-8 sets per bodypart. Everyone at the time thought he was crazy, like he wasn’t training enough. So my volume wasn’t so excessive, but I was still training three days on, one day off all the time. I was stuck at the same bodyweight for a very long time.”

Enter Mentzer – While training at the Mecca, Gold’s Gym in Venice, Markus had been watching the legendary Mike Mentzer train clients in his unique High Intensity Training (HIT) style. He was intrigued to see people making good progress in what seemed to be almost ridiculously short workouts, usually only hitting a bodypart with one set per session and never training more than one day without taking a whole day or two off afterward. At the time, Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates was consulting with Mike and adopting many of his methods, and was getting bigger and freakier by the year.

Markus decided he had nothing to lose and hired Mentzer to be his trainer.

Four months later, he had gained 25 pounds of mostly muscle. “Mike had a hard time believing I wasn’t on steroids. We trained every other day or every third day. My legs made the biggest improvement. My thighs got so big they rubbed together when I walked. That’s when I knew that less training, not more, was the answer.” The two became good friends, and Markus adopted the objectionist philosophy popularized by writer Ayn Rand and espoused by Mentzer frequently in his writings. As a final tribute, Mike selected Markus to star in his video to demonstrate High Intensity Training. Just hours after it finished filming, Mike went home and died. “I was one of the last people to see Mike alive,” he shares. “It wouldn’t surprise me if he had planned all along to just hold out until his video was wrapped.”

Markus adapted the Heavy Duty theories of Mentzer to fit his own needs as a competitive bodybuilder, much as Dorian Yates had done several years before. “I still do just one work set per exercise, but I’ll do three or four exercises for most bodyparts to provide stimulation from different angles,” he explains. After experimenting with more and less frequent training, this is the format Markus arrived at that works best for him:



(Wednesday) – BACK/BICEPS/ABS


(Cardio on off days)

“I have so much more energy and enthusiasm now when I walk in the gym than I used to,” he says. “When I would train three days in a row and take one day off, I was exhausted most of the time and didn’t know why. I had to force myself to be motivated to work out because I was in a state of chronic overtraining. Now that’s not a problem. I can’t wait to get in there and train hard, because I’m always rested and recovered.”

Machines underrated?- Although Markus is shown in some of these photos using all free weights, in his actual training he is more likely to use machines such as those manufactured by Hammer Strength and Nautilus. “The myth that free weights are superior to machines for gaining muscle size is simply not true,” he informs us. “Personally, I prefer machines because you can focus on the contraction of the muscle without having to expend any mental or physical energy balancing the weight. This isn’t to say free weights are useless, because they are still very worthwhile tools. I still use them occasionally to keep my coordination intact. But hard work and all-out effort is what builds muscle, and I can do that just as well or better with machines as I could on free weights.”

Machines are the better choice! (Just one of the articles written and published by Markus Reinhardt)

Form is all – Watch a video like “The Road to the Olympia” and you will quickly ascertain that most of the world’s top pro’s do not exhibit what would be considered perfect form. Mutant genetics and boatloads of drugs help them get away with it, but Markus would never recommend anyone imitate their iron-slinging antics. “Form is everything to me. I use a very slow rep cadence, taking two seconds to lift the weight, squeezing the muscle hard for a full second, then lowering it over a four-second count for a full stretch. I always use a full range of motion and never bounce at the bottom of the weight. Instead, I pause to eliminate any help from momentum. Honestly, I don’t lift as much weight in some exercises as I used to. At one time I was bench pressing 485 pounds for five reps. But my chest wasn’t bigger then. It’s much thicker and more impressive now that I use less weight but force the muscle to work harder. Back then I was just throwing the weight up with momentum and using my joints and connective tissue. Big deal. I’m lucky I never had a major injury. It’s all about making an exercise harder to perform, not easier. That’s the core of High Intensity Training, working the muscle briefly yet with as much intensity as possible, then letting it have ample time to recover and repair for next time.”

Arms, you are the weakest link – goodbye!- One thing you will notice soon when we get into his chest training is that Markus is a true believer in the pre-exhaust technique pioneered in the late 1960’s by Robert Kennedy and Arthur Jones, and later practiced by Mike Mentzer. In all compound movements for the major torso muscle groups (back, shoulders, and chest), arms are the weak link. Using chest as an example, most trainers fail on a bench press not because their pectorals are fatigued, but because the smaller, weaker triceps give out first. If you pre-exhaust the chest with an isolation movement such as the pec dec or dumbbell flyes, and go immediately to a pressing exercise such as the bench press, the chest is temporarily weaker than the triceps for a fleeting moment. This method allows one to take the fibers of the pecs much deeper into exhaustion in a press by eliminating the weak link factor of the tri’s. Markus applies this concept to back as well, doing pullovers before pulldowns or rows, and lateral raises before shoulder presses for more efficient delt training. He also uses other intensity techniques such as static holds (keeping the weight in the contracted position of the exercise as long as possible at the end of a set), negatives, drop sets, and forced reps to take sets deeper inside the growth zone. It is here where they have no choice but to adapt by becoming larger.

A typical chest workout – Markus starts every workout with 6-8 minutes on the stationary bike as a general warm-up to raise his body temperature and get his blood circulation flowing more freely. He then spends a few minutes doing some non-ballistic stretching so his connective tissues are loose and limber before starting to warm up on the actual exercises he’ll be doing. Since it’s a superset, he will alternate between the first two exercises. In this case he’s choosing decline dumbbell flyes and the flat bench press for his first work set. He’ll do a light set with both for about 15 reps, then use a little more than half of the working weight he’ll end up with for another 8-10 reps. These are obviously taken nowhere near failure, as he’s conserving as much energy as possible for the big superset. Finally he’s ready, his mind totally focused on the job at hand. The whole thing about doing just one work set of an exercise is that you don’t get a second chance to do it right. Sitting down on the decline bench, he does one set of 8-12 perfect reps with 80-90-pound dumbbells, stretching further back than most trainers are capable of due to dedicated stretching of his pecs over several years. He avoids the top portion of the rep, where the laws of physics and gravity dictate that no resistance to the chest is possible. Upon failing, he drops the ‘bells and gets right underneath a bench press. “With the barbell, I usually don’t go higher than 225 for 4-6 reps. I don’t want to turn this into an aerobic exercise where I’m failing because of oxygen debt, so that’s about the most reps I would want to do on the second movement.” After resting for two to three minutes, it’s time for the second and final superset for the chest. No warmup is needed because the chest is already fairly fatigued by this time, making dangerously heavy weights nearly impossible to handle anyway. A common combination for the second and last superset Markus performs is the cable crossover and an incline press. “The cable crossover or a pec dec works that last part of the range of motion that the free-weight flyes missed,” he adds. “And I can make the set more intense by holding the contraction for a second or longer on each rep. Let me tell you, my pecs are usually burning up by the time I get those 8-12 reps.” Markus then hops right under the incline bar, unracks it (usually again with no more than 225 pounds) and grinds out 4-6 torturous reps to complete his chest workout. That’s it, just four work sets. It may not be the one set per bodypart that most of us associate with Mentzer-style training, but it’s a far cry from the 20-30 sets you’ll find someone like Ronnie Coleman or Jay Cutler doing for pecs. And it’s safe to say from the looks of Reinhardt’s chest that he isn’t missing out by skipping all the superfluous sets.

Markus had the courage to buck the prevailing trends in bodybuilding training and try a different approach that made more sense to him. Since then, his physique has continued to transform into one of the most powerful, shapely, and symmetrical physiques in bodybuilding – whether we’re talking natural or not. His brand of High Intensity Training took him to this higher level, even though the masses still laugh it off as constituting “not enough training to make progress.” For natural trainers who don’t have the tremendous advantages in recovery that steroids provide, less training and more intensity is a logical conclusion. If your chest, or your whole body for that matter, looks the same as it has for months or years despite countless hours of torture in the gym, you owe it to yourself to give H.I.T. a fair trial. You could suddenly discover that less can sometimes be more when it comes to stimulating muscle growth.

– courtesy of