18 – John Little: Inside the Mind of Mike Mentzer, Body By Science and his Workout with Hercules

John Little’s résumé is prolific. Alongside Dr Doug McGuff, he is the co-author of Body By Science and author of Max Contraction Training (to name a couple) and is considered to be one of the world’s foremost authorities on Bruce Lee, his training methods, and philosophies. John is the only person authorised to review the entirety of Lee’s personal notes, sketches, and reading annotations and to edit books on his behalf. Some of his notable works include The Warrior Within: The Philosophies of Bruce Lee and The Art of Expressing the Human Body.

Body By Science was a very pivotal book in my health and fitness journey and it was a real honour to have John on the show. He was a very humble guest and gave me a unique perspective on multiple aspects of high intensity training and health and fitness in general.

A recurring theme in this interview is the health and fitness industry and its relentless drive to leverage mass media to manufacture the desire for people to be muscular, ripped, and attractive. It does this because it wants to continue to profit, and after all, as John said in this interview, it’s hard to turn a dollar on being well hydrated and having good genetics.

“Why is our existence defined by how big someone’s arm is?” – John Little

In the pursuit of bigger muscles, it’s easy to forget the bigger picture, and that is the vast number of benefits stimulated by effective exercise. In this interview, John and I discuss this philosophical problem and the biological laws that govern it, Bruce Lee’s influence, training protocols, and the wisdom shared by body building legend, Mike Mentzer.

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Show Notes

  • Why does Bruce Lee appear to be popular among many body building advocates? [4:00]
  • How did Bruce Lee build his physique? [6:35]
  • What were the key lessons you learnt from Bruce Lee? [7:40]
  • The importance in changing workout protocol for consistent progress [9:30]
  • John’s current workout [18:45]
  • Wisdom from Mike Mentzer [22:30]
  • John’s workout with Hercules (Steve Reeves) [26:30]
  • How often should you change your workout protocol? [34:30]
  • What did Mike Mentzer say when people asked him “How do I look like you?” [40:30]
  • Why did Mike Mentzer let himself go as he got older? [43:00]
  • Does John think that there is a specific diet to optimise training results? [48:45]
  • Is it enough to be improving in just one exercise in a given protocol? [1:00:40]
  • The problems with under-eating and/or eating a low-carbohydrate diet during a workout program [1:05:22]
  • How did John and Dr Doug McGuff meet and start working together? [1:09:40]
  • How do you know if you have trained too intensely? [1:16:55]
  • What is the best piece of advice that John has ever received? [1:22:00]
  • Top 3 health and fitness tips [1:23:00]



Comments 12

  • New respect for John Little after listening to this interview. Great words of wisdom here.

    • Thanks Tommy. I hope we’ve corresponded elsewhere and that I’m not only just responding after 2 years! John Little joins me for a part 2 soon! 😀

  • Fellas’s, I thoroughly enjoyed the interview. There is ALOT of information here, and not just pertaining to strength training and fitness. John, your laid back way of speaking and sharing of knowledge is awesome. Your stuff has inspired me since the early 90’s.

    Don’t be afraid to try different things. Get comfortable with the temporary discomfort. Don’t force feed yourself. Drink some good beer. So much more here too.

      • Glad to hear that Lawrence 🙂 I wanted to add: I like how John likes to call this “high energy output training”. I agree that this really encompasses the various ways of doing this. Be it negative only, done in one, straight sets, etc.

  • Hey Lawrence – love your work and this interview is amazing. One question for John Little and maybe others – how do they think about progressing their clients? What protocol do they start with and how do they move over time? There are so many levers to pull (frequency, split, intensity-enhancers, etc.) and I’m sure you can relate to how to progress. For example, if John advocates moving from a Big 5 to a Big 3, should one lower frequency at the same time? Should one start incorporating forced reps?


  • John Little has a way of talking to make things understandable to the common man. All the academic science stuff is great (and the foundation), but the philosophical stuff iis inspiring (and could be the walls and roof).

  • Sorry Lawrence, me again. This looks good. Any chance of it on mp3 please Sir?

    • Not this one Chris (can’t remember if I already said?). I just re-listened to it in prep for Part 2. John is great in it though and I thoroughly recommend you listen to via Overcast (app/website) or stream via browser if you must.

  • Great interview ! Always enjoy listening to Mr little . The biggest takeaway from this talk is to never marry a protocol , nothing is going to yield results indefinitely . Change things up from time to time to keep things fresh and produce better results long term .

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