‘Heavy Duty’ Mike Mentzer grew up in Pennsylvania. He began lifting weights at age 12 and by 15 could benchpress 370 lbs. Mentzer started competing and winning physique contests when he was 18. A straight-A student, he enrolled at the University of Maryland in pre-med, but left after 3 years and served in the US Air Force for a time. Injuries forced him to stop training for a few years, but he came back and won Mr. American in 1976, and Mr. Universe in 1977. After winning Mr. Universe again in 1978, he went pro. Mentzer won the heavyweight class for Mr. Olympia in 1979 with a perfect score of 300. He retired at age 29 and switched to training other bodybuilders. Mentzer wrote several books about weight training. He died in 2001 from heart complications. Mentzer was inducted in the IFBB Hall of Fame in 2002. Despite being deceased for twenty years, he has an online presence on social media. Mentzerwas 5 feet 8 inches tall and weighed about 225 lbs.
Mike Mentzer’s Diet
While it was popular for bodybuilders to eat low-carb in the 1970s, Mentzer took a different approach. He recommended 4 servings each of high-quality grains and fruit, along with 2 each of dairy and protein. He ate things like pancakes and ice cream, but the way he stayed ripped was by keeping his calories under 2,000 a day. He was also not a fan of high protein diets and thought 1.2g of protein per pound of bodyweight was too much. His method proves you can eat foods you enjoy while maintaining a lean physique.
- Medium Carb 35% 35%
- Medium Fat 35% 35%
- Medium-High Protein 40% 40%
Much ado is made about the fact that Mentzer ate ice cream, but he was very disciplined in his habits. He was also extremely active, training multiple times a day. Even though he didn’t live on egg whites and spinach, he did eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.
Count Your Calories
Mentzer’s decision to count calories rather than macros worked for him. Either, way he did believe in tracking his intake. He recommended keeping a food diary to help you understand where you need to add or cut back.
Advice for Beginners
Mentzer said that a high-carb, high-calorie diet is necessary for most beginning bodybuilders, and that you must be willing to put on a little fat in order to gain muscle. For those looking to gain 10 lbs. of muscle in a year, he recommended a 6,000-calorie per day diet.
Mentzer clearly subscribed to the idea that life should be enjoyed. No diet is sustainable if it is too restrictive, so be choosy about your indulgences, and don’t go overboard.
What to Eat
Low Fat Milk
Anything in Moderation
What to Avoid
Mentzer on Calories
‘There are a few who claim that a positive calorie balance is not necessary to build new lean muscle…that the body can literally “steal” calories from fat and shunt them to the muscles for growth…While there may be some truth to this claim, I am skeptical.’
Mentzer on the Importance of Diet & Muscle Mass
‘You can’t build new muscle mass out of thin air; certain nutritional and caloric values are required.’
Mentzer on Diet & Muscle Gains
‘If the bodybuilder continues to consume only a maintenance level of calories, by definition, he will maintain his physical mass; he won’t gain mass; he won’t lose mass; he will maintain.’
Mike Mentzer’s Fitness Routine
Mentzer was all about lifting heavy, but said you have to do it right. He considered proper training to be the primary factor, and diet secondary.
Mentzer would spend an hour each week working his arms to failure. He said constant tension on the biceps and triceps is the key to building massive arms.
Aiming for Perfection
Mentzer attempted to perfect the concepts of Arthur Jones. He studied physiology for years and kept up on all the latest scientific research to develop his own theory of bodybuilding and how a person can achieve maximum results in minimum time without resorting to drugs.
Work With What You Got
Mentzer said that while you can make your shoulder muscles bigger, you can’t actually get wider because your skeleton is determined by genetics.
Mega Daily Dose
Mentzer regularly worked out multiple times a day. He took a classic approach, focusing on 1 body part each day. He was a proponent of high-intensity training as well as sufficient rest to promote growth.
Mentzer believed in high intensity training (HIT), bringing muscles through a full range of motion slowly, including a pause. Concentric moves should last 2-3 seconds and eccentric moves should last 4 seconds.
Mentzer said failure is not when you can no longer lift. Failure is when you cannot use proper form to go from fully contracted to fully extended and back again.
Mentzer’s favorite body part to train was his back. He believed a developed back provided definition and detail. He worked extra slow on each rep to highlight each of the many muscles in the back.
Mentzer believed in pushing muscles to the max to make them grow. To accomplish this, he would perform an isolation exercise before a compound move to thoroughly target a muscle.
AMike Mentzer Routine
Incline dumbbell fly: 8 reps x 5 sets
Flat barbell benchpress: 6-8 reps x 5 sets
Bodyweight dips: 10 reps x 5 sets
Flat dumbbell fly: 8 reps x 5 sets
Incline barbell benchpress: 6-8 reps x 5 sets
Straight arm pulldown: 8-10 reps x 5 sets
Close grip supinated cable pulldown: 8-10 reps x 5 sets
Barbell row: 5 reps x 5 sets
Standing dumbbell shrug: 8-10 reps x 5 sets
Barbell upright row: 6-8 reps x 5 sets
Dumbbell side lateral raise: 8-10 reps x 5 sets
Behind the neck overhead press: 6-8 reps x 5 sets
Bent over dumbbell raise: 8-10 reps x 5 sets
Front barbell raise 8-10 reps x 5 sets
Seated machine press: 6-8 reps x 5 sets
Single leg extension: 8-10 reps x 5 sets
Barbell squat: 6-8 reps x 5 sets
Single leg hammer curl: 8-10 reps x 5 sets
Leg press: 6-8 reps x 5 sets
Walking dumbbell lunge: 8-10 reps x 5 sets
Standing calf raise: 10-15 reps x 5 sets
Cable triceps pushdowns: 8-10 reps x 5 sets
Bodyweight dips: 10 reps x 5 sets
Overhead cable triceps extensions: 8-10 reps x 5 sets
Standing dumbbell curl: 8-10 reps x 5 sets
Supinated chin-up: 6-8 reps x 5 sets
Barbell preacher curl: 8-10 reps x 5 sets
Barbell forearm curl on bench: 10 reps x 5 sets
Mentzer on High-Intensity Exercise
‘The theory of high-intensity, anaerobic, bodybuilding exercise is not true because I or anyone else…say it is true. It is the fact that the logic of the theory is unassailable which makes it true.’
Mentzer on Strength vs. Size
‘Developing stronger muscles is a prerequisite to developing larger muscles.’
Mentzer on the Last Rep
‘That last rep where you’re trying as hard as you can and you barely make it…That rep is very special…There’s something special going on in side your body.’
Mentzer on Making Comparisons
‘Don’t make the mistake of comparing yourself to others. The only person you may accurately compare yourself to is—YOU!’
Mentzer on Improper Training
‘[It] remind[s] me of a the man who earnestly desires a suntan but continues to make the mistake of going outside at midnight, then wastes thousands of dollars on different suntan lotions, thinking the next one will solve his problem.’
Mike Mentzer’s Supplements
Mentzer is a bodybuilder from another era and while he openly admitted to taking steroids, they are not a healthy way of achieving results. So, below are some healthy supplement options for anyone following a similar diet.
If you’re looking to make gains, pick a more natural route. Whey protein helps you grow and maintain muscle while reducing recovery time, cutting cravings and lowering blood pressure.
Mike Mentzer’s Lifestyle
Mentzer says his father turned him on to capitalism as a child when he continually offered him prizes, from a baseball glove to cold, hard cash, for getting good grades.
Mentzer spoke openly about his steroid use. He claimed to take relatively low doses, but most people said his usage was much higher. He died of heart complications.
Just two days after Mentzer died, his brother Ray, another professional bodybuilder, passed away from complications from Berber’s disease.
Not Just a Muscle Man
Mentzer was a follower of Ayn Rand, and subscribed to Objectivist philosophy. He believed bodybuilding and philosophy were one and the same, and his books contained about equal amounts of philosophy and advice on weight training.
Against the Grain
Mentzer believed he had a monopoly on the right way to train, and that people who disagreed with him were ignorant, and attitude which earned him a lot of enemies in the bodybuilding community.
Mentzer competed against Arnold Schwarzenegger for Mr. Olympia and lost, prompting him to claim the contest was fixed in Arnie’s favor. The rivalry went on for years, but Mentzer eventually improved his relationship with Schwarzenegger.
Mentzer on the Importance of Rest
‘The workout does not actually produce muscular growth. The workout is merely a trigger that sets the body’s growth mechanism in motion. It is the body itself…that produces growth…only during a sufficient rest period.’
Mentzer on Philosophy & Weightlifting
‘Man is an indivisible entity, an integrated unit of mind and body.’
Mentzer on Developing the Mind & Body
‘It is only within the context of having properly developed your mind that you will be able to truly enjoy the achievement of your material values, including that of a more muscular body.’
Mentzer on Achievement
‘Man’s proper stature is not one of mediocrity, failure, frustration, or defeat, but one of achievement, strength, and nobility. In short, man can and ought to be a hero.’
Mentzer on Leadership
‘In order to lead the orchestra, you must first turn your back to the crowd.’
Mentzer on Achieving Goal
‘One cannot actualize his goals until he visualizes them clearly in the mind’s eye.’