Mike Mentzer
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Who is Mike Mentzer?

Renowned for his “Heavy Duty” training regimen and his altercation with Arnold Schwarzenegger at the 1980 Olympia.

One of the early years’ most well-known bodybuilders is Mike Mentzer. Mike’s tale is one of sorrow, but it’s also one of determination and atonement.

Not only will Mike Mentzer be remembered for having one of the best bodies ever, but also for having one of the best lives.



  • 1971 Mr. Lancaster – 1st
  • 1971 AAU Mr. America – 10th
  • 1971 AAU Teen Mr. America – 2nd
  • 1975 IFBB Mr. America – 3rd (Medium)
  • 1975 ABBA Mr. USA – 2nd (Medium)
  • 1976 IFBB Mr. America – 1st (Overall)
  • 1976 IFBB Mr. America – 1st (Medium)
  • 1976 IFBB Mr. Universe – 2nd (MW)
  • 1977 IFBB North American Championships – 1st (Overall)
  • 1977 IFBB North American Championships – 1st (MW)
  • 1977 IFBB Mr. Universe – 2nd (HW)
  • 1978 IFBB USA vs the World – 1st (HW)
  • 1978 IFBB World Amateur Championships – 1st (HW)
  • 1979 IFBB Canada Pro Cup – 2nd
  • 1979 IFBB Florida Pro Invitational – 1st
  • 1979 IFBB Night of Champions – 3rd
  • 1979 IFBB Mr. Olympia – 1st (HW)
  • 1979 IFBB Pittsburgh Pro Invitational – 2nd
  • 1979 IFBB Southern Pro Cup – 1st
  • 1980 IFBB Mr. Olympia – 5th

“Many bodybuilders undersell their abilities. They stop training because they falsely attribute their lack of satisfying improvement to a lack of the necessary genetic features rather than their unreasonable training and food habits. Avoid making the same error.


Mike Mentzer

Young Years

At the age of twelve, Mike Mentzer began bodybuilding. He was raised in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, and was known as “The Heavy Duty.”

Mike came from an educated family, so his father routinely assessed and encouraged his academic acumen using a variety of incentives, including money, to make sure he excelled.

Mike’s father got him his first set of weights. Mike started working out three times a week, and at the age of 15, despite only weighing 165 pounds, he could bench press 370 pounds (170 kilograms) (75kg).

Mentzer, however, was only warming up. Mike was exercising six days a week in the gym, typically for up to three hours at a time, when he started his four years of service in the US air force.

At the age of 18, Mike won his first contest, Mr. Lancaster, in 1971. The AAU Mr. America competition, where he finished in 10th place, was his worst loss of the year.

At that gathering, Mike would meet Arthur Jones for the first time. Jones, a skilled trainer and the creator of many early workout devices, started working with Mike because he was confident in the young man’s abilities.

Three Years Of Nothing

Mike Mentzer had a significant shoulder injury in 1971, which caused him to stop training for a while.

being out between 1971 and 1974. To keep his scholarly mind engaged during his downtime, Mike started studying to become a psychologist in 1974.

He completed this at the University of Maryland, but Mike left in 1977 after deciding the field wasn’t for him.

Mike didn’t pick up the weight until 1975, but when he did, he returned in a big way. Mike competed in the 1975 IFBB Mr. America to see where he stood and to get back into the competition.

It was a commendable return, finishing in a respectable third position, behind Robby Robinson, also known as “The Black Prince,” and Roger Callard.

Addiction And The 1980 Olympics

Next up for Mike was the IFBB Mr. Olympia in Sydney in 1980. Mike had begun using amphetamines in 1978, a year earlier. He insisted that he did not utilize it for leisure but rather for production.

Even though there were no known long-term adverse effects at the time, Mike started to feel tired and would spend entire days in bed unable to even move an arm. He described it as feeling like “death’s door” was closing.

The “death’s door” feeling returned to Mike two days before the 1980 Olympia. He didn’t feel fully recovered until the morning of the competition.

“I didn’t feel my best, but I looked my best. Everyone wasn’t acting like they usually did, so it just didn’t feel like a typical contest. The entire time, there was strain and tension in the air.

Arnold: Head To Head

Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was thought to be retired, declared his desire to participate in the competition later that day.

Numerous contenders, including Mentzer, were incensed by this. He was a judging favorite, and many rivals thought that with his newfound reputation, he might triumph merely based on favorability.

Many stories said Mentzer and Schwarzenegger traded insults during the meeting and that a fight almost broke out.

Mike Mentzer came in fifth. Arnold came in first despite multiple instances of breaking formation and receiving a warning from the judges.

Mike didn’t like this, and he wasn’t hesitant to discuss it in his seminars in a mocking way, which may have resulted in his unofficial blacklisting from the IFBB.

This might have been a mistake because Mike had almost no income for the first two years after the blacklisting.

Exercise Magazine

Mike had been able to secure a position as editor of “Workout Magazine” in the middle of 1983.

While he enjoyed his work, he frequently needed amphetamines to stay awake for two to three days in a row to fulfill deadlines. He asserted that in the year 1985;

“The magazine was operating reasonably well until the financial folks abruptly pulled the plug on the entire project just as it began to earn a profit, for whatever reason.

As a result, we discontinued publication. It dealt a devastating blow. Even though I gave the business my all, it didn’t work out.

Mike lost his adored father shortly after Workout Magazine halted publication, and as if the bodybuilder didn’t have enough on his plate enough, his ten-year engagement to Cathy Gelfo ended.

The Five-Year War

These three terrible incidents, together with Mike’s prolonged usage of amphetamines, would contribute to his deterioration.

For five years, Mike struggled with his demons and frequently required hospital admissions. The majority of the bodybuilding community turned their backs on Mike at this moment.

Two people, though, remained and helped him: Julie McNew, Mike’s ex-girlfriend, and John Little, a senior writer at Flex magazine.

Julie was incredibly helpful emotionally and financially during that entire five-year time, Mike says, even though our relationship had ended. I can only really appreciate her friendship now.

One of the few, John Little, didn’t approach me under the erroneous impression that I was a ‘loony’ or a ‘mad.’ John is extremely knowledgeable about the influence of thoughts and how the mind processes them.

He would engage me in lengthy chats, and I cherish the memories of such interactions, which makes me think kindly of John Little. He never gave up on me.

As 1990 arrived, Mike discovered himself in the hospital once more. Everything was different this time, though. He understood that he was the one out of control, not everyone else, and stopped blaming them.

Mike made a promise to himself to get back on track after realizing this. After leaving the hospital, he went to Gold’s Gym in Venice and persuaded them to allow him to begin working as a personal trainer.

From there, things only got better. Despite the occasional setback, Mike started to establish himself and returned to the circuit.

Mike And Ray Mentzer’s Heart Issues

Ray, Mike’s younger brother, and the 1979 Mr. America winner started getting renal dialysis in 1999. Ray needed a transplant and Mike, his older brother by 21 months, was the apparent candidate.

However, doctors found Mike had very serious heart issues while examining him to see if he could donate the kidney to his brother.

Ray would now have to wait longer because the transplant was no longer an option. Mike moved in with Ray to take care of him, and they became closer over the years.

Mike’s Passing

On June 10, 2001, a Sunday, Mike passed away. He and his brother Ray were both working on the exercise DVD “HIT” the day before. Ray turned into bed following a day of shooting. Mike stayed up late to finish the scripts because he is Mike.

He took a rest despite his younger brother’s protests. That morning, Mike’s sibling would discover him dead.

In his sleep, he had a heart attack. Tragically, his sibling would soon experience a similar loss. Ray was also discovered dead in the same apartment after skipping a dialysis appointment, but not 48 hours later.

The idea is not “more is better” or “less is better,” but rather “precise is best,” as I learned from training nearly 2,000 people in addition to myself.

The precise amount of exercise needed to induce optimal growth stimulation isn’t nearly as much as you’ve been led to believe or would like to believe.

Training Of Mike Mentzer

Mike Mentzer’s method of training evolved from HIT, or high-intensity training, which Arthur Jones pioneered in the 1970s. Mentzer, however, chose a “Heavy Duty” variant based on this model.

You would need a weight for this that would cause you to fail after six to nine repetitions. Once you encounter failure, carry on.

Mike would continue to complete 2-3 forced reps as negatives (dropping the weight slowly) past the point of muscular failure while using a spotter, frequently his younger brother Ray.

He would maintain his form to the utmost perfection. The weights moved slowly and with excellent control. Rest was important. Mike frequently limited his training week to 3 days of work and 4 days of recuperation.

Later, when his bodybuilding skills improved, he began taking 4–7 days off between sessions.

Mike’s regular training schedule might resemble this:

Monday: Legs, Chest, Triceps

Mike Mentzer


  • Leg extensions 1 x 6-8
  • Leg presses 1 x 6-8
  • Squats 1 x 6-8
  • Leg curls 2 x 6-8
  • Calf raises 2 x 6-8
  • Toe presses 1 x 6-8


  • Dumbbell flyes or pec-deck 1-2 x 6-8
  • Incline presses 1-2 x 6-8
  • Dips 2 x 6-8


  • Pushdowns 1 x 6-8
  • Dips 1 x 6-8
  • Lying triceps extensions 2 x 6-8

Wednesday: Back, Traps, Shoulders, Biceps


  • Nautilus pullovers 2 x 6-8
  • Close-grip pulldowns 2 x 6-8
  • Bent-over barbell rows 2 x 6-8


  • Universal machine shrugs 2 x 6-8
  • Upright rows 2 x 6-8


  • Nautilus laterals 2 x 6-8
  • Nautilus presses 2 x 6-8
  • Rear delt rows 2 x 6-8
  • Standing barbell curls 1 x 6-8
  • Concentration curls 2 x 6-8

Don’t undervalue the importance of a balanced diet. Consider this. What could be better than a balanced diet that meets your nutritional needs?


Mike saw that while each person had unique requirements, on the inside, we were all the same. Mike thought that the amounts of protein the magazines were trying to sell were unnecessary for bodybuilders.

Today’s bodybuilders hold a lot of bodybuilders to this viewpoint. According to Mike in his book “Heavy Duty,”

“The fact that muscle contains only 22% protein indicates that our protein needs are not very large. Additionally, just because muscle is more than 70% water, it doesn’t follow that you should start drinking tons of water every day to speed up the process of building muscle.

Mike ate by the four food groups and the recommended servings for each, taking a very comprehensive approach to his diet in terms of food sources. He would outline a typical bodybuilder’s diet as follows:

  • Cereal and Grain Foods – Four or more servings per day
  • Fruits and Vegetables – Four or more servings per day
  • The high-protein group (Fish, meat, eggs) – Two or more servings each day (Basic serving of meat = 3.5 ounces)
  • Milk and Milk group products (Milk and cheese) – Two servings per day.

“Man’s proper stature is one of achievement, strength, and nobility, not one of mediocrity, failure, frustration, or loss. In conclusion, “Man can and should be a hero.”

Influences And Idols

Mike’s early bodybuilding hero was Bill Pearl. Bill praised Mike and his brother in his remarks;

“Back in Pennsylvania, when Mike was 11 and Ray was 9, the Mike brothers used to write to me as young children. They would send me various items, including tiny photos of themselves.

I’d respond to them. Mike and Ray are genetic freaks, which is something I never anticipated would happen to them. Mike is just as strong as Ray, who is one of the strongest bodybuilders I have ever seen.

Mike’s whole training concept was built on the work of Arthur Jones and HIT, despite being initially influenced by Bill Pearl. It’s safe to argue that Arthur Jones was the driving force behind Mike’s success, making him one of his key influencers.

Ayn Rand, a Russian-American novelist, philosopher, and playwright, was another significant influence on Mike. In terms of training and living life on his terms, Mike was motivated by Ayn to think beyond the box.

“You will only be able to genuinely enjoy the achievement of your material values, including that of a more strong body, within the context of having properly developed your mind.”

Could Mike Mentzer Teach Us?

Their life of Mike was undoubtedly not without tragedy. The death of his father, his early usage of amphetamines to stay “busy,” and the subsequent rejection of the bodybuilding community were all significant contributors to his deterioration.

But he returned after some introspection, trips to the hospital, and assistance from a few close pals. Mike who passed away will always be regarded as that person. the committed, knowledgeable, and passionate bodybuilder.

What are the lessons here? There are challenges in life, but no matter how challenging they may appear or how far you may have veered from the path, you can always make things right.