Mike Mentzer (Mr. Heavy Duty) was born in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, and was something of a bodybuilding renaissance man. Mentzer was an American IFBB professional bodybuilder, author, philosopher and business person. This article explores his biography, diet, workout routine and accomplishments.
About Mike Mentzer
|Full Name: Mike Mentzer (Mr. Heavy Duty)|
|Weight||Height||Date of Birth|
|225 pounds (102 kilograms)||5′ 8″ (173 cm)||November 15, 1951|
|June 10, 2001||Ephrata, Pennsylvania, USA||Venice, California, USA|
Mike Mentzer Biography
Early life and career
He attended Ephrata High School; there he got excellent grades and then he went to the University of Maryland and studied chemistry. After graduating from university after three years, his aim was to become a psychiatrist.
Renowned as much for his vocabulary and propensity to quote the philosophy of Aye Rand as he was for the dimensions of his Herculean physique, Mentzer established himself first as a bodybuilding champion and then as a scholar of the sport. Having placed 10th at the 1971 AAU Mr. America contest, Mentzer came in contact with Arthur Jones, who at that time was promoting his less-is-best training theories along with his Nautilus exercise equipment.
From that grounding, Mentzer eventually evolved his own Heavy Duty training philosophy, which espoused brief, intense workout sessions and spawned countless articles, many books, and videos. In 1976, Mentzer won the IFBB Mr. America, and in 1978, after relocating to Los Angeles, he won the heavyweight division at the IFBB World Amateur Championships with a perfect score.
The following year, he was second to Frank Zane in the IFBB Mr. Olympia. In 1980, after tying for fourth at the IFBB Mr. Olympia, which Arnold Schwarzenegger won in controversial fashion, Mentzer quit competitive bodybuilding. For years afterward, he would rail against the outcome of that contest and Arnold’s part in it.
Life after retirement
Mentzer trained bodybuilders and also wrote extensively for the Iron Man magazine from the 1980s. Six-time Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates credited Mike Mentzer’s Heavy Duty training methods for helping him reach the pinnacle of bodybuilding. In the later years, Dorian Yates, Mike and his brother Ray Mentzer formed a clothing company called MYM (Mentzer-Yates-Mentzer) also known as Heavy Duty Inc.
In his final years, Mike learned he had serious heart problems, and he and Arnold spoke, patching up their differences. The day after completing the filming of his latest training video, Mike was found dead by his brother Ray at the Los Angeles apartment they shared.
Two days later, Ray, who had been undergoing regular kidney dialysis, was found dead at the same apartment.
Mr. & Masters Olympia Results
- 1979 – IFBB Mr. Olympia: 1st (heavyweight)
- 1980 – IFBB Mr. Olympia: 5th
- 1970 – AAU Mr Pennsylvania
- 1976 – IFBB Mr. America
- 1977 – IFBB North American Championships
- 1978 – IFBB USA World Qualifier (heavyweight)
- 1978 – IFBB USA vs the World (heavyweight)
- 1978 – IFBB World Amateur Championships (HW)
- 1979 – IFBB Florida Pro Invitational
Mike Mentzer Workout
Mike Mentzer is popular for introducing the ‘Heavy Duty’ training system to the bodybuilding community. This type of training was unusual and a polar opposite of traditional bodybuilding methods back in the day. You may have come across old school bodybuilders that believed in dedicating a large portion of their time and energy to training. Spending hours in the gym was a norm and the high volume of training was synonymous with positive results and marvelous growth.
The Heavy Duty training system challenged these conventional notions and focused more on training with heavier weights for short intervals. Mike Mentzer was a huge proponent of getting high quality workout for best results instead of getting junk volume in. These factors resulted in him leaning into the High Intensity Training system developed by Arthur Jones. This training system adhered to lower rep ranges with heavy weights.
Mentzer became one of the most prominent advocates of this way of training. He believed that it reduced the muscle damage and he could get the best results because of it. Back in the day, it was heavily criticized for breaking the norms of the time. However, research has now proven that a high proportion of the maximum possible gains can still be achieved with reduced volume and increased training intensity. ‘Minimalist training’ is a training system that has a lot of common threads with High Intensity Training.
Mike Mentzer’s heavy duty training has seven principles of bodybuilding:
The body gets adapted to the training as you continue to do it for a long time. So as you progress in a particular exercise, the amount of energy your body spends to perform it steadily decreases. This results in diminished results.
Therefore it is essential to increase the training intensity by adding more resistance. This can be achieved with heavier weights. But doing more than six sets per body part per week and doing more than eight to ten reps per set is simply not advisable.
No training method, scientifically perfect exercise sequence or intensity can get the desired results if the body does not get enough rest to recover from the wear and tear. You see, this is how bodybuilding works in the most basic sense – you damage the muscle fibers by pushing beyond their capacity. These muscle fibers are then replaced by stronger and bigger muscle fibers when you are at rest.
But if you don’t allow this rebuilding process to take place, your efforts will return diminished efforts. Therefore training each body part more than once every week is the best way to approach training. Anything more than that means you are overtraining.
Additionally, doing one heavy set per body part will not allow the body to get adapted to the training routine. This way, growth can continue for a very long time compared to doing high volume training that can lead to a bodybuilding plateau relatively quickly.
- Incline Dumbbell Flyes – 5 sets of 8 reps
- Bodyweight Dips – 5 sets of 6 reps (60-second break between sets
- Incline Barbell Bench Press – 5 sets of 6 to 8 reps
- Flat Barbell Bench Press – 5 sets of 6 to 8 reps
- Flat Dumbbell Flyes – 5 sets of 6 to 8 reps
- Straight Arm Pulldown – 5 sets of 5 to 8 reps
- Close Grip Lat Pulldown – 5 sets of 8 to 10 reps
- Bent Over Barbell Rows – 5 sets of 5 reps
- Standing Barbell Shrugs – 5 sets of 8 to 10 reps
- Barbell Upright Rows – 5 sets of 6 to 8 rep
- Bent Over Dumbbell Lateral Raises – 5 sets of 8 to 10 reps
- Seated Machine Overhead Press – 5 sets of 6 to 8 reps
- Dumbbell Lateral Raises – 5 sets of 8 to 10 reps
- Behind the Neck Overhead Press – 5 sets of 6 to 8 reps
- Barbell Front Raises – 5 sets of 8 to 10 reps
- Single Leg Extensions – 5 sets of 8 to 10 reps
- Single Leg Curls – 5 sets of 8 to 10 reps
- Barbell Squats – 5 sets of 6 to 8 reps
- Leg Press – 5 sets of 6 to 8 reps
- Standing Calf Raises – 5 sets of 10 to 15 reps
- Walking Dumbbell Lunges – 5 sets of 8 to 10 reps
- Supinated Chin-Ups – 5 sets of 6 to 8 reps
- Bodyweight Triceps Dips – 5 sets of 10 reps
- Barbell Preacher Curls – 5 sets of 8 to 10 reps
- Cable Triceps Pushdowns – 5 sets of 8 to 10 reps
- Standing Dumbbell Curls – 5 sets of 8 to 10 reps
Mike Mentzer Diet
Similar to training, Mike Mentzer’s approach to diet was absolutely unique and it was also controversial at the time. Much like today, carbohydrates were demonized and most bodybuilders followed a low carb and high protein diet. However, Mike Mentzer believed in a balanced diet that had just the right amount of protein, fat and carbohydrates.
He was a vocal critic of extreme dieting methods. While speaking to the audience members at a 1981 seminar in Canada, Mentzer stated:
“A lot of nutrition, it seems to me, it is splitting hair. People get so involved in their nutrition, which is okay, I mean, I am not judging that. But it’s a lot simpler just to eat a little bit of everything and not too much of anything. Train hard and don’t split hairs unless you get off on it.”
Mike Mentzer’s approach to diet was very different in terms of meal frequency as well. While most bodybuilders believe in eating small meals spread out across the day, Mentzer believed in eating less frequently. The modern day intermittent fasting promotes a similar kind of approach to nutrition. However, Mike Mentzer did not go to the extreme of going without food for long hours. But he made sure that he ate fewer but calorie-dense balanced meals throughout the day.
Although Mentzer did not exclude carbohydrates from his diet, whole natural foods were his sources for this nutrient. The legendary bodybuilder ate the carbohydrates from fruits, high quality grains as well as dairy.
Explaining the importance of carbohydrates for high intensity training, Mike Mentzer once stated:
“Carbohydrates are the most efficient fuel for high-intensity training or any kind of anaerobic training. Anaerobic activity, which is what weight training is, demands sugar as fuel. The worst way to get cut up is to lift weights, because weight training does not burn fat as fuel. It’s a simple medical fact that’s not even open to debate. Weight training burns sugar. And if you’re not getting sugar from fruits, vegetables, cereals or grains, where is your muscle going to get sugar in order to continue contracting?”
A lot of bodybuilding diets do not include foods that may not be great in terms of nutritional value but mean a lot for mental well being if an individual. It could be a small cup of ice cream, a nice chocolate or even a pizza. While it is essential for professional bodybuilders to be extremely disciplined to achieve professional success, Mike Mentzer had a slightly different take on this.
The legendary bodybuilder did not have a junk diet by any means. But once a week, he would eat an extra meal of a pizza, ice cream or a pie. Mentzer called this ‘intelligent cheating’.
Common foods in Mike Mentzer’s diet
Now that we know the philosophy behind Mike Mentzer’s diet, let’s check out some of the foods that were a staple in his regular eating.
A great source of Complex carbohydrates, vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals, oats are a great source of energy that keep you satiated for a longer time. They are one of the healthiest whole grains in the world that regulate the blood sugar level and reduce cholesterol.
Eggs are one of the most convenient and healthy source of a majority of nutrients our body needs. Mike Mentzer’s diet, much like a majority of people around the world, relied greatly on getting nutrition from eggs.
One of the most common sources of high quality protein, chicken breast is a bodybuilder’s staple. It is also a convenient food that can be cooked in a variety of ways.
Fish (Salmon or Tuna)
Apart from being an alternative to other meats for protein, fish like Tuna and Salmon are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. These are not found in the majority of foods but have tremendous benefits for improving cognitive function while reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
As mentioned before, Mike Mentzer was a huge proponent of eating carbohydrates and fresh fruits were among his go-to sources of carbohydrates. Mentzer ate whole fruits and also consumed fruits juices during the workouts to fuel his training as well.
Maintaining gut health is essential to make progress in the training journey. Mike Mentzer prioritized eating foods that are high in fiber and lentils were a perfect source for this.
Green beans, Zucchini squash, spinach and onions were some of Mentzer’s favourite vegetables to include in the diet.
Extraordinary results require extraordinary efforts. Mike Mentzer’s training and diet philosophy can come across as extreme. However, his incredible physique is a testimony to the efficacy of it.