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Training with Mike Mentzer
by Paul Becker
I first got interested in bodybuilding back in 1978, at that time
Mike Mentzer was rocketing up the bodybuilding ranks. He
won the 1978 Mr. Universe and became the first bodybuilder
in history to get a perfect score from the judges, the next year
he placed second to Frank Zane at the Mr. Olympia, some felt
Mike should have won that contest. His last contest was the
infamous 1980 Mr.Olympia, where Arnold himself came out of
retirement, the rumor was that Arnold was tired of hearing
Mike say that Heavy Duty was the only way to train, and that
by beating Mike he would prove him wrong. Arnold won the
contest even though he wasn't in top shape, Mike who was
in better shape then the previous year only placed 5th,
people yelled "FIX!" and Mike, fed up, retired from
You see Mentzer created quite a lot of commotion with his
Heavy Duty training articles. Mike said that all bodybuilders
were overtraining and this was slowing down their progress,
and while most bodybuilders like Arnold were training for 2
or more hours a day 6 days a week and doing 20 or more
sets per body part, Mike was only doing 30 minutes 3 to
4 times a week and only about 5 sets per body part (later
he would suggest doing even less, as you will soon see).
The debate raged on: "He's wrong." "He's Crazy." "He's just
trying to make a buck." "No, Mike is right." "He's a genius."
"He has showed us the way", and so it went and still goes
on to this day.
But this article is not to prove Mike right or wrong, it's just to
share my experience and let you try the routine he put me on.
I was in California in 1999 when Mike was training people in
Santa Monica, I was moving in a few weeks and I felt this
was my last chance to meet and train with my boyhood hero
(I never realized how right I was as Mike passed away a
little less then 2 years later).
I called Mike and scheduled an appointment to meet him, I
arrived at the gym and when I spotted Mike walking towards
me, the first thing I noticed was he looked like he was in
pain, I said "Mike, what's wrong with your back?" "Oh, I've
had bad back troubles for years." He told me. Many have
tried to attack Mike's latest training theories on the fact that
Mike himself was in such bad shape in the late 90's, and
if all it took was a few sets per workout, then why wasn't
he in shape? The truth is he was no longer able to train
as hard as he felt he had to, because of his back.
The next thing I noticed was he wan't in shape, but he was
not as bad as some made him out to be, his forearms and
upper arms were still very big!
He told me he would put me through a leg workout, and the
first thing he showed me was the form he wanted me to
use on all exercises, this was very slow, about 4 seconds
up and 4 seconds down. And if there is resistance in the
contracted position, like in the leg extension hold for 2
seconds, this makes the exercise very hard, yet extremely
safe, he told me he had trained over 1,000 different people
and never was anyone injured in a training session with
After a brief warm up, Mike had me do 1 set of painfully
slow and heavy Leg Extensions to failure then with no rest
a set of Leg Presses to failure. It is quite different having
someone there pushing you compared to training alone,
Mike would tell me "Ok, you can do more, if there was an
earth quake or if your life depended on it you'd get 2 more
reps, and if there were ten naked girls watching and waiting
you would get 3 more!" I did way more reps then I ever felt I
could, and when I really did hit failure he said "Ok, that's
enough, that's failure."
One of the questions, I had and you might have is "What did
Mike consider failure?", well if you get to a point where you
can't complete another full rep on your own, that's failure. No
need to do forced reps, etc.
I had only done two sets but my legs were very pumped and I
felt a deep growth stimulation in them. He had me take a short
rest and then we did calves, most people say they can't get
their calves to grow, but I see them bouncing up and down
very fast on calf raises. Well try them the way Mentzer made
me do them, "SLOW UP, HOLD AT THE TOP, HOLD, RAISE UP
HIGHER, HIGHER, HOLD, LOWER SLOW." You do 12 to 20
reps that way and see if you feel a difference.
Believe it or not that was the whole workout!
Mike then took me outside and talked with me for about half
an hour and answered any questions I had. He was very
polite, even soft spoken, he didn't try to shove his ideas
down my throat. He was a very intelligent man. Was he crazy?
No. Was he eccentric? Well, a little, for example when we first
sat down he was drinking a big cup of coffee and then takes
out a pack of cigarettes, "Do you smoke?" He asked. "No." I
said., He then lit up, took and huge drag and said "I love it!"
My next workout a few days later was a chest and back
workout, again after a brief warm up, He had me do a set of
Pec Deck to failure then with no rest a set of Incline Press to
failure. We rested a bit then did Close Grip Lat Pulldowns, the
first rep was hard, I told Mike, "This is too heavy a weight for
me." He said, "No, it's fine you'll get 6 to 8 reps." And to my
surprise I did, I knew there was a big difference having
someone like Mike pushing me, I was thinking what would
happen if I trained with Mike for a while. It was like he read
my mind, he said "Man you got a good build already, I wish
I could work with you for a few months". Sadly that never h
appened because I had to move.
The second workout ended with 1 set of deadlifts, again
that was the full workout!
Mike was going out of town and we were planning to do
another workout when he got back, but it never happened
because our schedules didn't match up. But Mike did
write out a full routine for me to follow, I have included it
below, in case you want to give it a try.
Pec Deck 6 to 10 reps
With no rest do Incline Press 2 to 4 reps
Close Grip (Palm Up) Lat Pulldowns 6 to 10 reps
Deadlift 5 to 8 reps.
Rest at least 3 days.
Leg Extension 8 to 15 reps
With no rest do Leg Press 8 to 15 reps
Calf Raise 12 to 20 reps
Rest at least 3 days.
Dumbell Laterals 6 to 10 reps
Rear Laterals 6 to 10 reps.
Barbell Curls 6 to 10 reps.
Tricep Pressdowns 6 to 10 reps.
With no reps do Dips 3 to 5 reps.
Rest at least 3 days.
Leg Extentions 8 to 15 reps
With no rest do Squat 8 to 15 reps.
Calf Raise 12 to 20 reps.
Rest at least 3 day.
Go back to Workout 1, etc.
Some points of importance are:
Slow controlled reps.
Only one set to failure, per exercise.
Add weight as often as possible, while keeping
Have someone there to push you.
Keep a training journal.
This article is dedicated to the memory of Mike Mentzer,
whether right or wrong he sure made us think.
If you don't have the Mike MentzerDVD, it's a must have, it's like having Mike as you own personal trainer.Get your Mike Menzer Workout DVD
and build the physique you've always wanted with Heavy Duty Training!
As always, if you have any questions or comments feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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