My Mike Mentzer Training Experience
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 
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.

Workout 1
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.

Workout 2
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.

Workout 3
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. 

Workout 4 
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 
form perfect.

* 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. 
As always, if you have any questions or comments feel free to e-mail me at

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