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What Was Mike Mentzer Like?

Mike Mentzer John Little
Mike Mentzer and John Little

Posted by: Paul

Written by John Little

Q: You knew Mike Mentzer personally for some 20 years. That must have been amazing. I discovered Mike's writings six months ago when I purchased The Wisdom of Mike Mentzer and have since purchased High Intensity Training the Mike Mentzer Way, Heavy Duty II: Mind and Body and anything else I can get my hands on. He was such an intelligent man, and I love the philosophy component he brought to bodybuilding. Since you knew him personally, what was he like-was he serious all the time?

A: Mike Mentzer was the most fascinating and stimulating friend I've ever had and probably ever will. There was always something "new" going on-a new idea, a new application, new knowledge. I vividly recall speaking with him just prior to my leaving for Helsinki, Finland, to cover the '92 Mr. Olympia contest and asking him a question about the value of partial repetitions for a book I was doing. He gave me one of the most fascinating insights into the issue of recovery ability as it relates to training volume and frequency. It broke new ground in bodybuilding, and I was so elated that I played the recording of the interview no less than 10 times. It was several months before the release of his revised Heavy Duty, so it was exciting.

As for Mike's being serious all the time-hardly! He was one of the funniest people I'd met, something I've noticed about most people who are very intelligent. Will Durant once remarked that humor is aligned with knowledge, as both are born from a wide or deep view of life. Mike was someone with whom I could speak about any topic-from bodybuilding training to music to art to philosophy to politics to writing to business to fashion. A bit of trivia here-Mike was one of the few bodybuilders ever to be profiled by GQ magazine. In one of our last conversations I told him that Friedrich Nietzsche, whom Mike had read extensively in the 1970s, had written music for piano that had recently been produced. He was so excited about that and couldn't wait for me to send him the CDs so he could gauge Nietzsche's "sense of life".

Once at a small coffee shop in Venice, California, we got into a discussion of how tradition-bound so many people in bodybuilding are. Mike opined that there was a strong mystical element that had been passed down in bodybuilding, where bodybuilders were supposed to go with their "feelings" or "instincts"" The then editor-in-chief of Muscle & Fitness had written an editorial about how it was best to "go with your gut" when training. "How does he know how to interpret a feeling in his gut?" I said. "For all he knows he might be experiencing gas-not a valid training insight." Mike did a spit-take with his coffee and laughed so loud and so hard that I didn't think he would catch his breath!

Mike was, above all, a benevolent soul. He was always kind and never mean-spirited, giving freely of his time to anyone who wanted to speak with him. Unlike many people in this industry, Mike left you with something more than you had before the conversation-I could go on and on. Mike Mentzer was a confidante, an ally, an adviser, a teacher, someone who made me laugh and inspired me to want to learn more about life. I miss his company very much.

For a complete presentation of Mike Mentzer's Heavy Duty training system watch the Mike Mentzer Training Video.

If you have any other questions about Mike Mentzer or High Intensity Training email me and I'll get back to you with an answer as quick as I can.

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