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Mike Mentzer High Intensity Training Information

Mike Mentzer HIT

Mike Mentzer FAQ

The ultimate resource for Mike Mentzer high intensity training information, read the most frequently asked questions and answers about Mike Mentzer and his Heavy Duty, High Intensity Training. Also you can submit any questions you have about HIT bodybuilding workouts, nutrition, etc. Email your questions to info@trulyhuge.com

Q: Who was Mike Mentzer?

A: Mike J. Mentzer was an IFBB professional bodybuilder, author and personal trainer, that promoted his own version of High Intensity Training which he called Heavy Duty.

He was born on November 15, 1951 in Germantown, Pennsylvania and grew up in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. He started working out with weights at the age of 12 after seeing a muscle magazine with Bill Pearl on the cover, he went on to be a professional bodybuilder, and won many bodybuilding contests including Mr. America and Mr. Universe.

Q: Why is Mike Mentzer so famous?

A: There are many reasons for this, Mike thought differently, trained differently, and dieted differently than the other bodybuilders of that time. He was also the first bodybuilder ever to receive a perfect 300 score from the judges. Many feel that he changed the sport of bodybuilding forever.

Q: Did Mike Mentzer have a nickname?

A: Mike was known as "Mr. Heavy Duty".

Q: What was Mike Mentzer's bodybuilding contest history?

Mike Mentzer Contest History

A: Mike started competing as a teenager and was very successful in bodybuilding, the only title he never won was the overall Mr. Olympia, although many feel he should have won in 1980. His full contest history is:

1969 Mr. Lancaster - 1st
1970 Mr. Pennsylvania - 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)
1978 IFBB Mr. Universe - 1st
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

Q: Did Mike Mentzer really get a perfect score in a bodybuilding contest?

A: Yes, he did at the 1978 Mr. Universe in Acapulco, Mexico. Mike became the first bodybuilder to get a perfect 300 score from the judges. Also at the 1979 Mr. Olympia, he again get a perfect 300 score, winning the Heavy Weight class, but lost the overall title to the reigning champion Frank Zane.

Q: Why did Mike Mentzer retire from bodybuilding competition?

A: At 1980 Mr. Olympia, Arnold Schwarzenegger came out of retirement and won the contest, it was very controversial as Arnold was in far worse shape than he had been in the past and had very weak legs. Many who competed and many in the audience felt the contest was fixed for Arnold to win. Mentzer quit competitive bodybuilding in disgust as he didn't want to be judged by an unfair and biased panel.

Q: What did Mike Mentzer do after he retired from competition?

A: Mike continued to write for the bodybuilding magazines, do bodybuilding seminars and trained people in person or by phone and email.

Q: Is Mike Mentzer still alive?

A: Sadly, Mike died June 10, 2001, from heart issues. But his legacy still lives on.

Q: How did Mike Mentzer die? Why did Mike Mentzer die so young?

A: Mike Mentzer's cause of death was heart complications. While steroids, amphetamines, smoking, etc. may have contributed, there was a history of heart disease in the Mentzer family - all of them died fairly young.

Q: Where is Mike Mentzer buried?

A: Mike and Ray Metzer were both cremated and their ashes were scattered in the sea off Redondo Beach.

Q: Was Mike Mentzer crazy or was he really a genius?

A: Mike Mentzer was a highly intelligent man and before the early to mid 1980's Mike showed no signs of being crazy or mentally ill, maybe a little eccentric but nothing anyone would consider certifiable. In 1979 Mike made the mistake of taking amphetamines to keep up with his hectic lifestyle, while on them he was active all day and literally sleeping only 5 hours a night. It seems he got addicted to stimulants, and some say this lead to him actually doing meth, sadly chronic use of these drugs caused him to have acute episodes of psychosis, which is a known side effect. There are many stories of him doing crazy things like running through the streets naked; trying to direct traffic; predicting the end of the world; looking out for alien ships to land. I don't know which of these stories are true and which ones aren't, but it is true that he was arrested by the police and institutionalized several times over a period of five years between 1985 up until 1990, he was finally able to get off the amphetamines and started a very successful personal training and consulting business.

When I met him in 1999, he was very intelligent and quite lucid. His early death in 2001 was most likely due to his family history of cardiovascular disease, and the damage that his years of drug abuse cause him.

Now while it is true that drug abuse caused him to act crazy for short periods of time, this doesn't mean that all his theories were wrong, most of the times he researched and wrote about Heavy Duty training was when he was not on drugs.

Q: How did Mike Mentzer train?

Mike Mentzer Training

A: Mike called his version of HIT - Heavy Duty training, he trained very hard taking each work set to failure, but the workouts were brief and infrequent.

Q: What was Mike Mentzer's preferred rep range?

A: He usually used and recommended 6 to 10 reps for upper body exercises and 12-20 reps for lover body exercises.

Q: Did Mike Mentzer use time under tension?

A: Yes, Mike advocated slow, controlled reps for maximum muscular tension.

Q: What was Mike Mentzer's training split?

Mike Mentzer Training Split

A: Mike used and recommended a few different muscle groups split workouts over the years which I will detail below.

Full Body Workout

When Mentzer first started doing high intensity training, he followed the advice of Arthur Jones and did full body workouts 3 days a week, training all muscles in one workout Monday, Wednesdays and Friday. He actually won the Mr. America contest doing this type full body training.

In the little known books "The Mentzer Method to Fitness" and "Mike Mentzer's Complete Book of Weight Training" he listed full body routines that should take only about 20 minutes to complete.

Here's a sample full body high intensity workout:

Full Squats
Bench Press
Bent Over Rows
Press Over Head
Barbell Curls
Triceps Extensions
Barbell Shrugs
Calf Rasies
Sit Ups

2 Way Split Workout

Mike found that as he get stronger full body workouts left him too fatigued, so he decided to split his body in half and divided his muscle groups up as follows:

Workout 1
Legs, Chest and Triceps

Workout 2
Back, Shoulders and Biceps

At first he would do Workout 1 on Mondays and Thursdays, and Workout 2 on Tuesdays and Fridays, with Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays being rest days. This is the program he suggested in his original Heavy Duty training manual.

As he progressed he decided to take a rest day after each and every workout, this is called the every other day split routine.

3 Way Split Workout

When he did an update to his book which he then called Heavy Duty 1, he suggested the following three way training split:

Workout 1
Chest and Back

Workout 2

Workout 3
Shoulders, Biceps and Triceps

He suggested to start out doing Workout 1 on Monday, Workout 2 on Wednesday and Workout 3 on Friday, but to add more rest days between workouts as you get stronger to ensure full recovery and growth.

Q: What was Mike Mentzer's ideal routine?

A: In his book Heavy Duty 2: Mind and Body, Mike laid out what he felt was the ideal bodybuilding workout routine for most trainees:

The Mike Mentzer Ideal Workout Routine

Workout 1 - Legs
Leg extension 12-20 reps
Leg press 12-20 reps
Calf raise 12-20 reps
Sit-up 12-20 reps

Workout 2 - Chest and Back
Flat dumbbell flye 6-10 reps
Incline bench press 1-3 reps
Overhead cable pullover 6-10 reps
Reverse-grip lat pulldown 6-10 reps
Deadlift 5-8 reps

Workout 3 - Legs
Leg extension 12-20 reps
Squat 12-20 reps
Calf raise 12-20 reps
Sit-up 12-20 reps

Workout 4 - Delts and Arms
Dumbbell lateral raise 6-10 reps
Bent-over lateral raise 6-10 reps
Barbell curl 6-10 reps
Triceps cable pressdown 6-10 reps
Dip 3-5 reps

(Rest 4-7 days in between each workout)

Q: What was the Mike Mentzer consolidation routine?

A: Mike found that some people didn't make gains until they cut way back on training volume and frequency, so he came up with what he called the consolidation routine. This was like a Godsend for many extreme hard gainers who were finally able to see results after years of no gains using higher volume and frequency training.

Mike Mentzer's Consolidated Routine

Workout 1
Deadlifts 5-8 reps
Dips 6-10 reps

Workout 2
Squats 8-15 reps
Reverse-grip lat pulldown 6-10 reps

Each workout is done only once every 6-10 days.

Q: Did Mike Mentzer ever do volume training?

A: When Mike Mentzer first started bodybuilding he trained no more than three days a week. By age 15, his body weight had reached 165 pounds, and he could bench press 370 pounds. When he started following the advice in the muscle magazines he started working out over three hours a day, six days a week. But he was frustrated with his slow progress on this high volume program and many times considered quitting bodybuilding. He then met Casey Viator and Arthur Jones who taught him the benefits of high intensity training, as soon as Mike upped his training intensity and cut back on the volume he started making gains again. He then won the Mr. America and Mr. Universe doing only 30 minute workouts 3 to 4 days a week.

Q: What was Mike Mentzer's pre contest diet?

Mike Mentzer Diet

A: Mike followed a diet of 60% carbs, 25% protein, and 15% fat. He believed nutrition was basically simple and felt it was all about giving the body energy. He ate a diet high in carbohydrates to fuel his high intensity workouts. Back when he was competing he would eat the following:

Two Bran muffins with butter, 1 slice seven-grain toast, two figs and two or three cups of coffee.

After Workout
Milk and egg protein drink and fresh fruit such as pineapple or grapes.

Mid Afternoon Meal
Baked potato and more fresh fruit.

Final Meal
Two chicken breasts, a salad, corn of the cob, and occasionally some ice cream.

He believed as long as you eat below your maintenance level of calories you will lose body fat.

Q: Did Mike Mentzer use steroids? And are steroids the reason for his early demise?

A: Yes Mike Mentzer did take steroids, he never lied about it, but he actually took very small amounts compared to today and only before a contest, not year round.

Did he die from steroid use? The truth is that all the Mentzer's, the parents and even the sister, died young, there may have been congenital heart issues in the family. But I know the parents and sister didn't use steroids.

Q: Will Mike Mentzer's Heavy Duty training work for you if you don't use steroids?

A: Were steroids the most important reason for Mike's physique? No because he only used them 6 weeks before a contest and there are many people taking steroids that don't make as good progress as Mentzer did.

The fact is that there are many people who don't take steroids that use high intensity training that are making great gains in muscle size and strength.

Q: What were some of Mike Mentzer's favorite advanced high intensity training techniques?

A: If you are not an experienced and advanced bodybuilder, don't try these techniques just yet. They are extremely intense and can bring remarkable results, but overdoing them will quickly lead to fatigue and overtraining. Use them occasionally to get past a sticking point in your program.

Forced Reps The idea of a forced rep is to assist a trainer with a few more reps of an exercise when he can not continue alone. A few more reps are "forced out" when a spotter helps lighten the load. Be sure to use an experienced spotter who should relieve you of only 10-15% of the load so you can complete 2-3 more reps before failure. These extra forced reps are crucial to stimulate growth and build muscle which eludes the average gym rat.

Negatives When you reach muscle failure on the positive lifting part of an exercise, your training partner helps you lift the weight and you lower it slowly and under contol. Fight the weight on the way down. When you can no longer lower the weight slowly terminate your set. Negatives will help you reach total muscular failure.

Pre-Exhaust One of the most exciting and effective techniques for singling out an area, this technique offers complete isolation of a muscle. Let's imagine you are having trouble hitting shoulders. First work them with an exercise that isolates the shoulders, like the dumbbell lateral raise, and then immediately perform the press over head. The shoulder will be fatigued from the lateral raise - putting them through the press over head will really hit them because the triceps will be stronger and force them to continue working.

Rest Pause Reps Using your one-rep limit weight, perform one rep and then pause for 15 seconds, racking the weight. After the pause, do another rep and pause 15 seconds. If the weight is too much, reduce it a little. Continue for 4-6 reps. You can use this method for most exercises, but it is more efficient in compound exercises.

Static Holds - Static reps are done by holding a weight in a fixed position, usually in or near the fully contracted, for an extended period of time. They are typically done for 1 or 2 reps only and the weight should be held for 15-25 seconds although the actual optimal time is still up for debate.

Q: What was Mike Mentzer's ethnicity?

A: Mike has said his family was of German origin.

Q: Did Mike Mentzer have a brother?

Mentzer Brothers

A: Yes, Mike had a younger brother Ray Mentzer, who was also a bodybuilder. Mike and Ray were training partners and are the only two brothers to both will the Mr. America title. Mike won the 1976 IFBB Mr. America and Ray won the 1979 AAU Mr. America.

Q: Was Mike Mentzer gay?

A: There is no evidence of Mike Mentzer being gay or ever being in a sexual relationship with a man.

Q: Who was Mike Mentzer's girlfriend?

Mike Mentzer and Cathy Gelfo

A: Cathy Gelfo was the longtime girlfriend Mike Mentzer. They first met in the early 1970's when Mike was serving in the Air Force in Maryland and she came with Mike when he moved to California to work for Joe Weider. Sometime in the early 1980's Mike and Cathy broke up.

Bodybuilder Julie McNew was the girlfriend of Mike Mentzer in the mid to late 1980's, after they broke up she helped him through some hard times. She also trained with high intensity, which is why she had such dense muscles.

Q: Was Mike Mentzer married and did he have children?

A: Mike was never married and never had children. The closest he had to a wife was Cathy Gelfo, they lived together for many years and seemed to have a great relationship and were even engaged, but sadly they broke up.

I don't think Ray Mentzer was ever married either. But Ray has a daughter, named Jennika Darling, who was born in 1986.

Q: What was Mike Mentzer's religion?

A: Mike was not a religious person in the traditional sense, but was always aware of the spiritual side of himself and have always tried to stay in touch with it. He defined "spirit" as that part of man which allows him to know himself, that which he really is.

Q: Did Mike Mentzer believe in God?

A: Mike may have believed in God earlier in his life, but in his last interview before his death be said that he was an atheist.

Q: What was Mike Mentzer's philosophy?

Mike Mentzer Philosophy

A: Mike was inspired by existential philosophers, primarily Friedrich Nietzsche. He later became an Objectivist after reading the philosophy of Ayn Rand.

Q: Who did Mike Mentzer train?

A: Mike worked with thousands of people all over the world, but some of the more famous people that followed his advice or were personally trained by him include Aaron Baker, David Dearth, The Barbarian Brothers Peter and David Paul, Bill Phillips, Dorian Yates, etc.

Q: Who was Joanne Sharkey?

A: Joanne Sharkey worked with Mike Mentzer in his personal training, consulting and internet mail order business for many years and when Mike suddenly passed away in 2001, Joanne took over the business and keep it going up until a few years back when she announced she was going to wind the business down and retire. She also was ill for a while and she died in June of 2021.

Q: Who is John Little?

Mike Mentzer and John Little

A: John Little is a bodybuilding author who was friends with and trained with Mike Mentzer, he has written many books on high intensity training such as Power Factor Training, Max Contraction Training, The Wisdom of Mike Mentzer, High-Intensity Training the Mike Mentzer, etc. John Little's has a YouTube channel with some great Mike Mentzer related content, see https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfQ4gtZm_kUdnxmLIZ5VE6A

Q: Who is Markus Reinhardt?

A: Markus Reinhardt is a professional model and bodybuilder. Mike Mentzer chose Markus to star in his legendary HIT training video. Markus is currently a personal trainer in Las Vegas, specializing in high intensity training.

Q: Who is Val Segal?

A: Val Segal was a client and colleague of Mike Mentzer, he filmed Mike Mentzer's HIT Exercise DVD.

Q: Who is Paul Becker?

Paul Becker Bodybuilder

A: Paul Becker is a natural competitive bodybuilder, who was a student and personal training client of Mike Mentzer. He is a personal trainer and bodybuilding consultant who specializes in high intensity training for natural bodybuilders. You can contact him with any training or diet questions you have at info@trulyhuge.com

Q: What was Mike Mentzer's relationship to Arthur Jones?

A: Arthur Jones told Mike the original theory of HIT. The three principles include:

1) Training must be intense enough to trigger the growth mechanism.

2) Because of this intense stress, you must not exceed the body's ability to recover, so the workouts must be short.

2) Workout must be infrequent to allow sufficient time for full recovery.

Mike Mentzer made a major contribution to the advancement of HIT with his theories of Heavy Duty Training, and with his discovery of genetics and their relationship of exercise tolerance. This logical next truth helped us understand that no single workout program or schedule can fit everyone.

Q: Did Mike Mentzer and Joe Weider get along?

Mike Mentzer and Joe Weider

A: Mike and Joe got along very well, many people thought Joe felt that Mike was like the son he never hard. But, after the 1980 Mr. Olympia, with Mike so vocal and even yelling at Joe's brother Ben Weider, their relationship was never again the same.

Q: Did Mike Mentzer do cardio?

A: Mike didn't do or recommend cardio when trying to gain muscle mass. But pre contest or when trying to lose fat he did do and recommend low intensity, high duration cardio such as bike riding or jogging.

Q: What did Mike Mentzer say about genetics and individual potential?

A: Mike fully admitted that genetics the biggest factor in success in bodybuilding. But he also said that Heavy Duty training was the fastest way to reach your individual potential, whatever that may be.

Q: Was Mike Mentzer in Pumping Iron?

A: Pumping Iron was filmed in 1975, Mike was an amateur at the time so wasn't featured in the movie, but he must have been training at Gold's Gym for the Mr. America, he can be seen sitting at the counter drinking a soda in one scene. Watch this YouTube video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEU90rvqt4IA

Q: Did Mike Mentzer win Mr. Olympia?

A: No, he didn't. Mike competed in the Mr. Olympia only twice, in 1979 he won the heavy weight class, but lost the overall title to Frank Zane. The next year 1980 Mike place fifth, and Arnold, who made a come back won the contest. Many felt that contest was fixed and that Mike actually deserved to win.

Q: What was Mike Mentzer's height and weight?

A:He was five foot, eight inches tall and weighed two hundred twenty five pounds.

Q: What were Mike Mentzer's measurements and stats?

A: The magazines, which tend to exaggerate measurements, reported his stats as:

Chest - 55 Inches
Waist - 30 Inches
Hips - 42 Inches
Arms - 21 Inches
Thighs - 28 Inches
Claves - 20 Inches

Q: What really was Mike Mentzer's arm size?

A: Even though the magazines were saying Mike had twenty two inch arms, Mike said his cold (unpumped) arm measurement was eighteen and three quarter inches, which in lean, muscular condition is very big.

Q: Did Mike Mentzer smoke?

A: Not when he was competing in bodybuilding, but later in his life he did smoke cigarettes.

Q: Did Mike Mentzer take amphetamines?

A: In 1979, he had started taking doctor-prescribed amphetamines: "Not for the purpose of getting high - that was the furthest thing from my mind. I was taking them as ergogenic aids, to facilitate my hectic lifestyle. It made me feel like a productive genius." He later because addicted and it caused him many problems until he finally quit.

Q: How does Mike Mentzer warm up his clients?

A: Mike knew that you should work up to training with super high intensity. Mike had me do 2 warm ups of only a few reps each before going on to my one set to failure.

Q: What rep speed did Mike Mentzer use and recommend?

A: Mike Mentzer said "it's called weight lifting, not weight throwing" in regards to moving the weight under control. In videos of Mike and Ray in the gym back in the 1970's in seems they are doing about 1 to 2 seconds up and 1 to 2 seconds down. Later, when Mike was a personal trainer he wanted to eliminate all momentum and had his trainees do 4 seconds up and 4 seconds down.

Q: How long did Mike Mentzer rest between sets?

A: If he was doing Pre-Exhaust supersets, such as leg extensions and squats, he made sure to have as close to zero rest between the two exercises. But if he wasn't supersetting he rested enough for his breathing to return to normal and for him to give the next exercise his best effort.

Q: Did Mike Mentzer have a poster?

Mike Mentzer poster

A: Back in the late 1970's if you went into a record store and flipped through the posters, you would see posters of movies such as Star Wars and Jaws, also celebrities such as Farrah Fawcett, Shaun Cassidy...and Mike Mentzer! This poster was being sold to the general public, not just to bodybuilding fans. It's notable that Mike Mentzer was the one bodybuilder that had a mass market poster at the time, not Arnold or even Frank Zane who was the current Mr. Olympia at the time.

Q: What did Mike Mentzer do for workout motivation?

A: He focused on his goals and what it meant to him to achieve them, Mike said:

"The more value we attach to something, the more motivation we'll have to acquire that particular value. It's the concept of life that gives meaning to the concept of value. When that value is threatened, you find that you possess a potential for effort you didn't know you had. It's amazing what you can do when your life or that of someone you love depends on it."

"The more value you place on owning a strong muscular physique, the more likely you'll attain that goal, since motivation won't be a problem. Establishing that value requires a person to focus awareness, clarity and intelligence to make a choice to commit to an effort."

Q: What are some famous Mike Mentzer quotes?

A: Here are some of Mike's best quotes:

"Many bodybuilders sell themselves short. Erroneously attributing their lack of satisfactory progress to a poverty of the requisite genetic traits, instead of to their irrational training and dietary practices, they give up training. Don't make the same mistake."

"To stimulate optimal size and strength increases, it's imperative that you regularly attempt the momentarily impossible. For example, if you can curl 100 pounds for a maximum of 10 reps, but never attempt the 11th, your body has no reason to enlarge upon its existing capacity. It is only by regularly attempting to go beyond your existing capacity that inroads are made into your body's reserves."

"That last rep where you're trying as hard as you can and you barely make it! That is what turns on the growth mechanism in your body. That last almost impossible rep where you're bearing your teeth, you're shaking all over, you need assistance! That rep is very special, that rep is very different. There's something special going on inside your body when that happens."

"You must understand that the workout does not actually produce muscular growth. The workout is merely a trigger that sets the body's growth mechanism into motion. It is the body itself, of course, that produces growth; but it does so only during a sufficient rest period."

Q: Did Mike Mentzer workout at Gold's Gym?

Mike Mentzer Gold's Gym

A: Yes, Mike was a regular at Gold's Gym both when he was a competitive bodybuilder and later when he was running his personal training business.

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