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Few athletes in the sport of bodybuilding have made an impact like Mike Mentzer.  

His alternative training methods and Heavy Duty workout system helped him become one of the all-time greats.

But what exactly did Mike Mentzer do to achieve so much and climb the elite ranks of bodybuilding?

Today, we will discuss the Mike Mentzer workout routine. We’ll cover his training principles as well as his famous Heavy Duty workout and diet plan.

Let’s dive in.

Mike Mentzer Current Bio and Stats

Mike Mentzer was born on November 15th, 1951 in Philadelphia, PA. His introduction to the sport of bodybuilding was the same as many other greats; he stumbled upon a muscle magazine at the age of 11.

Showing serious interest, Mike’s father purchased him his first weight set. This began Mike’s journey to becoming a professional bodybuilder.

Mentzer started his journey at just 95 lbs, reaching 165 lbs (75 kg) by age 15.

Mike was an exemplary student. He got straight A’s in high school before serving in the United States Air Force. 

Following his stint in the military, Mike began his pre-med studies at Maryland University. His education in biochemistry and genetics would form the foundation of many of his nutrition principles.

Throughout this time, Mike would compete in local physique contests, winning Mr. Lancaster in 1971.

However, he sustained a significant shoulder injury that would derail his plans to compete at the highest level, resulting in a hiatus from 1971-1975. 

Mike’s return to competition in 1975 would not be an immediate success. He placed third in the Mr. America contest.

The following year would see him finally secure victory before going on to win the North America championships in 1977.

In 1979, Mentzer entered and won Mr. Olympia heavyweight class. He landed a perfect score of 300, only losing out to “The Chemist” Frank Zane in the overall, securing his third Olympia title.

  • Age: 49 Years Old (1951 – 2001)
  • Height: 5’8” (173 cm)
  • Weight: 225 lbs (102 kg)
  • Birthday: 15th November, 1951
  • Death: 10th June, 2001
  • Occupation: Bodybuilder
  • Retired/Active: Retired


  • 1971 Mr. Lancaster
  • 1976 IFBB Mr. America
  • 1977 IFBB North American Championships (1st Overall)
  • 1978 IFBB Mr. Universe
  • 1979 IFBB Mr. Olympia (1st Heavyweight Division)
  • 1979 IFBB Southern Pro Cup

Mike Mentzer Workout Fundamentals

Read More: Paul Saladino Workout Routine

Mike Mentzer’s training fundamentals took a far less conventional approach than other bodybuilders at the time.

While legends such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Frank Zane, and Tom Platz performed high-volume workouts six days per week, Mike thought differently.

Mike explained that, “It is the intensity of your workout rather than its duration that determines the rate of muscular growth.” Mentzer adopted shorter routines of 30-40 minutes, focusing on full range of motion and a concentric and eccentric tempo of two to four seconds.

Mike would begin each exercise with one to three warm-up sets before his working set to increase blood flow, prepare the nervous system, and warm-up muscle tissue. 

He would then perform sets of six to eight repetitions with impeccable form at a high intensity.

To ramp things up, Mike would implement a number of repetition principles to reach a state of failure, including forced reps, negative reps, rest-pause and pre-exhaustion.

He would use a number of these techniques after he’d reached failure to go beyond, in what he believes helped him achieve such incredible gains.

Mike’s belief was that if he was training to this level of intensity that his body would not need any further stimulus for the week. It was a three-day routine with the rest of his week prioritizing rest, recovery, and correct nutrition for growth.

This style of training would go on to inspire many bodybuilders, none other more famous than Dorian Yates.

Mentzer and Yates would meet at Gold’s Gym in 1991, where they would form an unofficial partnership.

Yates would take Mike’s principles, add high repetition ranges and expand his training days to four days per week.

This helped him birth the mass monster era of bodybuilding, securing six consecutive Mr. Olympia titles (1992-97) on his way to becoming one of the greatest to ever do it.

It was through the success of both Mentzer and Yates that this style of training has become widely regarded as one of the most effective ways to build massive amounts of muscle.

Mike Mentzer Repetition Principles

Pre-Exhaust SupersetsPerforming an isolation exercise before a compound movement to activate and fatigue the muscle
Forced RepetitionsSpotter assist for additional reps
Rest-PauseAfter failure, take a short 15-sec rest, then complete another rep, repeating for 4-6 reps
Negative RepetitionsThe spotter helps to lift weight, while you slowly lowering the weight through the eccentric phase

Mike Mentzer Workout Routine

Mike Mentzer has two very distinct workouts. 

For one, he would perform a traditional five-day bro split routine, training a different muscle group each day. The other is his Heavy Duty routine, a low-volume, high-intensity style of training he would go on to be famous for.

Below we have listed both these workouts, first covering his Heavy Duty training to give you the full Mike Mentzer training experience. 

Each workout will be displayed with exercises, sets, reps, and rest times. Supersets will be highlighted for easy reference.

We have also included a weekly schedule to help you emulate Mike’s exact rest and recovery periods.

Mike Mentzer Heavy Duty Workout Routine

Mike Mentzer’s heavy duty routine is a three-day per week program. While this low volume program appears light by conventional standards, it packs a punch when performed to full range of to failure with full range of motion.

Mike Mentzer Heavy Duty Weekly Schedule

Day 1RestDay 2RestDay 1RestRest

Day 1: Legs, Chest & Triceps  (Duration 35-40 Minutes)

mike mentzer workout routine
ExerciseSets RepsRest
Leg Extension16-845-60 secs
Squat16-830-45 secs
Leg Curl26-830-45 secs
Calf Raises26-830-45 secs
Toe Presses16-830-45 secs
Dumbbell Flyes or Pec Deck36-1030-45 secs
Incline Bench Press1-26-830-45 secs
Dips26-830-45 secs

Day 2: Back, Traps, Shoulders & Biceps (Duration 40 Minutes)

ExerciseSets RepsRest
Nautilus Pullovers26-845-60 secs
Close-Grip Underhand Pulldowns26-830-45 secs
Bent-Over Barbell Rows26-830-45 secs
Universal Machine Shrugs26-830-45 secs
Upright Rows26-830-45 secs
Nautilus Lateral Raises26-830-45 secs
Nautilus Press26-830-45 secs
DB or Machine Rear Delt Row26-830-45 secs
Standing Barbell Curls16-830-45 secs
Concentration Curls26-830-45 secs

Mike Mentzer 5-Day Split

Mike Mentzer’s five-day split routine is the more traditional of the two, focusing on a different muscle group each week.

This program is high-volume with each exercise being performed for five sets with rep ranges from six to 10. It gives you a more mainstream and widely-accepted approach to building mass.

The program’s schedule is training five consecutive days. However, this can be adjusted to fit your schedule. 

Mike Menzter 5-Day Weekly Schedule


Chest (Duration 50 Minutes)

mike mentzer chest workout
ExerciseSets RepsRest
Dumbbell Flys5845-60 secs
Barbell Bench Press56-830-45 secs
Chest Dips51030-45 secs
Dumbbell Flys5830-45 secs
Barbell Bench Press56-830-45 secs

Back (Duration 50 Minutes)

ExerciseSets RepsRest
Straight Arm Lat Pulldown58-1045-60 secs
Reverse Close Grip Lat Pulldown58-1030-45 secs
Bent Over BB Rowing5530-45 secs
Dumbbell Shrugs58-1030-45 secs
Barbell Upright Row56-830-45 secs

Shoulders (Duration 50 Minutes)

ExerciseSets RepsRest
Dumbbell Lateral Raises58-1045-60 secs
Overhead Press56-830-45 secs
Dumbbell Bent Over Raises58-1030-45 secs
Barbell Front Raises58-1030-45 secs
Seated Machine Press56-830-45 secs

Legs (Duration 50 – 60 Minutes)

mike mentzer's workout routine
ExerciseSets RepsRest
Leg Extensions58-1045-60 secs
Barbell Squats56-830-45 secs
Lying Leg Curls58-1030-45 secs
Leg Press56-830-45 secs
Dumbbell Lunges58-1030-45 secs
Calf Raises510-1530-45 secs

Arms (Duration 50 – 70 Minutes)

ExerciseSets RepsRest
Tricep Pushdown58-1045-60 secs
Dips51030-45 secs
Overhead Tricep Extensions58-1030-45 secs
Standing Dumbbell Curls58-1030-45 secs
Reverse Grip Chin-Ups56-830-45 secs
Preacher Curls58-1030-45 secs
Forearm Curls51030-45 secs

Mike Mentzer Dieting and Food Preferences

For Mike to achieve such an incredible physique he would consume a monstrous 6,000 calories per day with a macronutrient breakdown of 60% carbohydrates, 25% protein and 15% fat.

Mike explained that, “The suffix, hydrate, in the word carbohydrate means water, and muscle tissue is not mostly protein, but water – 72% to be precise.” 

By consuming large amounts of carbs, he could fuel his intense training sessions and replenish glycogen stores between sessions.  

Mike preached the benefit of following a balanced diet and eating food based on your training goals. He believed that no specific food or macronutrient will make you fat, rather that excess will.

This led to a diet that contained a variety of foods including lean meat, vegetables, fried chicken, French fries, ice cream, and juice.

Much like other golden era legends, Mike had to eat to hit macro targets as supplementation was limited. 

To show you exactly what we mean, here are Mike’s dieting and food preferences.

mike mentzer diet and food preferences
Meal 11 Cup Oatmeal, 1 Cup Low Fat Milk, 1 Slice Toast, 1 Tbsp Butter, ½ Cup Orange Juice
Meal 2Fried Chicken, Fries, Green Salad, Ice Cream, 2 Cookies with Granola, 1 Cup Low-Fat Milk
Meal 3Cream of Mushroom Soup, Beef, Sirloin, Bread with Butter, 1 Cup Vegetables
Meal 4Peanut Butter Sandwich, Banana, 1 Cup Grape Juice

Mike Mentzer Diet Plan 

mike mentzer diet plan

Mike Mentzer’s approach to diet and nutrition is a practice that still holds strong to this day. Many who set out to transform their bodies eat a surplus of calories to increase muscle mass.

To help you achieve an incredible physique like Mike, we have created the Mike Mentzer diet plan. This is a four-meal per day plan that will help fuel your body and pack on mass.

Meal 1

  • 1 Cup Oatmeal with Blueberries, Honey, Cinnamon, Low-Fat Milk
  • 2 Slice Whole Wheat Toast
  • 2 Poached Eggs

Meal 2

  • Air Fried Chicken
  • Sweet Potato Fries
  • Green Salad

Meal 3

mike mentzer's diet plan
  • Protein Yogurt
  • Banana
  • Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Sandwich

Meal 4

  • Pan-Seared Steak with Rosemary and Garlic
  • 1 Cup Mixed Vegetables
  • Cream of Mushroom Soups
  • 1 Cup Jasmine Rice

Mike Mentzer’s approach to diet and nutrition was heavily based around calorie control and eating a balanced diet

By effectively hitting his daily calorie and macro intake, he was able to build one of the greatest physiques in bodybuilding.

If you want to build a body like Mike Mentzer, we suggest you do the same.

To calculate your daily calorie and macronutrient intake, use our advanced calorie and macronutrient calculator

Just punch in your age, gender, height, weight, and activity level to receive a calorie and macro target that will help you achieve incredible results.

Mike Mentzer Supplement Preferences

mike mentzer training supplements

Mike Mentzer’s Heavy Duty workout routine demanded that he be at the top of his game each time he entered the gym. 

Despite consuming 6,000 calories per day, Mike understood that his body would benefit from supplementation to build muscle and improve his recovery

However, he kept it really simple, in part because supplements weren’t as popular or widely available decades ago. He would consume whey protein to support muscle building and recovery.

Final Thoughts

Mike Mentzer’s take on the sport of bodybuilding made him a legend, touting high-intensity training sessions fewer times per week.

This going against the grain didn’t only help him achieve great success in the sport. It paved the way for arguably the greatest of all-time, Dorian Yates.

If you’re considering trying Mike’s Heavy Duty workout routine, make sure that you’re eating a balanced, nutrient-dense diet and hit your macros.

This will ensure that you are fueled up to perform at your peak and push yourself to your limit each and every session.

So, are you thinking of trying the Mike Mentzer workout routine and diet plan? Which part of Mike’s training philosophy resonates with you?

Let us know in the comments.

How many days a week did Mike Mentzer train?

Mike Mentzer trained two to three times per week with the aim of training each muscle group twice over eight or nine days. He trained this way as it would allow him to recover from his grueling high-intensity sessions.

What was Mike Mentzer workout routine?

Mike Mentzer’s workout routine was a two-day split routine where he would train legs, chest, and triceps on day 1, and back, shoulders, biceps on day 2. 

He would perform one to two working sets for each exercise using pre-exhaustion, negatives, forced reps, and rest pause principles to push his muscle beyond failure.

What is the Mentzer method?

The Mike Mentzer method prioritized high-intensity, low-volume training. He would train shorter sessions fewer times per week. He’d push his muscle beyond failure to maximize growth, while his three-day per week routine allowed him to recover and grow.

How many reps would Mike Mentzer do?

Mike Mentzer would perform 6-10 reps depending on the exercise. He would also complete additional reps using rest pause, negatives, and force reps to push himself beyond muscle failure.

How do you do the Mike Mentzer workout?

The Mike Mentzer workout requires training three days per week, performing one to two sets of each exercise at high intensity. During these sessions, you will need a spotter to help you perform additional reps past the point of failure. 

How to train high intensity Mike Mentzer?

To train like Mike Mentzer, you will use a spotter to help you push beyond the point of failure using force reps, rest-pauses, and negative reps. 

How much protein did Mike Mentzer eat?

Mike Mentzer would eat one gram of protein per pound of lean muscle. This differs greatly from the recommended one gram per pound of body weight. 

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