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Bodybuilding Legend: Mike Mentzer

Bodybuilding's rebel philosopher taught us how to turn down the volume and crank up the intensity.

By Greg Merritt
Bodybuilding Legend: Mike Mentzer

To understand Mike Mentzer you have to understand bodybuilding in the ’70s. physique champs typically worked out twice daily and trained body parts thrice weekly with 20 or more sets each session. Mentzer called this madness, claiming there was too much endurance-style toil and not enough growth-stimulating sets or rest. He adopted the high-intensity beliefs of Arthur Jones in formulating his own philosophy: Heavy Duty.

His recipe was low-rep sets pushed to failure and beyond in brief and infrequent workouts. Mentzer’s competitive career was as intense and abbreviated as his routines. He won the Mr. America at 24, but after a controversial fifth at the 1980 Mr. Olympia he retired at 28. Still, the iconoclast espoused Heavy Duty until his death in 2001, and his tenets—adopted by six-time Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates—continue to impact training routines.

Heavy Duty Tip Sheet

- Sets need to be pushed to absolute failure or beyond, and such sets must be kept to a minimum.

- To propel sets beyond full-rep failure, have one or more partners assist on forced reps.

- Emphasize the eccentric halves of reps as much as the positive halves.

- To maximize recovery, workouts should be brief and infrequent.

- If you don’t have a partner to assist on forced reps, do rest-pause reps once you reach failure in 
  a set. Rest for 10–15 seconds and then get one rep. Do this two or three times.

Mentzer’s Triceps Routine

EXERCISE                           SETS                        REPS

Pushdown                              1-2                            6-8*

Weighted Dip                         1-2                           6-8           

Lying Triceps Extension      1-2                           6-8*

*1–3 forced reps per set.

Mentzer Career Stats

1976: Mr. America Winner

1978: World Championships Heavyweight Winner

1979: Mr. Olympia Heavyweight Winner

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