Mike O’Hearn Shares the Secrets of His Longevity

After decades of success as a model, bodybuilder, powerlifter, and martial artist, Mike O’Hearn details his consistency and lifting extremely heavy weight.


Mike O' Hearn Getting Out Of A Pool
Photos by: Per Bernal And Michael Neveux

Some men are born great, others work at it, and then there are those who achieve greatness so well for so long that you’re not quite sure they’re human. An example? Mike O’Hearn.

O’Hearn, the ubiquitous fitness star whose accomplishments span four decades, has built a résumé as impressive as his physique. Not only has he won titles in powerlifting, bodybuilding, and judo, but his piercing stare has greeted consumers at newsstands for nearly 30 years.

In fact, he’s one of the most photographed fitness model in history, appearing on more than 500 magazine covers. This is his ninth time on the cover of M&F—only Lou Ferrigno and Arnold Schwarzenegger have more appearances—and he’s not done yet.

With his jutting cheekbones and flowing locks, O’Hearn is a uniquely constructed specimen, that rare Adonis who could pass as either Hercules or a bodice-ripping Lothario from the cover of a romance novel. It’s as if someone put Steve Reeves and Fabio in a blender and got the best of both. And, as you would expect, O’Hearn has checked those two feats off his list, having been a romance cover model and an actor in several sword-and-sandals productions.

But this is no pretty boy who sweats only under the hot lights of photographers. O’Hearn is an elite athlete who has earned multiple trophies as a bodybuilder. He didn’t just descend from Mount Olympus to mingle with us mortals for a few years—he’s the product of decades of relentless work in the gym, hoisting super-heavy weights to fill out his 6'3" frame.

Usually, this kind of athletic/modeling/acting career spans only a few years, maybe 10 at the most. Not for O’Hearn. His run is unequaled, making him a kind of

The Simpsons of the fitness world. Still highly rated, still in demand, and not about to be canceled any time soon.

I may not be the most talented guy or the most gifted, but I’ll outwork anyone.

SEE ALSO: Mike O'hearn Reps Out Birthday Squats

Starting young

So how does he do it? As bodybuilder Dave Draper used to say, “The secret is, there is no secret.”

“I may not be the most talented guy or the most gifted, but I’ll outwork anyone,” says O’Hearn. “I know the baby steps are bigger than the leaps.”

It’s consistency and hard work that do the trick, he says. And if you put the work in, you’re prepared for the breaks when they come. And the breaks have come. O’Hearn admits that he’s lucky not just in the genetics department but also in the random occurrences of his life.

The youngest of nine children, O’Hearn had the benefit of growing up in Kirkland, WA, in a household of athletic role models who tutored him in weightlifting and martial arts. “I had great parents and older brothers and sisters,” he says. “My dad was a bodybuilder and played football. I got martial arts from my mom. All of my brothers and sisters were athletes. I had such motivation.”

He won the teenage Washington state bodybuilding title at only 14 years old, but he didn’t limit himself to oil-glistening posedowns. He fell in love with judo and powerlifting as well. After moving south to California, he became a four-time California powerlifting champion and earned the California state judo championship twice.

I’m that teenager doing what I love.

FYI: O’Hearn played both Thor and Titan on American Gladiators.

Mindset is an important part of O’Hearn’s approach. Idolizing Bruce Lee from a young age, O’Hearn learned to think big. “I tried to have a Bruce Lee mentality where you don’t set limits, you don’t imagine a ceiling,” he says. “I was in the right place and had the right focus.”