In the summer of 1979, if you had viewed an upstart, 27-year-old philosopher and former pre-med student with the alliterative name Mike Mentzer as he prepared to make his Olympia debut by trading sets with his youngest brother Ray (who won that year’s Mr. America), it would’ve looked like some sort of madness.  Perhaps it still would. But at the end of the ’70s, it was marked contrast to the high-volume, high-frequency norm as performed by virtually everyone else, including then-reigning Mr. O, Frank Zane.

Only one working set per exercise? Only four total working sets for a body part? Rest-pause, negatives, pre-exhaust, beyond failure? It was as if every rule of training had been turned on its head by this iconoclast who was pushing each of his few sets to new extremes of pain in a quest to grab bodybuilding’s crown on his first attempt.  Mentzer didn’t invent high-intensity training, but he did much to popularize it, rechristening his take on it “Heavy Duty” in 1980. By then, he was the best big man in the world, having won the ’79 Mr. Olympia heavyweight class but losing the overall to lightweight winner Zane. At the controversial ’80 Olympia, Mentzer landed in a humbling fifth and never competed again, retiring from the stage at age 28. (He died in 2001). It would be six-time Mr. O Dorian Yates to carry HIT concepts to the promised land. Mentzer’s pursuit of the Sandow was brief, as were his workouts, but no one before him ever trained with greater intensity. 


  • Nautilus Machine Laterals | SETS: 1-2 | REPS: 6-9 | MAX WEIGHT: 250 lbs
  • One-Arm Dumbbell Laterals | SETS: 1 | REPS: 6-9 | MAX WEIGHT: 70 lbs
  • Universal Machine Shoulder Press | SETS: 1 | REPS: 6-9 | MAX WEIGHT: 350 lbs
  • Cable Rear Laterals | SETS: 1 | REPS: 6-9 | MAX WEIGHT: 70 lbs per side

NOTES: most sets preceded by one warm-up set. All rep totals include two or three reps beyond failure via forced reps, rest-pause and/or negatives.