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Mike Mentzer's Real Training Program

Mike Mentzer training

Between 1976 and 1980 Mike Mentzer changed bodybuilding, he adopted the HIT philosophy that had Arthur Jones started and then expanded it suit to his own radical system and called it Heavy Duty using lower reps with a heavier weight. After the 19-year-old Casey Viator won Mr. America in 1971 training HIT-style, under Arthur Jones' guidance the world took notice of high intensity training.

Mike Mentzer had begun consulting with the HIT's creator Arthur Jones and totally revamping his own training. Mentzer won the Mr. America title in 1976 and wrote explicit notes on his specific training techniques to intensify his workouts. Mentzer said that we need to do HIT (high intensity training) with a heavier weight, compared to Arthur Jones's recommendation of doing one 20-rep exercise set for each movement done. Mentzer was very specific, insisting that the weight selected should reach complete muscle failure between 6 and 9 reps.

For Mentzer reaching failure wasn't enough. He describes his technique as training beyond failure by doing negatives, forced reps, and rest-pause. Training with his brother Ray Mentzer (1979 Mr. America winner) Mike and Ray would assist each other to reach the point of failure, and beyond failure.

Mikes idea of low volume when lifting heavy weights was not a new concept, he would explain that we all have a subconscious child in us telling you that more reps are better. Mike Mentzer was a 27-year-old rookie when he entered the IFBB Pro League in 1979, but the density he brought to the stage showing deltoid, arm, and a leg density that turned him into a phenomenon. He capped that year off by winning the coveted heavyweight division title at the Mr. Olympia (he did NOT win the overall title).

But things changed at the 1980 Mr. Olympia because Arnold decided to compete at the last minute and when a big man like Mike was placed in 5th position the crowd went crazy, screaming that it was fixed. It is unfortunate that this insurgent 28-year-old Mentzer only finished 5th place, in the aftermath Mike retired and seldom trained again, he died at 49 years old in 2001.

But this summary does not fully explain the impact that Mike had on the bodybuilding world. His workouts were heavy and hard for 45 minutes or less. The two sample workouts listed below are just examples of how Mike and his brother Ray would train.

Monday and Thursday

Superset Leg Extensions with Leg Press 1 cycle
Squat 1 set
Leg Curl 1 set
Calf Raise 2 to 3 sets

Superset Pec Deck with Incline Bench Press 2 cycles

Superset Triceps Pushdowns with Weighted Dips 2 cycles

Tuesday and Friday

Superset Pullover with Close-grip (Palms Up) Lat-Pulldowns 2 cycles
One Arm Dumbbell Row 2 sets

Superset Dumbbell Lateral Raises with Press Behind Neck 2 cycles
Rear Dumbbell Laterals 2 sets

Super Set Shrugs with Upright Rows 2 cycles

Superset Barbell Curls with Palms Up Chins 2 cycles

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