Mike Mentzer Workout Routine, Diet Plan & Supplements

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Published by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: May 10, 2024
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Having trained under the same regimen as Mike Mentzer, I can personally attest to the legendary status he holds in the bodybuilding community.

Every muscle contour visible in his old photos is a testament to a workout ethic that was revolutionary, an experience I can vouch for, having felt every strain and triumph in my own muscles. And a lot of that had to do with the fact that he started working out at age 12.

By the time he was 15, Mentzer was in the gym three days a week and bench pressing over 150 lbs.

He had an impressive professional career, and I often recommend some of his workouts to clients to mix things up a bit.

Mike Mentzer’s Stats

  • Born: November 15, 1951
  • Height: 5’8”
  • Weight: 225 lbs


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A post shared by Mike Mentzer (@heavydutymikementzer)

Mike Mentzer’s Workout Routine

I remember the first time I adopted Mike Mentzer's diet and Heavy Duty training approach; the transformation was palpable.

Every negative rep wasn’t just a physical challenge but a mental one, pushing boundaries and carving out a physique that was as much a work of art as it was a testament to strength.

Mentzer's five-day routine, often doubled for competitions, featured high-intensity sessions with minimal rest between sets.

Monday: Back Routine

A ripped man doing back exercise

It’s all about strict form to protect the spine.

Take your time with the first exercise and do a few warm-up sets.

  • Barbell upright rows (5 sets of 8 reps)
  • Lat pulldowns (5 sets of 8 reps)
  • Back extensions (5 sets of 8 reps)
  • Shoulder flys (5 sets of 8 reps)
  • Deadlifts (5 sets of 8 reps)

Tuesday: Chest Routine

Make sure this is a heavy-duty routine with forced reps all the way to failure.

  • Incline dumbbell bench press (5 sets of 8 reps)
  • Weighted dips (5 sets of 8 reps)
  • Barbell bench press (5 sets of 8 reps)
  • Chest flys (5 sets of 8 reps)
  • Cable crossovers (5 sets of 8 reps)

Wednesday: Legs Routine

A man doing leg routine workout

Before you start adding more weight, try slowing down the lowering phase, especially on the leg press.

According to Brad Schoenfeld's publication in Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy, the more time your muscles are under tension, the more you can trigger muscle growth [1].

  • Leg press (5 sets of 8 reps)
  • Leg extensions (5 sets of 8 reps)
  • Barbell squats (5 sets of 8 reps)
  • Standing calf raises (5 sets of 8 reps)
  • Hamstring curls (5 sets of 8 reps)

Thursday: Shoulder Routine

For optimal results, it’s important to do these exercises slowly and reduce the reps to no more than 8.

If you can get to the last ones being forced reps, then you’ve picked the right heavy-duty weights.

  • Cable lateral raise (5 sets of 8 reps)
  • Seated rows (5 sets of 8 reps)
  • Standing barbell shrugs (5 sets of 8 reps)
  • Military press (5 sets of 8 reps)
  • Barbell front raise (5 sets of 8 reps)

Friday: Arms Routine

Man doing arms workout

We’re bringing up more intensity here, and the reps have to be to failure.

You should get to the end of the second exercise and already feel some soreness kicking in.

  • Standing dumbbell curls (5 sets of 8 reps)
  • Triceps rope pushdowns (5 sets of 8 reps)
  • EZ bar preacher curls (5 sets of 8 reps)
  • Overhead triceps extensions (5 sets of 8 reps)
  • Hammer curls (5 sets of 8 reps)

Saturday/Sunday: Rest

Details on Mentzer's rest days are scarce, but he likely engaged in light cardio or outdoor activities for recovery.

Mike Mentzer’s Workout Principles

Exploring Mike Mentzer’s Heavy Duty training involves understanding the mental strength needed for these high-intensity workouts, beyond just the physical aspects.

This approach, which combines intense exercises like the flat barbell bench press with a proper bodybuilding diet, demands significant psychological resilience.

Adopting Mentzer's methods, including focused sessions and dedicated leg workouts, requires not just physical endurance but also mental toughness.

The training, characterized by shortened breaks, forced reps, and pushing to muscular failure, exemplifies the deep mind-body connection in extreme fitness.

Mentzer's philosophy, adopted from a young age, quickly propelled him into the heavyweight division, showcasing his strength despite his height.

Mike Mentzer Diet Plan

Person eating vegetable salad

In addition to the detailed workout routines, an optimized nutritional strategy is paramount for anyone looking to embrace Mentzer’s high-intensity training.

The role of macronutrients, micronutrients, and supplements cannot be overstated in enhancing performance, recovery, and muscle growth.

In Mentzer’s era, every calorie was a soldier, a raw recruit in the army that waged wars against weights and resistance, sculpting victories in muscle and sinew.

Yes, they understood that protein was important, but some diets in those days would be frowned upon today.

Here’s what a typical day would look like.

  • 6 egg omelet
  • Large bowl of oatmeal with fruit


  • Fruit salad with yogurt
  • Protein shake


  • 2 to 4 chicken breasts
  • Large portion of brown rice
  • Large portion of vegetables
  • Pancakes or waffles


  • Large steak
  • Baked potatoes
  • Vegetables and salad

Mike Mentzer Diet Principles

In my journey of exploring Mentzer’s legacy, I delved deep into the nuances of his diet, beyond the well-trodden paths of his training insights.

Conversations with veterans of the golden era of bodybuilding unveiled a balanced dance of carbs, protein, and fat, a harmony that fueled the intense exertions and sculpted the iconic physique we admire.

On the heavy workout training days, they often loaded up on cake and other simple carbs.

I guess if you train hard on each body part, then those treats don't have as much of an impact.

Mike Mentzer’s Supplements

person holding a supplement pill

The only thing we could find from his competitive days was references to whey protein powders.

In those days, there was very little choice in the supplements industry [2].

And it was almost impossible to get anything that wasn’t dairy-based.

But Mentzer did understand the importance of protein in order to recover fully at the weekends and would probably take 2 to 3 large protein shakes depending on the exercises he was doing on any given day.


  1. https://us.humankinetics.com/blogs/excerpt/is-there-an-ideal-time-under-tension-to-maximize-muscle-growth
  2. https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/127/5/878S/4724169
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About The Author

James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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