Total Shape is a reader-supported site. Purchases made through links may earn a commission. Learn more.

Mike Mentzer Workout Routine, Diet Plan & Supplements

Connor Sellers
Published by Connor Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: March 7, 2022

Mike Mentzer is a legend in the bodybuilding world, and it’s hard to believe that he died almost 20 years ago.

Looking at old photos of him, you can tell that he stood out from his contemporaries. 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

Mentzer grew up in the era of Arthur Jones and at a time when bodybuilding and gym work had become a lot more popular.

He also competed alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger, which gives even more credibility to his career.

Mike Mentzer’s Workout Routine

We’ve broken down the routine into five days. But keep in mind that Mike Mentzer would often do two workouts a day in preparation for a competition.

Each session was also a high-intensity style that meant only a short rest pause between sets.

Monday: Back Routine

man in a deadlift position

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

man in a leg press machine

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

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 working out at the gym

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

We couldn't find details about Mike Mentzer’s rest days, but we doubt he sat on the couch all day. It’s more likely that he did some light cardio and outdoor activities to encourage faster muscle recovery.

Mike Mentzer’s Workout Principles

Mike Mentzer's philosophy was all about employing a high-intensity training method.

He would limit the amount of time between sets, which meant his heart rate stayed up for longer periods adding some cardio benefits and fat burning.

He also aimed for forced and negative reps leading him to complete muscular failure.

It was how he trained from a young age and what got him into the heavyweight division very quickly and despite not being the tallest of bodybuilders.

Mike Mentzer Diet Plan

plate of green salad and another plate of egg omelet

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Mike Mentzer’s diet was all about calories. Back in the 70s, there was less knowledge of how exercise training and diet were linked.

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.

Breakfast:

  • 6 egg omelet
  • Large bowl of oatmeal with fruit

Snack:

  • Fruit salad with yogurt
  • Protein shake

Lunch:

  • 2 to 4 chicken breasts
  • Large portion of brown rice
  • Large portion of vegetables
Snack:

  • Pancakes or waffles

Dinner:

  • Large steak
  • Baked potatoes
  • Vegetables and salad

Mike Mentzer Diet Principles

We know more about his training than his diet, but Mentzer would have done some calculation into how much protein he needed each day.

Having talked to some of the old-timers at the gym, it wasn’t uncommon in those days to have a pretty even split between carbs, protein, and fat.

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

man with a jug

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.

Are You Ready For Mentzer's Heavy-Duty System?

Working out at such high intensity is going to put the body under pressure, but the results will be nothing short of impressive.

If you keep training to failure with just a short rest time between sets, then your muscle mass will significantly change in a matter of months.

Mentzer also likely took protein shakes to boost his muscle gains. If you need help choosing, our list of the best whey protein powders could help you make the right pick.

Try it out and let us know if you were able to keep up with the multiple sets each day.


References:

  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

Was this article helpful?

About The Author