Mike Mentzer Workout Routine and Diet

Written by James C., M.S.(C), PT

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Mike Mentzer, was an acclaimed professional bodybuilder and Mr. Universe title-holder, revolutionized the fitness world with his novel approach to training.

His unique philosophy, rooted in the concept of High-Intensity Training (HIT), deviated from the traditional high-volume workouts prevalent at that time.

HIT emphasizes shorter, more intense sessions contrary to the long, strenuous workouts typically associated with bodybuilding.

Mentzer’s workout routine was a testament to his belief in the efficacy of HIT, demonstrating that significant muscle growth could be achieved without spending excessive hours at the gym.

His philosophy underscored the importance of intensity over volume, and the pivotal role of adequate rest periods for peak performance and muscle growth.

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This article delves into the intricacies of Mike Mentzer’s workout routine, offering a comprehensive breakdown of each exercise, set, and rep in his unique workout split.

Understanding the Mentzer Workout Philosophy

Mike Mentzer’s training philosophy was based on the principle of High Intensity Training (HIT), a concept that goes against the traditional grain of high-volume workouts.

The fundamental idea of HIT is to ensure the sessions are short but extremely intense, as opposed to more frequent and longer, but less intense, workouts.

Mentzer was a strong advocate of quality over quantity.

He believed in the principle of ‘less is more’, arguing that shorter, but highly intense workouts stimulate the muscles optimally for growth.

He proposed that a proper HIT workout would cause enough stress to the muscles that they would need several days to recover and grow.

According to Mentzer, excessive workouts could lead to overtraining, hindering muscle growth rather than facilitating it.

Mentzer also emphasized the importance of full recovery before the next workout.

In his view, working out too often and without sufficient recovery could lead to a plateau or even a decrease in strength and muscle size.

His philosophy underscored the role of adequate rest periods for peak performance and muscle growth.

He suggested that workouts should be intense, infrequent, and short. The goal was to work the muscles as hard as possible in a session, and then allow ample time for recovery and growth.

The Principles of High-Intensity Training (HIT)

In its essence, High-Intensity Training (HIT) is rooted in three primary principles: intensity, volume, and frequency.

Let’s delve into each of these principles to gain a deeper understanding.

  1. Intensity: The cornerstone of HIT is intensity. For a workout to qualify as high intensity, it needs to push the muscle to its limit, creating a deep level of muscular fatigue. The idea is to execute each exercise until muscular failure, ensuring that the targeted muscles are stimulated to the maximum extent.
  2. Volume: In conventional workout routines, high volume – translating into multiple sets and reps – is common. However, HIT opts for a lower volume approach. The belief is that fewer sets performed with maximum effort are more effective for muscle growth than numerous sets done with lower intensity. Essentially, HIT argues for quality over quantity.
  3. Frequency: Lastly, HIT advocates for lower frequency to make room for adequate rest and recovery. This principle operates on the understanding that muscles grow during the recovery period post-workout, not during the workout itself. Therefore, ensuring ample rest is key to allowing the body time to repair and build muscle tissue.

In summary, High-Intensity Training, as advocated by Mike Mentzer, is a workout philosophy that emphasizes intensity, low volume, and infrequent sessions.

This approach allows for maximum muscle stimulation within a shorter workout duration, followed by ample recovery time to facilitate muscle growth.

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Mike Mentzer’s Workout Split

Mentzer’s workout routine was structured around a 5-day split, allowing for intense focus on specific muscle groups each day.

This approach was tailored to maximize the intensity of each workout while providing ample recovery time before targeting the same muscle group again.

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The following is a detailed overview of his unique workout split:

Day 1: Chest and Back

On the first day of his routine, Mentzer targeted two of the largest muscle groups in the body: the chest and back.

The exercises for this day were carefully selected to isolate these areas and apply the principles of High-Intensity Training (HIT).

  • Bench Press: 2 sets of 6-10 reps

The bench press was a staple in Mentzer’s chest workouts.

He found it effective for targeting the pectoral muscles, and believed in performing them with high intensity but fewer sets and repetitions.

  • Incline Dumbbell Press: 1 set of 6-10 reps

This exercise was used to put additional emphasis on the upper chest.

Only one set was needed because of the high intensity of the exercise.

  • Barbell Bent-Over Rows: 2 sets of 6-10 reps

This compound movement is excellent for overall back development.

Mentzer performed two high-intensity sets of this exercise.

  • Chin-ups: 2 sets to failure

Chin-ups were performed to failure targeting the lats and upper back. Despite the lack of weight, the high intensity of the exercise made two sets sufficient.

This vigorous workout routine for the chest and back was specifically designed to trigger muscle growth in these areas, embracing Mentzer’s philosophy of High-Intensity Training.

The combination of compound and isolation exercises ensured a thorough workout for these muscle groups, emphasizing the intensity of the workout rather than the volume.

The key to this routine was the optimal balance of high-intensity workouts and sufficient rest to allow for muscle recovery and growth.

Day 2: Legs

Day 2 of Mentzer’s routine was dedicated exclusively to the lower body, primarily focusing on the legs.

Leveraging the principles of High-Intensity Training, Mentzer’s leg workout was a blend of compound and isolation exercises aimed at working the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves.

  • Squats: 2 sets of 6-10 reps

The foundation of any comprehensive leg workout, the squat, was an integral part of Mentzer’s routine.He performed 2 sets with heavy weights to fully engage the lower body muscles.

  • Leg Extensions: 1 set of 6-10 reps

Used to isolate and target the quadriceps, Mentzer incorporated a single set of leg extensions into his routine.As always, the emphasis was on a high-intensity performance.

  • Stiff-Legged Deadlifts: 2 sets of 6-10 reps

For a focused hamstring workout, Mentzer included the stiff-legged deadlifts. He performed two sets of these, ensuring proper form and intense muscle engagement.

  • Standing Calf Raises: 2 sets of 12-15 reps

To round off his leg workout, Mentzer performed two sets of standing calf raises. For this exercise, he slightly increased the rep range to effectively target the calf muscles.

The second day of Mentzer’s routine was as rigorous as the first, maintaining the emphasis on high intensity and low volume.

This approach allowed him to maximize muscle stimulation while ensuring sufficient recovery time for optimal growth.

Day 3: Rest

Day 3 in Mentzer’s workout routine was dedicated to rest and recovery.

Following two consecutive days of high-intensity training, this rest day was essential for muscle repair and growth.

Mentzer believed that the body grows not in the gym, but during periods of rest post-exercise.

He emphasized the importance of adequate rest to prevent overtraining, maintain the effectiveness of the workouts, and avoid potential plateaus or decreases in strength and muscle size.

This day was a crucial part of Mentzer’s workout routine, embodying his philosophy of balancing high-intensity workouts with sufficient recovery time.

Day 4: Shoulders and Arms

Day 4 of Mike Mentzer’s workout routine was devoted to working on the shoulders and arms.

The workout was designed to target the primary muscles of the upper body including the deltoids, biceps, and triceps.

As consistent with his High-Intensity Training (HIT) philosophy, the exercises were designed to stimulate maximum muscle growth with low volume but high intensity.

  • Overhead Press: 2 sets of 6-10 reps

The overhead press was used as a comprehensive shoulder exercise. Mentzer performed 2 sets of this compound movement, which efficiently targets the entire shoulder girdle.

  • Lateral Raises: 1 set of 6-10 reps

This isolation exercise was included to specifically target the lateral deltoids. Sticking to his philosophy, only one high-intensity set was performed.

  • Barbell Curls: 2 sets of 6-10 reps

For bicep development, Mentzer incorporated the barbell curls into his routine. He performed two sets of this exercise, keeping intensity high to maximally engage the biceps.

  • Tricep Pushdown: 2 sets of 6-10 reps

The tricep pushdown was included to isolate and target the triceps. Mentzer performed two sets of this exercise to fully stimulate the triceps muscles.

Day 4 of Mentzer’s workout routine was as intense as the previous workout days.

The workout was designed to target the upper body muscles, emphasizing high intensity and lower volume for effective muscle growth.

As always, ensuring ample rest and recovery time was a priority in Mentzer’s workout routine.

Day 5: Rest

The fifth day of Mike Mentzer’s workout routine was another day of rest.

Like Day 3, this day was devoted to recovery and rejuvenation.

This allowed the muscles worked on the previous day – the shoulders, biceps, and triceps – to recover and grow. Mentzer believed in the critical importance of rest days in a high-intensity training program, understanding that muscles grow not during workouts, but in the rest periods in between.

He stressed that overtraining could be detrimental, leading to muscle loss, decreased strength, and a heightened risk of injuries.

This belief was at the heart of his training philosophy and was integrated into his workout routine to ensure optimal muscle growth and development.

Mike Mentzer’s Diet

Mike Mentzer’s workout regime was not only confined to the gym, but also extended to his dietary habits.

His diet was as meticulously planned as his workout routine, with a focus on high protein intake to support muscle growth and recovery.

His meals were well-balanced, including lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats.

  • Protein: He typically consumed 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily. His protein sources included lean meats, fish, eggs, and dairy products.
  • Carbohydrates: Complex carbohydrates were also an integral part of Mentzer’s diet. They provided the necessary energy for his high-intensity workouts. These included foods like brown rice, whole grains, and a variety of fruits and vegetables.
  • Fats: Healthy fats were included in moderate amounts. They played a crucial role in hormonal balance and overall health. He typically sourced his fats from foods like avocados, nuts, and seeds.

Just as with his workout routine, Mentzer believed in quality over quantity when it came to his diet.

He focused on nutrient-dense foods that supported his tough workouts and recovery needs. Hydration also played an essential part in his routine, and he consumed plenty of water throughout the day.

Mentzer’s diet, like his training, was a testament to his commitment to a healthy lifestyle and optimal performance.

Example of Mike Mentzer’s Daily Diet

Here’s an example of a typical day’s meal plan in Mike Mentzer’s workout routine.

  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs (2 whole eggs and 2 egg whites) with a side of mixed vegetables and a slice of whole grain bread.
  • Mid-Morning Snack: A protein shake made with whey protein, a banana, and almond milk.
  • Lunch: Grilled chicken breast served with brown rice and steamed broccoli.
  • Afternoon Snack: A handful of mixed nuts and an apple.
  • Dinner: Baked salmon with sweet potato and a side salad.
  • Evening Snack: Greek yogurt with a handful of berries and a drizzle of honey.

Hydration was equally important in Mentzer’s daily diet. He would consume plenty of water throughout the day, especially during and after his high-intensity workouts.

In conclusion, the Mike Mentzer workout routine is a unique, high-intensity approach to fitness, embodying Mentzer’s firm beliefs in quality over quantity, and the necessity of recovery time for muscle development.

His workout split demonstrates targeted, intense exercises with sufficient rest periods to avoid overtraining and optimize muscle growth.

His diet is equally meticulous, focusing on high-quality, nutrient-dense foods to support his training and recovery needs.

It’s evident that Mentzer’s approach to fitness was holistic, underlining the importance of both intense, targeted exercise and a well-planned, balanced diet.

This routine might not be for everyone, but for those who can sustain high-intensity workouts and appreciate the value of rest and recovery, the Mike Mentzer workout routine could be an effective path to pursue.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q1: How long did Mike Mentzer work out each day?

Mike Mentzer’s workouts were typically brief but intense, often lasting between 30 to 40 minutes. He prioritized intensity over duration, adhering to his philosophy of High Intensity Training (HIT).

Q2: How many days a week did Mentzer work out?

Mentzer’s workout routine was spread across a week, with three active workout days (Day 1, Day 4, and Day 7) and four rest and recovery days (Day 2, Day 3, Day 5, and Day 6).

Q3: What was the focus of Mike Mentzer’s diet?

Mentzer’s diet focused on high protein intake to support muscle growth and recovery. His meals were balanced, including lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. He believed in quality over quantity when it came to his diet, prioritizing nutrient-dense foods that supported his workouts and recovery needs.

Q4: Did Mike Mentzer take any supplements?

While it’s known that Mentzer followed a high protein diet, the details of whether he took any additional supplements are not publicly documented. However, he did consume protein shakes, as part of his mid-morning snack.

Q5: Can beginners start with the Mike Mentzer workout routine?

Given the high-intensity nature of Mentzer’s workouts, it is recommended that beginners gradually build their strength and stamina before adopting this routine. While the principle can be followed, the volume or intensity might need to be adjusted according to individual fitness levels. It’s always best to consult a fitness professional before starting a new workout regimen.

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