I first met Mike Mentzer at the original Gold’s Gym in around 1976, and I met his brother Ray not long afterward. I was always impressed by Mike’s intellect and his staunch belief in the high-intensity style of training.
While I never actually trained with Mike, I did jog with him and Ray during the running fad of the late ’70s, in a public park in Santa Monica, located about a block away from Gold’s. At contests we’d sit together, leading some to ask if I was the third Mentzer brother’perhaps because I, too, had a mustache and glasses. Some people may be surprised to learn that Mike and Ray actually did aerobic exercise, but those were the days when they competed, and they found that running was a definite aid in bodyfat control.
Ray was an intense person in his earlier years, and he trained furiously at Gold’s Gym, often with his brother or with friends such as Casey Viator. I witnessed many of those sessions and can attest to the fact that Mike and Ray trained precisely the way they described their training in various articles published at the time: short, hard and intense.
Later, I learned from Mike that we had a few things in common: We had both been premedical students in college’and both of us had dropped out. We began training at the same age, 11, and we both idolized Bill Pearl, a leading bodybuilder in the ’60s.
Even if I didn't agree with everything Mike and Ray espoused in the way of training and diet, I nonetheless always admired and respected both men. And that’s saying a lot, when you consider that the number of people I truly respect in bodybuilding can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Both men had their ups and downs over the years, just as others did, but they were always straight shooters, no B.S. from either of them. If they didn’t like you, you knew it; there was no phoniness or glad-handing from either. I’ll miss the Mentzer brothers. Bodybuilding has lost two of its greatest advocates.
I have a very high regard for Mike Mentzer. I knew him for a number of years. I remember meeting Mike back in 1977 at the Mr. Universe in France. We became friends over the years, working alongside Arthur Jones, the pioneer of high-intensity training, which Mike later perfected and brought to the masses. The one thing that stands out in my mind regarding Mike’besides his being a great bodybuilder’was his intelligence and his integrity. Mike would never lie about anything, a rare trait in this industry.
I enjoyed a lot of the same things Mike was interested in outside of bodybuilding, including philosophy. His deep interest in that field inspired me to study it even further. I have fond memories of just sitting back and discussing things with him for hours. Mike was a very kind person and a good friend. He was a man who had special things to say, even though his opinion often went against the grain of popular beliefs. We had many great times and travels together, and I’ll miss his company.
‘ Boyer Coe
I was deeply saddened by the news of Mike and Ray Mentzer’s deaths. In 1994 I was 23 and fresh out of the Marine Corps. While in the Corps I read Power Factor Training by Pete Sisco and John Little and several of Dorian Yates’ articles; both cited Mike Mentzer. I found an ad for Heavy Duty and promptly ordered it. The summer of 1994 saw my 6’4′ body go from 245 pounds to 283 pounds with a happy-as-hell 505 bench, which all took place naturally and in only months. My arms grew 2 1/4 inches, and my waist shrank two inches.
In my senior year of college football I was trying out for some pro teams’Ravens, Panthers and Jaguars’and I got my first opportunity to speak with Mike on the phone. We got to know each other over the next few months and even found we had something besides bodybuilding in common: Mike served in the Air Force; so did my father. I served in the Marines; so did Mike’s father.
Mike also helped me put together a workout for my 17-year-old brother for his senior track season. In four months my brother Damon added 155 pounds to his bench press, 350 pounds to his squat’nine months after knee surgery’and 235 pounds to his deadlift. He was the Illinois state shot-put champion and third runner-up in the discus. (Damon threw the discus close to 170 feet from the standing position.) If Heavy Duty doesn’t work, I’ll kiss your ass!
Yes, Mike was hardheaded, but he was also passionate, focused and dedicated to bodybuilding, along with helping his fellow man. God blessed you, Mike. You’re deeply missed. I’ll break my diet and toast this six-pack to you, my friend.
It’s not Mike’s controversial Heavy Duty training ideas I find most significant. Instead, I feel his greatest gift to bodybuilding and the world was his personal integrity. Having the courage and self-confidence to be true to oneself is a rare trait, especially among bodybuilders. Why? People who are insecure often think that changing their appearance will bring them happiness. The problem is, true happiness lies within.
The genius of Mike Mentzer is that he approached bodybuilding from within. His focus was on the origin of all our actions’how we think. He wanted us to think rationally and logically for ourselves, to put a stop to the blind leading the blind. He never asked us to believe his ideas; instead, he urged us to begin to think for ourselves. He searched for truths, and he challenged us to do the same. In other words, he tried to build us from the inside out.
What can never be forgotten is that Mike Mentzer is a true hero. He was true to himself. It’s people like him who give the rest of us courage to do the same.
Prior to Mike’s arrival on the bodybuilding scene in the late 1970s, the sport was crying out for a watchdog’a protector of young bodybuilders who might otherwise fall prey to the blandishments of the corporate interests in the sport.’His well-reasoned articles, imploring us to use our minds and to make bodybuilding an adjunct to’rather than the reason for’our existence lifted bodybuilding out of what he called its ‘self-imposed dark ages.’ No longer did we need to live in the gym or blindly accept the edicts of a champion merely because he had won a contest or was featured as the flavor of the month in a bodybuilding magazine. Mike not only spoke of a better way to train, he actually created one.
I had a long and close association with Mike. He had a thick, powerful physique, and his intensity in the gym became legendary. I recognized Mike’s talent as a writer early on, and I invited him to work [in publishing] with me in the late ’70s and in the early ’80s. We would argue from time to time, but there was always a mutual respect. Mike was an intelligent person, a fine writer and an extremely passionate advocate for his beliefs.
I remember Ray, Mr. USA 1978, as a quiet, extremely nice guy, a fine bodybuilder in his own right.
Mike and Ray will always be remembered in the bodybuilding world for their dedication to the sport, and they devoted their lives to it right up to the end. Mike and Ray spent many years together in our great sport, and their contributions and influence will surely last. I will miss them both.
‘Joe Weider [Joe Weider’s quote was adapted with permission from his Publisher’s Page editorial in the September ’01 Flex.]
Mike was an iconoclast who helped people seriously reconsider their previous ideas about bodybuilding. The problem was that even though he brought a fresh outlook on training, his views were rather limited by his lack of understanding of basic physiology. Even so, he was a great champion bodybuilder and pretty much debunked the long-standing myth that athletes must train for hours on end to achieve optimal results. Despite our differences on a professional level, my heart goes out to him, Ray and his family.
‘ Charles Poliquin
I became friends with Mike after the ’80 Mr. Olympia, Mike’s last competition. Boyer Coe, Mike and I and our respective wives and girlfriends would often get together in Palm Springs and discuss the injustices of competitive bodybuilding.
I picked up a few good ideas from Mike in the early ’80s regarding training methodology’such as the importance of doing negative reps and a unique one-leg calf-raise technique that resulted in more than a half inch of calf growth in one month.
The deaths of Mike and Ray are terrible news for me and the industry as a whole. Their presence in the bodybuilding community will be missed.
‘ Frank Zane
I’d been an acquaintance of Mike’s for years. He used to do his personal training’always in the Heavy Duty style he made famous’at Gold’s Gym, Venice, where I train. I remember seeing pictures of Ray and meeting him. They were almost identical, and I found that kind of precious. If you have a brother, you have a partner for life.
Mike had a few enemies and a ton of critics in the business, but he always told the truth as he saw it. He may have come across as abrasive at times, but you knew where the guy stood. I have to respect that. In an industry that has its fair share of questionable integrity, Mike was one in a million in a million ways. My prayers go out to the Mentzers and their family.
‘ Ken ‘Flex’ Wheeler
I first met Mike Mentzer at the 1971 Mr. America, at which I won the Overall. Mike placed 10th at that show, but he showed great potential. His arms and legs were outstanding, and his physique had all-around appeal. I introduced myself after the show. We talked, and I told him about Arthur Jones and Nautilus and how I trained infrequently but with intensity. I also told him to call Arthur to talk. Well, they did’for hours’and that’s how the Heavy Duty method came about.
Mike had insight when it came to helping people in their training, and he really cared about their progress. He persisted for years, helping and shaping a lot of great athletes. Mike’s brother Ray was a great asset to the sport of bodybuilding as well, and his rugged physique helped set the standard for today. He was one of the first real mass monsters.
I had the privilege of training with them both for a while in the ’80s, and we made unbelievable gains using great poundages. The Mentzer brothers put their mark on bodybuilding history. They were close friends of mine, and I miss them. God bless them both.
‘ Casey Viator
Editor’s note: Special thanks to Joanne Sharkey of Mike Mentzer Company Inc. for her assistance in compiling this feature. To contact The Sandwich, please visit www.SumoPublishing.com. IM