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Mike Mentzer’s ‘Heavy Duty’ Workout and Diet Plan

Have you ever wondered how professional bodybuilders like Mike Mentzer set up their training and diet program? Whether you’re looking for a complete body transformation or just finding a routine to add to your current workout plan, Mike Mentzer’s “Heavy Duty” approach and diet plan are a solid foundation to begin building on.


Mike Mentzer was one of the most popular professional bodybuilders of all time, thanks to his impressive physique, innovative and controversial training approach, and easy-going personality.


He was one of the few men ever to win the Mr. Universe title with a perfect score and also one of the first bodybuilders to promote high-intensity training as a means for building muscle seriously. He believed that it was possible to make rapid gains in muscle size and strength by performing brief but intense workouts.


Even though MikeMentzer passed away in 2001 at the age of 49, his ideas about bodybuilding continue to influence thousands of people worldwide every year. However, there is still some confusion about his exact training routine. 


In this article, we will separate fact from fiction by taking a closer look at Mike Mentzer’s Heavy Duty workout and diet plan. Hopefully, his plan will inspire you to achieve all your workout and bodybuilding goals!


Mike Mentzer Posing


Mike Mentzer’s Diet Plan


Unlike other bodybuilders who ate fewer carbs than protein, Mike believed eating a lot of carbs helped him win competitions. Instead of restricting carbs and eating proteins and fat at every meal, he advocated a low-frequency diet called eating fewer meals with more calories per meal. 


Mike Mentzer said carbs are your energy source, and you need them if you want to be big and strong and have a lot of energy. Mike said, “You’re not going to gain fat from eating carbs like white rice.” So he was one of the first guys who started talking about high-carb diets for bodybuilders.


Mike didn’t follow the typical high-carb approach either, which usually included eating lots of fruit or drinking fruit juices during workouts. Instead, he suggested four portions of high-quality grains and fruit, as well as two servings of dairy and protein.


The specific amounts of food you eat will depend on your goals. If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll need fewer calories than if you want to maintain your current weight or gain muscle mass.


Mentzer also practiced what he calls “intelligent cheating.” Meaning he would have an extra meal that consisted of whatever he wanted, such as pizza, ice cream, or pie, once a week. Although he ate junk food, he kept his caloric intake consumption under 2000.



What to Eat While on Mike Mentzer’s “Heavy Duty”


The best way to build muscles and get lean is to eat healthily. Here are Mike Mentzer’s foods you can eat.


Oatmeal: Oats are a great source of complex carbs, which are a good source of energy and keep you fuller for longer. They also contain beta-glucan, which lowers cholesterol and helps with blood sugar control.


Eggs: A great source of protein and convenient food to have in the fridge for when you need something quick to eat.


Chicken breast: A good source of protein, chicken breast is low in fat, especially if you remove the skin before cooking it. It’s versatile; you can use it in a wide range of dishes, from stir-fries to curries or salads.


Fish (salmon and tuna): Both fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have health benefits, such as reducing inflammation, improving brain function, and lowering the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.


Fruits: Mentzer recommended eating various fruits every day. His favorite fruit choices were apples, oranges, grapes, strawberries, apricots, blueberries, and bananas.


Lentils (red or green): These little legumes are packed full of fiber which means they help keep you fuller for longer while also keeping your digestive system healthy.


Vegetables: Some of his favorite vegetables you can eat are broccoli, green beans, zucchini squash, spinach, and onions.


Juice: Mike Mentzer drank different juices, including orange and grape juice, combined with a protein shake.


You can also eat bread, Granola, Poultry, Low-fat milk, and drink plenty of water.


Mike Mentzer’s “Heavy Duty” Workout Plan


Mike Mentzer is a legendary bodybuilder from the 1970s who won the Mr. Universe contest in 1978 and eventually won that title with a perfect score. 


He also competed against Arnold Schwarzenegger and Frank Zane in the Mr. Olympia contest, placing fifth in 1980 and retiring from bodybuilding. Although he did not win, Mike made a lasting impact on the bodybuilding world by introducing his Heavy Duty training system to his fellow competitors.


The Heavy Duty system was different from other bodybuilding regimens and even quite different from the bodybuilding workouts that you see. Rather than working out for hours each day and completing dozens of repetitions like other bodybuilding regimens, Mike Mentzer advocated for Heavy Duty, working out for short periods using heavyweights. 


Mike believed that less is more when it comes to training. This made him a strong advocate of a training philosophy known as High-Intensity Training, developed by Arthur Jones, which lifted heavyweights with relatively few repetitions and emphasized quality over quantity.


According to Mentzer, this exercise style produced the best results because it minimizes muscle damage and allows for more effective workouts. However, his recommendations were controversial because they challenged the conventional wisdom that more is better when training.


Mike Mentzer’s Principles for Bodybuilding


Before we dive into Mike Mentzer’s workout exercises, here’s a summary of Mike Mentzer’s principles for building muscle mass:


Intensity: The amount of effort you put into each set must increase as your body adapts to your routine. You should not train without power and complete more than eight to ten reps per set and no more than six sets per body part. To create this stress, you can increase your weight on a given exercise.


Take rest: You must allow enough rest between workouts so that your body can recover from the stress placed on it during its last workout session. If you don’t give your muscles enough time to rest and fully recover, you will not only stop making progress, but you could lose muscle if you over-train for too long.


Workout 1x per week: Once a week is all you need. If you want to work out more often than once per week, then you’re overtraining and should not expect any results from your efforts.


Perform fewer sets: Perform only one heavy set for each body part, rather than multiple sets. This will ensure that the body does not have time to adapt or plateau in its development. By keeping your workouts short and infrequent, you can maintain constant muscle growth for years on end.


Avoid high-volume training: It can lead to overtraining. This can lead to muscle loss rather than gain.


Mike Mentzer’s Workout Routine


Mike Mentzer’s “Heavy Duty” workout routine was unique because it was a high-intensity training program that was only performed one day per week. It consisted of very few exercises per workout, each performed for one set only.


 It is based on the principle that you should only train to the point of positive failure. In other words, when we can no longer complete another rep with good form, then the set is over.


Failure was insufficient for Mentzer’s Heavy Duty system; the system went above and above, involving three techniques: forced reps, negative reps, and rest-pause.


Mike Mentzer Heavy Duty Workout


Mike Mentzer’s Chest Workout Routine


Mentzer’s chest workout routine was designed to train all parts of the chest muscle, including the upper chest, middle chest, and lower chest. 


  • Incline Dumbbell Flyes: 2 sets at 6-8 reps
  • Bodyweight Dips: 2 sets x 6-8 reps 
  • Incline Barbell Bench Press: 2 sets at 6-8 reps
  • Flat barbell bench press: 2 sets at 6-8 reps
  • Flat dumbbell fly: 2 sets at 6-8 reps


Mike Mentzer’s Back Workout Routine


Mike Mentzer’s back Workout exercises include:


  • Straight arm Pulldown: 2 sets of 5-8 reps
  • Close Grip cable pulldown: 2 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Barbell Bent-Over Row: 2 sets of 5 reps
  • Standing barbell shrug: 2 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Barbell Upright row: 2 sets of 6-8 reps


Mike Mentzer’s Shoulder Workout Routine


Mike Mentzer’s shoulder Workout exercises include:


  • Bent over dumbbell raise: 2 sets 8-10 reps 
  • Seated machine press: 2 sets 6-8 reps 
  • Dumbbell side lateral raise: 2 sets 8-10 reps
  • Behind the overhead neck press: 2 sets 6-8 reps  
  • Front barbell raise: 2 sets 8-10 reps


Mike Mentzer’s Leg Workout Routine


Mike Mentzer’s leg workout plan consisted of five sets of 10 reps, but if you can do more, it’s recommended to increase the number of reps to gain maximum benefits from this workout routine.


  • Single leg Extension: 2 sets 8-10 reps
  • Single leg hamstring Curl: 2 sets 8-10 reps
  • Barbell squats: 2 sets 6-8 reps
  • Leg Press: 2 sets 6-8 reps
  • Standing Calf Raise: 2 sets 10-15 reps
  • Walking dumbbell lunges: 2 sets 8-10 reps


Mike Mentzer’s Arm Routine


  • Supinated chin-up: 2 sets 6-8 reps 
  • Bodyweight dips: 2 sets 10 reps  
  • Barbell preacher curl: 2 sets 8-10 reps 
  • Cable triceps pushdowns: 2 sets 8-10 reps 
  • Standing dumbbell curl: 2 sets 8-10 reps





Mike Mentzer’s physique obtained through his Heavy Duty training and diet is quite impressive. If you’re looking for a muscle-building program, it’s likely one of the best you will find. You might have to endure extreme workouts and lifestyle changes, but if you want nothing short of extraordinary results, this is certainly worth your time.





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