Mike Mentzer and His Contributions to Bodybuilding


I’ve been listening to audiotapes of an interview Mike Mentzer did 25 or so years ago. He makes a lot of sense to me.

What do you think he got right, wrong and in general – what were his contribution to bodybuilding?


For those unfamiliar, Mike was the foremost advocate of HIT theory in this country, at least after is mentor Arthur Jones died.

I was fortunate enough to be a client of his, getting the HIT word straight from the horses mouth prior to his passing.

Mike was an interesting character, mixing a world class physique at his peak with an eccentric personality and by many accounts amphetamine fueled training sessions – while quoting from Ayn Rand on philosophical matters.

Amidst this kind of complexity, he refined and advocated a version of HIT that was easy to grasp, use and benefit from.

He was helped tremendously via the fact he trained the 1992 Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates = who showed up at that show looking other-worldly. Especially compared to his prior year’s condition.

Regardless, Mike’s stuff was a breath of fresh air at the time – high volume training had been the norm up until that point.

In a nutshell, Mike was the anti-Schwarzenneger – advocating just ONE all out work set per muscle group.

To be sure, this is a learned skill and not just physically – it takes weeks, sometimes months to train your brain to push your body past its limits.

Mike did get some things 100% correct IMO. Primarily, Intensity was the most important of the 3 training fundamentals (Intensity, Volume and Frequency).

He also got some things wrong – such as optimal muscle growth taking just 1 set. He’s probably spinning in is grave now, but it’s been rather conclusively shown that a certain threshold of volume is necessary to grow muscle at the fastest possible rate – and it’s more than 1 set.

In fact Mike was fond of saying Volume was ALWAYS a negative, at least insofar as recovering.

Partially true, because you recover faster from no sets than 1. But then again, no sets creates no demand for the muscle to grow larger. Thus, I learned fast these kind of “absolute” statements were problematic.

You can make gains using HIT, but not all of them are explained by new muscle growing. In fact, the dramatic strength gains most people experience (at least relative to actual muscle growth) are proof of this phenomenon.

Mike’s biggest contribution to bodybuilding? IT was getting people to THINK IMO. If you read his books you know precisely what I’m talking about. Most people are all about the “do”. Mike forced you to THINK about the HOW and WHY.

Not many strength coaches today can claim something similar. RIP Mike.

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Coach Rob Regish

Rob Regish is an internationally recognized name in the field of health and fitness. He's been a weekly contributor to Superhumanradio.net for almost a decade, answering listener questions from around the world.

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