Mike Mentzer Diet and Workout Plan

The Mike Mentzer diet was all about balance. He ate protein rich foods like eggs and chicken, but would also include pancakes and ice cream in his diet.

Mike was able to build a lean physique and eat these types of foods, because he didn’t eat over 2,000 calories each day. Continue reading for a more detailed look into Mike’s favorite foods and exercise routine.

Who was Mike Mentzer?

Mike Mentzer was an American professional bodybuilder, author and fitness icon. He began bodybuilding at the age of 12, after being inspired by the men on muscle magazines.

Mike is known for his legendary high-intensity training style. He is also famous for his clash with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1980 Mr. Olympia, which is known as the most controversial bodybuilding competition of all time.


Height5′ 8” (173 cm)
Weight225 lbs (102 kg)
BornNovember 15, 1951
DiedJune 10, 2001

Mike Mentzer Diet

Most people today would describe Mike Mentzer’s eating habits as flexible dieting. During the 1970’s most bodybuilders followed a low carb diet.

But Mike was regularly eating around 200 grams of carbs each day, while preparing for the 1979 Mr. Olympia. He was eating foods like pancakes and ice cream, and still managed to have a lean physique.

So, how did Mike Mentzer accomplish this? Even though he was eating “junk foods” Mike still kept his daily caloric intake below 2,000. On top of this he was very active – often training multiple times each day.

Balanced Eating

Mike actually followed a well-balanced diet, even though he wasn’t eating chicken and broccoli for every meal. As a result, he was still able to look full and lean on stage.

This nutritional approach is much different from modern day bodybuilders. These mass monsters focus on high carb diets with little fat, and high amounts of protein.

They weigh food by the gram and calculate macronutrients for each meal. The physique Mike Mentzer was able to build proves that you can eat the foods you enjoy. As long as you stay in a caloric deficit, eat a balanced diet and train with intensity.

Mike Mentzer Workout

Chest Workout

Mike stressed the importance of heavy duty training when it came to building muscle. On chest day he would accomplish this by pre-fatiguing the muscles.

This is when you preform an isolation exercise, prior to a compound movement. As an example, Mike would do a series of pec flyes, before the bench press.

  • 1st exercise: Incline dumbbell fly 5 x 8
  • 2nd exercise: Flat barbell bench press 5 x 6-8
  • 3rd exercise: Bodyweight dip 5 x 10
  • 4th exercise: Flat dumbbell fly 5 x 8
  • 5th exercise: Incline barbell bench press 5 x 6-8

Back Workout

The back was Mike’s favorite muscle group to train. His reasoning was that a well-developed back will have both definition and detail.

There are so many small muscles in this area, unlike the rest of the body. To build his back Mike focused on slow concentric and eccentric movements during each rep.

  • 1st exercise: Straight arm pulldown 5 x 8-10
  • 2nd exercise: Close grip supinated cable pulldown 5 x 8-10
  • 3rd exercise: Barbell row 5 x 5
  • 4th exercise: Standing dumbbell shrug 5 x 8-10
  • 5th exercise: Barbell upright row 5 x 6-8

Shoulder Workout

Mike believed that most people can build larger shoulder muscles, but you can’t necessarily make your shoulders wider. The reason for this is that the skeletal shoulder width is genetically determined.

Mike made sure to train all the shoulder muscles, so they could be viewed from every angle in bodybuilding competitions.

  • 1st exercise: Dumbbell side lateral raise 5 x 8-10
  • 2nd exercise: Behind the neck overhead press 5 x 6-8
  • 3rd exercise: Bent over dumbbell raise 5 x 8-10
  • 4th exercise: Front barbell raise 5 x 8-10
  • 5th exercise: Seated machine press 5 x 6-8

Leg Workout

Legs can be a very difficult muscle to train with high intensity, but the effort is worth it. Training to failure is how Mike was able to build a massive pair of legs.

Focus on slow motions with each rep to increase tension on the muscle. And remember to concentrate on both legs, in order to avoid a muscle imbalance.

  • 1st exercise: Single leg leg extension 5 x 8-10
  • 2nd exercise: Barbell squat 5 x 6-8
  • 3rd exercise: Single leg hamstring curl 5 x 8-10
  • 4th exercise: Leg press 5 x 6-8
  • 5th exercise: Walking dumbbell lunge 5 x 8-10
  • 6th exercise: Standing calf raise 5 x 10-15

Arm Workout

During the golden age muscular arms were the symbol of bodybuilding. Mike would usually train arms to failure 1 hour each week.

He would aim for 2 seconds on the concentric motion and 3 seconds during the eccentric motion. Placing constant tension on the biceps and triceps is key to building massive arms.

  • 1st exercise: Cable triceps pushdown 5 x 8-10
  • 2nd exercise: Bodyweight dip 5 x 10
  • 3rd exercise: Overhead cable triceps extension 5 x 8-10
  • 4th exercise: Standing dumbbell curl 5 x 8-10
  • 5th exercise: Supinated chin-up 5 x 6-8
  • 6th exercise: Barbell preacher curl 5 x 8-10
  • 7th exercise: Barbell forearm curl on bench 5 x 10

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