Mike Mentzer’s Push Workout

The Heavy Duty style training almost guaranteed to make gains

Golden Era bodybuilder, Mike Mentzer, was known for his usage of the heavy duty training ideology that helped him add muscle mass with low volume and frequency, something that was not typical of bodybuilders of that time. Thew heavy duty training split had him divide up his workout into two workouts, Workout A, which was Mike Mentzer’s push workout, and Workout B which was his pull workout.

The heavy duty training system utilized high intensity training, instead of high volume. Mentzer had adopted this high intensity training methodology from Arthur Jones, but transformed it into his own heavy duty system, as Jones’ version included higher volume workouts. Under Mentzer’s new system, rep ranges got lower, weights got heavier, and the sets got much more difficult. 

Over forty years later, Mentzer’s training is gaining traction becoming popular again amongst younger gym goers. 

Who Was Mike Mentzer?

Mike Mentzer was known as a heavy hitter in the Golden Era of bodybuilding. He brought mass to the stage that had never been seen before, and competed for the Mr. Olympia title with some of the top bodybuilders in the world such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, who he had disagreements with. Mentzer trained with less frequency and volume than other Golden Era bodybuilders, yet came in with incredible size. Mentzer’s heavy duty training methodology was also later adopted by none other than Dorian Yates

Sadly, Mentzer began using amphetamines around the time of the 1980 Mr. Olympia for productivity and his health started to decline. He passed away at the age of 49.

Full Name: Mike Mentzer (Golden Era Bodybuilder)

Weight Height Date Of Birth
225-235 lbs 5’8″ 15/11/1951
Division Era Nationality
Men’s Open 1970’s, ’80s American

His legacy certainly still lives on, and his workouts still hold value. So, let’s take a look at Mike Mentzer’s push workout.

Mike Mentzer’s Push Workout

Mike Mentzer’s push workout was not your standard push day, as it lacked shoulder exercises but it had leg exercises thrown in there as well. Let’s take a look.

Exercise Sets  Reps
Leg Extension (superset with leg press) 2 sets of each 6-8
Squat 1 6-8
Leg Curl 2 6-8
Standing Calf Raise 2 6-8
Calf Press 1 6-8
Dumbbell Fly or Pec Deck 2 6-8
Incline Barbell Press 2 6-8
Dips 2 6-8
Pushdown (superset with dips again) 1 set of each 6-8
Lying Triceps Extension 2 6-8

Now, this may not look like a standard push workout because as stated above, there are no shoulder exercises, and legs are mixed in there. However, he found that it was more beneficial for him to wrokout his chest, triceps, and legs on the same day, and Mentzer’s pull day is where he worked out his shoulders.

You also may notice how low the volume is, and that it may seem like nothing. However, there is reason for that and we will dive into it.

Warm Ups and Working Sets

Mentzer always did 1-3 warmup sets before the working sets, and the last warmup set was right around 75% of his working weight. 

Then, for the working sets, go to full-rep failure in the 6-8 rep range, meaning that if you hit 6, 7, or 8 reps, that last rep should be extremely difficult to get through. Utilize things like pre-exhaust supersets, where you are getting blood into the muscle and breaking it down before hitting it with something heavier, such as flyes immediately before incline presses. 

Reps Past Failure

Though he may have only done 8 reps per set, that 8th rep was failure and Mentzer went past failure.  Mike Mentzer’s push workout involved going beyond failure on each exercise, (a philosophy also adopted by Tom Platz). He would do this by utilizing forced reps, negative reps, rest-pause, and pre-exhaust supersets. 

A breakdown of what these terms mean can be found below:

Term Meaning
Forced Reps A spotter helps to move the weight for additional reps
Negative Reps A spotter helps on the positive halves of reps, the the lifter slowly lowers the weight for about 6 seconds
Res-Pause After hitting failure, rest for 15 seconds then perform another rep. Mentzer would repeat that process for 4-6 more reps
Pre-Exhaust Supersets Do a set of an isolation exercise before a set of a compound exercise for the same body part without resting.


Though he utilized things like partials, forced reps, and negatives after he hit failure, Mentzer would make sure to have adequate form on each of those reps during his working sets. Proper form helps to make sure that the lifter is getting a good squeeze and really hitting the targeted muscle, as well as reducing the risk of injury.

Mike Mentzer’s Push Workout Frequency

Mentzer was known for his low frequency of hitting each body part, as he only had 3 designated training days per week, with the other 4 dedicated to rest and recovery. Mentzer preached that recovery needed to be focused on far more than training, and as long as you were training hard and really breaking down the muscle, then taking a few rest days during the week would be extremely beneficial. 

Mentzer also advocated for dividing your body parts up and allowing for 48 hours in between each training session. For example, if you follow Mike Mentzer’s push/pull split, and you do workout A on Monday, then Workout B on Wednesday, and Workout A again on Friday and so on, this allows for adequate recovery time, and you will feel ready to go for the next workout.

Another trick Mentzer used to maximize recovery was having his workouts follow the push-pull system. But, since Mentzer divided his body into two separate workouts, he included legs on his push day and shoulders on pull day. 

Mike Mentzer Push Day Wrap Up

Mike Mentzer’s push day and his training as a whole are very different from most bodybuilders. While you see many bodybuilders hitting high volume and frequency with moderate weights, Mentzer did the opposite. He trained absolutely all out, making sure there was nothing left in the tank upon leaving the gym. Though Mike Mentzer’s push day left out shoulder training and incorporated leg training, it clearly worked for him. 

Do you agree with Mike Mentzer’s push day training routine?

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Images courtesy of Instagram (@mentzerhit)

Dylan Wolf
I work mainly in content writing, focusing my free time on bodybuilding and strength sports. I was introduced to fitness in high school and after watching Generation Iron movies. I love to train. I have competed multiple times, even winning a junior title in classic physique. I have a bachelor's in criminal justice and business obtained through Alvernia University. When I am not focused on work or training, I enjoy watching films or reading about anything and everything.