The movie Pumping Iron put on display the finest of the sport of bodybuilding. When you watch those phenomenal athletes on the screen, they seem to blend together. But each athlete who reached that final plateau of bodybuilding to compete to be Mr. Universe was and is a very unique individual with a story to tell.
Pumping Iron introduced us to the very recognizable bodybuilders who went on to become movie stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno. But it is amazing what we learn when we delve into the other stories from Pumping Iron including the lives and careers of Franco Columbu, Mike Katz, Robby Robinson, Ken Waller and Mike Mentzer to name a few.
Of that illustrious list, Mike Mentzer stands out as a bodybuilder who was by far not a typical “dumb athlete”. In fact, it is entirely appropriate to give Mike Mentzer the title of the philosopher muscle man of Pumping Iron.
Mentzer devoted himself to the development of every aspect of his personhood including the mental, the physical and the philosophical. To Mike Mentzer, the same discipline that made him successful as a bodybuilder gave him the intellectual powers to conquer the great questions of philosophy. Small wonder that Mentzer went on to write books and develop an entire bodybuilding regimen that taught upcoming athletes tremendous discipline of body and soul.
Mike Mentzer began competing in bodybuilding competitions young and devoted himself to success. He suffered some early defeats, which lead him to put himself under the mentorship of the well known bodybuilding trainer Arthur Jones. It was Jones who introduced Mentzer to a focused and scientific strategy for bodybuilding that would take him step by step toward greatness in the sport.
He realize the fruit of his dedication and discipline when he won the Mr. America competition in 1976. Then in 1978, Mike Mentzer won the Mr. Universe competition and realized an achievement of a perfect score of 300 in that contest. That is an achievement that no other bodybuilder before or since has accomplished.
While all bodybuilders must find an inner reserve of discipline to transform their bodies into pure muscle as they do, Mentzer turned that discipline into a spiritual and philosophical quest as well. He became a devoted follower of the objectivist philosophical school that was championed by Ayn Rand.
Mentzer has often been quoted for saying that, “Man, is an indivisible entity, an integrated unit of mind and body.” His many books and seminars that have brought him success since his bodybuilding championships and since become a movie star briefly in Pumping Iron have put as much emphasis on philosophy as they do on physical fitness. To Mentzer, the two disciplines were a perfect compliment to each other.
In the years following Mike Mentzer’s tremendous success in bodybuilding championships and in the movie Pumping Iron, he used his notoriety to pushing his philosophical and body building methods in a series of books. Probably the most well known of these books was High-Intensity Training the Mike Mentzer Way which integrated diet, high intensity weight training with other aspects of a well balanced lifestyle for long term health and strength development.
These training regimens were extraordinarily popular and taught many people to develop their bodies in balance with a healthy lifestyle in every respect. In that way, Mike Mentzer was more than just a bodybuilding champion, he was a philosopher, teacher and mentor for younger athletes on their way up to teach them to realize their success the right way and the healthy way.