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During his competitive years, Mike Mentzer was greatly influenced by the works of Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (shown here), a 19th-century German philosopher. Mentzer later become a devotee of Ayn Rand and her brand of Objectivism. Public domain photograph.
Upon his untimely death in 2001, the world lost one of the most knowledgeable, logical, and controversial proponents of muscle building ever to walk the planet. Of course, I am talking about Mike Mentzer, a man whose convictions and teachings revolutionized how we think about bodybuilding and productive strength training.
Mentzer emphasized that bodybuilding is most meaningful only when it is understood and practiced within a broad philosophical and scientific context. He believed that only by using an “intellectual method,” one derived from metaphysics (a fundamental branch of philosophy that deals with the establishment of reality and man’s nature) and from epistemology (a fundamental branch of philosophy that deals with the structure of knowledge and how it is acquired and verified), could a student of bodybuilding make optimum progress, build self confidence, and acquire happiness.
Beginning in his teens, Mentzer sought to find a philosophy that would help him to gain an “integrated view of existence,” guide him to successful action, and bring forth happiness. He studied the works of many famous philosophers, including Plato, Aristotle, and Nietzsche. But, it wasn’t until he discovered the writings of Ayn Rand, a novelist and leading proponent of Objectivism, did he find the manual of life he was seeking.
In 1996, Mentzer wrote and published Heavy Duty II: Strength and Body, one of the most important, enlightening, and provocative body-building books ever written. This masterpiece was a radical departure from the traditional strength book and, in the author’s words, “it includes all of the relevant philosophical principles required to achieve an understanding of any science [including bodybuilding], at least in terms of broad fundamentals.”