Mike Mentzer: My Mentor

by Dr. Greg E. Bradley-Popovich


I must admit that it is indeed painful to pen this tribute to Mike, and I have undoubtedly been in some degree of denial over his unexpected passing. In as much as I wish to elaborate on Mike's influence on me personally, I hope to find this writing to be therapeutic.

Unlike accomplished bodybuilding philosophers, such as, John Little and Dr. Doug McGuff (whose tributes also appear at this website), I was too young to have known of Mike during his initial peak of physical and intellectual dominance. Instead, I could be categorized as one of the next generation, who was exposed to Mike during what may best be described as the Heavy Duty renaissance of the 1990s.

While I do not claim to have known Mike intimately on a personal level, my relationship with him over the past few years has provided several glimpses into his life beyond the text.

Mike was (and remains) a prolific writer. But, should anyone ever accuse the man's writings of being verbose or bombastic, I can attest that such writing and thinking was natural for Mike. Although I only can admit it to Mike in his posthumous state, quite frequently I had to consult a dictionary following our conversations because his vocabulary was nothing short of astounding. I fondly recall how I was amused, when one of our phone conversations was interrupted, when company arrived at Mike's abode. He politely said, "Gregory, friends have descended upon me and I believe I will join them for dinner…" As further evidence of his poetic prowess, he once referred to our professional relationship as "stimulating like a fragrant bouquet." Yes, Mike was hopelessly poetic, and that was part of his charm. (Actually, my name is not Gregory, but Mike nevertheless called me that, perhaps because it was polysyllabic and thus was preferable.)

It is my impression that Mike genuinely enjoyed helping people. Mike gave me my first break in bodybuilding journalism, and he graciously made business connections and recommendations that ultimately led to my gratifying position in a MedX-equipped physical therapy clinic. Interestingly, of all the places where I've published my articles, without question, Mike's Heavy Duty web site provided the largest readership. And what a loyal readership it is! I have received e-mails from all over the world because Mike possessed that kind of visibility and influence. Some enthused correspondence has hailed from countries such as India, Spain, Scotland, and -just last week-Japan! Clearly, it is not an exaggeration to say that Mike's influence transcends entire continents.

Like the scores of individuals whose testimonials appear at this website, I, too, am proof-positive that-as Mike repeatedly emphasized-bodybuilding does not exist in a vacuum. Of course, my physique responded well to the application of Mike's Heavy Duty ideology, because I was undoubtedly physically overtrained beyond belief. But, my mind was grossly undertrained, because I had previously failed to correctly recognize exercise science to be an extension of the medical sciences that were so familiar to me. In this way, Mike was very charitable. Although I possess no knowledge of his financial philanthropy, Mike Mentzer was willing to invest in my intellectual development. I have previously acknowledged Mike Mentzer's profound influence on myself and my academic pursuits in the two-part, guest editorial entitled "A Matter of Degrees" that has appeared at this web site. It can be said that Mike was an "intellectual philanthropist," and he undoubtedly invested innumerable hours in thousands of training devotees globally.

Losing Mike is like losing a bit of our intellectual selves. It seems that I practically adopted Mike's voice as my own superego, which students of psychology will recognize as that part of the brain responsible for maintaining rational thought and keeping the impulsive id in check. If ever my logistic thinking waned, and I was compelled to perform additional, superfluous exercise, that inner voice would say, "Gregory, dispense with the child-like, simplistic notion that more is better…"

The following is a most unfortunate coincidence-one that I regret terribly. Until recently, I had never been to the west coast. For the first time ever, I would be very close to Mike's home near Los Angeles. Realize that Mike's influence on me was no less significant than that of my own family, and I looked forward with indescribable anticipation at finally meeting my mentor face to face. I was visiting to accept a national award in physical therapy, for which I owed a debt of gratitude to Mike for his support, guidance, and opportunity that he provided me and which undoubtedly contributed my being named a recipient of the award. Ironically, Mike died just two weeks before my visit. This missed opportunity certainly brought a burgeoning solemnity to what would otherwise have been a most joyous and rewarding experience.

Perhaps my greatest personal disappointment related to Mike's untimely death stems from being unable to share with Mike the news that two colleagues and I had submitted a medical journal article that embodied many of Mike's training concepts. The manuscript marrying high-intensity resistance exercise principles and rehabilitation is the first to our knowledge to promote such an application in a peer-reviewed forum. Such information is sorely needed for rehabilitation professionals, as Mike would attest to based on his own experience following his knee and elbow injuries a couple years ago. I think Mike would be proud of our effort to apply Heavy Duty elements within a pathological, rehabilitative context. Without Mike's groundbreaking efforts, such an article would not have been conceivable.

How does one define friendship? I recall when Mike, the consummate intellectual, described me as a friend, and then proceeded to provide an operational definition of the word "friend." Mike described friends as "those of similar mind." If one subscribes to this definition of friend, then it can be said that Mike created unifying "friendships" worldwide through his intellectual influence.

In sum, I am honored to be able to say that Mike Mentzer was my friend, however defined. It is entirely possible that Mike saved me from intellectual and physical ruin. And for that, I am most thankful.

Michael J. Mentzer: Illustrious. Iconoclastic. Immortal…

Greg E. Bradley-Popovich, DPT, MSEP, MS
Director of Clinical Research
Northwest Spine Management, Rehabilitation, and Sports Conditioning
Portland, OR

P.S. -- Strength of a Nation: Knowing that Mike Mentzer viewed the United States as a beacon of capitalistic freedom, I am certain he would not have remained silent in the wake of the unspeakable horror that has befallen this great nation. In the spirit of Mike's love of mankind, please do your part to invest in others: give blood, time, or other support for the innocent victims of the terrorist attacks.


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