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Matt Mendenhall Workout Routine

Hanna Walther Author Profile



Matt Mendenhall's Workout Routine and Diet

What does Matt Mendenhall’s workout routine look like?

Matt Mendenhall, nicknamed Mr. Genetics, was one of the most promising bodybuilders of his generation. Ohio-native Matt was at the top of his game in 1982, right alongside Lee Haney, but a series of illnesses prevented him from ever earning his Pro card.

Although he is no longer with us, Matt Mendenhall remains a legacy as one of the greatest bodybuilders of the 1980s and 90s. Many admire his near-perfect physique, superior structure, and tenacity to keep moving forward in the face of adversity.

This article is a compilation of the research we’ve done on Matt Mendenhall’s workout routine and diet plan when he was at the height of his career. This is not his exact routine, but the information we’ve gathered through his own commentary, interviews, and from others in the sport.


Current Stats 

  • Height:‎ 5’11”
  • Weight: 235-245 pounds
  • Age: 61 at the time of his death (2021)
  • Birthday: June 26, 1960
  • Accolades: 1978 Mr. Ohio High School 1st place, 1982 NPC Nationals 2nd place, 1983 NPC Nationals 4th place, 1985 NPC Championships, 1986 NPC Nationals 2nd place, 1987 NPC Nationals 10th, 1988 NPC Nationals 11th, 1991 NPC Nationals 5th, among many others


Workout Principles

Matt’s intense bodybuilding and dedication to strength training contributed to his awesome physique; however, the nickname Mr. Genetics explains that some things can’t be trained in the gym.

Some people are born with the natural physique to succeed in the sport, thanks to genetic influence. Matt’s family had several bodybuilders that were actively competing when he was a child.

After he retired from his amateur bodybuilding career, Matt studied homeopathic medicine, endorsed a supplement company, and pursued massage therapy and personal training. He enjoyed working with people to achieve their fitness and health goals.

With a love for sports at a young age, Matt had the body composition and the mental strength to successfully pursue a career as a bodybuilder. He was extremely committed from his first competition to his last, like a true athlete.


Matt Mendenhall’s Workout Routine

Matt Mendenhall was an absolute beast in the gym when training for a competition. He performed a brutal ab circuit every day and was known to enjoy training to failure.

Matt was able to perform anywhere from 6 to 30 reps in sets of 4 to 5 sets when he was in the prime of his career. He worked out with a variety of heavyweights and often completed forced reps in any given circuit.

Here is the Matt Mendenhall workout routine:


Monday – Chest

Here’s what a chest workout looked like for Matt.

  1. Incline dumbbell fly (5 sets, 6 reps)
  2. Flat dumbbell press (5 sets, 6 reps)
  3. Incline fly (5 sets, 6 reps)
  4. Dumbbell decline press (4 sets, 6 reps)
  5. Dumbbell pullover (4 sets, 10 reps)
  6. Cable crossover (4 sets, 10 reps)


Tuesday – Shoulders

Matt’s shoulders were one of his strongest features; here’s how he achieved them.

  1. Behind the neck press (5 sets, 8 reps)
  2. Side lateral raise (5 sets, 8 reps)
  3. Rear delt bent-over lateral (5 sets, 8 reps)
  4. Shoulder shrug (5 sets, 8 reps)
  5. Upright row (5 sets, 8 reps)


Wednesday – Legs

Matt typically performed leg exercises twice a week. Here’s how he sculpted the legs that competed with Mike Christian and Lee Haney in the heavyweight division on numerous occasions.

Thigh circuit:

  1. Squat (5 sets, 10 reps)
  2. Hack squat (4 sets, 8 reps)
  3. Leg curl (5 sets, 10 reps)
  4. Thigh extension (5 sets, 10 reps)

Calves circuit:

  1. Standing calf machine (5 sets, 10 reps)
  2. Seated calf raise (5 sets, 8 reps)
  3. Toe raises on a leg press (5 sets, 10 reps)
  4. Donkey raise (5 sets, 10 reps)


Thursday – Back

Achieving those bulging lats takes dedication, consistency, and a lot of back work. Here’s what a back day looked like for Matt Mendenhall:

  1. Wide grip chin-up (4 sets, 8 reps)
  2. T-bar row (4 sets, 8 reps)
  3. Lat pulldown (4 sets, 10 reps)
  4. Seated row (4 sets, 8 reps)
  5. Lat pulldown (rear) (4 sets, 10 reps)
  6. Hyperextension (4 sets, 12 reps)
  7. Dumbbell bent-over row (4 sets, 10 reps)


Friday – Arms

Matt performed various arm circuits to target each muscle group in his arms to build muscle and improve their shape.

Biceps circuit:

  1. Standing dumbbell curl (4 sets, 8 reps)
  2. Preacher curl (4 sets, 8 reps)
  3. Standing barbell curl (4 sets, 8 reps)
  4. Concentration curl (4 sets, 8 reps)

Forearm circuit:

  1. Reverse curl (4 sets, 8 reps)
  2. Wrist curl (4 sets, 12 reps)

Triceps circuit:

  1. Lying French extension (4 sets, 8 reps)
  2. Seated French extension (4 sets, 8 reps)
  3. Push-down (4 sets, 8 reps)
  4. Dumbbell extension (4 sets, 8 reps)


Saturday – Abs

Matt’s insane abs didn’t come easy — he worked his core nearly every day in the gym. Here is his ab workout:

  1. Hanging leg raise (4 sets, 30 reps)
  2. Sit-up (4 sets, 30 reps)
  3. Lying leg raise (4 sets, 30 reps)


Sunday – Rest

Matt Mendenhall took Sunday to rest his body and let his muscles recover.


Matt Mendenhall’s Diet 

Matt kept his meals simple and clean. He focused on lean proteins and veggies and didn’t overcomplicate his diet or eating habits. He treated food like fuel that would help him work hard in the gym and support his body in recovery. 

Here is Matt Mendenhall’s diet:  

Meal 1

  • Protein shake
  • Small banana
  • Apple juice

Meal 2  

  • Piece of fruit, like an apple or banana

Meal 3

  • Grilled fish or chicken
  • Steamed vegetables

Meal 4

  • Grilled fish or chicken
  • Grilled vegetables



Matt was extremely knowledgeable about supplements and used a few while he was competing.



Matt Mendenhall was undoubtedly the greatest bodybuilder who never turned professional. His body started to force him into retirement, cutting his career short and devastating fans. Matt passed away in 2021, leaving the bodybuilding community stunned and saddened by his death.

Matt remains an all-time favorite bodybuilder for many. He had some bad luck with health situations and a car crash early on in his career, but his muscle mass and body composition are what people remember and admire.

What do you think about Matt Mendenhall’s workout routine and diet? Leave a comment below. 

Hanna has been a fitness fanatic for most of her life. She grew up on the soccer field and volleyball court and credits those sports with her determination, passion for fitness, and leadership off the field. She is currently studying to become a personal trainer and hopes to begin coaching in 2022.

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