Matt Mendenhall, Mr. Genetics, was one of the most promising kids in 1982, along with Lee Haney. He is widely considered to be the greatest bodybuilder who never competed professionally. Matt has a long history of horrible conditions that have kept him from reaching his full ability and earning his pro card.
Despite his bad luck, he persisted in his dream until his body began to fail after years of rigorous bodybuilding.
This is his story:
The Accomplishments of Matt Mendenhall (Mr. Genetics)
- 1978 Mr Ohio High School, 1st
- 1979 Teenage Mr Ohio, 3rd
- 1980 Teen Mr. Metropolitan, 1st and Open winner
- 1980 Mr. Ohio Association, 3rd
- 1981 Mr Cincinnati 1st,
- 1981 Buckeye Open, 1st
- 1982 NPC Nationals, 2nd
- 1983 NPC Nationals, 4th
- 1984 NPC Nationals, 2nd
- 1985 NPC USA Championships, 1st
- 1985 IFBB World Games, 2nd
- 1986 NPC Nationals, 2nd
- 1987 NPC Nationals, 10th
- 1988 NPC Nationals, 11th
- 1991 NPC Nationals, 5th
Matt Mendenhall’s Early Years
Matt was born into a fitness-obsessed family in Cincinnati, Ohio; three of his siblings were bodybuilders, two of whom competed while he was a toddler.
Matt did not grow up following family tradition. He was a football fanatic who also liked pole vaulting.
His amazing genetics, on the other hand, enabled him to build an incredible physique without ever setting foot in a gym.
Matt Mendenhall’s Injury and Gym Attendance
Matt suffered a terrible forearm injury while pole-vaulting when he was 15 years old in 1975. He was on the point of having his forearm amputated at the moment, and the doctor cautioned him that it would not fully heal.
On the other side, his siblings encouraged him to never give up. Under their guidance, he went to the gym and began weight-lifting rehabilitation.
He rapidly disproved his doctor, regaining full use of his forearm and packing on incredible muscle mass to his frame.
First Bodybuilding Competition of Matt Mendenhall
Matt had sculpted an impressive physique three years after beginning to lift weights in the gym. He’d outmuscled all of his classmates in his senior year and appeared to be a seasoned bodybuilder.
Matt joined his first competition, Mr. Ohio High School, at the age of 17 in 1978, with encouragement from his family and school sports teacher.
Matt won despite the fact that he had no preparation, posing expertise, or tan. He won the award for his first appearance.
Matt recognized his ability to flourish in the profession at this point.
Series of Unfortunate Events in Matt Mendenhall’s Life
Over the next seven years, Matt competed in nine more events, winning four of them. Despite finishing second on several occasions, Matt lost with dignity – in 1982, at the age of 22, he was defeated by future legend Lee Haney.
He was never able to realize his genetic potential due to a series of awful ailments and tragedies.
In 1983, he became ill three weeks before the NPC Nationals. He lost a significant amount of weight and condition while mending, but he returned to the stage when his parents arrived at the concert, ready to watch him fight.
He was in a car accident a year later and was flung out the front window. Despite his ability to recover and compete in peak condition, he was controversially defeated to first place by Mike Christian – the crowd was furious, and this decision would be questioned for years to come.
However, at the age of 25, Matt achieved extraordinary success in 1985. He won the heavyweight division in the NPC USA Championships. This victory qualifies him for that year’s World Games.
Matt Mendenhall’s Short Break from Bodybuilding
Matt was jetlagged and exhausted from his trip to London for the start of the 1985 NPC World Games. As a result, he retained a significant amount of fluid during the tournament and was vanquished by a shredded Berry DeMey.
Matt felt ill again after finishing second at the NPC Nationals in 1986. His body was not responding well to the pressures of professional bodybuilding, and he considered retirement.
He elected to retire from the sport after finishing 10th and 11th at the 1987 and 1988 NPC Nationals, his lowest finishes in his career.
For the next three years, he went to college to study homeopathy and started his own supplement company.
Matt Mendenhall’s last show and retirement
Matt competed in the 1991 NPC Nationals after Joe Weider repeatedly asked him to return to professional bodybuilding. Despite not winning, he ended in a respectable fifth place.
At the age of 31, Matt made his final stage appearance.
After retiring from the sport, Matt moved to Texas and launched a personal training business. Matt had left the industry as a legend, regardless of his competitive experience.
The Passing of Matt Mendenhall
Matt died at the age of 61 on August 28, 2021. At the time of writing, his cause of death had not been made public.
Matt Mendenhall Training
Matt’s maximum rep range, depending on the exercise, was 6-30 repetitions in groups of 4-5 reps.
With the exception of the legs, he loved training to failure and performed forced reps in every exercise.
Chest Workout (Monday and Thursday)
- Incline dumbbell press: 5 sets x 6 to 8 reps with 130 lb [59 kg]
- Flat dumbbell press: 5 x 6 to 8 with 130 lb [59 kg]
- Flat or incline flies: 5 x 6 to 8 with 70 lb [32 kg]
- Barbell decline press: 4 x 6 with 340 lb [154 kg]
- Dumbbell pull–overs: 4 x 10 with 130 lb [59 kg] • Cable crossovers: 4 x 10 with 120 lb [55 kg]
Back Workout (Monday and Thursday)
- Wide–grip chins 4 x 8 to 10
- T–bar rows: 4 x 8 to 10 with 275 lb [125 kg]
- Lat pull–downs (front): 4 x 10 with 250 lb [114 kg]
- Seated rows: 4 x 8 with 250 lb [114 kg]
- Lat pull–downs (rear): 4 x 10 with 200 lb [91 kg]
- Hyperextensions: 4 x 12
- Dumbbell bent–over rows: 4 x 10 with 120 lb [55 kg]
(Note: Deadlifts are an important element of my back training, but I discontinue them around 6 weeks before the competition to minimize injury.)
Shoulders Workout (Tuesday and Friday)
- Behind–neck press: 5 x 8 with 190 lb [86 kg]
- Side lateral raises: 5 x 8 with 50 lb [23 kg]
- Rear delt bent–over laterals: 5 x 8 with 80 lb [36 kg]
- Shoulder shrugs: 5 x 8 with 405 lb [184 kg]
- Upright rows: 3 x 8 with 145 lb [66 kg]
Biceps Workout (Tuesday and Friday)
- Standing dumbbell curls: 4 x 8 with 65 lb [29 kg]
- Preacher curls: 4 x 8 with 120 lb [54 kg]
- Standing barbell curls: 4 x 8 with 150 lb [68 kg]
- Concentration dumbbell curls: 4 x 8 with 40 lb [18 kg]
Triceps Workout (Tuesday and Friday)
- Lying French extensions: 4 x 8 with 140 lb [64 kg]
- Seated French extensions: 4 x 8 with 130 lb [59 kg]
- Push–downs: 4 x 8 with 150 lb [68 kg]
- Dumbbell extensions: 4 x 8 with 40 lb [18 kg]
Forearms Workout (Friday)
- Reverse curls: 4 x 8 with 100 lb [45 kg]
- Wrist curls: 4 x 12 with 100 lb [45 kg]
Thighs Workout (Wednesday and Saturday)
- Squats: 5 x 6 to 10 with 405 to 550 lb [184 to 250 kg]
- Hack squats: 4 x 8 with 250 lb [114 kg]
- Leg curls: 5 x 10 with 120 lb [54 kg]
- Thigh extensions: 5 x 10 with 200 lb [91 kg]
(Note: The last 3 weeks I add 4 sets of front and side lunges for separation.)
Calves Workout (Wednesday and Saturday)
- Standing calf machine: 5 x 10 with 800 lb [364 kg]
- Seated calf raises: 5 x 8 with 300 lb [137 kg]
- Toe raises on leg press: 5 x 10 with 400 lb [182 kg]
- Donkey raises: 5 x 10 to 12
Core Workout (Everyday)
- Hanging leg raises: 4 x 30
- Sit–ups: 4 x 30
- Lying leg raises: 4 x 30
Matt Mendenhall’s Nutrition
When competing, Matt would limit his calories around 1800 to stay in good shape. He’d cut off junk food and tried to limit his fat intake as much as possible.
Matt, on the other hand, never watched his carbs like other bodybuilders. His diet consisted of lean proteins, complex carbs, fruits, and vegetables.
Matt cooked all of his meats and vegetables in a steamer.
Matt’s diet would have looked like this:
- Meal 1: Protein smoothie made with bananas, apple juice, and ice.
- Meal No. 2 – A piece of fruit
- Meal 3 consists of fish or chicken with veggies.
- Meal 4 consists of fish or chicken with veggies.
- Whey Protein
- Vitamin B
- Vitamin C
Idols and Influences of Matt Mendenhall
Matt’s family has always been there for him since he started weight training, and he credits them as important influences in his quest.
His brothers encouraged him to compete in bodybuilding and trained with him throughout his career.
What Matt Mendenhall have taught us
Matt has taught us that no matter what occurs, we should never give up on our dreams. Despite suffering from horrific events just weeks before, he stood on stage at a number of competitions.
Matt’s story teaches us that winning prizes isn’t everything in life. Despite finishing second on multiple occasions and never becoming a professional bodybuilder, he is widely regarded as one of the sport’s best athletes.