Mr. Genetics, Matt Mendenhall, was one of the most promising kids in 1982, along with Lee Haney. He is regarded as the greatest bodybuilder who never competed professionally. Matt has a long line of terrible diseases that have prevented him from reaching his full potential and acquiring his pro card.
Despite his terrible luck, he didn’t give up on his dream until his body began to break down after years of hard bodybuilding.
Here’s 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 in Cincinnati, Ohio, into a fitness-obsessed family; three of his siblings were bodybuilders, two of whom competed when he was a toddler.
Matt did not follow family tradition in his early years. He was an avid football player who also enjoyed pole vaulting.
His incredible genetics, on the other hand, allowed him to create a fantastic physique without ever setting foot in a gym.
Injury and Entering the Gym
Matt suffered a devastating forearm injury during pole-vaulting at the age of 15 in 1975. At this time, he was on the verge of having his forearm amputated, and the doctor warned him that it would not entirely recover.
His siblings, on the other hand, pushed him to never give up. He attended the gym and began weight-lifting rehabilitation under their supervision.
He quickly proved his doctor wrong, regaining full use of his forearm and packing on an astounding amount of muscle mass to his physique.
Matt Mendenhall’s First Bodybuilding Competition
Matt had sculpted an outstanding figure three years after starting to lift weights in the gym. In his senior year, he’d outmuscled all of his classmates and appeared to be a seasoned bodybuilder.
Matt entered his first competition, the Mr. Ohio High School show, in 1978, at the age of 17, with encouragement from his family and school sports teacher.
Matt won despite having no preparation, posing experience, or tan. He walked away with the award from his debut.
Matt saw his potential to excel in the industry at this point.
Series of Unfortunate Events in Matt Mendenhall’s Life
Matt competed in 9 more tournaments over the next 7 years, winning four of them. Although he finished second on multiple occasions, Matt lost with dignity – in 1982, at the age of 22, he lost to future legend Lee Haney.
However, due to a succession of terrible diseases and incidents, he was never able to achieve his genetic potential.
He caught the sick three weeks before the NPC Nationals in 1983. While healing, he lost a large amount of weight and condition, but he returned to the stage once his parents arrived at the show, eager to see him fight.
A year later, he was in a car accident and was thrown out the front window. Despite his ability to recuperate and compete in his best shape, he was controversially defeated to first place by Mike Christian – the crowd was enraged, and this judgment would be questioned for years to come.
But, at the age of 25, Matt experienced exceptional success in 1985. He competed in the NPC USA Championships and won the heavyweight division. This victory qualified him for the World Games that year.
Matt Mendenhall’s Short Break from Bodybuilding
Matt was jetlagged and fatigued from his travel to London by the time the 1985 NPC World Games began. As a result, he retained a lot of fluid during the competition, and he was defeated by a shredded Berry DeMey.
Matt became unwell again after finishing second at the 1986 NPC Nationals. His body was not coping well with the stresses of professional bodybuilding, and he began to ponder retiring.
After finishing 10th and 11th in the 1987 and 1988 NPC Nationals, his lowest finishes in his career, he chose to retire from the sport.
For the next three years, he enrolled in college to study homeopathy and launched his own supplement firm.
Last show and Retirement of Matt Mendenhall
Matt competed in the 1991 NPC Nationals after being asked numerous times by Joe Weider to return to professional bodybuilding. Although he did not win, he finished in a respectable fifth place.
Matt has made his final stage appearance at the age of 31.
Matt relocated to Texas after retiring from the sport and started a personal training business. Regardless of his competitive experience, Matt had departed the industry as a legend.
The Passing of Matt Mendenhall
Matt died on August 28, 2021, at the age of 61. His cause of death had not been made public at the time of writing.
Matt’s peak rep range was 6-30 repetitions in groups of 4-5 reps, depending on the exercise.
Except for legs, he preferred exercising to failure and completed 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 a major part of my back training, but I stop doing them about 6 weeks prior to the contest to avoid 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
Matt would keep his calories at 1800 when competing to stay in top shape. He’d eliminated junk food from his diet and kept his fat intake as low as possible.
Unlike other bodybuilders, though, Matt never checked his carbs. He designed his diet to include lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables.
Matt used a steamer to cook all of his meats and vegetables.
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 supported him since he began weight training, and he credits them as his key influences throughout his journey.
His brothers encouraged him to pursue bodybuilding and trained alongside him throughout his career.
What we can learn from Matt Mendenhall
Matt has taught us to never give up on our dreams, no matter what happens. Despite suffering from terribly bad occurrences just weeks prior, he nonetheless appeared on stage at a number of competitions.
We can learn from Matt’s tale that winning awards isn’t everything in life. Despite finishing second on numerous occasions and never becoming a professional bodybuilder, he is acknowledged as one of the sport’s finest athletes.