You’ve got to have been living under a rock if you don’t know who Mike Katz is. Along with Arnold Schwarzenegger, he is possibly one of the most famous bodybuilders out there. He has inspired generations of weightlifters to reach for new heights and not let fear or physical limitations stop them from achieving their goals.
Instead, through his own struggles as a child – where no one believed he could pursue a career as a footballer like his father – he went on to become famous in not 1 but 2 professions: football AND bodybuilding.
What’s most impressive to us though is his successes in bodybuilding.
For every gain he made, he achieved it 100% naturally! No steroids. No synthetic products. Only pure grit, determination and endless bounds of stamina. And who cannot admire a guy for that? He is living proof that hard work and dedication is always the best way to achieve success in bodybuilding AND in life.
Who is Mike Katz?
A former NFL player and IFBB professional bodybuilder, Mike Katz is probably best known for his cameo in Pumping Iron in 1977 (with Arnold Schwarzenegger), as well as his guest appearance in 2011 documentary Challenging Impossibility. Yet these are only surface details. The story of Mike Katz’s life in general is impressive, but wait till you see all his accomplishments: the list seems endless! First, check out this video, which I think sums his life up quite right!
What are his accomplishments?
So, as promised, the list of accomplishments. Bear in mind though, this list is about bodybuilding alone! God this list so remarkable, it is hard to wrap your head around. Aside from his football career with the NFL where he earned the title ‘superhuman’, Mike Katz has also got an impressive bodybuilding history.
Just take a look at his Mike Katz’s bodybuilder record:
- 1963 Mr. Connecticut 2nd
- 1963 Mr. Insurance City 9th
- 1964 AAU Teen Mr. America; 4th Place
- 1964 AAU Teen Mr. America Most Muscular, 5th Place
- 1965 Mr. New England States 1st
- 1969 IFBB Mr. America Tall, 40th Place
- 1970 IFBB Mr. America Tall & Overall, 4th Place
- 1970 AAU Mr. East Coast Tall & Overall, 4th Place
- 1971 IFBB Universe Tall, 3rd Place
- 1971 Beat Brandon Lewi for the Heavyweight Championship of the World
- 1972 IFBB Mr. International Tall, 4th Place
- 1972 IFBB Universe Tall, 4th Place
- 1973 IFBB Universe Tall, 3rd Place
- 1974 IFBB Mr. International Tall, – 4th Place
- 1975 IFBB Universe Tall, 4th Place
- 1976 Mr. Olympia Over 200lbs, 2nd Place
- 1980 NBA Natural Mr. America Professional, 4th Place
- 1980 IFBB World Pro Championships Did Not Place
- 1980 Retired after losing to Cooper Hayman in the National Strongman Competition
- 1981 Mr. Olympia 15th Place
Even as a teenager, he showed a passion for the sport. But it was only after he injured his knee in 1968 that he re-entered the bodybuilding world in a professional capacity.
Mike Katz biography
Born November 14th, 1944 in New Haven Connecticut, Mike Katz is still alive, kicking and working out at the impressive age of 74 years old (2018). Let’s have a look at his amazing journey!
Mike Katz personal life
Mike Katz’s story seems to have it all, yet his life hasn’t always been perfect…
When he was a child, he suffered from anti-Semitism bullying and nasty remarks about his small statue and glasses. Whilst he tried to fight back against these bullies and defend himself, he sadly didn’t know how and this ended up greatly affecting his confidence- especially as his father was a well-known footballer and sporting athlete.
When asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, no one took Katz’s dream seriously about wanting to be a footballer like his father. They didn’t think he could do it.
Now, whilst others would have let this keep them down, with Katz it didn’t.
Instead, all of this – the bullying, the low self-esteem – all of it helped to motivate and inspire him to train. He was determined that he could and would become bigger, stronger and more confident than everyone else. So he signed up for the Weider courses, followed their manual and used empty milk crates to create a makeshift bench.
He was determined to succeed and he did – in more ways than one.
Thanks to this drive, passion and determination, he went on to become one of the strongest NFL players to ever play for the New York Jets, before becoming a professional IFBB bodybuilder.
Even out of the spotlight, Mike Katz is a force to be reckoned with.
He opened his first gym, a World Gym franchise with his training partner Jerry Mastrangelo in 1979, before going on to open more in North Haven, Branford, Guildford, Hamden and East Haven (switched to the Planet Fitness Franchise in 2004). In fact, they are now considered to be the biggest gym operators in the New Haven region. Unbelievable!
He currently co-owns and manages each of these with his son Mike Katz Jr. and still plays an active role working alongside customers and trainers.
You could say he lives, breathes and thrives in all things bodybuilding.
Mike Katz football career
Even in his pro football days, Mike Katz was a massive fan of weight training. His knowledge and thirst for the subject earned him the nicknames ‘Superhuman’ and Big Mike Katz. Yet it is little wonder that he was called these names given that he was one of the strongest NFL players for the New York Jets during the 1950s.
Renowned for being a strong and fearsome athlete, he would spend every Friday night before a game lifting weights – despite being advised not to as it could make him robotic on the field. He knew weight training would help to make him stronger and faster than his competition, so he continued to pack on the muscle and develop his athleticism.
The only reason Katz left football was due to a serious injury to his knee in 1968.
He injured it a year before the Superbowl, and although he underwent knee surgery, he was never given the chance to properly recover. Instead, he was advised to play 6 more games of his final season on a knee that needed to be operated on.
It was only through his sheer strength and size that he was able to battle on and play through the pain.
Who else can honestly claim to have such willpower? His title of being ‘Superhuman’ is more than accurate in our books.
Mike Katz bodybuilding career
As a child, Katz was influenced by Steve Reeves film Hercules. So much so that even at a young age he knew muscles would be a big part of his future.
At only 15 (1959), he entered his first bodybuilding competition ‘teen YMCA’ in Waterbury. From then on, he spent every weekend during his summer breaks competing in regional contests.
Sadly, there are no records of where he came during the first few years of these particular competitions, but when he was eighteen he placed 10th in Mr Nutmeg State and was declared Mr Teen Connecticut.
Football became his focus during college, so it was only after he got injured in 1968 that he considered building a career in bodybuilding.
And build a career he did…
In 1969 he joined the IFBB and placed second in the tall class at the Mr American in New York, before winning the title the following year. And from here he went from strength to strength…
In fact, whilst he may have been considered one of the 1970s bodybuilding underdogs; if you take a look at his stats he placed within the top 5 in most of his competitions:
- In 1972, he won IFBB Mr World, as well as best back, best chest and most muscular at the White Plans Country Center
- In 1975 he came 4th in the Mr Universe competition (in the tall class division)
- He placed second in the heavyweight class in his first Mr Olympia in 1976
- He took a few years off to do guest-posing appearances before ending his competitive career with 15th place at the Mr Olympia in 1981
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Mike Katz and the Pumping Iron film
Some might say that Mike Katz’s Pumping Iron appearance is what really got him noticed, especially the scene where Ken Keller stole his t-shirt. This moment proved why Mike Katz was considered to have the best chest – you can’t look away!
The documentary itself was filmed in 1977, and was constructed of partly real and partly scripted documentaries that followed the journeys of amateur participants Lou Ferringno, Franco Columbu and Arnold Schwarzenegger (yes the man himself) as they entered Mr Universe, and Mike Katz and Ken Waller (the pros) as they entered Mr Olympia.
Now, whilst this documentary these days is better known for being the beginning of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career, for us this will always be one of Katz’s biggest debuts.
Mike Katz training and nutrition
Whilst Katz’s football manager would often talk about Katz’s weightlifting regime; the real intensity and dedication of his training is best captured in Pumping Iron.
At the time he would work out his entire body for 1.5 hours incorporating cardiovascular workouts with strength training (no rest between sets). In particular they would do drop sets as the main bulk of their training session.
Pretty extreme, right? Well, before he moved to California and appeared in this documentary Katz would work out for even longer than this – 3-4 hours every session! It was only when he was introduced to Arnold that he decided to reduce the length of his sessions. Incredible!
In terms of nutrition, Katz would typically eat: 4lbs of meat a day, pasta every three days, protein shakes twice a day, and oatmeal, fruit and eggs to boost his energy levels. He would also eat large quantities of food that contained cholesterol. Eating these helped him to handle his intense workouts.
Katz also never took any steroids or synthetic products. The only thing he would take was desiccated liver tablets.
Was Mike Katz a steroid user or natural bodybuilder?
There is no doubt that Katz has had an impressive career. From his years as a pro footballer, to his bodybuilding days, to his current work as a gym franchise owner – his achievements are unbelievable.
Yet for us, one of the most remarkable things about Mike Katz bodybuilder career is the fact that he never – and we mean NEVER – took any steroids. All his muscle mass achievements were 100% natural and earned from years of slogging away in the gym.
And this is extraordinary when you consider that the 1970s was considered the golden age of bodybuilding. At the time, practically all the big bodybuilders indulged in steroid injections as they were still legal.
Yet Katz never did…
He stands alone in this area, which makes his successes within the bodybuilding world all the more impressive.
What we can learn from Mike Katz
Where to start?! He has achieved and done so much, that he is truly an inspiration to us all.
Even his actions as a child speak of his character. He overcame adversity, bullying and ridicule (for his religion and appearance), and instead of letting it wear him down, he proved them all wrong. He grabbed onto this negativity and used it to motivate himself into working out, lifting weights and becoming one of the fiercest NFL players of his time.
A career that no one believed he would ever be capable of doing!
Hell, he was even described as ‘Superhuman’ for all the games he played with a knee injury. He persevered and played despite how debilitating the pain was.
Then of course there is his bodybuilding career.
Throughout the 60s, 70s and even the 80s; he demonstrated huge strength and passion, and drew positive attention to the field. He never indulged in steroids or other synthetic products – even though at the time they were the norm – but continued to build upon his immense size and strength simply through his powerful workout routine.
And once again he proved how even the smallest, the skinniest or the weakest of us can become sporting legends. If he can do it, then so can you.
Mike Katz now – what is he doing nowadays?
You might think his career has always been full of glitz and glamor, but in truth, Mike Katz is just like everyone else. He may have gone pro football and succeeded in becoming a world-renowned bodybuilder, but upon graduating from college in 1966 he worked as a Junior High School gym teacher for over 33 years (he only retired from this role in 1999!).
Even when he was still competing, his managed to open his first gym – a World Gym franchise (1979). Since then he has succeeded in building a thriving franchise of five gyms (the name switched to Planet Fitness Franchise in 2004) which he runs and manages with the help of his son, Mike Katz Jr.
He also still judges the occasional bodybuilding contest, including the Olympia which he has done a few times over the years.
More impressively, he still trains to 4-5 times a week and runs at his gym. He is 74 years old!
Add all of this together and what you have got is someone who is as easily successful today as he was during his competing years.
At 74, he is not slowing down. Whilst most of us would be happily retired or lazing around by then; Mike Katz today is still as active as he was in his youth.
And this is all down to how well he treats his body…
His commitment to natural bodybuilding, has freed him from the negative side effects of many popular anabolic steroids, and has ensured than even in sickness he is strong.
What happened to him in 2011 is a clear example of this. He suffered from an aortic aneurysm which should have killed him. However, according to his doctors, thanks to the excellent shape and condition of his body he survived.
Yet he has done more than survive. He is still as healthy as a fox, and able to put many of us to shame with his 4-5 workout sessions per week.
And let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment shall we – how many times do you hit the gym each week? Once, twice, may three times if you’re lucky? Yep, thought so – it is probably nowhere near as much as Katz that is to be sure.