Although bodybuilding is known for having its fair share of impressive transformations, there is perhaps no weight loss tale as impressive as that of Bruce Randall. In 1955 Randall was a 400lbs. athlete interested in nothing but lifting heavier weights. Three years later, he was not only competing in, but winning, bodybuilding shows at a weight of 212 lbs!
Randall’s weight loss was enough to make the Biggest Loser seem like an exercise in sane weight loss. So who was Bruce Randall? How did he get so heavy and how did he become Mr. Universe in 1959?
Who was Bruce Randall?
Well up until the age of 20, Randall was someone who had never made his way into a gym. In fact, it was only was Bruce was a few months shy of his 21st birthday that he began earnestly lifting weights. This was in 1953. Bear in mind that within six years Randall was one of the biggest names in bodybuilding. It’s fair to say that he took to the hobby quite well!
Having recently progressed to adulthood Bruce joined the Marines at this time, where his interest in weightlifting quickly increased. The regimental nature of Marine life meant that Randall was able to schedule workouts quite easily. Coupled with this, as a budding soldier, all of his meals were generously provided by Uncle Sam. It was a recipe for success. Under the tutelage of Chief Petty Officer Walter Metzler, Randall set his eyes on becoming a member of the base’s football team. Lighter in weight than his fellow athletes, he set a goal weight of 225lbs. A bulk of 22lbs. would suffice.
As Randall later recounted, he easily achieved his target owing to the marine canteen.
In order to increase my food intake, each time I sat down to a meal I would take an extra chop, glass of milk, loaf of bread etc. before leaving the table. By doing this at every meal, (and I made it a point never to miss a meal), my stomach seemed to stretch in order to accommodate the increase in food. Also my digestion, assimilation and other body functions stepped up to take care of the increase.
Within six weeks Randall had reached his goal weight. Having achieved this weight so quickly and with the encouragement of Metzler, Randall decided to see just how heavy he could become. His dream of playing football was replaced with dreams of lifting heavier and heavier weights.
How did he become so heavy?
Aside from the mass of calories Randall ingested on a daily basis, there is something quite remarkable about his bulking routine. Whereas contemporaries, such as Peary Rader, were adamant that aggressive bulking routines should be complimented with workout programmes comprised of the compound lifts, Randall initially devoted all his attention to his arms.
That’s right. For the opening months of his bulking routine, Randall trained nothing but arms. Eventually Randall shifted his training preference to something like this:
- Dumbbell Bench Press – 3 x 5-8, 120 lbs.
- Decline Dumbbell Bench Press – 3 x 5-8, 130 lbs.
- Incline Barbell Press – 3 x 5-8, 250 lbs.
- Good Mornings – 3 x 3-5, 295 lbs.
Based on how he felt on particular days, Randall added or substituted exercises. Similarly he rested as long as he felt was necessary in between sets. His focus turned from his biceps to the rest of his body, Randall continued his Herculean eating habits, much to the dismay of the Marine chefs.
I used to astound the cooks and men when I sat down to eat. Breakfasts consisting of two quarts of milk, a loaf and a half of bread and 28 fried eggs were not uncommon. I ate four meals a day and never ate between meals unless it was milk. I usually ate breakfast at 6:30, lunch at 11:30, supper at 4:30 and a meal at 9:30 just before bed.
Milk was taken in great quantities with an average of 8 to 10 quarts per day. An average of 12 to 18 eggs per day also comprised my diet. I once drank 19 quarts of milk in one day in addition to regular meals, and once had 171 eggs at breakfast during the course of a week. The boys used to keep score!
To put this into perspective, Randy Roach calculated that if accurate, Randall’s meals constituted about 15,000 calories per day. When Randall was discharged from the Marines in 1954, he weighed 342 lbs. A weight gain of 139 lbs. in just 14 months. Perhaps the most successful bulk in the sport!
Back in civilian life, Randall’s eating habits continued and then some. Within months he closing in on 400lbs. His extra weight served him well in the gym and by the end of 1954, Randall boasted the following lifts:
- 375lbs. Bench Press
- 680lbs. Squat
- 770lbs Deadlift
This being of total of 1,795 lbs. in the main compound lifts. Strong by anyone’s standards!
A turning point came in August of 1955 when Randall weighed in at 401lbs. According to Bruce, he decided to “look at life from the other side of the weight picture” by dramatically reducing his bodysize. His path to the Mr. Universe had begun.
How did Randall become Mr. Universe?
When Bruce first told his friends that he intended to lose weight, the general reaction was that of disbelief. After all, Randall had spent years eating everything in sight in his quest to become stronger. To expect someone to do change their habits so drastically was inconceivable for many.
Randall was methodical in his approach. Indeed he later explained his thought process on the whole ordeal
Take a sculptor about to create a statue. He takes a big, ungainly piece of rock and with his hammer and chisel he chips away at the rock until he creates the desired effect. Well, I was that big ungainly hulk of rock and dumbbells and barbells were my hammer and chisel. I also had something on my side that the sculptor does not have, Diet.
In contrast to his previous eating habits, Randall adopted a minimal eating pattern, eventually settling into the following diet:
- 2 soft boiled eggs
- Plain pint of skim milk
- Glass of orange juice
- Salad, dates & nuts
- Round Steak
- Two vegetables
- Quart skim milk with additional powdered milk
- Coffee (Occasionally)
Similarly Randall changed his training style. Whereas previously he utilised low reps (3-5), the leaner Randall now used 12 – 15 reps alongside sets ranging from 6 – 20 per body part.
Outside of the gym Randall took up running and also reportedly did thousands of sit-ups in his free time, which he felt slimmed his waist.
By March 1956, Randall weighed 183lbs.
In just 32 weeks, he had dropped 218lbs. To put that into perspective, The Biggest Loser, America’s guilty pleasure, once saw a contestant lost 264lbs. over several months!
Bruce actually competed in the 1956 Mr. America event where he placed 13th. Prior to the competition he had increased his weight up to 219 lbs., showing what remarkable control he had over his weight.
1957 would see Randal place 6th in the same competition weighing 195 lbs. His off season weight now hovered between 230lbs and 240lbs, a far cry from his 400lbs. days. In 1959, Randall came in at 231 lbs. at the NABBA Mr. Universe contest where he won the event, truly completing his remarkable weightloss journey.
When asked what lessons he had learnt from his dietary experimentations, Randall stated just two things:
Ask and ye shall receive and the Lord helps those who help themselves
Top level bodybuilding has yet to encounter another weightloss journey comparable to that of Bruce Randall.