Joe Weider’s Weight Gain Contest (1955)

jma0101 - Dec 55.jpg

In December of 1955, Joe Weider published the first issue of Junior Mr. America magazine. Aimed at teenagers and young men between the ages of 12 to 21, Junior Mr. America highlighted the importance of the younger community for bodybuilding entrepreneurs. Packed with training, dating and general life advice, the magazine was viewed by many teenagers as a godsend.

For Weider, the magazine was a chance to market his products to the highly enthusiastic and highly gullible. Something he did with gusto. Pictured above is the magazine’s first cover, featuring Clement Desjardins, the Jr. Mr. Canada of 1955. Aged just 18 years old, Desjardin had only taken up training two years previously at the behest of his friends. Beginning at just 125 lbs., Desjardin weighed 170 by the time he turned 18. Something which Weider attributed to Desjardin’s faithful following of the Weider training principals.

Now as part of the first issue (Dec 1955), Joe wrote an article that kicked off what he called a “Giant Weight Gaining Contest.” This contest would not take place within the confines of an arena but rather within Joe’s new publication.

The Ground Rules


Contestants for the Competition were told to rest at least eight hours a day, workout three days a week and most importantly, build as much muscle mass as possible within one calendar month. Unsurprisingly, readers were encouraged to follow good nutritional guidelines, which included a hearty consumption of Weider protein powders.

In the interest of fairness, Weider stipulated that all contestants follow the exact same training programme, which was as follows

  1. Squats (3 sets of 8-10 reps)

  2. Bench Press (3 sets of 8-10 reps)

  3. Bent Arm Laterals/Flyes (3 sets of 8-10 reps)

  4. Upright Rowing (3 sets of 8-10 reps)

  5. Bent Over Rowing (3 sets of 8-10 reps)

  6. Barbell Curls (3 sets of 8-10 reps)

  7. Lying Triceps Curls (3 sets of 8-10 reps)

  8. Sit Ups (3 sets of 8-10 reps)

Additional Pointers

  • Do not follow any other sporting or athletic activities during this time. Focus solely on weight training
  • Start with eight reps on all sets and work your way up to ten. Once you can do ten reps across all three sets, you increase the weight.
  • Choose a weight that is heavy enough for you to barely complete the set without losing your form.
  • No smoking or junk food!

What to Expect?

 According to the King of Bodybuilding Hyperbole, Joe Weider, the average weight gain for one month on this programme was 10 lbs.! This made it an ‘ideal routine for building bulk’ in the words of its creator.

More realistically, the above routine would certainly be of immense benefit to beginners starting out or even advanced trainees looking to try something new. While the average ten pound gain Joe and his subsequent contestants described undoubtedly included fat tissue, the routine is by all accounts solid.

If nothing else Weider’s ‘Weight Gaining Contest’ demonstrated how important Weider’s systems were for introducing thousands to the gymnasium, and stemming from this, how Weider became the successful businessman he was.

As always, happy training!

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