Grimek’s Workout, 7 November, 2000
I reprinted a terrific article on Grimek’s training in an early issue of the Dinosaur Files. The author was Joe Berg, and the article was titled, I believe, “The Greatest Physique Story Ever Told.” It originally ran in S&H in the early 50’s. The premise of the article was as follows:
(1) Grimek had a unique look that other bodybuilders and lifters did not have: athletic, well balanced, well proportioned, and with excellent posture.
(2) Grimek not only looked strong, he was strong.
(3) Grimek looked the way he did in part because of the wide variety of basic, stand on your feet barbell exercises he did as a young man, including OL work, continental presses, one hand snatches, presses in the bridge position, squats, straddle lifts, side presses, one hand swings and bent presses…all exercises that hit the low back, hips and spine very, very hard. The old Mark Berry books and courses are illustrated by Grimek and you can see in them the incredible development that these exercises produced. (Bill Hinbern sells reprints, guys…hint, hint…)
(3a) Note that Joe Hise also commented on Grimek’s carriage and posture. This led Hise to suggest programs that contributed to erect carriage and posture as part of a basic foundation for aspiring lifters. In turn, this led him to the Hise shrug.
(3b) Harry Paschall always noted that Grimek never did flat bench presses, and that doing so would have marred his physique.
(4) During the 30’s, Grimek had long periods of time where he just did OL work…and never looked better.
(5) The isolation style bodybuilding methods that came into vogue in the 50’s (and that continue to be in vogue today) did not and cannot build a body like Grimek’s.
As a further note, Hoffman reported that Grimek’s favorite exercise was the continental press. He regularly handled 300 plus pounds in this exercise.
More on Grimek, 8 November, 2000
According to Hoffman and Paschall, Grimek did incline dumbbell presses and incline dumbbell flies. When he was editor of MD later in his life, Grimek said he did lots of decline presses and that he preferred them to incline presses. I have never heard or read about Grimek doing dips, although he did lots of gymnastics and hand balancing.
Really, what Grimek did for his chest is not important. What matters is how he built his foundation: heavy barbell exercises, including lots of squats, cleans, snatches, military presses, continental presses, side presses, bent presses, presses while in a high neck bridge, stiff legged deadlifts, straddle lifts, heavy db presses, one hand swings and one hand snatches. That sort of training was the key to the Grimek physique. Don’t ask “What did JCG do for arms?” or “what did JCG do for chest?” What matters is what he did to build his foundation.
As a further note, Grimek once wrote an article in S&H (late 50’s or early 60’s) in which he labeled the clean and press as the best single exercise a man can do.
Hinbern’s Lifting Tape w/ Grimek, 8 November, 2000
It’s a great tape. One of JCG’s interesting stunts is to press a heavy barbell—I’m going by memory, but I think it was 200 pounds plus—and then casually toss it up and let it fall—and catch it EASILY in the crook of the elbows, right below the biceps. He laughs and smiles as he does this.
Grimek was just incredible. He was fearless when it came to heavy lifting. He once put a 400 pound bar on his shoulder and tried to bent press it, just to see what it felt like. He said he actually pressed it, arm fully extended, as he dropped into a squatting position, but could not stand up to complete the lift. Think of that. “Gosh, I wonder what it feels like to bent press 400 pounds. Think I’ll give it a try.” Good Lord!
More on Grimek’s Arms, 14 November, 2000
The conventional pre-steroid wisdom always linked upper arm size to wrist size. For example, in Muscle Molding, Harry B. Paschall (a personal friend of JCG), referenced JCG’s 18 ̋” upper arms, 14” forearms, 27” thighs, 10 ̋” ankles and 8” wrists. Harry wrote:
“Are you willing to accept the Grimek standard? Personally, I am more than satisfied, but I should like to call your attention to a couple of important Grimek girths before you sue me for not making you an exact duplicate of John. Cast your optics on those wrists and ankles. Big bones, hey, kid? If you are like me, with 7 inch wrists and 9 inch ankles, you’re gonna have a tough time getting those 18 inch biceps and 27 inch thighs. … “
Nowadays, steroids and muscle pumping have changed things around, and you see lots of huge upper arms tapering down to non-existent wrists, but if you look back to the guys who did it with heavy exercise and NO DRUGS—such as Grimek—Harry’s observation seems to hold up pretty well. And if you consider that most guys with thick wrists are going to be able to build thick forearms, you pretty much have to agree with Joe.
Also, for the record, Grimek had STRONG forearms and wrists and a STRONG grip. He was able to clean the famous, thick handled Cyr Dumbbell with one hand—and then bent press it—whereas most lifters cannot one hand deadlift the bell. (In fact, Grimek got so good at handling this dumbbell that he decided to make it heavier—so he took the lead plates that had been typeset with Jowett’s The Key to Might and Muscle, the rights to which York had acquired from the Milo Barbell Co., chopped them up and used them to load the bell to a heavier weight. That’s why the book remained out of print for so long!) And Grimek still holds the world record in the weaver stick lift, a classic test of wrist strength.
BTW…re JCG’s arms…his favorite triceps exercise was a close grip military press (close meaning perhaps shoulder width or just a bt closer), beginning the lift with a SLOW start. After a certain point in his career he developed elbow problems and stopped doing curls; thereafter, he trained his biceps exclusively with close grip supinated pulldowns to the chest. Before that, though, he was a heck of a curler—Oscar Heidenstam reports seeing him knock out reps with 190 pounds in the warmup room at the Mr. Universe contest. His favorite forearm exercise was the good old fashioned wrist roller exercise. He would do these with 25 pounds, holding the wrist roller at arm’s length in front of him (the hard way to do them). Paschall ran a photo of JCG in his little booklet, Muscular Arms and Shoulders, where Grimek is doing this exercise and laughing as he does it.
For anyone not familiar with the Grimek physique, his best photo ever is reproduced on the cover of Muscletown USA…there are lots of photos of him in Paschall’s books (available thru Bill Hinbern)…and there are some great photos of a young and incredibly muscular Grimek demonstrating lots of different exercises in the old Mark Berry courses that Bill Hinbern reprinted last year.