Alan Stephen – Bulking is Easy (1950 article)


Published by the mid-century Bodybuilder Alan Stephens, the following article from Your Physique magazine details some time honoured means of bulking up in the easiest and most efficient way possible. Though much of Stephens’ advice will seem like old hat to those a few years in the Iron Game, his writings were geared toward the beginner and those seeking to change things up.

What’s more. It was never overly complicated. Indeed according to the man himself

All you need to do is follow the right exercises, eat plenty of nourishing food and get as much rest and relaxation on your non training days as you possibly can.

With that in mind though, we’ll dig a little deeper.

Creating a Programme


Returning to Stephens’ 1950 article, the bodybuilder had the following to say about putting together an exercise programme.

Let’s deal with the right exercises first. If you build a schedule around either the deep knee bend or the dead lift and take it from there, you are on the right track.

Such thinking echoed that of other physical culturists circulating at that time such as Peary Rader, who stressed the importance of large, compound movements in the quest for muscle building. Continuing on, Stephens wrote

The fundamental movements such as the supine press or any of its variants – bench presses of incline presses –  curls, rowing motions, squats, or dead lifts or leg presses combined with sets of bent arm pullovers, are the best.

Putting this together, Stephens suggested something along the following lines

1. Bench Press 8-12 reps
2. Barbell Curls 8-12 reps
3. Breathing Squats 20 reps (1st set), 10 reps (remaining sets)
4. Bent Arm Pullovers 20 reps (superset with each set of breathing squats)
5. Bent Over Rows 8-12 reps

Regarding set schemes, Alan’s advice differed depending on the trainee’s level of experience. For those men or women just beginning their lifting careers, he suggested doing 1 set of each exercise for the 1st month, 2 for the second, 3 for the third and so on. You would lift just twice a week and begin with 8 repetitions. Each workout you would increase the reps by one or two until you reached the upper range of the reps (in this case, 12 reps). For intermediates, you use 3 sets for all exercises, lifting 2 to 3 times a week. Follow this programme for three weeks, take one week off and then continue.

Eating and Recovering Well


Like the bodybuilders of his time, who weren’t yet counting calories, Stephens suggested hearty amounts of good, nutritious foods.

Don’t forget to drink lots of milk and eat plenty of good food such as fresh vegetables and meat, eggs [whole], cheese, and butter. Fruits and salads are also good.

Good eating and good rest are of course the cornerstones of bulking. Regarding the latter we read that

An important factor in a weight gaining programme is to rest all you can on non-training days. Whatever you do, don’t play other games [sports] and expect to make progress. You must rest completely between workouts and get a good night’s rest each and every night of the week.

Final Words of Wisdom

 Work hard on your schedule [routine], be persistant and determined and you are going to have little or no trouble in gaining bulk!

No shortcuts, no excuses and no quick fixes. Just time honoured advice!

How do you bulk up? Do you follow Stephens’ advice? Let us know in the comments section!

As always…happy lifting!

4 thoughts on “Alan Stephen – Bulking is Easy (1950 article)

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  1. Discovering your very well written website, including the article on Alan Stephan, brings me back to the time I read my first muscle magazine in 1952. Roy Hilligen was on the cover. The photos and articles were mesmerizing. I was truly bitten by the Iron Bug as they called it in those days.

    Jumping ahead to 1970, my wife and I opened New York City’s largest woman’s Health Club where we met many of the bodybuilding stars of the day.

    We are now retired in Florida. I have so many wonderful memories of our career in the “iron game.”

    Now that I am 80 years old, and still working out, I am finally getting compliments on my physique! Hey it only took 68 years.

    Conor you are a wonderful writer and I hope to be reading your articles for a long time.

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