Category: Biographies

Tom Farrey, ‘Tough, Determind: Arlys Kovach Has Come Back From a Shattering Accident to Become One of Top Female Weightlifters in the World,’ LA Times, June 26, 1986.

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There was a time when people became strong from shoveling snow, hefting hay bales or wielding pick-axes in the mines, not from Nautilus machines, or steroids. They were cut from the land, products of their environment.

They came from hard-working farms and hard-working towns. One of those towns is International Falls, Minn., known to some as the home of Bronko Nagurski, a man whose very name is a synonym for football.

On the Canadian border, International Falls is about 320 miles north of the Twin Cities and two hours away from any other township of more than 100 souls. The gold that led to the creation of International Falls in the late 1800s has long since played out and the main industry in the city of about 5,600 is a paper mill.

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Ronald Reagan’s Presidential Workout (1984)

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Not long ago, the editors of Parade asked whether I would write an article on how I try to keep in shape. I said I would be delighted because I am a great believer in exercise, not only for reasons of fitness but also sheer pleasure. So, move over, Jane Fonda, here comes the Ronald Reagan workout plan.

Exercise comes pretty naturally to me, since I’ve done it my entire life. When I was younger, I was a lifeguard during the summers, and I played football in high school and college. And for all of my adult life, I have enjoyed horseback riding and working outdoors.

Over the years, I have learned that one key to exercise is to find something you enjoy. The other key is to keep the exercise varied. Using those two principles, let me explain my fitness plan, and perhaps you can see ways in which this could help you in your own exercising.

Eugen Sandow on Heavy Weightlifting

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A point previously discussed on this website was the regularity with which early physical culturists promoted light weight training as opposed to heavy lifting. The reasons for this are numerous. In the first instance, light weightlifting is easier to promote to the general public than heavy weightlifting. It requires less equipment, can be done in the comfort of one’s own home and can be done with relative ease. It was for this reason that individuals like Eugen Sandow, Professor Attila and a host of other physical culturists promoted light weightlifting for their followers. A few, like Arthur Saxon, bucked the trend and argued that heavy lifting was needed to build a strong physique.

With that in mind, today’s brief post examines the brief words Eugen Sandow gave to heavy weightlifting in his seminal book, Strength and How to Obtain It. Published by Sandow first in 1897, Strength was, for many, Sandow’s most important work. It came at the height of his popularity, sold widely and was more accessible than some of his later works which were far more medical in composition. Thanks to the British Library in London, I was able to consult Sandow’s 1897 edition, as well as his third edition published in 1905. Sandow did not expand greatly on how to lift heavy but nevertheless provided an insight into the progressive training practices of the late 1890s and early 1900s.

Wrestling and Weightlifting: The WWF and Fitness in the 1980s

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I’ll admit it, although born in the early 1990s, I was a Hulkamaniac. Aside from growing up during the WWF attitude era, where individuals like Triple H, The Rock, Mark Henry and Stone Cold were living embodiments of strength, I regularly went through back catalogues of old wrestling shows. There I’d see Jimmy Superfly Snuka’s iconic finishes, Jimmy Hart’s unmatched smack talk and everything weird and wonderful that wrestling offered from the 1980s onwards. I, like many others, was enthralled by the athleticism of the wrestlers. I suspect that my initial interest in training came from my love of wrestling where the heels and the babyfaces sported muscular bodies in equal measure. In that vein, today’s post examines the WWF’s crossovers into health and fitness in the 1980s.

Robert Paris, ‘Defining the Iron Age’, Ironage.us (c. 2003)

fitness-2255626_1280For those of us whose bodybuilding heroes are from the IronAge, finding our place in the land of modern bodybuilding has been tough. We feel out of place. Our heroes and our IronAge ideals often seem incompatible with the world of bodybuilding. As we struggle to reconcile bodybuilding’s past with its changes, it is our own bodybuilding lifestyle that appears to suffer. I have met far too many whom, having lost interest in competitive bodybuilding and with no heroes to push them along, have lagged in their training. We fans are not alone in this struggle.

Many past champions and industry officials have become critical of the changes in bodybuilding’s focus. Cries of too many drugs, near-deaths and too much emphasis on sex can be heard from most of our heroes.

Guest Post: “Weight Training Women Stay in Shape Without Getting Muscle-Bound,” Jet Magazine, 1 September (1977)

63296414_1652529141558590_7644931320321146880_n.jpgFor a long time, men have dominated the sport of weight lifting. But tucked away at a YMCA in the small Midwestern town of Canton, Ohio, some 150 women are pumping iron, straining and twisting their feminine physiques, trying to smooth those flabby curves.

They bench-press, lift barbells, dumbbells, do chin-ups, situps, leg extensions and numerous other body exercises until their bodies ache with pain.

And all for what?

For some it’s just to stay in shape, but for about 20 others it’s a competitive sport and a rapidly developing one at that.

Tony Sansone’s Weight Gain Diet

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Born at the turn of the twentieth-century, Tony Sansone is perhaps one of the most famous physical culturists never to turn his hand to bodybuilding. Nevertheless his influence on bodybuilders and those seeking to get in shape was remarkable. Training under both Bernarr McFadden and Charles Atlas, Sansone developed one of the most sought after physiques in 1930s America.

He modelled, quite provocatively at times, wrote extensively on good nutrition and ran a series of gyms, which included a regular training spot for the legendary Steve Reeves. Shunning excessive bulk for definition and aesthetics, Sansone possessed a body that many men today would envy. Indeed, the renowned physical culture historian David Gentle once commented

If Sansone had been born in Greek antiquity, he would have been immortalized as a god.

With this in mind, today’s post looks at Sansone’s simple and effective way to build muscle mass while maintaining a relative level of leanness.

A Drug Free Mr. Olympia? The Strange Case of the 1990 Mr. Olympia

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Bodybuilding, at a professional level, is a sport fuelled by anabolic steroids. This is not to take anything away from the competitors themselves, but is rather an acknowledgment that those at the elite level often resort to chemical means in order to further push the limits of human strength and muscularity. Certainly the Mr. Olympia competition, the Super Bowl of the bodybuilding calendar, has always been an arena for the freakish and dedicated to flex their muscles in search of the big prize.

That Mr. Olympias have used anabolic steroids should come as a surprise to no one. Heck even Arnold Schwarzenegger admitted to dabbling with steroids during his political career despite the negative reaction this risk. This preamble is my way of saying that the idea of a drug tested Mr. Olympia is strange. Yes, we have natural bodybuilding shows but elite, professional, non-tested shows have always proven the most popular form of competition.

With this in mind, today’s post looks at the one moment when the Mr. Olympia contest introduced an explicit drug testing protocol which, it was hoped, would stem the tide of drug abuse within the sport. Examining why this came to be, we’re going to look at the background to the Mr. Olympia, the event itself and the consequences of a drug free Mr. Olympia. In case you’re wondering, it went about as well as you could have imagined!

The First Mr. Olympia

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It all began in April 1965 in a Joe Weider magazine…

Sick and tired of conversations about who was the greatest bodybuilder, Weider had decided to create a competition pitting champions from around the World against each other. In the same year that the iconic Gold’s Gym opened, Weider’s ‘Mr. Olympia’ would see A Mr. Universe, Mr. World and Mr. America pose, flex and tense in front of thousands of fans to determine the best that Bodybuilding had to offer.

Why create a new tournament?

Peter McGough, ‘The Mike Menzter Story’, Flex Magazine, September (2001).

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In a career that spanned four decades, Mike Mentzer, who passed away on June 12, 2001 was one of bodybuilding’s most prominent, inspirational and controversial figures. In order to flesh out the unique life, times and psyche of this complicated star, we’re reprinting (beginning on the next page) a feature on Mentzer from the February 1995 issue of FLEX. Although the article was first published six years ago, we think it still provides insight into what drove this future Bodybuilding Hall of Fame inductee.

When this feature first appeared, Mike was writing regularly for FLEX, but he later moved on to work for Muscular Development. In the last two years of his life, he contributed to Ironman. His theories and writings continue to be a source for debate, and his books and articles remain popular (see http://www.mikementzer.com).