Category: Biographies

John Hansen, ‘The Day I Met Arnold, Lou and Franco’, Iron Age (c. 2004)

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I have a great story to share about the day I met the three best bodybuilders in the world on the same day.

I was 14 at the time and had just started to get interested in bodybuilding. It was wierd because I had been interested in muscles and bodybuilding for a long time, from when I was very young. In the ’70’s, however, bodybuilding was very small and was not main stream at all. There were many myths and old wives’ tales surrounding the sport.

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Doug Hepburn, ‘The Challenge’ (c. 1999)

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The below text is something I’m rather excited about. Earlier this month, I stumbled across Doug Hepburn’s website from the late 1990s and early 2000s. Hepburn was one of the strongest men of the mid twentieth century, famed for his seemingly inhuman feats of strength.

You can imagine, then the joy I felt when I began reading Doug’s articles on his now defunct website (I’ve included the source at the bottom and would encourage you to check it out!).

I don’t want to give away too much but Hepburn’s ‘Challenge’ was a shot fired at modern lifters to match the feats of strength of gear fear lifters. I’ve published it in its entirety below (including the ALL CAPS text). It’s provocative but shows Doug’s love and promotion of pure strength. Enjoy!

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.

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.

Guest Post: The Incredible History of Bodybuilding Contests

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When it comes to a broad meaning of bodybuilding it concerns a process of maximizing the muscle hypertrophy by mixing various exercises into training. The modern meaning of the concept has changed significantly since the first-time bodybuilding came to be. As a sport, bodybuilding focuses on a series of athletes who are showing off their physiques to a panel of judges who then grade them based on their appearance.

While many believe that bodybuilding originated in the 20th century, this sport can actually be traced back to the 11th century India. In order to build up their health and increase stamina, men in India have been lifting stone weights called Nals. However, back in the day, no physical display of the body was present. The ancient Greeks and Egyptians also underwent weight training to improve their aesthetic beauty and refined muscular body, and bodybuilding has gone through several phases until it became the sport we know today.

Andreas Munzer – The Ideal Way to Massive Legs (1995)

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Forced Rep, Negatives, Free Weights & Machines – People have called me mad. They say no sane man would inflict my degree of discipline on himself. Perhaps they’re right, but I feel that extremism in the quest of your best is no vice.

If I seem to be in be in the iron grip of Spartan self-denial, it’s only because I’m convinced that’s what it takes for me to compete with the greatest bodybuilders i the world. The monsters out there today strain the very definitions as to what constitutes a human being, so I simply have to lift myself that much further beyond mortal effort just to stay with them, not only in training but in diet and lifestyle. If I can discipline myself more than the next guy, I will someday beat him.

Eugen Sandow and Thomas Edison

Oddly given the site’s extensive interest, we have yet to detail Eugen Sandow’s most exciting remnant, a short film clip taken in 1894.

Taken during Sandow’s extensive promotion tour of the United States, which began in 1893 and included everything from posing sessions to fights with lions, Sandow’s film is one of the earliest movies we have of a bodybuilder on film. Long before Steve Reeves, Reg Park, or later Arnold Schwarzenegger were wowing audiences, Sandow appeared before the camera.

Vicki Goldberg, ‘Is It An Art, A Sport or Sheer Exhibitionism?’, The New York Times, 30 November (1975)

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The front wall of Gold’s Gym in Venice, Calif., used to have big glass windows, but owners of the gym had to cover them over—so many passers-by stopped to gape that the men inside couldn’t concentrate. The interior of the gym is Rube Goldberg paradise inhabited by grotesques, men so colossally muscled they look like inverted pyramids.

Gold’s is crammed with wacky machines, welter of steel poles, shiny weights and pulleys, and more than two tons of iron barbells wedged into racks against the walls. The newest Nautilus exercise machines, complex steel and chrome booths that might be misguided models for electric chairs, stand guard by the door. Benches tend to slant up at cuckoo angles instead of lying flat. man teeters on one at a diagonal, with his knees bent, then straightens his legs to push the weights at his feet.