C.F. Langworthy, ‘Dietary Study of Sandow, The Strong Man.’

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One of the things which always fascinated me is the diets of those early physical culturists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. At a time when gym culture was in its infancy, these men and women experimented with their training, their diet, and their mindsets to achieve maximum results. For some, like the Saxon Trio, their diets were the thing of legend – they ate everything in sight. Others, like the vegetarian Bernarr MacFadden, took a meticulous interest in what they ate. 

The subject of today’s post, Eugen Sandow, lay somewhere in between. Deemed by many as the world’s most perfectly developed specimen, Sandow was frustratingly coy about what he ate on a day to day basis. That’s what makes today post so fascinating. A reproduction of a one day study conducted in the United States, it is the first time, to my knowledge that we have verified audience of what Sandow ate. It’s not particularly illustrative, but it does give an indication of what Sandow ate in a scientific context. Enjoy!

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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).

Mike Mentzer (1995) – Mr. Universe Mike Mentzer’s Training Invention

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In the decades before bodybuilding became fashionable, when young men wanted to workout, they would say, “Hey, lets’ go to the YMCA and lift weights” In fact, during the early part of this century, weightlifting was much more popular than bodybuilding, in part because bodybuilding was regarded as too narcissistic.

Inveterate observers of weight-training history will recall how prevalent “odd lift” contests were back around the time of World War I. Competitions were held and records established for such odd lifts as the “two hands anyhow.” the “bent press” and the “one-hand deadlift.” For various reasons, these eventually fell from grace and were replaced by the three Olympic lifts: the press, snatch, and clean and jerk. These new movements required considerable athletic ability and, thus, were viewed as more respectable by the international sport community. They even were accepted as official events in the Olympics and are still quite popular today.

Eventually, some of the esteem reserved for Olympic lifting was wrested away by powerlifting, which has long had a strong following and gained even more recognition and acceptance after it became an official sport in the 1960s.

Finally, due primarily to the efforts of Joe Weider, bodybuilding assumed its rightful place in the sun in the ’60s and has progressed to its current predominance. It has thoroughly supplanted Olympic lifting and powerlifting in public appeal.

Dan Levin, ‘Here She Is, Miss, Well, What?, Sports Illustrated, 17 March (1980), 64-75

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We always knew women could never build muscles, at least not, uh, real women. Muscles belonged on men, and women didn’t want any. They didn’t need them, either, not for typing 70 words a minute, not for staying at home all day baking cakes for honeybun. But we also always knew women could never run marathons, and now we have Grete Waitz breathing down Bill Rodgers’ neck. Even more unexpectedly, we have Laura Combes’ sensational double biceps pose.

Guest Post: The History of Intermittent Fasting

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Among many kinds, intermittent fasting (IF) has proven to be an effective approach to maintain and improve a healthy lifestyle. Fasting can be done to lose weight, detoxify the body, or for religious reasons. Scientifically, there has been a large amount of research that supports health benefits driven by fasting. Even though it has been largely tested only on animals, the results are still promising. Fasting reduces oxidative stress, improves memory function, preserves learning, and enhances biomarkers of disease.

Before the Carnivore Diet? Rheo H. Blair’s Meat and Water Diet (1960s)

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The Carnivore Diet – the practice of solely consuming meat products – has grown exponentially in the past few years. As someone who has experimented with a range of diets, everything from all fruit to raw meat, it’s remarkable to see an all meat diet gain traction for the lifting community and the general populace. While Vilhjamur Stefannsson popularised the Inuit’s meat dominated diet in the early 1900s, an all meat diet for athletes or lifters appears to be a new development.

So being the type of individual that I am, I decided to go through the annals of bodybuilding and see if anyone had dabbled with a carnivore-esque diet in the past. Echoing the wonderful ‘nothing new under the sun series‘ produced by Chaos and Pain (definitely not safe for work!), we have a precedent for the current carnivore diet in the form of Vince Gironda and Rheo H. Blair’s ‘meat and water’ diet, a short term weight loss diet used by bodybuilders prior to a competition.

With that in mind today’s post examines the reasons behind Blair’s experiment, the bodybuilders he used it on and what lessons, if any, his meat and water diet holds for present day lifters.

John Kuc, ‘A Guide to Thigh Development’ (1984)

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When I did the original outline for this article I tried to think of an appealing title. Many trainees do no leg work at all, and those that do usually do not do enough. I thought an appealing title might entice some of them into including leg work in their training programs. I later decided that an honest evaluation of the pros and cons of leg work would be the best enticement.

I won’t try to deceive anyone; leg work done properly can really be tough. There are no easy leg exercises, and to be effective you really have to go all out. This is one factor against leg work. The fact that your legs are normally covered is the second factor. Most individuals prefer to work the muscles that are seen by everyone. Also, some leg exercises require a relatively heavy weight to be effective. Heavy poundages seem to create a mental barrier for some individuals. Combine all these factors and you can see why leg work could be ignored.