Life in the '70s was, for the professional bodybuilder, a much simpler enterprise.
Training - though integral to one's life and livelihood - revolved around other forms of work and pleasure. Getting big and strong was a lifestyle choice, not a means to gigantic sponsorships, endorsements, fame and fortune. Not for bodybuilders.
Back then, most bodybuilders - recreational, amateur and professional - worked out and ate well because they loved it. They lived it. The serious gym junkie competed because it was in his blood, an evolving passion that helped form character and positive self-identity.
In 1965, the advent of the prestigious Mr. Olympia brought a renewed fervor for top-level bodybuilding champions. Lifters found high-level competition to distinguish themselves as leaders. These men were the first to hold the Sandow. They were the best in the business. Many of the bodybuilders who emerged from the '60s pioneered bodybuilding as it's understood today.
As the '70s unfolded, the trial-and-error approach of these new pros heralded training and nutrition methods that eventually became gospel to bodybuilders, strength athletes and fitness enthusiasts worldwide.
Where It All Began
Where was the testing ground for much of this experimentation? Ask anyone with rudimentary grasp of bodybuilding history where, when and how bodybuilding began, and they invariably tell you it started in the good old US of A, at the fabled and legendary Gold's Gym, 1006 Pacific Avenue, Venice, California.
Arnold Schwarzenegger brought bodybuilding mainstream. Strongly backed by the influential publishing magnate and passionate forefather of modern bodybuilding, Joe Weider, Arnold soared to the top of the bodybuilding world. His story has been told countless times.
What has not been adequately detailed, until now, is the impact the remaining high-profile Gold's members had on the evolving landscape of pro-bodybuilding. Working alongside Arnold - some might unfairly say they were a supporting crew for the charismatic Austrian - the Gold's Elite pioneers paved the way for the bodybuilders of today.
The magnificent Frank Zane revolutionized aesthetic display and muscle symmetry. Dave Draper, the Herculean and mysterious Blond Bomber quietly and methodically built one of the most massive physiques of his day. The Master Poser Ed Corney's balls-out training sessions are the stuff of legend. Bill Grant was the big boy with huge biceps, a bulging afro and phenomenal shape. Danny Padilla was blessed with possibly the most balanced physique - despite his height - ever seen on any stage, in any era.
All these pioneers were in one place, discussing life, training, nutrition, supplementation and everything in between: Gold's Gym.
Welcome To Joe's Original Gold's
The clang of weights, the reek of sweat and the sight of real bodybuilders doing heavy work greets you through the double-wide doors of Gold's Gym, Venice Beach. It is 1970, and you're in the trenches. This is a dusty, musty, much-revered workplace. This is hallowed ground.
Here there is no LYCRA, no personal trainers chatting on cell phones, no women in makeup cruising for a hook-up, no Crèches to contain unruly rug-rats, and definitely no male fitness models scoping 14-inch-arms and tiny, defined abs in full-length mirrors. There is no music. Hard work takes precedence. There's nothing else.
The atmosphere (2,000 square feet of pulleys, benches, racks and long rows of iron) is electric, intense, with a jovial current. Talk between sets is limited, but light-hearted banter can occasionally be heard. The athletes are serious - their faces, sweat and screams- they make the most of their 2-to-3-hour training sessions.
Today's bodybuilder might complain if his workout goes beyond 45 minutes. These days, such brevity is commonly referred to as 'progress.' Not here, not for the legends, pioneers gouging ruts in a barren athletic prairie.
Training ends at Gold's and the champs leave for their respective jobs, or catch a few rays of the blistering California sun. The gym falls silent. Not for long. The evening witnesses the return of the regulars, fed, refueled and ready to submit their muscles, Venice Beach style.
In Their Own Words: 6 Men of Muscle
Today, nothing brings us closer to the golden days than commentary from the champs, the men who lived, breathed and lifted it.
Describe a typical day at Gold's in the 1970s?
Ed Corney It was like you couldn't wait to get there. The excitement of training with Arnold, training with him and all the other guys there - Padilla, Mike Katz, Ken Waller, Bill Grant, Frank Zane and Columbu - it was electrifying. And here I am among all these guys I used to read about in the magazines.
Frank Zane I would be there in the morning, depending on the time of the year. My training season was summer because I finally didn't have to work. I didn't have to teach in the summer, so I trained. I trained so hard that I don't think I could have worked because I was just so tired from all that lifting. I would go in the morning and sometimes I would go back in the afternoon. And that was pretty much it.
I did most of my training alone, by myself. In the early '70s I trained with Arnold and Dave Draper. In '69, '70 and '72, I trained with Arnold a lot, though after that not so much. We were simply on different time tracks. He was training full time and I was working full time.
Bill Grant Around 10 a.m. all the guys arrived to start a day that would be torture to some, but was pleasure for us. Arnold, Kent Kuehn, Frank Zane, Denny Gable, Roger Callard, Robby Robinson, Mike Katz (when he was in town during the summer), Ken Waller, Eddie Giuliani, Ed Corney, Danny Padilla and, of course, yours truly.
The workouts would last about two hours, but the intensity was just unbelievable. Like I said in the new edition of Pumping Iron [the 25th Anniversary edition], there was so much energy coming out of that gym that it could light up the city of Los Angeles. After the workout, we would all go to our favorite restaurant called The Germans, which was located just down the street from Gold's.
We would gather to have lunch, and then it was off to Muscle Beach for some fun in the sun. Some of us did have regular jobs since there wasn't a lot of money back then. I worked at United Airlines. It was like one big, happy family back then.
Danny Padilla Around 7-7:30 a.m. we would have breakfast and then walk to Gold's and work out. At that time, we were training each body part twice per day. For instance, we would train chest and back in the morning, then legs at night. We would work out, go have lunch and, then relax, hit the beach and get some sun. That was the lifestyle we lived. We lived in the Golden Age.
Dave Draper It was in the shadows of the Muscle Beach Dungeon's spare lighting that I learned everything I know about building muscle and power. There, the seeds I brought from the streets of Jersey in '63 took root, grew deep and bore a decent yield. I won Mr. America and Mr. Universe. I joined Joe Gold's gym in Venice in 1966 and continued to lift the weights with quiet passion.
But for an occasional burst of training when a special occasion prompted me to work out twice per day (posing exhibition, inner urges, the 1970 Mr. World), I was in and out of the gym by 8 a.m. Those two hours, six days per week, were major events internally. On the outside, they were as ordinary as toast.
In the middle-late '60s, Frank Zane made his home in Venice and our workouts conveniently overlapped. Arnold appeared in California, with Franco close behind him, and made his way to Joe's Original Gold's in '68. Ken Waller joined the group at a corresponding time, and various seasons of the year brought champs from all corners of the world for a plunge in the West Coast bodybuilding scene.
Rick Drasin, Denny Gable, Bill Howard, Dan Howard, Chet Yorton, Bill Grant and Superstar Wayne Coleman are some of the tanned and sand-dusted faces I see fondly in my memory. Zabo ran the place and became known as the Chief. Eventually, Eddie Giuliani headed the gym's secret service department.
You all trained immensely hard, judged by the intense footage shown in Pumping Iron and in photos. What popular training methods were used back then?
Danny Padilla Most of the guys were doing chest, back, shoulders, arms and legs by themselves. That's what we were doing: six days on. Then Mike Mentzer came out with the Heavy Duty program, but even he did multiple sets (I think) because you just couldn't get enough out of one set.
Did Mike have much of an impact when he came on the scene?
Danny Padilla You had the old school. A lot of these guys just wouldn't do Heavy Duty because, really, it involved a lot of the Nautilus Principles and we had already tried that stuff years back. But Mike kind of brought a new itch to it. He was a pretty smart kid. He had a lot of scientific data behind his stuff, but back then it was all about winning, not principles. When you win they listen to you, but when you don't win, they don't listen to you no matter how good you are.
Bill Grant The training methods back then were simple, basic exercises, split routines and, of course, I think we all liked the idea of volume training and supersets. In other words, we didn't try to reinvent the wheel because it wasn't broken. I trained with a 4-day split, which worked well for me, while some of the other guys worked out on a 5-or-6-day split.
Back in the day, and to this day, I still follow a similar program. Here is how it worked: Monday I did chest, back and shoulders; Tuesday, I trained arms and legs; I took Wednesday off; and Thursday I repeated Monday's workout. Friday I repeated Tuesday's workout.
As far as you could tell, Bill, how long did bodybuilders typically train at this time?
Bill Grant Those of us at Gold's trained from 10 a.m. to noon, but that's not counting the time that some of the guys - like Arnold - trained on the double split. On certain days they would train in the morning and then come back to train at night.
Dave Draper The basic movements were applied with good order, repetition, force and regularity. The methods were not yet analyzed, over-intellectualized or named. I guess the popular training M.O. among the original Gold's champs was volume training: three exercises per muscle group, reps in the 12, 10, 8, 6 range, with max-power reps thrown in when the urge was unstoppable.
Each muscle group was trained compatibly twice per week, and we visited the gym at least five days per week. Squats and deadlifts counted big time, and supersets were plentiful. Heavy dumbbells had a special place in our hearts. One generally amped his training in the spring and summer, and powered it in the fall and winter.
How long were your sessions, Dave?
Dave Draper There was a season for hard training and a season for harder training. The average time in the gym was 90-to-120 minutes, five days per week. When contest preparation loomed (spring, summer and early fall), training twice per day was a common practice for the guys. This added another hour to the total.
Frank Zane We would pretty much do the same workout. Monday and Thursday was chest and back. Tuesday and Friday, we trained legs. Wednesday and Saturday, we trained shoulders and arms. And I did this up until the mid-70s, before I won my first Olympia.
I did this because I just found it too tiring to train six consecutive days. In 1978, I got onto the 3-on/1-off program, and then I trained pretty much like I do now: chest, shoulders and triceps on day one; legs day two; back, biceps and forearms on day three; rest on day four. Repeat.
And Ed, how did you train for maximal size and cuts?
Ed Corney We would lift weights. Simple as that. It was basic. A lot of training frequency was involved, though. Twice per day, six days per week, we would train 2-to-2-and-a-half hours per session.
You guys routinely lifted for two hours or more, yet got amazing results. How do you explain the progress made under such circumstances?
Bill Grant I don't think training for two hours is overtraining. I do think once you venture over the 2-hour mark, then you could run into some problems. I can only speak for myself, but my 4-day split and 2-hour workouts worked well. It was just the right amount of training. On the other hand, I tried a 6-day-split routine and it didn't work well. I really didn't recover well from it, but guys like Arnold, Kent, Ed and Denny Gable thrived on that program ... We all had to figure out what worked best for us.
Dave Draper I don't see how one can make progress with much less [than 2- to-3 hours per session]. Overtraining can be a problem, and it must be monitored closely. Training to the edge is not the healthiest method of training, but it is the only method for superior championship quality.
Frank Zane I don't really know, and I don't care. It comes down to the fact that a lot of things work. I think if guys today trained like we did, they would have more quality, better lines, better definition and better proportion instead of the big, monstrous, freaky bodies you see.
But they are rewarded for that, so why shouldn't they do it? That is how you get someone to continue their behavior: you reward them. If you have to weigh 275 pounds to win, you will. It doesn't matter if you have a 40-inch waist so long as you look freaky. If you have 22-inch arms and a 70-inch chest with your guts hanging out from the side, it doesn't matter. What happened to the small waist?
Ed Corney It was kind of a lifestyle. To be a bodybuilder, you were a special person because you just got in there and lifted weights and got bigger, better and stronger, all with the aim of competing. It wasn't anything personal. You would all train on the same days, eat in the same way, and help each other out, and then you would get onstage and they would pick the winner.
Danny Padilla People just worked and worked, and they thought the more labor they did, the better they would be. Sometimes that wasn't the right thing. But the guys who trained like that as they aged still look great.
I'm 56-years old. I'm nothing like I used to be, but people look at me and say, "Do you work out?" I don't even touch weights any more. I just do a little aerobics, run around, and they say, "Wow, your arms look big. How are you doing it?" Well, I don't know - I'm not doing anything. I'm down to my basic muscle and it's still there. You can tell that I used to be a weightlifter.
I understand you used to train with Ed Corney
Danny Padilla Well, for a guy of his age, even back then Ed was phenomenal in the sense that he had a huge heart. He trained no matter what. He was a hard trainer and ready to go at all times. He also went hard on his diet. If he had started training even younger, I think he could have won the Olympia.
How did Ed's style of training help you?
Danny Padilla He was very quiet. I would do my set and he would do his set. There was no cheering, like "Hey, hey!" It was like, "Get it done kid." I have to respect him for that. The guy was strong, very, very strong. He was the man.
Ed, what was it like training with Danny. Do you have any stories to share concerning your time training with the original Giant killer?
Ed Corney I went down for a second time to live and train with Dan Padilla [in New York]. We were doing bench press, three sets of 15. We started - Danny did three sets and I did my three sets. In the meantime, there was this guy just sitting on the incline [bench press]. He just told us, "I want to be sitting there." So, Danny said, "We are coming over there next."
So we did each of our three sets of 15, and we go over to the guy who was sitting on the incline. We started putting our weights on, and he said, "Hey, I am using this."
Danny said: "I told you we were coming over here, and you haven't done anything during the time we completed our three sets." So we just took over. It was bit pushy, but that was how serious we were. If you weren't serious, you had no business being in there.
No Cardio, No Problem
1970 welcomes you back. As you survey the training space the Venice Beach champs call home, something appears to be missing. You can't quite put your finger on it, but there is a notable absence. Then it hits you: cardio equipment. The machines we see so often today are limited to an old stationary cycle covered in dust. The only things missing are cobwebs and spiders.
The Gold's crew prefers lifting weights over cardio to peel off its pounds. Aerobic machinery is redundant in this hardcore training house.
You look across the gym. Compact powerhouses Ed Corney and Bill Grant exhaustively pummel their muscles to perfection; the squat rack serves as their workbench. It's easy to see how these two legends maintain lean, dense muscle despite their nearly nonexistent cardio schedule.
Set after punishing set, the intensity is as unrelenting as it appears unending. Gasping for air between sets, each of our champions stimulates their cardiovascular system to the point where chests appear ready to burst. Legs are fully pumped. What took one hour will replace what many perceive to be several hours of aerobic work.
With the Mr. Olympia two weeks away, both warriors are as shredded and full as can be. Yet they seldom, if ever, engage in any form of specific cardiovascular activity. Their muscles - hard, full and healthy - are the ever-growing benefactors of such a schedule.
Was cardio used back in the '70s as often as it is today?
Bill Grant No, it wasn't. We relied on our training and diet techniques to achieve a lean and ripped look. And I do think that cardio training is overused by most bodybuilders today. I think that all of that cardio time could be well spent on recovery.
If you follow a good diet, all of this cardio is unnecessary. Most of the guys today don't want to adhere to such a strict diet. They eat more junk foods, figuring that cardio will get the job done. I am not saying cardio is useless. I just think it's relied on too heavily for getting into good condition, whereas training and proper dieting techniques will get the job done just as well. They'll also save you a lot of time and energy.
Ed Corney You paid attention to the mirror because that is what the judges would see. So, either you cut out the calories or increased them. You didn't want to get too lean, but then you didn't want to get too big, either.
Frank Zane I didn't do much cardio. I think I got away with that because of the huge amount of volume training I did. I think the more sets you do, it doesn't make you bigger necessarily, but it does really develop and define the muscle more.
Danny Padilla I always did cardio because in my family there have, for generations, been heart problems. So I always used to ride bikes and go to Santa Monica College and run a mile or two every day. That was part of my curriculum. I think even Arnold used to jog on the beach every once in a while. I was an athletic individual.
Dave Draper You hardly saw cardio training in our neighborhood. There was no stationary bike to mount at the gym, no treadmill for miles and miles and the other swell gadgets (ellipticals, stair masters, goofy gofers) were yet to be invented.
Old-School Nutrition And Supplementation
Giants settle themselves into a corner cubicle at their favorite Venice Beach eatery, The Brown Bagger. They have only a few hours of sun left before they make their way back to Gold's. Therefore, they must replenish their weary muscles before they hit the beach and tan their skin to a deep shade of bronze.
Dave Draper orders a huge portion of home fries and a steak suitable for a 240-pound muscle god. Arnold requests a plate of fried eggs fit for a king, plus two large baked potatoes. The others ask for fare that might, today, be considered off-limits for any serious bodybuilder. They are all two weeks out from major competition. They are also incredibly lean with a healthy level of muscular development.
But muscle-building nutrition for these muscle-hungry champions actually began at least one hour prior. They ate directly after training when amino acids, protein shakes and liver tablets were thrown back in an effort to thwart the catabolic effects of their intensive efforts.
As non-scientific as it was, the supplemental and nutritional regimen of this select group of bodybuilders worked wonders.
What were the prevailing nutritional trends of your era?
Danny Padilla I was basically controlling my carbs. Don't get me wrong, I ate basically anything I wanted, but in moderation. But the closer it got to the show, the more I would control my carbohydrate intake. 12 weeks out I would start controlling [carb intake]. Then about eight weeks out, I would concentrate on more high protein, lower carbs. But never zero carbs. I did not believe in that. I would start at about 300 carbs and keep lowering them until I found a niche for me where I could train comfortably and not be so weak.
Frank Zane I don't go by what other people think. I go by my own experience. I don't even go by theory. I have a master's degree in experimental psychology and can perform experiments and understand and read research and I don't put any stock in it [theory] whatsoever unless it works for me. It may be an idea to test, but I basically have accumulated 50 years of training experience of things that work for me and they are what I resort to.
I started doing research and finding other sources. I relied a great deal on amino acids in free-form throughout my career, and I still do. That is one reason I am able to consume less calories today: because I am able to make my diet more nutritionally dense while eating less - because I take a lot of supplements.
Bill Grant I had a very high metabolism, so during the off-season I pretty much ate whatever I wanted. I tried to eat fairly well, but I really could eat almost anything I wanted and never had to worry about putting on a lot of excess fat. Before an upcoming show, I would start to clean up my diet to where I was eating pretty good, cutting out all of the useless foods such as hamburgers, fries, ice cream and basically all of those empty calories.
Dave Draper If you sat down with us after a workout at our favorite Marina café, you'd see us order hamburger patties and eggs, home fries and whole-wheat toast. Our diets were high protein with an accent on meat and milk products, medium carbs with plenty of salad and fresh fruits, and medium fats with no fried food or junk. With me, some things never change.
Ed Corney Everyone had their way of dieting and trying to get better. We didn't know that much about dieting. You have to be a rocket scientist nowadays, but in those days you just had to be a bodybuilder. And you were gullible. Somebody would say, "Peanut butter is a good carbohydrate." So what do you do? You walk around with a bottle of peanut butter in your bag. Somebody else would say, "Tuna in a can, man, that's good protein." So you got six cans of tuna in your bag.
We now know the importance of taking supplements to support a healthy diet. What supplements were available back in the Golden Age of bodybuilding?
Frank Zane Pretty much the same kinds we have now. I really specialized in what I called "precursor loading." Each individual amino acid has a specific function in the body, and if it is an amino acid you want more of - for example l-Glutamine, which has become popular in recent years - you use it specifically. Actually in the 1970s I was using massive amounts of l-Glutamine. I knew all that stuff 30 years ago. The only thing that we didn't do then was take large amounts of creatine.
I approach training as a science, because I have a science background. I have two bachelor's degrees and a master's degree, in three different subjects [Science, Arts and Experimental Psychology] from universities I attended full time. I have an extensive education, largely in science and mathematics, so I have a pretty structured approach to my training as far as keeping notes and records.
Although I was a mathematician, I never relied on numbers because I realized early on when you go onstage, numbers don't matter. What you look like matters. I took thousands of photographs. To prepare for a show, I would take color slides. My wife is a really good photographer, and I also took a lot of photos with Artie Zeller, who was one of the greatest photographers when he was alive.
Dave Draper Quality supplements were important then and are important now. Nutrition plays a significant role in health, performance and development, but you don't want to go broke. Stick to the basics: a good protein powder, a good vitamin-mineral, extra vitamin C, antioxidants and EFAs. Glandular proteins were my favorite. Blair's supplements were popular. Weider and Hoffman shared a large percentage of the market.
Bill Grant I think supplements played a big part, as they do today. Some of the supplements we used back in the day have been completely forgotten about, but really they were the most efficient. Amino acids, liver tablets, milk and egg protein, choline and inositol [as fat burners], and of course your basic vitamin and mineral supplements. I used all of these, everything but creatine, which we did not have back in the day.
We also took digestive enzymes because, you want to be able to utilize the food and supplements. Digestive enzymes provided that for us. They worked, as did protein for recovery, liver for endurance and lots of B-complex, which the body needs to convert all of the foods into energy that the body can use to train harder and build new muscle. Liver tablets were a favorite, I think, for most of the guys. These were a very complete supplement, which had all of the things you needed for energy and endurance and recovery from grueling workouts.
What were some popular supplement brands?
Bill Grant Weider, TwinLab, Beverly International, Rheo H Blair, Hoffmans and Dan Lurie.
Danny Padilla We used glutamine and the protein powders. And back in my day when I was a kid, everyone was chewing those desiccated liver tablets. Blair [Rheo Blair protein] was very popular in California, but I got most of my micronutrients from food. I was always a food believer. I used the amino acids once in awhile and basically took what I thought I needed, like calcium and some vitamin C and some vitamin E, but most of the time I was more into the food.
Ed Corney You had Natural Source, which came out with the packet containing all the different vitamins, and you would take a packet a day. And of course you had Blair protein, which you would make like a pudding. Mike Katz and I took a can over to Bagdad to the Mr. Universe [in 1972 - Ed won this contest], and all we did was mix it with water and it came out like a pudding. Because they had all those strange foods over there and you didn't know what you were eating, we stayed away from it. You also had the MLO protein by Williams.
Did you have any way of gauging the results you made while taking these supplements, Ed?
Ed Corney You are using yourself as a guinea pig. If it works and you can see that it is working, fine, you stay on it. If not, you are just going to urinate it out: no side effects. If you find it is not working, you forget it and move onto something else. The mirror will tell you if it is working.
There are so many more bodybuilding supplements on the market today, yet back in your day you still achieved a very well developed, ripped look. How would you explain this? People are always looking for 'the secret.'
Ed Corney There are no secrets. Arnold said, "If there were any [bodybuilding] secrets, I would have found them by now." Hard work, very hard work, is what worked best. That is how you separated yourself from yourself.