I've been involved with bodybuilding for over twenty years, and I love watching the cycles of truth as they live, die, and ultimately resurrect again every 5 to 15 years. In the twenties, thirties and forties (pretty much pre-steroids) there were some big guys, bigger than you think. Most of these men ate lots of food and trained 2 to 3 times a week. Their workouts were usually full body workouts that lasted an average of two hours and were no where near the intensity levels of much of what you may think of as a good leg day. Yet these guys grew! And they lasted! Many of them were still in top shape well into their forties. You may have seen pictures of these men in magazines and thought, hey, my little brothers bigger than him, but if you rent an old Hercules film with Steve Reeves you'll be surprised at his size and shape. And remember Reeves was known as a smaller more asthetically pleasing bodybuilder. So if they were making such good progress, why did it change?
I believe two major factors entered into the scene that changed the way information about training was received: First was the growing popularity of the publications and the Weider empire. Second was the emergence of growth enhancing substances known as yes, you got it... steroids. The first factor, the magazines wanted to sell. And in order to sell they had to keep articles coming that made it look like they alone had the cutting edge on bodybuilding information. With this approach in mind (to sell magazines), the same information regardless of the value had to be constantly changed, added to and manipulated so that the consumer would be excited to buy the next issue in order to stay on that cutting edge. The second factor, steroids, truly did change the way the body could handle the stress of high intensity workouts and still recover. In the 60's and 70's the magazines and steroids worked well together because steroids were talked about and not denied as an accepted part of the champion bodybuilders program. As the 80's and 90's fitness and health scene began to change the market, and with the laws against steroid use dramatically toughened, training information once again began to change. No longer could the information by these monster bodybuilders be told truthfully. Now we were told that by training two hours a day and drinking Weider weight gain we could look just like the current chump, uh, I mean champ of the week.
So let's recap: 70's were the Arnold era, 6 days on, one off 3-4 hours a day, usually two body parts each workout. Why? Because that's how Arnold trained and Arnold was the king! In the 80's Lee Haney was the champ and his genetics made it to easy, so his training was plain old 4 on, one off stuff. It was actually probably some of the most beneficial and long term consistent gains information out there but way too boring to sell those magazines. Hey remember Tom Platz? I ask young bodybuilders all the time if they ever heard of him and most haven't. Too bad, this guy could train. He also went 4 on, one off, but with a killer intensity that included drop sets, strip sets, descending sets and any other set set that could just about kill you. Tom had a legendary pair of legs that even today are unparalleled. Toms intensity and frequency were out of whack though because he kept getting injuries that ultimately ended his career. Mike Mentzer burst on the scene in the late seventies and early eighties with a revolutionary new training (or was it a slight variation on those mighty men of the 30's and 40's). It was in direct contrast to Arnold's way of training and soon set the stage for much heated debate between the two. The 90's was pretty much the Dorian Yates era. Dorian contributed much of his success to the principals adhered to by Mentzer. Mentzer called his program Heavy Duty, high intensity training with as little as 4 total sets per body part, 4 to 6 reps per set, 2 to 3 days a week and bingo! You're huge!! Yeah, well maybe not that easy but it sure worked for Dorian (or was that growth hormone)? Anyway you get my point? All kinds of workouts, all kinds of results, but also all kinds of drugs and all kinds of career ending injuries can make the difference.
So if you want to stay natural, get huge and not get injured WHAT is the best way to train!?! In my 20 years experience as a competitive bodybuilder, I have done it with steroids and without steroids. I can honestly say that the most intense workouts I have ever had were without the drugs. I can say that training on drugs is almost a no-brainer. It's quicker, it's easier but the price can easily cost you your health and maybe even your life. Training without steroids takes guts, intensity and BRAINS! You have to supplement your diet, take in alot of protein and get enough rest. The supplements I currently take are Syntrabol and EAS Methoxy Factor for recovery and growth and GuggulBolic for my metabolism. I don't like things that I can feel instantly like ephedrine based products and testosterone enhancers. I think that if it reacts that quickly then it's in and out also just as quick and I've heard too many horror stories about ephedrine. I also LOVE meal replacements. I currently use Labrada Lean Body and it helps me to reach my daily goal of 300 grams of protein. Oh yeah, my all time favorite supplement is Creatine. I always get a great pump and a fullness to my muscles that I don't feel without it. Creatine also helps me to recover although I have to watch my intake as too much causes me to feel itchy and I'll also start to cramp.
In part two of this series, I want to go over workouts and duration as well as varying intensity levels. I also want to explain how the most productive workouts are not always the best for longevity. And how after 20 years and every conceivable workout at 37 years old and drug free I'm able to carry nearly 250 pounds of muscle on my less than 5'10'' frame with an average of 3 workouts per week. Tune in, in a couple of weeks and remember, a man who dedicates his ways to the Lord Jesus even his thoughts are established!