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Days Of Yore & Muscles Of Magnitude!

How were these men able to forge these muscles of might when we are supposedly so far ahead of them in every area of fitness? Somehow, even with lacking equipment, myth-based knowledge, and inferior supplementation they became the standard by which...

Working in a gym, I get upset watching people who never put in the effort needed to really forge the physique changes they are looking for. Sometimes people forget the very reason they are in the gym (whether for health, toning or forging the body of a champion through IRON!), and their workouts reflect their lack of care, focus and discipline.

Watching these people, I've thought to myself "With modern day training methods, equipment and supplementation, you'd think people would be farther along?" So why is it that we still hold dear the physiques of the "golden era" and even physiques before that time?

How were these men able to forge these muscles of might when we are supposedly so far ahead of them in every area of fitness? Somehow, even with "lacking" equipment, myth-based knowledge, and inferior supplementation they became the standard by which physique ideals are still held! So I began my research...

My Journey Begins...

As a natural bodybuilder (* natural meaning that I don't use any type of prescription drugs, only supplements that are over-the-counter and completely legal), I am always trying to find a way to build my physique to a level where people just can't believe that I don't use steroids.

The growth is agonizingly slow at times, and I have been tempted to step over to the dark side at times and test a wee bit of Dianabol, Deca? etc. Yet I realize that this would defeat my very purpose for lifting and bodybuilding by causing unnatural growth through a needle or little pink pill. So, how can I still become fantastic? How can anybody become magnificent in today's world of chemically enhanced instant gratification? I maintain that it can be done!

Let me clarify what I mean by telling you that "it can be done". What I consider as a magnificent physique may not be what you're thinking. Ronnie Coleman is not the possessor of a magnificent physique. WHAT?!?! You ask? No, Ronnie is a walking pharmacy and a testimony of today's advances in performance enhancing drugs and the possessor of a Super-FrEaKy physique.

Ronnie Coleman @ the 2003 Mr. Olympia.

Don't get me wrong here, I'm NOT downplaying Mr. Coleman's achievements or saying that the drugs made him entirely who he is today. Ronnie obviously has mind-blowing focus, dedication, and even genetic capability, yet I simply don't agree with taking drugs as he obviously does. This doesn't mean that I don't like to look at his photos. He is truly amazing!

However, I think someone can have an amazing physique even by bodybuilding standards, without the drug use. No, you won't be super-freaky, but you can still be a magnificent specimen forged by iron, sweat and tears.

Ronnie in the off-season before the 2003 Mr. Olympia (~ 315 lbs).

Now, I do believe that Larry Scott, Dave Draper (a.k.a. The Blond Bomber) and other famous faces back in the day used steroids. I'm not going to say, "they did" because I personally have no proof, however, it is a well-known fact that steroids were not illegal until the 1980's, and were experimented with by muscle-men before that.

Should You Be Considered A Drug User If You Used The Drug Before It Was Illegal?

With that said, let me present my reasoning: these mighty-men didn't have today's knowledge of steroid cycles and training techniques, and took relatively small amounts of the drugs, yet still looked amazing. Shouldn't I be able to duplicate their achievements even without now-illegal drug use with our modern knowledge, supplementation and so-forth? Can't all of todays stuff make up for their relatively minor amount of performance-enhancing drug use? I think so, yet my physique still isn't there. Why? I ask myself! I am 23? I should be more powerful than I am? So, I began reading? and reading? and reading?

This picture was taken from page 50 of the book "West Coast Bodybuilding Scene: The Golden Era" by Dick Tyler and its caption was written by Dave "The Blonde Bomber" Draper! Talk about fantastic!

The caption reads as follows: Tom Sansone, between sets, has the honer of holding LeRoy Colbert from toppling as he knocks off a set of 85-pound seated dumbbell alternative curls. If you're takes notes, this is the exercise that built the very first 20 1/2-inch muscular arms in the universe. These brutes dominated the New York muscle scene in the 50's.

I now believe that people are in some cases held back by what we consider to be advanced knowledge and superior training methods. We have concepts in our minds that have been planted by years of "university studies" and filler material in muscle-magazines, that just may hamper progress.

I'm not accusing the Weider Empire of being completely bogus, as I believe that a truck-load of incredible information has resulted from the passion of Joe and Ben. But maybe, just maybe, we have begun to rely on what others supposedly know, instead of remembering where the sport came from. I have gotten frustrated in my training, because I believe that the human body can grow faster than mine seems to be.

I wish to focus on the area of actual gym time in this article, not the aspect of nutrition, as I think science has pretty much nailed that area and we know that we need to eat lots of really good stuff to grow. Oreos can only take you so far, you need BEEF, CHICKEN, AND FISH!

So what is the best way to train to get big muscles? Do you work one and only one body-part per week? Do compound multi-joint movements (squats, benching? etc.) make isolation movements obsolete? What on earth am I supposed to do about over-training? Can I over-train? These are questions that have been going though my head. After much ponderment and reading about the golden era of bodybuilding,

Specifically the following books entitled:

In addition to talking to a trainer whom I believe is very knowledgeable (a certain Bryan Hartsfield? right on Bryan!), I have come back to the foundation. Here is what I have determined (elementary in words, but do you really understand and use the following principles?):

  1. Muscles need stimulus to grow. Intense, heavy stimulus.

  2. Forget what the pansies say, just remember No Pain, No Gain. (I'm talking about good muscle pain here, not spinal injury pain because you're lifting like a blithering idiot!) Burn that muscle baby, burn it!

  3. What makes so-and-so grow, will not be exactly the same as what you need to grow! So take gym advice with a grain of salt and be intelligent about it!

That's it! There's what I have determined. Duh, right? DUH?! Think about it. All too often people set self-imposed principles in their heads that undermine their growth! Let's think about a random exercise, dumbbell presses for example.

You pick up the weight and in your head, you say to yourself "Eight reps and then I'm done, because this weight is heavy? in fact, it's more than I've ever done before." Congratulations, you've just hampered your progress. Screw eight reps! Do more! Don't be silly, remember, records are made to be broken.

I'm really preaching this to myself, as I find that I slip into mental ruts instead of focusing on the goal? GROWTH! Another example: you're on your last planned exercise for the evening, but you're really not that tired? not like the last week anyway when the workout floored you in pain... so why quit after that last "planned" rep?

Did you work yourself hard enough? Think about it?if your muscles aren't stressed and buried under new loads, how are you going to progress? You aren't.

I've recently been attacking my body with intensity I've never had before, and let me tell you, it HURTS. But it's wonderful, because I know I'm forcing my stubborn muscles to do what they don't want to do... GROW!


No, you won't be able to hit every gym session with this intensity, and I hit a point where I was on the edge of what I believe was overtraining. So I took a chill-out week and did little stuff in the gym until my body can handle the load I'm going to punish it with the next week. I'm on a routine now where my mind is limiting me less and less, but I still have a long way to go.

I'll write more? but until then, please, do yourself a favor and take yourself beyond your self-imposed limits. Why not? Are you afraid to grow?