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Old School Cool


Total Posts: 6

Joined 2012-07-19


The recent well written article “Do It Because It Works: Why Everything Old is New Again” by John Romaniello reminds me of some things I wrote about how the pioneers of the sport used to train. People talk about the Golden Age of Bodybuilding…in the 60’s and 70’s with Franco and Arnold…and it’s fascinating. But I even like to go back a little further into the Ice Ages as well with the pioneers of what was once known as physical culture…

In an excerpt from an interview with Bill Dobbins and Reg Park (Muscle & Fitness 6-00), Reg describes his “training in a garage, candles around the walls, a tin roof that let rain in, freezing in the winter, benches covered with old sacks - a real dungeon.”  When I think of everything we have available today (even my home gym is more comfortable/ergonomically advanced than Reg’s was then), I see that I have no excuse not to train and realize it was not only Reg’s genetics, but also his determination and dedication to train hard against the elements that was key in developing his superb build and part of the main foundation for his success with bodybuilding. 

Like other great bodybuilders of his time (Steve Reeves) who helped pave the way for us today, Reg relied on a strong mind to develop his strong physique.  It’s interesting looking at how bodybuilding has evolved through time noticing along the way what has become available to people in terms of equipment, supplements/etc., technology, money/career opportunity/endorsements, etc…when comparing the great physiques of all time. 

I admire many of today’s champion bodybuilders who have more available to them on many levels, but I also realize that the further back you go in time…in the beginning, there’s an almost purity in the sport in that one can see most of those guys did it pretty much with only a few barbells, simple food diet and sleep…just for the love of the sport and got results that were pretty remarkable. Some could read Joe Weider’s magazines “Strength & Health” and “Muscle Power” (which exist today as “Muscle & Fitness” and learn some things through them; some had to invent the techniques and learn from their own experiences. 
There’s something kind of organic and special about all of that to be respected and remembered. 

I don’t think bodybuilding as a sport was better way back at the beginning…nor do I think that every thing in bodybuilding is way better now. But there are things in the past that are better than now in that sometimes simplicity is the mark of the master. Bodybuilding and training have evolved, but there are good things in every era to remember; the key is to have the wisdom to pull those things out and use them. It is interesting to sit with a box of old physical culture magazines from the 1940’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and read the stories…the details of the way of things…

“...M&F: Did winning the Mr. Britain have an immediate impact on your career. 

REG: Indeed. A couple of days after I won the Mr. Britain, Ben Weider knocked on my door, introduced himself, and told me he and Joe had organized the International Federation of Bodybuilders and wanted me to join. Afterward, I flew to New York and met Joe. He sent me down to Florida, where I stayed for about a month, training and doing photo shoots for his magazines. Then I went out to California for a few months, and when I came back to New York Joe asked me, “How would you like to work for us?” So I did for a while, then went home to England to train for the Mr. Universe, which I had set my mind on winning. After that I was training in a garage, candles around the walls, a tin roof that let rain in, freezing in the winter, benches covered with old sacks - a real dungeon. Most young bodybuilders have absolutely no idea how primitive our training facilities were in those days. Certainly the knowledge bodybuilders have now regarding training and diet is a significant factor in how good they can become, but a lot of it is simply the modern gyms available to them.

M&F: Was it at this point that you began using the split system?

REG: Yes. I found the split system mostly by instinct. In 1950. I was invited to train at the Viking Barbell Club in London for three weeks before the Mr. Universe. [Editor’s note: Park would finish second to Reeves.] I started doing leg work in the mornings and upper body in the evenings, and I gained 26 pounds in three weeks. I wasn’t really ripped, but I was using very heavy weights so my body was really hard. I Wasn’t About to Do Hand Balancing.

M&F: Were contests considerably different in those days?

REG: There have always been different ways of conducting bodybuilding contests, depending on the sanctioning organization and the promoter involved. Some had the competitors do an athletic demonstration onstage that’s why you see so many old pictures of physique competitors doing hand balancing or gymnastics during contests. But we were all getting bigger, and I wasn’t about to do hand balancing at a bodyweight of 225 or 230 pounds. Besides, it was unfair. Suppose you were a great swimmer? How could you demonstrate that? You see the same sort of thing with women’s fitness contests nowadays. The women who are trained gymnasts or dancers have an advantage over those who aren’t, even though they might not have the beauty or the physique of some of the other competitors.

M&F: In those days, weren’t mass and shape more important than being supercut?

REG: Certainly considering the way we look at definition today But I’ve seen photos of myself from those days in which I was in very good shape, with a lot of detail. Not like today’s bodybuilders, but not totally smooth, either. We looked pretty good.”


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Total Posts: 1

Joined 2012-07-23


Nice story. I agree with you.