Monday, March 20, 2017

Bernarr Macfadden - David Pirie Webster (1975)

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Bernarr MacFadden
by David Pirie Webster (1975)

From This Issue
August 1975, Volume 1, Issue 3

Online Archive of Macfadden's "Physical Culture" Magazine:

In the world of weights there have been many larger than life characters, many eccentrics but just a few clever enough to become millionaires. Bernarr Macfadden was all of these.  "Crazy", Whacky", "Hole in the Head", "Screwball". There were just a few of the adjectives used to describe this weird and wonderful personality, but he made millions of dollars and when 80 years old he was the owner of a chain of magazines and newspapers, a string of hotels, health farms and schools, he was worth not less than $30,000,000 - that was equivalent to $100,000,000 at this present time. [That's edging close to 500 million in the 2017 equivalent.]

It is hard to pinpoint the start of his rise to success because there were many significant milestones along the way. The physical culture millionaire started life as the delicate son of an alcoholic father and consumptive mother. The family was very poor and when the boy was four his father died of delirium tremens. Not long after this, tuberculosis got the better of his mother and Bernard Adolphus Macfadden, as he was christened, was left all alone in the world without a penny to his name.

In later years he vividly recalled how he overheard his foster parents saying that "consumption" would likely prevent him from reaching adulthood, and being a very sickly youngster it seemed as if their prediction would come true. Bernarr Macfadden, as he became known in later years, had, however, a curious knack of overcoming handicaps and the first turning point came when he was sent to work on a farm at only 11 years of age.

He thrived on the hard work and outdoor life and soon began to feel very grown up. So adult did he feel that he decided to copy his elders and get a skinful of liquor and a big cigar! The resulting nausea made him swear that he would never again in his life indulge in these so called luxuries, indeed until the end of his days he vigorously discouraged all forms of smoking and drinking. This was Macfadden in a nutshell - a man who did nothing by halves. He had an almost fanatical approach to everything he tackled. Sometimes he 'came a cropper' but always he came up for more and made progress along the way.

As a boy he always had to go barefoot and when he was jeered at for being permanently unshod he asked his foster mother to buy him a pair of shoes for Sundays. When this was refused he realized that if he were to have the things he wanted he would have to become completely independent. He was prepared to work hard to achieve these aims and these independent and hardworking traits were yet other characteristics demonstrated throughout his life. As can be expected with someone of this temperament he tended to work too hard. He developed a hacking cough and lost the vitality which he had gained working on the farm. Medicines seemed to have no effect whatsoever so he decided to join a gymnasium. His thinking in this line was influenced by the Police Gazette, a paper which did a lot to popularize activities such as weightlifting, wrestling and boxing.

Unfortunately because of the rather staid and conservative attitudes of that period, the Police Gazette was considered "not altogether nice" and was not taken very seriously by most people. However, there were many young folks like Macfadden who were inspired and when he went along to the St. Louis Gym, hosed at that time in an old church, he was astounded at the physiques he saw. Even the very worst of those present was a lot better than he was. Macfadden the bodybuilder was born that night.

The fees for the gym were too much for him to pay, he only got $6 per week, but he got a set of dumbbells and worked until he ached. He even took to carrying weights with him wherever he went and people stopped saying he was dying - instead they said he was going mad AND PEOPLE KEPT SAYING THAT UNTIL THE DAY HE DIED!

His early working life as varied and interesting. He went to Kansas as a farmhand and took up boxing and wrestling in his spare time. He worked on the railroad amongst the roughest and toughest, often shoulder to shoulder with jail-birds. He hoboed his way across the country, the only tramp on the road who carried his own dumbbells!

His fellow "gentlemen of the road" would watch in amazement as he went through a workout on the freight trains which they jumped in their long hauls across the continent. At another time he worked in a coal mine but a most important step was taken when he got a job as a printer's laborer and went to work on a newspaper. Here he learned a lot about printing and publishing which was invaluable to him in later years. Unfortunately, this newspaper failed and soon he was on the road again.

On a journey back to St. Louis he took stock of himself and tried to assess what he was doing with his life and what he should try to do. Most of all he wanted to have a gym of his own and with this in mind he decided he must settle down for a while and learn all he could. working with terrific enthusiasm he quickly mastered many gymnastic feats on various pieces of apparatus. He could do grand circles forward and backwards on the horizontal bar and dismount with a variety of somersaults. He would sing in his terrible voice as he swung on the bars. Here he was in his element.

Soon he was of professional standing but his work took another turn when he read William Blaikie's well know book on how to get strong.

How to Get Strong and How to Stay So (1879)  - by William Blaikie:

 Instead of pursuing gymnastics Bernarr, still a keen bodybuilder, widened his horizons and became what he termed a 'physical culturist'. He also took up wrestling very seriously and his instructor George Baptiste advised him to turn professional and this he did with some degree of success. He became proficient in several different styles and one of the best books on early American professional wrestling makes special mention of Macfadden.

Even then his reputation as a crank grew to great proportions. He experimented with weird diets and turned more towards vegetarianism.

He took two or three jobs at a time working all day and every day and whenever he could get wrestling matches or jobs in circuses he would take those to supplement his income.

By 1890 he was already making a name for himself. He began to invent equipment not only for bodybuilding but an amazing variety of weird gadgets most of which were rejected by the U.S. Patents Office.

According to one of the wives he had from time to time, some of his inventions made  efforts appear completely rational. [Britain’s “Gadget King”—master of the art of creating madcap contraptions that made use of ropes, weights, and pulleys to perform relatively simple tasks, from wart removal to peeling potatoes. Although he trained as a painter and also worked as a book illustrator, Robinson developed his forte with drawings of gadgets that parodied the absurdities of modern life.]

Not all of them were crazy, though. His "Washed Air System" for example, was surely the forerunner of modern air conditioning and one of his wall muscle developers was standard home exercising equipment for almost half a century. Amongst his "way out" and less successful inventions were double decker underground trains, and being rather obsessed with sex he invented a peniscope designed to restore male vitality and potency. [Something of a forerunner to the vacuum pump].

Bernarr Macfadden came to Britain in 1897 at a time when it was exactly right to launch a boom in physical culture and bodybuilding. The inspiration of Sandow and the growing immigration of European strong men had set the scent and a curious chain of events led to the establishment of  the worlds first bodybuilding and physical culture magazine. Some say it was 1892, but the bulk of my evidence suggests it was 1897.

Macfadden's Physical Culture

Hopton Hadley F.I.S.A.C., F.I.S.M.A., was hard at work in the London H.Q. of the British Cycle Corporation when a young American called to sell him a supply of Whitely Exercisers, a wall developer which was virtually unknown in Britain at that time.

Click Pics to ENLARGE

Hadley asked for a demonstration and hinted that if the apparatus was effective then the salesman should, by his own physique, be able to show the results. It was just the sort of chance that the American needed. He stripped off and used the developers, showing his muscles to advantage as he did so. It was the start of an association which made the demonstrator world famous - this salesman was Bernarr Macfadden. 

Hadley, a very shrewd businessman, gave Macfadden a large order for the apparatus but made it a condition that the American personally launched the sales campaign by giving exhibitions, while suitably attired, in the large windows of Hadley's cycle shop in Newgate Street, London. It was a sensation! Vast crowds gathered daily and three days later the police issued a summons for obstruction. The boom was on.

One of the first ventures they embarked on, with Hadley's backing, was the publication of a magazine. It was a monthly journal known as Macfadden's Physical Culture. 

It was started in a small way but was quite successful. Macfadden worked in one room writing most of the articles himself under a variety of pen names. He illustrated the features and even did his own printing. Thirsting for independence Macfadden wanted to go his own way and the magazine was taken over by Hopton Hadley on his own. Volume 2 went on the bookstalls re-named Health and Strength, a title which is still synonymous with the bodybuilding movement in Britain.

Macfadden also continued in the publishing field but diversified more than Health and Strength. While the latter continued to specialize in news and information on strength and muscle building, Macfadden turned more to treatment of common ailments and sensational nature cures. "100 pounds for any case of cancer we can't cure" was on of his sensational challenges and he was dedicated to such things as eliminating the wearing of spectacles and corsets.

His magazine "Physical Culture" was published in America but he also had a special British edition printed in London, and, although largely a health and fitness magazine, because of his main personal interest, he chose to call the magazine "Physical Development".

In April, 1902 he started the British edition of Health and Beauty, a magazine for women, which, for some time, met with great success. He had many setbacks in the publishing field as physique pictures of naked men, sporting nothing but appropriately placed fig leaves were considered by many to be obscene, and he claimed that it was for this reason he returned to America to print "Physical Culture" in New York. Even there he ran into trouble and had to flee back to Britain. It all started with his constant demand for sensationalism and he kept going just a little bit further, seeing how far he could go in printing lurid articles.

The crunch came in 1907, when he was arrested for sending obscene material through the post. In actual fact, this was his physical culture magazine with a descriptive warning against venereal disease. He was fined $2,000 but President Taft kept him out of jail and Macfadden remained in Britain until public opinion in America cooled off.

By this time he was a prolific writer and in addition to having produced hundreds of articles and numerous books, he had also written an Encyclopedia of Physical Culture in five volumes and over 3,000 pages.

He was a staunch advocate of bodybuilding but for commercial purposes, he preferred to promote "kinistherapy" as he realized the everyday ailments of the population created a better market for his literature than the interests of specialized muscle men. It is clear that his second visit to Britain allowed him to sell the many books which had to lie unopened after the court action when the bottom dropped out of the American market.

Macfadden toured Britain giving lecture demonstrations, selling his books and setting up physical culture societies. His disciples in cities all over the country plugged his goods and kept the money flowing in. Cashing in on his experience in in physique contests, the wily entrepreneur fan figure competitions for a 100 pound prize. While less than his first big prize for men it was a fortune in those days and the extent of this can only be estimated by considering that it would take many of the entrants four to five years to earn wages totaling that amount. It sounded wonderful for the winners but Bernarr was a real crafty operator. Part of the conditions was that the winning girl in the figure competition would go on tour with him and he withheld the prize until the end of the tour. During this time the winner got living expenses only. To make matters even better for the promoter he married the winner, Mary Williamson, before the tour was complete and persuaded her to invest her prize money and book sales commission into some of his enterprises. 

The incredible life of Mary and Bernarr Macfadden is entertainingly told in her book "Dumbbell and Carrot Strips" and I heartily recommend this book to anyone wanting to read of the idiosyncrasies of this eccentric crusader. 

It is worth mentioning how I came to get the book. Having heard of this publication years earlier, I considered it to be an essential part of my research for this present review, but it was completely out of print and I just could not get a copy in libraries. I made requests to the libraries to obtain one for me but again drew a blank.

As the time came to write the Macfadden part of one of my books, I had to proceed without it and started taking notes. I was interested to find that like George Hackenschmidt, Macfadden was a great believer in cosmic influences. Being rather skeptical I laughed at this and commented that anyone as publicity conscious as Macfadden would have given me some cosmic guidance to assist me in my work. Then things began to happen. A letter from John Valentine, "The Michigan Hercules", told me of an Australian, Sydney Hurst, who had a collection of bodybuilding books for sale. I found that he had listed the coveted book "Dumbbells and Carrot Strips" but unfortunately it had been struck off the list as being sold. Undaunted, I wrote asking the name and address of the person who had bought it, as I would try to make contact. After writing the letter, I had to travel to London for a film preview and at the reception chatted with Tom McNab, the National Athletics Coach. He told me that he had bought some books recently from an Australian, Sydney Hurst, and one of these, "Dumbbells and Carrot Strips", might interest me. I was astounded. He did not know anything at all about my search and out of the 8,000,000 people living in London, 400 miles from my hometown in Scotland, I had to pick the one man with the book from the Australian mentioned to me by the American. Would anyone like to guess the odds against such a thing happening.

There was an interesting sequel. Tom sent the book to me without delay but didn't enclose his name or address with the parcel. IN THE VERY NEXT MAIL I GOT A LETTER FROM SYDNEY HURST TELLING ME THAT HE HAD SOLD THE BOOK TO MR. McNAB AND THE ADDRESS WAS GIVEN!  

Cosmic influences? Such matters can't be discussed in a work of this nature, but I can relate how I came to get the information I needed.

Macfadden's Competitions

In actual fact there were several interesting competitions for muscular development at the turn of the century, and Macfadden, through his magazines, ran a world wide competition which selected area winners going forward to national finals and then finishing up in New York for the world title. Naturally the early rounds were judged photographically and this gave him excellent material for his publications and helped to boost his sales. The standard varied considerably and while there were some outstanding specimens the majority were of a pretty low caliber. The eventual winner was Al Treloar but that is getting a little ahead of the story. 

The competitions were announced in 1903 and the February issue of the British edition outlined the basic concept. There was to be a 200 pound prize (equivalent to about eight to 10 years salary of ordinary working people in Britain at that time). In American currency the prize was $1,000. The winner, it was said, need not necessarily be a big man. The prize would be awarded to the BEST AND MOST PERFECTLY DEVELOPED MAN. (Sounds like Muscle Mag's philosophy! Ed.) 

"Symmetry, perfect contours, beautiful outlines, a body with all parts superbly developed, are the requirements we call for in the prize winner, but it matters not whether his height is FIVE OR EIGHT FEET." The competition was open to the whole world and the winner was declared The Most Perfectly Developed Man in the World. "A fair field and no favors will be the policy followed," said Macfadden. "We have taken every precaution to ensure that there will be absolutely no element of favoritism or injustice in the competition." 

There was also a 200 pound prize for the most perfectly developed woman and the announcement about this carried a back pose of a woman flexing her biceps.

When the conditions of entry were eventually published for the great "Perfect Man" contest it appeared that height did indeed matter. The minimum height was to be 5'4" but there was not weight limit. Every applicant had to be between 20 and 50 years of age and a subscriber to the magazine. Photographs had to be accompanied by measurements. In addition to the 200 pound prize, medals were awarded to the most perfect applicants in the various centers. The winner of each particular center was given return tickets to New York. The notes continued: 

"Remember that this competition is not to decide who is the most wonderfully developed man, as we do not desire to select abnormal representatives or freaks from the standpoint of development; we wish the prize to be awarded to the most perfect specimen of physical manhood." 

Preliminary rounds were held all over the U.S.A. and in the main towns of Britain. The best from competitions in such places as Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield, Newcastle, Bristol, Brighton, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dublin and Belfast went forward to semifinals in London and from there a first class return passage from London to New York, with liberal expenses for a short stay in the States was offered as this semifinal prize.   

Macfadden got a lot of excellent material for his magazines from this event and pictures came rolling in from all over the world. One of the first was Secundo de Acha, of Bilbao, Spain, who held the coveted title of "Champion Athlete of Spain". This husky weight lifter was a pupil of the celebrated Professor Jose Zamacois, who until his death (before the announcement of the competition) was known as the strongest man in Spain and Portugal. He was honored by having his name added to the title of the most prominent Spanish Sporting Association at the time, "The Society Gymnastica Zamacois". 

The finals were held at Macfadden's Physical Culture Exhibition from December 28th, 1903 to January 2nd, 1904 at Madison Square, the competitors and judges were briefed so:

"The general principles which will be adhered to in selecting the prize winner will be uniform, healthy and wholesome development of each and every limb and muscle, and the relative proportions that they bear to each other." 

The winner was Albert Toof Jennings, much better known by his stage name "Al Treloar". Much was made of the fact that his arms, calves and neck were exactly the same measurement. Some writers, however, claimed that Staff Sargent Moss, a British competitor, had the same uniformity and was bigger all round. Unfortunately, Moss was disqualified in a preliminary round owing to being heavily tattooed. The British representative W.E. Clements of Leicester finished fourth, after Carl Victor of St. Louis and Harry Blickman of New York City. Victor and Blickman, like Treloar, were professional strongmen. 

Treloar or Jennings was born on May 11th, 1873 in Allegan, Michigan. His father, of Cornish extraction, was a lifter and had a barbell which was cast in England in 1830. When Al first went on the stage he assisted an Austrian juggler named Treloar and naturally adopted the same name. When he became a strongman, with the billing of "The Perfect Man", long before the Macfadden contest, he kept the same stage name and retained it throughout his life until he died on 28th February, 1960 at 86 years of age.

By a strange stroke of fate, in 1893, when he was just 20 years of age, he was booked to appear on the same bill as Sandow in Chicago's Trocadero Theater. There were the inevitable changes in the program and Treloar stayed on as Sandow's assistant in Sandow's Refined Trocadero Vaudeville Company of 1894.  

Later in the year Al went to Harvard University and graduated with a B.Sc. in physical education. After graduation he went back on the stage where he was assisted by his wife, known as Edna Tempest. He worked "on the boards" off and on until 1907 when he was engaged as Director of Physical Education to Los Angeles Athletic Club. He stayed at this post, a highly respected member of staff for 42 years. In his early days he trained at Anthony Barkers Gym in New York and was in great demand as an artists model. One of his greatest feats was in posing for an art class in New York when he stood on his hands for eight minutes. 

His other great feat was tearing three packs of cards, a stunt he could still do in 1922. Treloar said that the $1,000 prize announced was divided with $500 to himself, $300 for Carl Victor and $200 to Blickman, rather different from what the advertisements would indicate.

"Holes in the Head"

The screwy antics of Bernarr Macfadden made him the columnist's dream. The more they wrote the more the physical culturist played up to them.

It started in simple ways by publicity about his fasting and cheap diets of carrots, beans and nuts. Then he advocated sleeping on the floor for correcting back troubles and this made him a laughing stock in many places. In recent years, however, this theory had been vindicated and the most eminent back specialists have recommended wooden bases in the beds of sufferers rather than soft mattresses.

He enjoyed going around nude, but as this wasn't feasible, he settled for walking in his bare feet and right up till the end of his days he walked the 5-6 miles to his offices in New York, shoeless and often carrying a 40-lb. bag of sand - particularly if he thought there was likely to be a press photographer around. He also played tennis as often as possible in his bare feet.

He dressed like a tramp, except on very special occasions and the only hat he ever wore had huge holes cut in it for ventilation. His very long hair would stick out of the holes like straw from the stuffed head of a scarecrow.

Macfadden's daily routine for a long time started by his getting up at 5:30 a.m. and having a workout. He did 25 exercises each day and his favorite was single leg squats, doing countless repetitions with each leg. He would then have breakfast consisting of a raw egg with cottage cheese. His only drinks would be vegetable or fruit juices, particularly carrot or lemon juice. Tea and coffee were strictly forbidden in his household.

He married several times and some of his wives had a very tough time. He absolutely denied them any medical attention and his third wife, Mary, told of terrible suffering because of this. Once when she had pneumonia he treated her by hosing her with cold water. When their first child was only four days old, he began immersing it in ice cold water up to its mouth and nose. When another son had a convulsion due to teething troubles, Macfadden submerged the baby in a hot bath, too hot for his wife's hand. The baby died. 

Macfadden had many children but even when his wife was in labor he refused to have a doctor in the house. On more than one occasion the situation was critical, but he stuck to his guns. Indeed, he had to deliver his first son himself and ironically enough this was the one time when he was eventually forced to call in a doctor. He had already had four daughters but this time delivery of the thirteen pound infant was followed by a severe hemorrhage and it was quite clear that there was need for a considerable amount of stitching. Eventually, after a very worrying night and morning, Macfadden agreed to call a doctor providing the stitching was done without an anesthetic and that no drug of any kind be used as pain killers. Poor Mary had to be held down as fifteen stitches were inserted and while she screamed with pain, Macfadden stood by, impassive as ever.

"The Virile Powers of Superb Manhood"

This was the title of one of Bernarr Macfadden's best sellers. It went to many editions and by 1903 there were over 135,000 copies sold. It went on selling for many years after that.

Macfadden considered himself an expert in "sexology" - a practicing expert. When he married the winner of one of his "Perfect Figure" contests, she was constantly pregnant for the first four years of their married life. "He had," she said, "a perpetual zest for physical love." Unfortunately he spoiled things by being rather clinical and making copious notes on the subject. He believed that the perfect man should be able to maintain love-making for an hour at a time. In her diary, however, Mary Macfadden wrote, "he had some way to go."

His painstaking research eventually found its way into his books and articles which among other things covered the following subjects: Sex and Stimulation in Courtship; The First Enchanted Night of the Honeymoon; Lovers Techniques; Ia Absence of Maidenhead Proof of the Bride's Previous Defloration; Honeymoon Hazards of the First Night; Wife Decides Bliss in Love's Supreme Climax; Control of the Final Climax; Techniques for Augmenting and Heightening Thrills in the Marital Embrace; Exercises to Increase and Sustain Virility.

Throughout his life Macfadden acted as though sex were one of his own inventions and that he'd better make the most of it before it "went out of fashion". While in his 80's and meeting his ex-wife for business luncheons he would still grope under the table in the same way he did many years before. Another habit he acquired was pinching the bottoms of his female acquaintances. This he protested was to ensure that they wear not wearing bustles which he hated as much as he abhorred the wearing of corsets. His dislike for such "falsies" was heightened by the fact that one of his wrestling colleagues had badly cut his finger on one when exploring the mysteries of femininity. Naturally, Bernarr would explain, the wrestler's intentions were honorable. Only curiosity about bustles prompted the action.

When he got married to Great Britain's Perfect Woman she bought him, as a wedding present, he finest pair of silk pajamas she could find. Macfadden did not appreciate this one little bit. He flung them over the chandelier and there they stayed for some time. They were, according to him, "a sinister invention calculated to thwart the inspirational moment of procreation." He much preferred his nightie.

Full credit must be given to Mary Macfadden for her fascinating and often laughable story of life with this strange millionaire. At first she considered him a rare primitive, touched with genius and whose particular purpose made his idiosyncrasies inevitable. A the years passed, however, and she was subjected to all kinds of trials, her attitude hardened and it is a wonder she lasted as long as she did. She was chosen out of over 500 candidates for the Perfect Woman title and she was a genuine physical culturist who most of the time did not mind having to do hundreds of exercises every day. After all, when she was pregnant, and that was very often, she was allowed to reduce her squatting to to just 100 reps each day and to WALK 15 miles a day instead of trotting that distance.

One of Macfadden's remarkable theories was that he could predetermine the sex of his children, provided a strict timetabling of copulation was followed. After having three daughters he was determined to have a son to carry on his work and his wife Mary gave credit to David H. Reeder, M.D. of La Ports, Indiana as the researcher who introduced them to the possibilities of sex premeditation. Basically it depended on the date of conception in relation to the menstrual cycle. the Macfaddens tried this to their own satisfaction producing three sons in a row.

Click Pics to ENLARGE 

As part of his lecture demonstration tours Bernarr Macfadden posed in a cabinet, his body dusted with white powder to make him look more like a marble stature. Now of course the tanning effect to look bronze is much more popular. His lighting was superb and had been carefully studied by Macfadden when he was a roustabout at the Worlds Fair in Chicago in 1893. Florenz Ziegfield presented Sandow during this period. The special lighting not only made him look more muscular, it also made him look taller than his 5'6". The routine commenced with muscle controls and muscular poses of the Roman and Greek eras while his female assistant named the statues. In his lectures he got many people on his side by pointing out the healthy life led by Jesus of Nazareth and his disciples. "They were the early physical culturists," he would say, "they walked hundreds of miles, fasted, had a healthy diet of figs and nuts and wore loose fitting robes."         

Macfadden was a close friend of Upton Sinclair and George Bernard Shaw, the latter contributing, free of charge, to Physical Culture magazine. Shaw also attended one of Macfadden's health establishments. He had many such clinics, the first at Brighton. This was taken over by one of his pupils, Stanley Lief, who later opened Champneys, the leading nature cure resort in Europe now being run by Lief's son Peter. In Chicago Macfadden had an International Healthatorium where a Doctorate of Physocultopathy of Kinistherapy could be gained in one year. One could also take a course in Hydrotherapeutics or study to be a Professor of Brain Breathing. On more mundane lines, scholarships were obtained to the Institute of Weight-lifters or Certificates gained as Master Masseurs. I understand that this clinic played an important part in Macfadden's political campaign at a later stage in his career.

He went to Italy, was granted an audience with the Pope, was received and got on very well with Mussolini. Il Duce presented him with the Order of the Crown of Italy and King Victor Emmanuel praised him for his lifelong efforts to make men strong and healthy. After this Macfadden took 50 of Mussolini's handpicked Fascist Brigade to America at his own expense and sent them to the Clinic for special training. He had ambitions to be the first physical culture President of the United States and went to great length to achieve his aims.

When he was 60 he still believed his physique was the epitome of physical development and had a plaster cast made of himself. A statue was molded from this by George Gray Barnard and the Pathe Review made a film of it which was shown in over 4,500 motion picture theaters.He had many well know and talented people working for him at one time or another. Walter Winchell started on his road to fame via Macfadden and Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt was brought in to edit one of his magazines. It was his magazine "True Story" which really made his fortune. A novel feature of presentation in this magazine was the posing of live models in romantic situations to illustrate the features instead of the usual drawings. Among those he used as models were Mrs. Sam Goldwyn, Bebe Daniels, Norma Shearer, Jean Arthur and Frederick March.

He went into film work and produced a film called "Zongar" for general distribution.

It included an unconnected series of shots showing muscle men, acrobatic leaps, daredevil stunts in an airplane, weight lifting and Indian club exercises and the inevitable beauty pursued by a club swinging villain. This was followed by another film called "The Virgin Wife". Much more successful was the filming of some of the features from "True Story". They made a lot of money and Rudolph Valentino went soaring to the top after one of these called "Sinners in Love".  (1928)

 Ann Hardy (played by Olive Borden) moves to the big city where she falls in love with Huntley Gordon (Ted Wells), but she is heartbroken to learn he is just using her. Directed by George Melford, who also directed "Blood and Sand" and several of Valentino's Sheik films.        

Valentino, the great silent movie star, agreed that he got his fantastic sex appeal by following the doctrines of Bernarr Macfadden. 

Macfadden did not mellow at all with advancing years. If anything he got even more eccentric. He got married again at 80 and carried his young bride not only over the threshold but up a long drive and across a lawn. He also took up parachute jumping and celebrated his birthdays by jumping from airplanes. On his 84th birthday he parachuted into the River Seine in France.   

Video of the jump:

A fine four minute video promoting Mark Adams' book on Macfadden: 
Plenty of great photos there.*&destination=us&currency=USD&mode=basic&st=sr&ac=qr

It didn't kill him though his days were drawing to a close. It was his last big stunt but he had outlived most of those who had laughed at him in years gone by. Bernarr Macfadden was very obviously fanatical in his approach to body building, fitness and health. He had enormous drive and a flair for publicity. Many think his eccentricities gave physical culture a bad name and a wrong image but no one can deny that he did a fantastic amount in promoting contests and his concepts, some good and some bad, added a great deal of color to the scene of might and muscle. 



Thursday, March 9, 2017

Building Your Calves - John McCallum (1967)

Originally Published In This Issue
February 1967

Last month we touched very lightly on the theory of calf development. 

This month we want to convert theory into practical application. In short, we want to outline a routine that will force your calves to their maximum shape and development as rapidly as possible.

Like all out specialization routines, we'll tie the calf work in with a general bulk producing
course for your entire body.

There's two reasons for doing this. First, even though you've decided to specialize on your calves for a while, you still want to make continued improvement on the rest of your body. Second, and most important of all, your gains on the specialization area will be infinitely greater if you're gaining weight during the time you're specializing. 

This business of gaining weight is one of the real keys to progress. Too many men make the mistake of trying to beef up one localized area - calves for example - without giving sufficient attention to increasing their overall bodyweight. You might make it this way if you're an easy gainer, but the chances are overwhelming that you'll fail miserably. 

I was talking to one of the big Mr. winners about this one time. He was specializing on his calves. I went down to the gym to watch him work out and for an hour all he did was bulk and power stuff.

"I thought you were specializing on your calves." I said.

He wiped the sweat out of his eyes. "I am." 

"Good grief," I said. "All you've done so far is bulk stuff. When do you do the calf work?" 

"Pretty soon," he said. "Soon as I finish the bulk part." 

I sat down on a bench. "That looks like a pile of hard work. Why don't you just exercise your calves." 

"Because it wouldn't do me any good," he said. "I wouldn't gain." 

"You wouldn't gain on your calves?" 

"No," he said. "I've tried it before. All I get is a little definition. I've got to be gaining weight to add muscle anywhere." 

"So you do a weight gaining routine along with your specialization work," I said. "Is that right?" 

"Right," he said. "It's the only sensible way. Specialize if you have to, but tie it in with an overall bulk program." 

Let's start with the overall bulk program.

Do the following routine two days per week. Mondays and Thursdays, for example. Or Tuesdays and Fridays. 

1) Press Behind Neck - 3 sets of 10 reps.
2) Curls - 3 x 10.
3) Rowing - 3 x 15.
4) Bench Press - 3 x 12.
5) Squats - 2 x 15.
6) Pullovers (alternate with squat sets) - 2 x 20.
7) Stiff-Legged Deadlift - 1 5.
8) Leg Raises - 1 x 25.

This is a very basic weight gaining program. There's nothing complicated about it and there's no fancy frills. It's simply a matter of very hard work on a few exercises. 

Don't be fooled by the apparent simplicity of the program. You read a lot of hullabaloo in other magazines about miraculous training programs and it's easy to become confused by it all, but the above program, for all its simplicity, is still tops for the average trainee who wants to gain solid muscular weight as quickly as possible.

Do the squats heavy and in breathing style. Take three big breaths between each repetition. You should be completely gassed when you finish them. Add weight every workout. Figure on reaching at least 350 lbs. for 15 reps. 

Keep your deadlift poundages at least as high as your squats and 10 or 20 pounds more if you can. Do them standing on a block so you can go way down with the weight. Let the bar go right down to your toes. Concentrate on your lower back when you're coming erect. Straighten up and roll your shoulders back at the completion of each rep.

The stiff-legged deadlift (or straight-legged, whichever you prefer) is a badly neglected exercise. It's too bad it is because it's also one of the very best moves for bulk and power. It's doubtful if any exercise, other than the squat, exceeds it in value and importance. It'll add bulk and power from the back of your neck right down to your heels.

It's notable that two of the most massively built men of all time - John Grimek and Maurice Jones - made great use of the stiff-legged deadlift. Jones in particular used it extensively. He handled well over 400 pounds for 15 reps in immaculate style.

Jones gives great credit to the deadlift in conjunction with the type of program listed earlier for his own herculean development. Give it your maximum effort and maybe you'll equal his accomplishments.

Now we come to the calf specialization. If you think you aren't doing enough work on the basic program, you can more than make up for it here. 

You've probably heard that your calves can stand a terrific amount of work. That's just a nice way of saying that they need a terrific amount of work. You've got to work the heck out of them if you want them to grow. You've got to drive them to the limit. You've got to grind out every last possible repetition. You've got to pump them till they scream for help.

Remember that your calves are a tough muscle group. They get a lot of exercise just packing you around all day long. You've got to really jolt them to force big gains. Make up your mind right now that you're going to work them like they've never been worked before.

The one nice thing about calf work is that it doesn't burn up much energy. You can work your calves till they're ready to fall off and it won't deplete your energy reserves as much as one heavy set of squats. Be prepared, then, to give it all you've got.

You should work your calves at least five days per seek and you should try to get in two calf workouts per day. It's almost impossible to overwork them.

Start your calf workout with the regular calf raise on the calf machine. If you haven't got a calf machine, then either buy one or build one. There's no sense fiddling around with half the equipment you need. If you're serious about building your body, then get the necessary equipment and do it properly.

Do the calf raise for 5 sets of 20 reps. Use as much weight as you can while still doing the exercise properly. Use very strict style. Drop all the way down at the bottom and stretch your calves to the limit. Raise as high as you can at the top and try to cramp your calf muscles. Try to get right up on your toes like a ballet dancer. [Note: Pointing your toes when you've reached what you think is the top will help with that. Really. My niece showed me that a couple decades ago.] 

The big stretch at the bottom of each rep is important. This stretching action builds the muscle bulk low on your leg where you want it. [Just like the held contraction at top, you can also hold the bottom stretch for a count or three or four on any type of calf raise exercise.] Generally speaking, the lower the calf is the better it will look. Certain hereditary factors come into play, of course. You can't alter the natural shape of your calf completely. You can alter it enough, however, if you exercise properly. Remember to drop as low as possible and stretch all you can.

The second exercise will be the rough opposite of the first one. Place your heels on the block this time and raise and lower the front part of your foot. Use the calf machine. You'll cramp the muscles on the front of your shin if you're doing it properly. If you're not used to it you'll get pretty tender around this area at first. Tough it out. Sore shins never killed anyone. Do 5 sets of 20 reps the same as the first exercise.

The third exercise will be the calf raise while seated. Hold the bar across your thighs for resistance. You'll work up into heavy weights on this and the pressure of the bar can become quite painful. Use a lot of padding. Make it as comfortable as possible so you can give all your concentration to the calf action. [If you don't have access or don't want access to a seated calf machine doing them one legged with a heavy dumbbell can be a plan.] 

Use a 3" block under your toes and get the maximum stretch out of it for 5 sets of 20 reps.

The fourth and final exercise is the donkey calf raise. If you've never done this before it'll take a little getting used to. Stand on a block with your heels jutting out over, the same as in the other exercises. Then bend forward from the hips so that your upper body is approximately parallel to the floor. Support your upper body by hanging on to a bench or support.

Have your training partner sit astride your back. He should sit as close to your hips as possible so your calves are doing all the work. Now grind out the usual 5 sets of 20.

If you train alone, put on a hip belt or a dipping belt and suspend weights from that. [Again, if using adequate weight with two legs gets problematic, try doing them one leg at a time.]

The donkey calf raise is probably the best single calf exercise of them all. The position is comfortable and the calf action is localized so you can apply maximum effort and concentration throughout. Bending forward from the hips helps put the required stretch on the calves. Most of the top men work on this one. It'll give you the results you want, but you've got to concentrate on it and you've got to work very, very hard. You should have difficulty walking properly for a few minutes after completing the exercise.

A couple of guys down at the gym were beefing about their lousy calves one day. They were usually beefing about something. They never worked hard enough to even stay warm on any exercise, but I thought I'd give it another try so I showed them how to do the donkey calf raise.

One of them gave me a funny look. "What'd you call it?"

"Donkey calf raise," I said. "Why?"

"Nothing," he said. "But it's a funny thing to call it."

"What the devil do you care what they call it?" I said. "Just do it. Five sets of 20 and quit complaining."

I watched them working their calves a few days later. They were dawdling through the donkey calf raise for about five reps in sloppy style.

"For goodness sake," I said. "That's not the way I showed you. Why don't you do it properly?"

One of them gave me a little grin. "It's the name," he said. "Donkey calf raise. I feel" - he smirked - "I feel like an ass doing it."

His partner giggled.

"Listen," I snarled. "Get back to work and do it properly or you'll get it."

He blinked. "Get what?"

"A good swift kick," I said. "Right in the donkey."

Good nutrition is just as important in building your calves as in building any other muscle group. Pay special attention to your diet. You've got to keep your protein way up if you want fast gains.

Get a good protein supplement and mix it into a weight gaining drink. Take it in huge amounts. Take a vitamin mineral supplement and some form of germ oil concentrate. Remember that you are what you eat. If you don't eat properly, then you won't gain properly.

Give each repetition your undivided effort and concentration. Do each rep moderately slow with very, very strict style. This is no place for cheating.

Don't rest too long between sets. You'll lose the pump effect if you do. Your calves should be pumped to the limit and burning when you finish. They should even feel tight and swollen the next day.

Give it all you've got. Other men have built herculean calves on this type of program. You can do it too.              

Monday, March 6, 2017

Specialization of the Calves - John McCallum (1967)

Originally Published In This Issue
(January 1967) 

Nobody'll give you much of an argument if you say that calves are tough to develop. You could start up a small country with the men who've given up on calf work. However, despite what you may have heard to the contrary, your calves can be developed the same as any other muscle group provided you tackle it properly. You can build them up big and bulky if you specialize on them. And you can even do it quickly if you want it bad enough. 

You don't see too many good calves around. A lot of bodybuilders have outstanding development of the other muscles, but not too many own calves in proportion. Part of the trouble is that calves are a small muscle group and not visible when you're dressed, so very few men spend much time on them. You may think you do, but stack your calf work against the total time you spend on your arms or your chest and you'll see you don't really have much to beef about. 

A few men do apply hard and intelligent effort to their calves. These are the men with legs like Hercules. 

One of the most outstanding sets of calves in the world belongs to a very nice fellow named Maurice Jones. Unfortunately, not many people have seen them.

Maury, as his friends call him, is a rare individual. He's one of the very few people actually as modest as most people claim to be. Very, very few people have been lucky enough to see Maury stripped down. This is something of a shame because he owns one of the strongest and most massive physiques of all time. 

I went hiking with Maury and another guy a few years ago. Maury is in better shape than most race horses. He breezed up the mountain trail like he was on a high speed escalator. The other guy and I were human. We staggered to the top and collapsed, Maury wasn't even breathing hard. 

It's wonderful country up in the hills. The air is sharp and clean and even the flowers smell better. We wandered around till we got hungry and then sat down and unwrapped the lunch.

We got talking about muscles while we were eating. The other guy'd been trying to build up his calves but he wasn't having much success. He needed a little inspiration, so we worked on Maury and finally he agreed to show us his calves.

He tugged up his pant legs with a lot of difficulty and flexed his calves. They looked as big as watermelons and defined beyond belief. He had on a pair of hiking boots. They're the size of loggers' corks, but they looked like ballet slippers under those colossal calves. 

The other guy stared like he'd been hypnotized.

I grinned at him. "Quite a set of calves, eh?" 

His eyes looked like two dinner plates. "Calves?" he said. "Good grief, they look like full grown cows." 

I went over to Maury's place a few days later and watched him exercising his calves. He didn't do anything else that workout. He wasn't too concerned with how much weight he used, but he worked smoothly, rhythmically, and very forcefully through a series of advanced calf exercises. 

After he finished, we sat around and talked for a while. I'd been specializing on my neck, but I thought I might throw in a little calf work.

"You won't do justice to it that way," he said. "Why don't you specialize on your calves for a while?"

I told him I was concentrating on my neck and I didn't want to quit yet.

"Your neck's big enough already," he said. "Let it go for a while and specialize on your calves instead. They'll add a lot more to your appearance." 

"How long would I have to work at it?" I asked him.

"About two months. Anything less isn't really worthwhile." 

I thought about it for a moment. "I've tried calf work before. I never got much results." 

"You probably didn't work hard enough or long enough," he said.

"That's probably true." I thought about it a moment longer. "Tell me," I said. "What phase of training do you think is the best time for calf specialization?" 

"During a bulking up period." 

"You mean when you're gaining weight?" 

"That's right," he said. "There's not much point in trying to build your calves unless you're gaining weight." 

He had me convinced so I went on a calf specialization program. I did the same exercises and reps he'd been using. In two months my calves went from 16-5/8 to 17-1/2 with a big increase in shape and definition. 

We've been basing our specialization programs on the fact that you get faster and better results if you tie in the specialized work with bulk and power work on the rest of your body. In other words, the smaller muscle groups will grow a heck of a lot easier if the big muscle groups are growing in size and strength at the same time.

This is more true of your calves than any other section of your body. Unless you inherited legs the size of rum barrels, you'll find it's practically impossible to build really big calves without bulking your thighs and back to herculean proportions. Conversely, if you bulk your thighs and back with hard work on the growing exercises, your calves will come along with no trouble at all.

I used to work out with a guy who had as nice a set of calves as you'd want to see. They taped around 17-1/2" and were shaped something like Grimek's. The funny thing was I never saw him doing anything for them. He was strictly a power man. He wasn't so hot on the quick lifts because he didn't practice them enough, but he had a tremendous amount of sheer, overall power.

He trained regularly and very hard on squats and deadlifts and a few of the standard bulk exercises. He did them all with heavy weights and moderately low reps.

He was fond of milk and used to soak it up like a roomful of cats. Nobody realized it at the time, but he'd stumbled on to a crude system of muscle growth - hard work on the heavy exercises and copious quantities of protein.  

The calves were puzzling, though, and I asked him about it one day.

He looked down at his calves like he'd never seen them before and said, "What about them?" 

"Man," I said. "They're terrific. Don't you know that?" 

He gave me a big grin. "Johnny," he said. "I'm terrific all over. You oughta know that." 

"I oughta," I said. "You tell me often enough."  

He held one leg out in front of him and pointed his toe like a ballet dancer. He twisted his leg from side to side while he looked at it. "Terrific," he murmured. He walked over to a mirror and flexed his calves. "You're right," he said. "Amazing what nature can do when she really strains."

"Willie," I said. "Will you quit playing the fool. All I wanta know is, did you have big calves when you started training?" 

"Are you kidding?" he said. "I was skinny as a lamp post." 

"But what about your calves?" I asked him. "Were they big?" 

"Heck, no," he said. "They looked like two peg-legs." 

"All right then," I said. "How did they get so big?" 

He looked at me like I'd just got over the wall. "Exercise, of course. How else?" 

"Willie," I said. "I've watched you lifting weights for two years no. You've never done a thing for your calves and you know it." 

"At home, Johnny," he said. "At home. I work them at home." 

"At home?" I looked at him carefully. "Are you kidding me?" 

"No, no," he said. "I exercise them at home pretty near every day." 

"Why" To build them up?" 

"No. I don't care how big they are. I just do it to make them springy." 

I cocked an eyebrow at him.

"Really," he said. "It helps my cleans." 

"Willie, I said. "Do you mean to stand there and tell me you built those calves at home without even caring what they looked like?" 

He smirked.

I put my hand on his shoulder. "Willie, by boy. Sit down and tell your old buddy all about it. Every last detail."

"You wanta make your calves springy?" he asked.

"Springy, schmingy," I said. "I don't care if they're as useless as your head. I just want them to look like yours." I looked at his calves again. "You know, they're really good." 

He gave me a nudge. "Not good, Johnny. Terrific." 

Big calves make a fantastic difference in the overall appearance of your physique. They supply the absolute finishing touch to a truly outstanding body. It's noticeable that all the really top men, like Grimek, Park, and Pearl, have proportionate calf development. Their calves are one of the items that lift them out of the rank and file and into the all-time great category.

"I work my calves every day for a half hour."
If you ever get a chance to see Reg Park doing his posing routine, don't miss it. He does one pose where he turns his back to the audience, rises up on his toes, and flexes his calves.    

Reg Park Posing: 

When he does this under the lights it's the most unbelievable sight you could possibly imagine. He displays what must be close to the absolute maximum in herculean calf development.

That's the kind of calves you should be shooting for. And if Reg Park can do it, there's a good chance you can do it too. Finish off your grip and forearm specialization this month, and next issue we'll outline a program that'll give you the kind of calves you want.

Weight-Gain Dilemma - George Turner (1999)

George Turner Audio Documentary:

Question: I read question and answer columns in a number of magazines hoping to find an answer to my weight problem, but it's never covered. It's not a question of wanting to lose weight but of wanting to gain weight. 

I've tried eating four and five times a day and using supplements. All that happens is I feel stuffed. My stomach feels bloated, an that interfered with my workouts. What's more, I still don't gain anywhere except around my midsection. 

I train five days a week, but lately I've become very discouraged.

Answer: You didn't mention how long you've been training with weights or your height and weight. That information would have been helpful, as would a current photo. Frankly, though, I believe I can make a number of assumptions based on what you have told me.

You're discouraged, and if things don't improve for you quickly, you're in danger of quitting your training altogether. There's an old saying that goes, If you keep doing what you're doing, you keep getting what you got. I'm going to suggest some major changes in your training schedule and eating habits, and we'll see if we can't get you back on the right track quickly.

First, I want you to stop all training for one week and during that week eat only three moderate meals a day. I strongly suspect you have a hot-running metabolism and that you're a rather nervous, worrier type. If that's the case, you've probably been rather thin and unable to gain weight for some time.

Eating more food isn't the answer. All that does is impede digestion by overloading your digestive track. People who have hyperthyroidism, which is a precursor for a hot metabolism, use only 60 to 70 percent of the food they eat. 

The key to gaining good bodyweight is to slow the metabolic rate so that 90 to 95 percent of the food you eat will be properly used. You accomplish that by adjusting your training, not by eating more food.

After you one-week layoff you should train only twice a week for eight weeks. The workout will include only compound movements performed slowly, as follow. After warmup sets do these exercises as heavily as possible.

Squat - 5 x 10, 8, 8, 6, 6.
Standing Calf Raise - 6 x 12.
Bench Press - 5 x 8, 7, 6, 5, 4.
Deadlift - 4 x 6.
Supported Barbell Row - 4 x 8.
Seated Barbell Press - 5 x 6.
Seated Dumbbell Curl - 5 x 8
Lying Triceps Extension - 5 x 10.

After three weeks your metabolic rate will begin to normalize, at which time you can begin to eat more if you're really hungry. Don't overeat. 

If you follow this plan to the letter, you can expect to begin gaining good muscular bodyweight. After four weeks - depending on what you presently weigh - you should experience a five-to-six pound bodyweight gain. As you begin to eat more, your body, which is not using the extra food, will continue to grow. I fully expect you to gain a solid eight to 10 pounds over the eight week period.  

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Building the Grip and Forearm - John McCallum (1966)

Originally Published In This Issue
(December 1966) 

Last month we discussed the theory of grip and forearm development. This month we're going to get away from theory and get down to the actual business of building a powerful grip and huge, shapely forearms.


The forearms are probably subject to more untested theory than any other section of the body. You often read about pinch grip chins on rafters for exercise. I've even read that swinging along hand over hand on a rafter is good forearm exercise. It probably is. But if you can pinch grip a rafter that tight, then turn the page, you don't need any exercise. In actual fact, it's highly unlikely the authors of such imaginative material ever tried pinch gripping rafters themeselves. 

It's like Stephen Leacock's story of the gym teacher who taught six-day bike racing, although he couldn't ride a bike himself. As Leacock says, he was one of the finest bike riders that ever walked.

Don't get too carried away with theory. There's thousands of grip and forearm exercises you can practice if you've got nothing else to do. Most of you probably have. The exercises and stunts we're going to discuss have been proven by men who actually used them and acquired phenomenal forearm development in the process. They're designed to give you maximum results with a minimum expenditure of time and effort. 

The first thing we've got to consider is increasing the bulk and power of the entire body by hard work on what I call the growing exercises. And incidentally, not considering the growing exercises is the primary reason for 99% of all bodybuilding failures. If you specialize exclusively on the forearm, or any other small muscle group, without adequate work on the big muscle group growing exercises, you're practically doomed to failure.

If you'll concede me that point, we'll get on with it.

Do the following bulk and power program two days a week. Either Monday/Thursday, or Tuesday/Friday if you possibly can.

1) Warm up with dumbbell swings - 2 sets of 15 reps.     
Get lots of leg and lower back action into it. Don't use much weight, it's just a warm up. 

2) Squats - 5 x 5.
Use a moderate weight for the first set. More for the second set. All you can for the last three sets. I still get letters from trainees who haven't grasped the importance of heavy squats. Remember this - your ultimate success depends almost entirely on your squatting ability. Nobody ever failed who did heavy squats. Conversely, very few succeed who don't do heavy squats. By heavy, I mean 500 pounds and over for big men, and very slightly less for smaller men. The only thing that keeps you from 500 pound squats is yourself. Don't make excuses. If you're afraid of the weight, admit it and overcome it. Don't waste your time fiddling around with baby sized barbells your crippled grandmother could lift. If you want to look like a Hercules, then lift weights like one.

3) Pullovers - anything up to 20 reps.
Alternate with the squat sets. 

4) Front Squats - 5 x 6 reps. 
Same type of percentage increase as the regular squats. Either clean the weight if you can, or take it off the rack. Put a 2 x 4 under your heels to make the quads work hard and use weights you don't have to lie about. 

5) Incline Bench Dumbbell Presses - 5 x 8 reps.
Use a moderate weight for the first set and then load it on. Keep your elbows wide and the weight well back. Figure on using at least a pair of hundreds. 

6) Upright Rowing - 5 x 6 reps. 
You'll get a good deltoid workout from this if you use heavy enough weights. 

7) Chins - 5 x 8. 
Use a wide grip. Pull up all the way and hang dead on the bottom. Tie weights around your waist for resistance. 

8) Stiff-Legged Deadlifts - 4 x 10 reps.
Start light and work up real heavy. Hold the weight after the last rep of each set and do as many shrugs as you can before putting it down. 

Now we come to the grip and forearm work. We'll divide it into three distinct segments - conventional exercise periods, supplementary exercise periods, and the repetitious practice of gripping stunts.

We'll start with the conventional exercise periods. Do this workout three or four days a week. 

1) Reverse Curls - 5 sets of 15.
You'll find reverse curls tough if you've never done them before. Don't worry too much about the weight at first. Use whatever you can and gradually increase it till you're handling a good poundage. Reverse curls are probably the most commonly used forearm exercise. They'll give you a nice, smooth blend-in from the forearm to the bicep.

2) Seated Wrist Curls, Palms Up - 5 sets of 15.
Your forearms should be pumped up and burning when you finish. Wrist curls build the big flexor muscels on the inside of the forearm that supply most of the bulk.

3) Seated Wrist Curls, Palms Down - 5 x 15.
Same idea as exercise 2. Your forearms should feel like they're on fire.

4) Load up one end of a dumbbell. Grip the other end. Rest the back of your forearm across a bench with the weight over the end. Let the dumbbell drop back and down, and then lower it upright by the strength of your forearm. 5 sets of 15 reps for each arm.

That's all for the conventional exercises, and it's enough to force growth if you're working hard enough on the power stuff as well. It should take you about 45 minutes to go through the forearm workout. If you can do it much faster you're not working hard enough on the exercises. Your forearms should feel as tight as a banker's wallet and be visibly swollen when you finish.

Next we come to the supplementary exercise. You need about 10 cents worth of equipment. Get a sponge rubber ball about the size of a baseball. Cut it in half with a razor blade or a sharp knife. Put the halves where you can use them throughout the day. Under the front seat of your car is a good spot for one of them. Anytime you get the chance, such as when driving your car, drag it out and pump your forearm by squeezing it systematically. Alternate hands and do about 25 reps each hand each set. Do as many sets as you have time for.

Get all the variety into it that you can. Try different hand positions. For example, hold your hand in the goose neck position and try to cramp your forearm while you're squeezing. Or squeeze the ball, hold tight, and roll your hand as far back as it will go. You'll find lots of angles.

If you're doing the supplementary exercise while driving your car, it means steering with one hand and exercising with the other. Don't try it in heavy traffic or at high speeds. You're liable to end up with your hand wrapped tightly around the rubber ball and your intestines wrapped loosely around the drive shaft. Big forearms are nice, but they're not worth getting wiped out for.

Finally, we come to the practice of gripping stunts. This is perhaps the most entertaining way of developing your grip and forearm. The key to the whole thing is doing enough repetitions to make an exercise out of it.

One of the most impressive stunts, and very good exercise, is tearing a deck of cards in half and then into quarters. The problem of course, is getting the cards. You'll need J. Paul Getty for an uncle if you intend on buying them.

The best substitute is your daily newspaper. They're all good for tearing and some of them aren't good for much else. Take two single pages and lay one on top of the other. Now fold it in half five times. Make each fold neat and crease the edges as you go or you'll end up with a mess. This ends up roughly the length and width of a deck of cards, but not as thick. Now, tear it in half and start working on tearing it into quarters. Do this with every page until you've torn up the whole newspaper. If you can get the paper boy to do the same thing with the bill, you're laughing.

As soon as you can, start folding and tearing three sheets the same way, and then go on to four sheets. Work out variations in the way you hold the paper such as pinching it with your thumb and forefinger, and so on. You can usually get a stack of old newspapers some place and practice this in a big way. work at it every day, and by the time you can handle four sheets of newspaper, you'll have no trouble with a deck of cards.

Tearing cards is an astonishing feat of strength to the layman. They've all heard about it but very few have actually seen it done. Next time your wife ignores your take-out double, rip the deck into quarters and fling the pieces violently in her face. This is very impressive in bridge circles, and considered more effective than hacking at her shins under the table.

Another popular stunt is bending bottle tops with your fingers. Here again, the problem is getting material to practice with. It's no use just bending one every other day. Go to any store or cafe that sells pop to drink on the premises. They'll have hundreds of bottle tops. They'll think there's something wrong with your head, but they'll be delighted to have you pack them away.

Practice bending the bottle tops as many ways as you can think of. Try to work up to bending them with your fingers straight, or four at a time, one between each finger.

Beer bottle tops are just as good or better. Don't try to provide them yourself, though. You'll lose interest in training. Go to any tavern and they'll give you all you need.

One of the best stunts, and a terrific exercise if you do repetitions, is bending and breaking spikes. You'll have to buy these unless you've got a friend in a hardware store who can steal them for you.

Get a bag of 8" spikes and two pieces of water pipe about six inches long. Place the piece of pipe over the ends of the spike to increase your leverage and bend the spike back and forth till it breaks. Start with the pipes as far out on the ends of the spike as you need to bend and break it, but gradually bring the piples in until you're not gaining much leverage, and then dispense with one, and then the other.

Wrap the spike in a handkerchief after you get down to bending them without the water pipe. When you can bend and break an 8" spike with your bare hands, you've got a parlor trick going for you that's hard to beat.

There's other stunts you can practice. Just remember to do enough repetitions so it becomes exercise. You can practice rolling up license plates, crushing juice cans, and so on. The field is practically unlimited. Practice every chance you get while you're on this specialization kick, it's almost impossible to overwork your forearms.

Stick with it for about two months and work like you're supposed to, and you'll end up with forearms inches bigger than they are now and enough power in your grip to make the average guy holler "uncle" by a firm squeeze with one hand.

Give it a try. You'll find it's well worth while.   


Grip and Forearm Development - John McCallum (1966)

Originally Published in This Issue

Grip and Forearm Development 
by John McCallum (November 1966)

I was in L.A. about ten years ago. I went into one of the gyms and asked about a man named Mac Batchelor. They told me how to find the tavern where he worked, and that night I drove over to see him. 

The tavern was full of thirsty customers, but there was no doubt who was Batchelor. He weighed about 330 and most of it was muscle. I climbed up on a bar stool and introduced myself. 

"Tell me, Mac," I said. "You still the world's best arm wrestler?" 

He laughed. "I think so." He propped up an arm like an elephant's leg up on the bar. "Wanta try?" 

I looked at the arm. "No thanks." 

He looked surprised. "No? How come?" 

"Mac, I'll tell ya," I said. "You might break my arm, and I don't think my insurance would cover it."

He smiled broadly. "You know," he said, "you're one of the very few people who ever walked in here and didn't think they could beat me."

"Good grief," I said. "I ain't too bright, but I'm not crazy. I tell you what I would like, though. I'd like to see some of those strength feats of yours I've heard about."

"Sure," he said. "Here." He reached under the bar and brought out four bottle caps. He jammed one between each finger on his right hand and held his hand out. "Watch." He squeezed lightly and the four caps crumpled like Kleenex.

"Here's another one," he said. He took a cork top from a bottle and crooked his forefinger around it. He put his thumb against the top of the cork and snapped it in two with no effort.

He got another cork and handed it to me. "Try it."

I gripped it the same way and tried to break it. Every time I pushed with my thumb the cork slid out of my forefinger. I handed it back to him and he broke it for me.

"The trick is pinching it hard enough with your forefinger to hold it," he said. "You need a pretty good grip."

I grinned wryly. "I always thought I had one. This is kinda hard to take."

He smiled. "It takes training." He handed me a threaded metal bottle cap. "Try and bend this."

I put it between goth hands and bore down. Nothing happened.

"Gimme," he said. He held it between his thumb and forefinger and pinched. It collapsed like the top off a pop bottle.

He laid his hand palm up on the bar. "Try and hold down one finger."

I got both hands on his middle finger and leaned on it. He gave it a flip and my hands flew off. I tried another finger. Same thing.

I felt his forearm. It was thick and round and hard as a bowling ball.

"Mac," I said. "You specialize in grip and forearm work, don't you?"

"Sort of," he said. "It's like a hobby."

"How fo you work it in with your regular training?"

He leaned on the bar. I waited for it to fall down, but it didn't. "I do power stuff about two days a week," he said. "You know, squats, dead lifts, and so on. Then I work my hands and forearms every chance I get."

"You figure that's the best plan?"

"I think so," he said. "If you want a good grip and a big forearm."

Somebody said once that a powerful grip is the sure and certain mark of a man. That's not entirely true, my sister-in-law's got a grip like a stilson wrench and she looks like Ava Gardner, but certainly a good grip and big, impressive forearms are worth working for.

The forearms are a relatively small section of the overall physique, but they're the dressing that sets off the appearance of the arm as a complete unit. Proper forearm development gives that full, shoulder-to-waist, bulky look that a really good arm has. Upper arm standards have risen the last few years, but fortunately so have forearm standards.

There can be no question that two of the most completely developed arms of all time dangle from the shoulders of John C. Grimek. It's also significant that Grimek built his forearms to their absolute maximum.

Some of you may remember the sort of analysis David Willoughby used to do on the physiques of top bodybuilding stars. Willoughby was a tough man to be measured by. He used a thin steel tape pulled tight and no monkey business. Somebody once said that after Willoughby measured him, it took four days for the blood to start circulation again.

Willoughby's enthusiasm never got away on him. His observations were always analytically precise and coldly objective. Yet he went to great lengths to praise the size and development of Grimek's forearms.

If you watch Grimek posing under lights, you might not notice his forearms because of his monstrous upper arms, but if you get over the awe his physique creates and really look at his forearms, you'll see why he is e to perform the feats he has on the Weaver stick, and you'll begin to get some idea of the inherent potential in forearm work.  

The Weaver Stick:

Feats of Strength with Leavers, by David Willoughby:

Forearm specialization and feats of gripping power go together like ham and eggs. One supplements the other. The odd and pleasant thing you'll find is that gripping stunts are viewed by the general public out of all proportion to their actual difficulty.

Tearing a deck of cards in half is easy. You should be able to do it after two weeks work on your forearms. Yet tearing a deck of cards impresses the layman for more than pressing three hundred pounds. If you want a reputation as a strongman without going to too much trouble, a vice-like grip is the quickest and surest way to it.

Your grip is geared in approximate ratio to the size of your forearm. You'll find the odd guy with a pretty good grip and not too much in the way of forearm development, but generally speaking a big forearm means a good grip and vice-versa.

If you check through your old Strength and Health magazines, you'll find the men with really fantastic grips also own fantastic forearms.

Bill Pearl can roll up a license plate like a sheet of paper. He's also got forearms bigger than most men's necks.

Pearl was doing a show here a while ago. The next day he went down to a gym to talk to the guys. He's very modest. He had on a loose fitting, black, V-necked sweater over top of a T-shirt, and he looked like Mr. Universe even through the clothing. The guys asked him, but he wouldn't take off the sweater. He wasn't being coy, he's just plain modest. 

Finally they got talking about forearms. Pearl explained what he thought about forearm development and the exercises he did to build his. They asked to see forearms, and he tugged his sweater sleeve sort of hesitantly up to his elbow. There was a moment of stunned silence, one long gasp from everyone in the room, and Pearl whipped his sleeve back down again.

Everyone was doing forearm work the next day.

Doug Hepburn is another man with a quality grip. He can bend and then straighten out a steel spike that some men would have trouble lifting. He's also got forearms so big you can hardly believe they're real.

    Hepburn's so big all over you don't particularly notice his forearms when you see him stripped. But if you see just his forearms alone, it's enough to knock your eyes out.

Hepburn ran a gym a few years ago. I took a friend of mine to meet him. Hepburn was fully dressed and wearing a short-sleeved white shirt. The sleeves covered his upper arms, but his forearms were exposed. I introduced them. Hepburn put his hand out, but my friend was staring so pop-eyed at the colossal forearm that he missed when he reached out to shake hands.

He raved about Hepburn's forearms all the way home in the car, and the following week he started weight training.

Let's establish a couple of points about grip and forearm specialization before we get into the actual exercises.

First of all, if you've been following this series properly and working hard on the bulk and power exercises, you'll be around the stage where you need specialized work on the smaller muscle groups to bring them into line with the big ones. The idea isn't to concentrate exclusively on the small groups. That would be a mistake. You've got to keep up the bulk and power work to ensure overall growth and improvement. What you must do is work them both in together.

In other words, and this is vitally important, do enough bulk and power work to stimulate growth, and specialize very hard on one small muscle group at a time until it's outstanding in appearance and performance.

Secondly, there's little or no danger of going stale on forearm work. Power exercises like squats and dead lifts gobble up energy like a used car gobbles up gas, but forearm work uses relatively little energy.

That means you can work harder and more often, and consequently make more progress on your forearms than you would normally believe.

One of the best sets of forearms I ever saw were built on a system of three forearm workouts a day. You can do more exercises, more sets, and more reps. You can pump your forearms till they look deformed, and the more you work them, the faster they'll grow.

You've probably heard it said that forearms are difficult, of not impossible to develop. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The principle reason most men find it tough to build their grip and forearms is because they don't work hard enough on the right exercises, and they don't do enough of the growing exercises along with it.

Combine forearm specialization along with the proper growing exercises, and your forearms will grow beyond your wildest dreams.

Remember - you can develop your forearms fast and without too much trouble. You can convert a forearm like a stalk of celery into a bulging phenomenon. You can make your forearms your most outstanding bodypart in about two months if you really want it bad enough.

Next: Building the Grip and Forearm. 

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