Looking for a workout routine to build a powerful chest?
Learn from DAN LURIE, who for several years was known as the “Most Muscular Man in America”. He won multiple tiles in the category of Best Arms, Best Legs, Best Back, Best Abdominal; Most Muscular and BEST CHEST.
The author carefully explains three fully illustrated chest exercises along tips to to progressively gain strength.
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Frederick Tilney was a giant of physical culture who made great contributions to the field, although too few people are aware of his accomplishments. To a large extent this lack of recognition is a result of the fact that he worked in the background, primarily as a staff writer for physical culture and bodybuilding magazines and as a ghost writer of courses.
During his career as a physical culture writer he was associated with major pioneers that included Bernarr Macfadden, Joe & Ben Weider, Bob Hoffman at York Barbell Company and Charles Atlas.
Frederick Tilney was born in Norwich, Norfolk on the east coast of England. He was very weak as a child and from a very unhealthy family, (his mother died at age 51 and his father at age 59). At 12 years of age he came across a copy of Physical Culture Magazine which was the flagship publication of Bernarr Macfadden’s publishing and physical culture empire. He wrote to Macfadden to send him some back issues and when they arrived he not only used them himself, but distributed them to patients in a local hospital. This was the start of his physical development and his accumulation of knowledge of physical culture.
He and his wife moved to the United States in 1920 where he initially worked for an industrial company. After winning a couple of contests for writing ads he prepared a marketing plan that he submitted to Bernarr Macfadden who immediately hired Tilney and his wife.
Frederick Tilney discovered Charles Atlas demonstrating cable exercises in the window of a New York department store along with his friend Earle Liederman.
Macfadden had a long history of running Perfect Man and Perfect Woman contests to promote his publications and generate advertising for them. In fact Macfadden married Mary Williamson, who had won the contest that he held to determine “Great Britain’s Most Perfect Woman.”
Charles Atlas had won the 1921 perfect man contest which was determined from photographs and Macfadden had decided to make a movie starring Atlas. Macfadden wanted Tilney to direct the movie. Macfadden referred to Tilney as “his idea man” and said that. ” he never had to worry about Tilney where ever he was as his mind was always working.”
During the making of that movie Tilney recalls the following incident in his biography “Young At 73 And Beyond:” He says, “It was while driving with Mr. Atlas back and forth to the studios I suggested that he and I start a mail order business. We did and our first ad appeared in November 1922. We were business associates for many years, and he has told me that the years spent in association with me were the happiest in his life.”
Tilney was also a personal trainer and continued working with Atlas to perfect his physique to make it more like the statues of the Greek Gods and was constantly developing new exercises to reach those ends. He also acted as a personal trainer to John Grimek who is described in Atlas’s Biography “Yours In Perfect Manhood” as “arguably the greatest bodybuilder who ever lived.” Grimek and Atlas both admired each other.
Tilney wanted to move to Florida, but Mrs Atlas did not want to leave her family in the New York area. He sold his interest in the business to Charles Roman and moved to Florida where he ran a health food store and continued to exercise and stayed healthy until his death in 1977 at the age of 82.
(c)Frederick W. Tilney (1895 – 1977) by Gordon Anderson
The secret of Len’s success was simple, first desire, then dedication followed by a great deal of hard work, training always the natural way for a lasting and award winning physique. Born February 3rd, 1935 in Gilingham Kent. Len first took up with the weights to supplement his off-season training for cycling. He told me he used to do cycle time trials over 10, 25 and 50 miles in his teenage years. Len then showed great promise as a racing cyclist and it’s interesting to note, many other top bodybuilders, pre the use of weights, had a foundation of cycling which helped build up some great lower legs and overall fitness. This was the pre rock and roll days, of national service (for Len around 1952/53) and Len was called up at the tender age of 18, going into the RAF, then weighing just 128 lbs.
Once he received his posting in Germany Len first started weight training, mainly in an attempt to increase his bodyweight, using either home made or makeshift equipment. Servicemen were lucky indeed to find even a basic barbell in most military gyms in those days.
On leave, back in the UK, Len paid a visit to the late Reub Martin’s weight lifting club in Tottenham. Reub, who knew better than most about bodybuilding recognized Len’s great potential and was delighted to take him on and make him work. Len, then a lithographic engraver by trade, always pays tribute to Reubs’ coaching and encouragement saying that it was the catalyst that set him onto the road to bodybuilding fame. Len also stresses that, “I shall also never forget all the encouragement and enthusiasm which dear Oscar (Heidenstam) gave to all, especially in the early days.”
Eventually Len Sell was indeed to become famous worldwide featured in all contemporary muscle magazines Health and Strength, Iron Man, Strength and Health USA and even Joe Weider’s Muscle Power magazine and today he still, with the help of his second wife runs a superb gym and health studio offering weight control dietary advice and sports training.
His first experience of competition was in the 1954 Mr. Essex contest and then, the 1955 Mr. Britain, taking a respectable 3rd place with his physique improving by leaps and bounds, from a shape that would be recognized later as one of the world’s most symmetrical physiques. Always an outdoor man, Len had the added bonus of a healthy and fit looking body with a fine tanned skin, all aided by Len’s love of all round pursuits of swimming, cycling, tumbling and hand-balancing.
By 1956, Len had won various other muscle titles, from Mr. Metropolis at the Royal Albert Hall, to Mr. London awards and was runner up to Henry Downs, another great British bodybuilder, in the Britain final, the same year he entered the NABBA Mr. Universe contest, taking second place in Class 3 amateur. Right form those early days, Len used very heavy training poundages, influenced no doubt by Reub Martin, with workouts consisting of a wide variety of exercises, including gymnastics, chins and dips.
Len Sell’s basic workout An early example of one of Leo Sell’s basic workout routines was as follows:
- Squats: 4 x 20 Donkey
- Calf Raises: 4 x 20
- Thigh Bicep Curls: 3 X 12
- Press Behind Neck: 4 X 8 reps using 180 lbs.
- Alternate Dumbbell Press: 4 x 8
- Bench Press: 5 sets various reps using up to 400 lbs.
- Triceps Stretch: 3 x 10
- Curls Close Grips: 3 X 10
- Leg Raises: on bar for abs 3 x 20
- Chins: 3 X 10 with added weight hung around his belt
A Year of Triumph
The year of 1957 was one of great triumph with Len first winning his area contest, then going on to take the laurels on October 19th with Class 3 winner Amateur Mr. Universe at just 22 years of age. He was also victorious at the Mr. Britain on March 29th. Despite his heavy muscularity not seen on a British bodybuilder since Reg Park or John Lees, Len had great all over muscular definition including fine abs, In fact his whole physique was so outstanding for a man of just medium height of 5ft 6 ins and with power to match his muscles. By now in the mid 50’s, Len could squat and bench press 420 lbs plus, and dumbbell bench press, a lift at which he excelled, press two 200 lbs dumbbells on bench, something I witness personally. He would do dips with an added 120 lbs around his waist, triceps press 220 lbs, overhead press 360 lbs and repetition dumbbell pressed 2 x 120 lbs. He changed his programmes often, especially before a contest, using the split system if required.
A Perfect Combination
The charismatic Earl Maynard, who was later to win the Pro Mr. Universe title in 1964, described Len’s build at that period as, “A perfect combination of maximum bulk for the short man, blended with super definition and classical proportions.” Praise indeed from a practicing and competing fellow bodybuilder. Thus onto the 1958 Mr. Universe, Len fined down from over 200 lbs to 185 lbs, arms, neck and calves in similar classical proportions of round 18 inches with a 49 inch chest. Len looked good, but possibly more to bad luck and a mix up of judging decisions over height, Len lost out by a whisker (1 point) to Earl Clark of the USA. The professional title, that year went to Reg Park, and the famous trainer and mentor of Bill Pearl, i.e. Leo Stern, said of Len Sell, “With a little more definition he (Len) could be the greatest short man he had ever seen”
Meanwhile in the same period, Len won Mr. TV Adonis, Mr. Soho, and Mr. Metropolis. Bodybuilding history certainly proved Leo Stern right in his judgment as Len Sell, at the London Palladium in front of witnesses such as Paul Getty, the world’s richest man at the time and also a muscle fan, went on to take the 1959 Amateur Mr. Universe on September 26th aged 24 and a kiss form Jane Mansfield. Also on the same routine, was the American Bruce Randall who had made an amazing transformation, losing over 200 lbs. bodyweight to win the pro Mr. Universe title, but that’s another story. Because of his now ever growing popularity, giving exhibitions at shows, and running his own gym, Len, having collected just about all useful amateur wards turned professional and his obvious and natural ambition was to win the Pro Universe title and take it he did, just three years later in 1962 at NABBA’s 13th Universe show at Victoria Palace London.
The 1962 NABBA Mr. Universe
To achieve this pinnacle in his career, Len had to take on a dozen or so top muscle professionals including four great names from the USA. These competitors included; earlier foe Earl Clark, Sam Martin, Ray Routledge and the Iron Guru himself, complete with golden tan from California and reputation, Vinc e Gironda. Others in various line ups included Bill Stevens, Reub Martin, whose shoulders were the widest on the muscle scene, and the friendly American Joe Abbenda, who won the Amateur crown, with our Len taking top title of overall professional Mr. Universe just beating six foot Ray Routledge form USA. Vince came in second place in Class 2 professionals, a good showing and popular win for a guy than aged 45 years.
A popular cover man of many muscle magazine, author Colin Sheard writing in Health and Strength back in 1962 said of Len Sell, “He had a cheerful, winning disposition with a modest unaffected, sunny personality, “Such praise is enough to make anyone blush but Len was indeed a popular guy and even during the elation of his winning the Universe, he still found the time to thank his earlier mentor Reub Martin for his guidance and sensible training advice.
The champion was in much demand for posing and guest spots throughout the country, being well received and highly acclaimed for his physique, power and personality. Inspired himself by Reg Park in his early days. Reg invited Len over to South Africa to do a posing tour in 1963 and this proved to be a highly successful tour indeed. ersonality. Inspired himself by Reg Park in his early days. Reg invited Len over to South Africa to do a posing tour in 1963 and this proved to be a highly successful tour indeed.
Continuing to be featured in contemporary muscle journals both on the covers and in the art pages, throughout the ‘50’s and 60’s, Len’s physique 20 years later, (March 1982) still looked as good as ever. He opened his East London Walthamstow gym back in 1963 and now has a full membership of many hundreds. Previous members of Len’s gym included Roy Duval, Mr. Universe World Champion Ian Dowe, and Reg Park, Bill Pearl and even Arnold, have all paid visits to Len’s gym and worked out with the weights.
Len still loves his gym and still gets a buzz when training. When asked his opinion of steroids and some modern training habits, Len said, “The original concept of bodybuilding was to improve strength and size, but above all to be, and look healthy. I think today’s bodybuilders are at a fantastic level and good luck to them, but I personally prefer the less vascular look of previous decades.
Len has two daughters Belinda and former SE Britain winner, who now lives in Australia, and Donna, who resides in sunny California, plus Len’s son, Leo a six footer, who also trains when able. Len has been married to his second wife for coming up to 25 years. Their silver wedding anniversary due on 24th August 1999. Still very active, Len keeps fit by training three times a week, plus plays plenty of golf, and with wife Val’s help, continues to run his gym and remains a credit to true bodybuilding.
Len Sell’s Advanced Workout
Len’s training consisted then of the following typical routine, combined of course with plenty of rest and paying great attention to diet.
- Front squats: 6 x 5 reps increasing poundages form 280 lbs to 300 lbs.
- Thigh Extensions: 4 x then arms
- Standing Triceps Stretch: with barbell, 6 x 6 reps using up to 230 lbs.
- Lying Triceps Stretch: with dumbbells 6 x 6 reps using 85 to 100 lb. dumbbells
- Triceps Pushdowns: 4 x 12 light
- Two Hands Triceps Kickback: with dumbbells 4 x 12 light
- Incline Dumbbell Curls 6 x 6 using 140 to 160 lbs
- Bent-Over Barbell Curls: 4 x 8 light
- Strict Barbell Curls: narrow grip, 6 x 6 with 140 to 160 lbs.
- Two Hands Dumbbell Press: using dumbbells pyramid fashion working up from 85 to 105 lbs dumbbells.
- Press Behind Neck: 5 x 6 using 180 to 200 lbs
- Bent Forward Dumbbell Lateral Raises: 4 x 8 reps with 45 lbs dumbbells
- Single Arm Rowing: 5 x 8 reps with 100 lbs dumbbells
- Incline Flies: 5 x 8 reps with 95 lbs dumbbells
- Calves: usually just normal calf raises
- Abdominals: done very day for the last six weeks pre-contest for high reps. Abdominals: done very day for the last six weeks pre-contest for high reps. Plus include sit-ups and leg raises.
(c)Len Sell – A Credit to True Bodybuilding by David Gentle All Rights Reserved
Larry Scott won the first Mr. Olympia back in 1965 probably before most of our readers were born and yet most will have heard of this great champion, who has retained both his fame and shape and is still an inspiration to all bodybuilders.
Born of Mormon faith, Larry Scott was raised in Blackfoot near Pocatll, Idaho, USA. Back in 1938, his Mormon background, paved by the early pioneers who trekked to Salt Lake City back in 1847, gave him both religious beliefs and pride and self-confidence. Good health, long life and happiness are the ideals that makes up the Mormon way of life and encouragement to use common sense.
His early childhood almost resembled that of the fictional hero, Huckleberry Finn in it’s more carefree and adventurous times.
He took up, and was also very good at, gymnastics, then progressed to training with weights when he was around 15 years old. His first workouts were taken at the YMCA in Idaho, inspired by the awesome physique of Steve Reeves.
In 1958 Larry, moved to California where he joined former Mr. America Bert Goodrich’s gym and his first training partner was muscle and movie star, Lou Degni.
Later he switched to the fabled gym of the Iron Guru aka, the late Vince Gironda, and hung out with movie stars, training 6 times a week for several hours at a time.
Larry was then training to be an electronics engineer, so he would usually do his workouts after his normal days work. As well as weight training he also kept active with golf and surfing. Around this period, he went back briefly to Idaho, winning the Mr. Idaho title in 1959 and also the Most Muscular at a bodyweight of 171 lbs. Back in California, Larry recalls being cast with a gang of bodybuilders in the film, Muscle Beach Party and thinking to himself just how easy it seemed to be to make money. It was certainly a lot easier than his engineering job but his Mormon sense kept him level headed and he continued both his studies and training unabated.
Training hard, his move through the muscle ranks was meteoric, both because of his good looks and also because of his popularity with the fans. He came second to Hugo Labra in the Mr. LA contest in 1960. Three months later, far heavier muscles, he captured the Mr. California crown plus Most Muscular and in May 1961, he won the Mr. Pacific Coast. His fine physique and stunning looks had now graced the covers of nearly all of the contemporary muscle magazines with his first cover shot appearing on a copy of Tomorrow’s Man magazine.
In 1962 Scott won the IFBB Mr. American title, and just two years later, after a lot of hard work in the gym, he took the IFBB Mr. Universe crown in 1964. By now his physique had become almost out of this world with shoulders and arms beyond belief in comparison to his competitors. Larry had always been quoted as saying “Success in bodybuilding is 80% nutrition,” and from that era, bodybuilders did pay far more attention to their diets than ever before with Larry’s main association being with Rheo Blair’s food supplements, covered to exhaustion in Iron Man magazine adverts. Blair, his real name being Irvin Johnson, advised eggs, milk and cream, plus predigested amino acids. Scott consumed 2 cups of Blair’s protein supplement in cream, plus 4 quarts of milk daily, along with his normal meals, “You need maximum nutrition to achieve maximum results.“
Larry Scott – The Very First Mr. Olympia
In 1965 a new title was devised by the IFBB, exclusively for the established so that only champions could compete, i.e. former winners of Mr. American, Mr. Universe and other similar top titles. Thus the Mr. Olympia title was created to end all of the controversy once and for all, as to who, from all the previous and current awards in bodybuilding, really did have the best physique. History had begun in the world of muscle competitions.
On Saturday September 19th 1965 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the IFBB extravaganza took place, supported by over 2,500 fans. Contests were for Mr. America, Mr. Universe (IFBB) and the band new accolade Mr. Olympia. Over 40 entrants fought for the Mr. American title, it was eventually taken by Dave Draper. Then a further 30 contestants tried for the Mr. Universe, which was finally won by a British bodybuilder Earl Maynard, and then, finally, it was time to the main event, Mr. Olympia. After all the normal judging and elimination, it was down to just three people, Harold Poole, Earl Maynard and, greeted by almost mass hysteria, displaying arms of near 21 inches, deltoids to delight and all round muscle mass, Larry Scott.
It was unanimous victory, Scott, later described by famous writer and top bodybuilder Ricky Wayne as being, “The eighth wonder of the world,” had become the world’s very first Mr. Olympia.
After a whole year of triumph, Larry, on September 9th at the same venues defended his prestigious title. Just about a who’s who of muscle stars attended or competed; Harold Poole, Chuck Sipes, Dave Draper, Chet Yorton and Sergio Oliva. Larry was victorious once again and then, amid the euphoria and before the cheering had died down, dropped what was probably one of the biggest bombshells in bodybuilding history, stunning everyone in attendance and announced his immediate retirement.
Larry insisted he wished to quit for one reason alone. He wanted to finish at the top. He admired deeply the former World boxing champion Rocky Marciano for his decision to retire undefeated and so on that September day in 1966 he followed Marciano’s example and retired from competition. Larry was also becoming more than just a little perturbed at the way bodybuilding was getting more and more competitive and almost brutal with many bodybuilding champions having less thought for their fans than their followers deserved. Larry once said, “Humility, not arrogance is the true mark of a champion.’
In the Years that Followed
So retire he did, taking time off for his family with his beautiful wife Rachel and his children and for a while he deliberately kept away form bodybuilding. Losing much of his muscle mass, but never his fine shape of fitness. During the late 1970’s he regained his interest in bodybuilding and wrote for Joe Weider’s magazines, also marketing very successful personal one-to-one training courses with always a great interest in supplements, diets and training experiments. He still markets bodybuilding products and offers training today. He did a guest spot in 1977 at the World Cup, 1978 at exhibitions in New York and later that year he went back to Japan, the birthplace of his wife. He was guest poser at the Mr. Atlantic Coast USA contest and did further shows and seminars including visits to Ontario.
On Friday, March 20th, in a muscle Mardi Gras arranged to celebrate 50 years of bodybuilding, Larry Scott was honoured at the first Mr. Olympia. He also became involved in the Masters at the Olympia. As MC Joe Weider said of Larry Scott, “He is the most loved and idolized of all the champions.” With Scott winning for years running, the postal vote via Joe’s Magazines for, “The greatest bodybuilder of all time.”
However, as we all now, life is never all roses. In 1978, Larry’s Mormon faith was tested beyond belief with the loss of two of his sons in tragic circumstances and yet with time the man found peace of mind regained some happiness and a renewal of his beliefs.
Larry was invited over to London in 1997 to receive the top ward of the Oscar Heidenstam Foundation and his visit was a great success. Great charisma and unbelievably approachable, his speech was uplifting and loved by the audience. He was so friendly in fact, that it was difficult to get him to talk about his training and how he built up such a fabled physique. The real secret if there was one, he revealed to those listening was simply hard work!
Scott believed in experimenting with all manner of training systems and would soon discard a routine or exercise if it didn’t appear to be working for him, or show results within a six week period. He would use a tape measure regularly to record his progress and through the use of tough training and supplements of egg, milk and cream, managed to put on an amazing 100 lbs. of muscle. Larry once said, “Every rep is a set, and every set is a series, “ and always used maximum intensity and awesome concentration on each and every rep. Larry did not go to the gym to socialize but to train and build muscle and the late Vince Gironda, who has trained more muscle champions than most declared “Larry never missed a workout.”
Larry usually trained six days a week on split routines for about 2 hours a day. Perhaps making best progress at Vince Gironda’s gym.
Over 33 years ago, Larry Scott was literally crowned, when taking the Mr. Olympia title, with a real crown and even today he remains a king amongst iron pumpers. Still working just as hard for bodybuilders, Larry Scott is an enduring and endearing champion.
(c)Larry Scott – The First Ever Mr. Olympia by David Gentle All Rights Reserved
Two articles about Sansone were written in the 30s by Walter A. Lowen, who is believed to have been a writer for Macfadden’s magazines. They are original typed manuscripts from Sansone’s collection and they and along with photographs were contributed to the HOPC Library by Jim Lovelace, Sansone’s grandson.
David Gentle takes a look back at the bulk era and one of the most famous and inspirational American bodybuilders ever. The popular Clarence Ross: Mr. America, Mr. USA and Mr. Universe.
Clarence Ross hardly had much of a start in life for a man who was destined to become one of bodybuilding’s true champions. He was born in Oakland, California, On October 26th, 1923. Due to family circumstances, he was packed off to a local orphanage. He was later raised by various foster parents.
Physically below par, with flat feet, Clarence was quite skinny, with rounded shoulders. However, his tremendous spirit and self-reliance helped him to overcome his adversities, and despite or because of the ridicule he received about his physical shortcomings, he decided to engage in as many varied sporting activities as possible, including football. basketball, and most track events.
By 1941, age 17, his height was 5 ft 10 ins. He weighed 135 lbs and decided it was time to build some muscle. It was here that he began training with weights, following a basic York barbell system, putting on 15 lbs over a period of training. The infamous bombing of Pearl Harbour, 7th December 1941, made Clancy determined to join the Forces, and he quickly enlisted in the USA Air Force and was stationed in Las Vegas. He was instantly assigned as the weightlifting instructor because of his promising build and interest and trained alongside Cpl Leo Stern, who was to become an extremely positive influence in his progress.
Leo’s more modern methods rather than the stereotyped basic schedule, as sold to one and all, helped Clancy pack on a further 35 lbs of real solid muscle, along with the power that such big muscles suggest. Clancy was soon to be recognized as one of the strongest of all bodybuilders. It as also around this same period that he married (aged 18 years) his wife, a girl from his hometown, who always encouraged him as much as possible to train and compete.
By 1945 with a symmetrical but hardly over muscled physique, helped by a super posing routine and an ability to exhibit his newly acquire muscles, Clancy won the Mr. America contest held in Los Angeles. The win helped focus many bodybuilding journals in Clancy’s direction, and he began to make cover man and the art pages of most muscle journals of the period, e.g. Your Physique, Iron Man, Muscle Power, Health and Strength and others. He was released from the Services in November 1945 and opened a gym in Alameda, California. He also joined up with the American Health Studios as manager of their West Coast Gyms.
His own training methods included pushing continually for power, along with size using medium repetitions of 8 to 10 sets of 3 to 6. Prior to Clancy Ross, most bodybuilders were still using the single set system, but multiple sets proved superior as experimentation of the period discovered along with many other new principles. Clancy would then use for example 2 x 140 lbs dumbbells in repetitions, (almost a strength record in those days) for incline and flat bench presses, which may have been just one reason for his famous huge pectorals.
In 1949 Clancy re-entered the Mr. USA which saw him coming up against the greatest array of physiques the world had ever seen in place. Although beaten by Grimek, he took second place and became one of only two men to beat Steve Reeves, twice….
In Los Angeles on 13th March 1948 at the Shrine auditorium, in front of a huge crowd, Clancy entered the Mr. USA contest, open to all professional bodybuilders, organized by Bert Goodrich (1st Mr. America) and Vic Tanny (of Tanny Gym fame). The line-up of former top titleholders included Eric Pederson, Floyd Page, Al Stephen, Jim Payne, Leo Stern and Steve Reeves. Jack La Lanne put on a hand-balancing act, Pudgy Stockton, the first real lady bodybuilder, was there and the Mighty Mac Bachelor defended his wrist wrestling championship.
A bulked up and vastly improved Clancy Ross won 1st place, a huge trophy and $1,000. Steve Reeves, Mr. America 1947, came second and Alan Stephen a former Mr. American also, came 3rd. Clancy also won the Mr. North America title in New York and another $1,000!
The Man who Beat Steve Reeves Twice!
In 1949 Clancy re-entered the Mr. USA which saw him coming up against the greatest array of physiques the world had ever seen in one place including John Grimek, Steve Reeves, Eiferman, Tanny, Page, etc. Although beaten by Grimek, he took second place and became one of only two men to beat Steve Reeves twice. Direct from his success, he gave exhibitions, from California to Montreal, and New York to Honolulu and in 1950 he published a post album entitled Heroic Manhood demonstrating his fine physique. Reg Park took workouts with Clancy, recalling him using 2 x 140 lb dumbbells in incline and normal bench presses. As for squatting, nearly 400 lbs, barbell curls with 170 lbs and other similar tough poundages. Reg said both he and Clancy enjoyed their workouts together.
Hollywood signed Clancy up for a number of short films and small parts but he never really attempted to pursue a movie career. I can remember vividly seeing him a brief movie entitled aptly “So You Want to be a Muscle Man” and could not believe anyone could be so huge and muscular. I also recall with great nostalgia paying 10p (2 shillings) for Joe Weider’s, Your Physique or Muscle Power, with wonderful cover shots of Clancy. By then he had become Feature Editor of Joe’s main muscle magazines, which extensively advertised just about every product, from chest expanders to early supplements.
The US bodybuilders dominated the muscle world in the late 1940’s and 50’s. Mainly due to their far superior diet, for example unlimited milk, gs and steaks. The Brits were still under post war rationing, and food deprivation and perhaps more importantly, better, more modern, experimental training.
The fashion in physiques during this era of discovery was inspired by America going for either size or bulk. European bodybuilders tended to concentrate on washboard abdominals and agility with some defined deltoids thrown in. However UK trainers preferred, and soon copied their American friends, both in their training methods and also in the practice of drinking literally gallons of milk daily. Clancy was a supreme example of the methods and yet somehow managed to maintain good shape and definition of the abdominals. He enjoyed the then new found set system and also cheating or loose style wherein one can handle far more weight. Plus flushing ensuring each section of the body is exercised completed i.e. flushed with blood before moving on.
He always said his favourite exercise was squats perhaps because he was once called Bird Legs. It gained him all of the incentive he needed to build his legs for all he was worth, so he always performed squats first in his schedules, and he did lots of them, hack squats, front squats, quarters squats, high rep squats heavy power squats. Lots of squats!
Clancy’s Favourite Routine
Whilst he, like all other champs, tried just about every known training system and exercise, he believed he gained something from all of them, he naturally had his favourite routines. He usually trained 4 to 5 times a week. Here’s one of Clancy’s favourite routines: Warm up. Then
- Squats 6 x 10 reps
- Calf raises 4 x 25
- Seated dumbbell curls 3 x 8
- Preacher curls 3 x 8
- Triceps pushdowns 3 x 103
- Pushups on parallel bars 3 x 15
- Chest Incline bench press 3 x 10
- Bent arm laterals on bench 3 x 8
- Leg raises on ab bench 200 reps
- Situps on ab bench 200 reps
- Side bends 100 reps each side
- Lateral raises standing 3 x 8
- Upright rowing 3 x 8
- Pulldowns all the way down to legs on lat machine 3 x 10
“Life is so much more worth living when a person is strong and healthy. Building, good health and developing a muscular body is the world’s most fascinating hobby. It is one you never tire of, and one which brings you both success and happiness in life…”
We motioned his habit, like all contemporaries, of drinking lots of milk otherwise he had no special diet except that it was well balanced and nutritional, nor would he ever eat fried foods. He did take a fair amount of high protein supplements and even weight-gain products early on in his career.
One of the Strongest of All Bodybuilders
Certainly his strength kept pace with his muscles. Clancy was considered one of the strongest of all bodybuilders. Consider this, he overhead pressed 315 lbs, snatched 280 lbs, clean and jerked 360 lbs, deadlifted 650 lbs, squatted 10 times with 450 lbs, bench pressed 385 lbs 10 times and curled in loose style 200 lbs for 10 reps. For his favourite exercise, the include bench press with dumbbells, he used a pair of 175 lbs dumbbells for 10 respond then did lateral raises standing, with bent arms. No drugs, no steroids, no lifting suits or other training aids, just plan old developed strength on healthy foods. Real championship standards, hard to beat even today. Clancy continued to improve, busy as ever with countless articles in magazines, exhibitions, shows and competitions. Sponsored by Joe Weider, he made the ocean trip over to the UK for the 1955 Mr. Universe how held in London.
The sea journey, drop in temperature from sunny California to cold London and the fact he had dropped 10 lbs in weight, may have been the reasons why caught the flue and was certainly not his best shape. As he did not wish to disappoint his many British fans, he still went ahead with the competition. He certainly received a great welcome at the June 11th event. Even at just 185 lbs, his posing routine and display, achieved for him top place in the tall men’s class, wining Tall Men’s Pro Mr. Universe 1955 and he met his defeat by Canadian Leo Robert, with his usual dignity, which gained him yet more admiration. After the show, he went back to bed for a week to overcome the flu.
Sincere and Intelligent
Joe Weider once described Clancy as, Sincere, intelligent and always wiling to lend a fellow bodybuilder a helping hand. Clancy has given a prestige to weight raining and has helped lift the sport to a higher place”.
Although losing to Bill Pearl in the 1956 Mr. USA contest, Clancy lost none of his appeal and popularity, and still continued to maintain a high profile in the world of muscle. Later in life he did work in the newspaper industry, but still trained regularly and lost little of his shape or strength. His last words after Mr. Universe show in London (1955) were, “If I had my life to live over, there is only one slight change I would make. Instead of waiting until he was 17 years old to start training, I would have begun at 12 or 13. Life is so much more worth living when a person is strong and healthy. Now that I know the benefits, I would make every possible effort to start enjoying them just as young as possible. Building, good health and developing a muscular body is the world’s most fascinating hobby. It is one you never tire of, and one which brings you both success and happiness in life”.
I salute Clancy Ross, an inspiration to all of us.
Update – May 20, 2006
Clancy Ross at 85 still doing well and living in California , U.S.A.
(c)Clancy Ross – An Inspiration to Us All by David Gentle All Rights Reserved
Leo fit, well and looking good, was one of the most muscular and best developed men in his time setting a standard, as good as any today and he did it the hard way. Leo was inspired by a cover shot of the incredible Canadian, Ed Therialt, on a cover of a Weider magazine and so took up weight training. Because his waist, at 35 inches, was flabby, he concentrated from day one on his midsection, and later became famous for his superb waist development, winning several bodypart, as was once the fashion, awards for Best Midsection, plus in time, awards, including, Most Muscular Man at the Mr. Montreal, Most Muscular, Best Abdominals at the Mr. Canada contest, Most Muscular Man IFBB at the Mr. American, and. Canada’s Most muscular Man, Americas Most Muscular Man, Mr. Canada, and Pro Mr. Universe NABBA. Leo was without a doubt Canada’s best bodybuilder in his time.
Leo was born in Montreal and graduated from high school to look for a longshore mans job, handling cargo on the Montreal docks. This heavy work soon made Leo realize he was not as tough as he would have liked to be so he changed to a desk job which actually made him gain some unwanted inches due to a lack of exertion.
Inspired by the photos he saw in the bodybuilding magazines he decided to take up weight training, and it’s associated regimes of good diet and healthier lifestyle, and concentrated on losing his midsection. Contacting Ed Theriault, he received advice and encouragement, and Leo from then on included plenty of sit-ups, side bends, leg raises and various other waistline movements, in his whole body workouts and schedules. Gaining muscle size, losing flab, and fast gaining confidence, Leo took back on his tough but healthy dock side work, and with his new-found muscles, the work no longer appeared so arduous, more like fun for a bodybuilder. He trained regularly at his home gym and success bred success. Leo trained even harder and entered and first won body parts awards in the Mr. Montreal contest, later winning overall title, and also Mr. Province of Quebec, just a few to begin his collection of trophies. For your interest, Chairman of the IFBB Judges was the fabled George F. Jowett, along with brothers Joe and Ben Weider. Later Leo Robert was to feature heavily in Joe’s magazines, advertising everything from bendy exercisers to lever bars, and mail order courses for amazing abs.
Leo’s waist, it’s perfect formation, a gift of great genetics, was developed by daily training, whereas he trained upper body one day and the lower body the next, it was then, and would be now, a tough schedule to follow and he always used heavy poundages, I.e. squats and bench presses over 350 lbs for reps, poundages that were considered very heavy in those days when the average bodybuilder was using 100 lbs less. Leo changed routines regularly although retaining the basic exercises in all their varieties normally he would do 8-10 reps for 6 or 7 sets. Tough training was balanced by a sensible diet. He was, as are all top bodybuilders, very knowledgeable on diet, and always included lots of fruit and vegetables, along with steaks, chicken and good proteins supplemented by all known natural vitamin/mineral products then available to him. The tough exercise and diet, was combined with plenty of rest and relaxation to aid recovery and growth.
His waist routine, simple but effective at that period, consisted of just three exercises in various combinations, and variations in style of sit-ups 6 – 8 sets, leg raises 8 – 10 sets and side bends, 8 sets. Usually reps were not overly high, but instead he used extra poundages to cut reps and to actually build-up the abdominals,. He took little if any rest between sets or exercises. Leo’s body structures allowed him to perform sit-ups and leg raises with straight legs, this was before the popularity and safer method of crunches, I.e. short range moves, with bent knees. We, by experience (of low back aches) strongly recommend the latter but sit-ups and leg raises old style certainly worked for Leo.
His popularity and fame soon began to grow in publicity via Weider magazines like, Your Physique, Muscle Power, etc., and usually photographed by Lanza, (Tony that is, not Mario) continued in Iron Man, Health And Strength Vigour, Reg Parks magazines and most contemporary magazines of the day. (Often paired with his equally fit sister, Rejane) Reg Park in fact first met Leo at St. Nicks Arena New York when amazingly, Reg, an Englishman, won the title, America’s Best Developed Athlete. Leo competed on that night in the Mr. E. American contest losing by just one point to Marvin Eder. Eder became famous for his incredible strength, pushing the popularity of the then relatively new exercise the bench press. Leo had become professional with 2 gyms and various business deals in bodybuilding including heading many articles in magazines and sponsoring food supplements then in their infancy.
Leo had achieved at that period his maximum development without any excess bodyweight. His famous abs routines now included incline bench sit-ups, bent knee sits-ups across bench with added resistance and side bends with heavy dumbbells, finished off with hanging from a bar, leg raises always a tough exercise. His food supplements included high protein drinks and malted milk shakes with eggs, honey and bananas. Oh how simple life once was for bodybuilder before the days, when now ones required a PhD in chemistry!
The contest highlight of his career must be the NABBA Mr. Universe. Sponsored by Joe Weider himself a former entrant for the Universe, Leo Robert became the first Canadian to win such a top award with Leo beating fellow American Clancy Ross by one point to take the Pro Title, Mickey Hargitay, husband of the ill fated Jan Mansfield, took the Amateur title, and obtained more coverage in the York Strength and Health magazines, than did Leo, who got his share of accolades in Weider’s magazines, Health and Strength, the British magazine gave them both equal treatment. The UK system was then to judge backstage under normal conditions. No special lighting. Judges included Dave Webster and Oscar Heidenstam, Robert on the days of June 10th/11th, certainly was in the best shape of his life. Jim Saunders England came 2nd and Monahar Aich from India 3rd in the Class 2 division, Leo weighed 185 lbs., his arms a solid 19.5 ins at 5 ft 7 ins height, forearms 15 ins in the flexed position and with a perfectly sculptured midsection. He stood out a winner from the first line up. Joe Weider, claiming Robert as his pupil said at the time, quote, “I have nothing but praise for the fair-minded officials and the completely ethical way NABBA Universe contest was run” (source Mr. Universe Weider, Vol. 3 no. 12). Contemporary experts considered the sensational Leo Robert possessed the most muscular massively formed physique for his height and size of any bodybuilder in the World and 3000 people packed in the London Palladium agreed with the decision.
To win the title, Leo trained hard. Upper body one day, lower body the next and his waist every day. Being an advanced trainer, a professional he was at one time training twice a day. Not recommended for the normal bodybuilder how has a living to make outside of his bodybuilding hobby. He did keep schedules to a minimum, usually only 4 exercise for his upper body and around 3 for lower body, with 3-4 movements for his waist. He changed his programs frequently to avoid boredom but essentially used the same pattern.
Leo said, “Perfectly inserted muscles are a genetic gift. Not everyone has the advantage of symmetrical parallel lined abs. If they are irregular, as is often the case, you make the most of them but perfection is better”. Leo went on to say, “Exercise themselves do not make a champ, two men can follow the same routines, exercise, sets and reps, yet one may reach the top, whilst the other never makes it. The champ goes further than just following routines. He also considers other factors like reaction to training recovery times and even his own temperament. These important factors decide how often you train.
Photo by Russ Warner
Leo hated inactivity and had plenty of nervous energy, and like Marvin Eder delighted in training often., Usually on the split system. Most bodybuilders in Leo’s day wished to gain weight. His advice, often sought, still relevant and practical today was, “Gaining firm healthy muscle is as easy as operating a bank account. The more you put into the account and the less you draw out the bigger the account will grow. The more you take out and the less you put in the smaller the account becomes. Eat more, rest more, stimulate your appetite with correct exercise and drop every activity but weight training, and your bodyweight must increase. If you follow nature’s laws, you just can’t help becoming stronger, more muscular, heavier and healthier. So the basics are rest, food and exercise. The exercise routine would be short, full of standard exercises, e.g. overhead presses, curls with barbell, bench presses, bent forward rowing, dead lifts and/or squats, followed by pullovers and upright rowing. Training just 3 sessions a week, resting weekends with sets of 3 -6 for 6- 10 res.
Take additional weight gain supplements, and ensure you obtain a minimum of eights hours sleep a night. Simple but effective and as always, Leo recommended that you include some form of sit-ups to strengthen an improve the abdominal region and internal tone.
Leo retired from bodybuilding contests at the age of 35 but continued to run his gyms and even today maintains his fitness and health and those fabulous abdominals. The Man with Mighty Muscles From Montreal, Leo Robert, set standards. Still inspirational today with a physique that truly rates as a classic.
(c) Leo Robert – Mighty Man of Montreal by David Gentle All Rights Reserved
Renowned for his fabulous good looks and out of this world physique, Mr. America and Mr. Universe Steve Reeves became famous through the medium of the Hercules muscle movie videos, and yet ironically, the film star Reeves was but a shell of his pre-movie days, being ordered to slim down for the widescreen epics to appeal to a larger audience. Despite the passing of time and it is actually 40 years since Steve won the Mr. America crown, he remains the pinnacle of perfection to millions of fans despite all those muscle fashions and fads, with an aesthetic physique many still attempt to emulate. Real beauty is timeless, as is good taste. Get a hundred people to choose between freaky muscle champs, or classic figure, and my bet is Reeves would score, as classic, over 90 percent of opinions.
Born on 21st January, 1926 in Glasgow Montana, USA of parents Lester Dell and Golden Viola Reeves. Steve’s father was killed when he was just one and a half years old. His first award in a lifetime of honours and he has received more awards recently than during his world active bodybuilding career, was, the healthiest baby in Valley County Montana. Even with today’s vast choices of physiques, Steve Reeves because of a strong combination of facial as well as physical beauty and symmetry had and still has the most universally envied development in modern times. World famous photographer Russ Warner is quoted in Milton T. Moore’s super book “Steve Reeves One of a Kind” as saying, I don’t think there is one chance in 50 trillion that the particular mix of heredity genes that formed the product we see in Steve Reeves will occur in combination again. Steve was a very unusual bodybuilder. He had the overall beauty that no other bodybuilder had ever been able to achieve. I have had the occasion to work with photographically most of the top bodybuilders in the world but when the good Lord made Steve Reeves he threw the mold away.
Steve commenced bodybuilding when he was about 15 years of age, being the first to admit he had a good foundation and was an easy muscle gainer and after a year or so, soon had a potentially powerful physique.
His first instruction was at Ed Yarick’s gym in Oakland California where he was firmly encouraged to enter and won, all the local bodybuilders and physique competitions. A well balanced and harmonious development was always his aim.
Drafted into the United States army from 1944 to 1946 during which period of time, he spent nineteen months in the Far East, Philippines and Japan – being involved in the battle of Balete Pass, and witnessing the many horrors of warfare and later contracting malaria.
Steve all the time managed to obtain some form of training albeit often with Tarzan-like rope climbing, general free exercise such as push-ups or dips and tension exercise. Later he designed his own weights and basic pulley apparatus.
On leaving the 125th Infantry in the Philippines and the service, he resumed training at Yarick’s making rapid progress. His first major contest was entering and winning the Mr. Pacific Coast in 1947. Steve won the Mr. America contest in Chicago on the 29th June being just 21 years old competing against amongst others the popular Alan Steven and even younger Eric Peterson who at just 18, won the Most Muscular division. Steve with his fabulous physique went on to greater glories. Eric despite his most muscular body faded into obscurity as some sort of lesson there.
The Battle of the Giants
Already highly popular after giving many exhibitions throughout the USA, Steve again competed in the Mr. America in 1948. This time being closely beaten by the great Clancy Ross. Another man with a great balanced body thought by many to excel that of Grimek. Steve came second and Alan Stephen made third place with this fame preceding Reeves came over to London in 1948 complete with highly fashionable soot suit and purple wide shoulder jacket on the 23rd August to compete for the very first time in Europe in the now classic battle between Reeves and legendary John C. Grimek. The battle of the giants. Now physical culture history saw Grimek nearly forty years old wining the first ever NABBA Mr. Universe title . There had been an earlier (Mr. Universe) and Steve still on his way up in the world of bodybuilding taking his loss like a true champion. Like a true champion he said perhaps you will permit me to say that I believe the judges imminently fair and had the audience said that night there is only one John Grimek and I only hope in future I will be able to emulate the position he holds in the bodybuilding world.
Encouraged by the late great Oscar Heidenstam, who instantly recognized Steve Reeves classic line. They both traveled across the channel to France and just three days later on the 26th August in Cannes, Steve won the title of Le Plus Bel Athlete Du Monde and Mr. World from the Federation François Physique. One year later in 1949, Steve, along with almost a who’s who of American bodybuilders, tried for the Mr. U.S.A. crown. Again he was beaten by Grimek the winner and Clancy Ross who took second place. Reeves came third and genial George Efferman of huge pectoral fame came fourth. Possible reasons for Steve’s placing being this was the age of huge bulk and competitors often not knowing before it was too late, whether the judge sought sheer size or as over in Europe, little muscle other than good deltoids and razor cut abdominals. Physiques are influenced greatly by judging requirements and of course of beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
The Physique of the Century
To the delight of his European fans in 1950, Steve who was then instructor at Bert Goodrich’s gym (Bert was arguably the premier Mr. America) decided on an all out attempt at wining the NABBA Mr. Universe title competing against a list of top stars including Britain very own Reg Park. Later himself a triple winner said it all when he remarked on Reeves. The man had everything. A physique of the century. On 24th June at the Scala Theatre, Steve Reeves won the Mr. Universe title and the unique originally designed Sandow statuette later copied and muscled up for the Olympia winner. Reg Park came second and third place went to the late Jean Ferrero, another highly aesthetic physique. Steve’s measurements officially recorded at the event something that is no longer followed were weight 214 pounds, neck 18 inches, chest expanded 52”, arms 18 and a half, forearms 14 and half, wrists 7 and quarter, calf 18 , thighs 26 and height 6 foot, 1 inch. Although Oscar Heidenstam considered that Reeves was in fact taller and more like 6 foot, 3 inches (actually I have stood next to Steve several times and he appeared to be the same height as me. i.e., 6 ft 1 inch DG)
Certainly at times Reeves gained or lost muscle size almost at will yet always retaining harmonious and balanced physique. Never did one feature lag behind or outshine another. In his recent book Steve Reeves, “Building the Classic Physique the Natural Way”, Steve sets out his idea about the ideal physique proportion, this being arm size 252% of wrist size calf size 192% of ankle size, neck size 79% of head size, chest size 148% of pelvis size, waist 86% of knee size and weight 295% of height. My opinion of all this is that it all looks far too complicated to work out and that only the human eyes could judge in an instant through physical symmetry.
As mentioned earlier, Steve was the first to admit that he had the perfect foundation and right from the start was an easy gainer. His premier workout schedule consisted of the following exercises:
- Dumbbell swings for warm-up, 1 x 20,
- Cleans 1 x 10,
- Overhead press 1 x 10,
- Supine press 1 x 10,
- Rowing 1 x 10,
- Reverse curls 1 x 10,
- Good morning 1 x 10, and,
- Deep breathing lateral raise for great chest expansion 1 x 10.
Even the very earliest photos of him at 15 displayed an already impressive physique with obvious star potential. His handsome features, healthy styled mop of hair, and general vitality were also enormous assets for any future muscle star and film icon. Even had the pleasure of his company in recent years at the Oscar Foundation Awards, I can vouch he had lost none of his charm or physical charisma.
Reeves Training Philosophy
Steve Reeves basic training philosophy, like a breath of fresh air considering the majority of today’s steroid assisted growth monsters, with their marathon kill a bull, workouts, is in his own words, from a personal interview, he gave me as follows: “Since the first workout I believe that a successful schedule is composed of exercises that the bodybuilder enjoys performing. If you like certain exercises, it is obvious you will put more effort into your training period. You should go through a program not as a duty but as something that it is a real pleasure. Train only three nights a week and enjoy it that way. Any more time in the gym will be both mentally and physically draining to me and I think it is for those dedicated zealots who spend most of their waking time in the gym. You will notice that usually burn themselves out in time making little progress for the many hours of slaving they did.”
Certainly many of Reeve’s contemporaries disappear into obscurity once they lost balance in training. Full body workout will benefit cardiovascular fitness just three times a week. Despite being considered old fashioned by some, still work best for most professional bodybuilders.
When training Steve was always dedicated and determined, otherwise, “There is a time and a place for everything and a time and a place for training and training talk is in the gym and not everywhere”. Continuing Steve’s own words, “When I walk into the gym for my workout, I banish all outside thought and influence in my mind. I am there for one purpose, the best possible workout I can get. Throughout my workout I concentrate to the maximum on my exercises. But once my workout is done, I leave the gym. I concentrate on enjoying life and the many things about me.”
On training, Steve said, I have never been too concerned with measurements (although he has always had some mighty muscles), working always towards proportion and symmetry instead of tape measurement size.
On training various body parts, e.g. biceps, “In building the bicep one should make it a point to use full extension and contraction. If this method is not used, the arm will not develop that long full bicep”. (Although others say bicep shape is predetermined by genetics)”. His favourite exercise was the incline bench curl.
Regarding triceps: One thing that in my opinion is not given enough time and thought is the outer head of the tricep (silicon implants in those days). When fully developed, it gives a more distinct horseshoe shape. A good exercise for the other head is the tricep bench extension, using just a moderate light dumbbell.”
For chest, and Steve Reeves had the original Gladiator style pectoral shape suiting his film epics to a tee and his Roman army chest plates were designed according to physical ideal. Reeves had them naturally. He preferred to use the incline press for upper pecs and for the lower pectorals, “I have found that the best exercise to really build bulk in the lower pec, is the dumbbell bench press, performed wide. Wide standard bench press with barbell, put most stress on the upper pecs, and not tricep.”
For shape and definition, he preferred bent arms laterals. Steve also said, “Avoid overtraining the obliques, (side waist muscles) and trapezius (muscular base of the neck). It will make your shoulders look narrower.” Reeves shoulders measured with calipers, reached 23 and a half inches. The only man I have seen with wider shoulders was the late Rubin Martin.
When it came to back exercise: “The one-arm rowing is one of the best shaping exercises for the lats allowing for the full extension and contraction (he always did full range movement.) I would also add that my personal lats exercise is the lats machine pulldown (Reeves in fact enjoyed any type of cable exercise).”
Finally training legs, Steve says, “The exercise which is my favourite (for the legs) is the front squat (a safe exercise for the lone trainer as it is easy to drop the bar after the last few reps). With regards to calves, I rely on the donkey raise for my calf development. This is performed by leaning over the waist and having a trainer sit astride my hips. I really enjoyed this exercise doing many sets of maximum reps. Reeves preferred higher reps rather than low reps with heavy weights. ‘I also tried to work my calves elsewhere. The bench is a good spot and running and walking in the sand are good for development.” Steve trained regularly just three times a week training all body parts in one workout, usually, employing eight to twelve repetitions with about five to six sets per exercise.
Steve’s Mr. America Routine
Naturally over the course of the year, Steve trained using literally hundreds of different routines and used just about every exercise system and apparatus, but for posterity, here’s his actual routine when training for the Mr. America, one that helped him maintained and built his great shape.
For this Chest he performed:
- Wide grip bench press three x 10 reps.
- Inclined press, arms outward, 3 sets of 12 reps.
For the Deltoids (shoulders)
- Front raise 3 to 5 sets x 10 reps.
- Overhead downward pull on the lats bar 3 x 12 reps.
- Rowing 3 x 12 reps.
- Cable pulley rowing 3 x 15 reps.
For Triceps any Extension Movement
- Using dumbbell with both hands 3 x 10 ,
- Triceps extension 3 x 10, decreasing weights at each set.
For the Biceps
- incline preacher bench curl, 5 to 6 sets of 10 reps.
- Front squat on a high block 3 x 15 reps
- Hack squat 3 x 15 reps
- Legs curl4 x 10 reps
- toe press on the legs machine using high reps and large number of sets and, For lower back
Hyper-extensions 4 x 12 reps
Whatever the program, history records that Steve Reeves eventually won the Mr. America and all of five decades later will still remain one if not the most admired of all physique stars to ever grace the posing dais.
(c)Steve Reeves – Classic Routines by David Gentle All Rights Reserved
At 6ft 7 inches, 20 stone and with a 51 inch chest, David Prowse is a big man and with a big heart. Multi talented and known not simply for his physical prowess, immense though it is, but also for his long involvement in International sport, show business and charity work. Consider just one aspect for example. The ‘Green Cross Code Man” is famous in this country and indeed the world, as for 14 years, Dave Prowse gave road safety talks in over 2,000 shows at schools, to half a million children in countries all over the world; In Europe. U.S.A,. Australia. Barbados, even the Cayman Isles. In the UK alone he visited approximately 700 cities. towns, and villages the net result for his efforts was accidents involving children dropped by over half, helping to save 20,000 lives per year! Imagine the tragedies averted which might be enough to justify a man’s worth in his lifetime. During this time Dave was appointed Special Deafriender by the Royal Institute for the Deaf and used to travel the UK presenting phonic hearing aids to hearing impaired children. He was also invited to lecture at The National Technical Institute for The Deaf in Rochester, New York.
Devoted to many charities, including The Variety Club of Great Britain, The Stars Organization for Spastics, (now affiliated to the Scope charity), Arthritis Care, he has supported major organizations for the disabled and handicapped in the U.K. and overseas. He is also heavily involved in his own charity. Dave Prowse’s ‘Force Against Arthritis’, pledging to assist in raising two and three quarter million pounds for a new research centre at the world famous orthopaedic hospital in Oswestry, Shropshire. The Arthritis and Rheumatism Council is also involved in raising funds for Dave’s charity. Dave knows all about how debilitating and frustrating arthritis can be. Still suffering from arthritis (not helped by a bad weightlifting accident in 1989) has meant a hip replacement and more recently major surgery to save his ankle from being amputated.
He is also the man to achieve perhaps most fame from his large screen role as Darth Vader the ultimate in movie villains. Dave was born 1st July 1935, brought up and educated in Bristol winning a scholarship to attend Bristol Grammar school 1947 to 1952. At first he was a capable athlete, especially good at sprinting but later aged 13 yrs., he developed suspected T.B. of the knee and so for the next 4 years landed up mainly bed ridden and wearing a leg iron. Time is supposed to heal all ills, where he certainly grew in length and by the time they took the leg iron off, David had sprouted form 5ft 9: to a lanky 6 ft, 5 inch lanky underweight teenager. Desperate to fill out his frame, he was inspired by Reeves, Park and Pearl and after a quick try out with a Charles Atlas course, David took up weight training/bodybuilding. Just 17 yrs. old he made such progress, going from 160lbs to 240 lbs. that he was invited to enter the 1960 Mr. Universe contest, won by mighty Henry Downs. Although not a physique winner, David was often featured in Health & Strength, known then as Britain’s tallest bodybuilder.
After ten years of bodybuilding and aware that height was his limiting factor for stardom per se Dave diverted his energies and every growing strength into weightlifting. At first, coming 3rd in the 1961 British Heavyweight Class, then in 1962 becoming the British Heavyweight champion, and again in 1963 and 1964. Later he competed in both the World Championships in Budapest and the European Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia. Around that period, he set numerous British records including a deadlift of 674 3/4 lbs., straight arm pullover of 160 lbs and a strict barbell curl with 202 lbs. He also recalls with pleasure, the great lifters he associated with, including Louis Martin and competing with Yurl Viasov and Serge Reding.
Before and after this active era David like most mortals (before he became immortal as Darth Vader in star Wars) had to earn a living. He had a whole succession of jobs, confessing the main criteria of work had to be conducive with and to his training. Occupations ranged from lifeguard to accountant, at one time working for a famous football pools company. However, once he became the British W/L champion he decided to produce his own magazine ‘Power’, also buying ‘Fitness & Health’ and publishing both for a limited period making an attempt to encourage all around training interests. it was not to be. With an ever increasing number of magazines and a fragmented market of bodybuilders, lifters, powerlifters, keep fit fans and plain old health nuts, ‘Power’ folded in 1969. Disappointed at missing out in the Tokyo Olympic Games, because for reasons best known to themselves, BAWLA decided not to send a heavyweight; David totally anti-steroid, turned professional. He endorsed the then novel apparatus Bullworker which was even on sale in Harrods (I never had the power to get mine out of the box!), and later touring as ‘Britain’s Strongest Man’; tearing telephone directories, bending bars among many other strength demonstrations. He then entered as a contestant, in the Highland Games and was in the worlds top three at caber tossing. In 1963 on a Scottish tour With George Eiferman and David Webster, David Prowse became the first person to lift the fabled Dinnie Stones which weigh approx 7cwt. (nearly 800 lbs).
By 1965 David was making major inroads into show business from TV commercials to full bodied roles. From ‘The Saint’ TV series to the big screen ‘Casino Royale’, he worked With just about everyone in a galaxy of stars. In the 1970’s he played prime parts in the Hammer Horror movies, but it was in 1976/7 when George Lucas ‘Star Wars’ hit town, that David Prowse really came into the limelight as the evil Darth Vader (in the highest grossing movie in the U,S.A. for all time). Meanwhile not one to waste time, David landed a contract for the Child Pedestrian Road Safety commercial, for the Dept. of Transport as The Green Cross Code man. Keeping his finger on the pulse in the fitness world, he became National Director of weight training at Crystal Palace and for ten years, Keep-fit consultant to Harrods.
Come 1970, despite his multiple commitments and TV and film career blossoming, fitness fanatic David opened and has run ever since his own Health Studio & Gym in S.E. London; a venue used by many top stars, Frank Zane in particular praising David’s facilities for training and coaching. Meanwhile, David becomes even more famous as a one-to-one personal trainer of the stars and celebrities. His client list is like an International show biz Who’s Who, Film stars include, Albert Finney. Stephanie Powell, Robert Powell, Shane Richie etc. plus professional people and politicians. Most publicized would be David’s efforts to build up a scrawny Christopher Reeve into a credible muscled ‘Superman’ movie role (1977). Under Dave’s tuition, Chris put on 30lbs of muscle in six weeks. Reeves of course is now fighting a new battle to regain health from his tragic horse riding accident and David Prowse aka Darth Vader wishes Chris all the power and ‘Force’ he can muster.
Dave’s charity work in the U.S.A started in Washington D.C. when he attended a film premier organized on behalf of Eunice Kennedy’s Special Olympics Movement. At a reception at the Shriver’s house he was asked if he would like to drum up publicity (and cash) for the cause. Dave met up With his old training buddy, Arnold S, who was already fully involved with the cause. Introduced later to Alan Reich. who is head of the National Organization on Disability (N.O.D.), Dave was asked to M.C. the annual General Conference of the Presidents Committee on Employment for the Handicapped. Over 5,000 delegates attended. He was appointed M.C. for three years in succession. This was followed by an invitation to tour schools for Child Pedestrian Safety. The media thought it unique for an Englishman to tour the States teaching American kids how to cross the road, They turned up in droves.
In 1983. Dave was summoned to The White House to witness President signing the proclamation declaring 1983-1992 the International Decade of the Disabled Person. At the end of the ceremony Dave was awarded the honour of being appointed Special Ambassador to the International Decade by President Regan himself.
Least known in this country is David’s quite amazing celebrity status especially when invited to attend U.S.A. Sci-Fi conventions. Enthusiasts of Star Wars. Star Wars 2, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedl, Forbidden World etc, queue in their thousands just to see him, sometimes to just touch him (Darth Vader) or obtain his autograph. With just a few days notice that he was coming, one such convention in San Diego was attended by 32,000 fans!
David is married to Norma and they have three children. He has long since proven he’s not just a musclemen” (as did Arnold S.) with a diversity of talents, his most recent being literary. His two published books are ‘Play Safe With The Stars’, a child’s guide to safety, and ‘Fitness is Fun’ an autobiography/weight tra1n1ng and fitness manual which is worth buying for the photographs alone. A lover of good food, German sweet wine and cider (hope it’s Bulmers Strongbow cider, Dave! Ed.), he is also co-author of a celebrity recipe book, a movie trivia manual and Hammer House of Horrors anthology.
Only two things scare me about Dave. He once sat in front of me at a Universe show and I couldn’t see a damn thing (and I wasn’t going to ask him to move!). The other is his apparent ambition to sing With a trad Jazz band. I suspect Dave’s singing is like Les Dawson’s piano playing, so I do hope to miss that occasion!
In over 40 year at International sport and show biz. from Benny Hill to the Return of the Jedi et al, David Prowse deserves every honour bestowed upon him, because he is a man who has given his time and great effort to improve the quality of life for many. especially the handicapped and most worthy of all to save children’s lives. I for one am grateful that all those long years ago, a lanky kid had the courage to throw off that leg piece and take up the barbell. May “The Force be With You” David.
For further information on his charity work (mention Health & Strength) contact: Dave Prowse. 12 Marshalsea Road, London SEl IHL England. Tel: 01071-407 -5650 Fax: 0171·403-8326 or in the U.S.A. c/o Max Patterson, 508 Maplewood Avenue, Wilson, N.C. 27893, U.S.A. Tel: (919) 291 9468.
- Mr. Universe contender 1960 weighing 250 lbs at 6’7″.
- British Heavyweight Weightlifting Champion 1962, 1963 and 1964.
- Competed in Worlds Weightlifting Championships Budapest 1962.
- Empire and Commonwealth Games representative Perth, Australia 1962.
- Scottish Highland Games champion.
- Was the first person ever to lift the Dinnie Stones weighing 784 lbs.
(c) David Prowse, M.B.E., A Career Most Extraordinary by David Gentle All Rights Reserved
Straight from the Force’s Mouth
David has most recently had published two volumes of his life and times, ‘STRAIGHT FROM THE FORCES MOUTH’ high recommended.
Now after 8 years in the writing – The book Star Wars and Sci-Fi fans worldwide have been waiting for, published in two volumes ‘Straight from the Force’s Mouth’ takes you through a fantastic career spanning nearly 50 years.
Volume 1 – A 33 chapter, lavishly illustrated autobiography featuring a Star Wars section that gives the reader a day to day insight of working on the first 3 movies and all the promotional publicity tours. Training Superman Christopher Reeves, working on the Hammer Horror Movies, working with Cinematic ‘Giants’ like Stanley Kubrick, Ridley Scott, Russ Mayer and much, much more.
Volume 2 is a Photo only book with literally hundreds of photos either taken by Dave of from his personal archive. Exclusive pics of the ‘Empire Strikes Back’ and ‘Phantom Menace’ Premier’s working on the Hasbro ‘Rebels Assault 2, video game shoot, loads of convention photos and shots form his investiture.