To avoid having to check this page every ten seconds for updates on supplements, music, and sundry little details, hit us up on Facebook and like the page. That'll keep you updated without getting spammed with a million twitter-length posts!

21 May 2018

Behold The Mighty Chuck Ahrens, Whose Corpse Takes Brobdingnagian Shits On Your Histrionic Personality Disorder

Perhaps the most unfairly maligned motherfucker in the history of the strength world was a man who would have undoubtedly despised me- Chuck Ahrens.  Known as the strength world's "Mystery Man", Chuck Ahrens shied from the spotlight, the camera, and competition to the point where he was only photographed once in a t-shirt.  From what I'd assume was his Christian belief system, Ahrens eschewed all of that shit, preferring instead to perform ridiculous feats of strength out of the public eye, which of course has led to a bunch of shit-talking in the modern era, because what is the internet if not a forum for every shit-eating troglodyte to proffer his or her wholly uninformed opinion on anything and everything?  In spite of the fact I would basically represent the anti-Christ to this peculiar motherfucker, I feel it necessary to stand against the masses in stark opposition to their criticism of his lifts, and to take up yet another related issue- gym lifts are just as valid in the discussion of strength as competition lifts.  USAPL lifters can just go ahead and fuck off right now, because I'm about to destroy the sad little world in which you live.

There seriously are maybe five pictures of Chuck Ahrens, so just pretend this is him raising the roof.  I've gotta space these motherfuckers out.

Before I get off on a wild-eyed tangent about how I had far more fun at a youth service in born-again Christian church (at least they had hot chicks and a punk band) than I have at a dreary-ass, pinch-faced, proselytizing USAPL meet, let's get back to the man-mountain, Chuck Ahrens.  Standing 6'1" and weighing somewhere between 300 and 330lbs, Chuck Ahrens wouldn't make the largest strongman in the modern era (though if he'd trained legs, he'd be up there), but in the 1950s looked like he tore through a movie screen out of a monster film, ready to rampage through downtown Tokyo if provoked.  Said to have a visibly larger upper body than fellow behemoth Paul Anderson, Ahrens was only photographed in a t-shirt once, finally satisfying Peary Rader's curiosity about the actual size of his arms.

Chuck Ahrens' Vital Statistics
  • Height: 6'
  • Weight: 330 pounds (at his strongest); ranged between 280lbs and 330lbs 
  • Chest: 58" (unexpanded)
  • Arms: 22-3/8"
  • Shoulder Width: 28"
Ahrens made the bitches drool.  This is why he always wore long sleeves and pants- slut drool burns Christian skin.

As I mentioned, internet "lifters" will talk shit, and they love to talk shit about Ahrens.  For instance, on forums you'll see some skinny dickhead opening his worthless fucking wordhole about the 28 reps with 400 on the bench claim, citing the fact he never benched heavy.  Ahrens is documented by multiple sources doing a triple with 355 on a fucking skullcrusher.    I've known a few guys who could hit 12 reps with 405 on any given day, and they struggled to do a few reps with 225 on skullcrushers.  Another lift that would go a long way to corroborating that is his behind the neck press of 380lbs, as would his steep incline benches for reps of 225lb dumbbells.  So let's dispense with the pussy shit- just because you've never seen it doesn't mean it hasn't been done.  His lifting partners, who were far stronger than most, said Ahrens could do their best lifts cold.  And finally, the people talking shit on Ahrens lift nothing and know less- "it was argued in MILO®: A Journal For Serious Strength Athletes that if one considered the consistency of the reports along with the sources involved, it would be hard to conclude anything other than that he really did do things like a standing overhead press of around 300 pounds with one arm" (Strossen).  We'll never really know, however, because according to Peary Rader "We... try to keep readers informed about Chuck and his progress but he is very much against publicity" (Piche).

Chuck's favorite color was plaid.

If you go and read Piche's piece (in the sources), which I used for a lot of the weights attributed to Ahrens, he fails to mention in stating that Ahrens' lifts are semi-mythical that Ahrens would often quit lifting for extended period of time, which would account for the rise and fall of reported body weight, weights lifted, and associated measurements- no matter whether he was 280 or 330, if he had lifted yesterday or hadn't lifted in months, the man made fucking mountains look like tiny little bitches.  Then he either curled or overhead pressed them just to show them what the fuck was up, because fuck mountains.

Going back to the man in question, he was rarely photographed and virtually all of the records of his lifts come from second hand sources, weirdly in spite of the fact that he was a mainstay of Muscle Beach when it was the mecca of weight lifting and bodybuilding.  This would be like Tara Reid only getting caught on film a couple of times in the entire Sharknado series (and how glorious it would be not to have to look at her hideous, Michael Jackson-impersonating visage for ninety minutes).  Given, however, that the man was about as disinterested in public relations as he was about training in temperature appropriate attire, it confuses me why people would discredit his lifts.  It wasn't Ahrens bragging about his strength, because he wasn't some attention whore with Histrionic Personality Disorder begging people to like him by posting every fucking workout online, no matter how shitty- it was anyone from his own training partners, one of whom was a well-respected minister, to well respected journalists, and sundry other onlookers.  

Dr. Carlin Venus was not small.

In regards to his training partner, Carlin Venus, he was a 5'10", 255lb Doctor of Nutritional Science and Holistic Nutrition with an IQ between 180 and 190.  Not only was the guy a champion bodybuilder with a 60" chest, 18" calves, and 20" arms, but he was a pro wrestler, boxer, and martial artist who spoke five languages (Minichiello).  This is a man who would not be given to hyperbole in describing the feats of others.  To wit, the following are Carlin's best ever lifts, all of whom were attested to by the guys at the gym where he trained, and all of them were notarized.  These lifts, Carlin said, were lifts that Ahrens could do in long sleeves and pants, without any warmup at all, on any given day.  By Carlin's account, Ahrens was one step shy of Superman (Green) and several dozen steps ahead of everyone else.
  • Good Mornings – 395lbs.
  • Deadlift – 625lbs for 12 reps.
  • One-Arm Dumbbell Press – 210lbs for 10 reps, either hand.
  • Press From The Racks – 475lbs for 2 reps.
  • Strict Barbell Curl (with back against the wall) – 245lbs.
  • Reverse Curl – 205lbs.
My man was all about that bicep and shoulder work.

Due to the fact that the naysayers always fucking manage to say "nay", I thought it pertinent to mention that the one of the most prominent authors on the subject of strength history, David Willoughby, considers Ahrens' feats to have been legit.  Furthermore, renown strength luminary and President of the All-Round Weightlifting Association, "Thom Van Vleck [said] that he remembers his uncles discussing Chuck’s lifts in the early JWC Club – both skeptical and in awe of him. Chuck Ahrens inspired many lifters to 'take on the impossible' and get stronger" (Meyers).  If you prefer to think that his lifts are all bullshit, you probably post on Getbig and, and likely on some weird subreddit filled with weaklings rocking limp dicks, so you might as well just quit lifting anyway.  For the rest of you, check this shit out, and let it motivate you to John Wick the fuck up and do the impossible (Piche, Willoughby):

Chuck Ahrens' Best Lifts
  • Standing Behind the Neck Press – 390lbs
  • One Arm Strict Overhead Press – 270lb dumbbell 
  • One Arm Push Press – 350lbs dumbbell
  • One Arm Continental Overhead Press – 375 x 1 (according to bodybuilder Oliver Sacks); 310 x 3; 280 for reps the year before that (continental press it kind of the lay back method used in the Olympics right before the press was dropped) [Note: Anderson could only do 300 in this style]
  • Two Arm Dumbbell Overhead Press – 204lb dumbbells (408lbs total) with Paul Anderson watching 
  • One Arm Front Raise – 200-pound dumbbell
  • Crucifix – 150lb dumbbells
  • Two Arm Dumbbell Clean and Press – 205lb dumbbells
  • One Arm Row – 350lbs for reps
  • Skullcrusher – 400lbs x 1; 375 x 2 (without a warmup); 355lbs x 3 (another account has 345 x 2)
  • Standing Tricep Extension – 305 x 2 (without a warmup)
  • Seated Dumbbell Cheat Curl – 180lbs x 1; 165 pound dumbbells x 3 
  • Alternate Dumbbell Cheat Curl – 200 lb. dumbbells (per the legendary Pat Casey)
  • Curl – 375lbs x 3 on a bent 1" diameter bar
  • One Arm Concentration Curl – 115lbs on an Olympic bar, in strict form and without bracing his arm against his leg
  • Bench Press – 560 or 570 x 1 (according to historian David P. Willoughby); 400 x 28 (per the same); 400 x 20 (according to Apr 1995 MILO)
Like you, I want to know how Chuck trained just like most dogs want to know why humans get to eat delicious t-bones every night while they're stuck eating shit scraped up off the floor, dried, mashed into little balls, injected with artificial flavors and scents, and then fed to them as "food."  Well, just like I will never know why in the fuck anyone would be so cruel as to feed their best friend like that, we will never fucking know how Chuck Ahrens really trained, beyond hard and long as Ron Jeremy's dick, and even more frequently than Ed Sheeran plays shitty music.  Details on his workouts are hazy as your recollection of a bachelor party, but it was reported that his Ahrens'
"favorite exercises are curls, and presses with dumbbells and the triceps press on bench with barbell. He specializes on these with heavy weights and rather low reps. He has done almost no leg and back work" (Piche).  He likes to eat six large steaks per day to maintain his bulk and size (that is one way to get your protein, fellows, if you can afford it) (Piche).  
Pic of Ahrens at 290 lbs and Paul Anderson at 355, Paul looking like Bluto from Animal House and Ahrens looking jacked as fuck.

Of course, nothing Ahrens did was at a steady pace.  Ahrens was a sprinter, not a marathon runner, and as such he would train in bursts followed by month long or more layoffs.  As you can imagine, that meant that both his bodyweight and the weights he'd use in training had their ups and downs, although he generally didn't see much of a concomitant dropoff with his training weights as his bodyweight.  His secret?  He treated the weights like their name was Deebo and he was Smokey in the movie Friday- he had mind control over that shit.  That is how he forced the weights to constantly increase, in spite of whatever setbacks he might have had, and make everyone look like his punk bitch in doing so.

To forestall the inevitable "'mind control' is an obvious euphemism for 'steroids'", I'll remind you people that I've never dissembled about steroid use- the man was not on gear.  Ahrens' opinion of steroids, in the words of his lifting partner:
"The way Charlie (Chuck Ahrens, Carlin’s training partner) and I felt, if you wanted more steroids . . . just eat more meat! After all, the beef was so loaded down with that junk for breeding and raising. Hahaha, we determined one time just how much was being pumped into chickens and beef at the time and it blew our minds. I guess you could say that we were on steroids. Indirectly. I mean, we got a big laugh out of that, but there was something to it" (Green). 
Instead of steroids, Chuck Ahrens believed in the power of sleep in a way no one else did- narcoleptics would marvel at the man's ability to drop and sleep wherever he stood. 
"He’d even sleep right in the middle of the gym if it was time! Can you imagine? Hahaha . . . I’ll never forget. Guys like Sidney Sheldon and other movie producers and moguls would come into the gym and have to step over Charlie who might have decided to take a noon nap near the door. I mean, if it was time for a nap, it was time. Everybody was cool, though. They respected Charlie and didn’t disturb him. After awhile no one thought anything of it" (Green).
My man was about that crucifix life.

One exercise we sort of know he did frequently, and with which Ahrens is credited, apparently helped build his herculean shoulder strength and is the eponymous Ahrens Press.  I've done this exercise for years, having learned of it in some Men's Health book years ago under the name "W Press," without having any knowledge that it was Ahrens' apparent bread and butter lift.  In addition to unbelievably heavy lateral raises, overhead barbell presses, and high incline presses the Ahrens Press was apparently his jam, his jelly, his peanut butter, and his peanuts.

Should be pretty obvious to see why it's called a W Press.

This is a modified dumbbell press, which shouldn't shock you after looking at Ahren's best lifts- the man loved dumbbell pressing like fat people love excuses and donuts.  The modification, obvious if you see the above, is that the dumbbells are pressed up and out to make a V with them.  The great irony here is that it was a matter of utility for Ahrens, who had to use really long-handled dumbbells loaded with a shitload of plates, and we're just some assholes waving light dumbbells around in the air.  Nevertheless, doing your dumbbell presses (or FreeMotion machine presses, which are actually a pretty awesome way to knock these out) like this will bring the fucking pain, and undoubtedly place stress on your delts and traps that will lend itself to bigger gains and a bigger overhead press.

I am completely out of Chuck Ahrens pics, so here is Mr. Incredible, for whom Ahrens seems to have been the model.

The foregoing was a celebration of yet another Paul Bunyan-meets Hercules-meets-John Henry man whose lifts and physique were beyond compare and date from the pre-steroid, the pre-powerlifting, pre-Internet, and the pre-everyone is a humorless, shit-talking, robotic fuck in the gym era.  Like the halcyon days spoken about by Ronald Reagan when describing the 1950's, the modern wistful view of the hilariously misogynistic era of chivalry, and even Plato's description of the Golden Age, that era likely sucked as much as it was awesome... but even at 50% suck it beats the fuck out of the modern era.  One of the ways in which it did was that people actually believed first hand accounts of other lifters' achievements without the bizarre amount of shit talking and naysaying by a bunch of limp wristed bitches who have trouble believing people could lift a sack of groceries without breaking a sweat.  In other words, it was an era in which people actually enjoyed lifting, rather than enjoying simply posturing and taking up space in the gym like a bunch of assholes in matchy-matchy workout gear.

You are about to be fucked with cocks of truth, and there shall be no lube.

The above paragraph should preface where the rest of this article is headed.  We've already covered the man himself, but a great many people still discount his lifts because they weren't done in a competition setting.  The reasons dumber than the Lt Governor of Texas are threefold: 1) at the time in which Ahrens lived, odd lifting competitions were less well organized than an orgy in a mental hospital and not terribly common, and 2) for some people, all competitions are seems to be begging for validation from a stranger to confirm what you already know.  As such, I feel it necessary to explain why gym lifts (and I am referring to credible gym lifts, not Brad Castleberry fake plate bullshit or the highly entertaining Jimmy "The Iron Bull Pellechia" multiple-partner assisted nonsense) should matter to you.  It's ridiculous that such a thing is necessary, but the 150lb pussies screeching "GYM LIFTS DON'T MATTER" all over social media need to have their mouths shut.  As it happens, I am a guy who can do just that, so what follows is by far and away the most vitriolic and heartfelt expression myriad problems with the lifting world at this point.  If you take issue with it, feel free to say so in the comments, because they will doubtless be entertaining, and I assure you that whatever your contention, I am wholly correct and you're so wrong you might as well be the embodiment of donkey shows featuring children.

While he was thoroughly entertaining back in the day in Muscular Development, Jimmy "The Iron Bull" Pellechia and his preposterous "1100lb bench" type stuff did nothing to help he modern credibility of gym lifts.  Taken as cheat moves, though, the dude was impressive with his cheat laterals and curls, because the man's form was nothing if not... innovative.  As to Brad Castleberry, well, he's clearly mentally retarded and I wonder how he originally could afford fake plates.

There are exactly two types of people who say gym lifts don't matter:
  1. People who are desperate for the validation of themselves by others and who want to invalidate the lifters they've seen outlift them in the gym, and
  2. People don't actually enjoy lifting but are desperate to be a part of something, so they want to invalidate the lifts of people they see outlift them on a daily basis.
That's it.  I have personally seen people casually perform lifts in the gym I've never seen duplicated anywhere else, and they didn't compete because they saw no point in it.  Either they knew they were crazy strong, or they didn't give a fuck about competing and didn't really care how strong they were in comparison to people who pay for their validation.  Who the fuck knows why they didn't compete?  It doesn't matter- they just loved to lift.  It was all about the journey, and not about the participation trophy at the destination.

The skinny little guy on the left is a totally lit USAPL lifter.  "Ugh.  No glute ham raise?  No foam roller?  HAS EVERYONE IN THIS BUILDING HAD THEIR CAFFEINE LEVELS TESTED BY THE USIOC TO ENSURE THEY COMPLY WITH MY FEDERATION'S PREPOSTEROUS RULES?  Come on, Ryder, let's go get a couple of 100% natural organic, non-GMO, Fair Trade boba teas for our preworkout and go to a real gym.  I had a really tough workout three weeks ago and really need to do an hour and a half of prehab before I fiddlefuck around the gym for 25 minutes.  Did you bring all of the cameras?"

Nor was powerlifting or Olympic weightlifting nearly as popular in the pre-Internet era.  They were fringe sports people competed in either in foreign countries or dank basements somewhere- I don't recall meeting a powerlifter prior to 2001, and even then he was generally considered to be a weirdo with his triple ply gear.  Certainly, geared lifting was a thing, but there was very little knowledge of it outside of the pages of Powerlifting USA and bodybuilding expos like the Show of Strength (though I'm sure the people competing in it at that time would take exception to that statement), and Olympic weightlifting was just something foreigners seemed to busy themselves with (a statement with which no one would take issue).

"detached retinas, deviated septums, internal hemorrhaging, torn cartilage, these are things which dreams are made of, and our dreams are your nightmares!  Uhhhhhhh, WHAT A RUSH!!!"
-the catastrophically (for their opponents) strong Road Warriors giving their response to "gym lifts don't mean shit."

Now that the Internet Age is upon us, we're besieged by a bunch of loudmouth nutsacks who got on the internet and decided that if they lifted (something they seem to actually detest but feel some need to do) they'd be cool in the eyes of others.  Participating in a competition, no matter how pathetic or noncompetitive their numbers, provides them with "numbers" they can use for validation when talking to other nutsacks (I'm looking at you goofballs posting your Wilks).  It's not like the outside world cares if your numbers came on a platform or in your mom's basement- they're just making conversation when they ask you what you lift.  And before I get called a gatekeeper by you touchy little pussies, I'm not saying not to train like a powerlifter- I'm suggesting maybe it'd be better for everyone involved if you waited until you were competitive to get in front of people and lift weights.  You're not a six year old playing soccer for the orange slices at halftime- you're an adult making an ass of yourself and wasting everyone's time.

"Nobody cares how much you front squat, bro- only back squats matter.  Also, steroids.  So what's your Wilks, anyway.  Hahahaha, hey guys! He doesn't even know what a Wilks is!  DYEL?"- Every fucking bitchmade USAPL lifter ever

I've already discussed the sad beginnings of Olympic weightlifting, which involved a style of lifting made popular by the nations behind the resurrection of the Olympics and used that style to exclude the Germans and Central Europeans, who would stomp them in weight lifting competitions.  The reality behind the creation of powerlifting is even more sad- Jim Witt, the father of powerlifting, sucked at Olympic weightlifting and was bothered by the wide array of strength tests in Odd Lift competitions (Starr, Rader).  To simplify the sport and make it easy for people who found having generalized strength too daunting, he codified the sport of powerlifting in the three simplest lifts and ditched the rest.  To break that down- the Germans and Central Europeans stomped the Brits and French in lifting, so the French and English made the clean lifts their chosen sports in the Olympics, and because the Americans sucked at all of the aforementioned, we created what is basically the Special Olympics of strength sports.

You like that?  Well, fucking take it, because there's more, bitch.

That is fairly amusing to realize- I had a world record in what is essentially the strength world's Special Olympics.  I set that record without specifically training for the sport to prove how easy it was to do so, and that sport specific training was totally unnecessary.  Apparently I failed in the effort, in spite of being what I consider to be a massively entertaining, impressively strong asshole and breaking a record that had stood for 40 years.  The reason behind my success is simple, I fucking love to throw around heavy weights.  Like a lot of people who don't violently identify with one of the modern strength sports, doing crazy lifts and heaving around heavy weights is the norm.  We often share Bruce Randall's (and many other old schoolers') undying love for 1/4 front squats.  Fuck that ass to grass shit- some people just like moving heavy weights to test the limits of their body's structual capacity.  We vastly prefer rack pulling a thousand pounds and shrugging it than putting 700 off the floor.  Cheat curls are in the program often and heavy, because they're fucking fun, and we don't restrict ourselves to training for a couple of basically boring lifts so we can spend 12 hours on a Saturday waiting to collect one of 100 trophies.  We feel this way because, unlike most of the holier-than-though, my shitty fed is better than your shitty fed, my lame sport is better than your lame sport online lifting community, actually love lifting weights.

Tom Platz never bothered competing in powerlifting, because what would be the fucking point?  At his peak, he was squatting 600 x 10-15, with a crazy narrow stance and no wraps.  He'd have mangled everybody if he actually gave a shit, which he clearly didn't.

Obviously, we are a dying breed.  Everyone today seems to just love paying $100 to pay for a participation medal in a sport about which no one outside of it gives a flying fuck.  That makes no sense whatsoever- at least Spartan Racers acknowledge that OCRs are just for fun and they don't bore you with the details of their training.  Oh, and they have enough dignity and self-respect to do their own fucking programming.

Getting the little people involved was the goal.  Keeps them off the streets, or in the modern case, out of their parents' basements.  Mostly.  I suppose it just keeps them from shooting up their high school now.

Speaking of which, did I mention that one of the reasons Jim Witt promoted the modern sport of powerlifting is:
"the exercises could be done in a limited space with basic equipment and there was not any need for a coach? All that was needed to train were an Olympic bar, flat bench, and some sort of squat rack, and lots of hard work. Most of the powerlifters in the country trained at small gyms in garages and basements, and of course, YMCAs" (Starr).  
In other words, all of the fancy equipment you dickheads demand for the special olympics in lieu of a fucking dip belt (I've taken to just bringing my own since they seem to have been removed from the budget for reverse hypers and GHRs and other assorted pointless bullshit) is putting lipstick on a pig and then calling that pig Fancy Einstein.  Your coach?  Likely worthless.  Congratulations.  You're proud to be a part of a sport that you snooze your way through following cookie cutter programs and coaches' advice and you pay a ridiculous amount of money to do something designed to be simple and wildly inexpensive.  And then you still suck at it, which amounts to taking a steaming shit on the spirit of the entire thing.  There is a reason why the special olympics of the strength world is actually in the Special Olympics.  So get the fuck over yourselves, already.  This shit is supposed to be fucking fun.

There are like four pics of Chuck Ahrens, so the Tick, who also skipped leg day, can be his stand-in.  Substitute "bullshit message board 'lifters'" for ninjas, and this pic will do nicely.

In short, many of you likely have Histrionic Personality Disorder and should seek treatment, whether it be in the form of a doctor or eating a fucking Frisbee.  Outside of the fucking gym, and outside of strength sports.  Not only are you annoying as fuck to the people who truly love lifting, but you're likely just exacerbating a legitimate mental illness.  Or you can just take a page out of the book of a man who was stronger than anyone we're ever likely to meet short of the top three strongmen on the planet and enjoy the process rather than the result, because in the end, no one really gives a shit.  Huge and strong and awesome is the way to live- trudging through workouts you didn't design filming yourself like you're your own paparazzi is fucking retarded.  Whatever you do, stop taking yourselves so fucking seriously, because again- no one on Earth outside of a select few of us really gives a shit about any of this.  And remember:

“Think it.” - Chuck Ahrens 
The most powerful tool is THE MIND. 

Second most powerful being Satanic porn, of course.

Green, Bob.  Carlin Venus Speaks on Training with Ahrens, Davis, Reeves and Others (1984).  Tight Tan Slacks of Dezso Ban.
 24 Jun 2008.  Web.  17 May 2018.

Mahler, Mike.  A conversation with Jimmy "The Iron Bull" Pellechia.  T-Nation.  23 Aug 2002.  Web.  18 May 2018.

Meyers, Al.  Remembering Chuck Ahrens.  USAWA.  1 Feb 2010.  Web.  11 Oct 2016.

Minichiello, Tom.  Dr. Carlin C. Venus.  Tom Minichiello's Bodybuilding History (jul/Aug 2004).  2007.  Web.  19 May 2018.

Murray, Al and Oscar State.  The grip in the press (1949).  Tight Tan Slacks of Dezso Ban.  18 Jan 2015.  Web.  17 May 2018.

Piche, Bill.  The legend of Chuck Ahrens.  12 Oct 2004.  Web.  19 May 2018.

Rader, Peary.  Powerlifting: how it all started (1983).  The Tight Tan Slacks of Dezso Ban.  2 Dec 2009.  Web.  18 May 2018.

Sacks, Oliver.  The bodybuilder: Oliver Sacks' days on Muscle Beach.  Science Friday.  22 Jan 2016.  Web.  17 May 2018.

Strossen, Randall J.  Chuck Ahrens: rest in peace.  Ironmind.  26 Jan 2010.  Web.  17 May 2018.

Vuono, Pete.  Chuck Ahrens - Pete Vuono.  22 Nov 2011.

Willoughby, David P.  The Super-Athletes.  South Brunswick: AS Barnes and Company, 1970. 

17 May 2018

A Public Service Announcement from Bruce Randall: "For Fuck's Sweet Sake. Bulk First, Then Worry About Getting Cut."

Bruce Randall went from nothing to fat badass to shredded ladies man in three years, natty af.  Begin the naysaying, skinny-fat internet nobodies!

Having been positively besieged with questions over the years asking how lean a person should be before bulking, I thought it was high time to introduce a new generation to the modern human marvel- Bruce Randall, a strongman, powerlifter, and bodybuilder famous in the 1950s for making an insane amount of progress in a very short period of time.  I realize that it's all the rage to traipse through your fitness club in skin tight capri pants and a melon colored string tank top, checking out your abs between lackadaisical sets of whatever Jeff Seid happens to be recommending these days, but if you actually want to impress real, live people when you walk down the street as a physically imposing and impressive motherfucker, chicken breasts, kale, and P90x isn't going to fucking cut it.

Bob Hines, Bruce Randall, and Abe Goldberg outside of Goldberg's gym.

I realize that for anyone reading this while rocking athleisure clothing, this revelation will come as a fucking shocker, but it's true.  The only person of whom I can think who successfully shreds and then lean bulks is Sylvester Stallone, cited above.  As such, I am not saying it is not possible to do, but it's a mostly idiotic way to go about things for most people.  A far better example to follow would be a person like the wrestler Bruno Sammartino, who gained over 100 lbs of muscle in 4 years and set a bunch of lifting records while doing it, or the man pictured above, Bruce Randall.  Bulking hard and then cutting allows you to overeat like crazy to pack on muscle, which is easy enough to hang onto if you keep your protein high.

Sylvester Stallone- the reigning world champion of cutting and then bulking.  "[W]hen I did Rambo III, I didn’t like the way I looked anymore, so I decided to reshape myself. I went down to 168 pounds. I put on weight slowly and got sinewy, hard-cut muscles. I wound up weighing about 200. But it was all muscle – my body fat was down to 3.8 percent. Now my fat count is 6.8. I’m 5’10? and weight 187 pounds. I’m pleased with my body now" (Davis).

So, having already written about Sammartino's methods, allow me to introduce you to Bruce Randall- at 6'2", his weight ranged anywhere from 183 to 401lbs.  In the course of his career, the man managed to gain world renown for his strength, then gained even more renown for shredding like crazy and winning the Mr. Universe title against some renown strongmen in 1959.  The thing that made him stand out in my mind (for which I unfortunately couldn't find a citation) is neither of those things, though- it's that once he cut down he was so unaccustomed to his own strength that he grabbed a bench to do some benching and noticed everyone staring at him.  When he set the bench down, he realized the fucking thing had been bolted into the ground, but he was able to rip it out of its moorings with no more effort than what it took to pick up a bench.

I highly doubt any of you have made gains or losses that even slightly compare to those, so you goddamned well better pay attention.  As to the tilt, the image was cockeyed and I'm working on a Chromebook, so that's the best you're getting.

Before we get going, I know half of you are going to call bullshit on his weights and progress, but the dude was heavily documented by Iron Man magazine the entire time.  The other half of you are going to talk shit about his programs, because the knee jerk reaction for people these days is to say "that's horseshit and you're a lying pussy" rather than actually considering the implications of what you are reading actually might teach you something, rather than just reinforcing what you think you know.  That said, let's delve into the story of a man whose life tale is so tall it's like Mark Henry and Johnny Appleseed doubleteamed Calamity Jane to create a man who makes Paul Bunyan seem like a punk bitch in comparison.

Bruce Randall was a professional bodybuilder and insanely strong guy who leapt into the public eye early in life and disappeared from public view just as quickly.  Born in 1931, Randall didn't actually start lifting until he was of legal drinking age, and only did so at 21 because he needed to weigh 225lbs to play for the base football team in the Marines.  Approaching the base lifting coach, Chief Petty Officer Walter Metzler, Randall explained he needed to pack on mass as quickly as possible so he could go out and be the crazy white Lawrence Taylor of the armed services.  So at a bodyweight of 203lbs, Randall began his training with weird as hell program and a ingeniously simple diet that initially just included an extra loaf of bread, quart of milk, pork chop, or whatever he could get during every meal (Randall and Roach).

Clearly, that dietary methodology is so simple a six year old could have figured it out, but frankly it never once occurred to me to try that sort of thing- luckily for all of us, it's never too late to try to pack on 30 lbs of mass in six weeks.  His program was also incredibly simple, and although you'll all hate it, his methodology was sound.  Having grown up in an era where you're gonna get mocked for skipping legs, you would likely all write a beginner program based around the Olympic lifts or power lifts in an effort to engage as many muscle groups as possible.   Randall, on the other hand, said fuck that noise.  Instead of doing some lame fucking 5x5 program wherein you are allegedly going to get jacked off three days of lackluster lifting a week, Randall did the following program 6-7 days a week.  His logic?  "I found that in my case I could work on my arms almost every day and make gains. I assume that this is due to the natural recuperative powers of the arms. Because they are always in use they seem to be able to regain total strength with just one night’s rest and are ready for more the next day" (Randall).  In short- you can make serious hypertrophy progress training your arms every day like a fucking maniac, but the same couldn't be said for a program comprised of squats and deadlifts.  You'd fall apart faster than a scarecrow in a tornado.

Randall's 1st Program, Aka the "Curls for the Girls" Routine
Military style barbell curls – 110 pounds, 3 sets of 6-8 reps
Dumbbell concentration curls – 50 pounds, 3 sets of 6-5 reps
French style barbell curls – 70 pounds, 3 sets of 6-8 reps
Bent-over triceps extension with dumbbells – 35 pounds, 3 sets of 6-8 reps
Dumbbell incline curls – 45 pounds, 3 sets of 6-8 reps (with an arm hanging over a gymnastic horse)

His weights are the weights he started the program with, so a couple of years of chopping wood prior to starting this program definitely paid off as unplanned preparation for lifting. He'd start with six reps per set, and as he grew stronger he would wait until he hit eight reps for all three sets, then increase the weight and start back at six.  With this program and diet, Bruce Randall's progress was nothing short of pants-shitting (both figuratively and likely literally).  In six weeks, he increased his weight from 203 lbs to 225 lbs and his arms grew from arms increased from 16” to 17.5”. Because football was still a few months off, Randall decided to change his goal to gain another 25lbs using the same routine and diet, and he got his weight up to 265lbs.

Clearly, this kind of weight gain and progress is just fucking ridiculous, but it should immediately indicate to every motherfucking last one of us that we eat like Angelina Jolie and we need to level the fuck up at the dinner table.  Lest you think I am suggesting that we all should get fat as shit to pack on mass, I'm not.  There is a happy medium between gaining 200 lbs in two years and applying similar principles to this in order to quickly gain mass, or to smash through sticking points (and there is definitely evidence that our collective sticking points are due in large part to eating like fucking hummingbirds.

Can you imagine someone posting a pic of this now?  The internet would go crazy screaming shit like "fake plates" and "snap city"

So at 265lbs, Randall decided it was time to take his diet to the next level and alter his training to involved the larger muscle groups.  The following just the basis of his training, and he would add exercises as time permitted.  Again, he started with three sets of each exercise, dropping the starting reps to 3-5, and adding weight when he hit 8 reps.  His starting weights were still light, but recall at that point lifters had to clean the weight to their chests and fall back into a high incline board for incline barbell press, which definitely increased the level of difficulty considerably.  He took as long as he felt he needed in between sets, often lifting from 3-5 hours a day.

Randall's 2nd Program
Dumbbell Bench Press – 120 pounds, 5-8 reps
Decline Dumbbell Bench Press – 130 pounds, 5-8 reps
Incline Barbell Press – 250 pounds, 5-8 reps
Good Morning – 295 pound, 3-5 reps

If you are wondering, like I was, why the squat still wasn't in this program, I have your answer right here:
"Randall originally shied away from the squat because of a serious injury there years previously in which he broke his leg in seven places.  He would periodically test his strength in the movement and attributed the hard work in the good morning exercise for allowing him to squat 680lbs.  He actually once took a shot at a 750lbs good morning, but had to drop the bar because the weights shifted on him" (Roach).
It was with this program, just under a year into lifting, that he managed to win an Olympic weightlifting competition, in spite of the fact he trained less for it than most people train for fun runs.  In December of 1953, 11 months after he started training, Randall entered his first meet, the Capital District, and won with a 300lb press, 230lb snatch, 315lb clean and jerk, and 845lb total. 

As his training evolved to suit his heavier training with more compound lifts, so did his diet. Centered around four massive meals (a cafeteria tray filled to overflowing with rice and pork for dinner, or a breakfast of his typical breakfast, consisting of 28 fried eggs, loaf and half of bread and two quarts of milk) a day, at 6:30am, 11:30am, 4:30pm, and 9:30pm.   Between meals he didn't snack beyond drinking milk, of which he drank a fucking unreal amount (8-10 quarts on average).  When I say unreal, I'm talking unicorns that fart cinnamon and sneeze rainbows unreal- at least one time he drank nearly five gallons in a day, which gave him almost 15,000 calories and 600 grams of protein just by themselves (Roach).
“I remember one incident that happened to me at lunch. I weighed about 330 at the time and came to lunch ready to eat like a horse. They were serving a favorite Chinese dish of mine, fried rice with pork. It happened that I was eating at the Navy mess hall at the time and so had a metal tray with five different compartments in it to eat from. Well, I filled the entire tray with rice and pork. The mound was so high that if another spoonful was added it would run over the side of the tray. Carefully balancing the tray so as not to drops a precious grain, I made my way back to a table amid incredulous stares from every sailor in the hall. Upon sitting down and tasting a few spoonfuls I found the rice to be slightly undercooked. The center of each grain was a little pasty and absorbed all the moisture in my mouth when I chewed. In order to solve this frustrating dilemma, I secured several quart bottles of water and proceeded to eat the rice with a swig of water every so often. Under this procedure I was able to finish the entire tray of fried rice and pork (I made it an absolute rule to finish everything I took. Wasting food is an unpardonable sin!). Upon getting up, I was, to put it mildly, sufficiently filled. When I arrived back at the Marine Barracks I found myself feeling rather strange sensations going on in the region of my stomach. I made a hasty retreat to my bed and lay upon my back for five hours taking short panting breaths because I found that deep breathing caused even more pressure on the stomach. Thereafter I made quite certain that the rice was well cooked before I loaded up the tray" (Randall and Roach)

Those of you who remember the Saxon Trio's eating habits will note even they would have thought this was just an egregious amount of food and milk, and the man's bedroom must have smelled like a Turkish bathhouse in which Gary Busey and Nick Nolte had been doing squats.  If you slept in a sewer you probably would have breathed better than you could in this man's room.  And Randall gave less fucks than Deadpool donkeypunching Gina Carano in the middle of a child sex ring- he actually once said that if he'd pushed his weight to 500lbs he could have deadlifted 1000lbs (Roach).

Putting aside that Randall's bedroom must've smelled like a camel threw up eggs onto a pile of cow shit, and his bathroom was likely considered a Hazard Zone by every governmental agency in the country, we'll go back to his training.  Randall said he never really had a "set" program, but he did specifically alter his training to the following, done five to six times a week:

Incline Clean and Press (pictured above) – 3x3-5, 355 lbs.
Quarter Front Squat – 3x6-8, 1,010 lbs.
DB Bench Press – 3x3-5, 205 lbs.
DB Decline Press – 3x3-5, 195 lbs.
Good Morning – 3x3-5, 565 lbs.

His training kept changing from then on, rotating in and out various exercises (but usually keeping the total exercise count to six) that constantly ramped up the insanity as he tested his digestive system and his body's ability to adapt.  By the time he had two years of training under his belt, Randall's lifts were among the best in the world at the time.

Randall's Best Lifts after 2 years of training, at 335-410lbs (Greatest, Willoughby 138)
Military Press – 365lbs x two reps, 375 x one rep
Squat – 680lbs
Good Morning – 685lbs (Bent knees, back parallel to the floor)
Deadlift – 730lbs x two reps; 770 x one rep
Strict Curl – 242 lbs Dumbbell Bench Press – 220-pound dumbbells x two reps
Bench Press – 482lbs (with a 3-second pause on the chest)
Decline Dumbbell Bench Press – 220lb dumbbells x one rep
¼ Front Squat – 1,320lbs
Incline Clean and Press – 380lbs x three reps, 410 x one rep

It seems that his switch in diet happened basically on a whim he mentioned to a friend, that he wanted to “look at life from the other side of the weight picture,” and his friend essentially told him he was out of his motherfucking mind, which only served to strengthen his resolve (Rader and Randall).  I can respect that kind of motivation, because as I've written in the past, spite is an amazing motivator.

As far as I was concerned there is no such word as "never" in a lifter’s vocabulary.
- Bruce Randall

Taking up the challenge like a heroin addict takes up a fentanyl habit, Bruce knew he would have to immediately change both his diet and his routine.  Interestingly, he had the exact opposite opinion about the matter than Arnold, though they both ended up at the same conclusion using the same simile.  Whereas in Pumping Iron Arnold said, "you look in the mirror and you say, okay, I need a bit more deltoids ... so that the proportion's right, and ... you exercise and put those deltoids on, whereas an artist would just slap on some clay on each side," Bruce Randall said, "take a sculptor about to create a statue. He takes a big, ungainly piece of rock and with hammer and chisel he chips away at it until the desired effect is created" (Logan).  At 401lbs, Randall saw himself as that big, ungainly piece of rock, and the weights and diet were his hammer and chisel.  With that in mind, he reversed his previous methods and reduced his food intake at each meal, trying to keep his protein and green vegetables high while cutting back on starches and fats.

At the same time he reduced his food intake, he increased his volume in a way only a dangerously psychotic and probably self-destructive person would, training 6-7 hours a day (and once 27 hours in two days and 81 hours in that week), 6-7 days a week (and once 27 days in a row) doing more than 20 exercises with 4-5 sets of 12-15 reps apiece.  He also started walking daily, gradually increasing his walks and pace until after a month he would walk/jog, and was running 3-5 miles a day by the end of his 9 month cut.  And if you say that's going to kill your lifts, no it won't- you're just being an excuse-making pussy.  According to the man himself, "I found that it did not adversely affect my workouts in the gym and in addition to the above mentioned benefits it increased my stamina and endurance greatly" (Logan).

His workout was as unconventional and volume dense-as-a-black-hole as you would guess:
Randall's "Reduction" Program
Situps, leg raises, hanging leg raises – 20-50 reps.
Squats without weight – sets of 20.
Leg curls and extensions – sets of 25.
Bench presses, flyes – sets of 15-20.
Chins, dips, curls, rows, upright rows – sets of 15-25.
Seated DB presses, incline presses – sets of 10-15.
More situps, leg raises and hanging leg raises – sets of 25-50.
Miscellaneous optional exercises at the end of each workout.

Randall at the end of his cut, weighing 187lbs.

If that's not insane enough for you, his 1956 New Years resolution was to do 5.000 situps a day for the first 15 days of 1956.... in addition to all of the other ab training he did. He credited that with his waspish waist, which was an amazingly trim 33", and whatever else it did, that resolution confirmed that the man was indeed crazier the Heath Ledger Joker on angel dust and flakka.  He did, however, say that in retrospect his reps and should have been reversed (ahhh, sweet vindication):
"I prefer to REDUCE the repetitions and INCREASE the number of sets. 
To illustrate the above point let us take the following example. Instead of performing 3 sets of 20 repetitions per exercise, I would prefer to perform 10 sets of 6 repetitions per exercise when training for definition. Let us say that we were able to do 3 sets of 20 reps with 100 pounds in the curl. Now, if we were to increase the sets to 10 and reduce the reps to 6 we would be able to increase the weight substantially to, let us say, 150 pounds! The point is that at the end of the exercise we have performed exactly the same amount of repetitions. However, on the high set, low rep principal, we use 50% more weight thus accomplishing more work and therefore burning more energy which is necessary in order to reduce fat and attain definition. 
Remember, it is the amount of energy you have burned up which in turn is determined by the amount of work you have performed that will determine the amount of fat reduction. This approach to definition should also enable the trainee to retain a great degree of muscle density, at the same time encouraging greater definition. The writer is not suggesting that the reader follow the idea of 10 sets necessarily. It is true that the more sets you perform the longer will be the length of your workout. It is also true, however, that it is necessary to put in many long workouts in order to bring the body around to top contest condition. Ask any top physique winner and you will find that this is true" (Randall).

Bruce in 1959 at 225 lbs

In the end, Bruce Randall was eating like most kids online claim they're eating when they "literally can't eat another thing."  How those kids have such tiny appetites almost as big a mystery as how the formerly competitive-eater level Randall got his food intake down that low.  By the time Randall was down to 183 in 1956, he was eating the following:

2 soft boiled eggs
Plain pint of skim milk
Glass of orange juice

Salad, dates and nuts

Round Steak
Two vegetables
Quart skim milk with additional powdered milk
Coffee (Occasionally)

As you can see below, his first couple of competitions didn't go quite as well as Bruce Randall would have liked- but the man remained undeterred.  When he stepped onstage in 1956, Bruce had increased his weight up to 219 lbs., continuing his bizarre weight yo-yo.  In 1957, Randall took a different tack and went lighter, coming in 6th weighing 195 lbs.  At that point he was walking around at a much more reasonable 203lbs-240lbs in the offseason, and won in 1959 weighing 231lbs, four pounds lighter and an inch shorter than Arnold Schwarzenegger, who would win it nine years later.

Bruce Randall's Competition History
1956 – Mr. America – AAU, 13th
1957 – Mr. America – AAU, 6th
1958 – Universe – Pro – NABBA, Tall, 2nd
1959 – Universe – Pro – NABBA, Tall, 1st
1959 – Universe – Pro – NABBA, Overall Winner

“I constantly put personal goals before myself and these goals acted as a stimulus of sorts. In other words, I would set a date, perhaps three weeks hence, when I would try to accomplish some change such as a loss of 12 pounds or a reduction around the chest or waist of several inches. This idea of using goals is something that I learned when I was gaining weight and strength. I would tell myself that at a certain date I would press or deadlift, etc., such a poundage. Thus I found myself constantly challenged and I love challenges!" (Randal and Rader).
And that is essentially where the Bruce Randall story ends.  He fell off the map and no one really heard from him again.  Likely, he burnt himself out and just didn't have it in him to keep training.  On top of that, his unconventional methods and ridiculous training volume lent themselves about as well to coaching athletes as John Belushi's party practices would have lent themselves to leading AA meetings.  In any event, the man is a fucking textbook on how a zero-fucks-given attitude and big brass balls can push you to the forefront of the strength game... and that the bullshit about yo-yo dieting killing you faster than a diet of plutonium will.  Randall lived to the ripe old age of 87, probably just to prove one unnecessarily awesome point.

A couple of gems Randall had for people regarding training were (Randall):

  • “I did do one exercise during this time which may have had some influence on my squat. This was the good morning exercise. When I reached over 400 lbs. on this exercise I found that I could not do the exercise in the strict sense because I had to band at the knees in order to compensate for the weight at the back of the neck. I made 685 in this manner with my back parallel to the floor and once almost made 750 but was forced to dump it because of a shift in the weight."
  • “I found the ¼ Front Squats helped me push-press heavy weights and believe it to be a fine exercise." 
  • When cutting- “I use powdered milk and skim milk mixed together, thus increasing the protein content. I also took coffee at times finding it tended to curtail my appetite."
  • Just as Mac from It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia said about his season-long weight gain, Randall felt good at his heaviest.  "Actually, I felt fine when weighing 400 pounds but found that I perspired freely and had a bit of trouble getting about the city. Of course I needed great amounts of sleep and food. My food bill (early ‘50s) was never under $80 per week and very often well over $100. I know that if I wanted to gain again I could weight 500 lbs. in 18 months time." 
  • On doing anything you believe you can- "Many people say that added weight is not necessary to become stronger. Perhaps they are right, but in my case it was necessary because I believed it was.
  • "I would suggest that those who find it difficult to refrain from the cake pie and candy routine remind themselves that each candy bar will cost them another 500 situps to work off! I found this to be a very persuasive means of combating temporary dietary temptations!"
  • Finally, all you Zyzz and Jeff Seid loving motherfuckers out there take note- "Remember that anyone can have the definition he desires if he is willing to train and will apply a little “exercise” of the will power. In conclusion I think it might be wise to add that there is a time to be extremely defined and a time not to be quite so defined. I feel that it is unwise to maintain an extreme degree of definition for great lengths of time because, by reducing the body fat to an absolute minimum, one also reduces his resistance and may subject his body to colds and many other possible illnesses."

So what have we learned?  First, we learned once again that you form Nazis out there can take a big step back and literally fuck your own faces.  We also learned that literally anything is possible if you set your mind to it and go ball-to-the-fucking-wall.  Finally, it should also seem fairly obvious to anyone paying attention that bulking at the outset to build strength and size makes far more sense than trying to achieve and maintain Instagram-ready abs at all times.  Frankly, I wish I'd dirty bulked in my formative years so I could maintain a higher set-point of muscle mass, rather than constantly scraping and scratching to gain a little muscle every year on a diet of rice and chicken... plus, pizza is fucking delicious.  A bit of food for thought, at least...

"Singleness of mind and the will power to stick to something with the courage to go on in spite of what people might say is a great factor to success."

By the way, big ups to Antonio Jacopo Campaner for reminding me of this guy's name.

Bruce Randall.  Greatest Physiques.  Web.  8 May 2018.

Christopher, Logan.  Bruce Randall.  Legendary Strength.  8 Oct 2013.
 Web.  8 May 2018.

Davis, Chris.  Sylvester Stallone workout: Rocky & Rambo.  Pop Workouts.  21 Feb 2016.  Web.  16 May 2018.

Heffernan, Conor.  Bruce Randall and the most amazing transformation in bodybuilding.  Physical Culture Study.  1 Jun 2016.  Web.  30 Apr 2018.

Randall, Bruce.  Definition, That Elusive Quality.  Tight Tan Slacks of Dezso Ban.  30 Apr 2009.  Web.  30 Apr 2018.

Randall, Bruce and Peary Rader.  How Bruce Randall Trained- Up and Down to a Mr. Universe Title (1957).  Tight Tan Slacks of Dezso Ban.  24 Aug 2008.  Web.  30 Apr 2018.

Roach, Randy.  the amazing transformation of Bruce Randall.  Iron Game History.  Aug 2008.  Web.  8 May 2018.