It meant that many, many great bodybuilders who could have become decent Pro’s never got the chance as the depth of competition was immense but it also meant that the quality of pro’s coming out of the UK was phenomenal, everyone was World Class and ready for any Pro show immediately on winning that coveted card.
I will also share some very personal experiences of my time then; golden days for me, personally and also for the sport; and hopefully, along the way I will share some lessons that Learnt that may help you along your journey whether in bodybuilding or just through lie itself.
I could have written this blog about bodybuilding worldwide in the 1990’s as it is often seen as the golden period, or one of the golden periods of the sport; seen by many as a time before the drugs went out of control, before the huge bellies began to appear, before aesthetics were destroyed and weird substances began to enhance shoulders, arms and calves to artificially change the genetic shape of the athletes. But, that blog would be a major undertaking and although I promise I will cover this issue in the future, I wanted to continue a little further chronologically on my own journey, as I saw and experienced it, before tackling the bigger issues and I also wanted to begin to relate my journey to the philosophical, mythological and literary knowledge that now as I look back seemed to go hand in hand with what I was learning back then.
The reason for doing so is simple; if you know my background and the experiences I have personally witnessed and partaken in, then it may add some credibility to my input into the bigger topics; such as when I talk about purpose, relationships, ethics and morals that I do so not as someone who knows more than anyone else but as someone with the experience and knowledge of having been there, done that, made those mistakes (well some of them not all of them thank goodness) rather than some armchair ‘expert’ who sits behind a computer or some dry academic professor that lives in an ivory tower protected from the real world by living completely within a world of books and teaching dishing out what is often ill-judged and biased opinions from someone who knows very little about the subject they are actually spouting off about!! I do have the experience and knowledge and yet I STILL don’t feel as though it is appropriate for me to make judgements on certain things within this sport let alone life! However, as I get older I see too many young people making huge mistakes that could seriously jeopardise their health, their happiness and damaging their virtue, honour and integrity; the key attributes that ultimately will be what we are remembered for!!
Words from a wiser man than me, the Roman philosopher Seneca, “The greatest portion of peace of mind is doing nothing wrong. Those who lack self-control live disorientated and disturbed lives.”
Now we will cover the consequences of living an undisciplined and un controlled lifestyle in future blogs, but perhaps you may already have experienced uncomfortable feelings when you yourself did something you KNEW was purely for instant gratification, for the thrill of the moment and not in the interest of your greater purpose and not the right thing to have done. Those moments, no matter how small they may seem at the time, can ruins lives, relationships and cause pain, heartache and misery; heaven knows life can throw enough pain and suffering at us through pure luck and randomness without us creating more of them for ourselves!!
I found myself getting more and more uncomfortable with not helping more than just the people I see around me and know personally; I had a sense that I needed to reach out to a larger audience, if they would listen, and to share what I’ve learned truly matters in life…..22 inch guns! Well, as well as huge guns, and you know I am only joking when I say that….. because life is serious and a gift. We only get one chance with this thing called life and it can be fleeting and can be taken from us at any moment; so if I can help one person make a better choice in anything they do then I’ll do whatever it takes to help them which is the reason behind all these stories you here.
Look at history’s greatest heroes and heroines; look at the movies greatest ever stars, they all have something in common; they reflect virtues in characters that we deem to be noble, worthy and great! Whether it is Achilles, Hercules, Boudicca, Cleopatra, or whether it is Carton Heston, Clint Eastwood, Audrey Hepburn, Hemmingway or Woolf and yes, ok I’m showing my age here, so let’s say Usain Bolt or Simone Biles; they are not just great athletes but they appear to be great human beings also. Are they also in true life great human beings? Well, we all have our weaknesses and all of these characters will have theirs, but their efforts to consistently, day to day attempt to live their lives to the highest standards possible makes us take of notice them. Yes, their great moments in life are what draws the world to them, but those great moments never would have come if it wasn’t for dedication, persistence, over-coming adversity, consistently reaching higher and higher until they WERE the top. Now, we individually may never be world famous for anything but if you live your life every day with the highest of standards, being virtuous always, honourable, honest, tell the truth, don’t lie to people, keep your word and support those around you in need then you WILL my friends become great to a good many people whether you know it or not….your name will be associated with all the characteristics of a hero or a heroine and then, look around and see what impact you have made, for it will be a world changing one.
Of good people, Seneca said this: “Good people will do what they find honourable to do, even if it requires hard work; they ‘ll do it even if it causes them injury; they’ll do it if it will bring danger. Again, thy won’t do what they find base, even if it brings wealth, pleasure or power. Nothing, will deter them from what is honourable, and nothing will lure them into what is base.” This is why I read philosophy, for words like these.
Back to bodybuilding and the 90s…. I must admit, when it comes to reliving and commenting on the bodybuilders of that period that I competed against and knew, I do honestly stop first and ask myself the question, ‘Am I seeing this period through rose tinted spectacles?’ OR have I thought the experiences through objectively enough to give an honest, objective view of the time? I like to think I’ve done the latter but if there is a little part of me that is also reminiscing with fondness for that period that is a little biased, then…..I’ll take the criticism and to heck with it!!! They were great times!!! Let me tell you why….
The UK has always produced some of the world’s greatest bodybuilders; maybe it is our history of hard, manual work; the mines, the mills, the canals, the railways, farming with its annual games of strength and particularly in Scotland where the history of a strength contest has been now promoted as though it was part of an ancient clan gathering, the Highland Games! But the history of what most people know as the Highland Games is a relatively recent, a Victorian invention, as are so many Scottish traditions, and even if semblances of tests of strength may have existed in years gone by and they certainly did, they would have been nothing like you see now. Anyway, men (and women) of unnatural strength have always been admired within communities within Britain and as the industrial revolution turned people away from hard manual rural tasks and into cities and office jobs, many people (men particularly) took to lifting weights for pleasure and a way of expressing their masculinity and also developing a respect for themselves that they could both work hard at whatever job they had to pay the bills and then to physically grind away at the weights week in week out, to build a physique that meant they never had to tell anyone else who or what they were about, others knew. They knew that you worked hard, that you were focused and disciplined, that you probably had the strength to help in emergency situations or hold your own if trouble was brewing but that you were also secure enough to never have to use that strength or power unless it was absolutely necessary.
From the 1940’s and 50’s and 60’s bodybuilding in Britain always had a good following, a strong sub-culture although some viewed it as a little odd but it’s always been there through the decades following America in its popularity despite not being blessed with the same sunny summers and warm beaches! In the 1980’s, more gyms began to open and many were great clubs, with good equipment and there was a growing competitive scene that began to see some amazing physiques coming through; however, it was in the 1990’s that some truly amazing athletes would be seen at nearly every show you attended, genetic freaks that looked both big and cut, in fact more like huge and shredded!! Bodybuilding exploded in the UK, more shows were put on, there were more promoters, more shows, better quality of athletes and the pro’s that surfaced were world class; some switching over from winning the NABBA universe to compete in the IFBB (the great Charles Clairemonte who won four out of five Grand Prix titles in 1993, beating Flex Wheeler and Kevin Levrone who had just got 2nd and 3rd at the Olympia just weeks before; there was Ian Harrison, the junior Universe at 19 who then became the youngest guy to ever win the British overall in 1989 and of course Eddie Ellwood, a 5 x Mr Universe winner) and new guys who came up through the ranks of the IFBB, sadly, the guys transferring from other Federations didn’t always find it an easy or welcoming process from the judges and often, in my opinion got placings well below what they truly deserved, I had good friends that had competed with NABBA and once in the IFBB despite looking like top 5 material, placed no-where, a similar thing happened to some American PRO’s who switched over to the WBF in the US and then returned to the IFBB stage, I suppose the authorities thought they had to earn their placings again perhaps? but that won’t surprise anyone now, would it if you know the history of our sport!!!
I remember in my own town there were several competitive bodybuilders (from what I hear today we’d be lucky to find two or three!) This was a situation that was common throughout the towns all over the UK, London had Muscleworks Gym who always produced great bodybuilders and then up North, in what could be names the ‘Powerhouse’ of British bodybuilding, from Manchester upwards and then west towards Wales and the land of Dragons! So, to say there were several bodybuilders competing from my town, many were just starting out but there were a handful who were already National level and with that came a level of rivalry and competition that I believe made us improve even more. That’s the thing with having a few different bodybuilders in any one town, the inspiration they give out rubs off on everyone else in the sport, making everyone believe if they can do it, then why not me?! And it was true, this small select group of athletes did make others think that they, to compete, as well as seeing the respect and attention that were given to them, I think others wanted to also be held in the same regard and with the same respect.
There was Lorne McCalla, Vernon Montgomery, Roy Bunce, an older guy (I can’t remember his name; he competed naturally, winning a few Natural National shows, but…..let’s just say he took an extended vacation to Spain each year and looked mighty different when he returned….no comment…lol!!!). In truth, it was Lorne McCalla who was the one who was doing things, he moved down to Bristol so he left the town but we continued to be friends and he was a great support in my early years. He was a great Middleweight competitor with the EFBB and although we rarely trained with each other, we would often talk and I would be inspired by his physique. The only times we did train together would be in Bristol, at LA Gym or Church Gym (I think it was called as it was in an old church on a hill near the centre of Bristol on the way out to the Clifton Suspension bridge; now, that was a great gym and another awesome middleweight trained there, a guy called Geoff Nutt who may be familiar to some of you, we travelled to Europe together on many occasions competing in Federations I think when I came back from retirement he was still competing internationally with us all, different classes as I was a super heavyweight but he was a great guy and his conditioning was freaky!!!!
Lorne and Vernon were also both friends with Johnny; Johnny Fuller was very much a father figure to all of us young aspiring bodybuilders in town but before long Vernon had stopped competing (I think he was focusing on business but always kept himself in good shape and now I believe his son is carrying the torch forwards and has a very good physique himself, and I have a feeling he is also competing, perhaps in men’s physique or classic bodybuilding, I’m not sure but I’m sure someone will let me know). I’d like to say we were like brothers back then, and maybe we were! Because there was always an element of ego or envy or gossip going on; I was never one to gossip but I admit I was a little on the arrogant side, I knew (rightly or wrongly) that I was moving forwards faster than the others even though I had been training seriously for less time but I maybe was also more dedicated; I took all of my annual leave to travel up to Birmingham three times a week to train With Dorian over about an 18 month period so that meant that I had no time for small town ego’s or gossip and I was to focused on trying to reach the top solo so we drifted apart but before then we did have some funny experiences!!
I remember Lorne’s mother; being Jamaican, she was a great cook and he was too! Chicken, beans and rice, Jamaican style was like heaven on earth and the first time I qualified for the British finals, Lorne together with my girlfriend were the only people from the town that came to Wembley to support me! There were others who came to see me but from further afield which I guess showed where the true bodybuilding fans were back then, like my dear old friend, sadly now passed, Graham Black, himself a NABBA World champion winner from Newbury, I think it was because I didn’t have a gym base really in my own town, driving three times a week to Temple, I only had one session at a local gym to train at so I would sometimes vary which one I trained at, normally it was a small gym within a rugby club which I would later have a gym in myself, but it was called Tropicana Gym back then or at Swindon Gym and Fitness Centre owned by a guy who also competed naturally and was a good support in my early years but even then, I could feel the jealousy or tall poppy syndrome effect where I could sense people almost wanting me to fail. It’s a common phenomenon and not unique to any one place or even country but you simply have to get over, ignore it (which was easy to do when you’re focused on bigger and better rather than bringing others down) and accept that it is people’s own securities that is being displayed here really nothing to do with you or your personality. So, my first British final and I came in sliced and diced; at 8 weeks out it was not looking good but then Dorian gave me a kick up the arse and told me to up my cardio to twice a day and cut back on my carbs very slightly and within two weeks I was back on track, still a way to go but within striking distance.
I do remember that when I was announced on stage at the Britain I had put my gym down as Temple Gym in Birmingham as that was where I had done most of my training for the show. But I was always made to feel welcome in most of the gyms in Swindon, not all, there was one that ‘pretended’ to be for bodybuilders and everyone but didn’t want my 31lb off season physique training there as it may give the ‘wrong’ impression to others…..what impression? That this is where champions trained?!! Strangely after asking me not to train there they would cheekily shortly after ask me to hand out trophies at their own attempt at a bodybuilding show, which was more like a beachwear competition in all honesty; but I did the respectful thing and thanked the owner for asking me but said, ‘no’!!
So, I’ll always thank and admire Lorne for supporting me that day when no-one else in the town could be bothered to come and support me that’s how bad the jealousies can be when you begin to break through, everybody loves you when you’re trying, just as they are, to be a champion but then when you do become one, it makes them feel smaller and they then want to bring you down, I guess it’s a reminder to them that they haven’t done it and so they desire to bring you back down to their level again; it was tough! But, strangely I was warmly welcomed by any of the great gyms where the champions trained and I was in awe at most of the members; Temple, Betta Bodies, Muscleworx, Ian Harrison’s gym, Church gym etc etc.
The EFBB British in those early years of the 90’s was like a Pro line up, seriously the names were full of people who would turn Pro or could have turned Pro, people who could have been top Olympia contenders but for whatever reason they chose not to go on due to cost and commitments to other ventures or their lives took other turns. Let me list a few of the names that were up on that heavyweight stage during the 90’s; true freaks and beautiful physiques and many coming in sliced and diced….J.D.Dawudo, Ian Wadley, Jamo Nezzar, Alex Brooks, Amoury Francis, Shaun Davis, Mark ‘Rhino’ Smith, Eddie Abbew, Leonard St Cyr, Paul Delahay, Darren Spears….that was just the heavies!! In the light heavies there was Rob Wall, Cecil Crossdale, Rob Worthington, my buddy and my training partner with Dorian, Kenny Brown…..and don’t let me forget my old buddy Ernie Taylor!! And that was just the men!!! The women were just as spectacular with Kimberley-Anne Jones, Nicola Thomas, her sister, Joanne (RIP sadly Joanne passed recently which was devastating to many people, I can’t imagine what her family went through and are still going through), Lohani Rochi, Andrulla Blanchette who would often come up to Temple with Ian Dowe of Dowe Dynamics……NO!! There is no way I’m looking at this period with rose tinted spectacles!! This one was a golden era and it continued until the end of the 90’s with Grant Thomas, Steve Creighton, John Hodgson and Peter Brown. Either side of the 90’s you had Ian Harrison, Dorian Yates, Eddie Ellwood and then later in the 2000’s a certain Flex Lewis popping up as a youngster to take the overall in 2007 and one of my personal favourites, Paul George in 2004 who won the overall as a middleweight….that’s how good he was!!!
Photo courtesy of Roger Shelley
So, the quality was there but what was it like competing with guys like this? Was it intimidating, were they friendly, was there really a brotherhood of iron back then, or was it more cut throat than that and were there the petty jealousies that I sometimes experienced in the town I came from…..well, it seems that the town I lived in was like being a big fish in a little pond and maybe that’s why there was some petty feelings being expressed there; at the National level, where the true talent and big guns were it was totally different, it was a true brotherhood!! A Mutual respect existed for everyone and it really was a true brotherhood of iron.
“When your sparring partner scratches or head-butts you, you don’t then make a show if it, or protest, or view him with suspicion or as plotting against you. You should act this way with all things in life. We should give a pass to many things with our fellow trainees.” Marcus Aurelius’.
Maybe it was the mutual respect that everyone there was conscious of the fact that even in getting to the finals meant that you had proved yourself to some degree but when I first walked into the Wembley conference centre I instantly felt that respect (I had won my regional show, the Wessex, that year as a heavyweight and hoped I had done enough the deserve my place on that stage); it was a strange experience people looked at me with a sense that I was somebody, not that I needed any re-enforcement of ego or anything like that, it was more a case that it was an acceptance that I belonged there, belonged at that level….but would my physique also belong there on stage with those awesome heavyweights? It was in the foyer that I was introduced into exactly what I was entering, what level I was about to test myself; and that introduction was a man who was walking around laughing with a large group of friends and the most impressive arms that I had seen since Temple Gym, Amoury Francis….his guns were just huge, I was spellbound. I stood watching him and seeing his outgoing personality and how people were just attracted to him and he had a charisma that just drew you to him, but those guns!!! But was he competing? I’d never had arms like that off season, let alone now in contest shape if he was, was I out of my depth, had I bitten off more than I could chew?
I tried to relax and tried to put things into perspective; I had won my qualifier easily, straight firsts, I had received a standing ovation and even Kerry Kayes (Kerry was our ‘guru’ back then; not that he charged anyone except in sweat, tears and pain!! Kerry had helped Dorian when he had first come on the scene and was the foundation supporting British bodybuilding back then, a great man) even Kerry had said that I had looked good and was ready for the British….I had dieted even harder and brought down my weight an extra 3lbs from the qualifier and my condition was markedly improved; on my road to the show I had visited both Kerry and Dorian and both had taken a look at me frequently and always kept me honest; when I thought I was ready and then visit Kerry who said, ‘another 4lbs Paul’ and then to see Dorian who had said, ‘another 4-5lbs Paul’!!! 5lbs!!!! Where the heck from?!!!! My backside hurt when I sat on the bike I had no fat on my arse anymore, where was this 5lbs to come from, well if I had seen my back then I would have been able to see!!) But, they were absolutely correct, in coming right in, bringing in a new level of conditioning that I had never brought before or seen on myself before I knew that I was ‘on’. The interesting thing for others to remember is that at the same time Dorian was telling me I had another 5lbs to lose, everyone in the local gym was saying to me, ‘Paul, you’re shredded, peeled, sliced to the bone; you are ready, bang on’!!! Which just goes to show that the people in the gym are NOT the ones to ask advise from!!! Maybe they were telling me what they thought I wanted to hear but, more realistically, they just didn’t know what real condition was, seeing me in the shape I was in, they thought that was contest ready but it wasn’t ‘Dorian’ contest ready and I knew which one I wanted to achieve!
Have faith in yourself, and have a plan, “Life without a design is erratic. As soon as one is in place, principles become necessary.” Said Aurelius; for as in bodybuilding when you set a plan you immediately have to set in place principles to enable you to complete it; you set a goal to build a better physique then you need to stick to eating better, training harder, sleeping and resting properly; try and be a champion wasting your life away with parties, drinking, useless endeavours, moments of worthless pleasure instead of years of valuable success, virtue and integrity. Principles are everything, create them, hold them dear and never let them slip away from you, for anything. Just as in life, you do the same; you set a plan to build a business, a charity, find a wife or a husband who you can share all of life’s most beautiful moments with, whatever it is you cherish, set a plan and then set your principles that will allow you to achieve it.
I had to have faith in myself and although I knew I wasn’t going to match the other guys for muscle size this year or do any damage to the top placings, I did know I was going to be able to match anyone on condition and if anyone was coming in slightly off then if I stood next to them, it would show. I made my way to the changing room and walked through the door….it was like walking into another world. A whole new world….one that would blow me away but at the same time inspire me for years.
I walked through the doors and, honestly, when I looked inside at the physiques inside my first reaction was….turning right around and walking back out again!!! That’s truth for you, I won’t every lie to you, (and that is worth saying again, whatever you hear from these blogs will be the truth; now the truth is critical because without it these stories are just that, stories, but if they are true as well then they transform into possible learning lessons and thoughts that may help you and maybe guide you in your next steps or decisions you take in life) and turning around and going home was exactly what I was feeling. And yet, I didn’t turn around, I walked in and saw most of the guys sat around a large table smoking a joint and passing it around and before I knew it, it was offered to me with a ‘hi! Good to meet you, I heard you looked good at your qualifier’ Wow!! I smiled and started chatting with everyone and was soon at home and feeling as if I belonged, even with a joint in my hand!! Even though I looked around me and thought everyone looked as if they were off season they were so huge, I thought maybe everyone else was feeling the same (although I doubt it!!). The only one that was off season was Amoury Francis as I’m sure he didn’t compete that year but my memory isn’t great so excuse me if I get a detail or two wrong here or there! Before too long we were given an hours’ notice before we were going on stage for our comparisons and so we all began our own rituals for preparing for the stage; my own was very simple, I had no fancy foods to eat, no scientific last minute protocols to implement to create the ‘big’ difference in my physique, what was there that lunchtime was what was going on stage albeit a little drier and a little fuller. I was already tanned up, back then we used pro tan so all that was left to do was to pump up, oil up and take a little fluid to get the dryness out of my mouth and to take a little chocolate and if I felt any potential cramping to eat a few salted crisps. I didn’t, so I just had one square of dark chocolate and a mouthful of water and a mouthful of carb drink and walked out on stage.
The other guys were massive; I knew I wasn’t but I knew I was sliced; guys were complimenting me on my condition even as we all walked on stage. Yes, I knew they knew I wasn’t going to be a threat for the top placings but for my first appearance I wanted to show that I belonged and that I could show a level of conditioning that was simply beyond shredded, I wanted people to gasp when I hit a pose, to see the fibres splintering and every muscle clearly separated and striated. I had done my job.
Looking back, my overriding feelings of that day was of brotherhood, of gratitude, of respect, of awe and finally one of belonging. Those great group of guys sat around that table could have looked at me and laughed, they could have made a joke about ‘the novices are down the hall, pal!’, they could have completely ignored me not knowing me from Adam but instead they smiled with warmth, they spoke with respect to another brother, they had no idea what I was hiding underneath my tracksuit and had no idea of what I looked like (but maybe they knew, like Kerry Kayes used to always say, ‘never worry about the big, huge guy walking around smiling and acting like the boss; worry about the guy with a face like a skeleton, who looks like he’s about the pass out or die who’s lying down in the corner with his feet in the air and a tracksuit covering himself from head to toe…Kerry knew!!).
Amoury Francis, Ian Wadley, Jamo Nezzar, Ian Wadley, Alex Brookes, LEddie Abbew, Ricky Welling, Alex Brookes, Mark ‘Rhino’ Smith, Leonard st Cyr….I thank you gentlemen. Without you, I may well have turned around at that doorway and never tried again (although, I think Dorian would still have inspired me to go for it again!) but you were my brothers; and they many of them still are! I still, to this day, message and ‘talk’ with some of these guys on the internet; whether it’s social media or email, I am always amazed that they remember me but they are always surprised when I tell them how much they inspired me and still do to this day! All the greats of that era; Amoury, J.D., Mark, Jamo especially are always writing little comments on posts, or we did until I came of social media over two years ago but have recently gone back on gain to share these stories and the photos of the great bodybuilders o all-time, and I always do the same, whether it’s a funny story or a humorous anecdote or simply a word of respect for all that they still do for our sport and that these are the people we should always remember, these are the guys who paved the way for Britain to be a powerhouse in the world of bodybuilding! Let’s not forget the ladies too!!! Kimberley Ann Jones, what a woman!!! Paula Bircumshaw, again what a lady!!! Hard-core, old school, no bull, bodybuilders through and through with a love for the sport that keeps them inspiring the new generation and keeps them real and keeps them grounded. Paula? Paula was the hardest trainer in the UK apart from Dorian and Billy Payne, although she was Billy’s training partner for years so those two are level pegging in my book, both legends and both icons; she recently told me about the time she and Billy were banned from a gym in Leeds for making too much noise while they trained….and this was in the 80’s!!!! Freakin animals!!!
What made the day extra special was that Dorian was the guest poser at the show straight from his third Olympia victory in Georgia, in the US. Yes, it was the year he had torn his biceps just weeks before the finals, I know because I remember coming down the stairs of Temple Gym the day after he had torn it and I knew he was due to train yet he was sat on the bench, something was wrong, very wrong. He showed me his arm which had gone black and blue from his wrist to his armpit; it looked horrific and he was despondent, for sure, but he said he would see how it healed and whether or not Stuart Cosgrove would advise for it to be re-attached or not, or whether he would see how it looked after the bruising had gone down whether he would still keep going …which we all know, now, he did and won his Olympia victory through pure grit and the effort of the last few years training meant that he lost nothing except for the damaged shape of the bicep itself. That, perhaps is a blog post for another day.
If you want to get a flavour of the characters and the values and ethics we held in those days then I recommend you go onto Instagram and follow along to Paula and Billy and all of the names I have given today and take a look at their posts, these men and women are the real deal, they’ve been there , done that and are a wealth of knowledge which is available to everyone on their social media pages; no, they’re not as flashy and full of photos of themselves and not as ‘trendy’ as many of today’s top social media, ‘star’s’!!! But their comments and messages are priceless, worth their weight in gold.
So, without making this post too long, what do I think made the 90’s such a golden period in British bodybuilding and why were the physiques, in my opinion, filled with such class in depth; well, I think it was the way we trained, the way we dieted and the way we kept things as uncomplicated as possible. Yes, bodybuilders have always pushed the edge of the limits when it comes to supplementation, nutrition, training and other protocols but all those things were last on our list; almost research or a hobby that interested us not things that we would actually put into practice because we were too worried about ruining a whole years’ worth of graft testing something that could have made 0.1% difference at most!!!
Training always came first. Training was like a badge of honour; seriously, if anyone trained like I see some Pro’s train today with all the machines and pumping style movements with a phone in their hand, they would be laughed or kicked out of the gym and have zero respect from any true iron warrior! Training hard was what separated the men and women from the boys and girls; being the hardest trainer was the title everyone wanted, throwing up in a bucket or outside of the doors was not something that was frowned upon, it was laughed at but respected!! Heavy training for single reps didn’t impress anyone, unless you were a powerlifter; heavy, heavy weights for sets of 8-12, that was what impressed people!! That’s the difference. And everyone had legs; seriously, legs were THE sign that you were a serious bodybuilder and not just someone who trained and competed for fun; those beasts had monster legs; look at my Instagram posts this week and I’ll post up some photos of Ian Harrison’s quads, with the rest of him, of course! And all the other great quad beasts of that era; if you didn’t have legs, you weren’t taken seriously and to get huge legs you had to train hard, brutally hard. I really don’t see people train like we used to back then but then maybe I’m going to the wrong gyms; I’m sure there are many people out there who do train as hard, but let it be a reminder that it all starts and ends in the training, training, diet and rest were the basics that made the greats of the era, well, pharma grade gear was a plus too I suppose! But that’s again a story for another blog, people won’t believe how little most of the guys took back then; when I tell them they think I’m lying to them, but it’s true, wait for the blog post and find out for yourself.
Nutrition and dieting was simple; it never has been and never should be rocket science; you burn more than you eat, then you’ll lose weight; if you eat more than you burn then you’ll gain weight, it’s pretty simple stuff!! Yes, we had more insights into that and many had a lot of knowledge when it came to nutrition but I just wanted to emphasise that there was very little bullshit around then; phrases like ‘peak week’, ‘reverse dieting’ and the like would have seen you laughed out of your gym especially if it was a top gym with top level physiques in it. Seriously, it makes me laugh (or cry) when I hear about people going on about ‘peak week’ as through it will make or break your last 12 weeks of prep!!! If you’re really ready (and the word, ‘really’ is the key to it all here) then there isn’t much you can do to mess it up; if you’ve dieted down to proper shredded, grainy, sick, freaky levels of conditioning then there isn’t much of a need to do anything much at all. All Dorian would do for his Olympia week was to reduce his carbs by half the start of the week and then double the normal intake on the first two days after the depletion phase and then back off to his normal diet on the last day….simple, isn’t it?!!! And when I hear about bikini girls or physique guys or figure girls or athletes holding 50-60kg of body weight talking about ‘peak week’ and the complicated processes their coached and ‘guru’s’ are having them do to be at their best? Please…..these athletes don’t hold enough muscle to make the slightest bit of difference what carbing up process or sodium or water depletion you use, what do they have to carb up?!!!! Honestly, these athletes aren’t carrying enough muscle to have a few extra carbs make a difference!! Please, get a grip of yourself and come back to reality and stop pretending you’re some elite huge, bodybuilder with a body that is so massively muscled and primed to perfection so highly that a few extra carbs will make any difference whatsoever, it’s all bullshit (pardon my English!!).
“Is it possible to be free from error? Not by any means, but it is possible to be a person always stretching to avoid error.” Epictetus.
So, that’s why the bodybuilder’s were so good; they did their work in the gym, proper work and gut wrenching work and dieted hard, hard enough so they were ready at least one week out so they could literally cruise into the show looking world class.
That’s all for today, friends, check back in tomorrow for another story of things funny, crazy, real and old school in tomorrow’s blog. I hope you’ve enjoyed this one, I look forward to the next, thank you for dropping by.
I’ve gone on about the 90s a lot today and I believe for good reason to, it was a great era but any era can be great. Today’s era can be great; look at the guys in the classic bodybuilding class, to me they look great and some of the top Pro bodybuilders also look good, but there is something in the lack of dryness, the lack of granite hardness that is missing from the sport today and it’s just my opinion but I love that look, I love it because there is no way of getting it without hard hard work and brutal dieting.
No mater, whatever era you prefer is your opinion and rightly so; stick to it! But perhaps take some lessons away from today’s ramblings about the need for a hard work ethic, the values of truthfulness, of virtue and of integrity. These are the values that will separate you from everyone else; it will lead you to become the leader and put yourself in a position where you can influence others’ lives for the better. I hope, in some small way I have done that today.
Thank you for listening to this old man rambling on about bodybuilding and philosophy, I loved my days in the sport and don’ regret anything, well maybe one or two things! We’re all human, but you know if you rise every day with the mind0set that you will do everything possible in your power to live this day to your highest possible standards then no one can ever ask for more.
I’ll leave you with the words of Aurelius, “Whatever anyone does or says, for my part I’m bound to the good. In the same way an emerald or god or purple might always proclaim: Whatever anyone does or says, I must be what I am and show my true colours.’”
See you next weeks, my friends and until then make sure you get those extra 3 MORE REPS in everything that you do.