Old School Iron: Lessons From The Legends

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When you look back to the legends of the Iron Game there is so much to learn!  In Body Building there are essentially 3 era’s in which the sport evolved and contributed the most to the Iron Game;

The Bronze, Silver, and Golden Eras

Bronze Era (1894-1939)

The legendary Eugen Sandow started the Bronze Eraw in 1894. Sandow had competed as a strongman for years before the 1890s, but in 1894 he started posing during his shows which were primarily at Fairs or spectacles.  Body Building was born!  The Bronze era athletes are the least known in bodybuilding history as there were few gyms to train in and pretty much no contests for an athlete to compete in. Training with weights was limited to barbells and dumbbells.  Diets varied but were generally similar to that of the strongman of the day.  Steroids were decades away!  This was bodybuilding’s Wild West! Notable bodybuilders from this period include Eugen Sandow, Siegmund Klein, Earle Liederman, George Jowett, Tony Sansone, and Bert Goodrich.

Silver Era (1940-1959)

 There can be no mistaking the Bronze Era of Body Building began with started with Eugen Sandow.  The same can be said of the Silver Era and the amazing John Grimek. Like Sandow, Grimek was not always a Body Builder.  Grimek was a weightlifter, even  competing in the 1936 Olympics for the United States. No one had a seen a bodybuilder with the size and shape of John Grimek.  He burst on the scene winning the AAU Mr. America contest in 1940. He would win again in 1941!  Grimek would compete from 1940-1949 and never be defeated. To this day he remains the only undefeated bodybuilder to compete in major contests. Interest in bodybuilding would continue to grow in the late 1950s as the Herculean Steve Reeves appeared on the big screen! Steroids would not be created by Dr. John Ziegler until 1958.   It is generally accepted that steroids were not available to the bodybuilder until the 1960s. At this point,, Body Building was a sport of Health and Physical Wellbeing.  Notable bodybuilders from this period include John Grimek, Steve Reeves, Reg Park, Clancy Ross, and Alan Stephan.

Golden Era (1960-1983)

The use of steroids in the early 1960s ushered in the beginning of the Golden Era. The effects of steroids on health were not known at the time.  Competitors from this era relied heavily on anabolic steroids like Dianabol and synthetic Thyroid medications. The Golden Era saw a huge rise in popularity toward its end with the Iconic film Pumping Iron propelling Arnold Schwarzenegger to International stardom. Training began to change as as Arthur Jones and others created machines to isolate muscles.  Here we began to see the split system begin and evolve, training only a few muscles at a time was adopted over the full body workouts of the Silver Era. Notable bodybuilders from this period include Arnold Schwarzenegger, Frank Zane, Larry Scott, Dave Draper, Sergio Oliva, Serge Nubret, and Franco Columbu.

What does This mean for You?

Training and Nutrition evolved steadily over time.  What can we learn from the pre-steroid age of Body Building?  Recovery.  Recovery from training was critical in the absence of drugs.  Pretty much every single successful bodybuilder from the Silver Era used the same style of training and split.  What is the secret, you ask eagerly? Training every other day using a Monday, Wednesday, Friday, or Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday split was used across the board by the Silver Era legends.  You see, for those that may not know, the biggest advantage provided by anabolic steroids is increasing the body’s ability to recovery.  This allowed the Golden Era champions to train not only more often, but with much higher volumes than we saw in the Silver Era.

What does this mean for you, the non-steroid user? Growth only happens at the rate of restoration.  Remember that phrase.  Know it.  Live by it.  Training with a full body split, every other day built the incredible physiques of guys like Steve Reeves and Reg Park, both of whom were the first two men to portray the ancient hero Hercules on the big screen.  Can you train more than every other day if you aren’t using steroids?  Of course, you can, and you can get great results.  Not having enough time should not be a limiting factor in being able to obtain the physique or goals you desire.  Not being able to hire a coach for 4-5 sessions a week should not hold you back!  

Train hard.  Recover harder!

Robert C Jacobs

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