STRENGTH Lessons From 1957 & The 90s


Magazine above from 1957, I'd say that Dude is pretty STRONG.

What do you think he did in training?

I am sure he didn't have many options in the 50s.

A barbell, maybe a few dumbbells?

Calisthenics and running, swimming and overall hard training and healthy, strong eating.

I did some research and "Tarzan" Jacobs was a Mr. Universe runner up and was also a pro wrestler in the 60s and 70s.

They described Jacobs as "enormously strong".

The basics will never let you down and of course, who wants to put in the work?

THAT is the key.

The Work is the Gift.

You need discipline to stop worrying about fancy and seeing what others do and copying them.

When I was a teenager I copied every workout written in the magazines.

Most of those articles were fabricated and not the truth or simply bits and pieces put together from an interview.

You must figure it out on your own, then do the work on your OWN.

The fancy fads and gimmicks are slowing you down.

I challenge you to use only a barbell today or only 1 dumbbell today,

If you have 1 dumbbell you can clean and press, row, squat and carry.

Do arm work and floor presses as well.

A barbell can build you into a Hammer.

Clean and Press, Row, Squat and Overhead Carry.

I recall guys showing up to the gym when I was a kid, often in jeans, work boots and they just attacked the basics.

Luckily the gym was all heavy duty iron.

I used to see a guy doing 1 arm preacher curls with 100 lb dumbbells.

They called him "Crazy Eddie". Crazy Eddie maxed out on EVERYTHING, never with a spotter.

I would see him bench 315, then 365 and he weighed just shy of 200 lbs.

He would do seated cable rows and pile 45 lb plates on both sides of the machine. By the way, the machines and equipment in this gym were ALL welded by the owner. The weight stacks did NOT stop at 200 lbs, they went 300+ lbs!

All the plates were those wide flange Ivanko plates and they made some beautiful music as you heard the plates rumbling when you did Squats. Those who know, know.

Crazy Eddie wasn't the only one who lifted heavy and intensely, pretty much everyone did. And the way I learned was to get the guts to speak to the bigger guys. I would ask to train with them, I would drink a protein shake and ask them all questions where all the guys hung out and talked training and nutrition at the end of every workout.

This process continued when I went to Diamond Gym and began training there in December of 1994.

I remember seeing a group of pro bodybuilders & top ranked national competitors lifting in the "leg room". They were doing rack pulls from the old school York Isometric rack.

I saw their traps popping from their sweatshirt collars, which bodybuilders would always cut so you could see their traps. Hey. it was the 90s. I remember saying to myself, Holy s--t, they're pulling 6 plates! THAT is STRONG!

When the weather warmed up the guys would always eat their meals outdoors sitting in front of the gym. We would eat steak and potatoes most of the time, the experienced guys would share their tips and I listened, learned and applied.

John Kemper, the owner, said he didn't want rules in his gym. He let the guys park their motorcycles out front instead of on the street because it was like the Wild West when the Cowboys prked their Horses out front of the saloon.

The no rules policy gave us freedom to express ourselves through our training. I began deadlifting and added muscle cleans and clean and press to my program. I got my strongest at Diamond Gym because I attacked the basics aggressively.

I remember John telling me I don't eat enough. He explained I needed 1 salad a day, 1 steak a day and more healthy fats. So I changed my nutrition. I'd finish my workout and immediately have a meal replacement drink. Drive home about 30 minutes, eat 2 spoons of peanut butter and then grill a steak.

Those simple changes right there pushed my strength and size to new heights. I remember doing bent over barbell rows with 335 lbs.

All my lifts went up and I was training alone most of the time.

How often do you hear the BS of people I can't get motivated. WELL, YOU'RE NOT MOTIVATED BECAUSE YOU DON'T CARE.

I tell the athletes I work with all the time:

  • You don't need a strength coach to get better at push ups. It should be normal to do 40-50 push ups in a row.
  • You can't get strong, at least MUCH stronger than you are / stronger than the competition until you get OBSESSED ABOUT STRENGTH GAINS!

I was obsessed. My obsession fueled my discipline. I was NOT "good enough" or training for fitness. I wanted to be powerful, strong, tough, jacked!

There was inspiration all around me. I FOUND the inspiration.

I looked at the walls and there were bodybuilders and lifters from corner to corner, showing what happens when you train like a SAVAGE. Jeff King, Johnny Morant, Phil Heath, John Kemper and plenty of lifters from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.

I would train side by side with guys like Stokely Palmer, Jason Arntz, Carlo Filipelli and many more greats. Even if you weren't training with them, just being around them fired you up. EVERYONE was intense.

It was a GOAL for lifters and bodybuilders to get a place on the wall of Diamond Gym.

Above you see Johnny Morant curling 300 or 305 lbs.

John would hold The Mr. Diamond Gym at a local pool and there would be bodybuilding and strength challenges. Guys took the competition seriously!

They got ripped and the lifters got STRONG. I saw Stokely Palmer curl 275 and then another guy, I forgot his name, curled 295!

This was John carrying on the "Strength Picnics" that The York Barbell would hold back in the day.

I don't need the fancy equipment or the $10 gym memberships where people bury their heads on their phones instead of attacking the gym.

I know where I stand, where I belong, where I come AND where I'm going!

Get STRONG, that is the ONLY option!

Above, Jeff King Deadlifting.

Oh, and another lesson learned.....

I remember seeing guys at Diamond Gym showing up at all hours. 4:30 AM, lunch time and 9 PM on Fridays. I thought I was weird for training on a Friday night.

Shouldn't I be out partying?

I did sometimes question all the tough training but I didn't miss out on a thing!

Live The Code 365,


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10 Responses

  1. Gary Larrison says:

    Reminds me of lifting at Haggerty’s Gym in Midwest City Okla. in the late 1970’s. It was all hardcore Power lifters and Body Builders. It was all home made welded equipment and steel plates that provided music to my ears. You earned your respect in that gym only one way…show up, do the work and never complain.

  2. Jim Stone says:

    Great article. I started in the late 70’s early 80’s and remember when there wasn’t even a 45 degree leg press in the gym. In the later 80’s I worked out along side alot of guys that competed in state and national level bodybuilding shows. I miss those days. You can’t find that anywhere today. I also miss the iron weights where you hear them clang on the bar during benches, deads and squats. Tom Platz purposely left a space between the plates when he squatted so he could hear that noise. In today’s rubber plate facilities, that sound is missing. I’m much older now at 53, but still use only basic barbell, dumbbell and bodyweight exercises. and use the days of yore as my continuing inspiration.

  3. Great article – reminder that the basics get you storng. Funny – still have that York barbell set that is on the York catalog, Bought it 38 years ago at a GNC store when I got out of the Marines. Added a few pairs of 25’s to the set and my boys trained with it until they were able to move up to the Oly bar. Still have the York bench that fit that barbell set, perfectly. Pretty much all you need for a home gym. As I age I go back to the basics, shorten the training sessions but keep the intensity up. Work harder on recovery and tighten the nutrition. The path gets more narrow the longer you are on it. All the best – stay strong.

  4. Your stories are very motivating big time!

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