Austin, a native of Illinois, first saw the light of the day 30 years ago. Coincidentally, his 30th birthday was the day of the '80 IFBB Mr. Universe competition in Manila, where he placed a strong second in the 90 kilogram weight class behind England's Johnny Fuller.
As a youth in Danville, Illinois, Austin grew to love every type of sport, and he excelled at most. He was a State Champion high school wrestler, and continued to compete successfully in that sport through college (he has a Master's Degree from Illinois State University). He's also been a stand-out football player, up to the semi-professional level, and a starting guard on both his high school and college basketball teams.
"All of my sport activities built a solid foundation for my bodybuilding training," Bronston feels.
"I don't think I've ever been out of shape, and having a strong, muscular build always appealed to me. By the time I was ten or eleven years old, I had developed a daily calisthenics program of pushups, situps, knee bends and so on.
"Then at the age of thirteen I was introduced to weight training, first as a tool to improve my sports performance, and later for both powerlifting and bodybuilding competition. At first I just worked out whenever I wasn't involved with a sport that was in season. But for the past nine or ten years, my training has become almost a religion for me.
"Even if I'm injured or ill, I will never miss a workout. I will just go a little easier or train around the injury. As an example, I pulled a hamstring muscle a month before the Mr. Universe contest last December, and still got into great shape. I just blocked out the pain with my mind and tried to avoid any direct work for the injured area."
Austin has been extremely successful in the Iron Game. As a 220 pound powerlifter, he has officially squatted with 625lb benched 525lb and deadlifted an impressive 670 pounds.
While weighing 245 (with, incidently, 22 1/2inch arms cold!), he benched 560lb in training, squatted 675 and pulled up a 725lb deadlift.
Lest one think that Austin is padding his lifts a smidge, keep in mind that his official lifts were all made in actual competitions in the Mid-West, where he's won every major powerlifting title at least once.
And even though he uses drastically lighter weights he is doing pure bodybuilding, Bronston did an easy six reps in the benchpress with 405 pounds in front of your author at Joe Gold's fine new World Gym in Panorama City, California!
Equally successful - if not more so - as a bodybuilder, Bronston Austin, Jr. has won over 125 bodybuilding trophies, and 15 titles. Add in 100+ powerlifting awards, and one can readily imagine the dusting chores Bronston's lovely and chaming wife Veronica must do each week!
Among Austin's titles are Mr. Illinois, Mr. Mid-West, Mr. Central America, Mr. Central USA and Mr. Central States, all won while living in Illinois.
And since moving permanently to California, he has been on a tear on the West Coast. Taking 1980 as a typical year, he started off the season by winning his class of the Mr. California, then losing the overall title (narrowly) to Rory Leidelmeyer.
Considering the fact that Leidelmeyer also beat Gary Leonard, the Mr. America, at that show,Bronston's loss was no disgrace.
Next, he won the Mr. Western America title in overwhelming fashion. And after a few more months of intensive training, he entered the Mr. America competition at Santa Monica. He convincingly beat Ron Teufel - who'd won his class the previous three years and narrowly lost the "A" three times! - in the Light-Heavyweight Class. Then he narrowly lost the overall title to Gary Leonard. And by virtue of his class win, he was included on the Mr. Universe team.
At Manila, Austin shown like a polished diamond against Johnny Fuller, but still lost. Austin was disappointed, but undaunted. !A lot of the people at the Universe said that I should have won, but that I suffered from a ack of publicity," he said. "Most of the judges in our class were Europeans, and it's hard to beat a recent Mr. Europe winner under such circumstances.
Sure, I'm disappointed that I didn't win, but the defeat has only made me stronger. Next year I will win!"
Bronston is totally serious about his training, so much so that he took year off from teaching to prepare for his competitive season. His wife Ronnie, also a teacher, is working to support his efforts.
"It's a gamble financially," Austin admits, "But I'm already getting a few exhibitions to help with the food bills, and as soon as I win the Universe, I will turn pro and try to win some extra bucks on the IFBB Grand Prix circuit."
The subject of food bills in an interesting one in Bronston Austin's case. His normal appetite is prodigious, as evidenced by the fact that he regularly consumes 7-10 pounds of fish and chicken per day. Even during his cutting up phase. Little wonder that his weekly food bill approaches 300$ .
Austin trains six days per week, both in the off-season and pre-contest phases. Sometimes he even trains two or three times per day. As he puts it, "I find that I can harden up faster and more completely when I double split, or even triple split, my workouts. I think it's because the frequency of training sessions jacks up my metabolism.
"Additionally, I can put greater energy and concentration into working each muscle group when I'm double splitting because the sessions are automatically shoter. Just before a contest, when your diet is really tight, it's difficult to maintain optimum concentration for more than an hour at a time.
And for me the concentration factor is of paramount importance. Without it, I get nowhere, regardless of how much energy I expend in the gym!
"I like to train each major group twice a week most of the year and three times per week starting about three months before I compete.
Occasionally, I will even train a stubborn muscle daily for a week or so, just to shake it up and shock it into growth. And daily training will also cut up a muscle that's lagging behind definition-wise.
"The number of sets per muscle group varies from bodypart to bodypart. It's usually about 15 to 20 sets per bodypart, with less for smaller muscles, as well as for those that respond fairly easily. My arms, for example, grow on anything I do for them, so I usually train my biceps and triceps once every two weeks, up to three or four week before a show.
Just before I'm to compete, I will train them normally, using a routine like this -
|Biceps: 1. EZ-Bar Preacher Curl, 3x6-10, supersetted with...2. Seated Dumbbell Curl, 3x6-10; 3. Cable Preacher Curl, 3-4x6-10;
4. Concentration Curl, 3x6-10
|Triceps: 1. Seated EZ-Bar Extensions, 6x6-10, supersetted with 2. One-Arm Triceps Extensions, 6x6-10; 3. Pushdowns, 3x6-10; 4. One-Arm Pushdowns, 3x6-10|
|Forearms: 1. Reverse Curls, 3-5x6-10; 2. Wrist Curls, 6x6-10|
"All of my movements are slow and concentrated for full mucle stimulation. I endeavor to feel the resistance over every inch of the movement, and I go from full extension of a muscle to the fullest possible contraction. And whenever I can use a peak contraction position for three or four seconds.
"I still like to push heavy weights in basic movements, and I feel that one of the most common beginners' mistakes it to neglect basic exercises and do a lot of isolation work. This is foolish, because you will only build a championship degree of muscle mass by using heavy weights on basic exercises. Like me, all of the champion bodybuilders you see in the muscle mags use a lot of basic exercises in the off-season, switching over to isolation movements only when they are peaking for a competition."
The best basic exercises, Bronston reveals, are the standing calf raise, squat, deadlift, bent row, shrug, bench press, military press, barbell wrist curl and situp. He feels that anyone, regardless of his experience level, could make great gains on a routine consisting of five sets of each of these movements, using maximum weights and reps in the 5-7 range.
"Beginners should train three times per week and do 3-4 sets per bodypart for the first few months. And then after that, everyone who wants to muscle mass should train four times per week on this kind of split routine:
Monday-Thursday: legs, back, abs.
"Since I train for contests at a very advanced level, I use a six-day split, usually something like this in the off-season -
Monday-Thursday: chest, back, calves, abs.
Tuesday-Friday: shoulders, arms, calves, abs.
Wednesday-Saturday: thighs, calves, abs.
"Close to a contest, I use the same split as I gave you for four-day-per-week training, except that I do each workout three times per week, instead of two. Once I switch to training each muscle group three times a week, I begin to harden up faster. And when I begin double splitting, I start to harden up even more quickly."