What's it like preparing for a major IFBB event? Art Zeller (bodybuilder photograph) knows. He has watched the champs in training throughout the year AND during the few weeks before the BIG SHOW.
Want to hear something mind-blowing? O.K:, so everything I say is mind blowing, if you believe all Dick Tyler writes about me that is! But this is for real. More iron was moved at Gold's gym during the month of August than in all the other months of the year combined. At least, the iron was moved with greater regularity. Just think. Those guys were hitting the weights twice, sometimes three times.
Normally, the monsters come to the gym more out of habit than a desire to train. It's as if they have nothing better to do. They might hit out a few sets of prones, some inclines, a few cheat curl, maybe some squats. The weights employed are heavy and their training style is very loose. They explain that this is the Weider Instinctive Training principle in action. In other words, they are training as they feel, taking a break from routine. All through winter and spring they train this instinctive way, building power, muscle density, giving weaker bodyparts a chance to catch up with the rest of their physiques. Arnold Schwarzenegger explains: "If you try to keep in peak contest condition throughout the year you will just end up burning yourself out." He weighs about 265lb around this time, like he is some lost cousin of an elephant. Yeah, but he looks great!
Comes July and the training tempo begins to quicken. No more football discussions between sets. Most of the guys are still fairly heavy but now the majority are doing their exercises in super sets and tri sets. If anyone has anything to say, it is usually something to do with low-carbohydrate diets and muscular definition. The only sound from Arnold's corner is his cacophonous grunt and the clanging of the weights he uses. He is still massive but the bulky look is no longer there. The striations in his pecs and shoulders are amazing.
The East-coasters begin to arrive around mid-July. This time we have Mike Katz- Leon Brown, Pete Caputo and some lesser known folk from New York. Ed Giuliani has been here almost a years. All are seeking the magic formula which produced Larry Scott, the new Schwarzenegger, Dave Draper, Zane and the other West Coast greats. They swear that nowhere in the world is their quite an atmosphere as in Gold's gym.
August, and as I approach the gym in the cool of the seashore evening, I can see steam pouring out of the windows. Steam? In August? What do you expect when thousands of calories are being roasted inside? The giants of IFBB are bombing for all they are worth.
The clanking music of weights being pulverised, that great familiar sound, greets my ears as I try to slip unnoticed into the workout area of Gold's. The guys wouldn't have noticed if I'd come in on elephant back! They are too involved with the job in hand. Putting finishing touches to their already incredible physiques.
Fine, I think. Now I'll get those candid shots Joe's always screaming for. I get my camera ready. So many great bodies in action I hardly know where to begin. There's Dave Draper in one corner, his blond mane kept out of his eyes by a headband. I sneak up behind a dumbbell rack and begin firing away. Wow!
The concentration on the guy's face is incredible. He pays no attention to what I am doing. Then I notice his eyes are tightly closed as the barbell goes up and down behind his neck. The sweat drips from his leonine head as he puts the Forced Reps principle to work on his deltoids. He finishes the set, drops the bar into a rack and grasps both deltoids, screaming painfully. But I know this is welcome pain, the pain that tells the trainee he's getting there! Without even a second’s pause, he takes a pair of forty five pound dumbbells for standing laterals.
Franco Columbo has just finished torturing his incredibly-cut pectorals. He rips off his sweatshirt and begins throwing most muscular poses, tensing and relaxing his pectorals. "He's pumped to ribbons," cracks Arnold as he goes over to the lat machine. That's Arnold's latest joke..a twist to Draper's "cut to ribbons." Columbo continues to tense his pecs and deltoids for a full five minutes and then I recall reading something in Muscle Builder about the Weider Tension Principle. Wow! Those guys sure are lucky to have a trainer like Joe Weider.
"When zer pipple see me in New York," grunts Franco between pec squeezes, "they explode!" And you get to believing every word. Certainly he will make a lasting impression on the fans. His easy smile and pleasant mannerism have made him one of the most popular bodybuilders on the West Coast. "Do you know what I am doing?" he asks. "I am trying to get the pump that lasts and lasts and lasts."
And then he takes off to bomb his arms. He moves from one exercise to the next, taking hardly any rest, pumping more and more vitamin-rich blood into his biceps and triceps.
"In three more weeks," he shouts, "I am zer best in zer world." Funny talk, I think. But when I photograph him a fortnight later Marina Del Rey, I realize how difficult it will be for anyone of his height to beat him.
In another corner of the gym, bombing in solitary confinement, is carrottop Ken Waller, The freckled giant, formerly of Indiana, is now permanently located in California. He is huge and powerful. Now he's doing incline presses with close to 120lb dumbbells. His enormous arms come up and down, controlling the action of the exercise. And his upper pecs bulge under his chin, to the point of fantasy. "Ken," I ask. "How do you manage to get such an even tan with all those freckles?" Before he can answer, Zabo pipes in: "He's got a freckle-stretcher!"
The gang has now converged on the 90 degree bench. Although each has his own workout routine, they sometimes work together. Especially where assistance is needed, as in squats or bench presses. They are about to do behind the neck presses. Quickly, arrangements of sequence are worked out - speed is essential if the pump is to be maintained.
Mike Katz goes first. The visiting Colossus of Connecticut has come to California, at Joe Weider's expense, to train for the IFBB Mr. America contest. He couldn't have chosen a better time to visit. Frank Zane is right behind him, Arnold on one side, Dave on the other. They all shout encouragement to Mike, willing him to force out just one more rep..he does, in Weider Forced Reps style!
You know, it seems practically impossible to fail with those guys for training buddies. Mike stand up, proud. His normal high chest seems higher than ever.
A flash of definition bounces by - a man seemingly without skin, so cut-up is he..the Golden Greek, Chuck Collras. My friend for years, I've watched him get better and better. Though a light-boned, smaller man, he has the world sit up and take notice. Chuck has won virtually every contest around, except the biggest one, Mr. America. So far that title has eluded him, but he hasn't given up yet..not by a long shot. Why should he?
He figures he has plenty of time. Bodybuilding has given him mental tranquility and a singlemindedness of purpose that has kept him incredible young...a mere boy in his thirties.
Frank Zane is a scientist, a master of all Weider training principles I know of no one who is as exact and methodical with his workouts and diet as Frank. He is also a bodybuilding economist, getting the most out of the least.
His many other activities give him only so much time to train. Quietly, without ostentation or fanfare, he performs his movements. Now as I watch him train, I see the same smoothness of motion as when he poses before my camera on a mountain top or seashore. His routine is measured to the minute, his improvement as steady as the hands of a clock.
And he will continue to improve until the moment he steps out under the spotlights and, to his chosen music "The Ten Commandments", hits the poses that made him famous.
Throughout this evening, as always, the "spiritual" leadership of Arnold Schwarzenegger is felt. He has real charisma. Everyone wants to train when Arnold does, and the gym is mobbed. His exuberance is catching and his self confidence is permanent. His defeat by Sergio Oliva in 1969 has left him undiminished. It was only temporary and he is confident of victory this time. Like a modern day Michelangelo, Arnold chisels his body, (quite a chiseler that Arnold!). "Just wait," he says, "I get them all by the neck!" And I can believe it too. He has just finished working arms and flexes them for me....never....(did I say never? I meant NEVER) have I seen arms like Arnold's-they are impossible. Even Zabo, who has "seen 'em all", was so shook up that he actually left his crossword puzzle to come and have a look. Eddie Giuliani just shook his head and Leon Brown was speechless. The rest of Arnold is phenomenal too, as my latest photos will show. An incredible improvement over the young giant from Austria that I picked up at the Los Angeles International Airport two years ago when he first arrived in California. He was now ready for the Tasks of Hercules ahead of him; three contests of major magnitude, all within a two week period, against the best in the world...The Professional Mr. Universe in London, Professional Mr. World in Columbus, Ohio and the Mr. Olympia in New York City.
"Arnold," I asked, "how do you thin you'll do? Don't forget that, among others, you'll be competing against Reg Park and Sergio Oliva!"
"They'll cry when they see me," said Arnold, nonchalantly twisting into a fantastic back pose.
"And if you should win all three shows," I asked, "what then?"
"Then," said Arnold, "I will be what I started out to be..THE WORLD'S GREATEST BODYBUILDER!"