The Golden Era
I’ve had people ask me a few times why I’m so drawn to the Golden Era. For those of you who don’t know what I mean by the Golden Era, I’m referring to the late 60’s-70’s of bodybuilding. This is what really sparked the fitness industry and what most people look at as the “hey day” or the “pinnacle.” Maybe not from an industry standpoint in terms of monetary value but it’s where all the groundwork was laid from a legendary level because of guys like Arnold, Franco Columbo, Lou Ferrigno, Robby Robinson and Frank Zane. Just some of the best physiques that have ever graced magazine covers. Some of the strongest and well-proportioned athletes that the sport has ever seen came from that time frame.
The number one reason I’m drawn to it is the look that these guys had. There was that balance of roundness and physique but through volume training they had that strong presence which allowed them to do powerlifting or bodybuilding. I love volume workouts, that’s no surprise, I use it in all of my training. During this era the volume they did allowed for 500lb benches and 700lb deadlifts. As they were creating physiques they also created strength which kept them almost as strong as the top powerlifters at that time.
Secondly, I think that there’s a purity to this era because they were freaks. Not just freaks because of the way they look but because they stood out. If you’ve ever been to Venice Beach, which I’ve been multiple times, you know that these guys don’t really belong anywhere else. Arnold and his crew were just another form of freak show, just at Venice Beach. However, because they were leading the way, they really didn’t care which made it even better. Magazines and stipends were helping support it so that they could do it for a living but they were still outcasts. People would always say, “I’d never want to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger” but he’d say, “Good, cause you can’t.” That confidence and the way they did things really inspired me because it was leading the way and was so unique.
Third, bodybuilding was looked at as a true art form. It’s not like today where a 300lb guy has striated glutes and looks like a big blocky mess. It was Arnold and Frank and these guys going to art galleries and standing on a podium as it rotates. They believed that they were truly building a sculpture. They trained and competed together which is something that’s extremely rare. They would be in the gym together every single day knowing that at the Mr. Olympia Contest, at The Classic here in Columbus or Mr. Universe that they would see each other on stage. So while they were grinding together day in and day out, they knew that they were going to compete. I think that seeing your competition keeps you on your toes. That camaraderie they built from training everyday is almost nonexistent in today’s powerlifting and bodybuilding world.
I think that with commercial appeal because of the aesthetics that it was so legendary that it can never be duplicated. However, to this day, a lot of people are still looking for it. What we’ve tried to create at Old School is something similar. The competition is there daily but so is the support. Arnold told me personally that when he came to the States, they didn’t necessarily want him here. He was the big, new freak in town and he had to create an environment to make them all great. This Golden Era is where I learned everything. There were no bodybuilding sites when I grew up. There was only magazines, the Encyclopedia of Bodybuilder and education of a bodybuilder. Things that I read right out of the gate helped me to learn about the Golden Era and bodybuilding and it taught me how to start this sport. There’s something appealing to the eye that those black and white photos do to keep you motivated. If you’re looking for motivation and a physique to aspire to, turn back the clock a bit and learn about the Golden Era. That’s where my motivation came and it’s still there today.
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