Tales of the Past

by Jim Shiblom


I sit in my office thinking about an editorial and all of a sudden thoughts of the past come to mind. There is not much that I have not seen or done in bodybuilding and power lifting. I was a competitor powerlifter, powerlifting judge, promoter of bodybuilding contests, national physique judge. I have met most all the top champions. I have known some personally and trained with them. By far the most impressive man was John Grimek. I met him back in 1979 after the Mr. America contest in Atlanta. At that time Grimek was 69 and was squatting with over 600 pounds for reps. Can you imagine that at his age? He was a true gentleman and had great genetics. I would meet him many more times over the years. He once told me he ate 9 steaks after a squat workout back around 1945 on a bet.
After I attended the 1977 Mr. Olympia contest, I would run into Frank Zane at the airport. He was not what I expected in terms of size even years later. I remember seeing him at the original Gold’s in the summer of 1971.He was not strong nor was he that big in workout attire. He knew how to go from 188 to 209 pounds in seven weeks. I heard everyone called him the chemist. The biggest bodybuilder I ever saw was Sergio Oilva. Oliva trained at the Duncan YMCA in Chicago and he was awesome to watch. I saw him perform 10 reps with 405 in the bench press supersetted with weighted wide grip chins. His wrists must have been 8 or 9 inches. When I first met Bill Pearl he lived up to his name and Pearl was around 49 at the time and weighed 230.I met him around 13 times over the years. Pearl was strong and was probably the most knowledgeable bodybuilder on nutrition and posing. The most friendly bodybuilder I ever met was Dave Draper. He took time after his workout back in 1971 to sit down with me on the steps up the dressing room floor of Gold’s Gym to answer questions. Watching him train was interesting because he use to train heavy with slower rest between sets, but back then he trained fast with many sets, Also he told me back in 1971, he changed his diet from heavy fat to lower fat and ate more fish and less beef. In the 60’s, he would eat a steak everyday and so would Pearl. Pearl said when his cholesterol was near 300, he stop eating read meat.
I met Rheo Blair in 1971, and he advocated heavy fat intake with cream and milk. I did use Rheo’s theory to gain weight and size early on. Rheo believed in increased fat intake, while other bodybuilders did not. Boyer Coe denounced Rheo’s protein and cream theory at a seminar in Atlanta in 1979, but failed to tell everyone he used two cups per day back in 1966 or 1967.When I met Arnold at Gold’s in 1971, he was using Blair’s Protein and Rheo’s formula for size and power. The strongest bodybuilder I ever saw train was Franco Columbu. He performed 455 for 4 reps and he weighed 185 pounds. He also squatted 550 for 8 reps. He was a powerhouse and gave me some tips back in 1971.I saw Ronnie Coleman do 10 reps with 1600 pounds in the leg press at Ropeman’s Gym back in May of 2002. He had all the hundred pound plates and forty fives and a 200 hundred pound man stand on to of the weight stack. He had told everyone he was weighing near 300 at the time.