BACK TO THE FUTURE
By Norman Zale
Irvin Johnsonís methods were years ahead of their time when he devised them in the 1950ís. He discovered a totally natural approach to producing champion physiques in record time. Now 30 years later, its time to go back to the future and re-examine Johnsonís unique methods and apply them to todayís bodybuilders. This is the age of science. We are coming into a new era of bodybuilding when exercises, sets, reps and rest periods will be measured to the nth degree so that each bodybuilder may be able to chart his bodybuilding progress in such a way that advancement and achievement will be assured. Some might say that we have already arrived at that time and place in history because a number of foolhardily ones are using anabolic steroids, testosterone, human growth hormones and other medications shotgun-style in a most unscientific and dangerous manner. While this is happening the multitudes wait on the sidelines hoping for a great breakthrough in another new, fantastic, yet-to-be-discovered secret, unaware that a totally natural approach to building better bodies was producing championship physiques in record time in the late 50ís and early 60ís.
A scientific approach to building strength and muscle, along with an individual workout program and dietary regimen are really the only way to make bodybuilding progress. Any other hit-or-miss system that does result in an increased in muscle size and strength is merely an accident that the hard working weight man should be thankful for. We canít all follow the same exercise program, diets, rest periods and other numerous activities that go to make up our average day because simply, we are all different. We are also different in many ways including our heredities, size, shape, hormone balances, metabolism, and so forth. A gym owner in Chicago, Irvin Johnson (a.k.a. Rheo Blair) recognized the multitude that go to make up the individual bodybuilder and attempted to scientifically approach those conditions which could be individually controlledÖnutrition, exercise and growth-producing hormones, naturally! These individually produced bodybuilding programs are now working wonders among the California show business crowd but seem to be totally neglected or ignored by all but a few knowledgeable weight men. Why has it been ignored? Maybe because itís natural and not a product of our drug culture. Maybe because, it being totally natural, results could not be predicted. Who would have expected a variation of the program to produce two Mr. Olympias, Larry Scott and Sergio Oliva? Or maybe the cost of an individually supervised program keeps many bodybuilders from trying it? We donít know what the answer is, but hereís the story. Maybe we can learn from it.
One of the members at our gym showed me some old, faded lab reports and asked me to interpret them for him, though an explanation was included. A glance at the yellow sheets immediately indicated their worth to the bodybuilder. They were more valuable than gold as they indicated the subjectís growth and muscle building potential as measured by his hormone production. This memberís father had trained with weights in the 50ís. He examined some papers and came across the lab reports, showed them to his son and told him about his training. In Chicago in the 50ís a gym was turning out physique champions faster than believable. Two Mr. Americas and every major Midwest titleholder seemed to have trained at or been influenced by the activities of this gym. A ten pound increase in muscular bodyweight and a one inch gain in arm measurements in less than two weekís time was not at all unusual for beginners and advanced men alike. It wasnít long before every bodybuilder and weight trainer in the area sought the advice of the gym owner. But being a scientific man, he realized that no two people are alike and refused to treat all alike.
First a laboratory test of the type indicated here was administered. After the test results were received, he would contact the bodybuilder, explain the results and inquire whether the bodybuilder wished an individually outlined exercise and nutrition program. The lab report shown was informative. It indicated that a subject could be a very poor prospect for a before and after case. All his hormone levels were reviewed. Most were in the low-normal range. An explanation at the bottom of the lab sheet indicated the functions of these hormones and how important they are to strength and muscle building. The low-normal would mean the subject is a hard gainer. The subject was guided by the gym owner and in one year won every major physique title in the state and a couple of regional titles.
The diet and supplements used by the members of his gym were not unlike those used by bodybuilders today, but the all-important factor is that they were individually prescribed to assist the body in a greater production of the hormones required to build muscle. The recommended diet consisted of fresh meat, vegetables, fruit and whole grain cereals and bread. Big Number One on the supplement list was a Milk and Egg protein powder, which at that time was available through local drugstores. The Milk and Egg Protein was used three times daily between meals. Rather than mix with milk, as for most protein powders, four ounces( one cup) of Milk and Egg Protein Powder was placed in a cup along with a couple of drops of fruit flavoring if desired. Cream or half-and-half was slowly added to the powder and the mixture was stirred with a fork until it took on the consistency of a pudding or mixed more like a drink. Three of these snacks were guaranteed to put beef on the anorexia nervosa. Hydrochloric acid, pepsin and enzyme capsules were used with each feeding to assist in protein digestion. Capsules were favored over tablets because it was felt they were more easily broken down and due to a lack of variety of supplements on the commercial market, that were being used in the gym, the owner was eventually forced to begin production of capsulated supplements to meet the demands of the members.
The subject in question was instructed to use certain supplements for his individual problem, though other bodybuilders would require the other supplements or possibly the same ones in different quantities. The scientific approach was that we are all different. How about our gym owner, the man who was mass-producing physique champions? What happened to him and his one on one approach to bodybuilding? He was doing well in Chicago but realized that bodybuildingís future was out west. He sold his gym, changed his name to Rheo Blair and moved to the Mecca of bodybuilding in Los Angeles. It was his hope to establish an empire. However it appeared that all of the empire builders were already well established and he had great difficulty gaining a toe hold among the bodybuilding community on the coast which was unfamiliar with his techniques and believed that the only way to develop a great physique was to train and eat like those men who already had developed super bodies. A few unknowns of that day were desperate enough to try anything in order to make some type of improvement in their bodies. Men like Larry Scott and Gable Boudreau followed his approach as a last resort and blossomed overnight! The average bodybuilder of that era, having a limited knowledge of scientific training and nutrition, ignored this genius and continued with their outdated systems. Still he was not entirely ignored. The Hollywood Community, the stars of television and the movies, recognized the need for rapid progress, and he soon established himself as a trainer to the stars, a man who could alter a personís size or shape in a matter of weeks. Here was a man who was years ahead of his time, maybe too many years, so far ahead in advanced thinking about how to improve the human body, that the bodybuilders of today may never catch up with him