We have, of course, all seen the epic sci-fi horror film Cube, a film in which a few hapless and patently unlikable people find themselves trapped inside a massive, shifting Rubik’s Cube boobytrapped with the type of futuristic insanity that would have given the Viet Cong lifetime hard ons had they seen them in 1968. Because the movie was so unique and left so many unanswered questions in its wake, it was followed by a somewhat unsatisfying sequel and (for some) an even less satisfying sequel. Taken as what they were, however, they were good, because they tied up some of the nagging loose ends left by the original. The original Westside Barbell Club, run by Joe DiMarco and Bill West in Culver City, California is essentially powerlifting’s version of Cube– innovative, explosive, and mysterious, followed by a sequel some find outstanding, and some (like DiMarco) find horrific, and prefaced by… no one seemed to think it was prefaced by anything. Satisfied with the belief that Westside’s methods started entirely (and erroneously) with Bill “Peanuts” West, the powerlifting community seemed to think the man was a virtuoso who shone bright and burned out quick and left it at that. As it happens, however, the story of the Westside Method goes back further than the Father of Powerlifting and his completely (unfairly) forgotten cohort, Joe DiMarco.
If you haven’t seen the Cube movies, you really, really should.
As I mentioned in a previous installment of this series, the box squat was introduced to Joe DiMarco by 1946 AAU Mr. America / 1949 IFBB Mr. America Alan Stephan while they trained together in Minnesota. Stephan apparently hated regular squats and eschewed their use altogether for bench squats, and since he was moving some serious weight that way, DiMarco started doing them and introduced them to Bill West when he moved to LA. Beyond that, though, Bill West’s training methods, which then became the Culver City Westside Barbell Club’s, were almost exclusively influenced by two sources- what appears to have been a harem of musclebound man whores living in a California boarding house and philandering Olympic gold medalist party boy Ike Berger… and to give credit where credit is due, bodybuilder Gene Wells, who was responsible for getting West into the gym in the first place, and who moved to Santa Monica with West six months later.
GENE WELLS: THE MAN WHO GOT THE BALL ROLLING
The earliest influence on Westside’s Methods was Mr. Pennsylvania Gene Wells. Wells befriended comic book advertisement bitch boy Bill West when West was a literal 90lb 15-year-old weakling. The two started training together at John Fritsche’s gym in Philly- which at the time was one of two East Coast meccas for training. By July, the two were pouring over every lifting magazine they could find, and a July 1952 article about a boarding house for lifters in Santa Monica, CA called the Muscle House by the Sea seriously captured their attention. Thinking that living in that place would be their key to success, Bill West dropped out of school and the two kids jumped on a train to California, broke as hell but with their eyes on the prize, and moved into the Muscle House immediately upon stepping off the train.
THE MUSCLE HOUSE (OF POSSIBLE MALE PROSTITUTION) BY THE SEA
While this bit will likely only serve to allow me to speculate as to the awesomely shady potential of this stable of man whores run by a single woman with a vested interest in keeping her men jacked and their cum sweeter than the ice cream in diabetic heaven, the value to Bill West of having lived here really cannot be understated (though just about everyone who’s ever written about him have glossed right the hell over this place. The Muscle House was owned by a woman named Fleurette “Joy” Crettaz and beloved both by the older ladies and widows of the area and by the lifters who stayed there. The condition was spartan- it was basically just a couple of rooms with mattresses everywhere, and dudes would train until their eyes bled, party their asses off, and crash at the house before doing it all over again the next day. Sword and sandal flicks were huge at the time, so most of the guys who lived there ostensibly paid their rent with day work on those movies (or worked for six months a year, quit and lived off unemployment for the other six months while they trained)… though there are enough clues to indicate that perhaps the lifters were engaged in more traditional meathead side gigs, a la the pile of rich ladies through which Sandow had to bang every night.
- Take for instance, the fact that Joy cooked for all her boarders and insisted they eat a strict vegetarian diet. As anyone with an ounce of sense knows, this is just goddamned stupid, especially at a time when vegetarian options for muscle building were literally limited to suckling cow’s teats and the tasteless mushy subject of children’s songs about heart health and flatulence. Joy wouldn’t hear of any of the guys eating meat in the house (though they all apparently stuffed themselves with as much meat as physically possible at a buffet nearby), and it seems a fairly simple logical leap to say this was to ensure they’re cum would be sweet (Sokol).
- Food and board cost only $100 a month ($973 in 2019). Even with a dozen guys staying there, that woman was hardly making much money, and she was working her ass off cleaning up after a bunch of teenage and 20-something meatheads and cooking them immense amounts of food. That is, of course, assuming she didn’t have these dudes out earning for her nightly… and there are plenty of anecdotes floating around of the “support” given to these guys by lonely older women
- The guys in the Muscle House were the ones implicated in the statutory rape/underage drinking scandal that led to the Muscle beach Gym being closed in 1959, and all the guys who lived in that house were notorious for banging everything under the sun. While that’s hardly proof that they were man whores, a bunch of pussy-crazed musclemen living nearly for free in a single woman’s boarding house at a time when unmarried cohabitation between the sexes would still have Bible thumpers looking for the torches and pitchforks seems… very much like a madam with a stable of he-bitches.
“[THE MUSCLE BEACH] COMMUNITY WAS LARGELY MADE POSSIBLE BY THE FREE AVAILABILITY OF THE PARK, AS WELL AS THE STIPENDS GIVEN OUT TO MILITARY PERSONNEL RETURNING FROM WAR. STEVE REEVES, THE ACTOR AND BODYBUILDER BEST KNOWN FOR HIS ROLE IN HERCULES AND THE SEQUEL, HERCULES UNCHAINED, WAS A REGULAR AT MUSCLE BEACH AFTER LEAVING THE MILITARY. HE LIVED OFF THE 52/20, WHICH STOOD FOR $20 FOR 52 WEEKS THAT THE GOVERNMENT PROVIDED AND SHARED A ROOM IN WHAT WAS KNOWN AS JOY’S MUSCLE HOUSE BY THE SEA. FLEURETTE CRETTAZ, KNOWN AS JOY, WAS A BODYBUILDING FAN THAT RAN A COMMUNAL HOUSE IN SANTA MONICA WHERE GYMNASTS AND WEIGHTLIFTERS COULD LIVE. SHE DID ALL OF THE COOKING, CLEANING AND SHOPPING, CHARGING $100 A MONTH PER ROOM, SO THE ATHLETES COULD DEDICATE ALL THEIR ENERGY TO TRAINING. BUT AS THE ERA SHIFTED FROM WARTIME PUBLIC WORKS TO BUDDING URBAN CRISIS THIS VERY SUCCESS WAS TRANSFORMED INTO A SORT OF LATENT THREAT. THE MASSING-TOGETHER OF BODIES—SPECIFICALLY WORKING-CLASS BODIES—HAD TURNED A PUBLIC HEALTH INSTITUTION INTO A SITE OF PERCEIVED MORAL AND SOCIAL DECAY. DIFFERENT ACCOUNTS AS TO WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENED RANGE FROM “ANTI-SOCIAL BEHAVIOR,” TO CHARGES OF BODYBUILDERS PARTYING WITH UNDERAGE GIRLS. IN 1959, THE CITY OF SANTA MONICA DECIDED TO SHUT DOWN MUSCLE BEACH, WITH A JUDGE DETERMINING THE PARK ENDORSED, ‘FREAKISH’, ‘HOMOEROTIC’, AND ‘UNBALANCED’ ACTIVITY” (AUTO BODY).
Whether or not my speculation is correct (though I think a great many people would agree that any all-male revue could easily be described as freakish, homoerotic, and unbalanced activity), the Muscle House had a profound impact on West, his diet, and his training methods. It was there that he gave up on bodybuilding and started training for the odd lifts almost exclusively, and where he started competing against the other residents of the Muscle House in the lifts that eventually became the sport of powerlifting.
THE ODD LIFT VIRTUOSO AND BEAST-MODE, POCKET-SIZED WEIGHTLIFTER: IKE BERGER
This brings us, then, to a man who single-handedly debunks the dumbass theories of redpills and blackpills, all of whom seem to think that no one under 6′ tall ever gets laid- Ike Berger. Berger exists as the death touch for any manosphere dipshit who opens his cock holster about “manlets,” because Berger was a goofy looking Jew lifter who stood 5’2″, 132lbs and crushed more vagina than Redditors have collectively seen in their lives. Berger partied like he was trying out for Mötley Crüe, chased women like a cartoon skunk, and outlifted everyone on the planet more than once, and it was Berger who imparted the most training knowledge to Bill “Peanuts” West. While living together at the Muscle House, Berger took West under his wing and showed him how to really train. West had gone from a hilariously tiny 90lbs to 150 in his first year of training, and by his third year was tipping the scales at 180. In spite of frantic training for the meets, Bill’s Olympic lifts were nothing to get excited about, so Berger suggested he ditch them, gain some weight, and focus on the odd lifts. That year, West’s weight went from 180 to 218 and his bench and squat both shot up 100lbs. West realized he’d gotten a bit sloppy, however, and cut to 198, but he continued to use all of the methods that Berger espoused to gain strength.
Berger’s story is even cooler than West’s (which will be told in the next week), frankly. Like the tiny baby Jewish Christ man before him, he was born in Jerusalem and immigrated to the US with his parents at 13. Being a veritable dwarf with what can only be assumed was a Yiddish accent so thick he’d even have stood out in a Mel Brooks film, the little guy started to get his ass kicked on the regular. Being a ballsy little Dink Dink (Spaceballs, for the chronologically impaired among you), he just walked his ass directly into the first gym he saw, walked up to the biggest guy in the gym, and asked him to help him get jacked.
“I THINK I PAID HIM A DOLLAR A WEEK, BECAUSE I DIDN’T HAVE ANY MONEY THEN. SO HE SAID ‘HAVE YOU EVER WORKED OUT?’ AND I TOLD HIM NO. HE SAID TO ME ‘YOU LOOK VERY STRONG, DID YOU EVER LIFT WEIGHT?’ AND I DIDN’T EVEN KNOW THE MEANING OF ‘LIFTING WEIGHTS.’ SO HE SHOWED ME WHAT TO. HE PUT ON LIKE 80 POUNDS AND HE PRESSED IT AND THEN I TOOK THE 80 POUNDS AND I PRESSED IT. EVENTUALLY, HE PUT UP 120 [POUNDS] ON THERE AND HE PRESSED IT AND THEN I PRESSED IT AND HE COULDN’T BELIEVE THAT I PRESSED BODY WEIGHT AND NEVER TOUCHED A WEIGHT. SO HE SAID, ‘LOOK FROM NOW ON, I’M GOING TO TRAIN YOU WEIGHTLIFTING. I THINK YOU HAVE TREMENDOUS POSSIBILITIES AND THERE WILL COME A TIME IF YOU GET REALLY GOOD AND THAT MAYBE YOU’LL GET TO THE OLYMPICS AND WIN A GOLD MEDAL. MAYBE YOU’LL GET TO BE THE STRONGEST MAN IN THE WORLD POUND FOR POUND'” (USA WEIGHTLIFTING).
“ISAAC BERGER HAD ONE OF THE FASTEST RISES IN WEIGHTLIFTING HISTORY. AFTER ENTERING HIS FIRST WEIGHTLIFTING COMPETITION IN 1952, BERGER IMPROVED SO FAST THAT BY 1955 HE BECAME A NATIONAL CHAMPION. DEFENDING HIS TITLE IN 1956, DESPITE AN INJURY, BERGER LIFTED ENOUGH AT THE 1956 OLYMPIC TRIALS TO EARN A BERTH ON THE TEAM GOING TO MELBOURNE. HE MOVED HIS TRAINING INTO HIGH GEAR AND SHOCKED THE WEIGHTLIFTING WORLD BY WINNING THE OLYMPIC GAMES AS A TEENAGER AND BREAKING THE WORLD RECORD IN THE TOTAL AT THE SAME TIME. HE LATER WENT ON TO WIN BOTH THE 1958 AND THE 1962 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS, ALONG WITH SILVER MEDALS IN BOTH THE 1960 AND 1964 OLYMPIC GAMES. ISAAC ALSO SET MANY WORLD RECORDS ACROSS HIS ILLUSTRIOUS CAREER. THE LAST WORLD RECORD HE EARNED, AT THE OLYMPIC GAMES IN TOKYO, IN 1964, WAS A 152.5 KG. C&J. THAT RECORD LASTED FOR MORE THAN 5 YEARS, BECOMING ONE OF THE LONGEST HELD WORLD RECORDS IN WEIGHTLIFTING HISTORY” (AOBS HONOREES).
IKE BERGER’S VITAL STATS
Height: 5’1.5” Weight: 132lbs Bench Press: 320lbs Squat: 500lbsFront Squat: 407lbs Clean and Jerk: 336lbs Press: 267lbs (without a layback) Snatch: 236lbs Total: 843lbs Whenever he wasn’t required to be in York to prep for the Olympics, Ike and his training partner and fellow Olympian Dave Sheppard lived in the Muscle House and trained with Bill West. Like a lot of the US team, Sheppard and Berger found Bob Hoffman’s heavy handed Christian morality obnoxious, and Hoffman was forever bitching about the guy’s endless woman chasing (which in York means they’d have sex with literally anything, because that town is nothing but a crack den with a lifting museum in it), so they avoided training there like the plague. Those two, however, were both accused of statutory rape and impairing the morals of minors in 1959, which led to the shutting down of Muscle Beach and a lot of shit-talking from Hoffman. Berger beat both charges, but a point was made- a Jewish midget and his manlet training partner (Shepperd was 5’6″, 185lbs) were able to do so much fucking in a beach town in the 50’s that the city shut down an entire community to stop him.
Or so they though- the shutdown of Muscle Beach was exactly the impetus Bill West needed to start his own club- the Culver City Westside Barbell Club. Berger trained there with west on and off over the years that followed and was considered to be part of West’s inner circle, which only consisted of himself, Berger, and Joe Dimarco. Ike’s methods came from a variety of sources, but seem to have been heavily influenced by Paul Anderson, with whom Ike trained frequently at York Barbell when preparing for the Olympics. Anderson, as I think we all know, was an odd lifting virtuoso discovered by deadlift monster Bob Peoples, and Bob Hoffman convinced Anderson to try his hand at the Olympic lifts to give the US a chance at defeating the great Russian heavyweights of the time. At York, Berger also trained with legendary strength coach Bill Starr and one of the greatest Olympic lifters of all time, Tommy Kono, as well as every bodybuilding luminary you could name from the 1950s in California. The man was surrounded by greatness and was at the time considered to be the pound-for-pound strongest lifter on the planet, so his influence on the training methods of the Westside guys cannot be overstated.
IKE BERGER’S CONTEST PREP ROUTINE
In the offseason, Berger seemed to focus heavily on the odd lifts, a habit he likely picked up from training with Paul Anderson at York. His focus was to maintain and develop his strength and build ligament and tendon strength so that he was ready to pound the shit out of the Olympic lifts when contest prep time rolled around. Given that he trained with the Westside guys, it stands to reason he was training between two and five times a week for lengthy periods of time, then getting hammered afterwards. Berger felt that without his off-season regimen, “I would have run the risk of becoming physically and mentally drained. This could have left me open to injuries that would have set my training back for months or even years” (Alpert). Anyone who is interested in competing in Oly might want to take note of Berger’s comments there, because the incessant dicking around with light weights and form work with which American Olympic lifters are positively obsessed doesn’t seem to be yielding much in the way of medals.
“CONTEST PREPARATION INVOLVED A TWELVE-WEEK PERIOD OF TRAINING WITH THE LIFTING EVENT SCHEDULED AT THE END OF THE TWELFTH WEEK. THE TWELVE WEEKS WERE DIVIDED INTO TWO-WEEK SEQUENCES. WHILE THE BASIC APPROACH TO TRAINING WAS THE SAME AS DURING THE NON-CONTEST PERIODS, THE INTENSITY OF THE TRAINING WAS INCREASED. A TYPICAL TWO-WEEK SCHEDULE WOULD BE AS FOLLOWS” (ALPERT)
Olympic Lifts and assistance exercises (squat, bench press, and various pulls)- First three sets were rep work/warmups, then 3-6 x 1 with 90%
Olympic Lifts– First three sets were rep work/warmups, then 3-6 x 1 with 80-85%
FRIDAY (HEAVY AS HELL)
Week One – up to 95% Olympic lifts and assistance exercises.Week Two – up to 100-100 plus percent – Olympic lifts and assistance exercises. According to Howard Alpert, the “Friday workouts of weeks four, six and eight were pushed very hard to try to establish new personal records. The Friday workout for week ten included only the Olympic lifts and was an all-out effort. Assistance exercises were dropped for the last two weeks.” We also know from Bill Starr that Berger was obsessed with betting a quart of milk on whether or not someone would make a lift in training, to the point that he was called “Betcha Berger” by the other guys on the team. Starr apparently brought that habit over from whatever gym he started at, and Berger later brought that to Westside, which is what led to their extremely common impromptu competitions on training days.
Evidently, Berger was not a stickler for form at any point in his life. He also sold that gold medal for just under $18k a few years ago, so I’m guessing the Body Shaper didn’t end up making him rich. So there it is- the Cube Zero of the Westside Method. Up next will be part two in the Bill West series. Like many things (Sheppard never competed after he got charged up in Muscle Beach, for instance) the Bill West story ends with him dead on a beach and homeless, but it seems lots of people go out that way- like Arthur Saxon. Go do some singles… and try not to sell a gold medal, die of a heroin overdose, or do any other stupid bullshit that leaves you with a terrible postscript to your life. Actually, damn that- Aileen Wuornos says we’re all gonna die this year anyway, so YOLO… but doing some heavy ass singles won’t hurt anything.
“YOU’RE AN INHUMANE BUNCH OF FUCKIN’ LITTLE BASTARDS AND BITCHES AND YOU’RE GONNA GET YOUR ASSES NUKED IN THE END, AND PRETTY SOON IT’S COMIN’! 2019 A ROCK’S SUPPOSED TO HIT YOU ANYHOW, YOU’RE ALL GONNA GET NUKED. YOU DON’T TAKE FUCKIN’ HUMAN LIFE LIKE THIS AND JUST SABOTAGE IT AND RIP IT APART LIKE JESUS ON THE CROSS, AND SAY THANKS A LOT FOR ALL THE FUCKIN’ MONEY I MADE OFF OF YA.”
Sources: Alpert, Howard. How Ike Berger trained. The Tight Tan Slacks of Dezso Ban. 8 Oct 2008. Web. 12 May 2019. http://ditillo2.blogspot.com/2008/10/how-ike-berger-trained-howard-alpert.html AOBS honorees. Weightlifting.org. Web. 12 May 2019. https://weightlifting.org/newsite/aobs-honorees-2/#Isaac_Berger Auto Body. Ultra. 31 Aug 2016. Web. 16 May 2019. http://www.ultra-com.org/project/auto-body/ Fair, John D. Muscletown USA. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2008. JTA. One of the strongest jews in history is selling his gold medal. Haaretz. 24 Oct 2017. Web. 13 May 2019. https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/one-of-the-strongest-jews-in-olympic-history-is-selling-his-gold-medal-1.5459962Liederman, Earle. Bill “Peanuts” West (1961). The Tight Tan Slacks of Dezso Ban. 17 Sep 2009. Web. 13 May 2019. http://ditillo2.blogspot.com/2009/09/bill-peanuts-west-earle-liederman.html Sokol, Zach. Yes, what you eat does change how your semen tastes. Vice. 19 Jun 2016. Web. 16 May 2019. https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/gqkx99/how-diet-affects-the-way-your-sexual-fluids-taste Starr, Bill. Wanna Bet? Starting Strength. 27 Oct 2011. Web. 13 May 2019. https://startingstrength.com/article/wanna_bet USA Weightlifting presents medal memories: Isaac Berger. USA Weightlifting. 26 Jul 2012. Web. 13 May 2019. https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Weightlifting/Features/2012/July/26/MM-Berger.aspx Witness, Danny. History of Muscle Beach (Part 1). Iron Witness. 3 Apr 2016. Web. 13 May 2019. http://theironwitness.com/muscle-beach-history-part-1/