EFF THE OLYMPIA - THESE ARE THE REAL CHAMPIONS OF BODYBUILDING
On the heels of the completely unsurprising result of the 2017 Olympia, which featured yet another victory for the intensely unlikable Phil Heath, a discussion of the idiocy of the Weider empire and the fallacy that their bodybuilders have always been the best is necessary. As I’ve mentioned in a past article about the myth of Arnold’s preeminence in bodybuilding, the Weider empire was built on some foundations so shaky they might as well be an elementary school in Mexico City (awww, too soon? Suck it up, buttercup.)
Seriously, the Weiders were such underhanded sneaks and thieves that they make Vince McMahon seem like a professor of business ethics at Harvard business school, and they’ve snowed everyone into thinking that not only are they the only “real” bodybuilding federation, but that they’ve been the only game in town since bodybuilding started booming again in the 1950s and 1960s. There were federations with champions as good or better than the reigning Mr. Olympias (who often competed against fields so small it is hard to imagine them). If you want the full scoop on the Weiders, which is frankly FAR too long for me to detail here, I recommend Randy Roach’s awesome series Muscle, Smoke, and Mirrors, which is supposed to get a third volume but as I understand it the author’s gone blind and can’t complete it.
In any event, there are some badass bodybuilders out there of whom you very well might have never heard, and they deserve a hell of a lot of attention even though the Weider publishing empire and their bought-and-paid-for judges took a steaming crap on their careers.
Gold’s Gym Book of Bodybuilding, it tragically didn’t contain what was obviously some absurdly hardcore shoulder workout that no mere mortal could complete without an 8 ball of cocaine, a 20 oz t-bone for periworkout nutrition, and enough exogenous testosterone to drown a Brahma bull.
Deadlift: 5 x 5 reps
Bent barbell row: 5 x 6-8 reps
T-bar row: 5 x 6-8 reps
Lat machine pulldown: 5 x 8 reps
One arm dumbbell row: 5 x 8 reps
Barbell shrug: 5 x 8 reps
Upright row: 5 x 8 reps
To be that big and insanely conditioned, you’d think Strydom would basically have had to live in the gym… and you would be correct. The man would take off a day every two weeks, and his workouts were not what you would call low volume- even into his 50s the dude is still training so hard that his training partners tap out midway thought a workout. Here is his unspeakably brutal double-split competition split, which he would do for twelve weeks, generally taking one day off every two weeks:
Day 1- Quads (a.m.); hamstrings (p.m.)
2- Biceps, triceps (a.m.); calves, stationary cycling (p.m.)
Day 3- Deadlifts (a.m.); upper back (p.m.)
4- Chest (a.m.); shoulders, abdominals, cycling (p.m.)
Furthermore, Strydom trained like he was possessed by a team of demons hell bent on having the biggest arms and shoulders in history. He’d scream wacky crap like “THERE’S A MANIAC LOOSE IN THE GYM! HE’S GOT GREAT DELTS, THOUGH!” during his ultra-late night training sessions. Fueled by psychopathy and so many chicken breasts the World Court should have him up on charges for avian genocide, Strydom built a physique that absolutely no one could match, and at the top of his game he was more than a match for the reigning Mr. Olympia Lee Haney.
Fellow WBFer Berry DeMay, Lee Haney, and Gary Strydom in the Olympia
We might as well start with the man’s shoulder routine, since his shoulders rival those of Scott Wilson and we all need to rethink our priorities after looking at those gigantic things. This is just a sample workout, as his routine varied based on how he felt. In Strydom’s own words:
“I SUGGEST TRAINING DELTS BY THEMSELVES SO YOU CAN FOCUS 100% OF YOUR MENTAL AND PHYSICAL STRENGTH TO THIS BODY PART, WHICH, IN ALL HONESTLY, CAN’T BE TOO BIG,” SAYS STRYDOM. “I LIKE TO PUNISH MY SHOULDERS TO THE MAX. Therefore, SOMETIMES I TRAIN THEM FOR 45 MINUTES, OTHER TIMES IT WILL TAKE TWO HOURS. DELTS CAN TAKE A LOT OF BEATING AND A LOT OF VOLUME. TO GET THEM TO GROW, YOU HAVE TO KEEP GOING UNTIL YOU CANNOT PUT A SHAKER CUP TO YOUR MOUTH. “
Machine Shoulder (Military) Press- 5 x 12 reps
Leverage Shoulder Press- 5 x 12 reps
Bent Over Low-Pulley Side Lateral- 5 x 16 reps
Calf-Machine Shoulder Shrug- 5 x 18 reps
In other words, we’re all a bunch of bitches because our volume is so low it wouldn’t even qualify as a warmup for Strydom, who is reported to have been strong as a rabid ox on a steady anadrol-and-methyltest regimen. Strydom hated competing but loves to train, and really only competed to satisfy his rabid pre-internet fanbase. Had the man been born 20 years later, he’d have been an Instagram superstar the judges couldn’t ignore, as he took selfies before selfies were even a thing, and before there was an internet on which to post them. Bear witness, and he exercises his exorcism:
At 6’1″ and 230 lbs, Strydom wasn’t exactly a mass monster, and his back could have used more mass, but his physique was still the thing superheros would kill to have, and his chest was definitely one of his standout bodyparts. For example, just as he did with his shoulders, Strydom beat his chest like his name was Liam Neeson and his chest had kidnapped his daughter. What follows is again a sample workout, since his routine varied greatly based on his level of fatigue.
Strydom’s Pectoral Annihilation Routine
Dumbbell Bench Press (warm-up only)- 3-4 x 10-12 reps
Dumbbell Bench Press / Flye Combo- 5-6 x 12-25 reps
Incline Machine Press- 4-5 x 12-25 reps
Cable Crossovers- 8-12 x 10-30 reps
Dumbbell Pullovers- 5 x 10-12 reps
With routines like that, Strydom managed to never win the Olympia, in spite of the fact he was never anything but ripped to the bone, sporting 22″ arms, a 32″ waist, 29″ thighs, 19″ calves. a 19.5″ neck, and a 61″ chest. Ridiculous, but I suppose it speaks pretty loudly to never messing with the Weider empire if you want that Olympia crown.
Obviously, there are plenty of other examples I can and shall provide of bodybuilders outside of the Weider camp who could have trashed their IFBB competition. The aforementioned Gold’s Gym Book of Bodybuilding is chock full of eccentric individuals who shunned the IFBB for other federations, and their programs were crazier than a bag of wet cats. Don’t let the magazines fool you- there are some badass bodybuilders out there of whom you’ve never heard, but you should. Their programs all boil down to the same message, though- train your ass off and the gains will flow like vodka at a Russian wedding.
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Go forth and destroy.
All about Gary Strydom. Bodybuilding Pro. Web. 26 Sep 2017. http://www.bodybuildingpro.com/garystrydom.html
Gary Strydom’s workout routine. Pumping Iron Mag. 31 May 2014. Web. 26 Sep 2017. http://pumpingironmag.com/content/gary-strydoms-workout-routine
Gethin, Kris. Delt delerium training with Gary Strydom. Bodybuilding.com. 6 Aug 2014. Web. 26 Sep 2017. https://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/delt-delirium-training-shoulders-with-gary-strydom.html
Heffernan, Conor. Reprint of Jerry Brainum’s article “Every which way but loose: Gary Strydom’s chest training turns his pecs inside out for awesome mass.” Physical Culture Study. 12 Apr 2017. Web. 26 Sep 2017. https://physicalculturestudy.com/2017/04/12/every-which-way-but-loose-gary-strydoms-chest-training-turns-his-pecs-inside-out-for-awesome-mass/
Merritt, Greg. Hardcore Contender – Bertil Fox. Flex. Web. 9 Oct 2016. http://www.flexonline.com/training/hardcore-contender-bertil-fox
Sprague, Ken and Bill Reynolds. The Gold’s Gym Book of Bodybuilding. Chicago: Contemporary Books, Inc., 1983.
Victor Richards. Greatest Physiques. Web. 21 Aug 2017. http://www.greatestphysiques.com/victor-richards/