Baddest Mofos Ever- Ivan “The Polish Hammer” Putski
Poland is an interesting place. Wedged in between the titans of Europe, the Germans and the Russians, the Poles pretty much fought a two front war against both groups for centuries, and finally had their asses handed to them in the 18th Century when the Russians and Prussians basically just walked in and started pointing at random stuff and yelling “Mine!” like a couple of fat, retarded girls in an ice cream shop. Thereafter, both countries started what pretty much amounted to the least fair campaign of discrimination and disinformation of all time, shouting to the mountaintops about how the Poles were a pack of ugly, stupid pack animals that you’d like in your kitchen less than an unwashed, rotting donkey’s ass. For those of you who’ve never been to Poland, Poles are actually pretty awesome. In fact, you could throw a rock into a crowd in Poland and hit three chicks that look like this- there’s a reason Hitler had the SS banging the ever-loving crap out of every broad in Poland.
There exists, however, a Pole who exists simply to disabuse you of the false notions you might hold about the Poles, and his name doesn’t rhyme with “oodzianowski”. Nope, before Marius could doff his fishnet tank top to hand you a beating, another badass Pole would rip off your arms and beat you to death with them were he to hear you spout off with some Polish jokes in his presence. That man is Ivan “The Polish Hammer” Putski. Putski, born Josef Bednarski, was born in Poland and immigrated shortly thereafter. You’ll hear a lot of crap about how his English sucked, but that seems purely a gimmick- in the interview to which I listened, the maniac sounded like he was speaking on the phone from horseback in West Texas with chaw in his mouth and bowl of bean-free chili in his lap.
For those of you who are unaware, Putski was a professional wrestler in the early years of the WWF, in a time when WWF wrestlers looked much more like superheros than men’s board shorts models. He was one of the massive lumps of muscle in league with guys like the benching phenomenon Ted Arcidi, Olympic weightlifter and strongman Ken Patera, and overall beast and badass facial hair rocker “Superstar” Billy Graham. Throughout his career he mostly feuded with Billy Graham and the successor to Graham’s original look, none other than Jesse “The Body” Ventura. At the time, because there were so many jacked-to-bits dudes dripping testosterone and chugging cans of whoop ass that they regularly had to dispense with the histrionics and just settle crap Over the Top style with arm wrestling matches. It was clearly a different time then, as the 180 lb oily goofballs predominating the modern WWE would have been eaten alive in Putski’s era.
Putski stood a mere 5’6″, but his weight as a wrestler and strongman vacillated between 225 and 300 pounds. Most of the latter part of his career, in which he was more or less a bodybuilder, he was a lean 250 lbs, which is the same billed weight as Triple H, who’s considered huge by modern wrestling standard in spite of the fact that he’s almost a full foot taller than Putski. If you haven’t yet caught on, Putski is and was not to be messed with. Throughout his life, Putski was a professional football player (in the fledgling Continental League), a strongman (he placed 8th in the 1978 World’s Strongest Man), and Tag Team World Champion with Tito Santana. Thus, he did more awesome stuff in an average day than most of us will likely do in our lives, and thought nothing of it.
I first read about Putski when researching Destroy the Opposition, (which is on sale on the right if you haven’t already picked it up) and found him mentioned in a story about Doug Young. Young was one of the greatest benchers in history, and angoddamned beast at 242. When Young was coming up in the scene, he happened to hit up the gym where Ivan Putski lifted. By any account I’ve been able to find, Putski gave exactly zero craps about programming- he just went in the gym, found someone doing something epic, and attempted to best them at their pet lift in marathon workouts that left everyone covered in vomit while Putski happily munched on boiled eggs and patted them on the head like they were small, harmless children. According to Terry Todd, here’s what happened when these two lunatics met on the iron battlefield.
“The word had gotten around to all the local horses, and so we had a big bunch at the T.A.C. when Doug began to train. No one, however, except Ivan Putski, the Polish pro-wrestler, seemed very interested in benching that day; and we suspect Putski didn’t know, or care, what was on the bar. The rest of us, though, surely knew – and cared. Doug took 135 for 100 reps as a warmup and then went to singles with 225, 315, 405, 485, 505, and 520. He then dropped back to 405 for 8 repetitions and 315 for 15. Not bad, seeing as how he had just lost weight down from 260 in an effort to stay somewhere near the 242-pound class limit”(Todd).
That, my friends, is how babies get made. Putski didn’t give a crap that Doug Young was the greatest bencher in history at that point, that Young benched more in a week than most people do in a month, or that Young had benched 545 with three broken ribs in the past- he just said screw it and matched him rep for rep on anything like the goddamned beast that he was. From other anecdotal accounts about Putski, that seemed to be his M.O.- he’d just step up to keep his rep up, whether it was Ken Patera doing overhead presses or some goofball doing calf raises like he was training for the world championships of accessory movements. Lest you think I’m joking about the latter bit, I’m not. One account I found online was from a self-professed nobody who happened to work out at a World Gym frequented by a bunch of WWE wrestlers and a couple of East Coast bodybuilders, including Mike Katz of “Pumping Iron” fame. This guy recounted the following of Putski:
“I remember I was working out my strongest body part “calves” when Ivan politely asked me if he could work in on the standing calf machine with me. I was thrilled to be working out with the man who patented the “Polish Hammer” as a finisher. I remember Ivan eating a couple of dozen hardboiled eggs during his workout. He would do a set then eat a couple of eggs, do another set eat a couple more eggs etc. Ivan’s English was very broken back then but when I was laughing at his eating so many eggs during his workout he simply said “Putski eat, Putski push.” and push he did……an amazing powerhouse!
We eventually had the calf machine maxed out with all the weight that it could handle. 1400 lbs. to be exact, we had the entire weight stack pegged plus hung and placed 100 lb. dumbells and plates anywhere on the machine that we could safely add to the resistance of that poor overloaded machine. We both did our last set with 1400 lbs. for several reps when Ivan downed a couple more eggs, then came over and patted me on the shoulder, gave me a thumbs up, and a wink, as he grabbed his gym bag off a nearby bench and headed to the locker room” (Massie).
It becomes fairly apparent from those accounts that Putski didn’t really stick rigidly to a set program- he just loved lifting. He did have a basic program he apparently stuck to rather loosely, just because he traveled so much for the WWE. According to the interview I heard with him, however, he still trained on the road, and ensured that he took the earliest flight possible so he could get in a morning lift and then wrestle in the evening (Guttman). His brutal workouts, however, all took place in the beginning of the week, when he wasn’t traveling.
His main training days, then, were as follows:
Bench Press: 225 x 10; 325 x 10; 425 x 8; 425 x 7; 425 x 8; 425 x 8; 425 x7; 425 x 7; 425 x 8; 425 x 6; 425 x 7; 425 x 7; 425 x 6; 425 x 5; 425 x 4. Each set was taken to failure, and he continued doing sets until he noticed a significant drop-off in bar speed and strength. He called it “train yourself til you strain yourself.” Putski, incidentally, was reputed to have a 600+ pound bench.
Push Press: 225 x 10; 275 x 10; 325 x 10; 325 x 12; 325 x l1; 325 x11; 325 x 10; 325 x 10; 325, x 10; 325 x 10; 325 x 10; 325 x 8; 325 x 8; 325 x 9; 325 x 6; 325 x 5
Box Squats (which he did to a high bench, actually): 300 x 10; 500 x 10; 15 x 10 x 650
Stadium Stairs: He would run the stairs of a local high school football stadium for a hour if the weather allowed.
Standing Barbell Curl or Seated Concentrated Curl: 15-20 x 10 x 200 or 100lbs, respectively.
Skullcrushers or Standing Tricep Extensions: 15-20 x 10 x 200lbs, going until his form gets sloppy.
Another source had Putski busting out a pulling day on day three, though it provided no information on that (Furman). I would ascribe the discrepancy to the fact that Putski simply did a hell of a lot of whatever the hell he felt like every time he entered the gym.
The rest of the week, he’d be traveling and wrestling at night, so he would get into the gym early and do smaller workouts. Frankly, the fact that he wasn’t in a coma by Wednesday night is a testament to the type of beating you can put on your body and survive. By all accounts, Putski was the nicest goddamned guy on Earth, and was constantly smiling. He was one of the few wrestlers to remain a babyface his entire career, because he was just too nice to play a heel. This, I suppose is proof that you needn’t be a total cock to be a badass, which is somewhat disappointing, as I like to think that channelling my inner Tommy Conlon spurs me on to victory.
Instead of being fueled by hate, however, Putski was fueled by the produce of his massive appetite. Like most of the old-school, Putski ate more in a sitting than most of us eat in a day. When Putski was first starting out, he lacked the money to eat anything expensive, “so a usual evening meal would consist of a quart or two of raw oysters. a pound of cheese, some Polish sausage, and fresh fruit. As he began learning about U. S. cooking, he developed a taste for fried chicken and it’s not at all uncommon for him to eat 20 or 30 pieces after an evening bout”(Marunde Muscle). In case your math sucks, that’s between two and a half and four WHOLE fried chickens in a single meal. As he gained prominence in wrestling and became a bigger earner, Putski started eating steak three times a day, in addition to what was reputedly an absurd amount of kielbasa. This then, lends a great deal more support to the credo of “eat big to get big”, because Putski was a gigantic sonofabitch.
Thus, to bring it all home for you, the following can be gleaned from Putski’s example:
- you can, and likely should, be doing far more volume than you are currently doing.
- you can pretty much eat whatever you want in whatever quantities you want if you train your ass off, provided that your diet is heavy as hell on proteins.
- you don’t have to be an asshole to be a total badass.
- compared to Ivan Putski, we are all a bunch of pussies.
Go eat something already.
All WWE Westlers. The Wrestler Ivan Putski. All WWE Wrestlers. Web. 20 Sep 2012. http://www.allwwewrestlers.com/ivan_putski.htm
Forum Post. Ivan Putsky’s Training. Marunde Muscle. 26 Nov 2006. Web. 20 Sep 2012. http://www.marunde-muscle.com/
Furman, Tom. POLISH POWER TEMPLATE. Physical Strategies. 22 Nov 2006. Web. 20 Sep 2012. http://physicalstrategies.blogspot.com/2006/11/po…
Guttman, James. Ivan Putsky Interview. World Wrestling Insanity. 23 Oct 2010. Audio.
Massie, Roger. Memories from World Gym in Connecticut. Online World Of Wrestling. 5 Sep 2005. Web. 20 Sep 2012. http://www.onlineworldofwrestling.com/columns/mis…
Todd, Terry. Doug Young. The Tight Tan Slacks of Deszo Ban. 3 Sep 2011. Web. 20 Sep 2012. http://ditillo2.blogspot.com/2011/09/doug-young-t…
Wikipedia. Ivan Putski. Wikipedia. Web. 20 Sep 2012. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivan_Putski