Eff the Olympia- These are the REAL Champions of Bodybuilding
An evening with these two would be about as much fun as having ghost pepper sauce poured into your peehole.
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. In reality, 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 despite the fact that the Weider publishing empire and their bought-and-paid-for judges took a steaming crap on their careers.
“Brutal” Bertil Fox
Because the Weider empire wasn’t really what it was billed to be and he could find better competition elsewhere, Bertil jumped on the IFBB wagon about 5 years too late and then proceeded to shoot his ex-fiancee and her mom to completely mangle what little was left of his competitive prospects. That’s not to say, however, that he was not the best professional bodybuilder between 1977 and 1980, and could be considered the greatest mass monster of the pre-1990s era. Originally hailing from St. Kitts in the Carribean, this Godzilla-esque future slaughter machine rocked 16 inch arms at 16, 17 inch arms at 17, 18 inch arms at 18, and 19 inch arms at 19, eventually stretching the tape past 21 inches on his ridiculous hamhock arms (Sprague 248).
Serge Nubret, Brutal Bertil, Tony Emmot, and someone no one’s ever heard of.
At 5’7″ and 245 lbs., no one on a competitive stage had the mass and detail to hang with him, and a half-starved Frank Zane would have looked like a mid-transformation intersex physique competitor if he’d even bothered to stand next to Brutal Bertil onstage. In the 1977 NABBA Pro Mr. Universe (pictured above), Fox dwarfed Serge Nubret, who was an IFBB fan favorite. To give you some idea about how badly the corrupt-enough-to-be-Mexican-cops IFBB judges were, check out Bertil’s the picture below. You also should take note of the fact that had Fox entered the IFBB in 1976 instead of dicking around in the NABBA, we’d have a much different historical record in the IFBB, and might never had Lee Haney as a Mr. Olympia at all.
Here was his competition, weighed against Fox:
Frank Zane 5’9″ 187-195 lbs.
Robby Robinson 5’7″ 215 lbs.
Ken Waller 6’0″ 230 lbs.
Serge Nubret 6′ 215 lbs.
Roy Callender 5’8″ 220 lbs.
Bertil Fox 5’7″ 245 lbs.
Seriously, no one could hang with Brutal Bertil onstage. The dude was a mass monster before such a thing existed, and he scared the crap out of everyone. Even Lee Haney was outclassed against Fox, because they weighed the same, but Haney was four inches taller, and Brutal Bertil was always more cut than a bag of dope. Owing in large part to the fact that he became a murder machine and was subsequently hung in his home nation of St. Kitts, Bertil Fox has fallen out of the zeitgeist and is a forgotten legend in bodybuilding lore. Never fear, however, because I’ve got two of his workouts that propelled this badass to Mr. Britain, Mr. Europe, and two Mr. Universe titles. Check it.
Bertil was again robbed at the 1983 Olympia, when he lost out to an out-massed Lee Haney.
Brutal Bertil’s 1983 Twice Weekly Arm Insanity
EZ-bar curls: 6 x 6-8 reps, 200 lbs max weight
Incline dumbbell curls: 6 x 6-8 reps, 80s lbs max weight
Dumbbell concentration curls: 6 x 6-8 reps, 60 lbs max weight
Barbell preacher curls, 6 sets: 6-8 x 155 lbs max weight
One-arm cable curls: 6 x 8-10 reps, 60 lbs max weight
Lying extensions: 6 x 6-8 reps, 200 lbs max weight
Bench dips: 6 x 6-8 reps, 135 lbs on legs max weight
One-arm dumbbell overhead extensions: 6 x 8-10 reps, 60 lbs max weight
Pushdowns: 6 x 8-10 reps, 250 lbs max weight
One-arm pushdowns, 6 x 8-10 reps, 100 lbs max weight
That is one gnarly ass workout- a minimum of 144 reps on biceps and 216 reps on triceps… which he did twice a week. Maybe you’re just not doing enough arm work if you’re not ripping the sleeves of your button down every time you try to clear a paper jam at the office.
Brutal Bertil’s Gold’s Gym Chest Routine… that enabled him to bust out a sick ass set of 6 with 525 lbs in 1983
Barbell bench press: 5-7 x 4-8 reps
Dumbbell bench press: 5 x 6-8 reps
Incline barbell press: 5 x 6-8 reps
Dips: 5 x 8-10 reps (done as a superset with the flyes)
Dumbbell flyes: 5 x 6-8 reps
So there you have it- the secrets behind some of the best upper body development of the pre-growth hormone era. Use it well… but try not to shoot any of your exes while you’re getting swole as hell.
Scott “Captain Boulder Shoulders” Wilson
I first read about Scott Wilson at the beginning of my lifting career in some bodybuilding books I purchased second hand, and although I repurchased the old 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.
If you feel like poo-pooing the lifts I’m about to recount for this man, remember that powerlifting was in its infancy when he competed. Wilson boasted competition lifts of a 625 squat, 470 bench, and 665 deadlift in what I assume was the 220 lb weight class in the late 1970s. Not too shabby, given that powerlifting was just something Wilson did in the offseason from bodybuilding to put on mass. It’s likely not surprise you that this dude sold the bicycle his mom won for him on a game show to buy a set of weights as a kid- this badass was dedicated from an early age. After entering and winning the Mr. San Diego contest on a dare from his friends, Wilson won the Mr. America, Mr. international, and the Portland Grand Prix. At 5’10 and 215 lbs with 20″ arms and 24″ relaxed, unpumped shoulder width, Wilson looked a hell of a lot bigger than he actually was, owing in large part to his tiny waist… which is a miracle he maintained once you check out his utterly insane precontest back workout (I’ve looked everywhere, and I tragically could not find his shoulder workout, which I was dying to try).
If this dude’s shoulders don’t make you want to break into the gym in off hours and slay weights, nothing will. The lat spread is legit, too.
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
Victor “Train Like A Maniac and Eat Your Face Off” Richards
If you want to talk about a bodybuilder the Weiders HATED, it’s Victor Richards. The biggest sonofabitch on the planet in the 1990s, Richards only competed a couple of times but got a bunch of press in Ironman magazine, as I recall. At 5’9″ and 300 pretty goddamned lean pounds, Richards dwarfed the reigning Mr. Olympia at the time, Dorian Yates (5’10” 255 lbs), and would still outmass just about every bodybuilder on the planet today in competition shape (Phil Heath is 5’9″ 252 lbs and Big Ramy is Victor Richards’ size, but with the addition of a hell of a lot of advances in pharmacology). His measurements seem like complete fabrications, until you see pictures of him… and bear in mind when you read these measurements that this was pre-growth hormone era development, and Richards could bust out a vacuum pose that would make Frank Zane blush. Allegedly capable of a belt-and-wrapless 900 lb squat, Richards purportedly had a seated military press of 450 lbs, a 600 lb bench, a 550 incline bench, 200 lb dumbbell shoulder press, 26″ arms, 24″ calves, 67″ chest (what in the sweet hell?), 37″ thighs, and a 36″ waist. Those measurements are utterly insane, as are his lifts. Sheer lunacy, fueled by anger and as much food as the man could fit down his throat (he guesstimated that on a really insane day of eating, his calories would reach about 30,000… which again sounds crazy, but the man was humongous).
Vic Richards hated competing more than Donald Trump hates protesting and the fact that the USFL went tits up. In spite of that fact, he won the 1992 Nigerian National Championships, the 1989 Mr. Barbados, and the California Gold Cup Classic in 1984, but just based on speculation I’m going to say those titles were not exactly hotly contested. At the 1994 FIBO, Richards did however surprise the hell out of everyone and initiate an impromptu posedown at the 1994 FIBO with then-Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates, whom he dwarfed at an alleged 320 puffy pounds.
Tragically, there’s no record of an exact Richard workout, because the dude trained entirely by feel. He trained until he was so goddamned tired he had to grow, then would eat until he couldn’t fit any more food down his throat. Inspired in large part by the ultra-awesome Barbarian brothers, Vic Richards defined taking it to the ultimate extreme- massive powerlifts followed by nearly endless hypertrophy training, balls to the wall, all the goddamned time. If nothing else, the man should stand as an example of what someone can do if the do literally nothing other than eat, sleep, and train as if a team of burly men with spiked bats will anally rape your grandma with their weapons if you don’t go bananas enough.
Gary Strydom is one of the most horrifying victims of the Weiders’ insane hatred of competing federations. Perhaps the greatest bodybuilder ever from the front, Strydom’s been basically stricken from the IFBB record after having tested the waters in a competing federation created by comic-book-evil pro wrestling magnate Vince McMahon. The federation was a complete bust- McMahon essentially tried to turn bodybuilding into a pro wrestling-esque soap opera and the entire thing was a retarded-mass-of anything-Steve-Harvey-has-ever-done proportions.
Strydom’s competition history is as long as your arm, and you’ll note his ridiculously low placing in the IFBB after returning to the fold- the Weiders punished everyone who jumped ship for Vince McMahon’s WBF with low placings for the remainder of their careers, no matter what their condition. Aaron “Batman” Baker (the Kai Green before Kai Green), uber-beast Mike Christian, David Death (one of the most shredded individuals to ever walk the Earth), and Berry DeMay also suffered appalling placings in spite of the fact they outclassed the majority of their competition as penance for participating in McMahon’s idiotic soap opera of a federation. In any event, here’s what a beast Strydom was:
1983 NPC Florida Championships, Junior – Heavyweight, 1st and Overall
1984 NPC USA Championships, HeavyWeight, 1st
1986 NPC Nationals, HeavyWeight, 1st and Overall
1987 Night of Champions, Winner
1988 Chicago Pro Invitational, 2nd
1988 Mr. Olympia, 5th
1989 Arnold Classic, 3rd
1989 Grand Prix France, 1st
1989 Grand Prix Germany, 2nd
1989 Grand Prix Melbourne, 1st
1989 Grand Prix Spain (2), 2nd
1989 Grand Prix Spain, 2nd
1989 Grand Prix Sweden, 1st
1989 World Pro Championships, 2nd
1990 Grand Prix England, 2nd
1990 Grand Prix Finland, 3rd
1990 Grand Prix France, 2nd
1990 Grand Prix Germany, 4th
1990 Grand Prix Italy, 3rd
1990 Houston Pro Invitational, 2nd
1990 Ironman Pro Invitational, 4th
1991 Night of the Champions, Winner
1991 WBF Championships, 1st
1992 WBF Championships, 1st
1996 Night of Champions, 12th
2006 Colorado Pro Championships, 7th
To be that big and insanely conditioned, you’d think Strydom would basically have had to live in the gym… and you would be absolutely 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.)
Day 2- Biceps, triceps (a.m.); calves, stationary cycling (p.m.)
Day 3- Deadlifts (a.m.); upper back (p.m.)
Day 4- Chest (a.m.); shoulders, abdominals, cycling (p.m.)
Strydom trained like he was possessed by a team of demons hell bent on having the biggest arms and shoulders in history, and 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. 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. 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.
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/