Riding a life” is the best way to describe Brad Harris’ rise from a wide-eyed youth of 14 who was inspired by the immortal Steve Reeves to start weight training and traveled to Muscle Beach on a bus from his home in Burbank, California. He later followed Steve Reeves to Italy and, like Reeves, became an international movie star. His film career spans 48 years, and he’s appeared in more than 40 pictures plus a slew of TV shows as an adventure-movie hero and phenomenal stuntman. He was inducted into the Hollywood Stuntmen’s Hall of Fame on January 19, 2006, and was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the “Brad Harris Live” Film Festival on April 29, 2006, in Germany, where he signed autographs for three hours. There are active Brad Harris fan clubs even today.
Brad’s exciting and adventurous career is documented in a 387-page biography by Reiner Boller, Brad Harris, the American Bavarian, which received glowing reviews. There are stories of incredible adventure, life-threatening danger, love, sorrow and grief, as well as some that are very funny indeed. Negotiations are currently under way to make Brad’s life story into a feature film.
Harris’ name represented action in the European cinema of the 1960s, whether as Hercules in the Italian epics or as Captain Rowland in the “Police Inspector X” series of films. He was also the role model for such strong action heroes as Arnold Schwarzenegger and, in fact, had the Governor under personal contract at one point. He always performed his own stunts, risking his life in more than a few of them. He was the stunt coordinator on many of his films and also trained stuntmen.
He belongs to a unique fraternity of cinematic heroes who established their place in motion picture history in the period Italians commonly refer to l’epoca d’oro, or the golden age, which began in the early ’60s with Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita,” “Cleopatra” with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and “Hercules” with Steve Reeves, and took in the 1960 Olympic Games, which were held in Rome. Of the many musclemen to appear in those sword-and-sandal movies, none was as versatile or as prolific as Brad. He was far and away the best athlete of the group.
Later this year Brad is set to appear in a new movie based on the million-seller novel Shiver, written by Brian Harper. He will also serve as associate producer on the project. His rigorous daily workout regimen keeps him in tiptop shape so that he’s always ready.
Harris was an outstanding athlete at Burbank High School, where he competed in football, basketball and track. Classmate and highly acclaimed actor-bodybuilder Bill Smith used to train with Brad in his garage. Brad was elected student body president and was offered a football scholarship to USC, but he chose the academic climate at UCLA, where he graduated with a degree in political geography. Brad speaks Italian, German and some French and Spanish.
“Because of Muscle Beach and Steve Reeves, I began weight training,” says Brad. “Because of Muscle Beach and Steve Reeves I became a third-world movie star and traveled around the world many times and experienced many adventures. I now live near Muscle Beach and see it almost every evening. I walk down to the beach and sit on a turned-over trash can while gazing up into the great beyond. The oxygen from the ocean breeze is invigorating and rejuvenating. I get some of my best ideas during that quiet period of meditation under the darkening sky. Modern medicine is now discovering the value of pure oxygen used in a hyperbaric chamber to combat the many diseases that can’t survive in pure oxygen. Exercise and oxygen therapy is a new medical discovery with great promise.”
He holds a possible world record for attending the world’s largest party, the Oktoberfest, in Munich, Germany—2008 was his 49th consecutive year. Not even Arnold can top that.
Today, Brad Harris is dedicated to his fitness corporation, Modern Body Design. He produces Ab-OrigiOnals, a unique abdominal-exercise device that enables the user to work the midsection from all angles for maximum results. His company also produces HotPex, which are the ultimate pushup handles for working the chest, triceps and shoulders. He has developed other exercise devices that he uses in his workouts.
Brad is quick to point out that his personal program is designed specifically for his needs and goals, based on more than 60 years of trial and error. He performs many exercises with the equipment that he designed and sells—he feels that they are the best, or he wouldn’t recommend them. He doesn’t recommend that anyone try to follow his exact exercises, but you can learn the basic principles of his system and apply them to your own workouts.
He has an individual approach to training and diet:
“I train every single day—seven days a week. Presently, I’m on a four-day cycle. I concentrate on one major muscle group each workout, keeping in mind that several other muscles assist on each exercise, which gives them a good workout as well. I train at Gold’s Gym in Venice in the morning. My workouts are 40 to 45 minutes of high-intensity action.
“In the afternoon, about three or four o’clock, I run the famous stairs in Santa Monica for legs and cardiovascular work. The 167 wooden steps are used by hundreds of fitness enthusiasts every day. I used to charge up those steps in less than 30 seconds and do it eight to 10 times, but that’s totally unnecessary. We all used to overtrain all the time in the old days. Now that I’m 75, it kicks my butt to run them under one minute, which is still a very good time. I run them twice, once to warm up, and the second time I go full blast. I do the stairs every other day. Some days I do wind sprints on my mountain bike instead of the stairs. Those two exercises provide all the work I need for my legs.”
Low-pulley rope curls
Forward-leaning rope triceps extensions
Tuesday: Shoulders, back
Circle high pulls (Harris Row)
Seated side raises
Wednesday: Chest, front delts
Decline dumbbell presses
Bradomatic push presses
Thursday: Upper back
Pulldowns (slant bar, various positions)
Friday: Cycle begins again.
Abs: Ab-OrigiOnals 4 x 40
Next day: Legs
Runs stairs twice or does mountain bike wind sprints.
“To describe each exact movement would be near impossible,” he says. “On every exercise I try to incorporate as many assistance muscles as possible. I generally do 12 sets of 30 reps on a single exercise each workout day. I may use a second exercise for four sets of 30 reps. I start with a light weight, which serves as a warmup. Then I increase the weight 10 pounds each set until I reach the heaviest weight I’m going to use that day. Even though I know I could use more weight, I don’t because I don’t want to injure myself. Overtraining leads to injuries.
“For me it’s extremely important to have good blood flow every day. When I do my decline-bench presses with dumbbells, I put my feet up in the air so that the blood flows into my upper extremities and blood flows throughout my entire body. I want all those veins and capillaries open. That’s what keeps you healthy. When people get older and aren’t getting enough blood flow from their activities, those little veins all shut down. That makes the heart work harder, and if it’s suddenly overworked, a heart attack is the result. That’s what happens to people who aren’t paying attention to proper blood flow throughout the body every day.
“My diet is based on getting balanced nutrition from fresh, healthful foods that are low in sugar, salt and fat. I start the day with a protein drink mixed with nonfat milk, nuts, fruit and grains. For lunch I may have a prepared meal from Whole Foods Market, which might be a delicious thick soup with tender chicken and other healthful ingredients. For supper I may have a big salad with fish and assorted organic vegetables. About once a month I have an eight-ounce filet mignon when I go out and dine with friends. Green tea is one of my favorite beverages. I do take some food supplements, such as vitamins and minerals, vitamin E, vitamin C, fish oils and MSM, for joint health. I believe that supplements are intended to balance what may be missing from your food intake. I try to get what I need from a well-balanced, healthful diet.
“I monitor myself on how I look, how I feel and how I perform. I weigh myself every day. If I gain a couple of pounds, I make necessary adjustments to get back in the 170-pound zone. If anything goes out of balance, I correct it. I’ve never been overweight, and I don’t take any medicine. I try to avoid stress or minimize it.
“The best advice I can offer for anyone wishing to start a weight-training program is to get a qualified personal trainer to design a program suited to your goals and condition. You won’t need the trainer forever. When training, you must concentrate fully on each movement so that you feel it in the area you’re working. Be consistent. At first it takes discipline to stick to the program and diet, but after a while it becomes a way of life that you’ll enjoy. It will add years to your life and more life to your years.”
A fitting way to close is with Brad’s motto: “Stay Fit, Have Fun, Harm No One, Inspire Everyone.”