Casey Viator is one man who has the real answers to questions about Arthur Jones, the Colorado Experiment and high-intensity training. That was exciting to me, but when I took the assignment to interview him, I knew there was a problem. IRONMAN articles are usually written in a serious, formal style, but that isn't what Casey is like. Sure, he can be serious, and he can be the world's greatest gentleman'well-mannered, kind and thoughtful'but basically, he's a down-to-earth man's man, rough and tough, tremendously strong, and occasionally he talks like a longshoreman if the situation warrants.
I'd read about Casey for years in the magazines and in his book Casey Viator's Total Fitness, but none of it hinted that the man has devastating charm and masculinity, with an effect on women that I wouldn't have believed if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes.
When you read about Casey Viator, you have to be impressed. He was the youngest Mr. America ever'19 years old when he earned the title in 1971, winning three championships in one year (Teenage Mr. America, Junior Mr. America and Mr. America), and he's noted for his virtually unmatched intensity and power in the gym.
Viator was one of the top bodybuilding stars in the 1970s and '80s, with a competition history extending more than 30 years. Now 49, he maintains an excellent physique, a solid 248 pounds at 5'10', with 22-inch arms and 17 1/2-inch forearms.
Casey lives in Marietta, Georgia, where he owns a thriving training business he conducts on the Internet. 'I used to do one-on-one personal training,' he says, 'with clients flying in from Africa, Australia, Canada and Europe to spend a week or two training with me. But now I do mostly long-distance counseling of 6,000 clients by e-mail, aided by photos, phone and fax.'
Viator also has a very active Web site, www.CaseyViator.com, which gets more than 700 hits a day. Recently he's been promoting his book, and at the time of this interview he'd just returned from presenting seminars in Toronto and book signings in Rome, Milan and Florence.
Even with the above information. however, you can't get a sense of what Casey, the person and the athlete, is like until you hear what his peers have to say about him.
Ed Corney: Casey'what a fantastic guy! He was a very hard trainer and phenomenally strong. Besides that, he's quick and sharp mentally, so in competition he was a formidable opponent, a force to be reckoned with.
Chris Dickerson: Casey Viator is the strongest man I've ever seen doing bodybuilding movements'and he does it all in very strict form. He's a fine competitor, though in a good way. When I won the Mr. America, Casey was second. As people left the show, they weren't talking about me, the winner. They left asking, 'Who is this Casey Viator?'
Ray Stern: Casey is one of the greatest, though he didn't get the recognition he should have. He was massive and incredibly strong, one of the first to have the Herculean thickness so popular today.
Bill Pearl: When he came on the scene at 19, Casey was probably the most advanced bodybuilder ever for his age. I was amazed at his development and hardcore muscularity. He took the industry by storm.
Jan Dellinger: No question, Casey operated at a different level of physical ability than the rest of us. It was half-frightening too. Arnold called him a 'gym monster.'
Boyer Coe: I've known Casey since he was 13. He won the Mr. America at 19, the youngest ever, but he was good enough to win when he was 18. Casey was unbelievably strong. I don't think you could stack so much weight on a machine that he couldn't lift it. He's genetically blessed like very, very few people in this world.
Controversy still swirls around Casey's 10-year association with Arthur Jones, inventor of the Nautilus machines; Jones' never-duplicated Colorado Experiment featuring Casey as the main subject; and the high-intensity training (HIT) used in the experiment.
The whole Colorado Experiment, which has been written about regularly throughout the years, has been called a thorny thicket. So, after extensive reading and research, this reporter was glad to be able to talk with Casey and get his take on the situation and the man behind it.
Rosemary Hallum: What was Arthur Jones like? Stories and rumors abound about what a character he was and how he packed heat and threatened people.
Casey Viator: Arthur is definitely one of the most dramatic and unusual real-life characters in bodybuilding. Meet him and you don't forget him. Many people focus on the man's weird or negative aspects: He was a swashbuckler, a superwomanizer and a manipulator. He wanted to impress and intimidate you. He'd crawl down your throat and insult you to get your attention, and then he'd make up to you in the next 15 minutes.
Arthur had a Napoleon complex. He used to read extensively about Napoleon, Hitler and Howard Hughes. He didn't care about what anyone had to say. He went his own way and did his own thing.
But all this isn't to put him down. It hurts me to zero in on him like that. He was and still is a very charismatic individual, dynamic and inspriring. He's way above most people's level of thinking and is one of the sharpest and most versatile people I've ever met. I respect him.
Actually, I consider Arthur a genius'a mover and a shaker. He changed the way people think about exercise, making them realize that with his specially designed Nautilus machines and with concentrated all-out training, they didn't have to spend hours and hours working out to get in shape. Arthur was a great promoter too. He could sell refrigerators to Antarctic explorers on an ice floe. He spent millions of dollars on his Nautilus prototypes and his work, but it wasn't his money: He gathered investors and used their money.
I started with Arthur in 1970. I lived and worked around him for 10 years. He was my employer'not my mentor or guru, as has been variously reported. He didn't try to brainwash me or control my thinking. Actually, he had very little to do with the way I thought. I could turn him off like a light switch. Yet many people who were around Arthur were so influenced by him that within a week they'd take on some of his mannerisms and speech patterns.
RH: How did you and Arthur meet?
CV: He was in the audience when I took third in the AAU Mr. America. Right away he saw ability, genetics, potential and promise in me'I was 18 then. He said he had an opportunity for me. He wanted me to work for him as a subject in his research work, not as a business associate. RH: You and Arthur got along well?
CV: We had our ups and downs, as he would tell you, but, yes, we got along well. We had mutual respect for each other.
I was young and impressionable. Arthur taught me a lot about people and animals and influenced me in many ways. We used to match wits. He'd discuss philosophy and basic beliefs in life, but as a teenager I was far more interested in sports and girls.
RH: What about all the stories about Jones and his guns?
CV: I've heard 'em all, about how he supposedly pulled a gun on Franco Columbu, me and others. I can tell you for a fact that I never saw him do that to anyone. I've seen him with guns, but I never saw him pull one on anybody. I think he knew that if he ever tried that with me [talks a little slower and chooses his words carefully], he was going to need the gun to defend himself.
RH: I get the feeling that if you were talking to another man, you'd be using stronger language.
CV: Yeah, I'd be using sailor talk to tell this!
RH: How did Arthur get started?
CV: Arthur did many things in his life, which you can read about in his autobiography, … And God Laughs.
He came out of Africa, literally. He was in Rhodesia with his family, making a film on animals. His findings upset the goverment, so the country threw him out, and he barely got away with his life and his family. I met him right after that, in 1970, when he was starting Nautilus.
RH: Did Arthur really keep a menagerie of dangerous animals?
CV: You better believe it! Alligators, crocodiles 15 to 18 feet long, Gila monsters, scorpions and tons of snakes'cobras, pit vipers, pythons and rattlesnakes. Arthur had everything shipped in, including 500 huge scorpions from Bangkok.
I was right in the thick of it, helping to take care of the animals, feeding and cleaning up after them. I learned quite a bit about their habits. The only things I wouldn't get close to were the rattlesnakes.
RH: Do you and Arthur keep up?
CV: Yes. We talked recently and had a great time discussing politics and the current state of bodybuilding.
RH: Do you think that Arthur regarded himself as a father figure to you?
CV: Absolutely. I was the son he never had.
The Colorado Experiment
'Interesting, isn't it,' Casey observes, 'that an experiment which took place so long ago would still be attracting interest and controversy!' He gives a full account of the experiment in his book, Casey Viator's Total Fitness.
Arthur Jones conducted the Colorado Experiment at Colorado State University from May 1 through 29, 1973, with Casey Viator, then 23 years old, as the main subject. The major purpose of the study, according to Jones, was to show 'that the growth of human muscular tissue is related to the intensity of exercise' and that 'increases in strength and muscle mass are rapidly produced by very brief and infrequent training, if the intensity of exercise is high enough.'
Other related contentions were that a great amount of training is unnecessary; that negative work (i.e., eccentric contractions) is very important; that a well-balanced diet is sufficient, with steroids unnecessary; and that maximum increase in strength and muscle mass 'can be produced only by the use of full-range, rotary form, automatically variable, direct resistance.' Only Nautilus prototype equipment was used. Here's the routine. All movements were done to failure.
1) Leg extensions
2) Hip-and-back machine
3) Duo squat machine
4) Leg curls
5) Pullover machine
6) Behind-the-neck pulldowns
7) Double shoulder machine
8) Rowing machine
9) Double chest machine
10) Biceps curls
11) Triceps extensions
The results? In 28 days Casey gained 45.28 pounds of bodyweight, with a loss of 17.93 pounds of bodyfat, totaling a muscular gain of 63.21 pounds. (Jones gained 15.44 pounds.) Casey averaged 10 sets per workout'one set of 10 reps in strict form for each exercise'for an average of 24.8 minutes per workout.
Does Jones imply that anyone can do this? No. He clearly states that Casey was not an average subject and that subjects of average potential cannot expect equal results.
Jones also clearly states that Casey had not trained for the preceding four months'due to an industrial accident in which he lost most of one finger and almost died from an allergic reaction to an antitetanus vaccine'and had lost 33.63 pounds. He was 'rebuilding previously existing levels of muscular size.'
RH: So what really went down with the experiment?
CV: People still ask me that. They expect some great secrets, but there are none. It's essentially what Arthur said. Of course his printed statements are in formal research language.
As for the purpose of the experiment, we were trying to show a lesson in muscle memory, how I could come back to my previous muscular level with the aid of proper nutrition, exercise and rest.
RH: What was the experiment like for you?
CV: It was 28 solid days of training my brains out like an animal, training and eating and resting and sleeping. On the first few days I'd literally end up on the floor, wiped out, until I got into the groove of it.
Before the experiment started, I had lost weight from an accident and hadn't trained for four months. In addition, I dieted hard'at less than 800 calories a day'to get my weight down to 168 pounds. I was told to lose as much as I possibly could. Going that low, I was emaciated! My eyes were sunken three inches into my head! Then during the experment I got a cash incentive for every pound I gained, so I had great reason to put on weight.
RH: What was your nutrition like during the experiment?
CV: I ate six to eight meals a day, with about 500 grams of protein per day. I put my liver through a lot, but any excess protein was eliminated. We would eat out mostly, and I could pick what I wanted. I'd have high protein, medium carbs and medium fat. I didn't have to be concerned about fat because I was burning everything off. I ate a lot. The amount I ate got outrageous! I ate everything!
Remember, this was the 1970s, when diet and nutrition were not overanalyzed like they are today. Even the astronauts at the time, as Dr. Charles Moss [who was on the medical staff that helped train the astronauts] told me, had a good general diet but no prescribed number of calories per day and no precise protein/carb/fat split.
Once during the experiment I had three T-bone steaks medium rare, and I got food poisoning. My pulse rate was high, and we had to call in a doctor. I ate two quarts of ice cream because my electrolytes were down. I trained the next day. But if I hadn't gotten sick, I would have gained more weight.
RH: What about the rumors that you sneaked food into your room?
CV: I didn't have to, since I could eat as much as I wanted. Besides, I wanted to do everything right because I knew the study was monumental. I knew it was going to be good. And I saw the dollars passing in and out.
RH: Did you use any steroids?
CV: Definitely not. At the time I didn't even know what an injection was. Besides, I was being monitored, and my room was being frisked every day. RH: So you took no steroids at all?
CV: Correct. None. No steroids were used. And no steroid replacement products, no BCAAs even, not even any meal-replacement drinks. Just intensive exercise, good nutrition and rest.
Don't forget that I was a genetic freak, genetically gifted far beyond average. When I was tested on reflexes and speed, my genetic responses were superior to anyone's. When I was put up against the Colorado wrestling team, for instance, I could do 100 degrees more shoulder rotation than they did.
I'm not saying this to brag. Genetics is a roll of the dice. My dad, who is 83 now, has 20-inch calves. He climbs trees and trims 'em with a chainsaw. My mother, also 83, has 18 1/2-inch calves. I get more of my genetics from her, actually. Neither of my parents has ever trained. So when people call me a genetic freak, the statement is accurate, though I'm not a carnival type of person.
RH: Only Nautilus equipment was used during the experiment?
CV: Yes. Each specific machine, as you know, has its own 'feel.' Those early prototypes just felt so good. I even trained on one of them in Toronto this past October'it was great! Those machines were so complementary to your form if you knew how to use them right, with the proper seat adjustment, position and so forth.
The only other thing was one dumbbell, which I brought along to do one-legged calf raises.
RH: What about the stories that you had a plane available and could train in another city?
CV: [Laughs] Hardly! I was too tired! Arthur kept me pretty taxed.
RH: What about your training form during the experiment? Some reports say it was not strict.
CV: Whoever said that wasn't there and didn't see what went down. I was there, I did it, and it was strict. I'm proud of my part in the experiment. I trained harder than anybody'others don't do one-sixteenth of what I did.
Don't forget that Arthur wasn't there to make friends. He was there to get results, within the parameters that he set up, and those parameters included clean, strict form in a full range of motion.
He liked to piss people off, you know, to insult 'em and harass 'em. He did that with me. On weighted chinups, for example, Arthur would put a 300-pound weight on me and say I couldn't do 20 reps. I knew I could do five, but I'd get so mad from his intimidation that I'd grind out 12 reps. I failed on the 12th rep.
RH: During the experiment you consistently used high-intensity training, right?
RH: But HIT has been described so many ways by so many different people. Some just say it means training hard, with concentration. Is that accurate?
CV: [Softly] No. That's not it. There's much more. HIT also involves these things:
'A short workout time, no more than 45 minutes per session, with very little rest between sets. Workouts are hard and infrequent, with plenty of recuperation time.
'The very maximum output of individual energy, concentration and muscle power.
'Putting all the muscles through preexhaustion exercise, including both direct and indirect movement.
With these basic elements in place'and of course assuming a proper foundation of good eating habits and sufficient rest'you can compound the intenstity of the exercises and achieve gains that you could not possibly attain any other way.
Still, it's not all that simple. HIT is definitely not the average type of workout. There's no set routine for everyone, and you don't just jump right in full-bore. You have to gradually work up to your best weights and optimal intensity level. That can take up to two months. And then a lot of control is required. You push yourself just enough so you can finish the entire routine. It's not easy. When I first did HIT with Arthur, my pulse rate would zoom up to 180 beats per minute. You have to monitor your pulse rate.
As Arthur said, 'HIT is not easy, even though the training sessions are brief, indeed must be brief.' One thing that helps'actually, it's a requisite'is to psyche yourself up before you go into the gym: Sit down half an hour before training, really visualize what you're going to do, and create a thought pattern on how you should train intensely.
It's like working yourself into a near-hypnotic state; for instance, thinking about the worst experience you've had in your life'say, being about to fall off an 18-story building. You summon up those feelings to go with you into the gym; it's an andrenaline-rush type of thing.
RH: Can you suggest any HIT guidelines to help people keep on track?
CV: Yes, several.
'You have to give 100 percent. You have to have the drive, the concentrated mental state for training. You must have your goal that propels you.
'Always try to increase the weight or increase the reps every time you're in the gym. Usually the reps come first.
'Use proper form as you work the full range of motion and lower the weight slowly, emphasizing the negative portion of the exercise.
'Try to reach muscle failure with each set performed.
'Work only one major muscle group with a minor muscle group. Limit the number of sets.
'Use a proper sequence of direct and indirect movements in the pre-exhausting exercises. [See Casey's book for examples of this.]
'Keep your timing at a fast pace. In my workouts I always move fast enough that I don't have to worry about cardio.
'Keep accurate training records and Polaroids so that you have proof of your progress.
RH: Why did you stray from high intensity?
CV: Stray from it? I never have. I've always continued with it. 'Stray' is an odd word in this context, anyhow, with perhaps some negative connotations. I used HIT before I ever met Arthur, I used it consistently throughout the Colorado Experiment, and I still use it today. But not all the time'your body couldn't take it.
I switch to HIT once in a while to make gains and to stimulate my physique. It shocks the body into growing. You can make incredible gains if you have the genetics.
An important point here: If you think you can have a world-class physique with just 45-minute HIT sessions three times a week, you're mistaken. You can't do it on HIT and adrenaline.
To hone and shape your physique and get into muscle control takes time, persistence and patience. You can't build a championship physique by just getting in and out of the gym once in a while. That's not realistic.
But HIT is great for what it can do for you: shock your body into growing. To make gains, switch to HIT once in a while. Use it to try to improve. Editor's note: For more on Casey Viator and his training, get a copy of Casey Viator's Total Fitness. For a complete bodybuilding program based on the Colorado Experiment, see 10-Week Size Surge. Both books are available from Home Gym Warehouse, 1-800-447-0008, or visit www.home-gym.com. IM