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Arthur Jones: The Passing of a Giant

Arthur Jones was a man of extremes: charismatic, brash, brilliant, driven, relentless, bigoted— and above all fearless. I first met him in 1970 at the AAU Mr. America contest. Bill Pearl and I copromoted that event at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Culver City, California. Bill had known Arthur for many years. He chose the Mr. America contest to debut his first machines, known as “blue monsters,” and I had the good fortune to be there. They were the prototypes, with huge cams that showed up in ads and articles in Iron Man in the early ’70s.

Arthur wasn’t new to bodybuilding and strength training. He was a bodybuilder from the late ’40s forward and a member of the original Vic Tanny’s gym in Santa Monica. I later found out that the machines didn’t just appear but were the result of 20 years of development.

As I watched him bring the pullover machine into the foyer of the venue from the U-Haul trailer he’d used to bring the blue monsters from Florida to Culver City, I didn’t realize that I was watching history unfold. The history that Arthur created first with his Nautilus machines and training philosophy and later with his MedX machines has changed the world. The pullover torso machine was the center of Arthur’s quest for a solution to a problem. Anyone who ever sat on that machine and did the exercise correctly—the way Arthur prescribed—will never forget the feeling. Nothing at that time worked the lats as it did, and that was just the beginning.

Iron Man became the platform for getting Arthur’s ideas and machines before the public. At the time, Iron Man was the only open forum for information in our field. The other players in the industry were very much against Arthur’s ideas because they ran counter to their training systems and ideas. The machines didn’t fit what they sold, and Arthur wasn’t going to sell out to them. It was a classic case of the not-invented-here syndrome. They reacted with fear, derision and closed minds.

I avidly read about it all in Iron Man and experienced it through my relationships with Vince Gironda, Bill Pearl and Joe Gold. By the mid-’70s my own quests and the machines led me to lifelong friendships with Jim Manion and Roger Schwab. While I wasn’t a close friend of Arthur’s, the spin-off from his machines and a deep interest in everything about training expanded my personal sphere.

Over the years Iron Man has continued to pioneer new training and nutrition ideas in the same open-forum spirit that Peary and Mabel Rader pioneered and that launched Arthur Jones and Nautilus. What might that piece of history have been if the Raders had been like every other bodybuilding publisher of the day? IM

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