Q: I enjoy reading your columns and I know you’ve been in the iron game for a long time. I’m just curious: Exactly when did you start bodybuilding, and who were your favorite bodybuilders as you were coming up in the sport? Who are your favorites now?
A: While I had a barbell and some dumbbells at home, starting at about age 10, and I enjoyed lifting off and on, I consider that I got my start in bodybuilding when I had my first coaching job and I joined Texas Bodybuilding Gym in Stafford in September 1982. After I’d put in about four months of serious, consistent hardcore training there, my friend Charles Nichols started bugging me about entering the NPC Texas Timberland Classic. He persisted until I agreed.
I competed in my first contest in Nacogdoches, Texas, on May 14, 1983. Charles placed second, and I took third in the novice lightweight class. I’ve been hooked ever since!
I don’t actually remember my first glimpses of bodybuilders, but it’s likely that it started with the ads in the backs of comic books—you know, where the skinny guy gets sand kicked in his face. I was a skinny little kid, and I sent off for information on the muscle-building courses. My dad wouldn’t let me spend money on the courses, but that initial inquiry must have landed me on a mailing list. I started receiving brochures for other bodybuilding courses and saw photos of guys like Dave Draper, Larry Scott and Robby Robinson.
I poured over the photos in the brochures, studying every muscular detail and thinking how incredible it must have felt to walk around with that much muscle. Occasionally, one of the network sports shows would show a few minutes of a bodybuilding competition, and every time I saw one, I was mesmerized!
Even so, outside of the knowledge that they got that way by lifting weights, I knew absolutely nothing about bodybuilding until my college buddy, Frank DeAmaral, gave me the book Arnold: The Education of a Bodybuilder for Christmas one year. Arnold immediately became my bodybuilding hero.
At that point, though, I was a track athlete. I loved the bodybuilding look, but it wasn’t something that I would actually pursue until about four years later; nevertheless, the seed was planted.
Once I joined Texas Bodybuilding Gym, the bug bit me. I got on a serious bodybuilding routine, and I read every bodybuilding book and magazine that I could get my hands on. I was hell bent on achieving that look.
As I became familiar with the sport, I gravitated toward the physiques that I felt were within my genetic potential to reach. While Arnold was (and still is) the king of bodybuilding in my mind, guys like Frank Zane and Lee Labrada became my idols, as they had bodies that I could aspire to emulate. Not only were their physiques intricately chiseled and massive, but they also looked athletic and attainable. The other thing that drew me to Zane and Labrada was that they were both masters of posing. In a game where size generally rules, they literally posed themselves into appearing larger than life. Their bodies were absolute works of art, and their posing routines were poetry in motion!
For anyone who is relatively new to the bodybuilding world, I would implore you to look for some of their posing routines on YouTube. Those guys were masterful, and you don’t often see posing routines like theirs anymore.
I studied every photo and every article I could find on Frank and Lee. I had the good fortune of getting to see Lee compete at the very first show I ever attended, and I got to see Frank Zane guest-pose in Galveston the following year. Seeing those guys live onstage etched the vision of my own goal clearly in my mind.
Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the bodybuilder who had the greatest effect on the way I’ve tried to conduct myself when it comes to interacting with fans. That would be Lee Haney. Lee was the guest poser at the 1984 Gold’s Classic in Austin. He gave a seminar at the gym the following day. After he finished the seminar, he was selling and autographing photos. As I stood in line to purchase a photo, I was talking with one of my friends and not really paying attention to what Haney was doing. When it was my turn, though, he autographed the photo, stood up, shook my hand, looked me in the eye and thanked me for attending! And the great thing was that I could tell he was genuinely thankful that I was there—and I was nobody.
As I stood back and watched him thank every person who came up, I thought, “If I ever get to be a bodybuilding star, that’s how I want to treat people!” Over the decades I’ve gotten to speak with Haney at several events, and he’s always the same true gentleman—definitely a man to emulate.
Who are my favorites now? I don’t remember the last time I was asked that question—I had to spend some time thinking about it. Of the current IFBB pro bodybuilders I like Dennis Wolf’s physique. I attended the Mr. Olympia in 2007, and after seeing the guys in person, I would have picked Dennis as the winner (but I’m not a pro judge). I like his combination of size, symmetry and muscular detail.
On the other hand, there are several men who are not IFBB pros that I really admire in the industry—Joe Klemczewski, Layne Norton and our own Steve Holman. Steve probably thinks I’m just kissing ass, but I’ve known him for 30 years, and I promise you that he looks better now than he did in his mid-20s. And the great thing is that his training advice is both innovative and sensible.
Joe and Layne are both drug-free pro bodybuilders whom I’ve known for 15-plus years. They not only are outstanding natural bodybuilders but also have Ph.D.s in exercise science and nutrition (by berry). Anytime I have a question about nutrition, I ask one or both of them.
Joe and Layne practice what they preach. They are both great coaches who can back up their training and nutrition programs with real science. The other thing that I really like about them is that their bodybuilding advice is both effective and healthful!
Again, thanks for reading IRON MAN.
Train hard and eat clean!
Editor’s Note: See Dave Goodin’s blog at www.IronManMagazine.com. Click on Blogs in the top menu bar. Check out his new Web site at Shredderbuilt.com. To contact Dave directly, send e-mail to [email protected] IM