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Before Arnold Schwarzenegger There Was John Grimek

May 10, 2017 by  
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Written by Bodybuilding Historian Dennis B Weis, Edited by Chris Wilson

By no means is he a household name but let me give you some insight into the legacy of the late John Carroll Grimek.

Baseball has had its Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle, basketball it’s Michael Jordan and Lebron James and boxing its Mohammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard.

But if you had to choose the two most legendary men in the world of bodybuilding, who would you choose?

I’m not talking about just overall titles either. I’m talking about impact on the culture of the sport and how these men changed or transformed the sport just by their very presence. Without them, the sport would not be where it is today.

Arnold Schwarzenegger would of course be the overwhelming favorite for the world of bodybuilding but who comes in second place?

I can tell you it’s not Ronnie Coleman, Lee Haney, Dorian Yates or Jay Cutler. If you said Steve Reeves or Vince Gironda you’re getting much warmer.

In the muscle world, there has only been two of that colossal stature – Arnold Schwarzenegger from the mid ‘60s and beyond and – John Grimek (1910-1998) previous to that!

This New Jersey native was known as “The Monarch of Muscledom” and “The Glow.”

I’ve read old issues of Strength & Health and Muscular Development magazines articles by or about him and his Q & A columns which spanned decades. I also saw all of his old-school photos.

Back then I was a bit cynical about most of the bodybuilding champions and was sure the great JCG was over-rated. What a surprise he was to me when I finally met him! That first impression was so great that today I can recall each detail of his appearance, as if it were yesterday.

Unlike many bodybuilding champions, John’s tremendous physique looked much better in the flesh than in a photo. Judging only from photos, those who have never seen him, find flaws in his body – those who gazed on him in person found those same ‘flaws’ erased, as though by a magic brush.

My personal admiration for JCG was inspired by his versatility. His physique was one of the most impressive I’ve ever seen, but what he could DO with his body was just as amazing as its appearance. He could hold up his end in any form of lifting, at any time, though he never did practice to fine tune his lifting techniques.

In tests of power, moving a huge weight in a short movement, dead lifts, squats, supports in any position – all were easy for him. Bending iron, breaking chains, grip tests, rope climbing or wrist wrestling…. these were simple too. With unusual powers of endurance, he was also a fine hand-balancer and so flexible that he could do a contortion act.

Under the posing lights is where he dominated, he was supreme!

His on-stage achievements: Mr. America 1940-41, Mr. Universe 1948 and Mr. USA in1949. He also represented the United States in weightlifting in the 1936 Olympic games.

He was eventually inducted into the IFBB Hall of Fame in 1999.

An absolute master of muscle control and posing, his routines were flawless studies in muscular beauty, grace and rhythm. No wonder spectators were spellbound when he performed!

He was the ONLY undefeated bodybuilder in all of the iron game! Every contest he entered, he won.

It’s interesting to note that back stage at the 1948 Pro NABBA Mr. Universe (which he won of course by beating Steve Reeves) he was observed backstage casually doing barbell curls with a 190-pounds and in fairly good style! Truly a legend in his own time.

The late BOB HOFFMAN of York Barbell fame once summed up the magnitude of John C. Grimek, when he answered a question in the presence of my bodybuilding mentor Donne Hale.

A young bodybuilder had been training at Donne’s Sandy Surf hotel in Miami, Florida, where tales of JCG were regular conversation pieces in the gym (Donne had a gym on the roof top of the hotel). The young bodybuilder asked Hoffman, “Was John C. Grimek really as great as they say?” Bob Hoffman wasn’t often short of words but this time he paused a long moment, then very seriously, he said, “Son, let me put it this way, in YOUR lifetime, I’m sure you’ll never see another Grimek.” I agree. There is no doubt that the iron game was made richer by his existence.

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6 Week POWER Bench Press Program

By Chris Wilson, Head Strength Coach

I trained alone.

I had no training partners nearly all of my years in the gym aside from high school and college and most of the top lifters I talk to about my ‘sub-par’ bench press performance agrees that lifting solo is the one variable that held me back the most.

Listen, if you’re ‘mentally’ holding back because you don’t have a spotter, this may be your issue too. Gaining strength on the bench press is MUCH harder without the support of a good spotter whose responsibility it is to NOT let you get buried by the weight.

All in all, I never really fretted over my performance in the bench press. I worked with moderate loads for more reps (6-8) to avoid serious injury and frankly I was very happy with my physique and overall development.

Unless we are in the forest and a tree falls on us or we are doing some work under a car and the jack fails, most of our day to day situations require use of the thigh and the back strength most exclusively. Also, the rotator cuffs are compromised somewhat when doing the bench press which is why a ton of heavy benchers have awful shoulders years down the line.

Having said that, I am aware of the value that the bench plays in sports disciplines such as Powerlifting, Football and a few other select applications.

I should also mention that in the bodybuilding communities over in Europe the bench press isn’t as big of a deal as it is here in the U.S.A. I am only sharing these comments as my personal observations and not as an excuse to not perform better in the bench press.

In fact, I have searched out every imaginable bench press program in existence as a means to “up my bench” and of course The Critical Bench Program 2.0 is at the top of my list. But one of my favorites that is much simpler is the 6 Week Power Bench Program that a bodybuilder named John Robbins used to blast his bench-pressing strength and those of others into new growth.

The program involves a two-day, 3-sequence (A, B, C) training method. Here’s how.…

The intensity threshold of the Robbins 6 Week Power Bench Press Program requires only two workouts per week, usually on Mondays and Thursdays to avoid the overtraining syndrome.

The first training day consists of workout “A” in which your stress loads for your “barometer” one rep sets consists of working with 95% of your current maximum single effort (MSE).

Assuming that you are a natural non-anabolic steroid-free lifter who has a hypothetical 300-pound max bench press, your workout will appear as follows:

Workout A

135 (45%)/10 reps, 185 (62%)/5 reps, 225 (75%)/3 reps, 255 (85%)/2 reps, and 285 (95%)/4 non-consecutive single reps.

The second training day of week number one consists of workout “B” where you will use 85% of maximum (300 pounds) for three triple rep “barometer” strength building sets.

Workout B

135 (45%)/10 reps, 185 (62%)/5 reps, 225 (75%)/3 reps, and 255 (85%) for 3 sets of 3 reps.

Workout “C” is the third training sequence and requires you to use 75% of your critical threshold 300-pound maximum for two to three five-rep sets.

Workout C

135 (45%)/10 reps,185 (62%)/reps and 225 (75%) for 3 sets of 5 reps.

A brief overview of this program would show that on the first week you are doing workout A on Monday, workout B on Thursday, and workout C on Monday at the beginning of the second week.

Workout A is on Thursday and workout B on the following Monday of week number three and C on Thursday. Workout A begins on a Monday again in week number four, cycling through as explained above where you end with workout C on Friday of the sixth and final week of this program.

To maintain a systematic strength progression in this 3-program training approach, it is necessary that you strive to add five pounds over your previous training “barometer” one rep (workout A), or multiple rep strength building sets (workouts B and C) each and every workout if possible.

At the conclusion of the six week cycle you will accomplish approximately a 6-8% strength gain in the “barometer” sets of programs A, B, and C. From here you can test for a new maximum single effort (MSE) and after taking a one-week layoff of active rest, begin a new 6-week cycle.

Remember, a disadvantaged bench press is not an inherited trait. Consistent HARD WORK and a good spotter can overcome a poor bench press!

CLICK HERE for the 7 Fastest Ways to Increase Your Bench