How Bruce Randall Trained
Up and Down to a Mr. Universe Title
by Bruce Randall & Peary Rader (1957)
“Upon entering the United States Marine Corps I was determined to do something with my spare time so when I received my orders to report to the Norfolk Naval Base for duty after boot training I took along my shot. For several months I concentrated on putting the shot and then suddenly I made the great discovery! Just a short walk from the Marine Barracks was one of the finest weight training rooms in the Navy under the supervision of THE finest weightlifting coach in the Navy – Chief Petty Officer Walter Metzler.
“When I returned from Christmas leave on January 3, 1953, I weighed 203 pounds and wanted to weigh 225 in order to play football for the base team. Now I realized that if I were ever to weight 225 in time for spring training I would have to increase my intake of food somewhat. In order to increase my food intake, each time I sat down to a meal I would take an extra chop, glass of milk, slice of bread, etc. By doing this at every meal (and I made it a point never to miss a meal) my stomach seemed to stretch in order to accommodate the increase in food. Also my digestion, assimilation and other body functions stepped up to take care of the increase. Now, I do not necessarily recommend this method for those who wish to gain weight. I merely relate this to illustrate how I gained so rapidly.
“My training methods to be with consisted mainly of arm work. I had a fairly good start as is indicated from the measurements taken when I began training. This was due no doubt to the different types of physical work I had done in previous summers. I loved to chop wood and spent much time cutting and selling cord wood while I was in school. This in itself is, I believe, a wonderful exercise. Nevertheless I believe that while hard work never hurt anyone, there is no substitute for weight training when it comes to developing a fine body and great strength.
“I did 6 different types of exercises consisting of the following:
2 arm Military curl with barbell – 3x6-8, 110 lbs.
Concentration curl with dumbbell – 3x 6-5, 50 lbs.
Two arm French curl with barbell – 3x6-8, 70 lbs.
Bentover triceps extension with DB – 3x6-8, 35 lbs.
Curl on incline with DB – 3x6-8, 45 lbs.
(done with one arm hanging over a gymnastic horse)
“These weights above were my starting weights but these naturally increased with my training. The number of reps may be puzzling at first, but this is the way I would work out: I started with a weight I could handle for 3 sets of 6 reps and work to 3 sets of 8 reps. Then I would add 10 pounds and drop back down to 3 sets of 6. I used this system in almost all of my routines although the reps differed depending on the exercise.
“Surprisingly I found that in my case I could work on my arms almost every day and make gains. I assume that this is due to the natural recuperative powers of the arms. Because they are always in use they seem to be able to regain total strength with just one night’s rest and are ready for more the next day (I know men with fine arms who do not agree with this idea at all. Some of them claim that they have to give their arms a day’s rest between workouts. All I can say is that everyone is different and has to experiment to find which routine, number of reps, weight, frequency of workouts, etc. best suits his individual needs). Of course, in a large muscle group such as the back or legs I found that this is not true at all. They need longer periods of rest between workouts and hence cannot be worked successfully every day.
“With this routine I found that my weight had increased from 203 pounds to 225 in the space of six weeks and that my arms had increased an inch-and-a-half to 17 ¾”. Because of the fact that football practice was still several months in the offing I decided to try to go to 250 pounds and then drop back to 235 during Spring training.
“Following generally the same routine my weight soon exceeded the 250 pound goal and I found myself deeply engrossed in the sport. During this time I became acquainted with two of the finest men I have ever met. I believe that I was extremely fortunate to have been training in the Norfolk Naval Air Station weight room under the supervision of Chief Walter Metzler. His expert help and guidance were invaluable to me during my tour of duty in
“The other man who inspired me greatly was Steve Massios. Steve was a very fine man and his death was a shock that I, for one, still find hard to believe. Were he alive today he would be one of those rare individuals in the world of weights. A man who combines a great physique with world champion lifting ability.
“By the time spring football training began, I weighed 265 pounds and found myself vastly increased in strength. At this time Chief Metzler persuaded me to forget football and concentrate on weight training. This I decided to do and continued to use the principle of increasing my bodyweight in order to increase my strength. Let me say here and now that I do not believe that one can just get fat and become strong. Things such as what foods were used to gain the weight, routines used in training, living habits, etc. all have to be done properly in order to become stronger through increases in bodyweight. In other words, if one makes a corresponding increase in the weights used in training as he gains weight, the end result is increased strength. This, of course, is not the only way to get stronger. It just happens to be the method I employed. At this time I altered my routine and did the following exercises:
DB Bench Press – 3x5-8, 120 lbs.
Decline DB Bench Press – 3x5-8, 130 lbs.
Incline BB Presses – 3x5-8, 250 lbs.
Good Morning Exercise – 3x3-5, 295 lbs.
“These are beginning poundages which increased with practice and effort. I also did some optional exercises at the end of each routine which differed according to my whims at the time. Here again I worked until I could get the high amount of reps and then would add weight and reduce the reps to the lower amount again. I took plenty of rest between sets so as to be able to give the next one my all.
“Of course, during this time of bodyweight increase I had to increase my intake of food. I spent much of my own money on such items as milk, but seldom found myself without the necessary amount of vegetables, meats, etc. The Marine Corps feeds it personnel well indeed! Actually I used to astound the cooks and men when I sat down to eat. Breakfasts consisting of two quarts of milk, a loaf and a half of bread and 28 fried eggs were not uncommon. I ate four meals a day and never ate between meals unless it was milk. I usually ate breakfast at 6:30, lunch at 11:30, supper at 4:30 and a meal at 9:30 just before bed. Milk was taken in great quantities with an average of 8 to 10 quarts per day. An average of 12 to 18 eggs per day also comprised my diet. I once drank 19 quarts of milk in one day in addition to regular meals, and once had 171 eggs at breakfast during the course of a week. The boys used to keep score!
“I remember one incident that happened to me at lunch. I weighed about 330 at the time and came to lunch ready to eat like a horse. They were serving a favorite Chinese dish of mine, fried rice with pork. It happened that I was eating at the Navy mess hall at the time and so had a metal tray with five different compartments in it to eat from. Well, I filled the entire tray with rice and pork. The mound was so high that if another spoonful was added it would run over the side of the tray. Carefully balancing the tray so as not to drops a precious grain, I made my way back to a table amid incredulous stares from every sailor in the hall. Upon sitting down and tasting a few spoonfuls I found the rice to be slightly undercooked. The center of each grain was a little pasty and absorbed all the moisture in my mouth when I chewed. In order to solve this frustrating dilemma, I secured several quart bottles of water and proceeded to eat the rice with a swig of water every so often. Under this procedure I was able to finish the entire tray of fried rice and pork (I made it an absolute rule to finish everything I took. Wasting food is an unpardonable sin!). Upon getting up, I was, to put it mildly, sufficiently filled. When I arrived back at the Marine Barracks I found myself feeling rather strange sensations going on in the region of my stomach. I made a hasty retreat to my bed and lay upon my back for five hours taking short panting breaths because I found that deep breathing caused even more pressure on the stomach. Thereafter I made quite certain that the rice was well cooked before I loaded up the tray!
“I asked a friend when I began training to suggest an exercise that would help me to build great strength. His reply consisted of one word, “Squats.” I decided to try to do this exercise and took a bar off the racks and proceeded to go down with it. Unfortunately I found that when I tried to come up with it I could not. The bar weighed 190 lbs. and I weighed 203. My legs were so weak due to the fact that three years ago, prior to my weight training, I broke my leg in seven places, five in the ankle, one in the calf and one in the thigh. The doctor who set it was a bone specialist and claimed that it was the second worst break he had ever seen. Because of this I decided, somewhat foolishly, not to include squats in my routine.
“One day when I weighed about 245 I thought I’d try one with 300 pounds just to see if I could make it of not. I went down with the weight and had little difficulty coming back up with it. Several months later at a bodyweight of 280 I made a 405 lb. squat successfully. Every so often I would try a squat as my weight increased. In nine separate attempts I went from a failure with 190 lbs. at a bodyweight of 203 to a success with 603 lbs. at a bodyweight of 355.
“I did do one exercise during this time which may have had some influence on my squat. This was the good morning exercise. When I reached over 400 lbs. on this exercise I found that I could not do the exercise in the strict sense because I had to band at the knees in order to compensate for the weight at the back of the neck. I made 685 in this manner with my back parallel to the floor and once almost made 750 but was forced to dump it because of a shift in the weight.
“I continued my training routine through the summer and fall and trained an average of three to four days a week. In December of 1053, just 11 months after I began training, I entered my first meet, the Capital District, and was fortunate enough to win with a 300 press, 230 snatch, 315 clean & jerk and 845 total. I seldom worked on the Olympic lifts because I devoted all my time to other heavy movements.
“On January 1, 1954, one year after I started my training, my routine consisted of the following movements:
Incline Clean & Press – 3x3-5, 355 lbs.
Quarter Front Squat – 3x6-8, 1,010 lbs.
DB Bench Press – 3x3-5, 205 lbs.
DB Decline Press – 3x3-5, 195 lbs.
Good Morning – 3x3-5, 565 lbs.
“I found the ¼ Front Squats helped me push-press heavy weights and believe it to be a fine exercise. My training progressed until March 11, 1954, at which time I received my discharge from the Marine Corps.
“My arrival in
“I realize now that I was rather self-conscious and therefore felt ill at ease when I appeared at a meet. Perhaps that is the reason that I lifted better in a gym that I was accustomed to and where I knew everyone. In any event, my lifting was usually better in the gym than at a meet. These are some of the lifts I made at a bodyweight of about 380. None were done officially and I make no claims to anything.
Press – 365x2, a single with 375.
Squat – 680.
Good Morning – with legs bent, back parallel to floor, 685.
Deadlift – 730x2, 770x1.
Curl – 228.
DB Bench Press – 220’s x 2.
Bench Press – 3 second pause at chest, 482.
Decline Bench – 220’s x 1.
45 degree Incline Clean & Press – 380x3, 410x1.
¼ Front Squat – 1,320, stood supporting weight at chest
with well in excess of 2,100.
“I continued my training and went to a bodyweight of 410 lbs., but for man reasons I found it difficult to completely concentrate on my lifting.
“I am a firm believer in the power of the mind when it comes to lifting, or anything else for that matter. It is only with the constant urging of the mind upon the body to do more and more that one attains the pinnacle. As much as one uses his body in lifting, I believe that he uses his mind more. Strength, I believe, depends upon one’s mental attitude. How many times I’ve heard a man say, “I can’t lift this,” and consequently he can’t. Conversely, many men can lift a weight because they think they can. And they do! It all boils down to this – without the proper frame of mind nothing is possible and with the proper frame of mind nothing is impossible.
“The reasons for my decision to reduce are manifold and too complex to go into here. Suffice to say that I decided to look at life from the other side of the weight picture.
“I expressed my idea of weight reduction to many people and while the majority thought it a good idea, many (including an “authority” in the field of weights) did not believe it possible. This “authority,” after listening to my plan said, “Never.” I replied that as far as I was concerned there is no such word as never in a lifter’s vocabulary. I felt this way about the matter – take a sculptor about to create a statue. He takes a big, ungainly piece of rock and with hammer and chisel he chips away at it until the desired effect is created. Well, I was that big ungainly bulk of rock and the barbells and dumbbells were my hammer and chisel. I also had something on my side that the sculptor does not have – Diet. With this attitude I began my reduction of bodyweight. On August 2, 1955, I weighed 401 pounds in my tee-shirt, slacks and loafers.
“I felt that I would have to change my routines and diet radically if I were to make a successful reduction of bodyweight. After giving the problem some thought I decided to try to reverse everything I did in order to gain weight, just to see if that would be effective. Each time I sat down to eat I reduced the quantity of food slightly and cut down on such foods as bread, potatoes and other starchy and fatty foods. At the same time I made certain that I had a high intake of protein and plenty of green vegetables, fruits and generally a good, well-balanced diet. In my routines I reduced the amount of weight used and increased the number of sets and reps. Whereas formerly I had 3-5 reps for 3 sets, I now did 4-5 sets of 12-15 reps depending on the exercise. My routine consisted of more than 20 exercises and lasted 6 to 7 hours a day. Because of this demanding schedule I put all else aside and concentrated (believe me, it takes a lot of concentration) on rearranging my body.
“I would like to bring out something here that helped me immensely, and which I included in my daily workouts. It will, I believe, help those who wish to reduce. This exercise is running. I believe it to be very beneficial and it really works wonders in reducing the circumference of the ankles, calves, thighs, buttocks and hips. Of course I did not start running immediately. For a couple of weeks I went for walks, gradually increasing the distance and pace. After a month or so I began jogging and walking at alternate intervals and finally I found myself running 3-5 miles each day in conjunction with my training routines. I found that it did not adversely affect my workouts in the gym and in addition to the above mentioned benefits it increased my stamina and endurance greatly.
“A typical diet would consist of something like this:
Breakfast – 2 soft-boiled eggs, plain; pint of skim milk; glass of orange juice; apple.
Lunch – salad, dates, nuts.
Supper – round steak, two vegetables, quart of skim milk, gelatin.
“I use powdered milk and skim milk mixed together, thus increasing the protein content. I also took coffee at times finding it tended to curtail my appetite.
“My routine, although constantly changing, went something like this:
Situps, leg raises, hanging leg raises – 20-50 reps.
Squats without weight – sets of 20.
Leg curls and extensions – sets of 25.
Bench presses, flyes – sets of 15-20.
Chins, dips, curls, rows, upright rows – sets of 15-25.
Seated DB presses, incline presses – sets of 10-15.
More situps, leg raises and hanging leg raises – sets of 25-50.
Miscellaneous optional exercises at the end of each workout.
“I spent a good deal of time in the gym during this transformation and once trained 27 hours in two days, and 81 hours in one week. I took very few days off and once trained 27 consecutive days. This constant working has the desired effect of tearing down the superfluous tissue in the body.
“I remember my 1956 New Years resolution that in addition to my regular daily routines and running, which kept me really busy, I promised I would do 5.000 situps a day for the first 15 days of 1956. It was a grueling task but I finally accomplished the 75,000 situps and feel that they helped me greatly in reducing my waist some 33 inches, as well as giving me more faith in myself.
“I constantly put personal goals before myself and these goals acted as a stimulus of sorts. In other words, I would set a date, perhaps three weeks hence, when I would try to accomplish some change such as a loss of 12 pounds or a reduction around the chest or waist of several inches. This idea of using goals is something that I learned when I was gaining weight and strength. I would tell myself that at a certain date I would press or deadlift, etc., such a poundage. Thus I found myself constantly challenged and I love challenges!
“In any event, I found myself on the morning of March 20, 1956, tipping the scales at a bodyweight of 183 pounds, having made a reduction of 218 pounds in a period of 32 weeks. Some people thought that I made the reduction too rapidly but I can honestly say that I felt fine throughout the entire transition and suffered no pain of ill feeling whatsoever. I would like to point out here that I also felt very well at a bodyweight of 410 pounds except that I perspired profusely and found myself possessing a great deal of strength but rather short of endurance.
“In conclusion I would like to say that I have found these two rules enormously helpful in any undertaking I have attempted:
1. Ask and ye shall receive.
2. The Lord helps those who help themselves.
The following is a letter from Bruce’s trainer, Walter Metzler, now living in
I received your letter requesting photos of Bruce Randall over a week ago but have just now finished rummaging though things for these photos enclosed. Also have been trying to recall some of the things of interest in his training. I’ll just jot down things as they come to mind.
Bruce averaged about 2 hours training time and at first it was 5 to 6 days a week. After about two-thirds or three-fourths of a year training it became too rough and he made it every other day, sometimes with 2 days in a row.
He had an easy job of driving, so could conserve energy there and could get almost as much as he wanted to eat in the Marines, but he did buy some himself. His consumption of food was fabulous. One day he ate 28 eggs at one sitting. Of course he consumed a great quantity of milk and would drink it at times all through the day and evening. An ordinary cafeteria tray would be filled up and then piled up in a heap to overflowing He’d finish that and maybe get more. His assimilation of food was about as good as a person could hope for and very few people are blessed with this normal function of the body.
Rests between each exercise and each set of an exercise were long – 5 to 10 minutes. at first he did normal reps but during about the last 6 months reps hardly ever went over 5; mostly 3 reps with as heavy a poundage as he thought he could handle. Just as soon as he thought he could handle more weight he moved up, without a system of increases. During all his training it was practically all upper body work. He did do some deadlifting once in a while during the latter part but it wasn’t actually part of his training program. Also a deep knee bend once in a long time to break his own record. I think his first squat record was with 400. Remember the old saying of Mark Berry? “Increase the rib box and you’ll get big all over.” Well, that’s what Bruce did except that he only worked the upper body. Sort of like going into uncharted waters as he also did when he made his large reduction in weight.
One aspect of Bruce that you mustn’t overlook and that’s the mind, will power or whatever you want to term it. Singleness of mind and the will power to stick to something with the courage to go on in spite of what people might say is a great factor to success. Bruce is a very intelligent person and I was happy to work with him on his training program, and to know him.
In fact, my best friends have all been barbell men. They seem to be a breed apart. They have a brighter outlook on life, cleaner living, cleaner thinking, independent thinking.
Bruce made sure to get plenty of rest and sleep. He also had an even temperament and was good natured and modest about anything he accomplished. Your frame of mind also has a lot to do with your training even to a greater degree than your frame of mind while eating, because if you’re upset, angered or troubled while eating the food will be delayed in being digested, but if you are distracted while you’re working out you don’t put the required concentration into your lifts and the workout becomes almost a total loss.
I forgot to mention earlier that his gaining programs hardly ever consisted of more than 6 exercises.
This is about all the information I can think of. A lot of it is just general because Bruce never had any set system. He would change exercises, poundages, sets, reps and workout days whenever he felt it would benefit him.
Bruce is an exceptional man in a lot of ways and a lot of the things he did the ordinary man would never get away with.
Editor’s note – In reply to my question as to whether he ever planned to increase his bodyweight again, Bruce says, “I doubt that I will ever increase my size greatly again, but do not discount the possibility. Weighing that much alters one’s life completely. I find I have been living two lives, so to speak. Actually, I felt fine when weighing 400 pounds but found that I perspired freely and had a bit of trouble getting about the city. Of course I needed great amounts of sleep and food. My food bill (early ‘50s) was never under $80 per week and very often well over $100. I know that if I wanted to gain again I could weight 500 lbs. in 18 months time. Many people say that added weight is not necessary to become stronger. Perhaps they are right, but in my case it was necessary because I believed it was.