Thursday, September 17, 2009

Bill "Peanuts" West - Earle Liederman

Bill "Peanuts" West
by Earle Liederman (1961)

The story of Bill West, the California strongman, is a revelation of what a special diet combined with weightlifting can make out of a thin weakling. Bill weighed but 102 pounds when his hands first touched a barbell; and after a few years this bodyweight soared to 218 pounds due to progressive lifting and living chiefly on peanuts. But let me go back to the time he began.

When Bill was 15½ years old in 1952, he associated with Gene Wells, who lived near him in Pennsylvania. Wells, at the time, held the physique title of Mr. Pennsylvania. And Bill at the time had never heard of health foods, vitamins, proteins or rightful living. Neither had he ever given a thought to lifting a dumbell or any sort of weight. He was just a thin kid who looked at sports rather than being one of the players. It was Gene Wells who prompted Bill West to try some weight training and to build up his scrawny body, and so Gene got him started with very light bells. Bill gives Gene Wells much credit for his start in the iron game.

In July of 1952 they both became very interested in a copy of Strength & Health magazine and were fascinated by an article about "Muscle House by the Sea" at Santa Monica, California. Both of them immediately decided to get to the West Coast pronto! They did, and right to this Muscle House they went!

Now, this famous abode is owned and operated by a lovely lady. Fleurette Crettaz, who is also known around her loyal following as "Joy". This is undoubtedly due to her friendly and optimistic disposition, as she is ever striving to help everyone along healthful avenues and rightful ways of living. Her large house is always filled with musclemen and health enthusiasts and is strictly vegetarian. This lady looks after her flock of muscleboys just as though they were her own children. A great many of the past Mr. Americas and other prize winners have lived there, as have numerous noted lifters. Bill West and Gene Wells felt right at home when they first entered her door.

The nickname "Peanuts" was bestowed upon Bill because he was given a rigid diet at Muscle House of proteins, chiefly peanuts. He ate one pound of raw peanuts daily, also a half-cup of peanut butter each day as well as six spoonfuls of raw peanut oil every 24 hours. Of course, in addition to all this peanut intake he had numerous protein drinks and raw milk as well as many assorted fruit juices.

Within 60 days he leaped from that 102 lb. mark to 132 lbs. bodyweight. At the end of the first year he went to 155 and kept right on devouring the peanut variations. He had also settled deeply into weight training.

His experiences during the second year with weights and peanuts were a trifle discouraging to Bill as he only went to 165 lbs. Perhaps he had expected too much. But during his third year of training he increased to the 180 lb. mark through heavier lifting.

It was now 1955. He became interested in lifting event. In his initial local experience Bill took second place in the Muscle Beach lifting meet and third in the odd lift meet. He was a novice, yet he managed a 230 press, a 205 snatch and a 280 clean & jerk. In that same year he won an A.A.U. odd lift meet with a 330 bench press and a 420 squat. But he was far from satisfied, and aimed at higher goals and greater power.

At this point Bill went on a heavy squat and press program and chanced to meet Ike Berger, who advised him to increase his bodyweight to 198 lbs. He then trained with Berger and Dave Ashman, lifting heavier and heavier poundages as well as increasing his peanut-based diet intake. He could almost see himself enlarging weekly at this point. Bill's aim was to get heavier, so he went on a more severe lifting program, until one day when chancing to weight himself he was amazed to find the scales showing 218 pounds! It revealed the benefits derived from heavier training and greater food intake; but Bill was actually far too heavy. He recalled how Ike Berger suggested an increase to that 198 lb. mark, and now Bill was 20 lbs. over the mark! But he felt powerful. Nonetheless, he dedided to reduce.

His next step was to eliminate excessive peanut eating and milk drinking. By controlling his protein diet and eating less, he began to reduce. It wasn't long before he was down to that desired 198 lb. class, and he has stayed there ever since.

"Peanuts" has absolutely no desire to train for muscular effect. His entire interest lies with lifting exclusively, and he especially enjoys the odd lifts. He is now performing in training, and with reps - 435 lb. bench presses; 525 lb. squats; and 175 lb. strict barbell curls. He can easily power clean 305, push-jerk 330, and that's without training for these latter lifts. Bill also presses 145 lb. dumbells at an 85 degree angle, and does 3 sets of 10 reps in presses with 100 lb. bells; presses 242½ lbs. behind the neck, collar to collar grip. He has also done bench sqauts from a 19" high bench with 770 lbs.

He likes everyone and everyone likes Bill West. I have found Bill to be a swash-buckling openhearted fellow with one of the most electrified dispositions I have encountered in years. He seems a mass of energy. One grand thing in his favor is his honesty and truthfulness. He speaks with authority and relates facts, especially about his lifting poundages. Bill's sense of humor is immense. Once I chanced to catch him standing and talking in the midst of a group of seven or eight fellows. Bill was gesticulating and smiling as he talked, and all the other guys were continuously enjoying a prolonged spell of laughter. He's a quick thinker and a very rapid talker; and yet remains true to himself, and that's really saying something. One example of his appreciation for what others have done for him was expressed when he emphatically requested that I kindly give full credit to Gene Wells and Ike Berger for his earlier progress, and also to mention the healthful and helpful benefits he obtained while living at Muscle House be the Sea.

Bill is a hearty eater, yet lives on but two meals a day. He trains every day, with the alternate system, performing all upper body work one day and all leg work the next. He tells me that he takes about three hours for his upper body training and one-and-one-half for his leg work. Bill has eliminated all milk from his diet at present in order to hold down his weight at that 198 lb. mark, and he only drinks water during his training period, not otherwise.

He prefers home training and finds he can secure better concentration than he could by working out in a crowded gymnasium. Bill has his own training quarters in the garage in back of his home, where he and a couple of freinds have their enthusiastic power workouts.

His ambition at present is to make a 600 lb. squat and a 500 lb. bench press in strict style at his present bodyweight of 198 lbs. Will he do it? I'll wager he will! Bill has learned that if anyone wants strength he must use strength to get it. And I am sure you will be reading and hearing more about "Peanuts" each year as he progresses with his odd lifts and attains his goals.

Bill is a shining example of how a once weak and skinny youth can transform himself into a full-fledged heavyweight with a body packed full of power though heavy weight training and the right diet. However, that peanut diet adds food for thought also.

My own personal opinion regarding such a forced, extremely heavy protein diet is that it should be supervised by someone who thoroughly understand the complete functioning of the organic system, and then also outlined as adaptable to each particular individual. Otherwise a beginner might overstuff himself with far too much "oily" protein and possibly have an unfavorable reaction. And yet again, there always remains something in life to contradict logic. If Bill West's experiences with such a peanut diet combined with heavy lifting can produce a body packed with power and filled with energy, well then it is worth acquiring by such methods. All barbells and other weights have been tried and proven through the years, therefore few "new" suggestions are realized concerning their usage. I merely caution a beginner against to oily a diet for long periods of time unless given under expert supervision.

Anyway, this frank and open account of Bill "Peanuts" West has given me great pleasure to impart to you. But let me repeat and make this clear: everyone likes Bill West and Bill West likes everyone. Such a combination is bound to make this world a happier place for all.

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