Saturday, December 26, 2015

Training Wisdom of Clarence Ross (1966)

In 1945 bodybuilding was still in its infancy. The Mr. America title was but six years old, and had been won by such distinguished nonentities as Roland Essmaker, Frank Light and Jules Bacon. But, in Las Vegas, Nevada, events were taking place that would change the physique world forever.

Those events were the coming together of two Army physical fitness instructors, their mutual training interests decided to make up some equipment and train together as a lark, and enter the forthcoming Mr. America contest for experience.  Those two instructors were Clarence Ross and Leo Stern.

"Leo Stern" by David Gentle

The equipment they fashioned included the then-revolutionary incline bench, lat pulleys and various other advanced apparatus that was just being developed on the West Coast at the time. For several months they diligently worked away, then traveled down to Hollywood for the contest.

The results of course, are history.

1945 AAU Mr. America Results:

Clarence took the title, Most Muscular, Best Chest and Best Back, plus placing 2nd in the Best Legs subdivision. His win was the triggering of the modern era of training, the portent of things to come. With Clarence's winning in 1945, the next few years title winners reads like bodybuilding's hall of fame: 1946, Al Stephan; 1947, Steve Reeves; 1948, George Eiferman; 1949, Jack Delinger.


And all during this time of the development of the modern physique, Clarence retained his preeminence in the field. He next took the Professional Mr. America title, and followed this with a win in the first Mr. USA contest, defeating Reeves, Stephan, Page and Pedersen for the title.

Over the years since, Clarence has retained his top position, in 1955 taking his height class in the Mr. Universe contest and losing only by a whisker to Leo Robert. Ross, coming from sunny California, wasn't in a good position to cope with the then damp, rainy climate of England and immediately upon his arrival developed a serious attack of the flu before the show, losing over 10 lbs of muscle, and so was not at his best. In 1956 he reentered the Mr. USA contest "for kicks" and came a close second to Bill Pearl, and then retired from competition. Bill Pearl went on to develop into one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time. Also in the early 1950s Clarence took the Mr. North America title as well.

Clarence the Man

More important than his titles and trophies, Clarence the man, the respected leader of the bodybuilding community , the pioneer of new training innovations has meant more to the Weight Game than almost any other single bodybuilder. He has always been above reproach. A story told to us by Ed Jubinville illustrates this point perfectly:

It seems that Ed has always idolized Clarence as number one in bodybuilding, and so went out of his way to meet and spend some time with him whenever circumstances permitted. One day as they were finishing an impressive lunch in a leading West Coast restaurant, Clarence, then in this 30s, calmly took out a pack of cigarettes and asked Ed if he minded if he smoked.

Ed, taken aback a bit, said, "Clarence, I never knew you smoked."

"Yes," he replied, "I like a cigarette now and then, but I never smoke when I know there are young teenage fellows around . . . it would be bad for their growth potential and for bodybuilding's image."

A man that would put the image of bodybuilding above his own personal pleasures is rare indeed, and there are too few of them around. And, this is a perfect example of why Clarence Ross is the respected man he is. No better representative of bodybuilding could be found.

Clarence's Training Experiences

In addition to the universal respect accorded him, Clarence Ross was one of the true pioneers of weight training, one of the first to own 19-inch arms and a 50-inch chest, one of the first to show what really massive yet defined development could be obtained from weight training. In his training, Clarence had dome very definite preferences, and he was what might be termed a "pec pioneer."

Here's a good 1951 article on Ross's training history and evolution:

Clarence's Thoughts on Chest and Back

If any one part of the body arrest your attention more than another on Clarence Ross, it is his magnificent torso, his chest and back area. Here he had no equal in his prime, and here he pioneered such "innovations" as incline bench work, lat machine pulldowns, power rowing and variety pullover work. Here are some of his comments on training this area:

In rowing, use as much weight as possible. Don't be afraid to cheat so you can use more weight. Perform all your upper back exercises at one point in your program. It is best to practice several varieties for one month and then change to several others. For general gains . . . higher repetitions when seeking definition, lower repetitions when training for bulk. Lower reps, 6 or so, and higher sets, 5 or 6, build bulk fast.

Bentover rowing is best when the weight is actually bounced off the floor, and there is considerable extra body motion. This is best done pulling the weight to the chest. Done in this manner, the exercise gives the maximum in power and bulk.

The one arm rowing exercise is made more advanced if very heavy weights are used and the bell is bounced off the floor. As you reach the final stage of the movement, pull the shoulder up and away from the weight with a side motion of the body, and try to give an extra burst of power to raise the weight really high. This exercise will bring great power and muscular density.

In a power rowing exercise, the weight is loaded while raised on two boxes . . . it is then pulled up and bounced off the boxes each repetition. The short range action gives tremendous power and thickness to the lats.

At the time much of the above was written, in 1953, concepts such as cheating exercise motion, forced reps and any amount of sets over three, flushing and the like were quite revolutionary. Though today just about every bodybuilder uses most all of the above in his workouts, at the time Clarence was instrumental in popularizing them he was sometimes greeted with hoots of derision by the "old school." But, how could you argue with a body like Clarence's? What can you say about a back as wide, thick and powerful as his, or about those "table top" pecs?

Here are some of his favorite back exercises:
Lat Machine Pulldowns
Barbell Rowing
One-Arm Dumbbell Rowing
Good Morning Exercise

Clarence on Chest

The modern trend in bodybuilding is for bigger, more perfectly formed chests. Yet, in my opinion, many bodybuilders who are fully aware of this train their chest incorrectly, ending up with both a measurement size and a muscular appearance which is far from ideal.

The most common error is in thinking of the chest as being solely a muscular unit. Bodybuilders specialize in bench presses, dips and flyes, pumping up their pecs with set after set of these exercises. However, for maximum chest building there is another type of growth which must be considered - structural alteration.

By this I mean, if the proper exercises are performed it is possible for anyone to alter their rib cage to make it wider and deeper. It is here that most bodybuilders fail. In their eagerness to bulk up the pectorals and make them full and thick, they neglect rib box growth and hold back their chest development progress.

The effect to strive for is a full stretching of the rib box. Do not use weights that are too heavy when doing this, for if you do you will be more concerned with handling the weight than obtaining the stretching effect. Deep breathing is important here. Take full, deep breaths between each repetition of each exercise.

Here are Clarence's favorite chest exercises:
Bench Press
Power Bench Press off Boxes
Incline Dumbbell Press
Around the World Lying Laterals
Barbell Pullovers
Decline Flyes
Decline Pullovers

Some Arm Comments

How tall do you think Clarence Ross is? If you have never met him, invariably the answer will be, "Oh . . . six feet, maybe six foot two or so. He's very tall and impressive."

Do you think so too? Then you're wrong. Clarence Ross is 5'8-9" tall! But, because of his exceptional development and his inherent bone structure, he seems much taller in photos. The big reason you might think this is because of his very long arms and legs. Take a look at his arms. The forearms are long and tapering, the arm is large in size but not chunky, on the contrary, the elbow gap is relatively large and this makes his arm seem even longer.

Because of this extra-long bone length Clarence needed sensationally large arm girths to offset his bone structure. On a shorter arm an 18 or 19 inch girth looks power packed and enormous; on Clarence it looks merely symmetrical and adequate for his structure. Only close up do you realize its immense it actually is. For this reason Clarence really had to work hard on his arms, and here are some of his interesting comments on arm training:

So you want to know the how and why of building championship arms? The answer is triceps. TRICEPS! Those who have them are champions. Those who don't, never make the grade.

The triceps is the potentially larger arm muscle . . . it is capable of being developed to the size of 15 to 20% bigger than the biceps. When fully developed, the triceps are larger than the biceps. This means that if we are to develop them properly, it can only be done by giving them more exercise than the biceps.

The recent advances in muscular arm size have been in part sparked by such training practices as super-sets, peak contraction, cheating routines and flushing, along with other methods that force maximum power and size into every bodypart.

Clarence's arm favorites:

Biceps -
Barbell Curls
Cheat Curls
Incline Curls, seated, alternate
Preacher Bench Curls
End-of-Bench Curls
Concentration Curls

Lat Machine Pressdown
Triceps Extensions, dumbbell
Lying Barbell Extensions
Lying Power Extensions

Clarence Ross on Deltoids

Clarence feels that deltoid work is fully as important as back and chest for torso impressiveness. His deltoid routines are always long and varied, but his comments of deltoid training are right to the point:

The bodybuilder owes it to himself to whip his shoulders into the absolute peak of size and powerful appearance. No other part of the body offers such opportunities for strength recognition. The stamp of every athlete, every man of exceptional power and unlimited endurance is a mighty, broad pair of shoulders.

Clarence's favorites for deltoids:
Barbell Press
Dumbbell Press 
Behind Neck Press
Lateral Raise
Rear Lateral

Leg Comments

As with his arm development, the long lengths of his leg bones made massive development of the thigh and calf a must, with an eye to symmetry as well. Clarence as usual equated strength and power with increased thigh size:

There are many ways to increase power. However, the one I prefer best, and the one that fits most readily in my regular training is the Squat.

For Clarence this was a perfect outlook, for his heavy power training in the squat and his other power leg movements - leg presses, front squats and the like - gave him perfect development for his long structure. Instead of having a chunky thigh, heavily muscled about the knee, which would call attention to their length and dis-proportion, the power squats thickened and developed the thigh at the top especially, with a a graceful taper to the knee. For his structure this was perfect development.

In the calf department, a slightly different strategy was called for:

Calves have always been my major physical problem. Like most bodybuilders, in the early days of my training I performed one or two calf exercises, pumping up my calves completely. My calves responded very slowly, in fact the tape registered only minor increases.

This of course was most discouraging and I subconsciously began to avoid calf training. I arrived at the conclusion that whatever I did for them was a waste of time. Therefore, out of habit more than anything else, I continued to perform a few calf exercises, not expecting much, if anything, from my efforts. Years after the rest of my physique had gained me some fame, I was ashamed of my calves and their weak, thin appearance. But, did I give my all to my calf training as I did with the rest of my body? The answer was NO!

So I revised my program. I started to include more sets, a larger variety of exercises and worked up to a more concentrated training drive. I worked my calves three times daily, each training session until they were stiff and sore. And I began to get results. Gains were not amazing, it took weeks and weeks to gain 1/4 of an inch. But gains did come and the quarter inches added up to inches over time, until today. My 17.75 inch calves are about as big as I want them to be to balance the rest of my physique.

Clarence's favorite leg exercises:

Thighs -
Full Squat
Half Squat
Front Squat
Leg Press
Leg Curl

Calves -
Calf Raise
Donkey Calf Raise
Toe Raise on Leg Press
Seated Calf Raise


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