Sunday, November 5, 2017

Bob Gajda and His Sequence System of Training - Norman Zale (1965)

Bob Gajda, Mr. USA, and His Amazing 
Sequence System of Training 
by Norman Zale (1965)


Bob Gajda, (pronounced Guide-ah) is probably the most unorthodox advanced bodybuilder in the United States today. Unorthodox because he refuses to follow the crowd and jump onto every "new exercise system" bandwagon that most of the boys follow; but he has developed a "new" old concept in training, one that has worked wonders for him.

How else can we explain his rapid rise from a "nobody" in the 1964 Mr. America contest to second place in both the Mr. America and Most Muscular Man events at the 1965 show in Los Angeles.

At 25 years of age, Bob has won every major physique title in the Chicago and Central AAU area. But let's not get ahead of our story; as all fairy tales have a beginning, so must this one.

Like so many others, Bob started with weights in order to gain weight so that he could play on his high school football team. He gained rapidly, played quarterback for two years and was elected co-captain of the Gordon Tech High School team. He also earned letters in basketball and baseball. Participating in school sports every day after school and lifting weights three evenings per week only primed his appetite for additional activity, so he joined a judo class. Upon graduation from high school Bob enlisted in the Air Force, continued his weight training whenever possible and devoted himself to judo. He earned coveted black and soon found himself assigned as a combat judo instructor in America's first line of defense, the Strategic Air Command.

Immediately after discharge Bob entered George Williams College and soon afterwards got married. He received his degree in June, just before the 1965 Mr. America contest, and is now doing post graduate work with an eye toward earning a Masters degree. All through college, through marriage, through the birth of his beautiful daughter last year, and while working 30 to 40 hours per week while attending college, Bob has continued with his regular workouts. It has been during this rigid schedule that Bob won numerous physique contests. It might be well to add that previous to the 1964 Mr. America contest Bob had never placed lower than third in any of the numerous contests, physique or lifting, that he has entered.

If we had more devoted weight trainers like Bob Gajda we would have many more trainees working out in pleasant surroundings rather than the dungeon-like quarters that seem to satisfy most lifters and bodybuilders. Just before graduation from college, Bob got a job as Club Director of the Duncan YMCA in Chicago. He organizes, directs and supervises clubs, dances, splash parties, mixers, etc., for the YMCA. Many years ago the YMCA as the focal point of weightlifting in the Chicago area but during the past 10 to 15 years this interest died completely.

Needing a place to train, Bob decided to do something about this sorry state of affairs. Using his own money, Bob began fixing up the old weight-lifting room, constructing benches pulleys, racks; painting, sweeping the floor, inventing all types of ingenious pieces of equipment out of scrap lumber, water pipe, and wire. He even outdoes Vince Gironda with some of his unusual muscle making machines.

This was just the beginning; the Director of Physical Education immediately saw a return of interest in weightlifting and bodybuilding and told Bob that he would do everything possible to help Bob in his efforts. That was all he had to say. Bob took off like a sky rocket. Since the room assigned to the weight trainees is rather small, Bob made many suggestions for using every inch of unused space; most of these suggestions were accepted by the Director.

Walk into the gymnasium and you are due for a surprise; a power rack, squat racks, benches, chinning bar, leg curling machine - all share space with boxing, wrestling, judo, and gymnastic equipment. Go upstairs on the track and you will see and isometric rack and six abdominal boards hugging the formerly unused corners. The most amazing thing about all of this equipment is that, except for a few pieces, they were all designed and constructed by Bob Gajda. Let this illustration serve as an inspiration to all of those who are dissatisfied with their training facilities - here is shown what one individual with determination, drive, and willingness to work can accomplish.

Last week when I went to the gym to interview Bob for this article he immediately grabbed me by the hand, literally tearing off my arm, and lead me to a corner asking, "How do you like this new pulley arrangement for doing arm work?" Before I could answer he had be draped over a bench with a pulley handle in my hands. "Do a few sets of curls and tell me how you like it," he says. As soon as I finished, he showed off a hack squat machine and special bench for doing triceps curls which he was working on. "Come around in a few days," he said, "they they'll be finished and you can try them to." At about this time Bob started doing some iron boot exercises but didn't seem too happy with them because he wasn't getting the "right feel in his thighs." Jokingly I said, "We could always figure out a different way of working your legs." "How?" Bob asked. "Let's try and work it out," I replied. Bob took out a pencil and paper and began drawing lines and circles. Within five minutes we had diagrammed a new piece of apparatus for doing iron boot exercises that Bob expects to start building next week! This is enthusiasm and ingenuity, the priceless ingredients without which no perfect body was ever developed.


Bob is a very strong advocate of protein supplements. He trained at Irvin Johnson's gym when Johnson was located in Chicago and it was here that he became initiated into the "protein club" as he says and gives credit for much of his diet knowledge to Mr. Johnson.   

A typical daily menu follows this pattern:

Breakfast: 3-4 eggs prepared in almost any way, or some cottage cheese, fresh fruit, and a pint of fruit juice with protein powder mixed in. At the gym between exercises he will drink anywhere from 4 to 8 glasses of this same juice/protein powder drink. At work he gobbles liver-egg-milk-protein tablets every hour. He usually takes 100-300 of these daily when in heavy training but kicked this number up to 500 per dy previous to the Mr. America contest.

His other two supplements include a liquid amino acid which he uses 2-3 times per day and hydrochloric acid tablets which he takes for digestion after each feeding. His late supper meal (he usually works until 10 o'clock most nights) usually consists of broiled meat, fresh vegetables and fruit. As you will notice, this diet contains no devitalized white flour or sugar products. Bob has a very profound knowledge of diet and very often experiments with various supplements, like most men experiment with exercises, attempting to determine the proper dosage and frequency necessary for maximum results.

"Bob Gajda must be a millionaire," I can hear you saying, "to be able to afford all of those supplements." It's not as expensive as you might think - 15 or 20 gym members pool their money and order direct from the manufacturer at the jobber's price, which is considerably below retail. It's not at all uncommon for the fellows that work out at the gym with Bob to order 100,000 protein tablets and 20 cases of protein powder.


Just as indispensable as a good set of weights is a good training partner, and Bob is fortunate in having two of them. These are Sergio Oliva, former Cuban 198-lb. lifting champion and Most Muscular Man winner at the 1965 Mr. America contest, and Steve Kotis, Most Muscular winner at the 1963 and 1964 Teen Age Mr. America contests.

When Oliva came to Chicago two years ago he made such a great impression on Bob that he began to weightlift competitively and says that any success he may realize in weightlifting must be due in part to the help he has received from Oliva. Their training together has been reciprocally rewarding as Oliva has gained much bodybuilding knowledge from Bob and has also prospered.

Training for both weightlifting and bodybuilding appeals to many men, including Bob. He trains for and competes in weightlifting from September through February or March and bodybuilds the remainder of the year. He admits that bodybuilding gains come quite easy for him if he works out hard . . . this is not a contradiction, it merely indicates that easy training shows no results but that when he works out hard and heavy he gains. His progress in lifting has not been as rapid as he expected so he is going to put more effort into it - more weight, more sets, more exercises.


Clean and Jerk
High Pulls
Run Track 1/2 to 1 mile
Bodybuilding Exercises (none specific)


Bench Press
Incline Press
Various Exercises on the Power Rack (none specific)
Run Track 1/2 to 1 mile
Bodybuilding Exercises (none specific)


Works for a total on the three Olympic lifts.
All exercises are done from 5 to 10 sets of 1 to 5 repetitions on this day.

At 5'9" and 180 pounds, Bob's best official lifts made at the 1965 Jr. Nationals are 255, 235, 295 for a total of 785. His best unofficial lifts, made in training, are 265, 240, 305, for an 810 total.

As out interview continued I wondered what Bob had done for those magnificent calves. As if clairvoyant, Bob spoke, "In 1964 when I heard that the Mr. America contest was going to be held here in Chicago I decided to enter, and since this was to be my first national contest I wanted to make a good showing." He took a drink of his juice/protein mix and continued, "I have always felt that the two focal points of the male physique, when viewed from either the front or the rear are the deltoids and the calves. My deltoids were fair but my calves were under par so I decided to really work them hard." And so he did, with outstanding results.

When training for the 1964 Mr. America contest he was doing at least 30 sets of calf exercises, six days per week during his regular training. He also walked on his toes all day, did sets of one leg rise on toes between classes at school, stretched his heels downward whenever he climbed stairs, did isometric calf raises, ran on his toes at the end of each workout, and the results he received in two months were just short of miraculous - he gained more than two inches on his calves and they went up to 18 inches. For the 1965 Mr. America contest Bob continued to train his calves hard, doing 40 sets of calf raises during each workout, but he has given up working his calves outside of the gym and he now feels he has exhausted the possibility of making further gains through the methods he used in 1964.

For the Mr. America contest Bob worked out in the morning and early afternoon before reporting to his job at 3:00 p.m. These marathon sessions lasted from three to four hours without stopping except to change the weights or to grab another bar. This was only possible because of the unique way in which Bob trains, using the peripheral heart action (or modified circuit) system which will be described later in this article.

The training routine that was followed immediately before the 1965 Mr. America contest follows, but since Bob likes variety, he changes exercises from day to day and it is impossible to list the exact exercises he did from workout to workout, so this is about as specific, in a general way, as we can get. Exercise is something that Bob does with relish rather than as a chore and because it is a form of recreation to him his workouts were often spontaneous and many have deviated greatly from this lifting.

Monday/Wednesday/Friday (Upper Body Emphasis)

Sequence 1:
1) Wide Chins Behind Neck
2) Barbell Rise on Toes, Toes In
3) Leg Extension
4) Leg Curl
5) Leg Raise on Abdominal Board
6) Press Behind Neck.

Sequence 2:
1) Wide Front Chin
2) Bench Press
3) Stiff Legged Deadlift
4) Upright Rowing
5) Knee Raise, Sitting or Hanging From Bar
6) One Leg Rise on Toes, Toes In.

Sequence 3:
1) Good Morning
2) Krusher Grip for Pectorals
3) Seated Rise on Toes, Toes In
4) Delt Raises, All Three -
Lateral Raise Seated, Bent Forward to Side, Bent Forward to Rear
5) Rowing
6) Pulldown

Sequence 4:
1) Flat Flye
2) Triceps Pressdown
3) Barbell Preacher Curl
4) Leg Press Calf Raise, Toes In
5) One Arm Triceps Exntension
6) Pulley Curl on Peak Bench.

Other Exercises:
1) Run Track, bounding on toes 1/2 to 1 mile
2) Isometric Exercises (none specific).

Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday (Lower Body Emphasis)

Sequence 1:
1) Squat
2) Barbell Rise on Toes, Toes Out.

Sequence 2:
1) Leg Curl
2) Pull to Neck, Expander Cable
3) Good Morning
4) Pull to Chest, Expander
5) Front Squat
6) Seated Rise on Toes, Toes Out.

Sequence 3:
1) Unlocked Hack Squat
2) Front Chest Pull, Expander
3) Roman Chair Squat
4) Lateral Raise, Expander
5) One Leg Rise on Toes, Toes Out
6) Triceps Extension, Expander.

Other Exercises:

1) Run Track, bounding on toes, 1/2 to 1 mile
2) Isometric Exercises (none specific).

All exercises are done 10 sets of 10 repetitions (10x10) except the following:
Squat, 10 x 5 reps
Front Squat, 10 x 5 reps
Roman Chair Squat, 10 x 20 reps
One Leg Rise on Toes, 20 x 20 reps
Other Calf Exercises, 10 x 20 reps
Leg Raises and Knee Raises, 10 x 40-50 reps.

Just looking at a list of exercises this immense is enough to floor any experienced bodybuilder but when we consider that all of these, except the above noted exceptions, were done in high sets (10) we are struck with amazement. How was it possible for one man to do so much work in the 3-4 hours he was allotted daily for training, even working some body pars every day and still continue to make gains?

At George Williams College is a very famous and very educated physiologist, Dr. Arthur Steinhaus, a man who never says anything unless it means something. Bob was fortunate in having Dr. Steinhaus as a teacher and during many discussions with him and after much reading about the human body he determined to use what he calls the peripheral heart action theory in his training. It has been compared with the old circuit training idea but so as not to confuse the two methods and for further clarification Bob has dubbed his training the Sequence System for obvious reasons - go back and look at his workout if the name is not clear to you.

How does this Sequence System work? Note that the exercises listed are broken up into groups or sequences, usually six exercises to a sequence, but the number of exercises in each sequence is inconsequential; Bob merely uses six because it is most convenient for him. Four, five, or seven exercises are just as good as long as two exercises that work the same muscle are not used in succession. In his training Bob performed one warmup set of each exercise in the sequence without stopping any longer than was necessary to move to the next exercise. Additional weight is added to the bar for each additional set, when called for, so that about the third set Bob was using his maximum weight for desired repetitions in each exercise. He keeps rotating from one exercise to the next until all of the exercises in one sequence have been performed for 10 sets, and then he pauses for a short break in order to organize his exercising equipment for the next sequence.

Note the wide variety of equipment used in each sequence; this saves time that would normally be used in changing weight if only one or two pieces of equipment are used, The break at the end of the sequence also indicates time for liquid refreshment - fruit, juice-protein drink, of course.

No Pump

"Holy Cow!" we might say, "this is contrary to everything we have ever learned about weight training. How the heck do you expect to get a good pump working like that?"

"There, my friend," says Bob. "You have hit the crux of my workout. I don't work for extreme congestion (pump) but try to avoid it and still work the muscles hard. This pump we like to feel in our pecs, or lats, or arms, is what causes one to feel pooped out at the end of a long, hard training session. The retention of blood in a muscle, as a result of concentrated exercise causes a back flow in the blood circulation, thus resulting in toxins, such as lactic acid and urea being retained, which in turn hinders rapid recovery from bodypart to bodypart in each sequence."

I was beginning to see the light.

"After all," he said, "there really is no advantage, except psychological, in keeping the muscles pumped up. The muscles grow when we are resting, not working them, and the maximum pump theory is nothing more than that . . . a theory. Have ever seen those pump-up boys diminish in size if they stop exercising for a few weeks? I feel that this system works best for me," Bob continued, "and I realize that most bodybuilders will not accept it even in principle, but when working out with weights each person must experiment until he finds what is best for his individual body."

And so ended our interview.

Notes of Interest

Wide grip chins behind the neck, and front chins, are Bob's favorite exercises and he has attached kettlebell handles to his chinning bar so he can get an even wider grip without his hands slipping on the bar.

Watching Bob train it was apparent that he did every exercise just a little bit different in order to "get the right feel of the exercise." Little things like a twist of the wrist, pulling back the shoulders, raising the weight either a bit forward or backward, holding the bar momentarily at the sticking point; these points are obvious to those who watch him go through his workout.

Bob has found his thighs the most difficult part of his body to develop and at one time spent six months specializing on them.

Present ambition is to win the Mr. America contest and Senior National Weightlifting Championship.

He may give powerlifting some serious thought this coming year.

The overall size, shape and definition of Bob Gajda are outstanding. He has the most unusual pectoral and deltoid definition anyone could possibly hope to see, with strands and striations which appear to be hewn from stone. Coupled with naturally broad shoulders, Bob exercises amazing control over his latissimus and scapulae, which when viewed from the back make him look even wider. The Gajda calves are a sight unto themselves, large, full and shapely, almost like someone had inserted two melon halves under the skin of each leg.

He expects to eventually bring his bodyweight up from its present 185 to 200 pounds, but doesn't care what his measurements are at this bodyweight as long as he can keep his definition and proportions.

Doing so many sets of each exercise and jumping around as he does one wonders if a mathematical genius is required to keep track of what set of each exercise is being performed. Unfortunately neither Bob nor his training partners are mathematicians, so they have devised a simple but effective method of counting sets. I consists of a screen which covers every window in the gym, and a small piece of wood. After each sequence set is performed the wooden sliver is moved to he next mesh opening in the screen. The fifth and tenth openings are marked for convenience. Simple but effective.

Daily weight training is a type of activity that Bob Gajda finds a needed tonic to his body and spirit. He delights in the comradeship of his companions in this iron game hobby and spurs them on with encouragement and gusto. Yes, Bob Gajda is a very exceptional person in many ways.

Bob doesn't give much consideration to measurements, but we were able to obtain the following, all taken strictly cold:

Chest: 48-1/2
Waist: 29
Arm: 17-7/8
Thigh: 25-1/2
Calf: 18-1/8
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 190

Following are some exercise poundages he uses:

Squat: 375x5
Bench: 340x5
Press Behind Neck: 180x10
Hack Squat: 175x10
Preacher Bench Curl: 115x10
Standing and Lying Laterals: 40x10
Bentover Laterals: 80x20

None of these measurements or poundages are exaggerated as is so often the case when bodybuilders are given write-ups. This is how one of the best built men in America shapes up is a real credit to the bodybuilding and weightlifting field and we wish him the very best of luck. He is a man full of enthusiasm for his work in helping others, a work to which he is dedicated.  


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