Monday, March 2, 2020

How Much Bulk? - John Grimek (1959)

                                                  Article Courtesy of Liam Tweed

Two photos of Maurice Jones, of Vancouver, British Columbia, circa 1937. During his wrestling career he bulked up more, becoming even more impressive at this heavier body weight. Maurice was of average height. 

The ponderous Paul Anderson may not have the physical symmetry that appeals to most people, but his strength was nonpareil. During his bulking up program he sacrificed symmetry for the fabulous strength he gained. Thus, the added bulk in his case was advantageous for what he wanted to achieve. This, however, is not always true in the majority who go all out on a bulking program. Paul Anderson was an exception.  

This photo of Doug Hepburn, the Canadian strongman, shows him before he bulked up to his present massive size. However, it still reveals a lot of body mass which, even at this stage, was impressive. During his bulking up period his strength continued to increase by leaps and bounds, but only because he employed numerous power building exercises to beget that unusual strength. 

The desire to gain a lot of body bulk is of the greatest concern to most bodybuilders, particularly the younger fellows. Almost without exception these youngsters, those in their teens, are obsessed with the notion that they must be monstrous in size to be physically impressive. This conclusion is foolish indeed. Nevertheless, I can sympathize with them as I recall my own objectives along this line at the time I first began training many years ago.  

At the beginning I too greatly admired bulk in strongmen as much as anyone, but with this exception - that such bulk had to add to the body's symmetry. In those days no man was ever too massive to suit my taste. Now, however, as I leaf through the old books and study the pictures of the men that I admired so much then, I am seized with laughter. How my ideals have changed since those early days! But then, don't we all see things a bit differently as we grow more matured? I'm inclined to think we do.

On the other hand, my observations tend to verify the fact that most younger bodybuilders are not impressed by physical symmetry unless it is combined with great body mass. Such youngsters strive only for bulk regardless of symmetry of the lack of it. And if by chance they happen to be of the type that gain weight easily, they are likely to go to extremes and make the sad mistake of bulking up too much and lose all body shape. This is not improbable as it seems as I am frequently consulted for ways that might help them to reclaim their lost symmetry and proportions. To illustrate this point more emphatically the following letter, which was received only recently, should prove my point. In fact, it prompted the theme for this article: 

"Like so many young and ambitious fellows who want to gain weight, I felt that I had to weight over 200 pounds to have an impressive physique. About five years ago I purchased a Big 12 Special from York and began serious training. At the time I weighed 139 pounds at the height of 5'11" and was, at the age of 19, a typical string bean. After two years of steady and systematic training I tipped the beam at 182 pounds and had what my friends call a 'very good build' for my height. I admit I was proud of my efforts, but deep within me I was still yearning for more massive development. 

"The following winter I redoubled my efforts and trained even harder, and because I had a good healthy appetite I continued to gain. Now only five years after starting my training I weight exactly 237 pounds of massive bulk. Secretly I was very proud of myself whenever people turned to take another look as I passed them by, which I figured were admiring glances. Therefore, you can well imagine my disappointment when a group of us were taking a shower after a workout recently and one of them remarked that he thought I was getting too fat! At first I thought he was joking, but when the other agreed with him, I was shocked. Me, fat? I thought to myself. Ugh! I never intended to become fat, just husky. 

That evening at home I gave myself the once over in the mirror. Somehow I wasn't pleased with my reflection. I didn't look anything like the impressive figure I imagined myself to be. I was git, no one could deny that, but outside of bigness, nothing. 

"I noticed my waistline more carefully. It wasn't as trim and muscular as before. it looked softer and weaker now. The extra weight that clung to the sides rolled around to the back, and this didn't help my appearance either. It lacked the ridges that I formerly had at a lighter bodyweight. Even my chest showed evidence of sagging from its own great mass. I suddenly realized I had overdone a good thing, but what to do about it was my prime concern. Next day I began a new training schedule based on some of the exercises and high repetitions you so strongly advocate. I also curbed my appetite and took more cares as to what I ate in an effort to 'muscularize' my body. But alas! though seven weeks have gone by since changing to this strict regime I still can't see any obvious changes in my appearance . . . and this is spite of losing 15 pounds! Please, sir, can you offer any other suggestions that will help me de-bulk some of this excess weight?"

Letters similar to this one turn up quite regularly, and almost always from those who wanted to become super-heavyweights. The majority are so anxious to put on weight that they lose all sense of proportion in their mad drive to gain, and then they come to realize this only when it is too late. The above letter should be something of a warning to those who feel they have to weigh over 200 pounds to have an impressive physique. The answer is, you don't! 

It's a fact that so many fellows who have very fine physiques while weighing 175 to 190 pounds begin to lose much of their symmetry when they gain more bodyweight than their framework can carry. Such individuals must suffer from some kind of weight gaining phobia which urges them on to acquire more body mass than eventually nets them a very unattractive body. On the other hand, if their goal is to acquire more body mass for some specific purpose they might justify this desire of gaining a lot of excessive bodyweight. But just to look huge so they can tell their friends they weigh over 200 pounds . . . that's very foolish indeed. Everyone to his own whims, however. 

The truth of the matter is that bodyweight should never be determined by how much the scale shows but rather how much bulk the skeletal structure can hold without losing any of the pleasing lines that give it shape. Anyone who has gained excessive bulk knows that changes in the appearance become evident, resulting in a more massive and sometimes a very awkward physique . . . and who wants that? Therefore, it might be wise for anyone who is considering adding more bulk to his frame to ask himself this simple question: Is it worth it? The answer is obvious. Although a few might agree that it is worth it, the majority I'm sure, especially the more mature fellows, will not. 

There have been, on the other hand (how many hands has this Grimek guy got!), quite a few who bulked up and used this added size to advantage. Paul Anderson, for example, acquired enormous body power through the accumulation of great bulk and became recognized as the strongest man in the world today. Doug Hepburn is another powerhouse who, by gaining a lot of bulk, obtained world wide recognition for his strength and, later, became world champion. Still another Canadian, though not as bulky as the two just mentioned, was Maurice Jones. He came into prominence over 20 years ago when he was first featured in this magazine. All of his poses showed remarkable mass and very trim joints that seemed only to accentuate his massive girths. This gave one the impression that his measurements were much larger than they actually were. His physique personified the unusual combination that everyone desires and admires. In most other cases excessive bulk adds nothing but size which often decreases physical ability and efficiency of the individual. This type of bulk should never be encouraged or attempted by anyone. 

Of the three men mentioned it can be stated that the bulk they acquired was used to advantage. But outside of these few, how many others fail to achieve anything but added size? There must be thousands. However, there are others who have considerable muscular bulk and have become stronger because of it, many of them using this bulk and power to advantage. But for the small percentage who have achieved their aim in this direction there are countless others who gained nothing by it except size. Therefore, it's up to you as an individual to decide whether to strive for body bulk or continue to retain your proportions with good symmetry.

In gaining weight one should always take his size and bony frame structure into account and never exceed the limitations governed by bone size . . . unless, and this is always debatable, it can be used to advantage as it was in the case of Anderson and Hepburn. Over-bulking will invariably ruin the lines of physical symmetry faster than any other training approach except the strict specialization to exaggerate the development of any single muscle or group. Moreover, the slight increase of strength which results from such bulk is hardly worth the loss of body symmetry. 

On the other hand (now he's just showing off all those hands of his), if strength is your objective the gaining of bulk alone is not the answer. Although a certain amount of bulk, in the right places, will improve leverage and make for greater strength, this holds true only when strength building movements are included to achieve this end. No doubt many of you know any number of men that have over-bulked themselves and are still not any stronger than they were before they got heavier. Reflect on this a moment and see if this isn't so.

Olympic champions like [Chuck] Vinci and [Ike] Berger are much stronger than many of the over-bulked bodybuilders who labor under the illusion that bulk is power. it is true, however, that added weight will help to increase power, but only when such weight is properly distributed and heavy training is done to encourage greater strength. Tommy Kono, for example, always lifts more as a light-heavyweight than he does as a middleweight. This is true in all cases except where such bulk is acquired through inactivity and a voracious appetite. This type of bulk is useless and represents "dead weight" around the body. 

However, I don't think that the bulking-up craze is as strong today as it was a few years ago, although as I mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are still quite a few, mostly younger fellows, who think that they have to be massive to be impressive. That's bunk.

Letters like the one used in this article are making their appearance on my desk more frequently now, proving that the desire to gain heavier body bulk is decreasing. Those who have added more bulk than their bony structure can hold are switching to more sensible training and eating and seeking trimmer and more symmetrical lines. The vast majority of bodybuilders have come to realize that this excessive bulk is not muscle by any means, is just so much fat - a word that makes even the most blase bodybuilder shudder. 

Whenever I am confronted with letters of this type I am tempted to express my views in the true sense of the word, but usually pass it off by offering some suggestions that will help their condition. I admit I sympathize with those who let their urge for getting bulkier run away with them, and are now faced with the task of "remodeling" their physiques. As most of us know, this is never an easy job. It demands many sacrifices. So avoid getting over-bulky and you won't have the problem of wanting to lose it. 

Those of you who contemplate the gaining of a lot of weight just so you can become "big men," take a moment now, and reflect on the eventual results.   

Do you think it will be worth your while? If you do, then by all means go ahead, especially if you have specific plans in mind. But just gaining a lot of weight so you can tell your friends that you weigh over 200 pounds . . . better see a psychiatrist instead. You might even confuse him! 

As a concluding remark let me suggest that you acquire only enough bulk on your framework to give yourself good muscular contour, pleasing lines and a symmetrical shape. You'll be admired for this type of physique more than if you try to acquire massive proportions when your bony structure is not suited for it. Leave that to the naturally big men, men whose bones are large and have corresponding height to match. Make muscularity and symmetry your goal . . . and then you won't ever be faced with the task of wanting to lose excessive weight as all over-bulky people do who eventually discover their plight. 

What will it be? 

Only you can answer that, so decide wisely.             

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