There was one fellow in our neighborhood who made people gasp as he walked the streets. He was known as the biggest, strongest man in a neighborhood where being big and strong was a definite positive. Steve Juda had first found the barbell while in high school. In 1960, it was safe to say that he was one of the very few in the area who lifted weights on a regular basis. He wasn't athletically active in school, but was a good student.
The books and and weights took up his time and upon graduation, he left for the University of Buffalo, hauling his very muscular 175-lb physique with him.
"I might drop down to 165. Everyone thinks I have too much muscle." Being one of the few weight-trained fellows in the neighborhood . . .
. . . Steve had the respect and admiration of many as he was terribly strong for a teenager his size, he was going to college, and he was well liked. No one heard from him or saw him around Christmas time. Imagine my shock when I was walking down the street in May and saw what had to be the largest man I could ever remember seeing.
"Steve?" I asked incredulously. "It can't be." If we fast-forwarded to 1993, I would have said, "No Way," to which he would have replied, "Way, dude." Way, indeed. At 5'8", Steve rolled with muscle, about 265 lbs of it! "Holy moley, man, what happened?"
Simple put, Steve got hooked on being powerful. Always considered to be a strong guy, instead of cutting down, he found some like-minded training partners (lunatics, some might say) at Buffalo and began to gain weight. "I always did squats, but I really started to crank up the reps and got into drinking lots of milk." If that sounds like a familiar recipe for success, it should.
"It was really pretty simple, at least in theory. I trained three times a week and did all the 'big' exercises." These big movements included barbell squats, deadlifts, rows, presses, and bench presses. While a few ancillary things would occasionally be done, Steve and his crew pounded away on the basics.
They also did a lot of other things. As a very successful businessman today, I'm sure the memories are painful, but Steve has never been like everyone else. A friend of my cousin dated him a number of years ago and said, "You know this guy. He's a lot of fun and really nice, but what's the deal?" The deal was his apartment. Not a house, an apartment. No furniture, but benches in the living room, squat racks in the bedroom, a cable/pulley setup in the kitchen. Weights everywhere. He loved to train and due to his work, often had to train at odd hours, making a home gym the only reasonable alternative. The man walked what he talked when it was time to make sacrifices and not give up his training.
At Buffalo, he and his friends licked their way across a six-lane highway in order to win a bet. They won the annual pizza-eating contest, primarily because Steve and his partner split up the duties in the belief that a definite demarcation would allow for greater consumption: One chewed while the other swallowed!
At 5'8", Steve carried his weight well and athletically. His arms were huge - the proverbial hanging hams. His thighs were huge and in thinking about it, he was huge in the traps, back, butt, and all of his other major structures.
"There's a really easy way to look at this. If you had a routine where you just did squats, bench pressing, deadlifts, and curls, you'd pretty much cover everything. You can add stuff but I don't know you'd have to, especially if you substituted a barbell or dumbbell press for the bench some days, and maybe rows for the deadlift."
This was the basis of Steve's philosophy in the mid-sixties. I can remember being invited to dinner at his house, seeing "IronMan" for the first time - Norb Schemansky was on the cover . . .
. . . and watching Steve devour what I thought should have fed six people. "Strawberries for dessert!" said a delighted Steve. I didn't realize that having company (one of the few times I qualified as company anywhere) meant soaking the strawberries in heavy cream and then having them placed on a cake. Boy, was I at the right place!
"You've got to eat. Not a lot of junk, but you see how I ate tonight? That's what you've got to do when you're training hard to get really big and really strong. To get REALLY big and REALLY strong required a bit more than just training.
Steve also had one of the best cars around. His black 1954 Corvette wasn't what one would call finished, especially with the 1959 Caddy taillights shooting off the back, but seeing the original Incredible Hulk buzzing around in a car that seemed tiny in his presence was an inspiring sight and remains an inspiring memory.
In 1966, Steve gave a program to my training partner Jack Lawrence and me, with the expectation that we would "either be killed or grow." It was extremely demanding, but it was a program that I went back to a number of times when I needed to maximally stimulate my body. The heavy singles work demands that the trainee get plenty of food, rest and recovery time. We put a sign up in our garage gym, "Gain a Pound a Day, The Steve Juda Way."
Two times per week, this is how we did it:
Bench Press: 6-3-3-three singles-3-3
DB Incline Press (30 degree): 3x6
Barbell Row - 3x6
Standing DB Press: 3x6
Barbell Curl: 3x6
Rest Five Minutes, then -
Barbell Squat: 6-3-3-three singles-3-3.
On those movements where we did three sets of six reps, the first set was a lighter warmup set with the final two sets being the hard, intense "work sets."
With the bench press, deadlift, and squat, weight was added to each set as the reps dropped. For the final two sets of triples, we would drop weight from the top single or double and try to use the same weight for both final triples if possible.
We would spend the five minute rest between the completed part of the program for psyching up for an all-out onslaught on the squats.
It was while doing this specific routine that I had my famous "Garage Door" incident, talked about for years by the neighbors. We had the old York squat stands. In retrospect, they were flimsy and the weight saddle was very narrow (They look even more unstable and flimsy than this when extended to squat stand height) -
After finishing my top set of squats (I can't today recall the weight but it was a lot), I walked back into the racks, looked to my left to place the bar back in the saddle, and said to Jack, "In?", to which he replied, "You're in." Of course, I wasn't in, and I walked out from under the bar as the right side of the barbell headed for the floor. The crash was thundering as all of the plates slid off and hit the concrete garage floor, as we never used collars. Before the end of the bar hit the floor, the loaded left side did what the laws of physics demand, and the bar plunged off to the left. Again, plate by plate the floor was bombarded by the 75- and 100-lb York plates . . .
The bar, now free of its burden, literally sailed through the air and went right through the wooden garage door, leaving a splintered mess in its wake.
We were stunned. The noise in those few seconds had been deafening and now, the silence was overwhelming. Or it was until my Father came running down to the garage. Somewhere between his day job and night job, he had been eating dinner. Fork in hand, napkin stuck in his shirt collar, he looked around, surveyed the situation, and calmly turned to us . . .
"You assholes get this weight shit out of the garage by tomorrow or I'll break it up with my sledge hammer" was the command as he turned to finish his dinner. Needless to say, I eventually talked my way back into the garage, and of course did all of my training there or in the loft over my Father's welding shop.
Steve Juda's experience made me believe that at 5'5-3/4", I could do more than have a nebulous goal of "gettin' bigger." It was at that point that I envisioned myself at 220 lbs and began working towards it.
Note: This except from Milo magazine, Volume One, Number One, is the first in a series of Leistner articles featured. For more, MUCH MORE, look here:
Enjoy Your Lifting!