Originally Published in This issue (May 1964)
Article courtesy of Liam Tweed.
Best to you!
Here's an article that very few "Keys to Progress" readers more than likely bothered to read. It came out before his Keys to Progress series started in Strength & Health mag. I think it's important historically, both from a view of McCallum's earlier writing, and of course the idea of weights being used to heal and strengthen after catastrophic injury. Worth considering, next time you put hands on a bar. If you can pull your thoughts away for a minute from obsessing over how to lift or what to eat, it's worth remembering how good you really have it . . .
With the ponderous poundages being hoisted these days, with the fabulous physiques being developed, it's easy to overlook weight training's most productive role -- normalizing the body!
Some men start with all the natural advantages. Here is a man who started with nothing.
Randy Williamson never entered a muscle show and doesn't intend to; never won a lifting contest and probable never will; never ran a fast mile but would like to stroll a slow one.
Randy Williamson is a young man learning to walk again through the miracle of modern weight training.
Randy was born in London, Ontario, on November 21, 1939. When he was six years old, he and his parents moved to British Columbia. He attended school at Port Kells, playing the usual boyhood sports: football, softball, etc. Randy was never any Weismuller, but he always enjoyed swimming.
He was 14 when fate flattened him in an automobile accident. The car he was a passenger in plowed head-on into a three-ton flat-deck truck. Both vehicles were going 40 miles per hour. The car spread out; doors tore open. Randy's body shot sprawling across the road. The truck's rear duals crunched across his back, and the lights went out.
Randy stayed unconscious. He didn't feel the ambulance crew scraping him off the road; he didn't hear the siren scattering traffic as they raced back to town; he didn't see the struggle to save his life. He opened his eyes in the hospital one week later -- flat on his back.
He was totally paralyzed.
He remained in complete paralysis for three more days, then regained some feeling in his right arm. Surgery was performed. Bone taken from his hip was used to fuse his fractured back.
Three months later he moved his left arm.
Diagnosis: Spinal cord crushed and scraped between sixth and seventh cervical vertebrae. Except for his arms and shoulders, Randy was totally paralyzed.
Prognosis: Very poor. The prediction was that Randy would spend the rest of his life in bed.
He toughed out the next four months lashed to a Stryker frame on a Foster bed -- the first three months in constant traction with clamps inserted in each side of his skull.
When you are on the bottom, every direction is up. Randy wanted up. He crossed his fingers, closes his mind to the deadly monotony, and kept his hopes alive. His first step back was a mental one. Randy did not plan to spend the rest of his life in bed.
He was transferred from the Foster bed to a boarded bed, and watched his 15th birthday slide past.
Randy spent 12 more months inspecting the ceiling -- his condition complicated by the development of phlebitis. He rounded out that year with pressure bandages on his legs, a steady diet of sulfa drugs, and the first attempt made to send him home.
Randy was shifted to a sitting position, and promptly had a heart attack. The attack was a mild one; Randy recovered. For six more long, grueling, discouraging weeks he struggled to sit up. Each time he passed out.
Randy kept trying, and finally persistence paid off. He hauled himself to a sitting position, opened his eyes, gritted his teeth, and held consciousness. Step number two!
He was bundled home for one week, then spent the next 11 months in a rehabilitation center. He recovered some feeling in his legs, and strengthened enough to be discharged in a wheel chair -- bound with steel braces and the numbing verdict that he would never get up.
It had taken Randy one and one-half years to prove he could get out of bed. He set out to kick holes in the theory that he wouldn't get out of the wheel chair.
His father got him a set of crutches, and Randy labored with them for five years.
He never lost hope of improving his condition, but lacked the facilities or knowledge of how to go about it. Then a friend suggested he attempt weight resistance exercises.
Randy contacted me. We discussed his case. At my suggestion he consulted his doctor for a medical opinion. His doctor said go ahead, stating he didn't think exercise would help the legs much, but might improve his general condition.
Randy started workouts in July 1961 -- seven years and one month from the date of his accident.
His first workout was nothing to get excited about. He ground out a half dozen bench presses with 10 pounds, a few seated curls with empty dumbbell bars. His unbelievably weak condition put additional weight out of the question.
He continued bench pressing, curling, and added seated pulldowns behind the neck with an overhead pulley. He improved. Gradually he added more weight. He worked in fairly high repetitions -- 12 to 18 -- with emphasis on improving his circulation and well being.
Even this relatively small amount of exercise showed fast effect. Randy's circulation had been very bad. Both ankles were swollen to half again their original size. They returned to normal. Since his accident he had been unable to sleep without sleeping pills. He discontinued the pills and started snoring the night away.
We discussed diet; he agreed to several changes. We stressed good protein foods, with fresh fruits, vegetables, and milk. Randy gained weight. His thin body filled out. People commented on his changed physical appearance.
Randy's first leg exercise consisted of me moving his legs through motions of thigh curls and extensions while he attempted to feel the action. He hung on, concentrated, and slowly began to exert a little muscle. Gradually he did more; I did less. When he could do the exercise by himself, we start ed adding small weights to his feet, then iron boots. He finally worked up to 20 pounds additional weight, and called for squats.
Randy had made his third big step. He gave the wheel chair back, navigating solely on his crutches.
Randy's legs would hold him up fine now, but were nowhere near strong enough for squats. Back to overhead pulley . . .
A belt went around his chest; one end of the rope was tied to it. We loaded 140 pounds (20 pounds less than his bodyweight) on the other end, and he started squatting. As he got stronger we removed weight from the pulleys. Randy finally made 12 squats with 10 pounds counterbalance on the rope, five free squats with no weight, and we untied him.
He changed over to bench squats. His balance was still not so good, so we strapped the weights around his waist in order to leave his arms free.
For his lower back he uses stiff-legged dead lifts. His first dead lifts were done off knee high supports. As his back grew stronger we lowered the supports, and finally removed them altogether.
'Dead lift' is a depressing term. Randy refers to them as the stiff-legged 'watcha-macallums.'
When Randy first tried stiff-legged dead lifts he couldn't budge an empty bar. Now he uses 100 pounds for 15 repetitions, and is improving steadily.
He does calf raises in high reps -- up to 50. His ankles are still weak, but are growing stronger.
When Randy started working out, his bowel and bladder control were virtually nil. For a long time he wore a leg urinal. He no longer wears the urinal; and his control, bowel and bladder, is excellent.
He used to get spasms so bad it was impossible to pry his legs apart. Now he gets only a slight stiffness first thing in the morning.
He has gained from nearly 140 pounds to more than 190 with a tremendous change in appearance. At six feet tall he is noticeably husky, and does have some fat around his middle. He cannot do enough situps yet to work it off. Randy is not concerned with this fat; he refers to it as pliable muscle.
Randy now has a job. He is the secretary in the local fire warden's office. The firemen like him; he likes them. He enjoys earning his own living, and steps around the fire hall with constantly improving skill.
Randy recently made his biggest step of all. He married a charming and attractive girl he has known since his childhood.
Randy has shown rare courage and determination. His prospects were nil when he start ed and he knew it. Percentage-wise he has gained more than a Mr. America or a lifting champion. Any further improvement is money in the bank for him.
How far will he progress? Time will tell. He gets around well with two canes. We have every hope he will eventually discard those soon.
Enjoy Your Lifting!