Thursday, October 5, 2023

Popping Questions at John Davis - Joe Weider (1948)


Recently, while visiting New York, I had the pleasure and the privilege of meeting the famous John Davis, and while conversing with him I asked him if he would mind a sort of inquisitive examination, for there were so many items I wanted to know about this massive man, so I could relay them to readers of VIGOUR. John was most congenial and quickly responded, "Sure, go ahead, ask me all the questions you want." 

And so I did.

"First, Joh, how many championships did you win?" 

"I won one world's championship in 1938, Joe, and won five senior championships, and one junior National, also one Canadian and one Hawaiian, and I think --"

"Wait a minute," I interrupted, "That's a pile already. But tell me, were you always strong and healthy?" 

"Yes," Davis quickly replied. 

"Did you have any physical handicaps to overcome in becoming a champion?" 

Davis thought a second and then answered, "No, none at all."

"What started you in weight-lifting?" 

"Oh, just envying strong men. But Steve Wolsky really started me on the road." 

"What is your favorite lift, and why?" 

John gazed upwards for a second and said, "I really have no favorite lift, but work mostly on the Press because it builds power." 

What is the most exciting moment in your lifting career?" 

"When I missed my first Clean & Jerk at the 1938 World's Championships. I thought I was through. Boy, was I worried, for I was leading all the way through. I sure was glad to clean and jerk that 319 on the second attempt and finish off with 331 pounds." 

"What total is your ambition," I next enquired.

"My ambition is to total 1,100 in the three lifts."

"What exercises do you do mostly work on to get in shape for a contest?" 

"I do only the Olympic lifts and squats. One should work on the lifts if they want to increase the total."

It certainly was exciting to sit and ask a champion strong-man questions, so I kept on. "How long does a workout usually take you?" 

"Oh, about an hour and a half to two hours. I usually train five or six times a week."

"Do you do one exercise after another, or do you believe in pausing between each lift?" 

"I usually do 10 sets in series of 3 (reps) but always rest up for 5 minutes between each set."

Next I asked, "Roughly, what consists of a lifting workout?" 

"One week I press and squat. The next week snatch and squat, and then clean & jerk and squat." 

"How much weight do you use in warming up for each lift?" 

"280 in the press, 250 in the snatch, and 300 and over in the clean & jerk." he responded with a yawn.

"What was your toughest weightlifting contest?"

"The one with Steve Gob in the first invitational meet. He was leading me with 20 lbs in the press by mistake of loaders and was still leading with 5 lbs in the snatch and was the lighter man. He hurt his sternum and was thus taken out of the contest -- otherwise he would have won." 

"Do you ever measure your muscles?" 

"No, never measure my muscles. Once Weaver measured me at a beach, but I don't recall the measurements."

"Do you do body building as well as weight-lifting?" 

"If I have the time I usually do some of it, but mostly weight-lifting. Usually do body building between contests." 

I hesitated to ask too many questions, for I feared John Davis might become bored, but I decided to take advantage of this splendid opportunity, for it was a rare treat, so I continued: "Tell me, John, do you follow and special diet? Do you eat anything special before a contest?" 

John grinned and said, "No, never eat anything special. Just an ordinary simple meal of a wholesome diet. I never eat anything before a contest, but always enter the contest empty. The last time I eat is the noon-time meal before a contest." 

"But surely you get more sleep while preparing for a contest, don't you?"

"I always get about 10 hours sleep a day." 

"What, if you don't mind telling me, is your favorite hobby outside weight-lifting?"

"Music . . . and sports in general."

"What other feats can you do besides lifting? I am sure readers of VIGOUR would like to know?"

"I can chin the bar 6 times with one hand and 2 times with one finger while at a 200 lb bodyweight. Also, do hand-balancing and gymnastics." 

"Do you care for music more than books?" 

"Yes, I go in for music heavily, buy enjoy books on world affairs." 

"How long were you in the army?" 

"Three and a half years." 

"Did you train while overseas?"

"No, never had the facilities for training while overseas . . . just began training now."

I could have gone on and on, asking more and more questions, for every time John Davis opened his mouth words of interest came out. He certainly has a winning friendly disposition and I am sure all our readers will always wish him the best of everything wherever he goes.

Enjoy Your Lifting! 




  1. Does anyone think this interview actually took place?

    1. Hard to say about that for sure in this case. I was clutching my fists and wishing, real or not, that ole Joe would ask better questions. But it was a free for all back then, with fake interviews, articles and such here and there. Some decent info regardless . . . and I'll bet Joe and his staff writers had many an interview in dreams . . .

  2. Love me some john Davis. Brooks Kubik said that he did the bulk of his training in the basement of an old church. Any idea if this is true?

    1. There are others who state this and I believe it to be true. From here: "Although Davis was sponsored by the York Barbell Club, much of his training was done alone in the basement of a neighborhood church in New York City. He explained, 'There is no secret to training on the press, or any lift for that matter. It merely requires a little practice, a little imagination, and a good deal of sweat, with as heavy a weight as you can handle.'"


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