Iron History

Even though our training has evolved since the memorable days of the 1950s and ’60s, it’s still great fun to look back at the formative years of our iron history. Here’s a set of links to our iron history collection, ranging from free articles and downloads, book excerpts, lectures with transcripts, books and videos.

Dr. John Ziegler, Isometrics and The Isotron (PDF)
Let’s start with a new PDF of three articles by Jan Dellinger, Bill March and Bill St. John, writing about a medical doctor named John Ziegler who practiced during the York Barbell heyday. [DOWNLOAD]

Golden Impressions (article by Dick Tyler)

It all began so quietly. The men started to assemble in the cool of the evening. The sun set over the horizon of the Pacific and the soft blue of the evening was beginning to accept the blackness of night. An ocean breeze drifted across the sands of the beach and wound through the crooked little streets of the city. The lights in the homes and apartments flicked on as the windows of the hippies’ pads glowed with crazy hues of blue or red bulbs and the sounds of hard rock music fought those of Lawrence Welk.

It was night in the city of Venice. Still they came. First there was Zane. He quietly nodded to Zabo, who was sitting behind the desk, and went upstairs to the dressing room. Soon Franco and the current Mr. Belgium, Serge Jacobs, arrived.

Draper was next, followed by Eddie Giuliani and Mike Katz. After a few minutes, Don Peters came in and within seconds, Arnold arrived.

Gold’s Gym was now busting with championship lumps. Already at work was Ken Waller, who is one of the most massive bodybuilders of all time. The cannon was loaded and was ready to explode. [KEEP READING]

Golden Impressions

The Dungeon, 1963 (article by Dave Draper)

I have collected, over the years, an impressive file of tough workouts to review. You see, in nearly sixty years I’ve rarely missed one, and not one was easy. Training all out with meticulous form and mild sound effects always defined my style.

My most vivid tough workouts are set against the backdrop of the Muscle Beach Gym in the early 1960s. This famous, beloved relic, once located on the unspoiled shores of Santa Monica, was relocated by the encouragement of the city council to the underground basement of a collapsing retirement hotel four blocks inland.

A very long, steep and unsure staircase took me to a cavernous hole in the ground with crumbling plaster walls and a ceiling that bulged and leaked diluted beer from the old-timer’s tavern above. Puddles of the stuff added charm to the dim atmosphere, where three strategically placed forty-watt light bulbs gave art deco shadows to the rusting barbells, dumbbells and splintery handcrafted two by four benches and sagging milk crates.

You have no idea how proud I am to have this theater and the real-life plays that unfolded day after day as part of my experience. It’s pure gold.

The magic didn’t come from the pharmacist; it came from the soul, the era, the history in the making, the presence of uncompromised originality yet to be imitated.  [KEEP READING]

Dave Draper: The Dungeon, 1963

The 1965 Mr. America (article by Dick Tyler)

For over a year Weider had been extolling the wonders of a young bodybuilder named Dave Draper. He was a big kid with big muscles and had just won the Mr. New Jersey title. The problem was he was just that, a kid with big muscles. All the photos we had of his training gave the perception of a muscular Pillsbury Doughboy. There was only a small amount of muscular separation and little, if any, definition. To make things even more difficult, he had no tan. He made a white sheet look grey.

This is who Joe sent to California. One of my jobs at the time was to chronicle the bodybuilding scene in Southern California. It was virtually dumped on me to build up this Blond Bomber to hero status as part of this job.

Dave turned out to be a nice guy and easy to talk with. Unfortunately, he never wanted to talk about himself. Since my job was to write about and build up the image of the Bomber, I was in trouble as I was able to learn little about his training, and worse, just what on earth he looked like.

He always wore a baggy shirt with the sleeves turned to just above the wrists. From that I was at least sure he had the most muscular wrists I’d ever seen. He trained at the then-Muscle Beach Gym, known to everyone as the Dungeon, always away from others, at times when few others were there…and always in heavy sweats. In other words, he was the best-known unknown in bodybuilding and wasn’t about to be any help in changing that image.  [KEEP READING]

West Coast Bodybuilding Scene: Afterword

Musclebuilding is as Old as The Hills (article by Dave Draper)

Musclebuilding is as old as the hills. When man first realized women were attracted to a slick, muscular body and discovered that rocks, prey, mischievous cave dwellers and monsters were lifted more easily with a mighty back and strong arms, he put his genius to work, and thus his body, to improve his sinewy assets. The Dinosaur Championships held in 10,000 BC surely crowned the original Mr. World when records were established in rock snatches and boulder clean-and-jerks.

The movement had begun and the next thing you know John Grimek is Mr. America and Steve Reeves is making Hercules films. This muscle stuff is becoming popular; there’s a subculture budding in the grungy YMCAs and garages across the states—it’s spreading to the sunny beaches of California and before long it will be mainstream.

And so the stage is set for the West Coast bodybuilding scene, that time in the history of weightlifting when bodybuilding neared critical mass, swirled in its growing energy and attracted its grand external source of power: the spectators. It was the Golden Era of Bodybuilding—new, young, alive, untainted, unworn, unexploited… and adored. Those spectators became fans.  [KEEP READING]

Musclebuilding is as Old as the Hills

Footsteps of Our History: Leroy Colbert, RIP (article by Dave Draper)

My early treks to Weider Barbell Company to buy weights took two buses and a six-block hike from my Secaucus home to Joe Weider’s Union City office and warehouse. The journey in the late ’50s from Secaucus to Union City required buses, a couple of 30-minute waits at lonely bus stops and a half-mile walk.

A small entry room at the front of the 3,000-square-foot brick edifice offered a set of upholstered chairs and a curious buzzer beside a sliding opaque window.

I hesitantly engaged the buzzer, heard its ring in the not-too-distant ‘back room,’ and in a few minutes Leroy Colbert appeared, arms and all. I thought I’d faint from amazement. Leroy’s massive upper body stretched his extra large shirt to the point where the seams were splitting…and his incredible arms! They were over 20 inches cold, with biceps like grapefruits and triceps like giant horseshoes. For arms like those, I thought, I’d train night and day forever.  [KEEP READING]

Footsteps of Our History: Leroy Colbert, RIP

The Training Methodologies of the 1960s, an audio lecture and transcript from Dr. Ken Leistner ($4.95)

The history of the iron — how it was learned and where it gained momentum — is something Dr. Ken Leistner knows from the heart. He lived it, and tells it well in this memories lecture in which he recalls the East Coast bodybuilding and weightlifting scene of the late ’60s. Anyone who enjoys hearing stories of the old-timers will get a kick out of Dr. Ken’s recollections.

“One of the nice things about the lifting community in the late 50s, and into the late 60s, was people who trained were more than willing to provide information to whoever asked. The proviso, of course, was you had to figure out who had the information, where they were located and then get yourself to their locations where you would observe. Then, when they were done training, you could ask permission to speak, and ask your questions.” ~Dr. Ken  [LEARN MORE]

Dr. Ken Leistner Training Methodologies of the 1960s

Lessons of the Old-Time Strongmen, a video by the Iron Tamer David Whitley ($15.00-$29.95)

Very few people understand the work of the old-time strongmen, and fewer yet can accomplish any of their feats. Dave Whitley is one such person, and in this live workshop video, he’ll show you how some of the strength feats are done.  [LEARN MORE]

Dave Whitley, Lessons of The Old-Time Strongmen Video

Indian Clubs History, an audio lecture with Powerpoint PDF from Brett Jones ($3.95)

In this talk, Brett Jones outlines the history of physical culture, with a focus on the use of Indian clubs.  [LEARN MORE]

Indian Clubs History, Brett Jones

West Coast Bodybuilding Scene, book by Dick Tyler ($7.99 or $19.95)

A trip through the most unforgettable years of bodybuilding as a handful of restless musclemen catapulted the sport of muscle and might across the globe. Called the Golden Era of bodybuilding, you’ll see Bill Pearl as he hands off to Larry Scott, the rise of Dave Draper, Sergio Oliva, with Don Howorth and Frank Zane in the background and Arnold Schwarzenegger and Franco Columbu emerging in the foreground. Dick Tyler writes of the Muscle Beach gossip, Arnold’s bodybuilding history, Vince Gironda’s gym and many more feature columns from the late ’60s and early ’70s.  [LEARN MORE]

West Coast Bodybuilding Scene, Dick Tyler book

Ric Drasin, the Equalizer, audio lecture and transcript ($3.95)

Not many people can claim the variety of careers that Ric Drasin can: pro wrestler, bodybuilder, artist… now wrestling coach and video producer. In this lecture, Ric tells us how this history developed from his early years in the 1960s as he made his way to the famous bodybuilding scenes of Santa Monica, Venice and Muscle Beach. If you haven’t already subscribed to Ric’s YouTube channel, that’s where you want to go next.  [LEARN MORE]

Ric Drasin Wrestler, The Equalizer

Bill Pearl and Dave Draper Live Question and Answer Video ($10.00)

75 minutes of bodybuilders Bill Pearl and Dave Draper answering a broad range of questions from IronOnline Bash attendees, and a dozen minutes with Ed Corney as he joins in the conversation for the fun of it. Three cameras captured this one-time event for the history books — this is a by Bill Pearl and Dave Draper video you’ll watch again and again.  [LEARN MORE]

Bodybuilders Bill Pearl & Dave Draper Questions and Answers Video

Iron Memories, an audio lecture and transcript from Dick Tyler (in two parts, Part One $6.95 & Part Two $5.95)

Dick Tyler lived the iron history many love to read about, and in this recording, part one of two, he tells of his experiences of Muscle Beach in the ’40s and ’50s and the early bodybuilding shows of the ’60s. We hear his memories of the old-time strongmen, the arrival of Arnold to California, Jack LaLanne’s gym challenges and much more.   [LEARN MORE]

Iron Memories Part One with Dick Tyler

Dick Tyler Iron Memories, Part Two

York Barbell Equipment History, 1932-1953, an audio lecture with transcript and images ($3.95)

This lecture covers the development of York Barbell exercise equipment from the beginning days of simple barbells made in the York Oil Burner shop, to the complete line of exercise tools that evolved over the next 30 years. In this commentary, Mike shared his depth of knowledge and passion to those of us who came later.   [LEARN MORE]

York Barbell Equipment History – Mike Bondurant