The Old School Patron Saints of Iron: Part 2

Compared to the lengths and extremes of men of yesteryear, modern man under-trains, under-eats, and under-rests.

man working out

What follows is a fictionalized “docu-drama,” a mostly fact, partly fiction recollection of a day in the life of two immortal iron athletes: Reg Park and Marvin Eder. The rationale behind this is to show readers how results and tangible gains in muscle and strength were leveraged in a time before workout apps and powdered supplements.

Editor’s note: This is a continuation from the Old School Patron Saints of Iron: Part 1.”

A Meal for Iron Titans

It was a one-block walk from the seaside gym to a famous diner that served terrific food 24 hours a day, seven days a week. A favored hangout for hardcore gym rats, this place was known for plain American food, deliciously prepared, served in heaping portions. Reg and Marvin walked on the quiet boardwalk in the hot sunshine; both men were in good spirits. They joked about how “insane” and “productive” the training session had been. They were both a little woozy and suffering from a mild form of shock. It was a crystal clear day and already in the 80s. They entered the small diner and grabbed a booth.

After the meal, both men looked in danger of falling asleep in the booth.

The two pumped-up giants sank into the cool green naugahyde booths. They placed their food order with the grey-haired waitress. Two giant glasses of whole milk arrived at the table and each man gulped it down, moaning in ecstasy. This was the start of a glutton-fest: they would flood their starved and beaten bodies with calories, lots and lots of delicious calories.

All food in the mid-fifties was local and organic. The quality of their food was better than ours. This was prior to the supermarket revolution that began in the 1960s. Here, oceanside USA, protein of all type was abundant, varied and cheap. Marvin would switch his proteins between beef, pork, fish, shellfish, and lamb. In that ancient age of nutritional innocence and ignorance, Marvin still got it about 85% right by today’s standards. He went strictly by instinct and was guided by results; he effortlessly maintained a sub-10% body fat percentile, due to his insane work ethic and his blast-furnace-like metabolism.

Without a massive intake of calories, no drug-free body would be able to stand up to the repeated and intense pounding these men routinely subjected themselves to. That day at their post-workout lunch, Marvin started off with two garden salads. He then ate a meatloaf dinner, which included a 2-inch thick slab of meatloaf slathered in gravy and a heap of superb mashed potatoes. The gravy was so delicious Reg kept “sampling” Marvin’s gravy, to the “little man’s” feigned annoyance. Marvin also had a side order of green beans with bacon. Marvin then ordered and ate a half a roast chicken. The diner’s rotisserie-slow roasted chicken was crispy-skinned and moist, and he was addicted to it. Two pieces of homemade pie came for desert, blueberry and apple, servied with vanilla ice cream.

Meanwhile Reg had asked about the lunch special, veal cutlets. He wanted to know, how many cutlets came with a dinner? Three large veal cutlets per order; each dredged in flour, deep-fried, covered with melted fontina cheese then covered in marinara sauce – plus a side of spaghetti noodles and garlic bread.

“Excellent,” Reg responded. “I shall have four of your delicious veal cutlet lunch specials!”

Reg loved the way the diner prepared the cutlets: tender, pink, local-raised milk-fed veal, soaked in buttermilk. They had to bring his food out in shifts; there was only so much table space in front of him. Reg always astounded Marvin with his voraciousness appetite; Reg ate like a man liberated from a concentration camp and taken straightaway to a Vegas mega-buffet. That day, he went ape-shit crazy. He ate twelve cheese-and-sauce covered cutlets, three bowls of spaghetti noodles and damned near an entire loaf of garlic bread. Then he downed four scoops of ice cream for desert.

Marvin stared at Reg and shook his head. Reg looked fifteen pounds heavier than before lunch. The whole process took nearly two hours. Finally satiated, each man was visibly fading from the effects of the training and the food. The sum total of the traumatic training, combined with the staggering intake of calories, was impacting the men quickly and dramatically. They both looked in danger of falling asleep in the booth. The rich English movie star roused himself, jabbed Marvin, stood, paid the check, left a 50% tip, and wobbled a bit as he walked out the diner door.

They each had a towel and Marvin had a canteen and a bottle of tanning lotion. They walked the two blocks to the ocean, stepped off the boardwalk and onto the sand. Reg loved the breaking waves, the eternal breeze, the cry of the gulls and the majestic view. The beach was deserted at 2pm on this windy Tuesday. Marvin led the way to one of his favored spots.

California beach

On the beach, both men went into a narcoleptic coma, a state of suspended animation.

Once each man made themselves comfortable atop the white-hot sand, both promptly fell dead asleep. They each went into a narcoleptic coma, a state of suspended animation. As they slept, maximally restorative growth hormone was released into the bloodstream. They were literally growing as they slept.

Their training had triggered the trauma needed to trigger hypertrophy and the adaptive response; the food provided the raw nutrient building-blocks needed to reconstruct shattered muscles and fuel new muscle growth; the deep sleep completed the growth equation. Their sleep was narcotic sleep, sleep of the richest, fullest and deepest variety. To compound the depth and degree of their deep sleep, they were roasting like rotisserie chickens in the sun and sand. The dry heat intensified the whole experience.

After an hour, a groggy Eder swam upwards from the depths of his wordless, mindless unconsciousness. He nudged Reg. It was important that he turn over; he didn’t want his white-bread friend to crispy fry and burn on one side. Reg turned face down and passed out again. He was knocked unconscious, completely enthralled in some deep state of restorative bliss. He barely breathed; his was in a state of physiological ecstasy, his sleep was so deep and profound that he had achieved a state of hibernation. Growth hormone was coursing through his system; he was in a state of utter and bliss, deep relaxation.

As the two massive muscle men slept, the sun’s rays baked them. After another hour, Marvin stirred; groggily he took a long pull of water off the canteen. He sat up and nudged Reg. Time to head home. The two men would get together later for diner at a steakhouse and then head to a friendly bar. Reg would drink beer. Marvin would drink his milk.

Thus ended another perfect day in iron paradise

iron weights
Strength and power increases that created concurrent increases in muscle growth and muscle size.

Lessons to Be Learned from the Patron Saints of Iron

So what lessons are to be learned from spending a day with Marvin and Reg? Compared to the men of yesteryear, modern man under-trains, under-eats, and under-rests. Nowadays everyone is afraid of injury and over-training. “Moderns” are frightened of over-eating and eating the wrong thing. It would never occur to the average modern trainee to go the extremes in training and nutrition that the “ancients” did on a regular and routine basis.

The ancients didn’t overthink the process. They trained hard and they trained long and they trained a lot. They ate voraciously and with gusto; they didn’t nitpick over micronutrient content. They made time to sleep, they believed in deep rest. As a direct result of this simplistic yet radical approach, they grew gargantuan, they strengthened, they thickened, and thus improved in every measurable benchmark.

The degree of extremism these ancient men routinely demonstrated is sadly lacking in today’s sane and rational modern man. Winston Churchill once said of a political opponent, “A modest man – with much to be modest about.” And so it is with modern man, circa 2016: a race of modest, moderate, sensible men – with much to be modest about.

Early iron pioneers discovered the irrefutable relationship between increasing muscle strength that invariably resulted in an increase in muscle size. They also discovered the irrefutable relationship between food and recovery. The ancients advanced the idea that you could and should coordinate eating with training and add in legislated rest to achieve the desired end result: strength and power increases that created concurrent increases in muscle growth and muscle size.

Massive caloric intake creates anabolic fertility. And when anabolic, all the preconditions necessary for muscle growth are present and accounted for. Then all that is needed is a bar-bending, high-intensity, hardcore, free-weight weight training session that decimates the targeted muscles. Hard training followed by big eating accelerates growth and accelerates recovery; calories regenerate muscle tissue shattered during those extended sessions. The pre-steroid ancients stumbled onto the greatest secret in the history of transformational fitness. To transform the body you must:

  1. Decimate a muscle
  2. Feed the decimated muscle
  3. Rest the decimated muscle

The Perversion of Anabolic Steriods

Anabolic steroids perverted everything. No longer could one tell where the man ended and the drugs began. A worse man with a better drug program could whip a better natural man most every time. To make matters worse, state-sponsored doping became epidemic. When communism was thriving, sports monoliths treated athletes like patients; teams of doctors created athletic Frankenstein monsters. This is still going on today.

In Marvin and Reg’s era, the 1950s, the entire world was drug-free. In the glorious pre-steroid era, all athletes everywhere were confined to using barebones tools – because that was all there was: they had barbells and dumbbells, perhaps a flat bench; if lucky some homemade squat racks, a chin bar and maybe a dip apparatus. Being limited to primitive tools and ultra-basic exercises turned out to be an advantage. When the name of the game is acquiring power, strength, and muscle, old-school resistance training methods using crude tools to perform primal exercises with maximum effort creates optimal results.

These primordial iron pioneers stumbled into the most effective form of progressive resistance exercise ever invented: free-weight exercises, compound multi-joint exercises, all done using a full range of motion and pristine techniques. Heavy poundage was handled for low to moderate reps for multiple sets; muscles were intentionally blasted to smithereens in every single session. By combining power training with power eating (and power resting) strength skyrocketed and muscle size gains went through the roof. The pre-steroid ancients achieved results in size and strength that, in many instances, remain unsurpassed to this day.

man working out

Anabolic steroids perverted everything.

The Use of Caloric Anabolism

To compliment their uber-effective high intensity/high volume resistance training, these men added high calorie, nutrient-dense, organic eating. The copious calories made them anabolic; they would eat thousands of calories pre-workout and thousands of calories post-workout. Just as they had built their work capacity over time, so to had they build up their appetite capacity. Their metabolisms raged like a bonfire. They taught their body to expect food/fuel every few hours, and in turn, their bodies became adept at digesting and distributing nutrients that were consumed often.

Marvin and Reg had stumbled onto the eternal secret for spurring muscle growth: combine super-intense progressive resistance exercise with the copious consumption of rich, organic, wholesome food. The pioneers manipulated their food intake to improve results; they tweaked their food selections and modulated their food quantity in order to elicit specific physical change. This relationship between food and training was recognized and systematized.

The Need to Sleep Big

Reg and Marvin were exhausted, physically and psychologically, after a brutal training session. When followed by copious eating the natural inclination was to want to take a nap. If they gave into that natural urge, both men noted how deep that sleep was, how refreshing and revitalizing it was, how incredibly wonderful they felt when they awoke. They became adept at entering into a sleep-state mimicking catatonic narcolepsy.

They would pass out and enter into a sleep so deep and so profound that they entered into a healing state of suspended animation bordering on hibernation. Marvin swore he could “feel himself grow” as he slept. Reg was equally as insistent on “making time for sleep.” Both men felt that a nutrient-dense post-workout meal followed by a “power nap” delivered superior results to the training and the meal sans nap. Both men felt that deep restorative sleep optimized results. Deep and abundant rest was the final piece needed to solve the growth cycle puzzle.

More on training approaches:

Simple Progression Training: Where Did It Go?

Photos courtesy of Pixabay.