Athletes & Celebrities

THE SILVER ERA

Wrestling and bodybuilding legend Ric Drasin plays professor and gives us a history lesson... in muscle.

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For many people the 1970's represented bodybuilding's "Golden Era," with guys like Arnold and Franco, Ferrigno and Zane. But muscle building didn't begin there—not by a long shot. The 1940's through 1960's were crucial formative years for what we do in the gym today, and that period deserves the same degree of focus the 70's have gotten. I call this period the "Silver Era."

Steve Reeves was the first bodybuilder to put bodybuilding on the map. He was best known for playing Hercules in films, with striking good looks, a chiseled face and a body with shoulders a yard wide tapering down to a tiny waist. This was the look that everyone strived for then and still does today.

Muscle Beach, in Santa Monica, was where all the bodybuilders hung out. Magazines such as Muscle Power, Muscle Builder (forbear to Muscle & Fitness) and Iron Man filled us in on the latest routines and diets. People such as Clancy Ross, George Eiferman, Lou Degni, Dick DuBois were just a few of the heroes of the day. We copied everything we read that they did in an effort to look like them.

 

Back then a lot of the guys liked to perform amazing feats of strength—pounding iron spikes into a board with their hands or bending rods of steel. It's a lost art, but back then it was very common. Add to that the pleasing lines they achieved, as opposed to some of the physiques you see onstage today, and you've got the makings of real-life superheroes.

 

Training back then was a 24/7/365 lifestyle and was as much for health as it was strength and physique. There wasn’t such a thing as getting in shape for a show or having an off-season during which you got fat. There were shows or bodybuilding and strength contests almost every weekend on a platform at the Santa Monica beach, along with gymnastics and hand balancing acts.

 

Us older guys often discuss the camaraderie in the 70’s, but it was just as good if not better in the Silver Age. There was a big apartment building right on the beach owned by a lady who took these bodybuilders in and let them live there and fed them meals for a minimal fee. It was referred to as ‘Muscle House.’ These guys all lived together, ate together and trained together. It was a real brotherhood. The building still stands today.

 

Every weekend at Muscle Beach, thousands of people would come down and invade the sand to watch the bodybuilders strut their stuff on stage. These were family-friendly events that went on all day.

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