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There was a time, before most of you reading this were even born, when bodybuilding wasn’t the culturally entrenched ubiquitous activity we enjoy today. You didn’t have a choice of gyms to join in your town, and after traveling miles to the nearest store that happened to sell Joe Weider’s Muscle Builder magazine, you often found yourself the subject of sideways glances at the cash register.
Even names like Steve Reeves, Bill Pearl, and Reg Park—as popular and influential as they were within the bodybuilding community—weren’t enough to spark the revolution that turned their sport from sideshow to main event. What bodybuilding needed was the right combination of people, place, and timing that equaled more than just the sum of its parts—to transcend other niche activities and move into the realm of mainstream cultural phenomenon.
If the world were ever to begin embracing bodybuilding to any degree, the late ’60s was the time, and if there ever was to be a place where it would first take hold, Southern California had to be it. The driving force in all this change was bodybuilding mogul Joe Weider. Weider’s offices were based in Union City, NJ, but he held the belief that to successfully promote bodybuilding to the masses, he couldn’t just sell muscles. He had to sell a lifestyle. And that lifestyle, to his way of thinking, had to include sun, sand, beautiful girls…and bodybuilders.
That training location, of course, was Gold’s Gym in Venice Beach, CA, and legends like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dave Draper, Franco Columbu, Frank Zane, and a handful of others helped turn it into the epicenter of bodybuilding. And so it was that, by the turn of the ’70s, Southern California—and more specifically Gold’s Gym Venice—had become the home of the world’s most famous and successful bodybuilders, all training, eating, and growing together.
Fast-forward four decades, and Gold’s Gym Venice remains the unofficial bodybuilding headquarters. But if you happen to walk in on a day when North Hollywood resident and two-time Classic Physique Olympia champ Breon Ansley is training there, you may feel as if you’ve just been transported back in time. Under the tutelage of X-frame creator extraordinaire Chris Cormier, and by incorporating many of the exercises and training principles of the Golden Era legends, Ansley has sculpted a physique that has catapulted him to the very top of the IFBB Pro League. You can bet it’s a physique that would have caught the eye of Joe Weider himself, too.
As for how Ansley trains to maintain such a legendary body, he says, “I love to use dumbbells and free weights, particularly very old-school movements.” Also, he insists that it’s how he trains, not what he trains, that makes the difference. “Pretty much all methods of training from the Golden Era encompassed superb intensity,” Ansley says. “Modern-day bodybuilders definitely need to learn from the Golden Era bodybuilders in that aspect.”
In the spirit of the Golden Era, we’ve compiled five signature routines from the men who inspired Breon Ansley. Give them a try to develop your own classic-looking physique. These workouts may be old, but they’re anything but dated.
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