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The Online No Bull Collection



with Lou Ravelle



The Ladies bodybuilding scene seems to have its knickers in a twist. The old Physique versus Figure question and that other imponderable, “‘What are the judges looking for?”, are the main debating points. Though it could be that the second part is the only real question. We have to remember that in any bodybuilding contest, the contestants are at the mercy of the whims and opinions of the judges. This applies whether they are judging men, women or transsexuals - (Don't laugh it's not impossible).
This raises the question of what the physique gals should do if they know for sure that the judges in an upcoming show are anti-muscle. Some of the girls 'don't know which way to turn' - bless 'em.

Should they:
a - Boycott the show 'cos it's a waste of time.
b - Turn up and compete anyway, hoping that public opinion and the roar of the crowd will convince those pencil necked, beer gutted (some of 'em) arbitrators, that might is right and muscle goes with bustle?

Unfortunately I don't know the answer to this one, it's something that the ladies concerned must decided for themselves, individually.
bodybuilding judges, like football referees, come in for a lot of flack. Some of this of course is pure sour grapes, but more often than not, the gripes you hear are justified. I haven't had much connection with physique contests in recent years, but in my hay day I spent a lot of time, both out front and backstage at some of the biggest. Let me assure you, the amount of ass-kissing and boot-licking that went on was sickening. The contestants were really more to blame than the glory-revelling, 'Godfathers'. Yes, some judges really had this status in days gone by and the more sycophantic followers kow -towed and fawned quite openly.

More than once I have heard a judge say something like, "Oh, Johnny Latsworthy deserves to win, it's the third year running he's entered , you know." Well that makes sense, after all even the most brown-nosed and ardent asshole-creeper knew that there were others who'd been standing in line ahead of him. He must exercise a little patience, his turn would come. Have things changed? Well I'd like to think so, but judging from what I've read in NBC, I'd say, 'Not a lot'!

The Swingin' 'Sixties
The accompanying cutting is from a 1961 issue of Joe Weider's Mr Universe . At the time I was British Editor. Reading it to day, nearly 39 years later, I am happy to be able to say that it hasn't really dated, and I'm glad to to report that though well over middle age (ahem!) and while I don't have a six pack like a rampant Chippendale, I still don't have a problem with the old 'Derby Kelly' either. Of course, if you've tried to keep in shape all your life that's no big deal, but my hat really goes off to those who start late in life and still manage to attain a reasonable shape.

This trend is on the increase. More and more older people are discovering the benefits of hoisting a little iron, even though often, is via the cables and cams of some hi-tech machine. Twenty years ago, the oldest beginners you were likely find in the gym were in the 45-50 bracket, and they were a bit thin on the ground. Nowadays I think you'll find more than a sprinkling of pensioners; the message is getting through.

When I started my first gym in 1952 it was the only one in Central London. I don't count the famous Jack Solomon’s gym, because that was solely for boxers. It was a very hard way to make a living in the early days and the punters were few and far between. Still being in the very heart of London's West End, I did meet some very interesting people. I remember one incident that brightened my life on an otherwise unfruitful morning.
A barrel-chested guy came in to see me. He looked as if he were dressed for hiking. Back pack, shorts, boots, the lot. However it was the straining-at-the-pecs T-shirt that made him a standout. It read:


It turned out that he was a New Zealander and he was tired of the Poms mis-identifying his accent. His name was Gerry and he had recently arrived from 'Zild’. He had stopped off, in Hawaii on route for the UK and had visited Rex Ravelle in his famous Honolulu gym in Hawaii. He seemed surprised that Rex was no relation. After having a workout with me he then went off to 'Do Yourup'. If by some strange trick of fate you're reading this Gerry -Cheers Mate and Good on yer!

Thinking of that first gym, what cheek I had to open it in the first place. It had been a photographer's studio and was very small. It measured only twelve feet by twelve. I think that if somebody tried a similar venture now it would be doomed to failure. People expect a lot more now, but in those days there was nothing with which you could make a comparison - just as well. There was only room for about three people to work out at the same time , but as this very rarely happened, it was never a problem. So few were my clients, that instruction was usually on a one to one basis. This makes me wonder, Was I the very first 'personal trainer'? Certainly 'Certification' didn't exist.

It was tough going trying to make both ends meet, but those were exciting days. I was breaking new ground. Friends used to tell me that I'd never make a living showing people how to shift cast iron! I didn't know it but I was in on the ground floor of a crazy pastime that was to grow into a giant industry.
I could wax very nostalgic about those pioneering days, but lack of space, together with a discerning editor, dictate that I'll have to save it for another time. (Ed’s note: Hey Lou, wax on mate, I love it!)

That Professional Grip
Do you use a 'professional grip' when bench pressing? You know what I mean, a thumb less grip with the thumbs on the same side of the bar as the fingers?
Now I know that a lot of people, when they see the older hands do this, put it down to flashiness, and I'll admit that it does not look very safe. I also believe that the power lifting rules do not allow a thumb less grip. However, from an exercise point of view, it does make sense. It puts the bar directly over the wrist and forearm, thereby causing no stress on the wrist joint. This allows you to concentrate fully on the actual lift. If you're not already a 'Professional Bencher', why not give it a try? Oh, do a dummy run first with a light weight!

Mick Hart's book, “STEROIDS: The Layman's Guide is quite an eye-opener. Whether you are into 'roids or not, I'd say it's essential reading. A Simon Pure to the core, who would rather die than take a 'prohibited substance', I found the book fascinating and unputdownable.
Gee, (pardon the Americanism) now I've read Mick's book I'll be able to answer all those stupid questions that people ask when they know you're an ironslinger. Now I also know why those stupid athletes get caught out by testing. However, I still don't know how the bare faced bastards manage to look so shocked, innocent and hurt when the medals are stripped from their near-gynecomastic chests. Come on fellas, you know the rules, and we know everyone's at it. Too bad you broke the eleventh commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Get Caught!”

What really amazes me is the disbelief and horror these guys display when caught out. Cries of "I've been framed" or "They switched my urine" (could this be the origin of 'Taking the Piss'?) Why don't they come straight out and say, "Yeah, I'm on the gear and so is everyone else - I just got my timing wrong."

Something like this could lead to a big general investigation and maybe a re-writing of the rules. Can the high priests of sport be so dumb that they really believe that 'banned substrances' are only used by an infinitesimal minority?

In the second chapter of his book, Mick discusses some of the side effects that steroids can produce. I'd like to add one effect that I've noticed. Trap development.
Have you realised that to-day's top men all have trapezius development never seen in the stars of yesteryear? And while you're figuring that one out, switch on your telly and watch some American wrestling. Look at the traps on those boys. They are users almost to a man. You don't just get that way from bridging. We had some pretty big boys in the game when I was in the wrestling business, but not one of them had that kind of trap development. And I'm thinking of the whole range from Hackenschmidt to Assirati. No Fred, not even Quasimodo.

Watching the way those American heavyweights move in the ring I note two points. First they've got terrific physiques and second they’ve got fantastic speed and energy for big men. In my day the heavies did not do much 'flying about' or aerobatics as we used to call it. That was left to the lighter weight classes. Now, these 250 pounders fly about like it was Farnborough. Still I don't suppose the World Wrestling Federation would be very interested in testing for drugs. There'd be no point, business is business.
Thought for the day
Could steroids help chess players?
From time immemorial bodybuilders, when lined -up on a stage, have adopted the 'Stuffed Penguin' stance. Check out the show reports in any magazine and there they are, chest slightly lifted, lats spread and locked, clenched fists nearly a foot away from tensed thighs. Nervous? Nah! But you must admit they do look a bit quaint.

Mind you, there are some who adopt this stance off stage too. A young lady once asked me, "Why does your friend always look as if he's walking with parcel under each arm?"
You never know where it might lead when you touch your first barbell. I think it's been said many times before, but this doesn't alter the fact that it's true. Perhaps manufacturers will, one day, be forced to stamp their discs 'Government Warning! Weights can seriously affect your life'

The more obvious type of example is say, when a weak and skinny nerd turns himself into a well-built healthy looking dynamo, then he's obviously better placed to get ahead in life. But there are more subtle side effects. (there's that word again). I've seen great personality changes take place and these go hand in hand with the physical transformation.

I remember a young slender lad who started at my gym. Shy and retiring, he only spoke when spoken to and wouldn't have said 'Boo' to the proverbial. He was so shy that he would retire to a corner between sets and I usually had to give him a prod when it was his turn, or somebody else would have jumped in and done his set.
He turned out to be a quick gainer and what a difference a few pounds of muscle made. He started to strut about as if he owned the place. In a few short weeks this mousey little boy had become a loud-mouthed, mickey-taking, pain in the ass. Now this is an extreme case, you may argue. O.K. but it's true, once you hit the iron, you'll never be the same again.



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