WHEN I WAS ABOUT about 14, I saw this muscle magazine at the drugstore and I couldn’t believe—even their forearms were big! I mailed away for Molding a Mighty Chest, a 25-cent book by George Jowett, a Canadian strongman. My dad had a couple of steel balls that were about three pounds each, and I started training with them.
My goal was to be Mr. America. But after five years, I saw I didn’t really have the genetics. I learned the secret to bodybuilding back in 1974 from Ken Waller, Mr. Universe in 1975. He told me to do what works for you. I thought, Well, thanks a lot. But that is essentially what you’ve got to do—experiment to see what works for you.
I’ve stuck at it for more than 75 years because I’m still goal-orientated. My goal now: I’ve entered the IFBB Legion Master Pro in Reno. I entered in the over-80s, but I’m trying to convince them that they should have an over 90s! The other thing [that keeps me training] is that for some reason, and I can’t understand it, people seem to be inspired by me.
At my age, your body’s a lot more fragile. You have to be more careful when you’re training, and you can’t abuse it—your tendons have a tendency to want to detach. In the past five years, my left bicep broke loose, and I had a little bit tear in my right bicep, too. So you can’t do things you used to be able to do. It’s really disheartening, but it’s important to keep soldiering away.
“Training feels great. I like to be strong.”
Physical strength isn’t that important to me. I like to be strong, but I have very small bones, ligaments, and everything. My wife is stronger than I am in many ways because she has much bigger hands. Sometimes I can’t open something or need finger strength, and she can.
Nowadays, I do a split routine. I cut the body up in three sections: For instance, I would do legs on Monday. And mid-body, including the abs, chest, and the lower and middle back on Wednesday. And then I do shoulders and arms on Friday.
I train at the Mecca of bodybuilding, at Gold’s Gym in Venice. I see a lot of bodies—if I compare myself to them, I’m nothing. But those people respect me for being what I am at the age I am. Training feels great. I get a little pump in, and there’s people at the gym—you don’t have long conversations with them, but they know you and they respect you because you’re in there every day.” —as told to Greg Presto