Review: MuscleMag “Legends of Bodybuilding"
I’m not a big wearer of hats, but if I were, I would tip mine towards the staff at MuscleMag for this surprisingly original offering. With “Legends,” they provide a victorious example of (a type of) counter-programming. Rather than giving readers what they might ask for on a reader feedback form, this volume seems driven more from a “here is some great content that we think people will enjoy” origin. There is a passion for the collected works that comes across and binds this 242-page volume more surely than any printer’s glue. While this retrospective view of past bodybuilding stars and their training will no doubt be popular with older lifters, it is the younger guys that might benefit most from “Legends,” learning some of the genius of earlier eras.
The top bodybuilders of the current age have enormous genetic and technological advantages; advantages NOT shared by the overwhelming majority of magazine-purchasing bodybuilding fans. In most ways, the bodybuilders of previous decades were on a more level playing field with modern lifters. Despite this they have still managed to build bodies that are better than all but the best modern superstars (a point of endlessly-debatable preference). An appreciation for these founding fathers of physique would reveal a number of lost secrets that can be effectively incorporated to initiate greater progress in the gym.
Peter McGough, one of the industry’s best journalists, contributes “Bodybuilding by the Decades” segments, providing a two-page recap of the prominent events that defined the fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties and nineties. McGough does such a great job capturing these that I found myself fondly reminiscing about eras that occurred before my birth. The “Stephen Ambrose of bodybuilding,” David Gentle gives us a historical look at the Great One, John Grimek as well as in-depth looks at Reg Park, Bill Pearl, Vince Gironda, Dave Draper, Lee Haney and the brothers Mentzer. Grover Porter (re)introduces readers to the timeless Steve Reeves. Gerard Thorne profiles first Olympian Larry Scott, the Myth Sergio Oliva, Franco Columbu, Frank Zane and some guy from Austria. The most voluminous author in bodybuilding, Ron Harris, interviews Tom Platz (who I can never read enough about). Lara McGlashan gives Dragonslayer Rich Gaspari a similar twenty-questions treatment. Johnny Fitness gives us another look at the aesthetic Lee Labrada. The editors also treat us to profiles on Clancy Ross, Lou Ferrigno and “The Best of the Rest.” McGough comes back to wrap things up with a thorough treatment on his longtime friend Dorian “the Shadow” Yates.
The jammed-packed magazine offers a perfect blend of inspiration and information, supported by really amazing photo support. Gathering the graphic elements for this collection must have been a daunting (but successfully-executed) task. The training and nutrition compiled here was worth MANY times the $5.99 cover price.
Some of my favorite parts include Vince Gironda’s training and nutrition philosophies (pg 88). I have all the Iron Guru’s books and courses and it’s a nice reminder of how ahead of his time the man was. Gerard Thorne’s extensive Schwarzenegger feature (pg 134) remains crisp and captivating, which is difficult when writing about a subject so close to overexposure in our industry. The interview with Platz (pg. 186), Gaspari (pg.pg. 204) and Labrada (pg. 216) (three of my favorites from “my era”) were packed with insight and inspiration. In addition, we learn about the ‘constipated crab,” Platz praises Branch Warren’s legs, the impressive poundages tossed around by Reg Park, and a hundred quick insights into the personalities, training, nutrition and lives of these great bodybuilders. On page 132, a photo caption misidentifies Sylvester Stallone as Frank Zane, a minor mistake that must have Sly beaming with pride. This is an uncommonly solid publication, with no fluff filling these pages whatsoever.
If this edition does well, Kennedy intends to do a follow-up, and you can count me as among those in hopefully anticipation. I’d love to see a profile on some of the champs that couldn’t be squeezed into this first jam-packed edition, such as Robbie Robinson, Don Ross, Kal Szkalak and Serge Nubret.
How about a mega-extended “where are they now?” with half-page recaps on some of the national and world/universe champions that may have fallen short of being the dominant force of their time, but exerted an inspirational influence on many of us? Maybe an “early gurus” section with collected wisdom from guys like Leo Stern, Gironda, Bradley Steiner, John Balik, Harvey Keith and the most insightful writers of the past few decades? I’d love to read more about the battles for power both in the sporting federations and the magazine industry. Maybe you could include a listing of the twenty most aesthetically-pleasing bodybuilders of the past century, with a corresponding mass-freak list? How about a feature on the history of strength, powerlifting and strongman sport (from Cyr and Saxon to Žydrūnas Savickas and Mariusz Pudzianowski) perhaps by Dr. Terry Todd? A panel of modern champs can tell us which legends of the sport have inspired them, and why. Maybe you could list a “Fifty Most Influential Figures in Bodybuilding,” perhaps determined by a polling of a broad spectrum of industry insiders? An unbiased history of how sports nutrition has evolved... the possibilities are endless.
Thank you Robert Kennedy, David Gentle, Peter McGough and everyone involved in this really amazing collection. If you do not own a copy of “Legends of Bodybuilding, I highly suggest you rush out and grab one immediately!
Last edited by Joe Black; 10-28-2010 at 12:49 PM.