Before the advent of widespread internet use and things like blogging, there were things called fanzines. Fanzines were mini-magazines made usually on the cheap with low production quality, often on inexpensive pulpy paper, sometimes crudely Xeroxed.
In bodybuilding, the late Steve Neece put out a gossip newsletter called Venice Beach Newsletter and Dante Trudel published Hardcore Muscle. My good friend Mike Schak published Hardcore Muscle-zine, perhaps the crudest in both content and production of the bunch. Most of it was hand-written, with uneven columns and truly horrible cartoon sketches.
He was probably lucky to get over a hundred copies of the magazine out but despite their amateurish-production, they had so much heart and passion contained in them that you quickly found yourself deeply engrossed in an issue. A single twelve to sixteen-page copy of a good fanzine provided more inspiration than a year’s subscription to any of the current newsstand mags.
One of the bigger segments of Mike Schak’s fanzine was a segment called “Rag on the Mags” in which he reviewed the current crop of Muscle and Powerlifting publications. I am going to co-opt that idea from Mike (he doesn’t mind), and present it for you for the electronic age.
The basic idea here is that I will present you with the CliffsNotes® of the pertinent info, allowing you to determine if it’s worthwhile for you to run a comb through your hair, head into civilization, and plunk down roughly six-bucks for the issue. You can be assured that I have no agenda to give the thumbs up or down for a particular issue, I’ll just tell it how it is.
I’m sending out for subscriptions to the major mags. Once those go into effect, these should be coming a bit faster (before they hit the newsstands), but pardon the first few being less than “breaking news.” Let me know here if this is the type of article you find interesting and useful!
Powerlifting USA: May 2010, Vol. 33, No. 7
We all have had that friend that is all excited about the new girl he’s dating and, as he relates the story, we immediately can see that she has everything wrong with her that the last girl, and the girl before that, did. We like the guy so we hope for the best for him, but deep inside we want to scream and shake him and lay out the cold, hard truth but we realize it’s probably not going to really sink in until he wakes up, reads her “You’re dumped” note on the pillow, noticed a few twenties peeled from his wallet, and learns she is now living with his boss she met at the office picnic.
Powerlifting USA is a bit like that friend. We want the best for him, but he just doesn’t seem to see what he needs to do. Apparently, someone had that cold, hard talk with Mike Lambert. Although PLUSA has had almost no appreciable growth in content or design in the more than three decades that he has been publishing it, they seem to have made a huge quantum pole vault forward with this issue.
Please forgive me, Mike, but the first thing I did was glance at the masthead to see if you had sold the magazine. It’s not that I didn’t think you had it in you; it is just that I quite frankly thought that you just didn’t care enough. The new look is incredible. The cover (a dynamic photo of NFL player Chris Snee flipping over a big tire) is on thicker stock, low-gloss paper and really POPS like a modern magazine needs to. The issue is bound rather than saddle stitched (stapled) so that it will stand upright on a newsstand shelf as well as last longer in a lifter’s collection (previous issues of PLUSA would lose their covers after two or three visits to my favorite “toilet reading oasis”).
The new design really makes this issue surprisingly readable. Past issues seemed to dislike “white space” and jamming every inch with text made reading it as much fun as a phonebook reading marathon.
At 116-pages, the magazine has not grown in size (I don’t think it needs to) but this issue seems to have a lot more “meat” in it. While many of the articles have a commercial bias (written by someone representing a company that advertises) there is still some useful content. Donnie Thompson gives us some pointers on “Trunk Strength” (pg 12). “A strong man or woman should have a physique fashioned like a gorilla” Thompson believes, and I cannot disagree. He shares some wisdom from the late Mel Siff and how he has applied it. Guess what? He doesn’t believe crunches are the way to go and heavy progressive resistance is king.
I’m not a huge fan of the Power Research column. It is once again written by some anonymous labcoat-wearing marketing guy from Team MuscleTech and, not so surprisingly, is lauding the value of one of their products, which is in an ad on the opposite page. Still, the printing bills have to be paid so we overlook such things. We also get a three-page color feature on coverman NFL Giants player Chris Snee(pg 49) written by Steve Downs. Downs is a Marketing Director for MHP and Snee is adorned in MHP jerseys and t-shirts in the feature (with the mandatory two-paragraph spiel on his use of the products) so this is an information piece with and advertising angle. Louie Simmons talks about specialty bars in training, which he also sells, but Louie is light on the hype and you get plenty of applicable info here. Louie is not the guy that would sell someone something they didn’t need. He has definitely given a thousand times more to the sport than he has taken.
“The Story of Don Blue” by Ron Fernando (pg 58) is a very well-written and moving story about the lifting career and troubled life of the great lifter from the seventies. I think this kind of article creates an appreciation for the history of the sport. The “Where Are They Now?” article on bench pioneer Mike McDonald (pg 14), “The Golden Rules of Bench Pressing Raw” by Rick Weil (pg 18) and the “Power History: Belly Toss Bench Press” article (pg 22) also help flesh this historical perspective.
The “Rehab and Prehab Active recovery Program” article by Deric Stockton (pg 82) was a nice counterbalance. Although, we need the historical retrospectives (some really great ideas have been developed and lost by past greats), Powerlifting USA has a bit of a reputation for being a bit behind the times, with people looking to online sources for modern, cutting-edge power training ideas. I hope this article signals a concerted effort to change that.
My final know-it-all recommendation to Mike Lambert (a guy who was publishing his first issue while I was trying to figure out how to lighten the collars on the plastic concrete-filled set in my basement) would be to say farewell to the longtime core of your magazine… the “Results” and “Coming Events” sections.
Although they look much more readable here than they have in the past, you should completely jettison the “Coming Events” section, make it available on your website where it can be updated weekly and people can easily search by geographical region, sanctioning organization or level. “Results” should be one or two major events an issue with dynamic photo coverage and the local events coverage should be relegated to the website. The freed-up pages could then be used to cover more cutting-edge power tactics. I’d like to read about other power coaches, particularly what type of techniques, equipment, exercises and programming that European teams and other foreign strength coaches do in the gym.
I look forward to seeing what the next issue of PLUSA brings. If you have not read the magazine in a few years, I think it’s time you gave Powerlifting USA another shot. I suspect the new polished look will also win them a significant increase in advertising revenue. Nice work Mike Lambert and kudos to Art Director Kelly Anglin. Since another issue is due out soon, I will be following up once I have seen it.
Written by Steve Colescott
Discuss, comment or ask a question
If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums - Rag on the Mags – Powerlifting USA: May 2010, Vol. 33, No. 7 discussion thread.
About Steve Colescott
Known as the Guerrilla Journalist, Steve Colescott has written over a hundred published articles for many major bodybuilding publications, including Peak Training Journal, the innovative and well-respected magazine in which he served as Publishing Editor.
He is currently a staff writer for WannaBeBig.com and has been a consultant to a number of top sports nutrition companies.
With his company, Colescott Metabolic Solutions, he has transformed the physiques of scores of average businesspeople, weekend athletes and housewives beyond their wildest expectations. Steve lives in Akron, Ohio and trains at the ultra-hardcore Body Builders Gym, an Ohio musclehead landmark.