The commandments of bodybuilding

Every facet of life is governed by rules, regulations and laws, be they natural or imposed by man, and bodybuilding is no different. Here are the basic bodybuilding commandments every athlete should follow to walk along the path of bodybuilding righteousness.

1. Thou Shalt Not Overtrain

Overtraining occurs when your training volume and intensity exceed your body’s ability to recover and repair itself. It places such a strain on your body that it not only affects you physically but can also manifest mentally and emotionally. From a physical perspective, overtraining causes you to lose strength, endurance, fitness, and even muscle size and tone. It can take weeks, if not months, to recover, so it is important that you avoid overtraining by periodizing your training program, including adequate rest periods in your training week, and ensuring that your nutrition supports a healthy body.

2. Thou Shalt Go Big or Go Home

The key to making massive gains in the gym is the intensity of your training. Whether you choose to manipulate your rep and set structure or go as heavy as possible on each set, maintaining the right intensity during every workout is key. The ability to push yourself to the limit during each session is a factor of both your mental and physical capacity. Use positive affirmations, goal setting and visualization to make sure you are in the right frame of mind when you hit the gym, then push your body to the limit by using tried and trusted training techniques.

3. Thou Shalt Supplement Correctly

It is physically impossible for most bodybuilders to eat the recommended daily calorie requirements from solid food alone. As such, supplements play an important role in adding quality calories to your diet, while also ensuring that you meet the other recommended daily requirements with regard to vitamin and mineral intake. Supplements have also been formulated to offer the most effective means of getting the required nutrients your body needs to recover and perform before, during and after training. And always, remember that not all supplements are created equal. Quality is always more important than quantity, so research all the top brands to find out what products are the best performers.

4. Thou Shalt Honor the Sabbath

Rest is the cornerstone of muscle recovery. Every serious bodybuilder will know that the real gains are not made in the gym, but rather in the hours and days following a muscle-busting workout. This rest period should therefore never be sacrificed for an extra session and the basic principles of rest and recovery should always be adhered to. These include resting trained body parts for at least 48 hours between sessions, especially if you isolate them, as most bodybuilders do. The importance of proper nutrition and supplementation cannot be emphasized enough. Don’t skip a protein shake because you didn’t train, and don’t eat hollow calories from food that has no nutritive value because it’s your off day. Your rest-day meals are the most important meals, along with your immediate post-workout meal.

5. Thou Shalt Never Take Lifting Form and Technique in Vain

While going as heavy as possible and ensuring proper intensity are vital, so is maintaining proper form and technique. If the weight is too heavy and you sacrifice form to lift it, you will get injured. Proper technique also ensures that you work through a full range of motion to activate and incorporate the maximum number of muscle fibers during each lift. Even when you do incorporate special lifting techniques, like forced reps, there is still a need to keep correct form and use lifting best practice.

6. Thou Shalt Enjoy the Bounties of the Earth

The processed food of today will never deliver the nutrients our bodies need to grow, so whenever possible, select natural and organic food products. A general rule of thumb is to avoid any food that doesn’t spoil.

7. Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Training Routine

There is no one-size-fits-all training technique or diet. Everybody has his or her own genetic makeup, muscle type and bone structure. As such, we all respond differently to training stimuli and nutrition, so trying to horse-shoe your buddy’s training program into your regimen may not always be the best option. Try different things and experiment with training techniques, programs and diets to find what suits your body and physiology best.

8. Thou Shalt Stay Humble in the Eyes of Thy Fellow Bodybuilders

The bodybuilders who think they know it all will never achieve greatness. Speak to just about any top athlete and you will find that they are a humble bunch who continually search for the latest information regarding the sport. They are also, more often than not, willing to share their experience and knowledge. So don’t be the one who thinks he is too good to help out a novice or share a few training tips with the youngsters in the sport.

Joe ‘Master Blaster’ Weider still going strong

Bodybuilding guru Joe Weider, who discovered and trained Arnold Schwarzenegger, among other champions, walks with a slight limp into the second-floor conference room in one of the buildings bearing his name in Woodland Hills. Outside, Tuscan columns of this Greco-Roman building support a frieze of Olympians engaged in wrestling, archery, running and weightlifting.

Even at 86 years old, Weider gives you the sense he might have once been one of those Olympians. As he approaches the head of the table inside this wood-paneled room, Weider appears dapper and powerful, his muscular torso still filling out the gray pinstriped suit he wears with a starched white shirt and red power tie.

A young assistant helps Weider into his chair, a concession to his age. But the man who says he was “born with a barbell in my hands” in his book, “Brothers of Iron: Building the Weider Empire” (Sports Publishing, 2006), retains a strong handshake even after undergoing a heart valve operation and back surgery in recent decades.

Weider’s twin interests in history and art are reflected in the Frederic Remington bronze sculptures of cowboys and Indians on horseback that adorn the conference room, as well as sculptures of Abraham Lincoln and Weider himself outside the room. A teacher once told him that he should be an artist, and indeed he says that that could have been his career had he not chosen bodybuilding.

His artistic sensibilities can be seen in his illustrations of the male body framed in the downstairs lobby, which appeared in the inaugural issue of Your Physique, the first publication in his magazine empire and the precursor to Muscle & Fitness. In 2003, he sold Weider Publications titles, including Muscle & Fitness, Shape, Flex and Men’s Fitness, to American Media, Inc., for roughly $375 million, Weider says. Not bad for a Depression-era kid with a seventh-grade education who invested his life savings of $7 into putting out the first issue of Your Physique in the late 1930s.

On this spring day, he sports an adhesive bandage around the tip of his nose to cover a precancerous growth he had removed. Were he a younger man, one might assume that he had gotten into a fight, as he once did as a teen in Montreal, knocking out an anti-Semitic French Canadian bully with one punch. However, Weider, who immigrated to the United States after World War II, has not gotten into any fights since that scuffle in Montreal.

Weider grew up in an era when many Jews fought for a living, but he did not fight in the prize ring; he fought to keep a business afloat.

“Judaism made me,” he says. “It taught me to be a good boy, respect women, study and apply myself to work.”

Weider and his brother and business partner, Ben, never denied their Judaism, even when Ben was making contacts in Arab countries like Egypt, Iraq and the Palestinian territories as part of their effort to promote bodybuilding worldwide.

Over the years, they had to battle fierce competitors within their field, including Bob Hoffman, founder of the York Barbell Company and a U.S. Olympic weightlifting coach, who published magazines for weightlifters and served as head of the Amateur Athletic Union.

Joe Weider, who casually drops in references to Freud’s pleasure principle, also had to battle psychologists, who claimed that weight training “would do you no good.”

Looking resplendent with a full head of silver hair and matching silver moustache, Weider speaks for many young weightlifters when he says that “It made me feel I can change myself,” then he adds, “and change other people.”

Although bodybuilding improved the self-esteem of Weider and his disciples, he says that he had to counter another notion propounded by psychologists at the time — that those who built up their physiques were “latent homosexuals” who liked to stare at their bodies. It seems an odd point to mention and certainly less serious than charges back then that lifting weights would leave one overly muscle-bound, that muscle could turn to fat and, worst of all, that weight-training could result in so-called “athlete’s heart.”

Like former pupil Schwarzenegger, Weider did have surgery for a leaky heart valve, but he says that both were born with the condition.

“Arnold’s mother had it and died from it,” he says.

Weider also says that his back problems were due to a freak accident and had nothing to do with weight training. However, he admits that handling weights improperly can damage the body. He is also well aware of the drug abuses of too many body builders and athletes in other fields, a scourge that has led to severe health concerns, including heart attacks, strokes and cancer.

In “Brothers of Iron,” which is equal parts memoir, business primer and popular culture history, Weider stresses that he and Ben were always opposed to steroids. He writes that, “like much of the world’s evil … steroids … came from the Nazis and the Communists,” a point that resonates when reflecting on the multitude of East German Olympians, both male and female, who cheated their way to gold medals with bloated musculature through the late 1980s. Although the International Olympic Committee banned certain performance-enhancing drugs in 1967, steroids were not added to the list until 1975.

Ironically, many of those Eastern Europeans got their weight-training methodology from Weider, whose publications have been circulating the globe for nearly 70 years.

In 1950, Weider made his famous 10 predictions, some of which ended up being remarkably prescient. None more so than Prediction No. 1, “I predict that civilization will speed up in every phase, and that the stresses and strains on mankind will continue to increase,” and Prediction No. 2, “I predict that the resulting increase in mental and physical illness will force the world to recognize the importance of systematic exercise and physical activities.”

Most satisfying of all, he says, has been Prediction No. 10, “I predict that body building will one day become one of the greatest forces in existence, and that it may be hailed as the activity that actually saved civilization from itself.”

Wrestling With Family

Yes, it’s true. I was raised as an Orthodox Jew — in Bakersfield no less. My parents were very strict about going to temple and observing the holidays and religion. But Dad also used to take me to the local wrestling matches when I was around 10. He got a kick out of watching the wrestlers and their antics, and I did, too.

I’d watch wrestling on television in black and white, with Dick Lane doing the commentary. One day — I was still 10 years old — I got really into it and grabbed my mom and put a hammerlock on her, not realizing the pressure I applied. It dislocated her shoulder and put her in the hospital.

After school, I joined the YMCA because it had a good weight room. I wanted to get in shape and develop my body a little better. I was pretty thin and just wanted to become more athletic looking.

Things began to change — I started developing muscles where I never had them. Dad at that time was going in for open-heart surgery and was inspired by my progress. He wanted me to take him to the gym after his surgery and help him get in shape. But he never recovered, and died that year.

I kept up my training with Dad in mind and started competing in bodybuilding contests, winning Mr. California and then Mr. America. I started to make a name for myself. At that point I felt that I needed to cash in on this, so I began training as a pro wrestler at the Olympic Auditorium.

Enter Bubbe, a terrific, wonderful grandma. I could do no wrong in her eyes. She was extremely old fashioned and very Jewish. She didn’t want me to get my hands dirty. I’m sure you know the type. But, I loved her very much.

It was bad enough that I took up bodybuilding and weightlifting. She would ask me over and over why I was killing myself in the gym lifting all those weights. She would shake her head at me and say, "You poor thing, killing yourself. Poor little Richard!"

She couldn’t figure out that I really enjoyed this stuff. I was building my tolerance for stress and pain to the point that one day they’d disappear.

Most of my Jewish friends weren’t into wrestling, bodybuilding or anything like it, but I guess I just liked taking chances, or maybe wanted attention. Whatever it was, I stuck with it.

But how do I break this to Bubbe? I told her and Mom that Dad would be proud of me doing this, and why can’t they be too? There was no argument with that, and he wasn’t here to dispute it. But, I know that he would have enjoyed it. If his health had been better, he would have joined me in the gym for sure, and maybe even a few holds in the ring.

So, I began the wrestling training and would come home and tell Mom and Bubbe about it. Mom would hum when she would get embarrassed about a subject, so as I’d tell Bubbe the gory details, Mom would stand there and do a lot of humming.

I heard through the grapevine that Bubbe was bragging about me being a well-built wrestler to her neighbors and friends. She was proud in her own way.

I was winning wrestling titles such as NWA Jr. Heavyweight Champion. Later on, I became "Rookie of the Year" at the Olympic Auditorium and then AWA, CCW, NWA, WWF and AWF wrestling champion.

My family was proud. I really didn’t have to be a lawyer or doctor. I was now in sports entertainment. I was developing my mind along with my body, just so no one would ever call me a "dumb wrestler."

I was one of the few Jewish wrestlers around. There were a couple here and there who during the day were chiropractors. I went to the South to wrestle and it was bad enough being from Los Angeles or Hollywood, but being a Jew was even more difficult out there. I told a few guys, and they always told me that they didn’t believe me.

"It’s impossible," they said, "You don’t look it, and you have blue eyes and blond hair."

Maybe that’s why I never had any prejudice against me. It just never happened.

I later moved from Bakersfield to Santa Monica where I began training at Gold’s Gym. One day, in 1971, Arnold Schwarzenegger came into the gym fresh from Austria and we became friends. Arnold and I trained together for the next four years. He used to joke about us training together being a Austrian and a Jew but in a fun way, and even at that time he had a lot of respect for the Jewish religion. We’d talk about it a lot. Arnold was a good friend and a great training partner. To this day, we’re still friends.

Bubbe died at the age of 96, and I know she was proud of me. I always keep her and Dad in mind, as I want them to know that they are a part of it. Mom is still alive and doing well. She’s approaching 90 and I’m approaching 60, but we both have a lot of the "kid" in us and that’s what keeps us motivated. Who knows? With the way things are going now, I may run for a political office.

Ric Drasin, pro wrestler, author, producer and businessman, is involved in senior fitness programs. He conducts motivated speaking engagements and demos and can be contacted through