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Super Scooper
November 12, 2003

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Click here for a pdf version of the full interview.

California’s best summer weather was enjoyed throughout the month of October, 30 days of 75-degree temperatures, clear skies and sunshine. We grinned as we gazed at the world through gold-colored glasses. Life in a tee-shirt and shorts. Late in the month we grudgingly yielded and turned our clocks back with the rest of the nation. Darkness came early. Within days nefarious and discontent meteorologists said the temperatures would drop 30 points on the thermometer overnight. Ha. What the hay do they know, anyhow? In reality the temperature dropped 35 degrees, the sun was last seen setting in the west a week ago and its warmth and energy has been replaced by the flickering glow of burning logs in the hearth. We resigned suddenly to the winter.

At 5 pm I sit on a bench and stare at a barbell. It’s nightfall in the middle of the day and the darker it gets, the heavier the bar appears. I get up and reluctantly close the back door -- my favorite source of air and oxygen, freedom, space and non-containment -- to the icy-chill. I shudder. The bar is now riveted to the bench and I have yet to complete five sets of wrist curls supersetted with reverse curls and pulley pushdowns. The scene is bleak. I’m pasty white, cold, stiff, can’t get a pump and I’m listening to a Christmas jingle on a satellite radio station as it floods the gym floor via our mondo speaker system – something about Frosty the Snowman. I’ll give Frosty another 10 seconds before he’s slush.

I grope for purpose as I pull up the hood on my sweatshirt. It’s warm in here and nobody can see or hear me. “November, December, January, February and March,” I mutter. I do this every year, once and only once. I stupidly calculate the months of grimness ahead (I’m not a winter person), boldly encounter them one by one and shake them from my shoulders like pretty snowflakes. Fact is, I love the fireplace, early evenings at home with Laree and Mugsy, hibernation, hot soups, heavy blankets, changes in activities and pursuits and viewpoints, mid-winter getaways, turkey, dressing and eggnog, Christmas shopping, crowded malls, bulking up, power lifting and low reps and heavy weights. Fact is, I love anticipating the spring and summer with pounding, relentless, undiluted, all-consuming and near-desperate optimism and hope. I shall sing again, one day.

Right now I’ll settle for a visit to the past with you, bombers.

Shawn Perine Interview Part II

Q) So what was your training split like back then (late ‘60s)? The current vogue is less frequency, more rest between workouts. But you guys weren't so concerned with overtraining back then, were you?
a) Arnold has said that you were an intense trainer, which is why he liked you for a partner. What was your experience training with him like?
b) Did you ever partner up with any other big names?

One thing has changed over the years: I’m older. I’ve altered my training a bit here and there to accommodate for recuperation (same intensity, but down from six days a week to four) and injury (groove modifications, exercise substitutions, abbreviated ROM). But the supersets and volume in sets and reps remains high and intense and the same bodypart groupings follow me everywhere: chest, shoulders and back, bis and tris, and legs. I always include squats and deadlifts in my schemes, midsection every day and aerobics in emergency only.

I’m old-fashioned like the wheel. I don’t believe in the training philosophy and techniques distributed today. They match the times and are suitable for the new-age mentality and are better than nothing. Train hard has become train hardly. One bodypart a day, once a week works okay for the intermediate guy or gal trainee, but not for the beginner. Overtraining has frightened the pants off most under-muscled athletes and they take layoffs in search of growth. The secret patch, lotion, pill, drink, powder or stack for leanness and might is sought like the winning Lotto ticket or the Holy Grail.

It’s the gym; it’s the hard work, the smart eating and the right attitude, stupid. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.) There is no philosophy in today’s bodybuilding community; and the deep information comes from researchers and pseudo-researchers, schooled page-turners with pencil necks, the advertising world with dollar signs in their eyes, heavily certified yet lightly muscled personal trainers and knurly guys loading up their system on this and that from the skull-and-crossbones pharmaceutical underground.

I had three training partnerships in the dungeon days each enduring a year. They were strong, reliable and complementary -- we motivated and learned from each other. You wouldn’t know them; I don’t know where they are today and I miss them. Arnold and I hooked up together frequently, but not regularly. We would meet at Joe’s in the early evening and collaborate, merge our routines where and when they accented one another and encouraged and motivated each other as we pushed the iron. This became a favorite method of training as there was no obligation or dependency or disappointment. Give me freedom or give me death. Our strength and motives were corresponding and we blasted it side by side when the time was right, thus assuring super energy and enthusiasm. Arnold trained like a workhorse and I lifted like a crane, nothing fancy, nothing pretty, and not short n’ sweet.

Frank Zane and I met at the original Gold’s Gym as the sun came up during 1970 to guarantee consistent and rigorous midsection and calf training in preparation for the many events to follow in the fall of that year. A solemn team, we were, on a mission with compulsion in our blood. Every evening, as the summer weeks rolled by, a gang of us would convene to gorge ourselves on the iron and steel: Arnold, Franco, Zane, Big Mike Katz, Corney, Waller, Padilla and me. In the fall off that year Arnold won the Olympia, Zane the Universe in London, Katz the Mr. America in NY, Franco the Universe in NY and me, the World title. Artie Zeller, the world’s greatest candid physique photographer, caught us in action in a series of almost-alive black and whites that remind us why we train, should we forget. I’ll bet one or two of his picture stories are displayed in the nearby pages to accompany this article. Thanks, Artie.

Q) What was your knowledge of nutrition back then?
a) How was your diet comprised?
b) Did you use Rheo Blair products? Were they as amazing as many claimed?

Though I wrestled with the iron for years growing up in Jersey, I didn’t really learn anything till I moved to Muscle Beach. It was there in all its unconstrained simplicity that lifting weights and building muscle was clearly understood. The basics in nutrition and exercise were discovered, established and practiced. Why fix what works and ain’t broke, it was agreed; train hard, eat right and grow.

The diet information I acquired in the early ‘60s, the basic bodybuilder’s diet being restored today for all of mankind, came from the struggling Muscle Beach/Screen Actor’s Guild members who didn’t work much beyond studio calls and made every penny count: high protein, low carbs and medium fat -- meat, milk, eggs, fruit and salad, and don’t forget your vitamin and mineral supplements and your protein powder. They knew this menu built muscle and provided energy and kept the bodyfat low. Why? ‘Cuz, that’s why. Ask anyone. Try it. Today, 40 to 50 years later, there are stacks of books that have made the subject of nutrition no clearer or more appealing; just lots of research, study, facts, data and confusion. What are we, nuts?

One fine spring afternoon I hopped on the 405 freeway and sped merrily to Long Beach to visit with Rheo H Blair, my friend through my good friend Larry Scott. The vehicle was my hopped-up jewel-blue dune-buggy and the passenger was my hopped-up in spirit, muscle and might 21-year-old Austrian companion in a torn T-shirt, the governor. Zoom Zoom. Rheo, a self-made nutritionist whose specialty was building lean mass, considered it a life-or-death matter to meet Arnold and offer him a basket of his popular food supplements as a welcome-to-America gift. How could I refuse?

“Thanks, Rheo,” in broken English, “You are American champion. We must go.”

The fiberglass dune buggy was topless and reminded me of a freeway surfboard. It skidded about as I weaved my way home through traffic at what seemed like incredibly high speeds; nothing was in focus but the setting sun. Arnold sat in the back seat, which was raised like a throne to accommodate the screaming engine below, clutching a chrome roll bar for support. More than once he stood up and roared at the cars to the left and the right with a clenched hand raised high punching the air, his hair straight out, eyes squinted and tearing and a grin as big as his biceps pumping up his face -- a warrior commanding his chariot. A generous supply of Blair’s protein, choline and inositol sat on the floor beside us, our booty, the secret stuff of muscles in a box. Thank God life is made up of moments such as these. Let someone else govern California, the lad’s busy. We made it home unscathed in time for squats.

Q) You were known for having a great back before having a great back was required. Did you put extra emphasis on back? There was a heroic aspect to physiques back in the ‘60s and ‘70s that included a huge upper body tapering down to a slim waist and muscular, but streamlined legs. Was this part of the plan?

The field was less crowded in those days and each guy stood out. The iron was applied vigorously, the protein consumed generously and the muscle grew according to an internal blueprint. Katz had the ribcage and chest, Zane the perfect symmetry, Arnold stood tall with magnificent arms, Franco had awesome rock-hard power and muscularity, Sergio contrasted a wasp-waist and with incredible thickness, Tinnerino was a large chiseled stone, Pearl displayed mass and might with perfection, Rick Wayne was flowing hot lava, Howorth brought on the shoulders, Scott was and still is a pile of rocks and I, some say, had a back. Heavy bent-over barbell rows, dumbbell rows, wide-grip chins and pulldowns, seated lat rows, pullovers and deadlifts will do that to a guy, if he keeps it up. Back power and vitality serves a lot of good purposes for a long time, I always thought, and pulling is just plain fun. We’re all crazy, ya know.

My first training partner -- a slick Mr. California in ’64 -- and I looked at Reeves and said, “He da man.” Taper was sought by most early bodybuilders and legs were trained enough to serve as platforms for the lean V-shaped upper body -- the sweet look. The “sweet look” has left the building.

Q) What are your thoughts on the development and balance of today's physiques?
b) If you had a say, what would be a change you would like to see in today's version of the sport?

I’m awestruck, but not jealous. I’m largely impressed, slightly intimidated and sufficiently understanding. The grand size and bursting muscularity has exceeded the bounds of the eye and human comprehension. Thus, I suggest pro bodybuilding has become an extreme sport, like spiraling off cliffs on snow boards, dirt bikes or skateboards: daring, not forgettable, but not inspiring either. Who among the crowd can identify with or strive for the proportions of the creatures on the stage or magazine covers before them? Like the Terminator, Isis and Batman, they are heroes, but how does a young man or woman live with them in their heart?

The XXX-extreme culture will live on, as long as it draws the crowd and provides the buck. The rest of us will look on, shake our heads and curl our clunky dumbbells hoping for some muscles from our blood, sweat and tears. There’s real gold in that body of yours, not the fool’s gold we see glittering in the mountains.

Q) What is your training like today?

Like yesterday’s, only I love it more. Briefly, the same fundamental techniques (supersets mixed with power and singles, five sets of this or that x12,10,8,6,4 reps, max intensity based on risk and abuse factors, modifications in groove to accommodate limitations from 60 pushy years on a rocky planet). And oddly, or not so oddly, the same motivations: be strong, have big muscles and good shape and lift the iron repeatedly. Smart as ever, never learn.

12. If you could go back in time and tell yourself do's and don'ts based on your bodybuilding perspective today, what might they be?

Honestly, Shawn, I’d do it the same, mistakes, injuries and wasting of time. Bodybuilding, or muscle building, as I prefer to call it, is specifically but not solely about building muscle. It’s about building your life and character and person… your body, mind and soul. You want to learn? Pay attention to your mistakes, be willing to make them and don’t punish yourself or feel guilty because of them. Are you seeking growth? Waste some time. Need a crash course in character building? Embrace the injury and listen to the pain. Impatient? Persevere! Bored? Persist! Doubtful and lack confidence? Be strong and courageous; it’s there and a whole lot more to come. Lost direction, in the gym, at home, on the job, in relationships -- go back to the gym, now. Things get worse if you don’t and better when you do.

It would be a cool world if everyone trained hard and ate less sugar.

Above all, go with God.

The End

Or is it just the beginning?

The Bomber

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