Thursday, June 5, 2008

Classic Physique Supplements - Harold Poole

What kind of supplements did the champions of the Golden Era of Classic Physique Building use to build their great physiques? In the current issue of MuscleMag (July 08), there is a great interview with Harold Poole (Mr. America, Mr. Universe), one of the last non-drug users of the Golden Era, who placed 2nd in the first two Mr. Olympia contests against Larry Scott (1965, 1966 - some say he should have won in 1966). In the interview, he states the following: "I took wheat-germ oil, dessicated liver tablets, protein powder, and brewer's yeast." That's it! More evidence that one can build a spectacular, classic physique, without steroids and with a minimum of nutritional supplements. - Classic Physique Builder


Johnny G said...

I heard that Harold Poole was juicing with the best of them in the early 60's - he doesn't look clean to me - I might be wrong - sorry that he might be tainted with the steroid issue, as baseball is going thru today so will Poole have to maybe share some of guilt by association - I don't remember him coming out hard against steroids

- CPB - said...

Hi Johnny,

Check out Harold Poole's site (the link is on our side bar). He states that he never took steroids and actually left the competitive field because there was no way he could keep up with the steroid users.

One "hears" a lot of things, especially on the various web forums, etc. And people will say anything. In particular, steroid users will often make unsubstantiated claims about this or that Golden Age champ, in order to justify their use. However, anyone who knows history and the facts can easily dismiss their assertions.

So unless there is credible evidence otherwise, it is reasonable to take Harold at his word.

All the best,

CPB (Anthony)

Johnny G said...

Just looking at his pose(Harold Poole) with his traps up to his ears might be and I say might be evidence that something might be going on...But you are right about one thing and that it is your site. And it is about classic physiques,and Harold looks to thick and big to be considered a classic physique as with Pearl & Park as they got more seasoned, bigger and more massive(my point apparently not yours)...Now if your site wants to make exceptions thats your call, but if Steve Reeves continued his quest and never left bodybuilding and developed 20"inch guns I wonder if we would be discussing this in a different where do we draw the line about what is classic and what isn't....It shouldn't be about drugs in it self...even Steve Reeves shot up B-12 during his career, I never took a B-12 shot ever in my 56 years of if Steve was willing to take shots in this form why wouldn't I think that maybe he be tempted to shoot up the good stuff if he was living in this era....anyone who was envolved in a culture like bodybuilding or physical culture was going against the grain in his era and time....things did get out of control in bodybuilding as a whole, but we do come down to this and that is what is considered a classic physique(I guess it is objective point of view). And I promise not to bust on Harold Poole anymore, that was never my attention. He was and is one of my favorites believe it or not.

- CPB - said...

Hi Johnny (and Eveyone)!,

Thanks so much for your comments! It is our hope that our posts give people something to think about and we very much like and encourage CPB Readers to feel free to "discuss" the posts via the "comment" function. It is the CPB Readers comments that really enrich CPB Blog!

I do have a few observations on some points that Johnny raised. Regarding Harold's pose in the picture accompanying this post, he is intentionally elevating his scapula (shoulder blade) to show off his traps in an unusual manner. His traps don't normally look like that - so this is just a "muscle control" pose. I've seen a photo of Grimek doing the same thing (see Your Physique, Aug 1950 issue, page 27). So, I don't think this is evidence of roid-use.

Bill Pearl was, in fact, one of the very first to experiment with steroids (by his own admission) in 1958. He got the idea from a veterinarian and used steroids to gain an additional 25 lbs. So we would consider Bill Pearl's pre-1958 physique to be classic, but not his steroid-enhanced post 1958 physique. His experiment with steroids seems to have been an isolated incident and did not seem to spread beyond him at that time (the evidence of this is that it is well-documented that the York gang was totally confused about how to effectively use steroids in their late 1959, early 1960 experiments with Dr. Ziegler - surely, if Bill's knowledge had spread, the York gang would have been among the first to get that knowledge).

Steve Reeves just decided to stop gaining mass when his arms, neck, and calves reached 18.25 inches. He said "that was plenty big for him." So he simply wasn't interested in going further. I think if he had gone up to a 19 inch neck, arms, and calves, it would not have radically altered the look of his physique.

The stories of Steve betting B12 shots seem to be anecdotal. Perhaps there is something credible in print, if so, I hope someone can post the reference. However, I remember my mother getting B12 shots in the early 1960s. B12 is a vitamin, not a drug, and in the 1950s and 60s, doctors gave B12 shots for a variety of reasons. I, and most people, have had antibiotic shots. So I don't think this is any indication that someone would be tempted to take steroids. We should also keep in mind that bodybuilding in Reeves' day was "physical culture" and the point was always to pursue "vitality and health". They were not simply pursuing a certain look "at all costs" - as are the mainstream bodybuilders of today.

In terms of "drawing the line" (for CPB) of what constitutes a classic physique, we do draw the line at "drug use." We are only interested in the kind of physique that can be produced "without drugs." That is why we don't include Frank Zane - as a true, classic physique builder. We are pleased that, despite his steroid use, at least he adhered to a more "classic" standard in terms of size and symmetry. But we don't think that his level of definition (which looks cadaver- like) could have been attained without steroid use.

Actually, we not only draw the line at drug use, but we even limit our supplements to Golden-Age type supplements - in recognition that the pre-roid, Golden Age champs didn't have or need modern high-tech supplements to build their physiques. This separates us (pre-roid, Golden Age classic physique builders) from the modern "natural, drug-free" bodybuilders who are willing to take any modern, high-tech supplement as long as it is not banned by their organizations (and despite what the known or unknown health risks might be for those modern, high tech supplements).

Thanks again, Johnny, for your thought-provoking comments! I hope it inspires others to participate with their comments as well!

All the best,

CPB (Anthony)

Johnny G said...

(,htm) by Dennis B. Weis says comments made by Steve Reeves in effect that he injected himself with B-12 to help increase his muscle you can take that how ever you want too, but I take that during a time where the normal physical culturist who workout that they most likely never used needles to inject themselves even if it was B-12...these guys tried every way to increase muscle size by blending eggs, milk, kelatine or any thing they could get their hands said Pearl only admitted using steroids one time, but if I never brought this up would it made your website....Park, Pearl, Poole, Colbert, and yes Grimek who used steroids in the yearly 60's to try them out said to a good friend of mine(Charles Buser)since you want names who won Natural Bodybuilding contest in the 70's and 80's confided to him he tried them to see if they worked and he said all he got was a erection all day granted hard steroid were not around, but testosterone was since 1935...what they call the Golden Age of Steroids was from 1935 to 1950 and if I need proof all anyone has to do is just put in their search engine TESTOSTERONE and read it on Wikipedia and get the true facts on when steroids were introducted to the world...I was told by another friend of mine(Dave Landua) who now is in his 70's that Reeves did enject himself with Testosterone...hate to burst bubbles since everyone truly thinks that these guys were squeeky clean, but come on...Reeves doesn't train all year and in just 4 short weeks in York, Pa he transforms his body and wins Mr. World...let me tell ya something, I knew a lot of the crowd who hung around York, Pa since I live here in Harrisburg just a half hour away and all these old timers said more stuff was going on then you could imagine, and one being Bill Greiner who owned the first bodybuilding gym in our area, he is now in his 80's and was more truthful then anyone I ever met and he train around the TRUE GREATS..Now you have asked for names and sites and I have given them to ya, but if you really want to believe that these guys were GOD like then so be it..To me they were built unreal, but natural for me is never taking even a B-12 shot..SORRY Guys

- CPB - said...

Hi Johnny (and Everyone),

Thanks again for your comments. I respect your viewpoint and have some comments on some of your points. So here's my take on things:

(1) The info in the Weis article simply repeats the anecdotal story. Weis does not cite his source for his assertion that "Reeves was evidently into vitamin B12 shots". So this remains an unsupported assertion. He also doesn't say that Reeves injected himself. But Weis does quote several statements of Reeves regarding his anti-steroid views.

(2) What your friend told you regarding Steve and testosterone might also be an unsupported asseration. I respectfully pose the following questions: Did Landau know Reeves? Did Reeves tell him that he injected testosterone? Did he see Reeves do it? Or is your friend just repeating something that he "heard" from someone else?

(3) I haven't seen any credible reports or documentation that Colbert or Park (or Poole) used steroids. Actually, it doesn't make historical sense that somehow Colbert (being a minority/black in the 1950's during the time of segregation) would have somehow been on the cutting edge of steroid use in the mid 1950's while the York gang would still be confused as to whether it was the "little pink pills" or the "isometric exercises" that Dr. Zeigler gave them that was responsible for increased gains in 1960.

(3) Grimek did admit to trying steroids - as you pointed out, but this was well after (20 years?) he had built his classic physique and well after his competitive days. At the time of his experiment, he was older and was on staff as an editor of Strength and Health mag. As you said, they did nothing for him and he didn't like it at all.

(4) Going back to Reeves and his preparation for the Mr. World contest, Steve always said that he would never lose much muscle mass during his layoffs and he always stayed pretty much in shape. So it is entirely believable that he could whip himself into competitive shape in 4 weeks for the 1948 Mr. World contest (remember he had won the 1947 Mr America contest not long prior to that). Have you seen the clip of this contest? It is on our side bar. He didn't really have much competition (which anyone can see for themselves). We should also remember that it is much easier to regain mass that was previously built (due to muscle memory) than it is to build that mass in the first place. And he was still in his twenties - with plenty of his own natural testosterone still circulating. Actually, Steve was advised to enter the contest by a friend because he thought Steve could win it without trying much.

(5) Regarding Testosterone, sometimes people these days think that as soon as something is invented like this, that it immediately spreads around the world instantly and bodybuilders must be using it right away. But it was a different world back then. It was not the "Information Age" of today in which the world is instantly connected and it was prior to the drug-accepting counter cultural revolution of the 1960's. The world would soon errupt into World War II and lines of communication and materials would be greatly affected. According to academic sources, it wasn't testosterone that made the first impact on the bodybuilding world, but nivilar (Bill Pear's experiment in 1958 - and incidently, he used several more times after that) and d-bol (via Dr. Ziegler and the York gang in late 1950/1960). People can refer to Roach's book, or Terry Todd's academic papers, or John Fair's book "Muscletown" for this (all of which are academically referenced).

Well...perhaps all this won't change any minds and we may have to "agree to disagree" on certain points, but hopefully someone finds our discussion helpful. I do think we agree on the main point that you don't need steroids or even modern supplements in order to build a fine, classic physique!

All the best (and thanks for contributing!),

CPB (Anthony)

Johnny G said...

I think your point is well taken - so let me at least say that when the bodybuilders from the Reeves era got older they still looked good....I recently seen pictures of the great bodybuilders of the 60's & 70's the likes of Sergio, Arnold and Zane and they are only a shell of what the were like in their prime....Reeves and Grimek still looked good when they reached their golden years and maybe this a point that I should remember, and that is what are you going to look like and feel when those golden years hit us...I'll hold back of my opinions and just more observe what these guys did in the 40's & 50's and what they became after the posing stage...I guess at times that I got still to much rebel in me from my hippie days and maybe I need to chill - Peace - Johnny G

- CPB - said...

Hi Everyone,

I should correct a couple of typos in my previous comment (above):

Bill Pearl's first experiment with steroids involved Nilivar (not Nivilar) in 1958. As far as I can tell from academic sources, this was the only "successful" experiment (Bill gained 25 lbs in 12 weeks thus increasing his weight from 225 to 250lbs) by a bodybuilder with steroids in the 1950s.

In 1954, there was an "unsuccessful" experiment by Dr. John Ziegler who injected Grimek and Jim Park (Mr. America 1952) with testosterone. Grimek got injections 2 or 3 times a week for 6 weeks. Park only got one dose. Both of them reported that they got no results (except that Park "got erections upon seeing any female"). After this, Ziegler attempted no further experimentations until 1959 (after he helped CIBA develop dianabol - the "litte pink pills").

In late 1959, Dr. John Ziegler gave John Grimek a half "bushel basket" of dianabol pills to pass out to volunteers at York in late 1959, but John could not find anyone willing to try them! So Dr. Ziegler then found two weightlifter volunteers - Bill March and Tony Garcy - in May of 1960 who were willing to take the pills. (My typo said "late 1950/1960" but I meant to write "late 1959/1960")

The "confusion" that occurred at this time (extending from 1960-62) was because in addition to giving them dianabol, Dr. Ziegler also had them training with a new system of isometric exercises, as well as giving them mental (self-hypnosis-type) exercises. March and Garcy were weightlifters trying to increase the poundages of their lifts. So when the gains were noticed, at first they thought it was due to the isometrics or the mental exercises. It was a bit difficult for them to believe that a little pill could result in such gains. In 1962, they finally figured out it was the dianabol (and not the isometrics and mental exercises) that was responsible for the gains.

This info comes from John Fair's paper "Isometrics or Steroids? Exploring New Frontiers of Strength in the Early 1960s" which was published in the academic journal - Journal of Sports History, Vol 20, No 1, pp 1-24.

In any case, we may do an article on the topic of how steroids were introduced into bodybuilding in a future issue of Classic Physique Builder (CPBzine). The article would cover the "basics" of the history - which might be helpful when talking to others about this topic.

All the best,

CPB (Anthony)