Melvin Wells (left) easily took "best arms" awards at Mr America contests by training just two, strictly performed All-Round lifts. On the right is that years winner,for comparison sake, the famous Jack Delinger.
Our very first USAWA Hall-of-Famer, John Grimek, originally developed his amazingly thick arms from heavy, STRICT presses and equally good form barbell curls. Heck, he had to do strict presses, because in the old days of lifting (John won the U.S. Nationals and made our team for the Olympics , flirting with the world press record several times !) the lifters had to press at the speed of the head ref slowly raising his finger! (our own Art Montini is still mad at the late Bob Hoffman, who turned Art down on a 235 pound press for going just a bit faster than Bob’s finger raise!!).
Yet it will surprise many that during Grimek’s heyday there was another competitor that not only pressed and curled better, but according to serious, expert officials of the time, actually displayed more impressive arm musculature!! His name was Melvin Wells, a physique man who placed second in a few early 1950s Mr. America contests, while always winning “best arms” , “best back”, and “most muscular” awards. It is said that no photo did this man justice, but he achieved the first REAL 19″ arm ,so full, thick, and defined, as to defy description during those pre steroid times. And he got size and strength with a very basic All-Round training scheme.
Mel’s entire arm program consisted only of 3 sets of ten in the strict curl and the press! Yet when I say STRICT, Wells took this to a whole ‘nuther level- our USAWA rules tell us for curling to put a sheet of paper behind our head & butt, backed up to a wall, then curl(without paper slipping) ; for training, Wells didn’t use the paper thing, but very reliable witnesses observed him ALWAYS performing very SLOW, picture perfect barbell curls ,full range, with 150 pounds for his 3 sets of 10 (one writer counted him doing 12 perfect reps with 145 in front of a large crowd at the famous York picnic!). His presses were perhaps even more noteworthy – 3 sets of 10 ,super strict with 120 pounds ! Oh, wait, I forgot to mention, these were one arm presses!! Absolutely no side leaning or back bend either. Hmm, this guy coulda done some major damage to the USAWA record book for curling & pressing!!
Now I write this not only to publish great lifting history and get guys thinking of training more on strict curls and our one arm dumbbell press, but due to recently my wife joining a local health spa, and dragging me along to keep her company. Fortunately, this gym has plenty of olympic weights, and good heavy dumbbells, and they tend to leave ya alone (nobody has yelled at me for using chalk -YET!)! But, man, talk about STRICT lifting – i see NONE of it!! Seems in the old days at public gyms I expected to see high squats by the uninitiated, but nowadays it seems that overhead presses ,incline work, bench presses, pulls, etc, whether with barbells are dumbbells, are ALL performed as QUARTER lifts -many only through mere inches of movement at the top ends! And most trainees are not even using big weights (but I guess they THINK they are!)! Seems there’d certainly be better functional strength and lasting development if modern gym people would adopt our “old fashioned” concept of complete lifts!
Just a thought -maybe those of us in the USAWA ought to visit local commercial gyms and arrange to put on free exhibitions of some of our lifts. I know from talking to a few guys, that many of those training would love to get into meets -it’s just that no one is available to show them proper procedures! It sure would be nice to increase our membership, as well as possibly opening up new venues for contests!
As for me, ole Mel Wells has inspired me onto more strict curling and one arm DB presses (tho “early middle age” allows me only to press right handed!) ; must be working -at 5′3″ tall I recently measured my right arm at 18 inches (hey, you do measure from your shoulder down to the base of yer hand, don’t ya??!!)! Train hard ,but strictly and safely, during 2015 ,guys!