by John McKean
Each thigh was bigger in circumference than the lifter’s entire inseam measured. And those legs were CUT ! My good friend Santos Martinez was famed for his olympic lifting and physique wins here in Pittsburgh during the early 1960s, and later for powerlifting. Usually weighing 198 pounds at about 5′7″ in height, Santos always impressed with his rugged, deeply etched all-over body massiveness, yet I NEVER saw him perform a single bodybuilding exercise during the years I knew him ; he was strictly a LIFTER ! So it was a surprise to many of us when an upstart local physique competitor, an arrogant kid just out of his teens,named Bernie, challenged Santos to return to the posing dias. The gym conversation went something like “Hey,old man, you USED to win some of those dreary, ancient muscle shows, but you’d have no chance against a modern bodybuilder like me! I’ve been winning everything throughout the area for 3 years now, and these days they want MY definition, symmetry, and washboard abs. How about letting yourself get embarrassed and enter the Mr. Allegheny contest next month -it’s following the weightlifting meet , and I know you’ll be there!” Always up for a good laugh, a relaxed Santos agreed.
I just had to ask Santos what strategy he possibly hoped to use to have any chance whatsoever in this challenge. After all, young Bernie had almost taken the Mr. Pennsylvania title a few months earlier. Of course, an always philosophic Martinez wasn’t taking the whole thing seriously, so in his usual laidback fashion, he quipped ” Ah heck, I’ll just flex my fat in front of a mirror every day for the rest of the month, and hope the judges will enjoy the shape of my lard over the kid’s well tuned muscle!” (it might be mentioned that none of us in the area’s iron game ever saw a trace of fat on Santos’ body, but he apparently liked to imagine it was creeping up on him as he aged!). You can guess the rest – getting whatever “pump” he needed from the weightlifting meet earlier in the evening, Santos strode out under the physique lights,did a few early poses, then completely dominated obnoxious little Bernie with his trademark “most muscular” pose! Heck, Martinez’ trapezius itself looked bigger than Bern’s whole body! (Santos actually scared my girlfriend of the time , who thought a gorilla had escaped from the zoo!). I don’t recall that our loudmouthed young bodybuilder, sniffling home with his 2nd place trophy, ever competed again !
It’s interesting to observe that Mr. Martinez obviously had terrific genetics toward his strength and physique , but that he relied on seemingly simple “flexing”, or what some would term “muscle control” exercise to enhance both.Especially since many of our REALLY early all-rounders used a similar method during their build-up years. The phenomenal Maxick,back in the initial part of the 1900s, developed what may be argued as the best natural body ever built, with youthful reliance on self developed muscle control exercises. The 145 pound Max claimed this provided the base strength to almost effortlessly perform tremendous one arm swings,snatches, and jerks, and among the very first lifters to do over a double bodyweight continental and jerk. During the same time frame, Otto Arco utilized his own form of isometric muscle posing to develop a superbly dense muscle structure which served him well as a champion wrestler, gymnast, bodybuilder, and lifter -Arco actually was witnessed doing a Turkish Get-up(one arm,of course) ,his favorite All-Round lift, with nearly 200 pounds! (Arco usually weighed a mere 138 pounds!). From that time on, some very celebrated lifters got into muscle control (and all LOOKED it!) – Edward Aston, Monte Saldo, Sig Klein, John Grimek, etc. Often makes me wonder why or how “modern” bodybuilding ever became such a big event (oh yeah, hours upon hours in a gym daily “pumping up” with tiny weights gave a temporary illusion, followed by anorexia for definition, then later, drugs really enhanced the BLOAT !), when heavy lifting along with a small bit of muscle control exercise produced virtual human anatomy charts, with strength to match.
I also have to note that Dr. John Ziegler ,while working with York lifters on his famed isometric rack methods, also developed a machine to offer electric stimulas to obtain near maximum contraction of his lifter’s muscles. Dr. Ziegler apparently achieved some measure of success with this “artificial muscle tensing” toward increased strength , yet never recorded or published results. Indeed, even the famed Max Planck Insitute in Germany did research that proved “self willed, purposefull muscle contraction” (isometric posing) would yield tremendous, almost unbelievable gains if done with consistancy over time. I just have to consider that with many of the old muscle control books being reproduced lately -courses by Maxick, Arco, Saldo, Jubinville – many of us all-rounders can possibly instill this 10 minutes extra exercise to add a bit of hope and excitement for the long winter of training ahead.
However, I do foresee one very horrific downside. You see, the lower portion of the Ambridge VFW gym is lined with mirrors. If old Art Montini happens to read this information, we’re likely to face the gruesome prospect of him down there, shirt off, posing away. And we’ve long had a saying at the VFW – “If one is unlucky enough to see Art even partially naked, that person will instantly turn to stone!”