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Tim Patterson and Ellington Darden Discuss
Darden's Latest Book
(Tim Patterson is the CEO of T-Nation.com, Biotest Laboratories, and Testosterone Publishing. Ellington Darden is the author of 47 fitness books. Patterson and Darden have been colleagues, business associates, and good friends for more than 20 years. The following discussion recently occurred in Patterson's Colorado Springs headquarters. It is divided into two parts.)
Arthur Jones was wrong!
He was wrong in 1980 when he began encouraging bodybuilders to train less than three times per week. How could Arthur have been so right initially — and then manage, a decade later, to screw things up so badly? I'm not sure what he was thinking.
Bulletin No. 1 (1970) was his best work on training, period. If he had taken the major concepts in that publication and concentrated primarily on them thereafter, there'd be a lot less confused HIT enthusiasts today.
After 1983, Arthur seemed to lose interest in bodybuilding. You could see it in the way he dealt with Mike and Ray Mentzer, as well as Boyer Coe. And the fiasco that resulted from the sale of Nautilus, in 1986, didn't help matters. After all that, Arthur rarely talked much about bodybuilding, and instead, focused almost exclusively on his MedX rehab machines.
Tim, you may be right. Jones always had a love-hate relationship with bodybuilders and he certainly retreated from supplying the leadership that Mike, Ray, and Boyer needed to succeed at Nautilus.
Arthur then confused the bodybuilding world in the late 1980s with his findings from the MedX computerized lumbar-testing machine — which showed for the majority of subjects that one lower-back workout was called for each 14 days. He then assumed that the same requirement held true for other muscle groups, as well as hypertrophy, in general.
At this time the high-intensity kooks got into the picture. For instance — and this is only one example — Mike Mentzer, and his heavy-duty followers, latched onto the decreased-frequency idea and began advocating low-volume routines as infrequently as once every two weeks. Consolidation training, as he called it, became a popular regime among his sect of true believers.
How misleading to think that any serious bodybuilder could make progress training with only three exercises performed once every two weeks. It didn't work — not then, not now, and not in the future.
We know a lot more today about neurophysiology than Arthur knew in the 1970s, when he wrote his first training materials. Had he continued to be involved in a meaningful way, I believe he'd have made different choices. And I certainly believe he'd have taken an alternate route had he known what was going to transpire in the HIT-extremist community. They've all but made a parody of his work.
You're right, Tim. What else would you add to the list?
The super-slow groups, which were an offspring of Arthur's, "If in doubt about your repetition speed, move slower rather than faster," simply added to the confusion of the average bodybuilder. Moving slower, in principle, might be a valuable centering point. But these groups took what amounted to a rehab guideline and turned it into an entire training strategy. Arthur told me on several occasions that they were nothing more than "mental masturbation." I agree.
Again, that's a keen observation.
In retrospect, I'm amazed that the huge bodybuilding following that Arthur captured with his "train harder and briefer" philosophy from 1970-1974 is now splintered into dozens of tiny cult-like cells. The collective power that Arthur Jones once had has been lost due to poor leadership, infighting, and lack of interest.
As a consequence, the overall results of the average HIT bodybuilder today are significantly worsethan they were 30 years ago. The physical development of today's average HIT devotee is nowhere close to the average follower in the early 1970s. And there's only one difference — old-school training. It's almost disappeared.
It's as if HIT — the real HIT — has lost its voice. Today, HIT is composed mostly of a bunch of, well . . . sissies — guys who couldn't train hard if their lives depended on it . . . guys who'd rather talk about training than actually workout hard.
If one of these HIT slackers were transported in time back to 1970 for a workout with Arthur Jones, what do you suppose would happen? I'll tell you, and this is no joke: Halfway through his first training session, Jones would kick his futuristic, sissified ass back home.
Is Arthur the only one in history who could get people to listen to reason and inspire them to train correctly? Back then Jones commanded almost everybody's ear in bodybuilding. But why?
(Smiling and shaking his head) Hey, Tim, I'd be careful about calling all our HIT men sissies . . . but you've certainly made your point. And you ended with a thought-provoking question.
If I had to narrow Arthur's appeal down to one concept, I'd have to say Confidence . . . confidence in your routine. That's what Arthur Jones brought to the bodybuilding world in the 1970s.
(Nods his head and motions for me to continue.)
Belief in what you're doing may be the single most important factor in success . . . and seeing is believing. Jones certainly wrote, talked, and demonstrated that what he was recommending was on-target. He used to say, "Prove it, then talk about it." And that's what he did.
Jones's approach was so compelling, with his story telling from his experiences with aviation, wild animals, fist fighting, movie-making, and wheeling and dealing. No one could make meaningful transitions like Jones could.
Yes! I couldn't have said it better. But again, in the 1980s and beyond, Arthur should've remained true to hardcore bodybuilders . . . and kept that "prove it, then talk about it" attitude. Bodybuilders were his bread and butter in the early 1970s . . . and he walked away from them.
In my opinion, Arthur, for giving so much to bodybuilding, has missed a huge opportunity. He underestimated the influence of the bodybuilding world — these are the guys who would have continued his legacy — and instead he wined and dined the medical community. Unfortunately, the medical community wasn't all that interested in what Arthur had to say. And it's certainly not the medical community that will carry on his legacy.
More than ever, Jones's original training ideas — and the self-confidence that they promoted, because they worked — have relevance to bodybuilders today.
Even more relevant . . . someone should advance HIT to where Arthur should've taken it, had he kept his interest in exercise and modern medical science. Just think where HIT would be today if Arthur had stayed actively involved.
Someone needs to do this, Ell. Otherwise, the HIT that you and I know — the real HIT — will be eventually lost forever. To pull it off, all of those splintered forces — such as Heavy Duty, Consolidated, Superslow, Slow Burn, Nautilus, Cybex, IART, HST, Cyberpump, NSCA, NCES, and others — need to be united into one, confident, powerful organization. I think there's a fighting chance, if these individuals are exposed to the truth about HIT. And that starts with a look back to the old school.
Yeah, I see where you're coming from and I appreciate your convicted straight talk. Those discussion points are some of the reasons that you and I are so enthused about The New Bodybuilding for Old-School Results.
It's time for bodybuilders, both young and old, to rediscover the philosophy of Arthur Jones — and the confidence that it brought to those pioneers in the 1970s — and, most importantly, the confidence that it can bring to today's lifters.
Ell, you visited Arthur recently . . . how's his health?
Yeah, I spent about two hours with him on August 19, 2006. He's not well. He must weigh no more than 140 pounds (down from his normal 170 pounds) and he has four-inches worth of a shaggy gray beard. He looks old and worn out . . . and he won't leave his home. He told me that he doubts he will make it to his next birthday. He'll be 80-years old on November 22nd.
It's really sad, Tim, to see him in such a condition.
I wish he'd let us help him . . . you know get him out of his home, maybe nothing more than a drive around central Florida. Why does he want to be such a recluse?
Arthur is determined to stay at home. He will not even go out his front door and walk 50 feet to his mailbox. Most of the day, he sits on a rundown couch and reads. His youngest son, who lives several miles away, checks on him often and brings him food and does a few things for him. Again, Arthur simply says he tired, worn out. Some of the time, however, his mind is sharp, very sharp — just like he was in the old days. But he fades after an hour or so.
Remember, this is the man who experienced the most action-packed life of any person we've ever known. Arthur's life makes the Crocodile Hunter's adventures look like Eleanor Rigby's. Maybe we should let him finish it . . . HIS WAY. I don't know?
Someone said about ten years ago — after Arthur caught the flu, refused to see a doctor, became very sick for two weeks, and then recovered remarkably — that he was just too tough to die. Let's hope that this is still the case.
I did show him the front and back covers of The New Bodybuilding for Old-School Results. He studied each one quietly for about a minute . . . and said nothing. Which as you know, Tim, is his way of saying they're okay. No response from Arthur Jones means YES.
I believe the close-up picture of Arthur on the book's back cover, captures perfectly — Arthur Jones, the teacher — which, in my opinion, was his most important role. From his eyes, you can see and feel . . . his passion for teaching and learning.
He mentioned that he wanted to see a copy of the printed book. I told him I'd bring him one on my next visit.
"Arthur," I said, as I was leaving, "the book is full of the old days and your stories and experiences. And it's loaded with great pictures."
Under his shaggy beard, he smiled . . . ever so slightly . . . which was his way of giving me a bit of encouragement.
Tim, those beginning Nautilus years — the 1970s — with Arthur Jones at his creative best were really extraordinary. There was something exciting to experience almost every day. I sure miss that decade. That's one reason this book is so special.
Ell, from the pictures in your book, I can tell that Jones learned a great deal from the Muscle Beach crowd of the 1940s.
You're right about that. Jones was in Los Angeles in 1947 and 1948, and regularly trained at Vic Tanny's Gym in Santa Monica. Tanny's was a hotbed for bodybuilding and Jones mingled with a lot of the champions, such as George Eiferman, John Farbotnik, and Clancy Ross.
Was that where Arthur learned about the advantages of whole-body routines?
Actually, whole-body routines were the norm before the 1940s. The major weight-training authors — such as Alan Calvert, Mark Berry, George Jowett, Milo Steinborn, Bob Hoffman, Earl Leiderman, and Peary Rader — all espoused exercising the entire body three times per week. Vic Tanny, who promoted the commercial gym business in the 1950s, was also a big proponent of whole-body training.
Jones knew from his gift of common sense that overall-body workouts, compared to split routines, were more effective and efficient.
That's interesting, because today, the top-rated author's on T-Nation.com have positive feelings about whole-body routines. Both Christian Thibaudeau and Chad Waterbury have huge followings on T-Nation and they're advocates of at least some whole-body training.
Chris Shugart, after reading The New HIT, switched over to a three-days-per-week schedule — with outstanding results. Even Charles Staley, with his Escalating Density Training, sees the benefits behind exercising the entire body during a single workout. And so does Alwyn Cosgrove in his recent routines.
Joe Weider's magazine writers promoted split routines during the 1960s and 1970s to pump up the sales of his products. It was the idea that more exercise and more time in the gym require more calories and more of Weider's "special" food supplements. And of course, with the advent of steroids, guys started getting results, in spite of their exercising and eating.
I want to bring back the time when strong men weren't controlled by steroids . . . a time when men cared about their health, as well as appearance. And I think we've taken a major step in the right direction with The New Bodybuilding for Old-School Results.
Arthur Jones, the ultimate old-school taskmaster, said it best:
I cannot provide an exact formula for success, but I can furnish a formula for failure. Give bodybuilders what they want: easier, longer, more frequent . . . exercise.
Instead, I supply bodybuilders with what they need: harder, briefer, more infrequent . . . exercise.
Arthur could really nail those quotes, couldn't he? Since the layout of your book was done at the T-Nation headquarters in Colorado Springs, I've seen all of it — and I can honestly say, it's unique and different from any other bodybuilding book on the market. What exactly were your intentions when you started this project?
Like most book projects, you start off being scattered and then you begin to get more precise as the writing progresses. At first, I intended to do Volume 2 of The New HIT. Then, with your help, the project evolved to a broader concept, The New Bodybuilding for Old-School Results. I decided to explore more of the roots of modern bodybuilding, which started during the 1940s and 1950s, primarily in Santa Monica, California: at Muscle Beach and Vic Tanny's Gym.
I learned a great deal from talking with Ben Sorenson, who ran the day-to-day operations for Tanny from 1947 to 1949. His memory of those old days was fantastic. Plus, Ben had dealings with all the greats: John Grimek, Steve Reeves (he actually shared an apartment with him for several months), George Eiferman, John Davis, Marvin Eder, Joe Gold, and Eric Pedersen — just to name a few.
During the last several years of Vic Tanny's life (he died in 1985), I spent hours and hours talking about the Muscle Beach days with him. He was a storehouse of stories and information about the inside workings of the bodybuilding business.
Tanny also had a lot of old pictures that he gave me. And I have an extensive photo collection that I've accumulated over the many years — before my Nautilus days, during those exciting times with Arthur Jones and Casey Viator, and from the previous books I've done with Chris Lund. Chris Lund, originally from England, is the best bodybuilding photographer I've ever been associated with and his photos always have a unique point-of-focus to them.
So, you've combined these old photos with your new-style approach to bodybuilding, is that right?
To a degree. But more specifically, the old photos are combined with the lost techniques of the masters, plus the best of today's science . . . to create The New Bodybuilding for Old-School Results.
Next week, Darden and Patterson get into the nitty-gritty of the new book and then outline a special, pre-publication offer.
Don't miss Part 2.