NATURALSTRENGTH.com – Old School Weight Training Strength Strongman Power Vintage Bodybuilding: Appreciation Through Discipline

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The May 1969 edition of Muscular Development magazine was definitely one of the better issues.  The Table of Contents reads like a Who’s Who of Iron Game legends.  Vic Boff, Reg Park, Jim Witt, along with regulars Bob Hoffman and John Grimek, all contributed articles for the doubtless benefit of the readers of this fine York publication.  When this issue first appeared, I was not even five years old.  To provide further perspective, the Apollo 11 moon landing was still two months away, the “Miracle” Mets were just beginning their improbable season, and legendary football coach Chuck Noll had yet to coach his first game for the Steelers.  But whether you’ve seen this issue before- or this is your first time- it is definitely worth perusing.  I’ve often said that if you can get your hands on quality, vintage magazines they are worth their weight in gold.  The information contained within is definitely better than what you find in the magazines – or on the web- today.

     While just about all of the articles are top quality, there was one in particular that caught my eye.  It was titled “Appreciation Through Discipline,” and it was written by a gentleman named John Decola.  Back in the 1960s, Mr. Decola was a prominent bodybuilder and won the Mr. America contest before retiring from competition.  Even though he stopped entering contests, he never stopped bodybuilding and the physical culture lifestyle.  I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Decola in 2015, when he was honored by the Association of Oldetime Barbell and Strongmen.  He proved to be a worthy honoree, because during his acceptance speech he took off his suit and proceeded to strike a front double-biceps pose that would be the envy of any young man who lifts weights.  Except that he was in his mid 70s at the time.  His youthful appearance, impressive physique, and energetic enthusiasm proved that age is only a number.  His speech was the highlight of the evening, and it was my memory of him from AOBS that caused me to take a closer look at the article he wrote for MD over 54 years ago.

     Over the years, the subject of discipline has been discussed, with many authors offering their own connotation of the word.  Mr. Decola’s definition is as follows: “Discipline is no more than doing what we should do even when we don’t feel like doing it.”  You would be hard-pressed to find a more meaningful definition of the word.  The only quote relating to discipline that I would consider better comes from legendary basketball coach Bob Knight,  “Discipline is recognizing what has to be done, doing it as well as you can do it, and doing it that way all the time.” 

     Anyone who has trained for any length of time can relate to the fact that there will be times when training may become a drag.  Enthusiasm may fade, or you become physically and/or mentally overtrained.  As drug-free lifters, there will be times when the weights feel like a ton.  The inevitable lousy workout will occur and you have to decide what to do.  Do you walk away and live to fight another day? Or do you force yourself to do something- anything- to salvage your training session?  Like many questions regarding training, there is no one correct answer.  If you are physically beat up from a previous lifting session, then ditching the workout and going after it on another day just may the best thing to do.  If it’s simply a matter of being lethargic or lazy, then that is the time when discipline comes into play.  It is under such conditions, according to the article, that it takes discipline to perservere to train.

     In the article, Mr. Decola makes a very good point regarding discipline and success.  Victory is not merely scoring more points, or lifting more weight, than your opponents.  Rather it is the culmination of hard work and sacrifices.  Anyone who has ever conceived of a goal, and then worked towards that goal, and sacrificed, and dealt with the ups and downs that come with any difficult endeavor knows the feeling.  

     Getting bigger and stronger is the goal of most- if not all- persons who hoist the steel.  If you wish to deadlift 500 Lbs., you have to make out a plan, and then do it.  There will be days when the weights feel heavy and you may feel like skipping your workout.  Or you may feel like flagging the assistance movements for that day.  But you must be committed to achieving your goal, and doing what has to be done, even if there are other things you’d rather be doing.  If you stick to your workout routine, and keep pushing the poundages and making progress over the course of weeks and months, then you will succeed.  

     An appreciation of the hard work required to build greater strength can only come to those who have made the commitment to discipline.  According to Mr. Decola, “Champions are molded from perfection, and perfection comes from hard work, hard work is the handmaiden of discipline.  That’s your road to success.”  If you look around, you will find many people who have achieved their lifting goals.  There are no secrets, no miracle routines, no magic supplements.  Only hard work, commitment, and discipline.  If you have trained long enough, you have probably acquired a great amount of personal discipline.  I can’t think of anyone who has lifted for many years who hasn’t demonstrated such qualities.  When you take into account everything that a natural lifter has to overcome, it’s no surprise when he/she inevitably has success.  

     Many years ago, a lifter from the former Soviet Union was asked about his approach to training.  The gist of his response is that it takes a brave man to lift heavy weights alone.  I agree with him completely, but such bravery can only come from discipline that has accrued over many years of hard work.  If you have access to back issues of the York magazines, I highly recommend the May 1969 edition of Muscular Development.  You will derive a great deal of reading pleasure- and training knowledge- from this great magazine.


The picture is from Steve Weiner’s 60th birthday last week. Half a ton of beef, left to right Steve Abramowitz, Steve Weiner, Dave Lemanczyk, Jim Duggan. 

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