Bruce Randall was a professional bodybuilder born in 1931, most famous for losing an extraordinary amount of weight for the Mr. Universe contest in 1959. Bruce started weightlifting at the age of 21 as a marine during his service at Norfolk Naval base. He was trained by a weightlifting coach Chief Petty Officer Walter Metzler who worked very close to the marine barracks Bruce was stationed in.
At this point of his life, Bruce weighed 203 pounds which was just 22 pounds under what he needed to make the base football team. It was the beginning of 1953 and Bruce realized that he’ll have to increase his food take substantially to reach the goal of 225 pounds by spring. In order to achieve this, Bruce Randall took an extra slice of bread, milk, piece of meat etc. during every meal and he never missed one. At this time, Bruce focused mostly on arm training and his previous work experience as a wood-chopper definitely proved useful.
His training consisted of a combination of infamous curls, and extensions:
- Military style barbell curls – 110 pounds, 3 sets of 6-8 reps
- Dumbbell concentration curls – 50 pounds, 3 sets of 6-5 reps
- French style barbell curls – 70 pounds, 3 sets of 6-8 reps
- Bent-over triceps extension with dumbbells – 35 pounds, 3 sets of 6-8 reps
- Dumbbell incline curls – 45 pounds, 3 sets of 6-8 reps (with an arm hanging over a gymnastic horse)
That’s what Randall began with, but those weights increased over time as he progressed. His starting point in terms of reps was 6 each time and once he could endure full 3 sets x 8 reps with that particular weight, he would just add ten more pounds and start at six reps again – a type of training which is quite common among weightlifters even today. Strangely enough, Randall trained his arms almost each day of a week and he still managed to make gains. He claimed that’s because he trained his arms exclusively and that he couldn’t do the same with any larger muscle group such as legs or the back.
In just about six weeks or his arm training program, Randall reached his goal of 225 pounds and increased his arms by an inch and a half. The football practice was still several months away, so Randall came up with another goal before spring training. This time he gained more than 25 pounds using the same routine and diet. When it finally was the time to start the spring football training, 265 pounds heavy Brunce Randall was highly engrossed in weightlifting and soon found himself persuaded by Chief Metzler to give up football and focus on weightlifting instead.
It was high time for Brunce to modify his routine and this time the focus was on larger muscle groups and compound movements. These are, again, his starting weights with three sets of each.
- Dumbbell Bench Press – 120 pounds, 5-8 reps
- Decline Dumbbell Bench Press – 130 pounds, 5-8 reps
- Incline Barbell Press – 250 pounds, 5-8 reps
- “Good Morning” workout – 295 pound, 3-5 reps
Even though Randell use to add more exercises at the end of this routine if he had any strength left, this was the foundation of his training and what gave him the most gains. He also took as much rest as he needed between sets, to be able to lift as heavy as possible each time.
With regular heavy weightlifting, high calories were needed. Military cooks and Randall’s fellow Marines were stunned by the amount of food he used to ingest. Good example would be his typical breakfast, consisting of 28 fried eggs, loaf and half of bread and two quarts of milk! Now, keep in mind that Randall had four meals per day and sipped milk between meals, averaging eight to ten quarts per day.
If you haven’t noticed, Randall didn’t involve barbell squats in his training routine at this time. This was mainly due to a serious leg break he suffered before he started lifting weights. When he reached 245 pounds, he finally decided to give squats a chance and went for 300 pounds in weight, which felt pretty easy. Only a couple of months later he was able to successfully squat 405 pounds and finally 603 pounds at a bodyweight of 355.
But to back up a little, Randall trained for just under a year before he signed up for his very first weightlifting contest. It was just eleven months after he started weightlifting and he still managed to win this event. Pretty amazing! When he reached 342 pounds, Randall’s routine evolved again:
- 1/4 Front Squats – 1320 pounds
- Incline Clean & Press – 380 pounds, 3 reps and 410 pounds, 1 rep
- Decline Dumbbell Bench Press – 220 pounds in each hand, 1 rep
- Barbell Bench Press – 482 pounds with a 3 second pause at chest
- Dumbbell Bench Press – 220 pounds in each hand, 2 reps
- Barbell Curls – 228 pounds
- Deadlift – 730 pounds, 2 reps and 770 pounds, 1 rep
- “Good Morning” – 685 pounds
- Squats – 680 pounds
- Military Press – 365 pounds, 2 reps and 375 pounds, 1 rep
At this point, Randall weighed 410 pounds. Since he knew that mind plays an extremely powerful role in everything, including weightlifting, Randall decided it’s time to lose weight for that and other reasons.
I am a firm believer in the power of the mind when it comes to lifting, or anything else for that matter. It is only with the constant urging of the mind upon the body to do more and more that one attains the pinnacle. As much as one uses his body in lifting, I believe that he uses his mind more. Strength, I believe, depends upon one’s mental attitude. How many times I’ve heard a man say, “I can’t lift this,” and consequently he can’t. Conversely, many men can lift a weight because they think they can. And they do! It all boils down to this – without the proper frame of mind nothing is possible and with the proper frame of mind nothing is impossible. The reasons for my decision to reduce are manifold and too complex to go into here. Suffice to say that I decided to look at life from the other side of the weight picture.
I expressed my idea of weight reduction to many people and while the majority thought it a good idea, many (including an “authority” in the field of weights) did not believe it possible. This “authority,” after listening to my plan said, “Never.” I replied that as far as I was concerned there is no such word as never in a lifter’s vocabulary. I felt this way about the matter – take a sculptor about to create a statue. He takes a big, ungainly piece of rock and with hammer and chisel he chips away at it until the desired effect is created.
Well, I was that big ungainly bulk of rock and the barbells and dumbbells were my hammer and chisel. I also had something on my side that the sculptor does not have – Diet. With this attitude I began my reduction of bodyweight. On August 2, 1955, I weighed 401 pounds in my tee-shirt, slacks and loafers.
I felt that I would have to change my routines and diet radically if I were to make a successful reduction of bodyweight. After giving the problem some thought I decided to try to reverse everything I did in order to gain weight, just to see if that would be effective. Each time I sat down to eat I reduced the quantity of food slightly and cut down on such foods as bread, potatoes and other starchy and fatty foods.
At the same time I made certain that I had a high intake of protein and plenty of green vegetables, fruits and generally a good, well-balanced diet. In my routines I reduced the amount of weight used and increased the number of sets and reps. Whereas formerly I had 3-5 reps for 3 sets, I now did 4-5 sets of 12-15 reps depending on the exercise. My routine consisted of more than 20 exercises and lasted 6 to 7 hours a day. Because of this demanding schedule I put all else aside and concentrated (believe me, it takes a lot of concentration) on rearranging my body.
I would like to bring out something here that helped me immensely, and which I included in my daily workouts. It will, I believe, help those who wish to reduce. This exercise is running. I believe it to be very beneficial and it really works wonders in reducing the circumference of the ankles, calves, thighs, buttocks and hips. Of course I did not start running immediately. For a couple of weeks I went for walks, gradually increasing the distance and pace. After a month or so I began jogging and walking at alternate intervals and finally I found myself running 3-5 miles each day in conjunction with my training routines. I found that it did not adversely affect my workouts in the gym and in addition to the above mentioned benefits it increased my stamina and endurance greatly.
Going from 28 fried eggs from breakfast to just 2 boiled ones surely did the trick for Randall. The same goes for lunch, which now consisted of a salad with nuts and dinner full of veggies, one quart of skim milk and round steak. The only supplement Randall used, if you can call it that, was skim milk mixed with powdered milk for higher protein intake. Thirty three weeks later, Brunce Randall dropped to 183 pounds, losing 218 pounds in the process. The results were quite obvious, as you can see in the picture below.
Randall continued pursuing his dream and won the Mr. Universe title in 1959. He died in 2010 at the age of 79.
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I met Bruce Randall in 1962 in a Sears department store in La Grange, Illinois. He was promoting a Sears labeled 110 lb weightlifting set of a barbell with two dumbbells. The weights were slotted to lock together and painted black, the bar had a chrome sleeve. Bruce was pumped up, but slim, and quietly confident as he explained the advantages of weightlifting and health. There were about a dozen people standing around the display in the Sears store what winter day, where Bruce handed out a flyer which he had signed. Along with his many accomplishments, he claimed that he could throw a football over 70 yards in the air. I was a 16 year old high school kid and was very impressed with his incredible talents and physique. Luckily, I talked my parents into buying the weight set. I spent the next several months learning the techniques of sets, reps, and nutrition. This has served me well over the years, as I’m now 71, in good health, do senior games, and am an accomplished ballroom dancer. Bruce appeared once in a while in Strength & Health magazine, but disappeared over the years. But, I’ll always be grateful for his inspiration and positive thinking. Thanks for putting his bio on your website. RKMiller kimsy22
Great story, thanks. I too have similar memories of meeting a few of the greats when I was a kid. And I managed to get a set of weights when I was 12 years old. That also started me on a lifelong interest in physical fitness.
Nothing to add. It’s all been said.
Bruce came to St. Bonaventure High School in Ventura, CA in the fall of 1967 to talk with the football team. He said he could throw a football 76 yards and spoke on the importance of weight lifting. Very nice guy, and made an impression on this 9th grader.
Wow! So many similar stories about the influence of Bruce Randall on so many young men. I was 12 in 1970 and got my first set, a Sears vinyl 25 lb barbell set …maroon colored vinyl enclosing concrete plates with a Bruce Randall course included. That started a love affair with the weights that had a profound effect on my life in so many ways, confidence not the least of them. Never was a competitive lifter or body builder but the weights and accompanying lifestyle as well as the positive thinking Bruce preached has served me extremely well over the years. Unfortunately I never met him in person but certainly hope he knew the positive impact he had on so many budding young weight trainees such as myself.
Bruce was a big inspiration for me when I was 14 and had just started lifitng weights. I was in a small town in Oklahoma and friend of mine’s older brother had one of the Sears Barbell sets and the story about Bruce.. I had weigh 145 and had heard that there was kid in El Paseo who was my age and could miltary 180 so I worked until I could beat him doing two reps with 185 witness by my frends. Few people lifted weights back then. They believe it would make you muscle bound. So at 17 I had ended up being the weightlifting coach for the Football Players designing their routine and their diet. Later in 1980 I started inventing the Hydro Tone Excersice Equipment.. 11 Us Patents and 22 Forgein Patents I went all over the US and to many forgein counries training Personal Trainers and Physical Therapist. I sold my patents in 1993 but I did physcial therapy with my equipment and still teach fitness classess three days a week since 2000.. If it wasn’t for Bruce and other great bodybuilders of that time like Steve Revees I may of never prusued my career. I now do a Podcast on health and fitness called Dan’s Health Talks which you can find on iHeartradio.com, Amazon, or under dsolloway21/podbean.com. So I owe a lot to Bruce and other Fitness Pioneers for a wonderful career. and a liftetime of fitness. Dr, Daniel S Solloway Ph.D.