This morning I set my TV to record the 1964 Muscle Beach Party, where Larry Scott had a supporting role. The movie has me looking back on the public’s view of weight lifting and body building back in the '60’s. Please feel free to add any of your experiences. I started lifting weights in 1968 when attending North Carolina State University.
When I was in high school (1962-1966) coaches preached to all that weight lifting made you muscle bound. It was a deeply held belief with all those that I encountered. Two brothers that lived one house down from me lifted weights and bought all the magazines on weight lifting and bodybuilding. Neither of them participated in any high school sports.
My next exposure with lifting weights was in college. My freshman year, a student in the same cirriculum as me asked me to come to the weight room with him. I declined. During the football season in 1967 NC State had a team in the Top 10, and many of my days were spent in the local tavern most every day of the week (they were closed on Sunday). When I came home for Christmas my neighbor commented that I had a bit of a beer gut going. That was a wake up call for me.
When I returned to college I went to the students gymnastics area and started doing pull ups and bar dips. Within a few weeks I could do 20 reps in both exercises. Once again my friend asked me to come to the weight room with him. I did so then, and have done so ever since.
Here’s what seems odd now, but made perfect sense to me then: Only two football players (from our very accomplished team) actually lifted weights. They were both linebackers, one of which some might know, Chuck Amato, who was also our school’s very best wrestler. Imagine today… a football team where weight training was not an aspect of their training.
After college I returned home and continued lifting weights. In 1970 there were only two places that had facilities with weights. One was a gym called Sparta, which was a “hole in the wall” on Main Street just outside of downtown (Jacksonville, FL). It looked pretty “seedy” to me. The other place is where I chose, it was the downtown YMCA, where Joe Dube (Olympic Lifter) trained and had left over half the olympic bars severely bent.
My point: Lifting weights, and especially bodybuilding, was a very esoteric “sport” in the 1960’s. It was an activity that only a very small percentage of the public chose to engage. Times have really changed.