In Interview with Marvin Eder
Bodybuilding.com - An Interview With 'The Biceps From The Bronx' Marvin Eder. - David Robson
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Marvin the teenager became interested in both bodybuilding and weightlifting in the late 1940s... The truth about this great champion can finally be heard - from the man himself. Learn more right here!
An Interview With 'The Biceps From The Bronx' Marvin Eder.
By: David Robson
When we consider the many strongmen who have pioneered and popularized bodybuilding and weightlifting, the list is long. One man who deserves the highest place among this pantheon of greats is early 1950s bodybuilding and weightlifting champion, mighty Marvin Eder, whose prodigious lifting prowess garnered him the unofficial title of world's strongest pound-for-pound man.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Marvin the teenager became interested in both bodybuilding and weightlifting in the late 1940s, and quickly developed his physique to such a degree that in his first year of bodybuilding competition he placed second in the AAU Mr. America Junior division, and won the North American and New York Junior titles.
Like many of his era, Marvin combined bodybuilding and Olympic lifting to great effect. He not only looked immensely strong. He was. He credits the all-out heavy lifting he did to the thickly developed physique he possessed at his peak where, at five-foot-eight-inches, he weighed 200-pounds with arms over 19-inches, a 50-inch chest, 26-and-a-half inch thighs and 17-and-a-half inch calves.
Marvin's incredible strength feats are still spoken of in revered tones today, such was the impact he had on the lifting world. Those who do not know their iron history might be asking, "Why all the talk about Marvin?" For them, here are the facts:
At a bodyweight of 190 to 200 pounds Marvin performed the following.
* Olympic press - 330 pounds.
* Deep squats - 50 reps with 300 pounds.
* Side laterals - reps with 120-pound dumbbells.
* One-arm-chins - eight consecutively with each arm.
* Press behind neck - 305 pounds.
* Side press, left hand - 220 pounds (with a man sitting on his hand).
* Parallel bar dip with 434 pounds (two men hanging from his feet!).
* Bench press - 515 pounds.
* Still arm pullovers - 250 pounds.
* Wide grip chins - 80 with his bodyweight and 8 reps with 200 pounds attached.
* Consecutive handstand push-ups on a horizontal ladder - 25.
Such amazing poundages require and extraordinary approach to training and Marvin was unique as a lifter. There were no "light" days for him. His, sometimes several training sessions per day, were intense and always as heavy as could be, a philosophy that is not recommended for your average lifter.
Marvin achieved this because he had such amazingly strong joints and recuperative abilities that he could literally work his muscles into the ground with up to seven hours of gut busting work, then return the next day to do it all again. Do not try this at home folks.
Marvin's last bodybuilding contest was the 1951 AAU Junior Mr. America where he placed second. That same year he was third at the AAU Mr. America. In this final year of competition, Marvin was thought to be nearing his ultimate potential as a bodybuilder and certainly his weightlifting feats were getting progressively better.
Unfortunately it was around this time that he was stripped of his amateur status. A sad series of events conspired to render him ineligible to enter either the AAU Mr. America or any of the official weightlifting events he excelled in.
Experts today feel that had Marvin not been disqualified to compete as an amateur he would have made official lifts that would have completely awed the lifting world. No 198-pound lifter even came close to Marvin. And who knows how far he could have gone as a bodybuilder.
On October 7, 1989, Marvin was inducted into Annual Association of Oldtime Barbell and Strongmen where he was honored with a highest achievement award for his pioneering work as both a bodybuilder and weightlifter, disciplines he will forever be remembered as being among the very best in.
Since his retirement from competitive bodybuilding and weightlifting at age 22, Marvin has run his own successful plumbing business and has continued to lift the heavy iron to keep in great shape and remain strong.
Today he lives a quiet life. Now, at age 75, he only does 500 crunches every morning, and up until recently has been doing dips with 70 pounds attached and curls with a 35 pound dumbbell. Then again he is Marvin Eder. And such weights are nothing by "Marvin Eder" standards.
Over the years Marvin has shunned the limelight, perhaps more so than any of his contemporaries of a similar standing. Now the truth about this great champion can finally be heard - from the man himself.
[ Q ] What are you doing these days Marvin?
I'm fully retired. Unfortunately my wife just recently passed away about a year ago. I have my lady friend with me and she is a pretty sweet woman who spends good deal of time with me. And that's about it right now. I am not working or anything like that.
I do exercise and still work out. I use weights, but lighter now. Unfortunately about a year ago I tore my rotator cuff on my right shoulder by stretching a certain way on the chinning bar. And I ripped the shoulder. But I haven't gone for any surgery and am building it up with weights again, strengthening the surrounding muscles. And I have improved it quite a bit.
And I have some problems now with nerve impingement in my elbows causing some numbness in my fingers on both hands - neuropathy in my fingers. I really don't know what caused it but the doctor seems to believe it was due to all the heavy lifting I used to do many years ago. But who knows. It is a kind of numbness in my little finger and ring finger on both hands.
[ Q ] How old are you?
[ Q ] Could you go into more detail on the kind of training you have been doing in recent years?
Recently I haven't been doing the heavy stuff. This stopped a few days ago. My son is a chiropractor and he advised me to stop the heavy weights.
I was doing dips with about a 70 pound dumbbell on my feet and was curling with a 35 pound dumbbell, and doing a one-arm-rowing motion with about a 70 pound dumbbell but I've cut back because that might be injuring the joints and irritating them, and then you get calcium build-up. So I have cut down to much lighter weights.
[ Q ] Are you still in good shape at 75?
I'm still very muscular. At this point I just want to maintain my muscularity and my primary reason for training is to stay well and prevent myself from getting fat and developing any diabetes or anything like that. I go for blood tests every three months and I am doing very, very well.
I have low blood pressure, low cholesterol. So my blood tests came out beautiful. It went quite well. I'm quite healthy outside of these little injuries. They're not illnesses, they are injuries. That is how I look at it.
Essentially I am a healthy man outside of what I call these "little things". So I'm doing okay, thankfully. I eat low fat foods and I don't overeat. I do not have a protruding belly like a lot of people my age.
I also do a lot of aerobics training like power walking at twenty minutes at a clip and I alternate that with my upper-body work. For my mid-section work I do 500 crunches every morning, so I maintain a reasonably good shape. And that's what I am interested in doing right now.
[ Q ] 500 crunches every morning seems pretty impressive.
That isn't much. It is very easy doing crunches. Then I will do other movements for my abdomen. At one time I used to do a lot of heavy stuff.
[ Q ] I think it would be fair to say 500 crunches is a good start to the morning.
Well, it is doing well for me. That form of training is enough for me and I'm quite happy doing it.
[ Q ] Clearly you are not the average person though.
No. Not at all.
[ Q ] When you were in your prime, lifting those massive poundages in the 60s, you were a genetic phenomenon and there were very few people who came close at far as pure power is concerned. Would that be fair to say?
Yes it would be. I had exceptionally powerful joints in my shoulders and elbows and of course I never took any steroids of any kind. And at that time I never even took any vitamins or supplements of any kind. I would eat regular foods. All kinds of food: milk and steak and chicken and dairy foods, cereals. All kinds of good food and it did well for me.
[ Q ] How often would you eat?
Oh just normally. I would eat about three times a day. I could never eat as much as others. Oddly enough, I saw some of the old-time muscle men put away food that astounded me. I tried to do that one time when I was out in California when I entered one of the Mr. America shows.
Ed Yarick who had a gym at the time invited us to his home - there were several of us - and he made a huge amount of hamburgers and all this food and I could not match the other guys and how they ate. I forced myself to eat more. I turned green and went to the bathroom and vomited it all up. I could never eat as much as others could. Apparently my body didn't need it.
The owner of the famous Oakland, California Yarick's Gym, Ed Yarick, coached Steve Reeves and his gym served as a training facility for visiting East Coast weightlifting champions including John Davis and Tommy Kono.
[ Q ] That kind of defied the thinking of the day, where it was thought that you needed to eat massive amounts of food to grow if you were training hard.
Yes, I would say so. But your really don't have to. I don't believe that. The horror of today is the use of all these chemical substances that's going on. It is so perverse. You know, when I lifted weights I believed the stronger and more muscular I got, the healthier I became.
Health was never divorced from my training. I would never, under any circumstance, consider the use of any kind of artificial drug to stimulate my muscle growth. What's going on now is a nightmare, an obscenity. And in a way I hope the whole thing just disappears, that it should be wiped off the face of the earth but it is just getting worse and worse all the time.
A lot of these shows now honor men who built up their muscles with the use of chemicals. And just to be facetious I said to a friend of mine, "Why don't they have a show called Mr. Chemical." It is an absolute horror now. And I will not lend my presence ever to any show, even if they were to honor me, or anything like that. That is all in the past.
I just want to stay away from it. Actually, when I begin to think of it, it is almost as if I am becoming ill at the thought of even being near something like that. Eventually these people will suffer. You cannot do that without destroying your body.
Eventually they come down with other forms of disease. You can't pour artificial testosterone into yourself and growth hormone and God knows what else without upsetting the natural homeostasis of your body. You will suffer from it.
I really don't care what their goals are. You want to get muscular and stronger, workout hard and look after yourself like I did. You can't beat your genetics. Can everyone be an Einstein? No they can't.
[ Q ] Genetics and hard work?
Yes of course. No question about that.
[ Q ] In the 1949 Junior Mr. New York City, which you won, there was another chap by the name of Art Zeller who placed out of the top three. Art went on to become a great physique photographer. What are your recollections of Art, the bodybuilder?
Yes, we were friends. We were very close friends for many years. Well he wasn't very strong but he was photogenic and took very nice photos. He did look very good. He didn't go into the heavy lifting like I did. I also did Olympic lifting and a lot of stuff that very few other guys did.
[ Q ] That same year you placed second in the Junior division of the IFBB Mr. America and won the IFBB North American Junior title. How did it feel to have achieved so much in your first year of competition?
I tell you, those are all dim memories. I was impelled by some kind of inner force and it's now lost all it's meaning for me because of what the sport that I loved has become. I don't know if it's any kind of achievement really.
What I am most proud of is when I began training I sometimes didn't even have a gym to workout in. Sometimes I used to workout in a local playground in the freezing cold outside on the dipping and chinning bars. There was no gym, and then again I didn't ever really have the money to join a gym. That was something I am proud of. Being able to continue my training under circumstances like that.
Marvin's Competition History:
+ Mr. America - IFBB, Junior, 2nd
+ Mr. New York City - IFBB, Junior Most Muscular, 1st
+ Mr. New York City - IFBB, Junior Overall Winner
+ North American Championships - IFBB, Junior, 1st
+ Mr. America - AAU, 6th
+ Mr. Eastern America - IFBB, Winner
+ Mr. America - AAU, 3rd
+ Junior Mr. America - AAU, 2nd
[ Q ] Were you more of a weightlifter or more of a bodybuilder?
I always combined them. I always did Olympic lifting and bodybuilding at the same time.
[ Q ] And this combining of disciplines was done in every workout?
Yes. I never took weight off the stand in the conventional way. I would clean the weight to my shoulders and then do the heavy presses. I worked up to repetition presses with 340 pounds. I bench pressed over 500 pounds, deep-knee bends for repetitions with 550 pounds and side laterals with 120-pound dumbbells. The laterals were not done with perfect form mind you.
[ Q ] What was your favorite exercise and why?
I would say the heavy dip, which I did in Santa Monica. I did a dip with 434 pound on my feet. There were two men sitting on my feet. There was Malcolm Brenner and my good friend, Dominique Juliano, who both somehow held onto my legs and the total weight was 434 pounds.