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Profile of 1959 Mr. Universe, Bodybuilder Bruce Randall

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Bodybuilder Bruce Randall is a little known name in the history of the iron game.

Most of you have probably never heard of him. After this article, most of you will never forget Bruce.

Why you ask? Bruce Randall made one of the most stunning body transformations in the history of the sport of bodybuilding.

In preparation for the 1959 Mr. Universe, Bruce cut his bodyweight from an incomprehensible 425 pounds to a contest winning 223 pounds.

Bruce Randall, the Football Player

Bruce Randall was first introduced to the weight room in 1953, shortly after his 21st birthday. A Marine, Bruce was assigned to Norfolk Naval base after boot camp. At a bodyweight of 203 pounds, he decided to bulk up to 225 pounds so that he could make the base football team.

Bruce Randall stated:

Now I realized that if I were ever to weigh 225 in time for spring training I would have to increase my intake of food somewhat. In order to increase my food intake, each time I sat down to a meal I would take an extra chop, glass of milk, slice of bread, etc.

By doing this at every meal (and I made it a point never to miss a meal) my stomach seemed to stretch in order to accommodate the increase in food. Also my digestion, assimilation and other body functions stepped up to take care of the increase. Now, I do not necessarily recommend this method for those who wish to gain weight. I merely relate this to illustrate how I gained so rapidly.

bruce-randall-1During this time, Bruce focused mainly on arm training. His typical workout looked like the following:

  • Barbell Curl – 3 x 6-8, 110 lbs.
  • Dumbbell Concentration Curl – 3 x 6-5, 50 lbs.
  • Barbell French Curl – 3 x 6-8, 70 lbs.
  • Bent Over Dumbbell Triceps Extension – 3 x 6-8, 35 lbs.
  • Incline Bench Dumbbell Curls – 3 x 6-8, 45 lbs. (Performed over a gymnastic’s horse)

Bruce Randall talks about his arm-centric training:

These weights above were my starting weights but these naturally increased with my training. The number of reps may be puzzling at first, but this is the way I would work out: I started with a weight I could handle for 3 sets of 6 reps and work to 3 sets of 8 reps. Then I would add 10 pounds and drop back down to 3 sets of 6. I used this system in almost all of my routines although the reps differed depending on the exercise.

Surprisingly I found that in my case I could work on my arms almost every day and make gains. I assume that this is due to the natural recuperative powers of the arms. Because they are always in use they seem to be able to regain total strength with just one night’s rest and are ready for more the next day (I know men with fine arms who do not agree with this idea at all. Some of them claim that they have to give their arms a day’s rest between workouts.

All I can say is that everyone is different and has to experiment to find which routine, number of reps, weight, frequency of workouts, etc. best suits his individual needs). Of course, in a large muscle group such as the back or legs I found that this is not true at all. They need longer periods of rest between workouts and hence cannot be worked successfully every day.

With this routine I found that my weight had increased from 203 pounds to 225 in the space of six weeks and that my arms had increased an inch-and-a-half to 17 ¾”. Because of the fact that football practice was still several months in the offing I decided to try to go to 250 pounds and then drop back to 235 during Spring training.

Following generally the same routine my weight soon exceeded the 250 pound goal and I found myself deeply engrossed in the sport.

Bruce Randall Turns Towards Strength Training

It was at this time that Bruce Randall was persuaded to set football aside and pursue weight training by strength coach and navy Chief Walter Metzler.

By the following spring, his weight had reached a muscular 265 pounds.  Bruce also noted that his strength had increased dramatically. Regarding his use of increasing weight to assist with strength gains, he commented:

This I decided to do and continued to use the principle of increasing my bodyweight in order to increase my strength. Let me say here and now that I do not believe that one can just get fat and become strong. Things such as what foods were used to gain the weight, routines used in training, living habits, etc. all have to be done properly in order to become stronger through increases in bodyweight.

In other words, if one makes a corresponding increase in the weights used in training as he gains weight, the end result is increased strength. This, of course, is not the only way to get stronger. It just happens to be the method I employed.

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Bruce Randall’s workout routine evolved at this time. Moving away from a  heavy arm focus, his workouts now focused on the major compound lifts:

  • Dumbbell Bench Press – 3 x 5-8, 120 lbs.
  • Decline Dumbbell Bench Press – 3 x 5-8, 130 lbs.
  • Incline Barbell Press – 3 x 5-8, 250 lbs.
  • Good Mornings – 3 x 3-5, 295 lbs.

He also added additional exercises after each workout, based on what he felt like doing on that given day. Bruce noted that he was fond of taking longer rest periods between sets so that he was able to give it his all.

Taking advantage of the Marine chow hall, he continued his bulking:

Actually I used to astound the cooks and men when I sat down to eat. Breakfasts consisting of two quarts of milk, a loaf and a half of bread and 28 fried eggs were not uncommon. I ate four meals a day and never ate between meals unless it was milk. I usually ate breakfast at 6:30, lunch at 11:30, supper at 4:30 and a meal at 9:30 just before bed.

Milk was taken in great quantities with an average of 8 to 10 quarts per day. An average of 12 to 18 eggs per day also comprised my diet. I once drank 19 quarts of milk in one day in addition to regular meals, and once had 171 eggs at breakfast during the course of a week. The boys used to keep score!

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Squats and Good Mornings

Early in his lifting career Bruce Randall avoided barbell squats. He had experienced a very bad leg and ankle break prior to his venture into weight training, and because this leg was very weak, Bruce avoided barbell squats.

When his bodyweight hit 245 pounds, Bruce Randall decided to test his leg and squat strength. He found that a 300 pound squat felt very easy. A few months later at a bodyweight of 280 pounds, Bruce managed a 405 pound barbell squat.

He continued to test his squat every now and then, but still avoided it as a staple movement. By the time his bodyweight reached 355 pounds, Bruce Randall was able to squat 603 pounds.

Regarding his impressive squat strength, Bruce revealed:

I did do one exercise during this time which may have had some influence on my squat. This was the good morning exercise. When I reached over 400 lbs. on this exercise I found that I could not do the exercise in the strict sense because I had to band at the knees in order to compensate for the weight at the back of the neck.

I made 685 in this manner with my back parallel to the floor and once almost made 750 but was forced to dump it because of a shift in the weight.

Bruce Randall’s Amazing One Year Progress

bruce-randall-2In December of 1953, a mere 11 months after first touching a barbell, Bruce Randall competed in his first weight lifting meet. He won, despite having rarely trained the Olympics lifts.

As 1954 rolled around, officially marking one year in the gym, Bruce’s workout routine now looked like the following:

  • Incline Clean and Press – 3 x 3-5, 355 lbs.
  • Quarter Front Squat – 3 x 6-8, 1,010 lbs.
  • Dumbbell Bench Press – 3 x 3-5, 205 lbs.
  • Decline Dumbbell Bench Press – 3 x 3-5, 195 lbs.
  • Good Mornings – 3 x 3-5, 565 lbs.

By March of 1954, Bruce Randall was tipping the scale at 342 pounds. This was an 139 pound weight gain in only 14 pounds, or about 10 pounds per month.

By the time his weight hit 380 pounds, Bruce was pushing the following weight:

  • Military Press – 375 pounds
  • Squat – 680 pounds
  • Good Morning – 685 pounds (Bent knees, back parallel to the floor)
  • Deadlift – 770 pounds
  • Barbell Curl – 228 pounds
  • Dumbbell Bench Press – 220 pound dumbbells x 2 reps
  • Bench Press – 482 pounds (with a 3 second pause on the chest)
  • Decline Dumbbell Bench Press – 220 pound dumbbells x one rep
  • ¼ Front Squat – 1,320 pounds

Bruce Randall’s Journey to Becoming Mr. Universe

Sometime after his weight climbed to 410 pounds and beyond, Bruce Randall made the decision to lose weight.

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.

Bruce’s typical diet consisted of:

  • Breakfast – 2 boiled eggs, one pint of skim milk, one glass of orange juice and an apple.
  • Lunch – A salad with dates and nuts.
  • Dinner – Round steak, two different vegetables, one quart of skim milk and gelatin.

He was also known to mix powered mix and skim milk to help increase his protein intake.

During this time, Bruce Randall was putting in some mind-blowing hours at the gym. At one point he had trained for 27 days in a row, including a single week that involved 81 hours of gym time.

By March 20th, 1956 He found himself down to a svelte 183 pounds. This was a weight loss of 218 pounds in only 32 weeks.

The rest as they say, is history. Bruce Randall went on to compete in bodybuilding, winning the 1959 Mr. Universe while weighing 223 pounds.

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Bruce Randall’s Last Word on Weight and Strength

I doubt that I will ever increase my size greatly again, but do not discount the possibility. Weighing that much alters one’s life completely. I find I have been living two lives, so to speak.

Actually, I felt fine when weighing 400 pounds but found that I perspired freely and had a bit of trouble getting about the city. Of course I needed great amounts of sleep and food. My food bill (early ‘50s) was never under $80 per week and very often well over $100.

I know that if I wanted to gain again I could weigh 500 lbs. in 18 months time. Many people say that added weight is not necessary to become stronger. Perhaps they are right, but in my case it was necessary because I believed it was.

Stats, Competitions and Misc.

  • 1956 – Mr America – AAU, 13th
  • 1957 – Mr America – AAU, 6th
  • 1958 – Universe – Pro – NABBA, Tall, 2nd
  • 1959 - Universe – Pro – NABBA, Tall, 1st
  • 19589 – Universe – Pro – NABBA, Overall Winner
  • Height – 6’2″
  • Heaviest Weight – 425 pounds

Magazine covers:

  • 1958 December Vol 87, Num 25 Health and Strength
  • 1959 November Vol 88, Num 23 Health and Strength
  • 1963 October Vol 92, Num 20 Health and Strength
  • 1992 March Vol 3, Num 5 Hardgainer
  • 2001 November Vol 13, Num 3 Hardgainer
Profile of 1959 Mr. Universe, Bodybuilder Bruce Randall, 5.0 out of 5 based on 7 ratings

5 comments

  1. After Steve Reeves at the movies, Bruce Randall was the first bodybuilder I ever heard of. In 1960 my brother and I, 10 & 12 yrs old, asked our dad for a set of weights so we could start lifting weights. He bought a 110-lb Billard set containing the booklet of instructions plus photos and story of Bruce Randall. Needless to say, my brother and I were mesmerized. He was an inspiration to both of us.

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  2. A great man.

    And a great inspiration to me: I learned about how he didn’t let the accident that broke his leg in seven places hold him back. When I couldn’t squat and conventional dead at all due to knee inflammation, inspired by his story, used the stiff leg dead and goodmorning to build up.

    Mr Universe 1959. What a wonderful example. He will be missed.

    Respect

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  3. I was fortunate enough to meet Mr. Randall in the mid-60′s at Calloway Gardens, Ga. I didn’t know anything about him at the time. But he treated each kid there as if they were his own. A better person you could never meet. I lost my memorabilia over the years. But a better role model would be hard to find. I believe Diversified Products, Opelika, Al was the sponsoring company. I heard he passed in 2010. Our loss is God’s gain and I will always remember his kindness.

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  4. Jim Walker -- Massillon, Ohio

    Great to find this recent piece on Randall. I worked at Montgomery Ward in the mid-sixties where Randall would show up to promote Billard’s golden-hued barbell sets. As an amateur lifter (former fat kid) myself, I well recall how impressive he was when standing three feet away and how surprisingly gentle his manner with others seemed to be. Many lifters–then as now–affect the “tougher than thou” demeanor and cannot seem to get their arms down to their sides. Bruce’s arms were plenty impressive, but still permitted normal posture. I have a cool 8X10 B&W photo of him one-arming a hundred-pound barbell at some kind of teen event around the same time period, mesmerizing three giggling tennaged girls and, himself, smiling a large and friendly grin. I guess he has decided to disappear and hope he is well — must be in his eighties by now…

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  5. bruce is a legend unlike arnold

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