When asked when I first began training, I usually respond by saying that I began training at age 12. But this statement must be qualified a bit. I began lifting weights at 12, but in the strictest sense, I began exercise training a year earlier, at age 11. What happened was that I was attending a summer camp located in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, and for the first time in my life saw a real bodybuilder in the flesh. Similar to other youngsters at that time, I had seen former Mr.America (1947) and Mr.Universe (1950) Steve Reeves portraying the mythical Hercules in the eponymous 1957 film, which was actually released in 1960. I saw the movie on television a few years later and marveled at the incredible physique of Steve Reeves. Years later I was stunned to hear Reeves say in an interview that he only trained one month out of the entire year while he was filming Hercules in Italy. Clearly, he must have done something to maintain that incredible conditioning he displayed, since he didn't lift any weights most of the year. But back to the story. While attending this summer camp when I was 11 years old, I met a guy named Ray, who worked as a cook at the camp. But the significant thing about Ray from my perspective was his proclivity to walk around without a shirt on in the hot Pennsylvania summer sun. Ray, it turned out, was a bodybuilder. I don't recall ever seeing his leg development, but his upper body muscularity was astounding to me. I recall his huge (at least to me) deltoids or shoulder muscles, which reminded me of the way Superman looked in my favorite comic books. I got friendly with Ray and asked him how he got that way. "I lift weights, kid," was his succinct response. I didn't understand then how weights could produce that degree of muscular size, but I knew one thing for sure: I wanted to look like Ray and Superman.
There were no weights available in the camp. From speaking with him, I found out that Ray liked to lay off the weights for a month or two, yet he somehow managed to maintain the level of conditioning he had built from lifting weights. When I asked him about this, Ray told me that he did "bodyweight exercises." Since I was new to the exercise thing, I had no idea of what he was talking about. It turned out that Ray did a series of exercises that didn't involve actual weight resistance, but instead used his own body weight as resistance to train his muscles. Further talks with him revealed these exercises consisted . . .