Saturday, May 6, 2023

Peary Rader: The Iron Man - By RJ Hicks MS, CSCS

Peary Rader was an early bodybuilder, weight lifter and strength training writer who left a huge impact on the Iron game. As a young, undersized boy he built himself up with heavy, high repetition back squats. In just a few years of training his weight shot up 80 pounds as he focuses on lifting heavier and heavier weights in high rep back squat, eventually earning local success in competition as a lifter. This sparked Rader’s lifelong passion for weight lifting and bodybuilding, which he shared with others through his writings, publication and promotion for natural training methods.

Rader’s interest in weight training began in his teenage years when started training with homemade weights made from scrap metal. Frustrated with his size, he became fascinated by the idea of building his own strength and sculpting his physique through weight training. He would supplement limited sets of; the deadlift, clean and jerk, military press, barbell row, bench press, barbell curl and sit-up to his 20 rep squats. It was not long after his success in weight lifting and bodybuilding that Peary Rader took up writing for various bodybuilding publications. His articles were well-received by his few readers and he soon established himself as an expert in the field of weight training and bodybuilding. Rader used this platform influence other like-mind fitness enthusiast, leaving many everlasting contributions to the field. Going down in history as one of the greatest figures in the Iron Game.

One of Peary Rader’s most significant contribution to the Iron Game was his publication, Iron Man magazine. The magazine originated in 1936 at his own dining room table. As a small newsletter and quickly grew to become one of the most influential publications in the field of strength training for 50 years. Through Iron Man, Rader was able to reach a large audience of weightlifters, bodybuilders and weight training enthusiast, providing them with training tips, workout routines, nutrition and spiritual advice. It was an educational tool to people interested in weight training.

It was one of the first magazines to promote twice a week training, women training with weights, Arthur Jones training ideas and at the time his new nautilus machines. Similar to Bob Hoffman’s Strength and Health magazine, Rader didn’t just cover weight training. He promoted overall health, character and spiritual health in his editorial section. Dr. Ken Leistner, Stuart McRobert and Bradley Steiner were just some of the great past writers for Peary Rader’s publication. The magazine was known for its innovative approaches to training and its emphasis on natural bodybuilding methods. A true godsend at that time to counter the rampant drug training found in the Muscle and Fitness magazines.

Another important contribution that Rader made to the iron game was his emphasis on proper form and technique in weight training. Rader believed that proper form and technique were necessary for achieving optimal results and avoiding injury. He stressed the importance of starting with lighter weights and master proper mechanics before progressing to heavier weight. Rader encouraged trainees to focus on maintaining proper form throughout each exercise from start to finish. He believed you must earn the increase in weight through your performance rather than sacrificing form to continue to lift heavier loads.

Rader was a strong advocate for natural bodybuilding and weightlifting, which focused on achieving strength and physique goals through hard work and dedication, rather than through the use of performance-enhancing drugs. His philosophy of drug-free training was based on his belief that using performance-enhancing drugs was not only unethical, but dangerous to trainees. He knew that the use of drugs could lead to serious health problems and that the risks outweighed any potential benefit.

Instead, Rader promoted the importance of natural training methods, such as progressive overload, good form and a focus on nutrition and recovery. He believed natural training methods were not only heathier but also more sustainable in the long run, allowing athletes to achieve their goals without putting their health at risk. Rader advocated for a holistic approach to strength training, which not only weight training, but proper nutrition, and recovery.

Training Philosophy

One of the key principles of Peary Rader’s weight training philosophy was the importance of progressive overload. Rader believed that the body needed to be challenged progressively with heavier weights (not volume, exercise variations or training frequency) in order to continue making gains in muscular size and strength. He advocated a gradual increase in weight overtime, as opposed to sudden jumps, in order to minimize the risk of injury and ensure the body could adapt to the new stresses being placed upon it.

Rader also believed that nutrition was an important factor of any effective weight training program. He stressed the importance of consuming a balanced diet that provided the body with nutrients it needed to recover from workouts. Rader recommended trainees consume a sufficient amount of protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats, while minimizing their intake of processed foods and refined sugars. He pushed natural foods for protein such as milk, eggs and animal proteins. There were no large advertisements, no hidden agendas or selling garbage products like most of the muscle magazines today.

In addition to nutrition, Rader also believed rest and recovery were necessary components of a successful weight training program. He encouraged trainees to get plenty of sleep, take rest days as needed, and allow their bodies time to recover between workouts. Rader was the first to promote twice a week strength training during a time that three whole body workouts was the norm. Long before Arthur Jones or High Intensity Training practitioners established it as general doctrine. He already figured out overtraining and lack of rest would lead to injury, burnout, and stalled progress in the gym for natural trainees.

A basic template of the training he promoted twice a week:

Squats or Deadlifts 1x20 Military press or behind the neck press 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps Barbell curl or chin ups 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps Bench press or dips 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps Bent over barbell rows 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps Sit ups or leg raises 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 12 rep

Peary Rader was without a doubt one of the best and truly ahead of his time. He was the most honest guy ever, disciplined in his craft and extremely admired by the people who knew of him. His training philosophy never veered centering around poundage progression full body workouts with basic exercises, twice a week with plenty of rest and recovery between workouts. Though Peary Rader is gone, his legacy lives on in the pages of his original Iron Man magazine, which has some of the greatest training advice ever recorded.
Does modern bodybuilding make you sick? You should write for Natural Strength! I always need good articles about drug-free weight training. It only has to be at least a page and nothing fancy. Just write it strong and truthful with passion! Send your articles directly to me:

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