Muscle, Smoke and Mirrors, Volume 2, Randy Roach by Ken O'Neill - Muscle, Smoke & Mirrors

Muscle, Smoke and Mirrors, Volume 2, Randy Roach by Ken O’Neill

Bill Pearl has remarked that most people today believe fitness began with Arnold and Jane Fonda sometime in the 1970s.

In 1977 the film Pumping Iron filled movie houses across the country, for the first time dispelling long standing myths about bodybuilding, establishing its stars as real athletes engaged in intense training. That film spawned the growth of gyms filled with young men training to build muscle as never before. Soon after, Pumping Iron II, The Women inspired women to begin training in greater volumes than ever before. An unprecedented tsunami of bodybuilding has since grown in America with no signs of slowing down.

Pumping Iron taught us who the stars were. Muscle magazines flourished in the wake of the film, keeping us abreast of new generations of stars. Thirty-five years later most everybody knows who Arnold, Louie, Franco, Zane and others are.

Then came disillusioning news. A 25th anniversary edition of Pumping Iron was released as DVD, packaged with a new video: Raw Iron: The Making of ‘Pumping Iron’. Just imagine first re-watching Pumping Iron, an experience of passionately reliving all the lore of the cast of characters we all knew so well as heroes, villains, and in between. Reviewing the film amounted to reliving historical fact. But Raw Iron permanently shattered the myth we’d known as gospel truth for twenty-five long years. Pumping Iron, it turns out, wasn’t a documentary: it was fiction, a crafted drama for entertainment. No doubt it had massive impact on building Arnold’s career. Ken Waller, on the other hand, was stigmatized by the film as its arch villain, bringing him unpleasant personal experience for years afterward.

If Raw Iron wasn’t enough, Shawn Ray’s 2012 The Evolution of Bodybuilding took us far deeper into the belly of the beast. Close to 90 minutes of photos, old film, and interviews of most all of the former Mr. Olympia winners, Evolution brought a lot of unpleasantly sobering skeletons out of the closet.

Randy Roach’s volume 2 of Muscle, Smoke and Mirrors could not have come about at a better time. Both documentaries add up to less than three hours, while his nearly seven hundred page book offers an in-depth revelation of the 1970s growth of bodybuilding. Bodybuilding’s growth in the 70s spans everything from a new breed of early anabolic fuelled athletes through the growth of immensely wealthy empires including supplements, magazines, supplement, gyms and much more. Prior to the 70s, it’s fair to say bodybuilding was a marginal, almost mom and pop business. By the end of the 70s, those surviving that tumultuous period had amassed multimillion dollar enterprises.

The book’s cover points us to its two main themes: Arnold and the late Arthur Jones. Arnold is the symbol of the first half of the book covering the emergence of professional bodybuilding, its sanctioning organizations, big money making competitions with ever growing cash prizes, and the Weider organization for whom Arnold was its fortune making poster boy.
The late Arthur Jones is lesser known today despite having single handedly creating a revolution in training equipment and gym outlets through the 70s. Any serious gym today is filled with machines. Jones invented Nautilus machines advertised as important advances beyond barbells, even claiming use of his machines would create optimal, drug-free physique development with just three 30 minute workouts per week! His claims were heretical to generally accepted standards of 1970; worse still, they threatened the barbell and bodybuilding empires of that time. Only Iron Man Magazine, forever the voice of independent, open forums would publish Jones’ articles and advertisements. By then 1980s, Nautilus succeeded in becoming a huge empire of its own.

MSM volume 2 takes the reader behind the scenes as it dispels long standing myths. Instead of a simple story of the stars and their training you’re introduced to corporate empire building, antagonistic open warfare between rival organizations and their leaders, huge amounts of time and money spent on lawsuits, corporate espionage, and much more. The value of the book as with the two recent video documentaries lies not so much in the history of those times so much as continuation to this very day of smoke and mirrors myths preventing you from optimizing your true, innate potential to be your very best. What’s more, you’ll no longer be vulnerable to the continual repetition of untruths spread in social media!

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