Don Howorth, “Mr. California.” Will he be Mr. America? – Bob Hise (1963)

The excerpts below are taken from an article in the May-June 1963 article of Peary Rader’s excellent training magazine “Iron Man,” every issue of which was replete with practical training advice in addition to profiles and coverage of people and events in the iron game.

This article features Don Howorth, a regular on the Southern California iron game scene of the 1960s, and just a few years later associated with the famous Vince’s Gym on Ventura Blvd, Studio City.  The details of his nutrition and his advanced training routine are quite informative, showing how he achieved his “Mr. California 1963” build.

HoworthArmsRoutineDon Howorth’s arm program. Click to enlarge (will open in new window/tab).

Contemporary fitness enthusiasts may notice that Howorth’s meal plan described in the article has extremely low levels of starches in comparison to today’s mainstream sports nutrition. Additionally, his refreshingly genial manner and attitude are in stark contrast with the hardcore, macho stereotypes that often seem to be associated with today’s gym scenes (whether warranted or not).

It took a few more years of training and competing, but the article’s hopeful speculation — that Don Howorth would become Mr. America — finally came true in 1967, when Howorth beat well-known competitors such as Zabo Koszewski and an up-and-coming Frank Zane and took the overall winner title of that year’s IFBB Mr. America.

Article excerpts:

A new physique star has suddenly come forth. Will he, like his fellow Westerners: Pearl, Ross, Reeves, Goodrich and Dellinger, be a Mr. America?


Don started training in a friend’s backyard gym, at which time he weighted 142 pounds. This haphazard style of training lasted for about a year and he joined a Tanny Gym. From here he moved to the American Health Studio where he met Steve Reeves. This great Mr. America so impressed Don that he vowed then and there that one day he too would have a superb physique.

An injury of the lower back, received in tumbling, forced Don out of action for quite some time. After a convalescing period, he began a system of corrective weight training exercises which restored him to his good health that he had once enjoyed.

Don joined the Pasadena Gym in 1960 and since that time he has marched forward under the supervision of Gene Mozee.

The vital statistics ring up something like this:

Height 5 10 1/4

Arms 18 3/4

Chest 50 1/4

Waist 30 1/4

Thighs 26

Calves 17 1/8

Weight 195

Don is very conscious of his diet and he eats only the most nutritious foods. His lovely wife, Patti, prepares terrific meals from natural and organically grown foods.

A typical daily diet might go something like this:


4 eggs

1/2 pound of ground meat

1 glass of non-fat milk


1/2 pound of meat

Large salad

2 glasses of non-fat milk


1/2 pound of meat


1 green low starch vegetable

2 glasses of non-fat milk

20 desicated liver tablets, 5 kelp tablets, and a vitamin-mineral supplement are taken after each meal.

Don also takes 1000 miligrams of Vitamin C each day and he feels that one must give the body adequate rest. He gets 8 to 9 hours of sleep per night. He refrains from worry and has a pleasant, positive outlook on life at all times. This physique champion is a real inspiration to others around the gym. He is always helpful and informative and he never fails to answer even the most elementary question from beginners. Howorth sets a fine example both mentally and physically, as well as morally, for all bodybuilders to follow.

Don feels that tea, coffee, tobacco and alcohol are foreign agents to the human body. Needless to say, he uses none of these.

Here is Don’s training schedule. It is quite long, taking over three hours to complete each training session, and it is a six day per week routine:

Exercise Sets Reps


Press behind neck 8 4-6

Incline side laterals 4 8-10

Pulley deltoid raises 4 15


1 1/2 lat pulldowns 4 8-10*

Bent over laterals 5-15

Incline dumbbell press 8 6-8


Yogi bench flying 4 10-12

Bent arm pullovers 5 15

Bent leg situps 300-500

Lying leg raises 300-500


Hack machine squats 8 8-10

Leg extensions 6 15

Leg curls 6 10


1 1/2 calf machine heel raise 8 8-12*

Low pulley rowing 6 10-12

Reverse upright rowing 4 10


1 1/2 barbell curls 5 5-7 *

Incline dumbbell curls 4 8

Lying barbell triceps ext. 6 7-9

One arm pulley triceps 4 15

Lying leg-ups 500

* perform one complete movement followed by a half movement.


Run one mile of easy jogging followed by some light upper body and abdominal exercise of about forty-five minutes duration.

Although some of the repetitions may seem high, Don handles as heavy as possible weights in all movements. His best bench press is 380 pounds, incline barbell press 325, standing press (off rack) 270 and he has curled 180 pounds.

Don enjoys Olympic Lifting and never misses a contest. If his lower back injury doesn’t recur, which seems doubtful, he plans to give the three lifts a try.

To give you some idea of his all around abilities, last summer Don went to Pasadena City College Track with several of the football players and beat them in the gruelling 440 race.

Don Howorth has his sights set for the Mr. America Crown–yes, I think he will make it.

HoworthDBFlyesDon Howorth performing dumbbell flyes on a “Yogi bench,” also known as a “moon bench,” a piece of equipment that is almost never seen in gyms today in 2018. Click to enlarge (will open in new window/tab).

11 thoughts on “Don Howorth, “Mr. California.” Will he be Mr. America? – Bob Hise (1963)

  1. Conor Heffernan February 26, 2018 / 11:26 am

    “Here is Don’s training schedule. It is quite long, taking over three hours to complete each training session, and it is a six day per week routine” – and people wonder how he developed such an incredible physique!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josh at FoundationsOfIron February 26, 2018 / 12:14 pm

      Yes, the lengths of time alone are quite impressive. I think somebody who is just starting out with weight training definitely shouldn’t try to replicate this kind of schedule!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Conor Heffernan February 27, 2018 / 3:39 am

        Absolutely. Am I right in thinking he would later train instinctively as well?


      • Conor Heffernan February 28, 2018 / 4:26 am

        Vaguely remember something about it in the Randy Roach series – could be way off but something to think about!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Nick September 28, 2018 / 12:31 pm

    Well surprise suprise! At the age of 52 I’m finding that quantity of training (though less then Don)gets way better results then does HIT and other such methods……

    Liked by 1 person

    • Josh at FoundationsOfIron December 5, 2018 / 11:41 pm

      Hello Nick, thanks for visiting the site. I prefer the old-school methods myself, as you can tell from this blog!


  3. joesantus April 6, 2019 / 12:44 pm

    Hmmm…”over three hours” per session?

    Each session contains 16 to 20 sets.

    The leg session contains 8 sets of hacks and 6 each of extensions and curls.
    Even allowing 6 minutes per set (for execution and rest between sets), that’s 120 minutes — TWO hours, not “over three hours”.
    And practicably, since only the 8 sets of hacks are intense, that 20 sets could be comfortably managed in 90 minutes or less, allowing 6 minutes per hack set (48 minutes total) and 3 minutes per the other 12 sets (36 minutes total).

    And the other sessions would require even less than 90 minutes at a comfortable pace.

    I’m age 63 and have been and still am bodybuilding since age 16 in 1972. In my over forty-six years of bodybuilding, I’ve never observed, experienced, or known of anyone reasonably requiring “over three hours” to complete any sessions such as listed.

    Meaning, something in this article is erroneous.

    The caveat being, as many of us old-timers learned decades ago about magazine articles — “Take any training program published in muscle magazines before 1980 with a big grain of salt.” Sometimes, to make deadlines and fill pages, articles were ghost-written, half-fabricated, or plain “just toss some bull—- [edited for content – Ed.], cuz the readers won’t know the difference anyway.”


    • Josh at FoundationsOfIron June 12, 2019 / 4:21 pm

      Good points joesantus. I suspect that there may have been a healthy dose of hyperbole or exaggeration in some of these articles. On the other hand, there have been times when I’ve been so caught up in my workout, and trying to hit muscles from every angle, that I kept going and going and before I realized it, a couple hours had passed!


    • TheFinisher August 2, 2019 / 10:47 am

      I’m surprised JoeSantus didn’t call this routine ‘mythical’ as he struggles to believe the old school guys did high volume training. In fact, this routine is a milder version of what he really did – He did a lot more volume.

      It was known at Vince Gironda’s gym that Don Howorth would use such a high volume that Vince himself tried to get Don to cut back.

      The only thing we should take with a ‘grain of salt’ is the low volume fad that people like Stuart Mcrobert try to con people into buying his nonsense. How many books do you need to publish to write the same abbreviated routine crap for the “Genetically typically average” or, in other words, the lazy people.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s