Leroy Colbert and friends training and posing outdoors (1958)

This week we present some rare preserved footage of a jovial Leroy Colbert and a few training partners doing weight training and flexing their upper body muscles out on the lawn on a bright, sunny day in 1958, as posted on the “MrYorkieLover Fitness” Youtube channel. Anyone who has trained with weights outdoors knows what an exhilarating experience it can be to lift heavy things in the midst of nature.

Colbert has long been known as the first man to develop 21-inch upper arms before the steroid-dominated era, and the tremendous dumbbells that he incline-presses in this footage are undoubtedly quite impressive.

As of late, there has been some online dispute over whether Colbert truly did achieve his upper arm size through natural training alone, and if it was even possible without pharmaceutical enhancement. Before Colbert passed away in 2015, he always stated that he had never taken steroids, and that he developed his upper arm size solely through hard training and good nutrition.

There is historical evidence that the American bodybuilding world just barely started to become aware of anabolic steroids in the late 1950s, and then only at an early experimental level (source). Available photographs show that by that time, Colbert already had sizeable arm development. Furthermore, scientific research has proven that males of past generations had higher natural hormone levels than today’s younger males (source). It is difficult to ascertain how reductions in testosterone levels may have affected muscular development for natural weight trainees over succeeding generations, but Colbert must have had genetics that lent themselves very well to excellent muscular development.

Aside from all that, it is heartening to see the camaraderie and cooperation in the iron game among gentlemen of different races at a time when this was still a matter of contention in mainstream society. Examples from decades ago such as Leroy Colbert, Tommy Kono and Freddy Ortiz, among many others, show how sport and physical culture can have a positive influence in crossing ethnic and cultural lines and building bridges among the diverse family of humankind.

Most of us will probably never have arms as big as Leroy Colbert’s in his prime, but his training can certainly inspire us to work hard for continued growth and improvement in the field of physical culture, whatever our individual potential may be. Be on the lookout for some vintage arm-specific weight training tips in the very near future, right here at FOUNDATIONS OF IRON!

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