Recommended books

Below is a list of recommended publications that are available for purchase, which either deal with the fascinating history of the iron game in the time periods addressed here at FOUNDATIONS OF IRON, or contain old-school training information that was thankfully preserved by interested present-day publishers and distributors, or chronicled by the original champions themselves.

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Classic Weight Training:

Ditillo, Anthony. The Development of Muscular Bulk and Power (1971, reprint edition), and The Development of Physical Strength (1982, reprint edition). In the 1960s, the highly knowledgeable and experienced Ditillo was a regular writer for Peary Rader’s original Iron Man magazine, which was a much different publication from what it became after it was sold in the mid-1980s. Ditillo put his tremendous knowledge into book form with these two volumes, which went out of print and are now very hard to find in their original form. Fortunately, you can purchase crisp new reprinted editions here: Link for purchase from Super Strength Training.

Gironda, Vince. The Wild Physique – The Complete Book of Championship Physique Training for Men and Women (1983). Starting in the 1940s when he opened the famed Vince’s Gym, Vince Gironda, known as “the iron guru,” trained a number of competitive physique champions as well as numerous Hollywood stars looking to get into top shape for movie or TV roles. His methods on weight training and nutrition were not always in line with the mainstream views in the field, but his clients got excellent results. In this volume, Gironda presented the essence of his knowledge gained from decades spent immersed in the iron game. Ron Kosloff of NSP Research Nutrition (a company co-founded by Gironda himself) now has distribution rights for many of Gironda’s publications which went out of print in their original published form, including The Wild Physique: Link for purchase from NSP Research Nutrition.

Kono, Tommy. Weightlifting, Olympic Style (2001), and Championship Weightlifting (2010). Active in the iron game from the 1950s onward, the late Tommy Kono exemplified how power and performance in strength sports were compatible with physique development, winning prizes several times at the international level in both Olympic weightlifting and physique contests. These books are the sum of his knowledge of Olympic-style lifting.  Link for purchase from Tommy Kono Bands & Power Hooks.

McCallum, John. The Complete Keys to Progress (1993). McCallum was a prolific writer for weight training magazines in the 1960s. Little seems to be known of the man himself, but many trainees over the years have benefited from his writings and have been entertained by his narrative story-like writing style. An excellent selection of his articles on topics ranging from gaining overall size, to training specific body parts, to the benefits of specific vitamins, to weight training for scuba divers (!) are reproduced in this volume: Link for purchase from IronMind.

Park, Reg. Strength & Bulk Training for Weight Lifters & Body Builders (1960, reprint edition). Hailing from Leeds, West Yorkshire, England and renowned for his muscular size, Reg Park won Mr. Universe and other competitions a number of times in the 1950s and 1960s, and also starred in several sword and sandal movies. His recommended training program was the granddaddy of all the 5×5 weight training routines that have proliferated online in recent years, but do not always give proper credit where it is due. Go back to the original source with this booklet: Link for purchase from Super Strength Training.

Pearl, Bill. Keys to the INNER Universe (2015 revised edition). Still actively training with weights at his home in southern Oregon, USA, Bill Pearl in his prime had quite a bulky musculature for a 1950s physique competitor. This illustrated tome, originally published in the early 1980s, was his magnum opus for the weight training community, a veritable encyclopedia of nearly every weight training exercise known to humankind. Out of print for years and only available at high prices on the collectors’ market, in 2015 it finally became available once again in a revised (and affordable!) edition: Link for purchase from Amazon.

Reeves, Steve. Building the Classic Physique the Natural Way (1995), and Dynamic Muscle Building (2003). Steve Reeves brought the field of weight training for physique into the public eye when he became AAU Mr. America in 1947. After this, he had a prolific movie career, starting in Hollywood and going on to star in various Italian adventure romps. These two books contain his training advice, including his routines and nutritional information. Classic Physique can be considered the main textbook, with Dynamic Muscle Building as a companion volume that goes into more detail on specific subjects: Link for purchase from Steve Reeves International Society.


Koyne, Carl. Vince’s Secret Locker, Volumes I and II (both 2016). These are exhaustive compilations of original primary sources, interviews, photographs, artwork and more, related to Vince Gironda, trainer of champions and proprietor of the renowned Vince’s Gym from the early 1940s to the early 1990s. They cover his training as well as biographical information. Link for purchase from the author.

Roach, Randy. Muscle, Smoke & Mirrors, Volumes I (2008), II (2011), and III, Book 1 (2015). Written by an author with many years of personal experience in natural bodybuilding, this is the most comprehensive and in-depth history of bodybuilding you will ever find, showing all aspects of the field, from early displays of strength and muscularity, to the pageantry of physique competitions in the 1940s, to the cutthroat business tactics and promotions that turned it all into a commercialized industry, to training and nutrition, to the later rise of the extreme, massive physiques that instantly comes to mind for today’s general public when they hear the term “bodybuilding.” Link for purchase from the author.

Tyler, Dick. West Coast Bodybuilding Scene (2004). In the mid to late 1960s, Dick Tyler wrote about the people and events of the world of fitness and physique, particularly in California. And like any good iron game writer, he himself has spent many years lifting weights. This compilation of his articles makes for fascinating historical reading. Link to purchase from

Zinkin, Harold, with Bonnie Hearn. Remembering Muscle Beach: Where Hard Bodies Began : Photographs and Memories (1999). This is an excellent overview of the original Muscle Beach located at Santa Monica pier, which brought physical fitness into the public eye through weightlifting, physique, and gymnastic performances for many years from the 1930s through the 1950s before Venice Beach later took over the moniker of “Muscle Beach.” This attractive photo-filled volume was written by one of the original denizens of Muscle Beach. Link for purchase from Amazon.