Natural lifters love digging into the past for two reasons:
1. We know that the vast majority of modern bodybuilders and models are not natural and have built their bodies with the help of PEDs.
To determine what can be achieved naturally, we often go back to an era when anabolic drugs were either absent from the planet or in their fetus stage.
2. The “analog” past comes with a sentiment that the modern world cannot quite replicate. The discrepancy is similar to the one between a paper letter and an e-mail.
In this post, I will perform the time-traveling exercise one more time and try to find a connection between John Grimek and anabolic steroids.
Who was John Grimek?
John Grimek (June 17, 1910 – November 20, 1998) was a bodybuilder and a weightlifter known for his barbarian strength and ultra-muscular physique that found itself on the cover of many elite bodybuilding publications.
Since the 1930s Grimek’s appearance has been inspiring an army of muscle constructors across the globe to join the fight against atrophy and build thicker muscular fibers.
Grimek’s immense influence earned him the title “the mid-century’s greatest bodybuilder” as well as two transcendental nicknames – “The Monarch of Muscledom” and “The Glow”.
In 1999, Grimek was inducted into the IFBB Hall of Fame.
Grimek’s Body Stats
|Upper leg||25 inches||63.50cm|
John Grimek retired undefeated. During his last contest, Pro Mr. USA, he managed to win over his successor – Steve Reeves.
|York Perfect Man Contest||November 18, 1939||29||Winner|
|AAU Mr. America||May 25, 1940||29||Winner|
|AAU Mr. America||May 24, 1941||30||Winner|
|Most Muscular Man Contest||May 4, 1946||35||Winner|
|Mr. Universe||August 13, 1948||38||Winner|
|Pro Mr. USA||March 26, 1949||38||Winner|
John Grimek and Josh Bosley Ziegler
There are documents describing a connection between John Grimek and Josh Bosley Ziegler, better known as Dr. Ziegler, the Godfather of Dianabol (DBOL). John D. Fair’s research material “Isometrics or Steroids? Exploring New Frontiers of Strength in the Early 1960s”, contains the following quote:
“By the summer of 1954, Grimek was experimenting with a variety of chemical substances provided by Ziegler.”
[The sentence references another material, namely Ziegler Papers, 1954.]
The date here is crucial – 1954. At the time, Grimek was already 43-44 years old and past his prime. Consequently, this is not definitive proof that Grimek took PEDs during the active part of his career.
Nonetheless, primordial forms of the testosterone were available before the 50s.
Testosterone’s Actual Date of Birth
Many believe that steroids didn’t hit the battlefield until the late 1950s, but that assumption is incorrect as stated in nattyornot.com’s book Potential: How Big Can You Get Naturally.
Testosterone’s birth became public knowledge in the classic paper “On Crystalline Male Hormone from Testes (Testosterone): More Active than Androsterone Preparations from Urine or Cholesterol” published in 1935.
The main downside of the method used up to May 1935 was that the synthesis of testosterone required an enormous amount of animal testicles. This mechanism made the substance impractical for commercial use. Luckily, a more efficient process was just around the corner.
The same year (1935) two groups of scientists found another way to synthesize testosterone. The biochemist Adolf Butenandt and G. Hanisch of Schering (Germany) were the first to do it.
On August 24, 1935, they published an analysis entitled “On Testosterone Conversion of Dehydroandrosterone in Androstenediol and Testosterone: A Method for Preparing Testosterone from Cholesterol”.
Clinical trials on humans, involving either oral doses or injections of testosterone propionate, began around 1937.
Additional “red pills”
According to the research material “The History Of Synthetic Testosterone” by Hoberman JM, Yesalis CE, the earliest reference to anabolic steroids in a U.S. strength magazine goes back to 1938 when testosterone propionate was mentioned in a letter to the editor of Strength and Health.
In 1940, scientists conducted studies analyzing the effect of testosterone supplementation on human urine as revealed by a document entitled ”Concerning the Metabolism of Testosterone to Androsterone”. The authors are Ralph I. Dorfman and James B. Hamilton. The Yale School of Medicine supported the research. The paper arrived for publication on February 23, 1940.
Conclusion: Thanks to breakthroughs in the 1930s, testosterone “supplementation” made a debut in the 1940s.
Grimek’s First Strength and Health Cover
Grimek appeared on many covers of Strength and Health. The first one was in May 1935 when he was almost 25 years old.
In 1935, synthetic testosterone was not commercially available. Therefore, it is fairly safe to conclude that Grimek was natural when he did the cover.
Did Grimek Have Incredible Genetics For Growth?
John Grimek had a thick and compact frame. His wrists were around 8 inches in circumference.
In 1932, Grimek’s massive forearms shocked the American strongman Siegmund Klein when the two met. As some of you may guess, a lot of that forearm mass was the result of long muscle bellies and large bones rather than a mythical routine or a secret exercise.
A photo from Grimek’s youth shows his potential. Note the long biceps and the already present development.
Why does this matter?
Bone thickness and muscle insertions are two decisive factors, especially in the absence of anabolic chemical substances that can trigger unnatural growth and mask weaknesses.
A man who is 6’ tall and has 7.5-inch wrists combined with long muscles enjoys a better base than another guy who is also 6’ tall but has 6-inch wrists and incredibly long tendons.
Steroids or not, Grimek was mighty strong as he was very “dense” for his frame and had robust joints allowing him to play the role of a “rhino” rather than a “gazelle”.
Grimek’s Best Lifts
|Bent Press||300lbs||136.08 kg|
|Olympic press (overhead press with a layback)||364lbs||165.11 kg|
|Bench Press||480lbs||217.72 kg|
- John Grimek had favorable genetics for muscular growth and strength cultivation.
- During Grimek’s prime, the only available steroids were “organic” testosterone derived from the testis of animals and early forms of synthetic testosterone.
- Scientists first synthesized testosterone in 1935.
- Grimek has to be natural on Strength and Health’s 1935 cover.
- Documents suggest that Grimek took anabolic drugs in the 1950s after making Dr. Ziegler’s acquaintance.
- It wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that Grimek and other muscle athletes from his era experimented with early forms of anabolic gear during the 1940s thanks to the significant advances made by the steroid chemistry in the 1930s.
P.S. If similar topics interest you, and you would like to learn more about the natural potential, check out the book Potential: How Big Can You Get Naturally.