Tuesday, August 16, 2011


"Physical culture is about what you do in the dark. It’s about how hard you train when there is no one to impress. It’s about what you eat, how you think, and what you do on a daily basis. It’s about doing the right thing.

The philosophy comes ahead of the end result. I don’t care if they don’t know anything and can’t bench press an Olympic bar without any plates. That’s not important. What’s important is attitude. It’s not how strong you are now, but where you are going that’s important as far as attitude is concerned… They must be interested in doing the right thing."
--Bob Whelan

And just what is “the right thing” when it comes to true conditioning? Does anyone really possess the answer to this emotionally charged, commercially-loaded question? Bob Whelan is man enough to step forward and make his case within the pages of his latest publication, “SUPER NATURAL STRENGTH.” To Bob, “the right thing” is simply the fortitude in conducting a training ethic that is natural, hard and progressive. In fact, “natural, hard, and progressive” would serve as a definitive motto for Whelan Strength Training. His T-shirts bear the words, “No Toning,” “No Chrome,” “No Bull,” “Just The Workout” which also reflect the essence of this man’s exercise constitution.

Bob has definitely built his own philosophy and sticks to it. He refers to himself as a coach over that of a personal trainer, the latter being a faction of the profession that he finds highly questionable. He feels that the vast majority of personal trainers have prostituted themselves due to lack of education, fundamentals, and a core philosophy. Whelan at heart is a pure strength coach. He does not believe in a fountain of youth, but feels that strength training is the closest thing to it. And Bob certainly has a set of strong core beliefs when it comes to strength development.

The readers are indebted to Stuart McRobert, the publisher of Hardgainer, a magazine from which the contents of this book were drawn. McRobert let a breath of fresh air enter the stuffy Iron Game hall in July of 1989 with the release of his first issue of Hardgainer. The compact, comparatively commercial-free publication steadfastly catered to the hardcore, natural men and women of iron for 15 years..

It was through the editorial craftsmanship of Stuart McRobert that Whelan was introduced to the Hardgainer audience in the September, 1994 issue. Stuart had cut and spliced a number of email exchanges between he and Bob to compile an inaugural article titled, “Maximum Bob.” From that point onward, Bob would compile his own material and be a constant contributor to Hardgainer until its finale in the spring of 2004. It was from that decade of contribution of articles and extensive Q&A columns, Maximum Bob Whelan brought a wealth of knowledge to the Hardgainer readership.

Although Bob holds a master’s degree in exercise science and health from George Mason University and a master’s degree in management from Troy University, academia alone could not give to Bob what he in turn shares with his fortunate clientele. What shines from his Iron Game soul he was born with and naturally cultivated on his own beginning as a youth. It was then that Bob mastered the heavy demands of pushups and pull-ups his father forced upon him.

Like so many die-hards of the game, he became hooked on training at a very young age. Bob continued with his pushups and chins, added cement blocks and copper tubing, dips between chairs, and everything else he could come up with until he attained his first York barbell set at the age of 13. With the York influence, he began purchasing Muscular Development and Strength and Health, followed later with Iron Man magazine. Bob captured the exuberance of so many youths that had both preceded and succeeded him through the decades:

I was a fanatic and devoured everything related to training I could get my hands on. I was sad when I'd read all the articles in a new issue. I couldn’t wait ‘til the next month so I could ride my bike to the apothecary in Sherborn, Massachusetts, and buy the next issue. I can remember the smell of the ink in the new issues. I had to hide the magazines because my father thought all the bodybuilders were “musclebound,” but I knew better. My biggest heroes were Bob Hoffman and, especially, John Grimek.

From these early publications, his fundamentals were cast. Bob was already mentally equipped to build strength and muscle with the most basic of equipment as demonstrated from 1976 to 1979 at a “small, dingy, minimally equipped gym” at Bitburg Airbase in Germany. He went on to both coach and compete for seven years as a natural powerlifter setting several military records on his way. His raw lifts are as impressive and extensive as the rest of his vast array of credentials too numerous to mention.

With such levels of education, depth of knowledge, and breadth of experience, Bob Whelan became one of our prominent modern day Physical Culturists: a hybrid of old and new. wise enough to endear the old, yet open to what the new era offered. He does not get stuck in the mud squabbling over pure traditions if common sense clearly shows that the old could benefit from the new. In his own words:

"I see myself as a tradesman with a shed full of tools... I see the various modes and methods of strength training as tools in a tool chest. A craftsman can collect and use many tools to perform his art. Only a fool would throw useful tools away and insist on using just a few tools. Different tools can be used for different people."

You will see this tradesman at work through the pages of “SUPER NATURAL STRENGTH” as Bob shares his arsenal of conditioning wisdom from the first installment of “Maximum Bob” in the fall of 1994 until the spring of 2004. For those 10 years, Bob remained loyal to the concepts of his trade with some minor evolution in areas where technology and further research had enlightened us all. However, you can’t help but respect him even more when he uses his own experience, intellect, and common sense to draw the line on some of the modern day fads, gimmicks, and crazes that constantly sweep the fitness industry.

What you will get from these pages is serious tried and true strength and muscle building techniques and advice from one of the most passionate trainer/coaches in the world. Bob’s mission is to bring the best out of everyone even if it means screaming encouragement at a young training enthusiast as he/she struggles to carry a 100 to 200 pound bag of sand around a building or simply accompanying a first time client for a gentle walk around the block. As hardcore as Bob is, that Marine-based drill ethic is still governed by intellect and a rationale. As he says:

"Deaths are not good for business! ...A good coach must be a good judge of effort. Not everyone can give the same amount of effort. There are huge differences in ability. Nonetheless, whatever they can give, I want it all. You must be smart enough to recognize the differ-ences in individuals, and be a good judge of effort…. Extracting effort is an art form…. There are some coaches who don’t think you’ve had a good workout unless you use the bucket. This is wrong. I view the bucket as getting a “purple heart” medal. You get a purple heart when you get wounded, but you don’t want to get wounded…. You can’t fake passion. You either have it, or you don’t. If you’ve got it, it makes your job a lot easier, and a lot more fun. Everything flows from passion."

And it is passion that drives Whelan Strength Training. It was that same passion that led Bob to leave a lucrative job as a government agent, sleep only feet from the barbells of his burgeoning gym, and stay the course right to the top of the field. Passion ruled over silly arguments such as which was superior, free weights or machines. As Bob notes, “strength training is similar to religion as far as strong opinions go.”

And with Bob, you will get in this book a solid philosophy on how to get the best from your body without drugs, powders, pills or any other magic potion outside of hard training and real natural foods. Much of the content of this publication is an extensive Q&A collection that spans many issues of Hardgainer from 2000 to 2004. Bob answers a myriad of questions including how to successfully build a personal coaching business plus much, much more.

I was both honoured and happy to write this introduction to Bob’s book, “SUPER NATURAL STRENGTH.” I agreed to do it out of gratitude for the years of work and effort he has put into his craft. So much of what constitutes Bob actually became manifest in his website, naturalstrength.com years before I had the privilege of meeting him. Naturalstrength.com was a godsend to me during my early years working on my own historical project. Only a man with true passion would put such effort and thousands of dollars personally into bringing so much of Physical Culture to the mainstream free of charge as Bob has done.

“SUPER NATURAL STRENGTH” is just the beginning of what will come to print from Bob Whelan’s shed of tools. His first book, “Iron Nation,” was an excellent compilation of training strategies from heavyweight players within the lifting industry. This second publication is “naturally” a compendium to his first. From what I understand and would expect, there is much more to come in the ensuing years from this super-charged, extremely positive, and highly motivating personality.

In the meantime, prepare to reap the benefits of a 10-year romp with Bob Whelan through Stuart McRobert’s successful publication, Hardgainer. Bob will definitely take your training to the “Maximum!”

Randy Roach,
Author of “Muscle, Smoke & Mirrors"


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