Bodybuilding in Southern California 1969 – 1971


“What Does it All Mean?” asked Zabo Kozewski thousands of times in his life. Aloud and to himself, it was his mantra. He was Zabo the Chief 44 years old when I arrived in Venice California in 1969. Zabo and Joe Gold built the original Gold’s Gym in 1965. Wrote a song about it:

Got to Gold’s Gym in 1969 In Venice 1006 Pacific Street Handmade cinder block design. By Joe Gold and Zabo the Chief There was solid concrete floor. Rubber mats no frills. Not many windows two doors But there were very, very good mirrors. Gold’s Gym 1969Training here I felt really really fine

Zabo worked behind the desk on Tuesdays and Thursdays. A new client comes in, Zabo is reading his book, looks up, and asks, “What do you want”. “I want to buy a
Gold’s Gym jacket”. “Were all out” said the Chief going back to reading his book as the client left.

“What are you doing asked Eddie who also worked there “We have one in the back”. “I know but if we sold it there wouldn’t be any left”. The book he read was more
important. What the Chief put his attention on was the most important thing. He was the King of Abdominal development. Six days a week from 6 to 7 am the Chief was there
working abs, 500 Roman chair sit-ups, and 500 leg raise.

His abs were chiseled and deep along with extremely defined upper thighs. I concluded it was from these two exercises.
“When we trained on Muscle Beach in the 1950s there were two stumps two feet apart just high enough off the sand so you could balance on them with your hands and do leg raises. I always did 4 sets of 100” every day the Chief confided in me.

I marveled at the shape of some of the guys there who were over 40, Zabo and Chuck Collras. Chuck had won Mr. California; he was about 5 foot 4 weighed 150 pounds and was ultra defined. Ultra defined was the trend in California at that time. “I want to look like that when I’m 40” I said to myself. I studied how these guys trained, pretty much anybody with any kind of decent body in the gym trained the same way: 3 to 5 sets of gradually increasing weight, three exercises per body part, three-way split, 6 workouts a week.

A couple of months before a contest it was twice a day training, I could only afford that luxury in the summer when I wasn’t teaching school. I trained three to five days a week during the school year October up to June and then jumped right into heavy workouts with Arnold and Dave Draper, often getting a stiff neck or upper back as a result. “What a pain in the neck. I’m sick of getting injured” I thought. Sometimes I said it out loud gaining momentum to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Did thinking and saying these negative body metaphors created the injury or did the injury lead to the metaphors?” I asked myself. “Both must be true.” With continued self-observation I was able to remove negative body metaphors from my thinking and verbal expression, even correcting others and encouraging them to change their way of thinking and talking.

It’s called right thought and right speech. You become what you think. What you say is what you get. Literally. Watch and listen to yourself talk and think. Then correct
yourself — say it correctly and unambiguously. Go after the thought and convert it. Just as the Shepard watches the entire flock but one lamb strays, he goes after it and brings it
back. The others will not run away.

They are sheep. As I corrected my thinking and language, injuries began to occur less frequently, but much damage had been done from heavy training. My knees and low back weren’t feeling too good from heavy squatting, so I’d wrap my knees for each set of squats and wore a lifting belt backward with the buckle in the back. It helped. But after I began using the Leg Blaster at age 41 it was better late than never and my legs attained incredible development due to the isolation effect of the LB check out the photos to the left. It was not only the Leg Blaster, but it was also all the abdominal work.

I wrote in my training diaries “The most radical abs workouts I ever had been in 1970 training at Gold’s Gym when I began doing Roman chair situps for longer and longer periods of time. I focused my attention on the four corners of the room and began the situps. The abdominal trip lasted over an hour and aside from some lower back stiffness and sore abs the next day I knew I could do more. One day Arnold walked in during one of my abdominal trances and claimed he tried to talk to me and got no response. Even Arnold couldn’t distract me that day. Over the next week, I pushed my ab trip to two and a half hours and in the end, I knew I could just keep going. So, I stopped.” I was fortunate to be at the place where bodybuilding was happening in the 1970s. It changed after that decade and has never been the same since. Neither has the price of gasoline. Our gas in those days was the love of training and the glory of winning

I was fortunate to be at the place where bodybuilding was happening in the 1970s. It changed after that decade and has never been the same since. Neither has the price of
gasoline. Our gas in those days was the love of training and the glory of winning competitions. My ultimate goal was Mr. Olympia but I believed I was a long way from that in
the late 60s and early 70s with Sergio and Arnold as Mr. Olympias. Both had great sizes.

Joe Weider told me “You need more mass” and I believed it.
Size had more or less always been king in bodybuilding just as it is now. We had just come out of the era of Bill Pearl and Reg Park and now Arnold was dominant. Patient to wait my turn when I got good enough, I resolved to learn from my peers.