IRON NATION – A Review by Fred Fornicola
It seems that over the years the field of health and fitness has become tainted with countless gadgets and gurus. It appears that important aspects such as iron history and a passion for hard training are things that, unfortunately, aren’t always understood or appreciated by a lot of people who “workout”. It’s a damn shame; too, because appreciating history and being fervent about one’s training is reward all on its own as most of you reading this already know. If you have a love for iron - and I assume you do by your interest in the new book, IRON NATION - you will most certainly not be disappointed by what’s held within the confines of its covers.
Much can be appreciated and learned from the pioneers who helped forged the iron game over the last several decades and fortunately for us, a couple of true physical culturists took it upon themselves to assemble some of the finest information on iron culture to date.
“Maximum” Bob Whelan and Drew “The Human Wall” Israel have painstakingly spent over 14 years gathering information, doing interviews and formulating what could be called an “epic book” in their recent release of IRON NATION. Bob and Drew took on the unenviable task of not only amassing all of this insightful and historic information, but also tackled the arduous task of self-publishing this brilliant piece of work – not an easy task - as they, the editors and publishers, have maintained the integrity of the books information as it was intended.
Before you even open the book you get a feel for the detail that went into IRON NATION as its cover sets the tone with vintage dumbbells, kettlebells and a rare 45lb Andrew Jackson plate….and this is just the beginning. The list of “who’s who” will have you sitting on the edge of your weight bench when you see the host of contributors as they reminisce about their past while they share stories, their thoughts and some of their more memorable workouts – and I can promise you, those workout stories you don’t want to miss!
What’s so interesting about IRON NATION is its diversity. At one point you are reading an interview between Bob Whelan and legendary iron man, Vic Boff and learning how Vic was inspired by George Jowett and Bernard MacFadden and how over the years he developed a very close friendship with the great Sig Klein, Milo Steinborn and bodybuilding great, John Grimek and then a few chapters later your finding out how poor Tom Metzger barely made it through a “typical” training session with Doc Ken at 3AM at the Iron Island Gym. Speaking of Vic Boff, here’s a quote from the book that I personally appreciated reading when he was asked by Bob what his training philosophy was: “… the attitude of physical culture is to follow or practice the laws of life that lead to good health. The proper mental attitude, intelligently applied exercise, wholesome food, fresh air, bathing, sunbaths, relaxation and sleep…”. I don’t think you could sum it up any better than that.
Bradley J. Steiner does a wonderful job of laying out what he calls “the essentials of physical development” – a definite “don’t miss” for a sound program for health and fitness. Bill Starr discusses many of his insights to great strength and makes no bones about it that “there are no shortcuts” while Matt Brzycki discusses his epiphany after 4,368 hours in the gym. John McKean shares his success of singles training and being “heavy handed” and Brooks Kubik talks about how he “barreled” his way through to developing great strength. Paisan, Ralph Raiola adds some lightheartedness with a heavy fork and Doc Ken (always a crowd pleaser), goes down memory lane and shares some great stories and insights as only Dr. Ken can.
Speaking of stories, Mabel Rader (whom she and Perry have this book dedicated to) contributes a chapter and tells about the birth of Iron Man magazine and how a $100 bill saved their business and allowed the Rader’s to publish one of the greatest health and fitness magazines for over 50 years! Dick “Smitty” Smith tells about his involvement with Dr. John Ziegler, isometrics, power rack training (a definite must read) and the Isotron machine while Super Slow aficionado, Fred Hahn share’s how Big Jim Flannagan’s Fury left him “walking like a ghoul”.
Then there are thoughts from Dick Conner who tells of how he borrowed money to buy some of those “magic muscle builder” machines from a company called Nautilus and Randall J. Strossen was on the other side of the pond trying to defeat the Inver Stone. Jan Dellinger of York barbell contributes “…a collection of learned lessons and insights garnered from a rather diverse group…” and Coach Ken Mannie tells of his youth in Steubinville and becoming “steel city tough”.
It’s great to read how Kathy Leistner share’s her husband’s intensity while showing no signs of hard training to be only in a man’s world and how Arthur Jones made Tom Laputka learn the meaning of the word INTENSITY!
Additional chapters has Bob interviewing world renowned bodybuilder, Bill Pearl who credits Leo Stern for his success as a bodybuilder and how he now has a “barn museum” with all types of equipment, some of which was used by Eugene Sandow and gifted to him by Sig Klein. As an added bonus, Bob Whelan offers a unique look at his “life with the iron” as a number of others round out the journey and offer their experiences to help make Iron Nation a book that every iron enthusiast should own.
You can get Iron Nation at www.ironnation.com