THE LEGEND OF LEON BROWN

 

By Julian Schmidt Flex Magazine
September 1988

A back like chiseled marble on a most muscular middleweight physique - one score and two years ago this veteran competitor found the secret of life. Amid a carnival of Spandex and dazzling designer sweats, the fever pitched networking of fitness moguls, the keening hiss of high tech machines and the blinding flash of chromium weights, amid the sodium loaders and mantra-chanters and the swankings and puffing of pharmacodynamic freaks, Leon Brown stands as a refreshing reminder of a time when the love of bodybuilding was its own reward. In the 22 years Brown has been bodybuilding, every rep has been driven deep into his obsidian muscles, not into his ego. Don't even talk to him about the riches of the sport; it interrupts his training.

Bodybuilding has a higher purpose for Leon: "It gives me peace of mind to be in the gym," he smiles contentedly, "it makes me feel good. "Brown has been part of richer bodybuilding history than 90% of the glistening, fake-baked trendoids out there today could ever hope to be:- He was the first bodybuilder in Sports Illustrated - July 10, 1972, the issue with Johnny Unitas on the cover. It was SI's coverage of the Mr. East Coast contest, which Brown won.

55LEON.jpgCheck out page two and the centerfold of the bodybuilding classic, Pumping Iron, and who do you see? Leon Brown.- Sit through Arnold Schwarzenegger's debut movie Stay Hungry again, but this time watch for Leon Brown.- He trained at the original Gold's on Pacific Avenue in Venice, California, as well as at the old Mid-City gym in New York, the two most famous bodybuilding Mecca's in history.- At Mid-City he trained with one of bodybuilding's most venerated originals - the immortal Harold Poole.- He has competed every year since 1966, except for 76, 77, 82 and 85, when he was injured. His competition resume has consistently kept good company:
1973 - Lou Ferrigno won the Nationals, but the best back and most-muscular trophies went to a guy named Leon Brown.1973 - Ed Corney may have won the USA and Mr. America, but what about second place as well as best-back and most- muscular in both shows? Leon Brown.1970 - Franco Columbu won the Mr. Inter- national, but Leon took second overall as well as the middleweight crown and beat Franco for both most-muscular and best-back titles.1967 - Frank Zane won the Mr. Eastern America in a tight battle over second-placed Leon Brown. The list of titles goes on, including his most recent achievements - second middle- weight at the'87 Nationals and first middle- weight and overall at the '88 Masters USA. Forty-four-year-old Brown was good at football in high school and had great natural strength (his first attempt at dead-lifting was 580), but his coach thought he was too skinny, so he put Leon on a weight program.

In nine months - at 5'6½” - he gained 30 pounds. Brown was omnivorous, adhering to the contemporary high-protein precept by devouring anything that might conceivably contain organic nitrogen. Eggs, milk, cheese, cows, pigs - two major food chains were endangered, and grains were disappearing fast: Leon Brown was on the loose. "I ate an entire loaf of bread with peanut butter, plus two quarts of whole milk a day in addition to my regular meals," he confesses. "And to make sure it would stay with me, I went to bed every night at 9 PM." Awed by Leon's freaky muscular response, a friend suggested he enter a contest. Reluctantly, Leon tried the Teenage Eastern America in '66. "I was scared;' he admits. He raced through five brief poses with no goal except to exit the stage as quickly as possible. Try as he might to nip a promising career in the bud, Brown was awarded second in his class as well as the best- abdominals and best-back titles.

Since those days, "when we would eat tons of meat and gallons of milk and get big and smooth:" Brown has acquiesced to the modern regimen that has completely reversed the equation. "I now eat 70% carbohydrates, 25% protein and 5% fat." [Note from Henrik: this could be false since Weider magazine writers in the late 80s wrote these percentages in every article]His training principles, however, have endured from those handed down to him a generation ago. "Nobody trains nearly as heavy as bodybuilders used to years ago. Routines today are so much faster, with more isolation; strict movements, high reps, low weight and complex arrangements, and guys are in and out of the gym in 45 minutes. "But I'm a big believer in heavy weights for optimum muscle development. After my warm-up sets, I usually stay with six to eight repetitions per set, and I'll keep the number of sets per body part low as well. The migration to Gold's Venice was inevitable. "In '69," recalls Brown, "a couple of my friends had just returned from Vietnam and wanted me to go to California with them. The first thing we did when we got there was tell the taxi driver to take us to Muscle Beach. So at 2 A.m., he dropped us off down there. We had no idea where we were, but if we were at Muscle Beach, that's all that mattered. "The next day we went to the original Gold's on Pacific, and that's when I met Joe Gold. "Those were the best days, years ago," says Leon. "I stayed for two years - '69 and '70 - then returned to New York." But before he did, he won the Mr. Venice Beach, Mr. Western America and Mr. Pacific Coast. "The first time I met Arnold was on the boardwalk on Santa Monica beach. He was playing chess with Artie Zeller. My buddy said, 'Who's that guy with the big arms?' and I said, 'that's Arnold' ''Arnold heard me say his name, and he called me over, and that's how I met him. "Brown had more reasons than bodybuilding to stay in California; chronic asthma has been a nuisance all his life, hospitalizing him in '86. "The real answer would have been to move to California for the climate, although bodybuilding has helped my asthma more than anything," he insists. Nevertheless, home - New York - had the biggest pull, and it rewarded him with his wife, Danielle, a good job with the New York Housing Authority and regular training at Better Bodies Gym in Manhattan. Off-season, Brown trains four days a week, switching to three on one off pre contest. He works his chest, back and shoulders on Monday and Thursday, and his legs and arms on Tuesday and Friday.

Following is a sample chest workout.

Exercise

Bench presses (warm up) 1 x 25
Bench presses 3 x 6-8Incline barbell presses 3 x 6-8
Incline flyes 3x 6-8
Pullovers or dips 2 x 6-8
Abdominals are worked twice a week with crunches and leg raises for three sets of 25 reps each.
Pre contest, his split is chest and back on day one, shoulders, and arms on day two and legs on day three.

Sets and reps are increased on all exercises, with rest periods between sets reduced to 30 to 45 seconds. Total sets per body part: chest - 18, back - 20, shoulders - 15, biceps - 12, triceps - 15, legs - 22, calves - 12. Poundage's do not drop except on bench presses (from an off- season 405 to a pre contest 335)."In '84," says Brown, "I tried adding aerobics to my pre contest routine; I got ripped and small, so I no longer do them. My metabolism is too fast. "My movements are always very strict, and I will never, never cheat, although I will use a training partner occasionally for a couple of forced reps. "No longer is Brown the trencherman of two decades ago. "Nutrition knowledge," he admits, "is better now, and bodybuilders today are bigger and more ripped. "But he shuns the self-denial most modern bodybuilders practice. Off-season, he eats for psychological comfort. "I eat ice cream and stuff like that, but I make sure I stay fairly well cut at all times. "Pre contest, however, finds Brown imposing strict regimentation, incorporating today's nutritional practices.

Leon especially loves the competitive longevity today. This year, he is competing in both the Men's and Masters Nationals. When asked why he bothers with the masters competition, he responds, "Have you ever seen the kind of competition in the masters today? Those guys take a back seat to no one. Every year there are guys coming out of the woodwork that look unbelievable. "But some major aspects of the sport disappoint him. "Bodybuildleon3back.jpging is drastically in need of a solution to its drug problem. When I first started, if you even mentioned drugs in the gym, they would kick you out. If you only MENTIONED them! Today, at every gym that's all they talk about: 'What're you on?' 'How much?' 'What has worked for you?' 'I'm on this, and I'm on that.' . .

Just today, some guy came up to me and asked what cycle I was on. I told him, 'I'm not on any cycle; this is the way I train all year. '"Bodybuilding should be good for you, physically and psychologically. But too many bodybuilders today have 'attitudes,' and too many of them are vindictive. When I first started, we were all buddies and encouraged each other. No matter who won a show, we were all still together, but today there's too much throat-cutting. "Maybe the money's at fault, maybe the drugs. Guys like Harold Poole WANTED to help newcomers, but ask someone a question today and they want money. Just for answering a question! "I saw it happen just the other day. A kid about 17 asked a bodybuilder a question about amino acids, and the bodybuilder gave him his card and said, 'If you want to know, call me and I'll set up an appointment' 'The kid came over to me and asked the same question, and I told him what he wanted to know. "Another day someone asked a bodybuilder for a spot and he said, 'I'm so-and- so. I don't give anybody a spot.' I can't believe these guys. I see nice guys come into the gym, and a year or two later they're completely different. "To any beginner, I'd give them only a few basic rules: Stay with a simple routine, eat sensibly, stay away from steroids and take your time. And most important, if you don't enjoy it, don't do it. "Even if there was no money in it, I would still train and still love the sport. Even when I'm 80 years old I'll still love it, and if I possibly can, I'll still be training. It makes me feel good all the time."

 

HOME