Bob Hoffman, Joe Weider, Health, and the Fascist State

Thursday, February 23, 2006
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Huebert makes a post over at that begs further expansion. His friend explains that Ed Opitz was a Bob Hoffmanite, which I find fascinating. Hoffman’s history is remarkable. Bob Hoffman was an interesting guy, and a hero. Let me ‘splain.

He was instrumental–in so many ways–in rescuing modern weight training and methodology from total obscurity, as well as going head-to-head with the State in regards to the issue of health and supplements.

However, he was from the weightlifting/strength training school as opposed to bodybuilding, for the most part. In fact, he and Joe Weider made famous the Hoffman-Weider “muscle wars” so long ago (in the 50s). Weider was starting to establish bodybuilding as a separate science from strength training, and Hoffman was a bit more slow to recognize bodybuilding as the modern science it eventually became. Hoffman, rather, was not that fond of the aesthetic side of muscledom. He thought it to be somewhat shallow, hence the difference between Weider and Bob Hoffman.

Hoffman started Strength & Health magazine in the 1930s. The heroic thing about Hoffman’s efforts was that he was among the pioneers in establishing the link between protein and muscle building. His focus was that of nutrition. Sure, Hoffman’s company (York Barbell) made perhaps some overblown claims about its Germ Oil Concentrate–in regards to helping to stave off myriad diseases–but, in fact, most of his products were merely protein supplements wherein the claim was made–before mainstream health science had come to understand it–that greater amounts of protein are essential to building and maintaining increased muscularity. What a concept. It’s the core concept of every bodybuilder on the planet.

You’ll read in numerous bodybuilding bios that Hoffman had “brushes with the law.” Well, the State went after Hoffman for daring to be on the cutting edge of the protein revolution. The Feds and the FDA had seized some York products (in the 60s and 70s) for the crime of false advertising in regards to his products. Or so claimed the Feds. He claimed his supplement products could increase vigor and mood and energy levels, and mostly, he committed the outrageous act of linking extra protein to added muscle and better health (all of which we know to be true today).

The US Postal Service and the FTC went after Joe Weider for similar reasons. There were, and still are, many minions of the State that refer to the protein-muscle link and pro-supplement philosophy as “quackery.” The FDC was committing its usual thuggery against Weider’s General Nutrition, Inc. as late as 1994 wherein he was ordered to pay up the extortion fees ordered by the Feds.

Bob Hoffman became all about supplements, and his magazine and dozens of books were influential in developing the very ideas used today to increase strength, mass, and growth.

Note that Steve Reeves–who had perhaps one of the most perfect bodies ever–was a Hoffmanite early on. Reeves was there for the early days of powdered whey protein–via pharmacist Eugene Schiff–and taught those practices in his book Building The Classic Physique: The Natural Way. Not many people know that Dr. John Harvey Kellogg was also vital–back in the late 1800s–in setting a foundation for early bodybuilding techniques through his research on exercise and the body.

In the 20s, Hoffman was already preaching modern techniques on form and avoiding injury, way before anyone else. He was brilliant. It’s funny to note that, after all of his brushes with the Feds, was also a founding member of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.

Not much has changed. Bodybuilding and the State are still at odds, and the State still goes after the supplement industry with jack-booted vigor.

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