Bodybuilding Legend Clancy Ross: In-Depth Training Interview

Clancy Ross Training

Unique One-on-One Interview with Clancy Ross

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During the early to / mid 1950's Clancy Ross was dubbed "the King of the Bodybuilders" by the Welder magazines Muscle Power and Your Physique. He earned the nickname because he'd won all the major physique titles, such as Mr. America, Mr. USA, Pro Mr. America and Mr. North America, as well as everything else in sight, except Mr. Universe, which was then the sport's most prestigious competition. (The Mr. Olympia didn't come into being until 1965, after Clancy had retired from competition.)

I believe that Clancy got that nickname not only because he had one of the most fabulous physiques ever seen at that time, but because he had the personality and charisma to match. And what a showman he was! He could captivate an audience and hold it spellbound with dynamic, artistic posing that I consider to be the best I've ever seen. I saw him perform at a show that was produced by Leo Stern in San Diego, and on that occasion Clancy posed nonstop for 10 minutes without hitting the same shot twice. No other bodybuilder-before or since-could have duplicated that feat. Clancy was definitely the Rembrandt, as well as the king, of the posing platform.

In 1955 Clancy decided he'd like to add the Mr. Universe crown to his trophy collection-despite the fact that it was 10 years since he'd won the Mr. America, in 1945. The training program he used to prepare for and win that coveted title offers much valuable information for any bodybuilder who wants to get in peak condition. You may not be a competitive bodybuilder, but if you want to be the best that you can be, Clancy's Mr. Universe routine will help you get there fast.

The First Three Months

Clancy decided to enter the Universe only six months before the event. He spent the first three months of his prep period training to build up his size, power and energy. As a professional gym instructor he was never really out of shape and always engaged in long, tough workouts. Knowing the competition would be intense, he decided he'd have to train harder and smarter than ever before to win this title.

His first priority was to improve his strength and stamina as much as possible because he knew that he'd have to ely heavily on them when he approached the final days of his precontest training. Clancy's best muscular bodyweight was about 198 pounds at that time. When he started training for the contest, he was weighing in at 204.

"It would have been a simple matter for me to have reduced [the six pounds] in a week or two and to have gotten into razor-sharp condition quickly," he explained. "Most inexperienced bodybuilders would have done just that. Then they'd have tried to maintain that shape and definition until the contest date and would have gone stale long before as a result."

To emphasize his point, he said, "Name any champion you want-John Grimek, Steve Reeves, Reg Park, Bill Pearl and so on. All of these superstars generally stay five, 10 or more pounds above their most muscular weight, reducing down to their sharpest condition only for a contest, posing exhibition or an important photo session."

Surprisingly, Clancy actually trained to increase his bodyweight to gain size and power. He worked on a typical mass-and-power routine of bench presses, squats, shrugs, rows and other basic exercises performed for four sets of six reps with maximum poundages. He increased his food intake as well, and his bodyweight soon went up to 214, 16 pounds above his best contest-shape weight. On the plus side, however, he said, "I was full of pep and energy and had greater physical power than ever before."

That was the first stage of his precontest training. "Other bodybuilders can follow a similar procedure," said Clancy. "Plan for any competition well in advance. First, strive for more mass and power. Don't let this get out of hand. Don't try to pack on 50 pounds or anything so extreme, but do try to gain about 10 pounds. You'll be glad later on."

I can relate to what Clancy said here. Years ago I decided to enter a contest in the San Diego area. I'd bulked up to 230 pounds and had to lose 50 to get the cuts I needed. The rapid weight loss I experienced over about three months' time caused me to lose more than two inches from my arms and three inches in chest size. If I'd known about Clancy's plan of attack, I would have stayed at 200 to 205 and would have needed only to trim 10 or 12 pounds to get my waist down to 29 1/2 inches, and my arms would have been close to 19 inches cold at contest time. Live and learn the hard way was my way back then. You can avoid the stupid mistake that I made by following Clancy's advice.

The Last Three Months

The final three months of Clancy's Mr. Universe preparation began with his having a complete set of photos taken in a variety of poses-front, back, side, standing, kneeling, relaxed and flexed. "The purpose of these photographs was to show up any physical flaws," he explained. "Having photos taken is a more satisfactory way of evaluating the physique than looking in a mirror or relying on the observations of friends. For with pictures you have a permanent record and can study each detail of your development at your leisure and intelligently decide what corrective training measures must be taken."

Clancy studied the pictures that were taken when he was at 214 and decided that even though he was a bit overweight, his physique was developed in good proportion. Therefore, he designed a program that would gradually trim the excess bodyweight to bring out maximum definition.

"The routine that I followed will help almost all bodybuilders," Clancy stated. "It will allow you to retain almost all of your muscle size while attaining maximum definition and proportions." To do this, he selected 15 exercises, and except for the calf and waist movements, he performed four sets of 10 reps of each.

"This formula of moderately high reps combined with less rest between sets plus a slightly longer routine than usual is in my estimation the very best way of hardening up the body and getting maximum proportion and definition," Clancy said. "However, it's hard work, and that's why I went on a power-and- bulk routine first-so that I'd have the energy to follow through on such a schedule."

He had three months to lose 16 pounds, so he didn't have to rush things. "This was good from a psychological standpoint and emphasizes the importance of planning well in advance for any contest he stated. "If you don't allow yourself enough time to get into peak shape, you're apt to grow impatient, worry about your progress and commit training errors or maybe even incur an injury. You'll grow upset and become irritable and agitated. If you hit a few bad workouts or if you don't register the improvement that you expected to see, your confidence is bound to be shaken. You must not allow any of the above to happen to you, and you can only avoid such problems if you plan well in advance, as I did."

One of the great all-time champions, Bill Pearl, heartily agrees with Clancy on the subject of being prepared. "I would train a minimum of six months just for a posing exhibition," Bill revealed. "For my last contest, the 1971 Pro Mr Universe, I started training 12 months in advance." Three months is the equivalent of 13 weeks, and Clancy wanted to lose 16 pounds. He decided that he only had to lose one or two pounds of bodyweight each week, which he reasoned could be easily accomplished.

During the first month of this final training stage he continued to eat heartily, making no changes in his diet and relying on his accelerated workout program to bring about the weight decrease. He dropped six pounds the first month, and his body began to take on a highly defined appearance.

During the second month, he continued training three times week, as usual, but he began modifying his diet by gradually reducing starches, sugars and other fattening foods. He didn't entirely eliminate them; he just ate less of them, substituting more fresh fruits, vegetables and protein foods. Off came another six pounds. The photographs he had taken at the end of the second month convinced him that he was right on target.

Entering his last month of training, Clancy had four pounds to lose. "I knew these would be the hardest, for at 202 pounds I was really sharp," he related. "Still, there was just a little excess on my waist, my upper thighs had a shade more size than I wanted, and my pectorals were a fraction too beefy.

"To lose this excess-which was actually hard muscle by normal physique standards but was just a little too much in terms of the shape I wanted to be in for the Mr. Universe show-I gradually stepped up my training schedule," he continued. "The first week I trained four times, further reduced the starches and fats in my diet and additionally cut down on my liquid intake."

The next week Clancy trained five times. "I was beginning to feel the effects of my tough schedule and had to get more sleep and rest than usual," he explained. "I also had an assistant take over the training of my pupils so that I could concentrate entirely on my training." During the third week he continued to train five times, but between workout days he did 500 situps and 500 leg raises in sets of about 50 each. This was in addition to the abdominal exercise he included in his regular workouts.

In the last week Clancy trained every day. His diet was now super-lean, with no starches or fats, and he drank a minimum of liquids. He lived mainly on one large meal a day, which consisted of steak, green vegetables, salads and buttermilk. At the end of that week he weighed 196 pounds and was in razor-sharp condition.

"I'd never been so muscular before," he recalled. "I was all set for the contest. It had taken six months to the day, but it was worth it." Clancy had purposely gone a couple of pounds below his 198- pound goal because he knew that he had to fly roughly 5,500 miles from the West Coast to England- which in those days took two or more days. "I knew that I'd have no opportunity to train or eat as strictly as I'd been doing and that there would be some chance of putting on a few pounds during this trip," he said. "So it seemed wise to reduce a few more pounds than I'd originally planned."

His strategy paid off. Clancy tipped the scales at 198 on the night of the contest, and he was in the greatest shape of his life. He won the title going away.

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