Joe Weider

Joe Weider passed away on Saturday, March 23 at 93. For those who don’t know him, The New York Times provided a good write up:

Joe Weider, a scrawny youngster who sculptured himself with bodybuilding during the Great Depression and created an empire of muscle magazines, fitness equipment, dietary supplements and Olympic-style contests featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, died on Saturday in Los Angeles. …

Mr. Weider may not have been the 97-pound weakling of the comic books who got tired of having sand kicked in his face. But as a teenager in Montreal, he hated being roughed up by neighborhood hooligans, discovered bodybuilding in a magazine and bought into it for life. He developed a V-shaped torso with bulging biceps and abs like Michelangelo’s David, and he was still muscular and jut-jawed in his 70s and 80s.

In the intervening decades, Mr. Weider, […] who moved to the United States as a young man, founded many of the world’s most popular bodybuilding magazines, including Muscle and Fitness, Flex, Men’s Fitness and, for women, Shape. They had 25 million readers and were crammed with photos of greased bodybuilders and Hollywood stars like Sylvester Stallone […] and Mr. Schwarzenegger.

The first weights I ever used were made by Weider, on a bench with his name printed on it. The set included a booklet of exercises, each explained in great detail. My father explained to me who, exactly, Mr. Weider was and what he meant to the fitness world. And if his knowledge on physical fitness was good enough for my father (a former Army Ranger) it was good enough for me.

I first started lifting weights as a skinny high school kid in the early 90’s. I was 5’8, 110 pounds soaking wet. Regardless, looking at the pictures provided by Mr. Weider, I went downstairs into my family’s basement on a regular basis. It was cluttered with junk, and dark and damp with cobwebs in strange places like a lot of basements, but I loved it.

It was on a set of Weider weights that I began to put on muscle. I found out that strength was addictive. It changed the way I thought about myself. With strength comes confidence. Confident young men carry themselves differently, and when you walk and talk tall, those around you in turn treat you differently. There’s a domino effect that happens to the mind, body and spirit when an individual flips physical fitness routines from being a necessary arduous task into being part of who he is.

Last week I was talking with a good friend of mine after a workout, and he promised to give me one in the near future that would make me “see Jesus.” The point is, an individual who knows that hidden reserves of strength are always there, if he is willing to dig deep into the fiber of his being, behaves a lot differently than the average Joe. Such individuals apply lessons taught by the weights to other aspects of their life — and more often than not the results are positive.

My path to a thousand life lessons began with Joe Weider. For that I am forever grateful.

Today is definitely a day to mourn for anyone who loves to hit the weights.

Here an excerpt from Arnold’s Schwarzenegger’s statement on the loss of Joe Weider:

Today, I lost a dear friend and mentor, and the world lost one its strongest advocates of living a healthy lifestyle. Joe Weider was a titan in the fitness industry and one of the kindest men I have ever met.

I knew about Joe Weider long before I met him — he was the godfather of fitness who told all of us to “Be Somebody with a Body.” He taught us that through hard work and training we could all be champions. When I was a young boy in Austria, his muscle magazines provided me with the inspiration and the blueprint to push myself beyond my limits and imagine a much bigger future. I know that countless others around the world found motivation in the pages of his publications just as I did, but as I read his articles in Austria, I felt that he was speaking directly to me and I committed to move to America to make my vision of becoming the best bodybuilder, to live the American dream, and to become an actor a reality. …

Well said, Arnold.

I’ve always found it fascinating how men and women we’ve never met and may never have a chance to say “thank you” to can positively shape our lives or completely change its trajectory. I never properly showed my appreciation for how Joe Weider influenced my life (How hard would it have been to write a simple letter?), but I guess it’s never too late. Wherever you are Joe, thank you and may you rest in peace.

Related: ‘Pumping Iron’ inspires, decades after its release

Related: Schwarzenegger’s ‘Six Rules for Success’: Sage advice for all Americans

Related: Lifting Weights: The Making of a Conservative

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

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