Bruce Randall was an American professional bodybuilder who rose to prominence during the late 1950s. He’s known for his incredible physique transformation, where he went from 401 lbs to 183 lbs of solid muscle.
Bruce’s bodybuilding journey all started when he was 21. Serving as a Marine in the Norfolk Naval base, Bruce started lifting weights to become stronger and bigger during his service. Once he saw his size increase, he became completely infatuated with bodybuilding. One thing led to another, and Bruce set about gaining as much size as possible.
Within 13 months, Bruce gained over 140 lbs, bringing his weight up to 349 lbs. He continued to gain mass throughout the years, reaching his peak in 1955 at 401 lbs. After this, Bruce went from one extreme to another – deciding to lose all of his excess weight to sculpt a chiseled physique. As he said, “to look at life from the other side of the weight picture.”
Thanks to his strict diet, Bruce trimmed his weight down to 183 lbs in just 32 weeks. From there, he went on to become a bodybuilding competitor, rounding off his incredible transformation with a victory at the 1959 Universe Pro.
This is his story:
Full Name: Bruce Randall Weight Height Age Date of Birth 215 - 225lbs (93.0 - 102.1kg) 6'2" (188cm) 91 August 17, 1931 Nationality Profession Era American Professional Bodybuilder 1950, 1960 Weight 215 - 225lbs (93.0 - 102.1kg) Height 6'2" (188cm) Age 91 Date of Birth August 17, 1931 Nationality American Profession Professional Bodybuilder Era 1950, 1960
- 1956 – Mr. America – AAU, 13th
- 1957 – Mr. America – AAU, 6th
- 1958 – Universe – Pro – NABBA, Tall, 2nd
- 1959 – Universe – Pro – NABBA, Tall, 1st
- 1959 – Universe – Pro – NABBA, Overall Winner
Bruce Randall on a magazine cover, after winning his 1959 Mr. Universe title.
Bruce’s Weight Training Beginnings
Bruce Randall was an American professional bodybuilder born in 1931. Bruce only developed an interest in weight training at the age of 21. It was during this time he set off training in the gym, finding motivation within to start his bodybuilding journey.
Coming into early adulthood, Bruce joined the Marines, where he further developed his interest in weightlifting. During his time in the Marines, Bruce was provided with the necessary equipment for training, as well as enough food that enabled him to quickly progress in size, and strength.
Soon, Bruce set a new goal in his mind – becoming a member of his base’s American football team. However, in order to stay competitive on the football pitch, Bruce had to pack on more muscle mass. It was at this point Bruce set a goal of gaining an additional 25 lbs of weight on his 200-pound frame.
Here’s Bruce talking about his methods of gaining weight at the time; “In order to increase my food intake, each time I sat down to a meal I would take an extra chop, glass of milk, and a loaf of bread before leaving the table.” Bruce believed that by doing this at each meal, he would eventually gain size – he wasn’t wrong.
Setting the Bar Higher
Within only six weeks, Bruce reached his goal weight of 225lbs. Having accomplished his goal so quickly, Bruce decided to raise the bar even higher – setting about gaining as much mass as possible.
As Bruce’s interest in bodybuilding grew, his desire to play American football gradually disappeared. Eventually, Bruce quit the sport altogether, becoming fully immersed in weightlifting instead.
Unorthodox Training Methods
During the early stages of his transformation, Bruce followed an unusual workout plan. Whereas other bodybuilders believed that compound lifts were mandatory in any ‘bulking’ routine, Bruce initially focused all of his attention on arms.
For the first few months of his ‘bulk,’ Bruce trained nothing but arms – doing barbell curls and triceps pushdowns almost every single day. However, after several months, Bruce realized this didn’t yield the best results, so he switched to a full-body workout routine. The workout looked like this;
- Dumbbell Bench Press – 3 x 5-8, 120 lbs
- Decline Dumbbell Bench Press – 3 x 5-8, 130 lbs
- Incline Barbell Press – 3 x 5-8, 250 lbs
- Good Mornings – 3 x 3-5, 295 lbs
Depending on how he felt, Bruce added or replaced exercises to train different body parts. He also took long breaks in between sets to fully recover. This, combined with his calorie-dense diet, allowed Bruce to quickly progress in strength and size.
A Huge Increase in Mass
During his transformation, Bruce used to astound the Marine’s cooks with his insatiable appetite. He ate four huge meals a day, totaling about 15,000 calories. Bruce’s breakfast consisted of 28 fried eggs, two quarts of milk, and two loafs of bread. Sometimes, he drank up to 10 quarts of milk per day.
By the time Bruce left the Marines in 1954, he weighed almost 350lbs. Meaning, he’d gained about 140 lbs in only 14 months.
However, Bruce was still not satisfied. Now a civilian, he continued training and dieting on his own, gaining more and more weight. Within several months, he was close to weighing an astonishing 400lbs.
This extra size served Bruce well in the weight room, allowing him to reach the following numbers in his lifts;
- 680-pound Squat
- 770-pound Deadlift
- 375-pound Bench Press
Bruce Randall during his ‘bulk.’
Taking a U-Turn
Then, in the late summer of 1955, Bruce reached the pinnacle of his ‘bulk’ – weighing close to 410 lbs. Believing he accomplished his goal, Bruce decided to take on a whole new challenge, which was to dramatically reduce his body weight. As Bruce said;“to look at life from the other side of the weight picture.”
While it was an extremely difficult task, Bruce knew that with the right approach, he would succeed in his aim – just like he had with his previous goal of gaining weight. In Bruce’s words;
“Take a sculptor about to create a statue. He takes a big piece of rock and with his hammer and chisel, he chips away at the rock until he creates the desired effect. Well, I was that big ungainly rock, and dumbbells and barbells were my hammer and chisel, along with my diet.”
Weighing 401 lbs, Bruce commenced on his biggest transformation yet.
Restructuring His Training and Diet
Bruce went from eating 28 fried eggs for breakfast to only two boiled ones. He also replaced most of his other meals with foods like vegetables, nuts, steak, and low-fat milk. To supplement more protein to his diet, Bruce also added powdered milk to his skim milk.
Likewise, Bruce dramatically changed his training approach. Whereas he previously lifted 3-5 reps per set, Bruce now lifted 12-15 reps, totaling about 15-20 sets per body part. Outside of the gym, Bruce spent hours doing cardio, as well as performing thousands of crunches.
Yet Another Successful Transformation
By the early spring of 1956, Bruce achieved his transformational goal. In only 32 weeks, he went from 401 lbs to 183 lbs of ‘rock-solid’ muscle – losing around 218 lbs in the process.
Needless to say, Bruce shocked everyone with his never-seen-before transformation in bodybuilding.
Bruce Randall’s incredible transformation: from 401 lbs (left), to around 200 lbs (right).
After sculpting a physique worthy of a bodybuilding show, Bruce decided to sign up for his very first contest. He went on to compete the same year, in 1956, placing 13th in the AAU Mr. America.
The following year, Bruce bettered his result by placing 6th in the same contest, before taking the 2nd place at the 1958 NABBA Universe Pro. However, his best was yet to come.
It was in 1959 when Bruce truly shined on the bodybuilding stage. That year, he took part in the Universe Pro once again, storming to 1st place, earning his professional status in the process.
With this victory, Bruce rounded off one of the most incredible transformations in the history of bodybuilding.
Bruce Randall died on 23rd of August 2010 at the age of 79. He stays remembered for his incredible transformation, which to this day, stands as a feat yet to be matched in bodybuilding.
Bruce Randall doing one of his favorite exercises: heavy bend-over with a barbell, aka, good mornings.
Bruce Randall’s Arm-Centric Workout
During his beginnings in bodybuilding, Bruce trained nothing but arms. His routine looked like this;
- Barbell Curl – 3 x 6-8, 110 lbs.
- Dumbbell Concentration Curl – 3 x 6-5, 50 lbs.
- Barbell French Curl – 3 x 6-8, 70 lbs.
- Bent Over Dumbbell Triceps Extension – 3 x 6-8, 35 lbs.
- Incline Bench Dumbbell Curls – 3 x 6-8, 45 lbs. (Performed over a gymnastic’s horse)
Bruce trained his arms every single day, believing they could recuperate faster than other muscle groups. In Bruce’s words; “Because they are always in use they seem to be able to regain total strength with just one night’s rest and are ready for more the next day.”
By following this routine, Bruce increased his weight from 203 lbs to 225 lbs in just over a month. During this period, his arms increased from 16” to 17,5” in circumference.
Evolving His Training
As he progressed in his training, Bruce realized focusing just on his arms, wasn’t the best idea. As a result, he adopted a new workout regimen, which focused on compound movements. The workout looked like this;
- Dumbbell Bench Press – 3 x 5-8, 120 lbs.
- Decline Dumbbell Bench Press – 3 x 5-8, 130 lbs.
- Incline Barbell Press – 3 x 5-8, 250 lbs.
- Good Mornings – 3 x 3-5, 295 lbs.
Bruce also added other exercises for different body parts, depending on what he felt like training each day.
In regards to his leg training, Bruce initially avoided squats. This was because he seriously injured his leg, and ankle, prior to starting his bodybuilding journey, so he didn’t want to risk another injury.
When his weight passed 245 lbs, Bruce decided to test if he could squat again. It turned out, a 300-lbs squat was a ‘walk in the park’ for Bruce. A couple of months later, Bruce lifted over 405 lbs in the barbell squat at 280-lbs of body weight.
He continued improving his squat strength, eventually reaching a point where he was able to lift over 680 lbs in the exercise.
By the time Bruce’s weight reached 380 lbs, he was lifting impressive numbers in the gym. These were his personal records at the time;
- Military Press – 375 pounds
- Squat – 680 pounds
- Good Morning – 685 pounds (Bent knees, back parallel to the floor)
- Deadlift – 770 pounds
- Barbell Curl – 228 pounds
- Dumbbell Bench Press – 220-pound dumbbells x 2 reps
- Bench Press – 482 pounds (with a 3-second pause on the chest)
- Decline Dumbbell Bench Press – 220-pound dumbbells x one rep
- ¼ Front Squat – 1,320 pounds
Training For Mr. Universe
When he trained to lose weight, Bruce made some significant changes to his lifestyle. Alongside re-structuring his diet, Bruce also radically changed his training routine to expedite fat loss. Whereas previously, he lifted 3-5 reps with heavy weights, Bruce later changed his workouts to lift lighter weights at 12-15 rep range.
In total, his routine consisted of over 20 exercises per body part, lasting between three to seven hours per day. Needless to say, Bruce had to maintain extremely high levels of concentration in order to finish his long training sessions.
“I would like to bring out something here that helped me immensely, and which I included in my daily workouts. This exercise is running. I believe it to be very beneficial and it really works wonders in reducing the circumference of the ankles, calves, thighs, buttocks, and hips.” – Bruce Randall
Another picture of Bruce Randall during his ‘bulk,’ lifting heavy weights.
Road to 401 lbs
In order to go from 200lbs to 401 lbs, Bruce had to make some drastic changes in his diet. He started off by gradually increasing the amount of food he ate with each meal. He would add an additional loaf of bread, piece of meat, or a glass of milk to each of his meals – slowly adapting to a high-calorie diet.
Eventually, Bruce’s diet reached a point where he ate four huge meals a day. His breakfast, which he usually ate at 6:30, consisted of two loafs of bread, two quarts of milk, and 28 fried eggs. He then proceeded with his lunch at 11:30 A.M, supper at 4:30 P.M., and dinner at 9:30 P.M. In total, he consumed over 15,000 calories per day.
Bruce continued following this diet until he reached 401 lbs, at which point, he decided to stop gaining weight.
Bruce Randall’s Road to Mr. Universe
Alongside re-structuring his training, Bruce also had to radically change his diet in order to become successful in his weight-loss transformation. After several weeks of contemplation, Bruce decided a slow approach to dieting would be his best bet. More specifically, he gradually reduced the quantity of food with each meal.
Additionally, Bruce cut bread, white rice, and potatoes from his diet, replacing them with fruits and vegetables. As Bruce said; “I made certain that I had a high intake of protein and plenty of green vegetables, fruits and generally a good, well-balanced diet.”
Here’s how Bruce’s diet looked during this period;
- Breakfast – 2 boiled eggs, one pint of skim milk, one glass of orange juice and an apple.
- Lunch – A salad with dates and nuts.
- Dinner – Round steak, two different vegetables, one quart of skim milk and gelatin.
Eventually, Bruce’s hard work, consistency, and dedication paid off. Within several months, he dropped an astonishing 218 lbs of excess weight – allowing him to bring his chiseled physique to the 1959 Mr. Universe stage, and ultimately, win the competition.
Idols and Influences
One of Bruce Randall’s influences in bodybuilding was Walter Metzler, a Chief Petty Officer. During Bruce’s time in the Marines, Walter helped him become a member of the base’s American football team.
Later, when Bruce became involved in bodybuilding, Walter helped him with weight training basics, as well as dieting – setting him up for his grueling transformational journey.
What we can learn from Bruce Randall
Bruce Randall was someone who was never satisfied with ‘mediocrity.’ He pushed his body, career, and life, as far as they could go. At first, he gained over 200 lbs of size through heavy training and eating over 15,000 calories per day. After this, he went to another extreme by losing over 218 pounds, sculpting a Mr. Universe-winning physique in the process.
At the end of the day, this is what we can learn from Bruce Randall; Whether you want to lose weight, or gain muscle, you can do it with the right mindset. Bruce Randall’s example shows us that if there’s will, there’s a possibility to accomplish anything. Bruce showed us that once you truly commit to something, then there’s nothing that can prevent you from reaching your ultimate destination.
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I received a set of free weights (Sears) when I was 14. Inside the box were workout routines from Bruce. I followed them and changed by physique quite a bit.