Known as the Golden Eagle, Quad Father, and Quadzilla in the bodybuilding world, Tom Platz is also know for his incredible legs, and successful career as a professor and company director. Tom’s dedicated his life to fitness ever since the age of 9 years old. He caught the bug and never looked back. He not only competed for many years, he’s also one of the most sought after speakers in the bodybuilder industry.
As Tom first started working out in his basement with his father who would read the workouts to him as his two younger siblings kept count of his repetitions, all the way to working as a personal trainer at 15, then on to having a successful competitive life as a bodybuilder, Tom says “I just want to give back to the sport I love which has been really great to me.”
But Tom didn’t always have great legs, he was actually born with a lower spine complication that prevented him from squatting, he was also known for “the guy with the skinny legs,” but little did they realize, Tom became world famous for his outstanding leg size and definition. He battled through, grew his body and career into a success, and this is his story:
“Some people like to live without too much risk. They’re satisfied leading a safe existence. This attitude of caution infiltrates into their goals. Every successful athlete – or businessperson – enjoys taking calculated risks. You have to. Especially in the gym when you’re squatting 500 for reps and you can’t get one more but grunt out ten. Your nose starts bleeding, you fall into the rack and that’s set one.”
|Full Name: Tom Platz
|Year of Birth
|225 - 235lbs (102.1 - 106.6kg)
|Bodybuilder, Professor, Guest Speaker, Company Director
|The Golden Eagle, The Quad Father, Quadzilla
|225 - 235lbs (102.1 - 106.6kg)
|Year of Birth
|Bodybuilder, Professor, Guest Speaker, Company Director
|The Golden Eagle, The Quad Father, Quadzilla
“When you promise yourself something, make a commitment, you can’t give up. Because, when you’re in the gym, you have to fulfill the promise you made to yourself. The people who can self motivate – in any field – are usually the ones who win. Regardless of talent.”
- 1987 IFBB Detroit Pro 6th
- 1986 IFBB Olympia 11th
- 1985 IFBB Olympia 7th
- 1984 IFBB Olympia 9th
- 1982 IFBB Olympia 6th
- 1981 IFBB Olympia 3rd
- 1980 IFBB Olympia 9th
- 1980 IFBB Night Of The Champions 12th
- 1980 IFBB Grand Prix Pennsylvania 10th
- 1980 IFBB World Pro 2nd
- 1979 IFBB Olympia 8th
- 1978 IFBB USA World Qualifier 1st
- 1978 IFBB World Amateur Championships 1st
“If you fully believe you will be successful and can visualize yourself being successful, you will succeed.”
Tom Platz first got inspired to start weight training and bodybuilding when he was 9 years old when he saw a picture of Dave Draper on the beach with Betty Weider. Dave was holding the Weider Crusher sporting his incredibly strong and toned physique. This image stuck out in Tom’s mind and started something in him that would change his life forever.
“It was an incredible transformational moment which changed my life forever. That photo just motivated me and inspired me and said something to me – about the physicality of California, about lifting weights and having muscles of iron. I was just totally moved by that; it was like becoming a priest, having a calling from God at that young age.”
He looked at the picture and thought “God! I don’t believe this.” It was an incredible transformation moment that changed his life forever. The image of bodybuilding in California, lifting weights, having huge muscles, “muscles of iron.”
It was actually at the age of 11 years old after researching it many times over and over in his mind that he knew for certain he wanted to become Mr. Universe. To cement the dream even further in Tom’s mind, he recalls seeing another picture of Arnold drinking a protein shake out of a blender. Tom was fascinated with the way Arnold’s arms were bulging as he drank the shake.
A young Tom Platz, compared to his prime.
Lifting at 9
He remembers running to his father and saying “That’s what I want to do for a living.” His father fully supported Tom, as he would teach him how to do the exercises in the basement. His father would take him, and his two younger siblings who were just learning how to count at the time down to the basement where they would count Tom’s repetitions as his father would read out the workouts. He remembers learning how to do the bench press whilst laying on the floor. He recalls thinking “I couldn’t figure out how to do this thing called the bench press. It seemed like such a stupid exercise, and I couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working right.”
“When I was 9 ½, I can remember doing bench presses on the cellar floor after dinner. My father would take my brother and sister and myself downstairs to the basement, to the cellar – they have cellars back East – and I would lay on the floor, and he would read the Weider instructional manual to me.”
Tom also did other exercises, such as bicep curls and other basic movements, but surprisingly enough, he didn’t train his legs. He was born with a problem in his lower back as the plates weren’t fused together properly. He avoided training legs and squats as the exercises seemed to aggravate it further. He also remembers his friends saying that “squats were bad for you, they make your butt big and give you a bad back.” Little did they know that Tom would go on to be remembered for having the best legs in the entire history of bodybuilding and professional competing. Known as the Quad Father and Quadzilla!
Moving to Kansas City
This was the starting point for Tom where he learned how his body worked and how he could apply the basic movements and exercises to grow his body into becoming one of the most humble, hardworking and supportive bodybuilders of the 1980s.
Tom later moved to Kansas City, when at that time he was already quite big for his age after spending years training in his basement. He was roughly 15 and weighed a solid 165 pounds with a big chest and back. One day he drove his motorcycle down to the local health spa to see if he could get a job as a trainer. He recalls speaking to the owner of the health spa (European Health Spa) with a lot of excitement about weight training and exercise.
“When we moved to Kansas City, I was always big for my age. I was a big kid. I think at age 15 I was like 165 pounds. I was training and I had a big chest, and I always looked like I trained. I drove my motorcycle down to the health spa, and I applied for a position as an instructor. I was very young at that time – in fact, too young to legally be employed.”
Full of Potential
The gym manager saw there was a lot of potential for more clients if he hired Tom, as he saw that Tom’s enthusiasm and strong physique would soon bring in more clients to train, and he was right. The gym soon started to fill up with new clients wanting to learn about weight training. Being hired at the age of 15 (actually and illegal age of employment) Tom set about training individuals and talking to everyone who entered the gym about weight lifting and bodybuilding.
He worked there for a couple of years until he was 17, and this is where he learned the benefits of doing squats. The only reason Tom started training his legs was because a couple of serious lifters in the gym showed him how to do squats properly. His first leg workout was only one set of 10 reps with a 95-pound weight.
“I really didn’t like the exercise that much. I mean, I sort of just did it to do it. I did three sets of 10 eventually just because it was leg day supposedly, and leg day was my 15 minute workout.”
Tom didn’t like the exercise very much at the beginning, he only did it because it was something he thought he had to fit into his routine. Eventually, he worked up to doing three sets of 10 reps, but he would still keep this workout very short lasting only 15 minutes. He always paid attention to his chest and back day more than anything. “Legs were trivial. That was my attitude.”
“Never really applying the energy necessary to legs that I did to other bodyparts. In fact, I was known in high school as having, you know, twig legs and a huge upper body.”
Most of the time Tom would keep his leg workouts very short and with little effort require as possible, mainly it was just to go to the gym to talk to friends. Legs were second best in Tom’s eyes. He was actually known around the local area and in school as having very skinny legs in comparison to the rest of his body. Quite funny when we think that later, this became Tom’s strongest body-part, something he became world famous for.
“In fact, the Olympic lifters had a similar program where they would lift various percentages on different days. And I followed suit according to their protocols and their training strategies.”
Making The Legs
Tom moved again for a second time, this time moving over to Detroit where he went to a gym called Armento’s Gym. This is where his legs were made and sculpted. The gym was filled with a lot of serious Olympic weightlifters, it was these weight lifters that taught Tom the correct form, and how to grow his skinny legs into rods of iron.
The famous Olympic lifter Norb Schemansky would train at the very same gym. His students and his training partners were Tom’s teachers, they helped him to perfect his squat technique. Tom was also inspired to train his legs from another serious lifter from Michigan State called Freddie Lowe, he was known for being a great Olympic lifter.
“When you’ve been taught to squat by an Olympic lifter, it’s a very serious thing. I mean, the bar real high on your neck. You know, the very strict squat performance – our butt touching the ground.”
Tom says that when you’re being taught by an Olympic lifter you take it very seriously, especially when you’re a 17 years old kid. He recalls thinking “whatever you say, I’ll do.” He learned how to improve his ankle flexibility, which is a crucial aspect for being able to squat effectively. The Olympic lifters who trained in the gym saw a huge potential in Tom, they say he had great genetics to increase the size of his legs. And they weren’t wrong. “I think they saw that I had the genetic predisposition for leg strength or leg size. And as they showed me and planned my workouts for me, I gained strength and size very rapidly.”
He noticed there was one guy in particular at the gym who was quite thin but a great bodybuilder. He had incredible separation in his quads, Tom thought “this guy knows what he’s doing.” He taught Tom to use a method which is called the hack squat, which works on developing the other quad separation.
Bringing it to L.A
When Tom first arrived in L.A and started training in the gyms in the local area, he noticed the squat rack was at the back of the gym not being used. The bodybuilders at the time would say “it makes your waist big, and that it makes your butt big,” much like his friends as a child growing up. But Tom didn’t pay attention to anyone, By now after training with Olympians in Detroit, Tom knew he had to train his legs, and train them in the right way, in the squat rack. Tom likes to think that he was partly responsible for reintroducing leg training using the squat rack back in 1977.
“I came out to Los Angeles, started doing squats, and people were going, “What is he doing? Is he crazy? It makes your waist big. It makes your butt big.” But after a while that all died down, and I like to think that I was somewhat instrumental in making the squat a popular exercise to train legs again. A lot of the guys joined in with me.”
“Everyone has the ability to accomplish unique feats, everyone. You choose this. Become someone great in one other life. Forget about failing too many. Who cares? Doesn’t matter when you start or finish, just start, no deviations, no excuses.”
Looking into Tom’s professional career as a bodybuilder, professor, and director of a well-known company for over 14 years. We can see that since that first moment when he was 9 years old, Tom’s worked hard every single year making his passion into a full-time career.
Tom has a Masters in Fitness Science, Bachelors in Science Physiology and Nutrition from Wayne State University and Michigan State University, and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of California. He first started seriously competing in 1973 in the Mr. Adonis competition. He competed as an amateur for a further 5 years until he won the 1978 World Amateur Championships middleweight division.
After completing his degree in 1978, at the same time he moved to California with only $50 in his pocket and a dream to make it big, and win the Olympia. With a long and successful career, Tom competed for nine years. Although Tom was regarded as one of the best in his league, he never made first place and took the title. He did, however, finish in the top ten of many of his competitions, and successfully winning third place in 1981. This proved to be Tom’s final bow to the crowd and retired from professional bodybuilding.
“Bodybuilding has been my life; if it weren’t for bodybuilding, I don’t know what I’d be doing. I look at bodybuilding as who I am.”
We all know Tom Platz as having incredible legs, but how did Tom actually go about training his legs to achieve such great size and definition? Whilst in Detroit he met up with some famous Olympic lifters, these were the guys who taught Tom everything he knew about making his legs huge and strong.
Trick of The Eye
But it want’s all brute force, Tom came up with some very ingenious tricks to help trick his mind into growing bigger and pushing past the boundaries. He recalls creating a technique he would use to fool his mind into think he was much shorter than he actually was in order to lift more weight on the bar. The theory behind appearing shorter in order lift more weight is that, if you think you’re shorter, you’re more likely to lift more weight. This was Tom’s way of thinking.
“I developed little techniques back then – like wearing high socks. If I wore high socks, I would look shorter in the mirror. And if you’re real short, you don’t have that far down to go. At least that’s what the mind perceives. So I developed these little mental strategies to really train myself to handle bigger weights. Nobody taught me; I just developed those things on my own.”
One of his tricks was to wear long socks to fool himself into thinking he was shorter to lift that extra weight. Whether or not this will work for anyone else is debatable, but for Tom we can’t argue with what he achieved, his huge steel legs.
Tom Platz’s legs compared to Lou Ferrigno’s.
Tom’s Weekly Workout
- Squats, 8-10 sets, 20-8 reps, 635 lbs max weight
- Hack squats, 5 sets, 10-15 reps, 500 lbs max weight
- Leg extensions, 5-8 sets, 10-15 reps*, 350 lbs max weight
- Lying leg curls, 6-10 sets, 10-15 reps*, 240 lbs max weight
- Standing calf raises, 3-4 sets, 10-15 reps*, 500 lbs max weight
- Seated calf raises, 3-4 sets, 10-15 reps*, 225 lbs max weight
- Hack machine calf raises, 3-4 sets, 10-15 reps*, 400 lbs max weight
“I don’t believe in luck. Luck comes to men of action.”
Tom’s diet was like most bodybuilders diets, it consisted of high protein meals and frequent eating never missing a meal. To fuel his intense workouts he knew he needed to keep his nutrition levels on top form and never miss a beat. Being a 220 lb bodybuilder, you need to make sure that your nutrition is on point and that your maintaining enough calories each day.
The elite level professionals train heavy, intense and the train some days, 6 days per week. To do this they have to make sure their recovery is up to scratch, one way Tom achieved this was to make sure he was eating correctly.
To do this they have to make sure their recovery is up to scratch, one way Tom achieved this was to make sure he was eating correctly. Below you can see an example diet of Tom’s, it’s packed full of protein, carbs, fruit and the occasional bowl of ice cream, a huge favorite among bodybuilders.
- AM (Prior to training) : Two Pieces of whole grain toast with butter and jelly, juice or milk, coffee Supplements
- Lunch : (After Workout) Three to six eggs, Hamburger patty, sliced tomatoes , juice, two pieces of bread
- Snack : Cheese (quite a bit ) and crackers a glass of milk
- Dinner : Very large prime rib salad (with cottage cheese, nuts, ) Bread and butter Piece of pie of ice cream , coffee or milk
- Snack : Evening Couple pints of ice cream or bag of nuts
“The psychological tools I’ve gained from bodybuilding will never atrophy.”
Idols and Influences
When Tom was only 9 years old he was so impressed by Dave Draper’s iron like muscles on the front of a magazine. He knew he wanted to dedicate his life to training and building muscle, and a life competing on stage. He was also influenced by the greats such as Arnold and Frank Zane. Seeing Arnold in magazines just motivated Tom further. He kept on pushing and making gains in and outside of the gym to become recognized for having the best legs in the business.
It wasn’t only the greats that impressed Tom to make bodybuilding and fitness his lifelong goal, it was also the Olympic powerlifters and weightlifters in the gyms in Detroit where they pushed him hard and pushed him to success. It’s clear to see that Tom’s influences were all inside the gym, this is where he learned to set goals in and outside of the gym. He learned to make these goals into a reality by hard work and true grit for many years. We can see now that Tom’s applied everything he’s learned inside of the gym to every aspect of his life and succeeded in making his goals into a reality.
“Having a clear-cut passion and a need, an innate need to explore that passion. That’s what fuels your endeavor.”
What we can learn from Tom Platz
It’s clear to see that Tom was hooked at an early age by his idols of the bodybuilding world, he went out there into the world and took what he wanted. He had great genetics, but overall it was hard work that got him where he is today. He pushed hard and made everything with is his determination, drive, and blood and sweat.
Tom wasn’t just a successful bodybuilder, he became a professor and the director of one of the leading sports companies in America. Everything he’s achieved has been thanks to bodybuilding and training day in, and day out in the gym. That forward planning, goal setting, and a true passion for what he “loved” made Tom a household name. With the same passion of your own, and dedication to get things done, you too can achieve greatness.