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  • Writer's pictureJulian Molteno

IN MEMORY OF JUSUP WILKOSZ — and his Incline Tricep Pushdown

A long-term client of mine, Sean, who keeps me up to date on these matters, sent me an article about the death of a bodybuilder called Jusup Wilkosz. Jusup was not a particularly well known bodybuilder, but for various reasons, he has always had a special place in my heart.

I began weight training at the age of 13, in 1981, my brother David was 15 and “girls” had just appeared on his radar. “Fat Bear”, as he was affectionately known, decided he needed to lose some unsightly lard and pack on some top-quality “Grade A” South African beef if he was ever to pull a decent-looking bird.

My brother David, age 16, on the left and me aged about 14 on the right.

He bought a weights bar and some dumbbells and started to lift, I soon became interested and joined in too. In those days the only training info available was from bodybuilding magazines and the best of these was Joe Weider’s Muscle & Fitness, and the arrival of the latest issue in C&A, was a cause for great excitement!! I can remember so many of the articles and pictures from those early editions of M&F, clearly a very impressionable time for me. It is interesting that whenever I Google bodybuilders from the early 80’s, so many of the photos are instantly recognisable to me, remembered from those first months and years of my introduction to the heady world of bodybuilding. I will never forget those images, in the same way that I still remember my childhood phone number (412298) and the registration number (E 184 FLE) of Suzy’s first car.

Jusup and admirer on the May 1984 cover of Muscle & Fitness. They are pictured in a “wheat field”, Weider was obsessed with the idea of the bodybuilder in harmony with Nature.

Funnily enough my first reaction to the men in those magazines was one of distaste. All those oiled and pumped up muscles! Not very pleasant at all. It was not long, however, before I began to love the look of these muscular men, they soon appeared to me to be magnificent! Strong and healthy, full of life and vitality. I found their appearance mesmerising, and have continued to do so my entire life.

So — I’m 13 and it’s 1981 — I’m starting to train and learn about bodybuilding. I realise I have just missed the Arnold era, and although Franco and Zane etc. are still competing, without Arnold, it’s just not the same. There was one bodybuilder however who, though not really of Arnold’s era, or caliber, had a very strong connection to, and look of, that era — a German guy called Jusup Wilkosz.

Jusup Wilkosz — old-school bodybuilder.

Jusup was actually a good friend of Arnold’s and although they trained together in the late 1970’s, Jusup only started to compete on the international stage in the early 80’s. Clearly heavily influenced by Arnold and all that he represented, Jusup embraced all aspects of 70’s bodybuilding. Like Schwarzenegger, he aspired to a rugged and manly physique, the emphasis of which was mostly on upper body mass, with a fortress-like chest and mountainous biceps!

Arnold, Jusup and Franco Columbu. This picture perfectly captures the camaraderie of the 70’s bodybuilding scene. (Even though it was taken in the 80’s!)

Traditionally, bodybuilders liked posing outdoors, in natural settings. There are literally thousands of photos of bodybuilders, of that time, on beaches and on top of mountains, as they aspired to connect their magnificent physiques with the glory of Mother Nature. Who can forget those iconic shots of Arnold on Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa? His bicep actually resembling a huge boulder! This connection between Man and Nature was a large part of what Joe Weider, through his Muscle and Fitness magazine, wanted to encourage. Healthy, strong, muscular men in natural, inspiring places — at one with nature.

Schwarzenegger’s physique compliments the mountainous backdrop.

For whatever reason, Weider also felt that having his bodybuilders pose with adoring females was a promotional winner. As a result we often see Arnold et al. posing, or on a beach, in the company of admiring women. I suppose Joe must have known what he was doing because bodybuilding in the 70’s and 80’s went from strength to strength — perhaps one of his reasons he liked using female models was to promote his amazing wife, Betty.

Joe Weider’s wife Betty, a fitness and bodybuilding pioneer, graced many a physical culture magazine cover.

Betty Brosner was a pin-up girl in the 1950’s and life-long fitness enthusiast. She first met Joe in 1956 on a photo-shoot for one of Weider’s publications, Figure and Beauty. They married four years later in 1961, a union that lasted until Joe’s death in 2013. Betty was naturally small and slight of frame, and embarked on a weight trainingregimen even before she was a teenager — that girl was way ahead of her time! She had what was described as an “impossible” waist and was perfect (Joe thought so at any rate ) for the type of image Weider had in mind — that of healthy, muscular men and beautiful, slim women. She appeared in dozens of photo-shoots and featured on many of Muscle & Fitness’s covers.

Here I am trying to emulate Arnold’s way with the ladies, with far less success!

To match his Herculean physique, Jusup had a magnificent beard and a mightily impressive set of thick curls atop his stern Teutonic head, adding a sense of gravitas and seriousness to his stage persona. Jusup posed in a traditional way too, employing bold sweeping poses to show off his carved-from-granite upper body. Typical Arnold stuff, bringing to mind a time when men survived through strength and combat, where victory on the battle field won a man honour and the hand of a fair lady! The stuff of “Fat Bear’s” dreams!

Jusup calls to mind the Farnese Hercules with his granite-hewn physique and impressive beard and curls!

One of the last aspects of “traditional bodybuilding“ that Jusup kept alive was the value of measurements as a true indication of one’s size. In the 60’s and 70’s every bodybuilder would publish their measurements when appearing in a magazine article, etc. These measurements, especially arms and chest, were taken very seriously and were a source of great individual pride! In a sport that is entirely subjective, a measurement was absolutely concrete! When watching two bodybuilders pose on stage, it is difficult to know for sure who has the biggest arms, put a tape measure around their arms, and you have your indisputable answer! Who didn’t know that Arnold had 22 inch arms? He had the biggest muscular arms in the world, and that measurement was the proof of it.

Proof positive! Jusup’s arms measure up to the hype!

In one of those early Muscle & Fitness magazines, I remember an article featuring Jusup and how he trained his arms. The introduction to the article concerned Jusup’s claim to have 20” arms, and at the conclusion of the piece, they measured to see if his arms were indeed a full 20”. I was astounded by the final measurement, which was in fact a mighty 21”!! I looked at that picture many many times. Wow!!! If only I (with my puny 13” arms) could be that big and muscular.

Bodybuilders like Jusup inspired me to train hard to achieve my goals.

The body of the article consisted of the exercises he used etc., and other general stuff about his training philosophy. I remember being struck by one exercise in particular, I had never seen it done before and it looked really interesting.

When I first saw these photos I resolved to emulate Mr Wilkosz’s exercise, and grow a pair of massive guns for myself!

I can’t track down the actual article so don’t know what they called the exercise, but I call it either an Incline Tricep Pushdown if I’m feeling prosaic, or a Wilkosz Pushdown, if I’m feeling more creative! When I saw Jusup doing the exercise I thought, “Well, if that’s how he got those arms, I will have to do it too.” And I have — for just shy of 40 yrs!! It is a fantastic exercise, as you can see from the photo, it keeps your upper body immobile encouraging you to really focus the squeeze right into your triceps. I have made one small, but vital, adaptation to the exercise by replacing the short bar with a rope.

, thus allowing for an even better range of movement, and therefore, better contraction.

One of the reasons I enjoy doing Wilkosz Pushdowns is that it is a “secret” exercise. I’ve never seen anyone else do it! Which is ironic because the gym is full of donkeys doing Face Pulls and other idiotic nonsense just because they have seen someone else doing it — and here is this amazing exercise — which no one copies!

Jusup leading the way, my then training partner, Allan Ledsham, following suit, and 39 years later, I’m hanging in there!

When I give this exercise to a new client I briefly explain about Jusup, and his brilliant exercise, and make sure that they know they are following in the footsteps of a bodybuilding legend — and that they need to perform his exercise seriously, in a way that pays homage to his wonderful memory!

Arnold in the Austrian Alps, and Julian on a Cape Town beach. Smashing it!

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