Jeff King obtained legendary status in Bodybuilding in 1983 following his Mr America and Mr. Universe wins at the age of 22. Recently, Jeff was featured on John Hansen’s Bodybuilding Legends podcast, after he was the most sought after guest for years. Jeff has a very down to earth, humble and gracious nature so it was very easy to listen to him speak. I had met Jeff once before in approximately 1988 when he made a guest appearance at a sporting goods store in Massachusetts where we were both living at the time. I recall a good sized crowd was present to listen to Jeff speak about bodybuilding and that my girlfriend won a prize when she was able to name the 3 official powerlifts. It was great to listen to him speak after 30 years and realize he is the same personable human being who still captivates bodybuilding fans to this day.
Jeff Begins Weight Training and Bodybuilding
Jeff provided a detailed description of how he began weight training after having been involved in wrestling, martial arts, and hockey – entering high school and wrestling in the 108 lb weight class. He joked with John Hansen that his older brother used to bust his chops about how small he was and Jeff added that he was very cognizant of his small stature and did not want to get his ass kicked. Jeff cited supportive parents, with his dad buying him a 70lb York Barbell set and subsequently taking Jeff to hard core cellar gym of Bob Oltmer in Lakewood, New Jersey so he could get proper instruction. Jeff later joined a gym called the Building Room and he obtained information like many did in the 1970s and 80s- from the newsstand publications of Muscle Builder, Muscular Development and Strength & Health.
Jeff detailed how he grew like a weed once he started to train with weights, stopping all sports and just focusing on training with weights and working for his father when he wasn’t in school. He finished 3rd at the AAU Mr. New Jersey and the next year Jeff won that contest at age 18, weighing 176lbs and standing 5’9.” Jeff loved the challenge of bodybuilding and looked at it just as he had wrestling, specifically no one can help you out there and you are on your own. Any success or failure is entirely up to you.
Early lessons learned by Jeff the hard way and his training philosophy
Jeff is a self described obsessive/compulsive individual who suffered from overtraining and all of it’s related “-itis” such as tendinitis and bursitis due to doing too much volume in the gym. This lesson taught Jeff to do less volume in the gym. I read Musclemag International issue 54 about Jeff’s training as well as the 1984 Ironman Magazine article on Mr. King and both are quite similar – as is Jeff’s description on the podcast to how he trained at his peak. This is always the sign of an old school lifter who grew up on the magazines of the day, meaning they tell whoever is interviewing them the truth because they believed in what they had read in the magazines.
Jeff described that he would utilize 9 to 12 sets of exercises per each body part. Jeff was a student of the game and believed in Mike Mentzer’s philosophy of stimulating the muscle but not killing it. In the off season, Jeff would up the intensity of the weight in his deadlifts and front squats. As a powerlifter, I was impressed when I heard Jeff state that he could deadlift 405lbs for twenty reps, and at one time he did bench press 500 lbs. Jeff remarked that he only did front squats with 375 for sets of 8 and never back squats because of a herniated disc injury in his back. Jeff said he never wanted to get hurt by doing a single heavy repetition. Jeff said his workouts never lasted longer than an hour and fifteen minutes.
He did not consider himself super strong like his older brother, Nick Carrolla, or Ronnie Coleman – whom Jeff stated was the ultimate bodybuilder for the mass he achieved as well as the weights he lifted in his prime. Jeff remarked about seeing the recent Netflix Documentary on Ronnie Coleman and how he has torn his body apart by training so heavy. Jeff expressed his opinion that Coleman was the ultimate bodybuilder because he was great at everything he did, from school, to working a full time cop job, as well as running a successful business.
Jeff repeatedly downplayed his strength but he confidently stated that when he was in the gym, “he could just go with volume and this would make others who tried to keep up with him puke.” Jeff elaborated on how he has honed his craft in the gym by describing he applied what he was learning in his exercise physiology classes with what was working for him in the gym.
Jeff unabashedly said more than once that training was fun for him and he recalled key training partners over the years such as Danny Morrow, Mike Antorino, and Rick Sampson.
Bodybuilding Goals and Achievements
Jeff very honestly admitted that when he first entered bodybuilding contests he just wanted to win a trophy for his efforts. His supreme goal was to win the Mr. America contest one day, because all of his early bodybuilding heroes had done so before. Jeff described that to him, the training leading up to a contest was like the build up before Christmas and then Christmas Day (the contest) just flies by.
“I never cared what the judges thought,”
regarding bodybuilding’s subjective nature, “I only cares that I looked the best I could,” Jeff said point blank to John.
The men with incredible mass impressed Jeff the most, competitors such as Bertil Fox, Tom Platz, those who had a freak factor to them not the aesthetic Frank Zane look. Mass was Jeff’s goal and he proudly described how he won the Mr. America at 222lbs, won the NABBA Mr. Universe at 230 two weeks later and competed at huge Mr. World Show in 1985 at 242lbs.
Jeff’s Bodybuilding Career
After Jeff’s two huge wins in 1983, he became financially successful by traveling 52 of the following 62 weeks to guest pose, conduct seminars, and do photo shoots. Jeff also had endorsements from Super Spectrim and the German Company Multi Power, as well as a thriving mail order business. In retrospect, Jeff said this was a hard lifestyle for 8 years as he found it stressful to train on the road. Jeff never became an IFBB Professional Bodybuilder because that organization demanded he qualify through their amateur branch, the NPC. Jeff had World acclaim, recognition and financial security based upon his wins in the AAU and NABBA. Can you say politics? Because Jeff viewed bodybuilding, as he should have, as a business he decided not to compete as an amateur in the NPC.
Change in Professions
At the age of 29, Jeff entered chiropractic school and pursued that career until 2005 when he and is wife welcomed children into their world and she wanted to stay home. Jeff, finished his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Springfield College in Massachusetts and he also graduated from the police academy.
Jeff King Today
Jeff told John that he still trains hard, but does need a hip replacement due to the years of damage he did to his body. Jeff did the podcast recording with John from within his police car as he has been a police officer now for 15 years as well as a Physical Therapist. At over 60 years of age he expressed no signs of slowing down from his busy life of a family man with two careers. Jeff closed out his interview very graciously by stating that he was impressed people cared that he is still alive. John Hansen, an excellent host of his podcast, assured Jeff that he has been an often requested guest and that his bodybuilding days are still held in legendary status by his many fans.
Strength athlete for 35 years who wants to share Classic Powerlifting and strength history. I am Arizona based and seek to share my knowledge.