Peary Rader: The Most Influential Person of Physical Culture of All time

The role that Peary Rader has played in the establishment of physical culture can not be understated. The founder and editor of Ironman Magazine provided a trusted platform in his periodical that presented timeless training and nutrition information. The boldest move that Peary made in publishing was placing the statement “The Quality Magazine For All Men Interested in Physical Superiority” under the title of Ironman on every cover through out the 1970s. This was no audacious claim, this was a factual statement that has stood the test of time. The strength and bodybuilding legends who were made famous when the pages of Ironman documented their prowess have had indelible impact on physical culture. Before Peary was a publisher he was a man who sought to improve his physical condition.

Peary’s Training Philosophy

A YouTube video by the creator Golden Era Bookworm that was released in April 2018 synopsized Peary’s training philosophy as detailed in the classic 1947 Your Physique Magazine. Peary believed that a man should train 2 to 3 times per week, with the primary focus being on the breathing squat. A person should train heavy and employ progressive overload by increasing either the weight on the bar or the repetitions done with the weight every time you train. Rader described in his article that 20 repetition squats are brutally hard and can be a mental challenge. To keep from going stale, Peary said a lifter could do one all out set of 20 repetitions, then next workout he could do three sets of ten repetitions and finally the next workout the lifter could do two sets of 15 reps. Peary detailed how alternating your squat repetitions every workout could help avoid the mental drudgery that can be associated with high repetition squatting.

Peary listed the proper workout for gaining size and strength was to do the following exercises:

  1. The breathing squat
  2. Pullovers for 20 repetitions
  3. Military Press for 10 to 12 repetitions
  4. Barbell curls/or chin up for 10 to 12 repetitions
  5. Bench press/ or dips for 10 to 12 repetitions
  6. Bent over Barbell rows for 10 to 12 repetitions
  7. Sit ups or leg raises for 10 to 12 repetitions

Peary published an article he wrote in Ironman called combining the 1 1/2 system and rest pause training as being the optimum way to build strength and concurrent size – as opposed to just pumping the muscles up, congesting the muscle with light weights and high repetitions. Peary went into detail with how he had pumped his arms with blood all week via light weights and high repetitions. The result was an arm that was 1” bigger in a week, but could not lift an additional pound in the curl. Lesson learned all. Rader’s words from this article which is almost 50 years old was that heavy weights in training used by a strongman provided him with muscles that “to the touch have amazing power, toughness, and permanency,”when compared to a bodybuilder’s muscles.

Peary went on to say that some bodybuilders who build big muscles through pumping light weights are never able to build power to match their bloated appearance if they start training correctly with heavy weights and lower repetitions.

Peary credits the rest pause system he has written about in the past, as having been created by Charles Ross, who based his system on the results of controlled medical experiments in muscle building. Rader describes the rest pause method as superior because it allows the trainee to use heavy weights, conserves energy, promotes proper circulation between repetitions, the muscles are fed during the workout and as a result the trainee feels refreshed following training- not exhausted and needing days to recover.

Peary notes that Bruce Page developed the 1 1/2 system that has been described in Ironman Magazine prior to this important article. The 1 1/2 system makes use to the rebound and short movement principles that according to Rader and Page are: “ so helpful in muscle building.”

Peary elaborated that the squat was the perfect rest pause exercise for gaining strength and size due to the fact that a lifter could take three to six deep breaths between repetitions of the squat. This pause in between squat repetitions forces blood and oxygen to surge through the body- this is the secret to the significant bodily muscle mass gained from an intense rest pause squat session.

Peary detailed combining the two systems during a bench press workout in great detail, describing how a lifter would bench press a loaded bar for one full repetition the immediately press the weight for a half repetition and immediately re-rack the bar. At that point the lifter would watch a clock, count to ten, or take three deep breaths ( all three measures take approximately 10 seconds) and begin his next 1 1/2 repetition and re-rack and pause for 10 seconds- doing this sequence for ten total 1 1/2 repetitions with 10 second pauses between each repetition. Rader said with practice, the lifter will develop a rhythm and his sets will be smooth, efficient and effective.

Rader said eventually a lifter would be able to do multiple rest pause sets with approximately 5 minutes rest between each set due to the fact that heavy weight would be utilized.

Peary’s article went on to detail how the curl, the row and the deadlift were perfect exercises for the 1 1/2 rest pause system. Peary said that 6 to 8 exercises per training session provided the best results. Rader surprisingly recommended that either 3 days per week full body training sessions could be used or alternatively the split system could be employed during with three upper body workouts and three lower body workouts were completed on alternate days.

In modern times, super trainer Josh Bryant has popularized rest pause sets while training the all time world record holder in the bench, Julius Maddox as well as two other 700lb raw benchers.

Diet and lifestyle factors Peary Rader espoused

Peary was a man of faith who was no bible thumper, but he did express that a man wishing to build his body needed to abstain from smoking or drinking, while making sure to obtain 8 to 10 hours per night of sleep.

The cornerstone of Peary Rader’s gaining program was the drinking of at least two quarts of milk per day. In addition to eating a whole food diet of meat and potatoes, Peary wrote at length about the power of milk-authoring a piece called Milk- Master Bodybuilder. Peary made the influential statement that drinking milk was as important as squats for a man wanting to gain size and strength. Peary described how milk is the perfect food because it contains all the elements in the correct proportion to promote growth. Milk is not a man made food, it is a wonder of nature that can always be used in it’s natural state without any special preparation. “Nothing short of miracles have been noted when milk was used as a bodybuilder and weight gainer,” stated Peary in Your Physique Magazine. As for your writer I was sold on milk when I began training and by the time I left college, I had squatted 315 for 20 repetitions as well as 615 for 1 in a Powerlifting contest by the age of 22. I am 6’2” and I gained 60 lbs of solid body weight on a heavy milk diet.

Peary the Publisher

Peary began publishing Ironman in 1936 and continued to do so until 1986. The magazine continued to be published after being sold to John Balik, who published quality information until he sold the magazine approximately 5 years ago. Ironman Magazine today is the antithesis of the quality product established by Peary and his wife, Mabel Rader. Peary produced such a quality product he created a legacy and outlasted over 100 Physical Culture magazines that were produced in the U.S. during the time period in which he published Ironman. When the esteemed Mike Lambert stopped publishing Powerlifting USA Magazine in 2012 after 35 years, he proudly posted on his Website that achieving 75% of the longevity of his idol Peary Rader has been a dream come true.

Milo Magazine, which was the closest in content and quality to Ironman, launched 6 years after Rader left the helm of his magazine. Milo had a 25 year run and employed former Ironman writers such as Dr Ken Leistner, Anthony Ditillo, Bruce Wilhelm, and Bradley Steiner. All of these strength writers had different training methodologies, but they all stressed the fundamentals; working as hard as possible, progressive overload, proper rest, and sensible dietary guidelines.

Peary played no favorites as he published content on the top bodybuilders, powerlifters, weight lifters, and athletes who attributed weight training/physical culture for their success. Mr. Rader was a judge at the 1972 Senior National Powerlifting Championships in Denver, Colorado. Following the amazing performance of Jon Cole at that meet, Ironman Magazine published a detailed profile of Jon Cole in 1973 acknowledging that he was the strongest man in the world at that time. Peary helped promote the burgeoning sport of Powerlifting by judging at high level meets to ensure that the athletes were legitimately judged.

Eric Fiorillo and Zach Even Esch have referenced Peary’s Ironman on numerous podcasts as being the standard for a half of century with the best information regarding physical culture. Today Josh Bryant, myself, and many others have found their foundation of success in the iron game to be entirely based upon the teachings and content created by Peary Rader, a true physical cultural phenomenon.

Leave a comment