Tony Pandolfo: Mr. New York City

Oldschool bodybuilder Tony Pandolfa won the title Mr. Apollo and Mr. New York City. Here’s his training routine written by Howard Alpert (1977) – Mr. Berg

“In the field of endeavor, there are individuals whose skills and abilities place them far above the average members of that group. From that select few are chosen a handful whose superiority is readily acknowledged by the granting of a unique type of accolade. These individuals are accorded the deserved praise and recognition through use of a specific term. Thus, in the field of music, Frank Sinatra is called the “singer’s singer.” In football, a Joe Namath could be called the “quarterback’s quarterback.” Here in the East Coast area, we in bodybuilding are very fortunate to have an individual to whom the term the “bodybuilder’s bodybuilder” can truly be applied. This exceptional individual is Tony Pandolfo and his story is one that exemplifies the real meaning of what bodybuilding is all about.

When genial Julie Levine decided to expand the availability of the type of training facilities he had long offered New York City area trainees at his R & J Health Studio in Brooklyn, he did not have to hesitate for a second in expending all necessary funds so that his FUTUREMAN club in Amityville would contain every conceivable productive equipment. As Julie said, “I never doubted that FUTUREMAN would be the best-equipped place for any bodybuilder, power lifter or Olympic lifter. My main concern was in finding the best possible manager. I needed someone who not only knew every facet of weight training and nutrition, but he would also have to be a dedicated teacher who could work equally well with a beginner or advanced trainee. I tried to think of how I could split myself in two (the big grin that covered Julie’s face at this point indicated that he had said this jokingly).

Seriously though, I knew that for my new club to provide the benefits that I had in mind, I needed a man to whom I could say, “I’m giving you the key. Run this place as if it were your own.” And I had to be able to totally believe that. I had to be able to place complete trust in this individual to do everything that I would do if I were there. You’d be surprised if I told you some of the people who applied for the manager’s position. It would look like a list of Who’s Who of Bodybuilding.”

Julie’s search came to an end when he found that Tony Pandolfa would be available to take the stewardship of FUTUREMAN. Julie had known Tony for many years, and, in fact, had considered offering the job to Tony immediately.

However, he had heard that Tony had his own very successful moving business and he felt that Tony might be reluctant to give up this enterprise which he had built up over a period of years. Tony’s deep feeling for weight training and the realization that here was an opportunity to help a great many people were the deciding factors that convinced him that he could make a total commitment to FUTUREMAN even though it meant a certain amount of personal sacrifice.

This type of dedication and willingness to help others are qualities that are an integral part of Tony Pandolfo.

Tony’s invitation to the world of weights happened for reasons that are quite different from the typical ones that cause most trainees to start. He had been involved in the very challenge field of auto racing. It had provided an outlet where Tony could channel his boundless energy.

However, his marriage to his beautiful sweetheart Jacqueline changed things. This very understanding but realistic young lady convinced Tony that auto racing was not the type of hobby for someone whose future plans included family of little Pandolfos. Tony agreed with her but now he was faced with the problems of finding another area for his athletic drive.

He was vaguely aware of barbell because some of his friends trained with them but he had never really paid close attention to what they were doing. Now that he would no longer be involved in the tire-screeching world of racing cars, he decided to investigate more fully.

Auto racing’s loss was weight training’s gain.

“I thought that I was in good shape but I can still remember struggling with fifty pounds in the press and barely being able to squat with seventy pounds. I had always kept a written record of the things I did when I raced, so I naturally continued and I began working out. Every time I look back at those beginning workouts, I have to marvel at what miracles barbells can work.”

In 164, after he had been training about two years, Tony began to enter some powerlifting meets. “My totals were really not that good, but I felt that the only way I could learn what other guys were doing was to enter different events and talk to them.”

This was the start of what has become a detailed record of the training of top lifters and bodybuilders that Tony has maintained since he entered his first competition.

It also reflects another of Tony’s qualities as expressed to me by one of Tony’s training partners. “If there is a better way to do something, Tony will find it. And he doesn’t do it just to benefit himself. If he proves it out in his own training, he will let everyone know about it – even guys that he competes against. Thus guy is so open and sincere that it is unbelievable.”

It was also at one of these meets that Tony met Dennis Tinerino. Dennis was training with Mr. America and Mr. Universe titleholder Joe Abbenda and he invited Tony to train with them.

“I went out to Joe Abbenda’s home gym with the intention of just watching them. I stood there for a few minutes convincing myself that they were real. I had never seen anyone as great as these two in person. Then, suddenly, they both turned to me and said that it was my turn. I told them that I would only slow them up as they would have to strip the bar down every time I had to do a set.

Dennis and Joe had other ideas and I wasn’t going to argue with guys who had twenty inch arms and were using almost three hundred pounds in bent over rowing and close to four hundred pounds in benchpresses and squats. They couldn’t have been more patient or helpful. I learned more from them in one workout than I had found out in my two previous years of training.”

This was also the start of a friendship between Tony and Dennis that has continued to this day.

Tony’s schedule only allowed him to train at Joe’s home occasionally but as Tony said, “These were the best workouts for me. My gains started to be more noticeable, thanks to the things they taught me.” Tony continued with his powerlifting but because of his training with Dennis and Joe, he began including more bodybuilding movements in his routines. Eventually, he dropped powerlifting totally, but not before he performed the following lifts while competing in the 165 pound class:

Benchpress – 350 pounds; Squat – 485 pounds; Dead lift – 515 pounds. Tony had come a long way but this way was only an indication of what the future would bring.

The Pandolfo family was growing, it now included three children, and Tony, after working for a while for a gym chain in a managerial capacity, decided to start his own moving and storage business. “I really enjoyed working in a gym setting and the experience was valuable to me but I felt that I owed it to my family to try to develop a business of my own.”

Because his long work day would make training at a commercial gym difficult, Tony built his own home gym.

For the next several years, Tony would work twelve to sixteen hours a day, six and often seven days a week. In spite of his grueling schedule, he continued to train. Dennis Tinerino’s encouragement was a great help during this period. Tony also entered some physique contests, both to give him additional incentive for training and also to keep him informed of the types of training routines the various contestants were following. His perseverance in maintaining his training under these extremely difficult conditions began to pay off as Tony amassed a large collection of trophies for his high placings in the contests.

Even with the severe limitations on his time, Tony helped the bodybuilders and lifters in his area. His home gym became the focal point for many weight trainees. A Sunday afternoon would often find a blending of novices and top competitors sharing ideas. Jacqueline was ever present making sure that no one was going hungry. Tony’s fast-growing file of training material was always available.

Tony’s belief has always been that he would do everything he could to help other trainees find the methods that would work best for them. This firm conviction was to play an important part in the decision Tony made to manage the FUTUREMAN facility for Julie Levine.

There are countless numbers of bodybuilders and competitive lifters who bless the day that Tony made his occupational shift. The guidance he has provided to them has already become legendary.

The “word is out” that if you want result-producing training advice, Tony Pandolfo is the man to see. The proof of this can be seen by the ever increasing number of FUTUREMAN members who are walking away with the physique and lifting trophies on the East Coast.

Ever since Tony returned to a gym setting occupationally, he has been able to train in a more productive way. The result of this has been that he is leading the parade in trophy winning at the gym. His former class placings have been turned into class wins accompanied by trophies for Most Muscular, Best Power, and many awards for various body part bests in most of the prestigious East Coast contests including the Mr. Gotham, Mr. Suburban, Mr. New York State, and Mr. East Coast events. Within the last few months, Tony placed tenth in the Junior Mr. America contest and won the always hotly-contested Mr. Apollo title.

As thrilled as Tony is at his own personal success, the great pride he takes in the achievement of his training partners and the other club members is readily evident. When you discuss a contest with Tony, he will quickly pass over his own excellent showing and will tell you in great detail about how other outstanding contestants looked.

One other matter must be stressed here, and again, this was information that came via one of Tony’s training partners. This fellow told me how Tony always conveys, in no-nonsense terms, his complete rejection of the use of steroids in any form. He stresses this in discussions with every club member who is approaching or has reached the competitive stage. As Tony has proven on himself and others that he knows what he is talking about the club members follow his advice. As Tony’s reputation grew, some of the most prominent physique men in the area came to him for training advice.

As Tony’s training partner related, the first question Tony asks is whether the bodybuilder is using steroids. If the individual is, Tony makes his feeling about steroids clearly known and then urges the physique man to train on a non-steroid basis for a trial period. During this time, careful records will be kept and the physique man can compare the gains he makes during his span with the gains he usually makes during a comparable period when he has been on steroids. With this type of concrete evidence for the bodybuilder to study, Tony has succeeded in convincing many current title-holders that the non-steroid way is better.

What type of training routine does Tony follow? You can be sure that it is a challenging and carefully planned one. Tony has found, through experimenting, that a four-day a week routine works best for him. However, when training for a specific contest, Tony will often add a fifth day of training “just to sharpen up.” Tony splits his routine into two parts – legs, back and biceps are worked on one training day and his chest, shoulders and triceps are worked on the second day.

Calves and abdominals are trained every workout day, although not too much abdominal work is done except just prior to a contest. Tony usually selects three exercises for each part and performs four sets of each exercise. He begins with a medium-heavy weight and increases the poundage for each of the following sets. He keeps the repetitions at about eight except for calf exercises where fifteen repetitions are the rule.

Tony revises his training routine whenever he feels it is necessary. If he finds that any given exercise is not producing the desired results, he replaces it. He is always very careful to work a new exercise into his routine gradually by using slightly lower poundage’s for a few workouts. Tony’s training pace is always fast. 

His only rest comes when his training partner is doing a set. All movements are done strictly. Here is the routine Tony is presently following:

Exercises Weight
Fron Squats 185lb -245lb
Hack Squats 120-150lb
Thigh Curls 60-80lb
Dumbbell Rowing 75-90lb
Long Pulley Row 115-135lb
Pulldowns 140-170lb
Incline Dumbbell Curls 35-45lb
Scott Bench Dumbbell 35-45lb
Barbell Curls 80-100lb
Calves (4 times a week)  
Ccalf Machine 200-250lb
Leg Press Toe Raises 200-250lb


Exercises Weight
Benchpress (to neck) 205-265lb
Decline Press 185-215lb
Incline Flyes 40-50lb
Barbell Press 120-160lb
Laterals 35lb (all sets)
Bent over laterals 25lb (all sets)
Lying Tric. Ext. 105-135
Pushdown 70-90lb
Nautilus Com Tri 50lb (all sets)

Tony does not believe in ever being more than six weeks away from contest condition. Thus he stays on a high protein diet throughout the year and takes in about 150 grams of carbohydrates from natural sources.

During the six weeks period leading up to a contest, he brings his carbohydrate intake down to about 50 grams. He takes liberal amounts of supplements during this six-week period including 1500 mg of C; 100 units of E; 75 liver tablets and Choline-Inositol tablets.

At contest time, at a height of 5’5″ and a weight of 165lb., his sharply defined physique has the following measurements: Chest, 46″; Waist 28″; Arms 17″; Thighs 24″; and calves 16″.

Tony is the synthesis of all that is good in bodybuilding; he is a title-winning physique contestant whose outstanding development has been achieved through hard work and proper nutrition, often training under the most difficult of conditions; he is a master teacher and trainer whose knowledge of all phases of weight training is virtually unsurpassed; he is deeply committed to the growth of weight training and spares no personal effort or expense to further this growth. Tony Pandolfo is in the deepest sense the “bodybuilder’s bodybuilder.”

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