By Marty Gallagher
Ken Reynolds was bit by the bodybuilding bug way back in 1961. In those ancient times, the only way bodybuilders nationwide and worldwide could stay in touch with one another was via the print media, specifically the “muscle magazines.” The muscle mags, Strength & Health, Muscle Builder and Iron Man, were magazines that served multiple purposes: these magazines had photo coverage of the most recent big time bodybuilding contests and recent weightlifting and powerlifting competitions. They would post upcoming shows and competitions along with local and regional competition results. The magazines always had articles on how the champions of the day trained. The nutrition back then was woefully inadequate; the nutrition articles were all dedicated to “bulking up.” The quest for size trumped all other considerations back in the 1960s and 70s. Before the advent of the worldwide web, the magazines were at the center of the bodybuilding and strength athlete universe.
These magazines were indispensible lifelines for isolated bodybuilders and small town strength athletes. Ken Reynolds was one such young man; he recalled the ancient muscle culture, a quasi cult that eventually morphed into the “fitness revolution” in the 1980s. “In the summer of 1961 I saw my first bodybuilding magazine; it had a picture of Steve Reeves on the cover. Steve had a perfect, symmetrical physique. He played Hercules in the movies and I was blown away. I had never seen a bodybuilder before. I instinctively wanted to look like that.” To get an idea of how deeply the bodybuilding bug bit Ken, listen to what he would do at a certain exact time each month; this was a boy too young to drive. “Each month on a certain day I would take a bus from Corryville to downtown Cincinnati. I would walk to the only bookstore that sold the bodybuilding magazines and buy all the latest muscle mags with the money I had saved.” Young Ken eagerly looked forward each month to each issue; he was hungry for knowledge that he could use in his own training.
“While I was downtown buying muscle mags, I would walk to the only health food store in Cincinnati where I would buy Joe Weider’s Weight Gain tablets. I also purchased a liquid protein that was made from cowhide – and it tasted like it. I also consumed a lot of wheat germ back then. I worked out hard and took my supplements.” Ken complemented his hard and heavy training with some hard and heavy eating. He slammed calories to build “bulk” and added considerable size. Still, his body never approached the Reeves symmetrical ideal. “By the late 60’s I had definitely added size, but I certainly did not look like a symmetrical, lean bodybuilder. I looked like the husky guy that I was. I continued eating everything and anything that would add bodyweight. By the early 70’s I was a smooth bodybuilder with a fat belly.” Ken eventually took his bulking efforts to the highest level when he began supplementing his massive meals with whole milk: he consumed four quarts of milk (and cream) every day, this in addition to eating his impressive volume of regular food. While it sounds a tad gluttonous, this approach was, ironically, a primitive precursor of the modern Parrillo high protein/high calorie diet.
When it comes to building muscle mass, calories are critical. John Parrillo was a champion powerlifter who thought that there was a lot to recommend about those old bulk-up diets. When Parrillo devised his legendary approach to bodybuilding nutrition, he kept certain key aspects of the bulk-up diets. John kept the protein intake high and he also kept the caloric intake high; this was right in keeping with the bulk diets. Parrillo “switched out” the dirty calories for clean calories and spread the caloric intake out: six smaller meals replaced three gargantuan meals and eased the digestive task. There was no denying the anabolic effect of regular food eaten in massive amounts. High caloric intake combined with high intensity power weight training was, is, and always shall be the classic approach for building massive muscles. Parrillo showed bodybuilders how to build muscle without accumulating an unacceptable amount of body fat in the process. Parrillo showed bodybuilders how to eat big without getting fat.
Ken was so taken by health, fitness and bodybuilding that he eventually opened a commercial gym. “I opened my first gym in 1978. It was a key club for members only. A member would pay $10 in dues for that month and I would give them the new monthly combination to the lock. I took the monthly dues and purchased new gym equipment. My key club gym grew into a hardcore bodybuilding gym.” In addition to being in the gym business, Ken also competed. “I competed in my first bodybuilding competition in 1984. In 1984 I also reunited with my high school girl friend, Ruth. She became my wife. We are married to this day. I was training for a local bodybuilding show and Ruth was hanging out with me. She got exposed to bodybuilding and began training. She got real good real fast and within a short time she got good enough to compete.” Ruth and Ken started training together in 1984. “We still train together to this day.” Apparently, the family that trains together stays together.
Ken was a very serious bodybuilder: he won the light-heavyweight class at the Mr. Cincinnati competition in 1986. Ruth was a serious bodybuilder: she won the Ms. Cincinnati in 1987 at that same contest! Then Mr. & Ms. Cincinnati got married and stayed happily married for the next 30 years. Is this not some sort of storybook perfect ending? Neither ever competed again. Wow! By this time Ken was employed full time at the GE Airospace Division. Ken became a CMM computer programmer and worked with Computer Aided Design (UniGraphics) within General Electric. Ruth took over management of Ken’s gym and she grew the modest facility into their World Gym franchise, which thrives to this day. Ken was working fulltime as a computer programmer; Ruth was running World Gym all day long. “We didn’t have time to compete, but we always trained together and over the years stayed in good shape.”
In 2015 Ken happened across some Parrillo products and thought of John. Ken and John Parrillo first crossed paths in 1980. “I decided to travel to the Parrillo Performance headquarters. I decided I would pay a visit and go see my old friend John Parrillo. I arrived at the Parrillo Performance building and thought, ‘this is like a bodybuilding Willie Wonka factory.’” A portion of the massive Parrillo headquarter building is dedicated to a state-of-the-art gym; the rest is offices and the product production facility. Ken had a great visit with John and took home one of every Parrillo Product. Ken began doing research. As you might well imagine, Mr. Reynolds is a tough customer when it comes to nutritional supplements: he has been involved in the bodybuilding game for decades and is analytical by nature. “I began comparing Parrillo Products to other products on the market. I first determined that Parrillo Products were both potent and pure. This made me happy. I knew that because of their potency and purity, Parrillo Products would sell better than any other product we sold at World Gym, and I was right. Parrillo Products out sell all other products at World Gym Cincinnati.”
When Ken retired from GE, he decided to get deeper into bodybuilding and fitness. “I now had the time I needed to mount a serious training effort. I decided to get back into bodybuilding in a more serious way. I dusted off my old copies of the Parrillo Nutrition Manual and the Parrillo Training Manual. I decided that I wanted to add muscle. But was that possible at my age? I was 67 years old at the time.” The short answer was yes, even pushing 70 years of age, Ken discovered he could add lean muscle mass. He needed a modified approach to his old “bulking up” strategy: now he would be discriminating and selective in what calories he would consume. The first order of business was to “square up the metabolism” to use John Parrillo’s famous phrase. Ken echoed Parrillo’s premier principle. “John’s approach towards nutrition is designed to accelerate the basal metabolic rate. Multiple meals are combined with hard training and it all works together.” The intense lifting and intense cardio combine with the thermic effect of eating bodybuilding-approved foods results is an amped-up BMR.
Digesting lean protein and fibrous carbohydrates actually causes the metabolism to accelerate as the digestive system must work extra hard to break down fiber and lean protein. Ken noted that the biggest mistake a dieter can make is to starve. “Avoid low calorie crash diets; they destroy the metabolism and cause the body to eat its own muscle tissue in order to feed itself. When a low calorie crash diet finally ends, as they all do, when the person goes back to halfway normal eating they gain back a ton of bodyweight, most all of it body fat.” Ken and Ruth have a commonsense approach to nutrition: “When the mirror tells us I am getting love handles, or Ruth is getting cellulose, we get serious and quickly get back in shape. That’s when we break out the Parrillo BodyStat Kit and take some body composition measurements as a reference point for adjustments on our diet and training efforts from that point forward.” These people are real pros.
“We will adjust our macronutrients and eliminate or cut back on dietary fat. Of course we cut out refined carbs; we eat whole grain starchy carbs and lots of fibrous carbs. We record all of our macronutrients and we record daily calories. We measure our body composition with BodyStat each week. We make adjustments depending on the amount of body fat or lean tissue we are losing or adding.” BodyStat allows the bodybuilder to understand (with objective clarity) precisely what is occurring: are you adding muscle? are you losing body fat? are you staying the same? This is invaluable information and unknowable without BodyStat. “The goal is to get rid of the fat and spare (or add) muscle.” Ken and Ruth have an excellent outlook on age and aging, she is 67, and he is now 69. “You can always improve in relationship to where you are.” These two practice what they preach: Ruth is 67 years old; she is a statuesque 5’8” and stays around 135-pounds. Ken is 69 years old, is 6-foot tall and stays around 185-pounds. This duo is serious. “We keep our body fat low enough to see our abs.” For Ruth that’s means she needs to be between an 18% and 20% body fat percentile. For Ken to see his abs, he attains an 8% to 10% body fat percentile.
“We still workout together four days a week. Ruth and I still train with the intensity needed to grow new lean muscle tissue. We know we can improve upon our best recent condition. We keep our metabolism high through the combination of intense and repeated exercise and perfect bodybuilding meals eaten 5-6 times a day. Work the muscle with ischemic rigor and intensity, feed the muscle, rest the muscle, grow the muscle; and then repeat over and over.” This is wisdom for the ages and timeless advice. If you are looking for some late-in-life inspiration, look no further than Ken and Ruth Reynolds.