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How a 400 Pound Man Became Mr. Universe

Updated: May 28, 2019


Bruce Randall is a name known to relatively few in the bodybuilding community. He only competed in four bodybuilding contests over a four-year span (1956-1959) and is one of the many forgotten NABBA Mr. Universe winners. He originally started out powerlifting as many bodybuilders did in those days. At 6’2” he was able to increase his weight nearly 200 pounds going from 203 pounds to 401 pounds in two and a half years. At this weight he was performing lifts that rivaled those of the strongest men in the World. However, rather than set records and win medals, he had other plans.


In August, 1955, Randall decided he was tired of powerlifting and wanted to see if he had the discipline to become a bodybuilder. He drastically reduced his calories, primarily eating lean protein and vegetables. He increased his repetitions in the exercises he was doing from 3-5 reps per set to 12-15 and increased the amount of sets he did from 3-5 to 6-20. He claimed that during this time his workouts could last between 6-7 hours and that he once exercised 27 hours in two days and 81 hours in a week.


In only seven months, through his extreme dieting and marathon workouts, Randall was able to lose nearly 220 pounds and go from 401 pounds to 183 pounds in late March, 1956. He decided to enter his first bodybuilding contest which was the Mr. America contest held in early June. He believed he was too small to compete, so he decided to gain some weight for the competition. In a feat that was probably easy for him, Randall gained 36 pounds in 73 days from March 20th to June 1st and entered the Mr. America contest at 219 pounds. He placed 13th.


After some more fine tuning, Randall entered the Mr. America contest again in 1957 increasing his weight from 219 pounds the year before to 230 pounds. He placed 6th and was said to have a great upper body that overshadowed his legs. In 1958, he competed in the NABBA Professional Mr. Universe contest and would have been the winner if Reg Park had not decided to enter at the last minute. Randall slimmed down a bit for this contest and weighed 218 pounds. Each contest he was improving.


Randall’s peak, and final contest, would come in 1959 in his second attempt to win the NABBA Professional Mr. Universe contest. He came in weighing 222 pounds and won the contest. Ironman magazine said that, “His is an unusual physique with many eye catching features. His rib box must surely be one of the biggest and most flexible ever seen. His arms must carry more beef than any others for not only are they big and well defined, they are also extremely long! His back was extremely good and this would be an appropriate place to note that of all the Americans competing in the 1959 Mr. Universe, Randall had the only back worthy of comment and the others greatly neglected displaying this body part during the judging sessions.”


The transformation from powerlifter to bodybuilder had been completed. How was Randall able to manipulate his weight so easily? If this happened today no one would doubt that some sort of performance enhancing drugs had been used. However, when this transformation took place (primarily between the years 1955-1956) steroids were not being used by bodybuilders as the first known steroid that bodybuilders took (Dianabol) was not created until 1958.


When interviewed about his transformation, Randall compared himself to a sculptor and said, “Take a sculptor about to create a statue. He takes a big, ungainly piece of rock and with his hammer and chisel he chips away at the rock until he creates the desired effect. I was that big ungainly hulk of rock and the dumbbells and barbells were my hammer and chisel. I also had something on my side the sculptor does not have, Diet.” Randall was also a firm believer of the mind’s role in bodybuilding and stated, “I am a firm believer in the power of the mind when it comes to lifting or anything else for that matter. It is only with the constant urging of the mind upon the body to do more and more that one attains the pinnacle. As much as one uses his body in this sport I believe he uses his mind more.”


While there have been many notable transformations in bodybuilding over the years, none are as impressive as Bruce Randall’s. While he may have been relegated as a small footnote in the prodigious history of bodybuilding, his transformation shows us what the human body is capable of. He attained a Mr. Universe physique after weighing over 400 pounds without the help of steroids. His story should encourage us to reexamine our labels so freely given to bodybuilders as natural or not.



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