Shrugged Collective

61 Years of Training and STILL Learning w/ Dr. Fred Bisci – EPISODE 144


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This interview wasn’t our idea, but we are blessed to have had the opportunity.

CTP and I were huddled up in the Spartan Lodge editing, writing, planning just how we would go about filming the second, third and fourth shows of the day. That’s about the time when our schedule sorted itself out.

“Hey, Joe needs you guy’s to go up at the farm, ‘Right now’ he say’s. He’s got a guy up there you have to interview.”

I replied with an expectant tone, “Oh yeah, well, I guess we better get our assess up there.” If there’s anything I know for certain about Joe De Sena, it’s that he is never, ever, fucking around. When he gives you advice, you take it. When he invites you up the mountain at 5:00 a.m. to talk business, spirit, battle, philosophy, whatever, you get your ass up and go. And when he recommends that you interview someone he respects above most others, you shut-up and grab your microphones.

You probably wouldn’t notice Dr. Fred Bisci if you came through the room in a rush. I know we didn’t. We were too busy hustling about Joe’s place, moving furniture, testing the light, setting up the gear. All the while there Fred stood, quiet, respectful. In hindsight, it’s just the sort of aura you would expect from a man who’s been strength training continuously, intensely, for some 61 years.

If we had any doubts about this interview they disappeared like a vapor as soon as we soon as we met the man. I don’t think it’s an oversell – 6 decades provides endless opportunity for self-experiment, trial and error, tweaking. Dr. Bisci has learned a lot of lessons, often the hard way.

If I were you I would listen very carefully to his advice, as bizarre, simple, or antiquated as it might seem at times.

Remember, most of the ideas you see marketed on the fitness scene today are simply recycled, hacked recombinations of lessons learned by the likes of Dr. Bisci, Doug Hepburn, and Tommy Kono. That’s fine, so long as you don’t forget that these barbell masters still have plenty to say on the topic of strength. Hell, in the case of Dr. Bisci, they are still training to this very day.

That commands ultimate respect from me. I’ve been in the game now for some 23 years. I cannot imagine being as fit and strong as this man in another 40 years time. For what it’s worth, I will do my best to adjust course while I still have the time.

I’ve been in the game now for some 23 years. I cannot imagine being as fit and strong as this man in another 40 years time.

Two favorite moments come to mind from our chat. First, Fred and Mike were comparing their best results in Weightlifting. Both had clean and jerked around 335 pounds, and had snatched about 275. That simple coincidence seemed to bond the two. But I couldn’t resist, “That is something, but of course, you guy’s didn’t hit those numbers under similar conditions, did you?”

“No, we definitely did not,” Mike replied, knowing the history full well.

We all prefer the spin of modern barbells, the shine and uniform bounce of brightly colored bumper plates. Endlessly adjustable, efficient, and handy power rack systems are amazing! But no, the old school guy’s had none of that shit, and they didn’t seem to need it.

“Yeah, I hit those numbers with these barbells…Jeez, they were as thick as sewer pipes! Spin? Forget about it! You had to squeeze like hell just to get that barbell up to your throat (*author’s note, at this time you couldn’t touch the bar to your thigh during the pull. Imagine that!). We had to adjust the load by pulling a plug on the bell, the end of the bar, then we’d pour in metal shot. Can you believe that? How would that go over now-a-days?”

Fred and his crew had pipes for barbells, and holes in the ground instead of fancy Rogue power racks. But that didn’t matter at all. Some of the strongest men to ever live were built under these exact same conditions. That’s a refreshing fact. Simple tools are best. You don’t need many blessings to strong, just will.

That second moment came when Dr. Bisci was talking about balance. Specifically, he understand’s better than most what it takes to be a strong person, and how far is too far. “Look, I know that a raw diet isn’t for everybody, right? If you want to pack on muscle you’re going to need some high quality, responsibly sourced protein. But that said, maybe you don’t need to take it as far as you think you do. If you want to stick around as long as I have, you have to learn some balance, and when to say when. I’ll stick to my fruit and veggies. It’s always worked for me.”

Fred seemed to smile wider and wider the longer we talked. Going over those old memories and names seemed to lather him up quite a bit. For what it’s worth, we could have listened to that guy talk forever.

Dr. Bisci, it was a real honor.

Thanks,
Chris Moore

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Chris

Chris Moore is a writer, recovering meathead, fledgling raconteur and rabid imbiber. He's also cohost and resident potty mouth on Barbell Shrugged, a weekly podcast devoted to Crossfit, strength, fitness and all things brash. His experience is drawn from over twenty-years spent training for and competing in American Football, Powerlifting, a bit of strongman and a dash of mixed martial arts. Also, it's possible that he's had one too many cups of coffee. A caffeine fever is a hell of a thing, you know?

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