How I Gained 100 pounds of Muscle
David YoungRich Gaspari Tells How He Did It—and How You Can Do It Too
I vividly remember when Rich Gaspari came on the bodybuilding scene in 1984. I was alternating working out at Gold’s Gym, Venice, and Ray Mentzer’s Muscle Mill gym in Redondo Beach, California. Mike and Ray Mentzer were, of course, sticklers for high-intensity workouts, and they’d been hearing rumors about a kid out of New Jersey who was ripping up the gym with “Platz-like” intensity. Even to the hardcore Mentzers, Tom Platz’s intensity at Gold’s was legendary. So if that kid Gaspari was being mentioned in the same breath, he deserved attention.
Of course, it’s no secret that Rich went on to become one of the fiercest competitors of the 1980s, not only because of his monstrous size but also because of the new standard he set for conditioning. He was the first-ever competitor to display striated glutes. That was at the ’86 Pro World Championship. At the evening show the audience went absolutely berserk. The bar had been raised. Striated glutes became a new standard for judging bodybuilding competitions—thanks to Mr. Gaspari.
So why is this interview important to you? Because Rich is a lot like many of us. He had very humble beginnings—underweight, sickly and weak. Frankly, at 14 years old, he hardly seemed to have the potential to become a Mr. Neighborhood, much less a world-class bodybuilder. He had narrow shoulders, skinny arms and bird legs.
Still, a fire started burning in Rich’s mind—a fire that exploded into an intense desire to succeed. That, combined with consistent and well-planned training, set the stage for Rich’s onslaught against his bodybuilding competitors. He defeated some of the most star-studded bodybuilding lineups of the time, which earned him the moniker “the Dragon Slayer.”
Let’s get to the heart of Rich’s ideas on gaining strength and muscle size. He put on more than 100 pounds of muscular weight during his first five years of training. (In a future issue we’ll cover his ideas on contest preparation and conditioning.)
DY: I’ve heard that you were really skinny when you started. How old were you, and what did you weigh?
RG: I started lifting weights when I was about 14, but I got serious about bodybuilding when I was about 15 years old. I was a really, really skinny kid when I started. Actually, I started training because my doctor advised my parents that I should do something to gain some weight. I was always sick when I was a kid. I had mononucleosis and lost even more weight. At one point I was 89 pounds.
DY: How did your body respond?
RG: Within a year’s time I put on nearly 40 pounds, but I was also still growing in height.
DY: Even so, that’s a really good muscle weight gain. What were you doing?
RG: I was eating quite a bit, and I was reading all the booklets by all the top bodybuilders. When I read Larry Scott’s booklet, I related to him because he said he was really skinny. I was trying to follow a workout from somebody who had a problem gaining weight.
I got myself to eat six meals a day, making sure that I took in around two grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. I was taking in a lot of calories as well. I was drinking a gallon of milk and eating a dozen eggs a day. I was actually using Rheo Blair’s milk and egg protein with heavy cream because that’s what Larry said he did.
And I did gain a lot of weight. I wanted to get as big as I could. At 20 years old I got up to 255 pounds—that was my heaviest bodyweight.
DY: That was at 20 years old?
RG: Yeah, but then I competed at the Nationals at 189.
DY: So you went from 89 pounds at 15 to 189 at 20—100 pounds of muscle in five years?
RG: Yes, but I overdieted. A year later as a pro bodybuilder, at my first show, I was at 212 pounds.
DY: That’s an incredible gain in muscle in six years. You’re talking about gaining another 23 pounds of muscle—123 pounds total. Amazing.
RG: I guess it is. I was really, really determined.
DY: One of the reasons I wanted to interview you is that I’ve read so much over the years about your intensity, drive and focus in the gym. What drove you to train with such ferocious intensity and determination?