IronMan, Vol 18, No 2, Page 9, September 1958
PHYSIQUE Contests have been subject to a good deal of criticism lately. Though this is admittedly an area in which judgements are difficult, personal feelings very high and rivalries intense, the results of the 1958 Mr. America contest should set many troubled minds at ease. In the whole history of the contest few athletes have so conspicuously deserved the title or worked for it with greater care and dedication than this year's winner, Tom Sansone.
Tom Sansone is the bearer of a famous name in the iron game. Any old-timer will vividly remember Tony Sansone the great exponent of the classical physique and, in the late 20's and 30's, the ideal athlete from the point of view of artistic proportion and refinement of muscularity. Tom is not related to the older Tony, and his development is of an entirely different type, but they share the same high standard of excellence in physique, striking personality and intellectual competence.
In judging the quality of a physique, proportion must be one of the first standards to apply. In the case of Tom Sansone this is perhaps best done when he is fully clothed and his spectacular muscularity temporarily obscured. His weight and bulk is so well distributed and the massive volumes of his body (shoulders, chest and hips) are so well adjusted to his skeletal structure and height that there is no sense of over-development or abnormality. One readily recognizes that he is a well-set-up young man and he looks as though he would have more than ordinary strength, but I doubt that I should immediately spot him as being extraordinary in muscle size.
As soon as Tom strips the picture changes radically. I saw him go through a complete workout fully clothed in sweat pants and two shirts. At the end of the evening when he stripped off, I was thunderstruck by the incredible size and muscularity of his body which far exceeded anything that I thought possible on a man of his size and age. His muscles stand out in crisp definition in a relaxed state and their enormous bulk is evident without any flexing whatever. His skin is smooth and finely textured; the rivers of sweat that cleanse his body in every workout carry off all impurities and waste. This impression of cleanliness is one of which I was very conscious and it was borne out not only in every line and movement but in the whole character of the man.
A native New Yorker, Tom is now 22 years old. He began training at the age of 16, but his actual training time adds up to only 4 full years, discounting a couple of layoffs, one at the time his mother passed away. Tom was coached along the line by his older brother who is now a physical education instructor in the New York public schools, a career for which Tom is also preparing himself. He has trained in many gyms in the New York area and at home. The results he has achieved are proof of the systematic methods he has followed and of the fact that he has neglected no device or training hint to develop every detail of his physique.
On the evening I observed his training Tom followed a full schedule for legs, back. chest and shoulders; he did a minimum amount of concentrated work on arms and abdominals. This is the general pattern of his training with occasional heavy work on arms and midsection. He employs no unusual exercises but performs all his movements with intense concentration and moderately heavy poundages. For example, he performs presses behind neck on a stationary pressing machine which permits no deviation from a direct upward press. As experienced bodybuilders know, this intensifies the movement since the weight may not be pressed forward or back to ease the strain on the shoulder girdle and arms. In the downward movement of this exercise Tom allows the weight to press half way down his back, swelling out his chest and applying terrific pull on his pectorals in bringing the weight up again to shoulder level. In all pulling and pressing movements Tom concentrates on the chest and shoulder muscles and this has resulted in one of the most massively developed chest and shoulder complexes in the world today.
Tom was certainly never a weakling and he began to show remarkable form very soon in his career. I can recall a photograph of him at the age of 18 when he already had outstanding pectorals, triceps and deltoids. In 1954 he won the Mr. National Collegiate title; in 1955 came the Senior Metropolitan New York, the Mr. Long Island, Mr. New York State and Mr. Gotham titles; in 1956, Mr. New York City; in 1957 he placed 4th in the Mr. America contest and was awarded 2nd place in the Most Muscular division. He attracted wide attention in this last contest and it was obvious to most critics that he was a man who deserved to place much higher. There is no doubt that Tom himself was aware of his superiority and this spurred him on to the big push in 1958. He swept the Junior Mr. America and Most Muscular Man titles cleanly in May at York; from that time there was no doubt in any of our minds that this was his year to go to the top. The big thing was to do it far outside his own geographical area and against the best in a muscle-conscious town.
Tom is 5 feet 11 inches tall and weighs just under 200 pounds for a contest. He has a 17¾ inch neck and a 50 inch chest but it is not the sheer size that is so impressive. His pectorals are very large and heavy but they do not spread weightily over his chest in relaxation; they maintain a crisp rounded shape at all times. Under flexion his pectorals swell to a hard striated bulk that matches his deltoids in height and density. His upper arms measure 19 inches cold; I measured them at 19½ inches after his workout, in which his arms were worked lightly. A week or so earlier his arms had been measured at 19¾ inches and I have no doubt that he could pump them up past the 20 inch mark if he felt the urge to do so. Again, it is not only the size that is so impressive, but the general shape and definition. When showing his arms, Tom usually flexes his left arm which is a bit more defined and higher-peaked than his right arm but no larger. His biceps bunch up into a full baseball that is clearly defined throughout its circumference and with the attachments under the deltoid and between the supinator and flexor muscles of the forearm clearly shown. This biceps is hard as rock and it is possible to feel the minute tissue of the muscle like an agglomeration of small wire strands. This intense development gives all of Tom's muscles a remarkably vibrant quality and a fine texture and flexibility. His triceps have long been, in my opinion, developed to peak condition and their bulk adds greatly to the contour and size of his flexed arm. Tom's 14½ inch forearm is cut into planes when flexed, rounded and full when relaxed. All of this is capped by unusually large deltoids that separate clearly into their anterior and posterior bodies. Tom's torso defies description, with every muscle - serratus, abdominals, obliques, intercostaIs-in razor sharp clarity. His abdominals look like large biscuits and I have not seen erectus muscles bulge so roundly since the great little Hercules, Gregory Paradise, used to hold pennies between the layers of his erectus?
The lower sections of Tom's body are as massively proportioned as his upper body, with full 27 inch thighs tying into a solidly-muscled hip girdle. Tom's hips are compact but wide; this gives him added strength, I am sure, and it is a tribute to the bulk of his upper body that his hips look narrow by comparison? His calves are a bit on the slender side but well-shaped and muscular.
Tom has never lifted in competition but is capable of a 280 pound press at any time.
Behind all this phenomenal physical development is one of the kindest, gentlest and most thoroughly likeable guys I have ever met. Though Tom has now reached the top, it is by no means at the cost of a well rounded personality and purposeful character. He attends New York City College two evenings a week, from 6 to 10 o'clock, and works in a clerical job in mid-Manhattan 8 hours every day. This leaves 3 nights a week to train and weekends to study. This has been Tom's schedule all year and it is clearly a tough one. It takes the little added purpose, that most men don't have, to lick such a regimen. Tom has an alert and accomplished mind to match his superb physique, and a personal warmth that makes anyone happy to be around him.
It would be a boon to American bodybuilding morale if Tom could represent this country in international contests; no one would make us prouder or acquit himself better. The right man got it this time.
- Photo on the opposite page taken by the editor at pool side down by Muscle Beach, shows the fine back development of the new Mr. America. The photo above by Douglas White gives some indication of the outstanding development of the entire physique but especially the 19 inch arms of Tom Sansone. Tom is no relation to Tony Sansone, perfect man of the past generation.
- These two fine poses snapped by Iron Man photographer, Hal Stephens at the Mr. America contest are favorite poses of Tom. We have many more excellent photos of the new Mr. America for future issues.
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