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12 Questions With Former 6-Time Mr.Scotland - Norman Rough!

Norman Rough holds many Bodybuilding titles, most notably winning Mr. Scotland a record 6 times in a row (1965-70). Here we ask him to shed some light on what sparked his enthusiasm for the sport and to describe some of the stepping stones it took to become a champion.

1. How did you get into bodybuilding?

As you may recall I was an athlete before catching 'the bug' and when I was training with the Scottish Sprint Coach my parents gave me a book for my 20th birthday. It was by Macdonald Bailley, a South African international sprinter, and was called 'Weight Training & Athletics' so I read it from cover to cover. I then took it along to my next sprint session and showed it to the Chief Scottish Sprint Coach and asked him what he thought about this 'new' method. Bear in mind this was in the late 50's early 60's, and as found out later, only the Russians and Americans were realising the potential of resistance training. He didn't even take the book and simply said 'Weight training and athletics don't mix' - I immediately thought that his was a closed minded approach to his chosen sport - considering he must have been unaware of what was happening as mentioned above. He should have taken the book, read it, and brought it back to the next session and then given me his opinion.

This only fired me up to finding a weight training gym - it was called Dunedin Weightlifting Club in Edinburgh and upon starting I began to develop rapidly by capitalising on my athletic abilities and naturally endowed attributes - I realised that creating something out of nothing was the ultimate sporting goal - and I already had a head start.

2. Who were your biggest inspirations when starting out?

When getting started in the club there would be some magazines lying around and although the main sport was weightlifting there were as many, if not more, guys doing bodybuilding and these magazines were the glossy eye-catching colourful American type. One cover picture in glorious sunny technicolour caught my eye - it was of a top American bodybuilder called Clarence Ross and I immediately thought 'this is my target'. Thereafter I was more driven than ever and followed all necessary information about Steve Reeves, Bill Pearl, Larry Scott, etc in order to improve.

Norman Rough (far right) on the cover of Health and Strength, 1970 - a magazine he used to learn from!

3. When and where did you first start training?

I was approximately 21/22 years old when I started in the Dunedin Club in 1958/59. I later discovered this was advantageous as I feel that you should let your skeletal structure come to full development, usually in late teens, before starting bodybuilding, as you don't want to hinder it's growth to it's maximum size, before packing the muscle on top.

Norman displaying a 'side chest' pose, 1965.

4. What kind of equipment did you have access to?

The club was very basic with concrete floors, cold showers, broken and draughty high level windows, and icicles on the cold iron bars in the winter. The equipment was mainly of the DIY variety, made up by various members who were blacksmiths or joiners etc, although there were a few second hand barbell stands, a pulley lat-machine, a bench laid at an angle on a table with a foot strap for abdominal sit-ups, about four Olympic barbells and discs for the weightlifters, and lots of second hand barbells, dumb bells, discs, etc for anybody else to use. This was not your centrally heated, mirror walled, carpet floored leisure gymnasium for tracksuited poseurs with headbands - this was hardcore where real champions are made.

5. When and where was your first competition?

After about six months of training, at about 23 years of age, some of the guys in the club were going to a local bodybuilding competition in Glasgow in 1960 and they said I should have a go as I was progressing well, however, I was not so confident but went along to see what the standard would be like. I came in 6th place, which amazingly got me noticed, and I studied the winning guys to set my sights on - beating them in future years.

Norman Rough backstage the Mr. Universe Contest (No. 48), 1969-70.

6. Who or what did you have to learn from in the beginning?

The Americans appeared to lead the field at that time and we all looked at various magazines like Iron Man, Muscle Power and Mr Universe etc as published by Joe Weider, and also British magazines like Health & Strength, Strength & Fitness, etc. They all carried training schedules of the top men along with adverts for food supplements and guidance on nutrition so, as we were all thirsting for knowledge, they were read avidly by all concerned.

Norman displaying a 'most muscular' pose, 1965.

7. How did your bodybuilding lifestyle affect your friends and family?

This is a tricky one ... If you are at the top level of any sport your dedication and willpower by yourself is not enough - others must get involved to aid and abet you. Your diet foodstuff has to be sourced and purchased, your training gear has to be laundered, your training and eating and sleeping patterns have to be suitable to your partner - never mind any time set aside for socialising - and these are all going on 24 hours a day. Our friends realised the importance of my training and we were able to work around it.

I had just started training when I first met my future wife and luckily she understood as things became more intense as I progressed, although there were a few spats now and then, mainly because I was fully focused on some competition or other, short tempered, and probably badly ignored her at the time - as a footnote - we are still happily married.

8. Describe a typical workout you'd perform at the height of your career.

If I told you this I would either have to charge you an enormous fee or else kill you to keep the secret ... the choice is yours - ha ha! Only joking ... suffice to say 600 tons of metal were moved per 6 hour full-body workout three times a week - and all without the aid of steroids - just bloody hard work, the results of which last the test of time.

Norman standing on the roof of the Dunedin Club after about 3 years of training, early 1960s.

9. Describe your nutritional approach when trying to put on muscle.

At the beginning we didn't have the nutritional information of today so we ate all things deemed healthy and as much as you could handle. I was, and still am, keen on porridge every morning and would have eggs raw straight out of the shell. I would have about six meals, six litres of protein drinks, 30 odd various vitamin tablets and capsules, about 8000 calories a day to try and boost my bodyweight - I even ate raw liver on occasions for additional iron - the idea being that if you give the body the maximum then it would take all it needed for regrowth and would just excrete what it didn't need.

Gradually, through knowledge gained, I adjusted the regime until I could control my weight at will to suit competitions and physique shows. I would train at around 120 Kg bodyweight and 10 days before competition would slowly reduce to around 100 Kg then 2 days immediately before the judging day would maximum boost back up to compete at 112 Kg with body energy on the increase and maximum muscle mass with cuts. I could shed almost 2.5 Kg in persperation during a 6 minute posing routine under stage spotlights with a 4 minute encore - I always had a 2 litre jug of cold drinking water for immediate replenishment consumption when I came off stage.

The beauty of the regime I had developed meant that I would reduce 2.5 Kg just before the Friday, compete at 112 Kg best shape on the Saturday show, then increase 2.5 to 3 Kg back to 120 Kg for the Monday training session. On occasion this yo-yo method could involve a 3 day water and meat regime - but this is precarious and I would not recommend it even to the initiated. What must be realised is that no matter what you consume there is no 'quick fix' that will give you lasting results and future health without doing the basics which means maximum actual hard work.

Norman's incredible stats and titles at the height of his career, 1970.

10. What were some of your career highlights that you love to look back on?

Being called out by the crowd to take off my shirt and do a few poses on stage at the 1969 Mr Universe show dance in London - this usually only happens to the top winners - so I guessed I must have 'arrived'. Also earlier in my career was another highlight at a show where I beat the previously long standing unbeaten holder of the Scottish title.

Norman in a candid backstage photo with Bill Pearl at the Mr Universe Contest, 1969-70.

11. How important would you say a training partner is for achieving your very best in the gym?

Training partners are vital to achieving your best results, however, they must be as dedicated as you in their outlook, whether it be for the benefit of the group or the benefit to help you as an individual. I have found that three persons is the ideal group - one works and two catch (spot) and shout encouragement to a set time span - usually about 2-3 minutes to do the set, change places and do 'Crunchers' (flex the target muscle until it burns, then stretch - 3-4 times) and repeat, then change places and do Crunchers and repeat again (one full set each done with max. 2-3 minute rest whilst catching and crunching). If done properly this gives an incredible pump of fresh re-oxygenated blood to the affected area and over time aids recovery and repair in a quicker fashion than just placing the weight down an taking a rest. When completed immediately move on to the next exercise and repeat the principle - all the way through the workout.

12. Lastly, are there any lifestyle tips you would give to any prospective weight lifters looking to compete or to just simply get in shape?

Depending on what result you are training for governs how you 'lift' the weight. Simple system to remember - stick to a regular lifestyle routine - go to bed and sleep at the same time each night, get up and have breakfast at same time each morning, do your ablutions at the same time(s) each day, exercise at the same time on your training day - it may seem boring to some people but it makes for a more relaxed approach and mind set and avoids feeling harassed and tense all the time.

For the more arduous trainer always remember when lifting or resisting any weight to maintain and keep your posture, position and form. Never over strain - your body will tell you when it is too much - maintain your rhythm throughout your workout period - don't finish exhausted but 'pleasantly tired'.

Amazing! Thanks so much for sharing with us Norman!

During his Bodybuilding career Norman Rough was a successful Architect and he still runs a thriving firm out of Edinburgh, Scotland. A true lover of the sport of bodybuilding and an advocate for the principle of training bloody hard to achieve your goals!

Happy Lifting!

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