By Howard Alpert

Iron Man Magazine - July 1981

When you think of such names as Franco Columbu, Jim Morris, or Ty Youngs, you immediately recognize them as some of the bodybuilding greats of today. Yet, how many of you give the same kind of recognition to the name Leon Brown? You should because Leon has defeated Morris and Youngs in open competition and is perhaps the only bodybuilder ever to beat Franco Columbu for a Most Muscular award in a contest. Leon has also appeared in the “Pumping Iron” book and the “Stay Hungry” A picture containing black  Description automatically generatedfilm. The reasons for these accomplishments are readily evident when you look at the photos that accompany this article. Leon Brown has one of the outstanding physiques in competition today. He is truly a muscular sensation.

Leon started his bodybuilding career because he wanted to get on his high school football team. While he was always an exceptional athlete, he was told by the coach that he had to gain weight to play on the team. The coach must have been a very knowledgeable individual because he suggested that Leon begin weight training. Leon gained fifteen pounds of muscle in a few months and starred on the team that season. However, that was to be the extent of his football career as his few months of training had converted him into an enthusiastic bodybuilder.

Leon’s gains continued at such a rapid pace during his first year of training that he was able to gain second place in his class in the Teen-Age Mr. America contest and to win Best Back and Best Abdominals awards. He also won the Most Muscular trophy in the Mr. New York City contest.

Within the next few years, Leon won titles of Mr. New York City, Mr. East Coast, Mr. Eastern America, and Junior Mr. America. He also lived in California during this period and won the Mr. Venice Beach, Mr. Pacific Coast and Mr. Western America contest. In these competitions, Leon defeated some of the top West Coast bodybuilders, including Jim Morris, Ty Youngs, Chuck Collras, Ed Guiliani, and Chuck Fautz. Franco Columbu won the title, but Leon won the most muscular award.

In 1972 and 1973, Leon won his class in the IFBB Mr. America contest, as well as the Most Muscular and Best Back trophies. He placed second in the overall competition to Ed Corney and Lou Ferrigno, respectively.
Everything was going very well for Leon. He was rapidly carving out a career as an outstanding bodybuilder. But as Leon said, “I probably should have realized that when things are going too well for you, that’s the time to start watching out.” Within a short period of time, a dark cloud was to blot out the bright rays of success that had been beaming so brightly on him.  

A picture containing text  Description automatically generatedLeon’s mother passed away and that caused a severe emotional drain on him. Shortly after that, he was involved in an automobile accident that almost ended his bodybuilding career. “You know so much of your success depends on having a positive mental attitude. My mom’s death shook me terribly. She was such a good woman, and she was so young. I kept asking myself why it had to happen to her, but of course, there really wasn’t any answer. Anyhow, I just didn’t feel like training for a long time.

“Then, I almost became permanently crippled in an automobile accident. The doctors thought that I would never regain full use of my hand. I couldn’t train for almost two years. I don’t think I ever worked harder than I did in getting back the use of my hand. The doctors were really amazed at what I was able to do, but even today I can’t fully close one finger. However, I can work around that in most things.”

As soon as he could hold a weight in his injured hand, Leon began training with a ferocity rarely seen on a gym floor.  “I realized how close I had come to never being able to train again. I had a lot of time to make up for. Also, while there is always going to be an emptiness inside of me because of the loss of my mom, I like to think that she is watching me. She always used to encourage me in my training and was so proud of every trophy that I won. I know that she’d be glad that I was back in training.”

A picture containing text, ground, black, mammal  Description automatically generatedIn 1978, Leon began training at the newly-opened Zinn’s Body Builders Unlimited Gym on St. Nicholas Avenue in the Ridgewood section of Queens. “I have trained at dozens of gyms from New York to California but never in as great a place as this. Steve Zinn and his dad Nat are two of the finest people that I have ever known, and Steve has arranged the gym so you can take the best workouts possible. There are multiples of everything, so you never have to slow down the pace of your training while you wait for someone to finish with a piece of equipment. You just can’t help wanting to train as soon as you walk in here. I have never worked out better in my life than I am doing here.”

And train he does. Leon works on a split routine, alternating sessions for his chest, back, and legs, with ones for his shoulders and arms. When there isn’t an immediate contest coming up, Leon trains four times a week. During this time, he will do two exercises for each part, six sets of each. He starts each exercise with a light to medium weight set and then works progressively higher. All exercises are done strictly with a rest of sixty to ninety seconds between sets. During this period, Leon tries to gain added size and strength. He follows a well-balanced diet and tries to get at least eight hours of sleep.

Six weeks before a contest, Leon goes on a six-day a week routine. He increases the number of exercises for each part to four. He cuts back on his caloric intake and limits himself to sixty grams of carbohydrates daily. These are in the form of whole grain bread and fruit and are usually eaten in the day. He also uses a wide variety of vitamin-mineral supplements during this contest preparation time, including ten grams of Vitamin-C, five hundred milligrams of choline and inositol, and many kelp and desiccated liver tablets.

At one hundred eighty pounds of rock-hard muscular weight, Leon has a twenty inch difference between his forty-eight inch chest and twenty-eight inch waist. Add in eighteen inch arms, twenty four and a half inch thighs and seventeen inch calves and you can see why the term “muscular sensation” is correctly applied when discussing Leon Brown.

The following is the chest routine that Leon is using during his training:
Barbell Bench Press – 225x15, 245x10x2 sets, 275x8, 295x6x2sets
Dumbbell Bench Press – 90x10x2 sets, 95x8x2 sets, 100x6x2 sets
Incline Dumbbell Press – 75x10x2 sets, 85x8x2 sets, 90x6x2 sets
Standing Pulley Flyes – 40x20x2 sets, 50x15x4 sets