THE MORE I BACKED OFF THE LARGER I GOT AND THE BETTER I FELT.
BIG BACK GRIPS USER PROFILE INTERVIEW: DON HOWORTH
USER PROFILE: “DUKE OF DELTS” DON HOWORTH, MR. AMERICA, 1967
BBG: Let’s get this out of the way first. Now one of the reasons we’re interviewing you, the way we met, is because you were the one who started introducing Big Back Grips around to some of the gyms in the Valley – before we even met you. How did that happen?
DON HOWORTH: Well, you know the knurling on the handles really rips up your hands. And I’d been dealing with that issue for over 40 years. Dave Draper and I used to cut up inner tubes from bike tires and we had a little secret cubby at Muscle Beach where we’d hide them. They protected our hands a little, but they were not great. Dave’s hands are so bad now he has to use thick sponges. Anyway, I saw your Big Back Grips at some supplement store I go to, picked up a few pair and brought them to Powerhouse Gym in Burbank where I work out. And damn, I’d been looking for something like that since the 60’s! Really simple, but no one’s done it before. Or not done it right.
BBG: Why don’t you use lifting gloves or straps?
DON HOWORTH: Because they’re crap, that’s why. Gloves don’t do anything for your workout. I tried them a few times and thought they were a waste of money. And lifting straps – straps f@@ck up your wrists without letting your forearms work. Dumbest idea in the world, straps. I like grips because you can really think about your pump. And that’s all you want to be thinking about.
Seriously, I wish I had these grips when I was 25 years old. With a lifetime of lifting beating up on my hands, with the knurling cutting my hands, I have a much better chance of holding onto my grip. When it’s just plain chrome, you could never keep your hands where you want to keep them. Or the smooth painted handles they use now. From the sweat and moisture, your hands slip if you don’t have a good grip. Bad for the workout. With you grips, I can do more reps, more weight. I can just hang on better without a “life or death” grip and really focus on my set and pump. Not my slippery palm. The main thing is, I don’t have to keep re-adjusting my palm.
BBG: Cool. So, back to you. Bodybuilding was not a well-known sport back in the 1950s. How did you get started?
DON HOWORTH: I started as a gymnast at Mark Keppel High School. I was working out with weights. I was an only child. I could really get into it. It was fun to be different as I got bigger. I was working out at Vic Tanny’s about 1954 or so. He had a chain. There weren’t too many gyms back. I also worked out at the Pasadena Gym; it was a mix of powerlifting and bodybuilding. Pat Casey was there, he held the world bench press record. That was about 1958. Bill Phillips, the Olympic lifter, worked out there. And most of the guys were very large, doing 450 inclines with no steroids. All those big guys inspired me to keep getting bigger myself. I liked the way it looked and felt. Eventually I got the nickname The Duke of Delts.
Getting big was such a gradual thing; there was no thought about that. My dad used to say, you have to edit this part, my dad said, “Do you want to be a f..ing weightlifter all of your life?” Well, I guess I did.