A TRIBUTE TO WAG BENNETT WHO RAN PROBABLY THE MOST FAMOUS GYM IN ENGAND,WAG BENNETTS GYM, WAG BENNETT


A TRIBUTE TO WAG BENNETT WHO RAN PROBABLY THE MOST FAMOUS GYM
IN ENGAND. WAG BENNETTS GYM.

from Neil Beaumont
. Webpage layout by Stan of Stan's Gym Upminster as a memorial to Wag. Wag is greatly missed.

If you have any photos of the late Wag Bennett or photos of Wags Gym, people training etc.
Then please submit them for possible inclusion. Some photos courtesy of Steve Truglia.
CONTACT STAN:


WAG BENNETT:
This morning I got an excited phone call from my good friend and Strength Historian David Horne. David mentioned that Wag Bennett's family were selling off 'bits and bobs' from the gym and that there might be some famous globe dumbbells available once used, no doubt, by Arnold Schwarzenegger. After a quick training session with my other great friend, World's Strongest Man Competitor, Laurence Shahlaei (yes I am name dropping!) who had been staying with me I rushed over to the East End of London to Wag's old stomping ground.

Wag sadly passed away last year but Julie and Charles, two of his younger children I believe were there to assist me. The place is like stepping back in time! Some of the pictures are truly glorious. The equipment is well worn but still usable. The memorabilia is vast. Charles said that the majority was being sold off at auction. However, I was lucky enough to purchase 13 globe dumbbells once owned by Wag and used by Sergio Oliva and Arnold to name just a few. David and I will split these but they have been kept alive as both of us appreciate and respect the older generations of lifters before us.

Here's a great piece of writing about Wag I found by Reg Seward.
"The indisputable claim to fame of “Wag” Bennett — and, it must immediately be said, of his wife Dianne, also — was the role they played in the rise to fame of Arnold Schwarzenegger, from an unknown Austrian would-be bodybuilder, desperate for a break into fame and fortune, to the Mr Universe title and thence to the US, movie stardom and the governorship of California.It was a debt that Schwarzenegger never forgot, and he always maintained contact with the mentors whom he liked to call his “British parents”.

Schwarzenegger, born in Graz not long after the Second World War, was only 19 when he came to Britain in 1966, with his eyes on that year’s Mr Universe title. Bennett, who was one of the judges of the competition, and Dianne were impressed by the determination of the virtually penniless youth, as well as by the bizarre impression he made, almost visibly growing out of his clothes in front of them. “His trousers were flying at half mast, halfway up his calves,” Bennett recalled, so Dianne took him off to buy some boots to close the gap.”

It was to be the beginning of a nurturing relationship that was to last two years. Two of the mainstays of British bodybuilding in that era, Wag and Dianne ran two gyms in the East End, one beneath their home in Forest Gate and another farther down the Romford Road.
The Bennetts invited Schwarzenegger to share their home — no mean sacrifice, since they had six children to bring up. Bennett told the young man that he would have to sleep on the sofa, since all available beds were taken by the family, and with this arrangement working satisfactorily, they supervised his development.

The Bennett devised a training programme for Schwarzenegger, taught him how to pose, and chose the theme music from the film Exodus as his posing music. It was a tune Schwarzenegger was to use for years to come.
All the while Dianne cooked him his favourite meal, turkey breasts — several of which he ate every hour on the hour. And since he could not get into regulation shirts bought off the shelf, she made them for him in his favourite colours, fluorescent lime green and yellow. She also took charge of his English, which had been somewhat rudimentary on his arrival in London.
In the event, the 1966 title was to elude Schwarzenegger. He was beaten that year by the American bodybuilder Chet Yorton, whose musculature and legs were adjudged superior. Bennett immediately went to work on these areas, improving muscle definition and the power of his legs, and Schwarzenegger won his first Mr Universe title, the first of five, the following year. As Schwarzenegger was to say in paying tribute to Bennett: “The Mr Universe title was my ticket to America the land of opportunity where I could become a star and get rich.”
Charles “Wag” Bennett was born in 1930 in Canning Town, East London, where his family ran a business selling bicyles and motorbikes, and were involved in speedway. He started bodybuilding at 15 at a gym in Hackney, and by 1950 had become the first man in Britain to bench press 500lbs. He first met his future wife Dianne, herself from a bodybuilding family, when he went down to Portsmouth that year to do a show for her father, Bob Woolger.
They were married four years later and set up their first gym in Wanstead; the famous Forest Gate gym followed in 1961. Dianne posed at bodybuilding shows with her own group, Dianne Bennett’s Glamour Girls, who lifted weights to Roy Orbison’s hit song Oh, Pretty Woman. She also published a magazine, Bodypower. The pair also ran an equipment company, Everest, a supplements business called Pinnacle and edited a fitness and bodyculture magazine entitled Peak.
The Bennetts always derived a quiet satisfaction from the achievements of their protege"

The pictures I was allowed to take will show you even more about what history this place has seen over the past half a century. I think they speak for themselves.

It was lovely to meet Charles and Julie and to pick up a little piece of Iron Game History.

RIP Wag and thank you.

Nick

In fond Memories of the late Wag Bennett, Stan of Stan's Gym writes.
Visiting Wags Gym in London for the first time was an experience never forgotten, Wag welcomed me with a great big smile, I paid him and bought a drink and went into his gym, which was the downstairs of his house. Once inside the atmosphere was incredible, men training, lifting big heavy weights where ever you looked, the gym was laid out like no other, with great big, life size photos on the walls. I used to train there when I could get up there, I used to alternate between Wags and another Gym in Stratford called Bill Stevens. Both Bill and Wag became my friends and used to encourage me in my weight training, I remember Wag standing in front of me after a gut bursting workout in his gym, I was on my way out his door, Wag said, "Show me a Bicep". I lifted up my right arm and flexed it as hard as I could. Wag said, "Your getting good arms". When I used to see Wag at the Bodybuilding Shows, Wag often said hello. Wag phoned me

once at my gym and said that he had come down to visit me at my gym, but drove up and down, up and down, and couldn't find it. This must have been 26 years ago, before Stan's gym had any large road signs. Wag was not in my opinion a boastful man about his own incredible lifting accomplishments, Wag was a man who to me seemed to have dedicated his life in encouraging others. When I heard that Wag was ill, I sent various Christian literature to him with my love and regards. Now Wag has gone I wish I had spent more time getting to know him better. Many will feel the same. Wag was a one of a kind, Wags gym was a gym that further inspired me to try and build a similar gym for myself and others.
My heart along with countless others, goes out to his loving family for their great loss. Love and best regards to all. Stan Earle, of Stan's Gym.
Wag Bennett's funeral cortege on Romford Road. Newham Recorder. 1st Oct 2008.
THE Imperial Parade Band played ahead of the horse-drawn hearse carrying his body - marking a celebration of Charles Bennett as much as mourning his death. The band led the funeral procession from his Romford Road, Forest Gate, gym on Thursday afternoon to the City of London Cemetery and Crematorium, Manor Park. Family, friends and associates paid their final respects to the man popularly known as 'Wag', and an institution in the world of bodybuilding. As around 200 people gathered in the North Chapel before Wag's cremation, glowing tributes were paid to him as a man, and for his expertise, professionalism and dedication in his field. Widow Dianne described his life as being committed to his family and bodybuilding. The couple had six children, and all five surviving sons and daughters spoke affectionately about their father. One of the many floral tributes read: "With heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathy, the Schwarzenegger family." Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former bodybuilder turned film actor and now Governor of California, worked under Wag's guidance before achieving superstardom. Arnold sent floral tributes and a message which read: "It is important that before we lay Wag to rest, I register my thoughts about a man who was a friend and mentor to me since I was a teenager."

Wag and Dianne with Ed Corney and Arnold. Wag and friends with Arnold. Dianne and Wag Bennett with Tina.
  WAG BENNETT'S GYM ROMFORD ROAD
Signs in Wags Gym. "Here We Build Men"
Just the look at
Wags Gym
made you feel like
training.
Arnold recalls in 1966, in a gym in East London, my greatest dream came true. 
Wag Bennett, whose gym it was, arranged to have Reg and I work out and pose on the same day.
I will never forget it.
It was a cold winter day.  Reg had just arrived from South Africa and he looked so classy in neatly pressed slacks, a dress shirt and a thin sweater.  I had a million questions to ask him, which was pretty hard to do because my English was not very strong back then. But it didn’t matter.  We bonded right then and there and found a way to communicate.  And meeting him was a real wake up call.  I had a great work ethic and trained harder than any of my bodybuilding friends.  But when I saw how hard he trained and how much weight he used, I was stunned.  He was at a whole other level, and I knew if I wanted to be a true champion, I would really have to step up my workouts. Then I was lucky enough to do some exhibitions with him in England and Ireland and we became great pals. 
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Action man-turned-California Governor ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER has paid tribute to a London-born bodybuilder he called his "mentor", following his death.
The Terminator star befriended Wag Bennett when they lived together in the 1960s and he credits the late muscleman for helping him to win the Mr. Universe title.
Paying his respects to Bennett, Schwarzenegger says, "He's been my mentor."
Dr Tom Balchin above sent these two photos of the dumbels.
Tom wrote. Just to tell you that I secured what was Wag's most wonderful pieces of vintage iron- a VERY RARE 60 kg GLOBE barbell and a huge shot-filled dumbell- which may well have once belonged to Thomas Inch- david thinks that it's possible the globes my have belonged to the bell featured in an old Pathe film.I took two pairs of other bells and left the rest to David and Nick. But here are a few pictures for your site, ok? Some of these did not belong to him- ie the Inch at the back and the smaller barbell but what a great legacy eh? they are kept in my gym and admired by all.
SEE WAG AND DIANNE IN WAGS GYM SPEAKING OF ARNOLD
 
Robert Forbs has enabled us to watch the above video. Robert Forbs is the owner of http://www.strength-oldschool.com/
Thanks Robert from Stan Earle and everyone who visits Wags memorial website.

Dear Stan, (see above) I’ve been in touch with you several times ago concerning Wage Bennet photo’s. Finally I found the pictures. I have 2 pictures one with Wag and his daughter and a second one. Following my father the man lying on the floor is Arnold Schwarzenegger. Sorry for the delay but my father has passed away...Regards Serge Taelemans. Many thanks Serge from Stan.

A TRIBUTE TO WAG BENNETT WHO RAN PROBABLY THE MOST FAMOUS GYM IN ENGAND, WAG BENNETTS GYM, WAG BENNETT.
A helpful link to the late Bill Norris Gym in London.
 
An interesting email sent from John Johnson.
I came across your tribute page to Wag Bennett and it brought back some happy memories (thanks for that).
As a fifteen year old I visited Wag’s gym on quite a few occasions with other young weight training individuals, driven there by the trainer at our local boy’s club gym in Dagenham. The purpose being to purchase supplements which at that time (1961) were not easily obtainable. In addition I did train there for a brief period in 1967.
I remember a conversation between Wag and Len (the boy’s club trainer) which involved Len boasting that I (one of his protégés) could bench press 180 lb. after only 3 months training and Wag responding by pointing to his 15 year old example and stating that he could bench 200 lb. and so the ‘one up man ship’ conversation went on, with Wag I remember coming out on top.
Wag then responded by giving me a training routine and advice. I recall him as a friendly but blunt and ‘to the point’ man. He told me that he used to train with Reg Park and dismissed the idea that Reg built his physique with the 5 x 5 routine, as suggested in the Health & Strength magazine at the time. He also mentioned that Reg had relatively small bones for a man of his height.
I understand now that Wag was the first man in Britain to bench 500 lb. (albeit unofficially) although at the time I believe that Reg Park held the official distinction. I also recall that Wag was the first man in Britain to squat over 500 lb.
John Hewlett trained at Wag’s in those days and he was the first ‘huge’ bodybuilder that I had seen ‘in the flesh’.  I remember him doing press behind the neck at 180 lb. with very slow controlled reps (literally playing with the weight) It seems strange that for a multiple Mr Britain and amateur Mr Universe winner there is no further information about him on the web. I wonder what happened to him? (if anyone knows I would be interested)
After a lifetime of intermittent interest in weight training and other sporting activities and the past 10 years being relatively inactive (becoming fat) I have started to train again, at home.
I’m making progress and after 7 weeks I have lost 10 lb. and gained a touch of muscle in the process.
I have been on your website on a number of occasions and your gym seems to be the sort of place that would appeal to me and I look forward to coming down in the future to train.
 
Regards
John Johnson
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