THE STORY OF ENRICO TOMAS
by "The Editor" of Health and Strength, 1954
Reprinted with permission from the AOBS Newsletter
What kind of man is Enrico Tomas, 1954 amateur Mr. Universe? The Editor
interviewed him after the show and got the whole lowdown on his life and
Each year as the Mr. Universe contests come along the main topic of
conversation in the Nabba and H&S offices is concerned with the response from
overseas bodybuilders to the special invitations we have sent out all over
This year there was great excitement when letters and half-promises came from
those fabulous stars of USA and Canada: Clancy Ross, Bill Pearl, Leo Robert,
and Jim Park. We talked of the furor such a lineup would create, and it was
a bitter disappointment for us when we learned that only the great Park would
definitely make the trip.
But we were consoled by the news, dropped quite casually by our old friend
John Grimek, that "a New York bodybuilder," Enrico Tomas, proposed to enter
the amateur contest. A few days passed and Enrico's form arrived, duly
documented by the Metropolitan Association of the AAU, disclosing that this
"unknown" was the holder of the Mr. New York State title.
Excitement grew when a further letter from John Grimek praised the virtues of
this newcomer. Tomas was obviously in the "sensation" class, we thought.
Little did we know that this was quite an understatement!
With experience of long-distance air travel, we took it for granted,
especially as we were busy greeting dozens of other celebrities from far-off
countries, that Tomas would arrive within a short time of his ETA of
Thursday, June 24, and it shook us rigid to find a cable awaiting us on the
morning of the judging (June 25), which said:
HAVE BEEN IN NEWFOUNDLAND SINCE JUNE 23 DUE TO MECHANICAL FAILURE BOAC FLIGHT
522 TO LONDON. IMPOSSIBLE TO REACH YOU BY 10AM JUNE 25 MAY BE ABLE TO ARRIVE
SAT JUNE 26 HAVE TRIED EVERYTHING WHAT SHALL I DO ENRICO R TOMAS MR NEW YORK
A hasty conference was called, and just as I was about to cable back DON'T
COME, another cable arrived stating:
ARRIVING 11:30 AM JUNE 25 TVA FLIGHT 960 LONDON AIRPORT WILL REPORT TO
CONTEST AS SOON AS POSSIBLE ENRICO TOMAS.
So that was that! A quick call to the airport and it was confirmed that
Tomas was on the plane, but lo and behold that also was delayed and would not
arrive until 2:55 pm. A message was left for Tomas saying he must go to the
judging immediately he arrived.
Was He Lost?
At 3:15 I phoned again and found that Tomas had indeed landed at 3:12 pm and
was on the way. And then an agonising silence for TWO HOURS. Tomas was
lost in London! Calls to airport, hotel, coach station could only tell us
that he had had the message and had left.
Here was now a situation we had never met before. Was it fair to keep all
the other competitors waiting? Would it have been fair to Tomas to bar him
because he had not arrived on time, through no fault of his own? Could we
put him on the Scala stage the following day and say he was too late?
Would the audience not demand the judges do their job all over again, if he
was as good as reports stated? Would we be wrongly accused of favoring one
individual and, at that, another USA competitor?
There was only one thing to do: put it to the other competitors. The answer
was instantaneous. Enrico must be given a chance. It was indeed a sporting
decision, costing at least two competitors the most important bodybuilding
titles in the world. All the praise to them for their fine spirit!
But at 5:30 there was still no Enrico. I posted George Harris at one
entrance to the Royal Hotel, while I waited, hat and coatless, in the rain at
the entrance to the judging hall, waiting for an unknown bodybuilder whom
nobody in this country had seen in the flesh or in more than one photograph.
At last, at 5:40 pm, a stocky, close-cropped figure arrived, full of
apologies, for not only had his coach from the airport met delays, but a
well-meaning taxi driver had taken him to the wrong hotel. Quickly I
explained the reason for urgency. "You've got two minutes to get ready," I
said. "OK, I'm ready now, I've got my trunks on," said the imperturbable
Enrico, and slipping off a T-shirt and bright red jeans, he walked into the
hall and lined up with the others.
A Round of Applause
A quick announcement, and as the clock hands went to six o'clock, there he
stood on the posing rostrum, calm as you like and stamped with the American
trademark of supermanity. A flawless posing routine brought forth a
spontaneous outbreak of applause, the first that had happened in a day of
Emlyn Jenkins has already told his story in the last issue of Enrico's
enthusiastic reception, of the trials of the judges, of Tomas'
extraordinarily short career that ended with winning the amateur Mr. Universe
crown--the only American who has won this honor without first becoming Mr.
But what of the man and his methods? What did he think of us? Who and what
is he? Now that the top award in bodybuilding has come his way, what are his
plans for the future?
Enrico R. Tomas--there is an accent on the "a"--is of Venezuelan parents but
was born in New York on December 15, 1924, and has lived there all his life.
As a boy his great hobbies were cycling and roller skating, although he did a
little running and got a couple of medals for it.
"There's not much else to record," he says, "until a John Grimek picture
inspired me to see what I could do for my body, after I had done my
three-year spell in the army. I weighed 149 lb. when I started, and progress
was slow. I had many setbacks, including two abdominal operations, but I
"With my studies in psychology at Columbia University I didn't really get
down to serious training until two years ago, but since then I've certainly
done a lot of hard work."
When, after the contest, I expressed surprise that we hadn't heard more of
him, modest Enrico Tomas had this to say.
"Yes, it's true. I have entered one or two minor contests in which I placed,
but I figured that the world's greatest title has more prestige than a
national one, and remember, the Mr. America contest was held on the same day
as Mr. Universe. The Mr. U contests are generally recognized in the States
as holding the biggest prestige value.
"But, you know, I planned to come over a year ago, and as I had no title to
justify my entry, I thought it better to have one before I crossed the
Atlantic. So Mr. New York State it had to be, where I took all the special
awards except one: best arms, best back, best abdominals, and best legs.
For your contest I have trained really hard six times a week for the past six
Chess-playing, music-loving, well-read Tomas really enjoys life and is bound
to be a success of his health studio when he has finished his studies and
seen a bit more of this interesting world. At that time of writing he is
making his way through France and Spain.
For the organization of the contest and the show, Enrico had nothing but
praise, though he thought that the judging was a bit of an ordeal. But her
fully approved of the methods of the judges, as it made it impossible to get
away with even a minor fault. Of British bodybuilders he was full of
admiration and particularly impressed with their lower leg development.
His training methods? Here is his complete schedule, and it's definitely not
recommended for novices.
Enrico trains three times a week normally but put in six times a week for the
Mr. Universe contest.
Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday: One to one-and-a-half hours.
Overgrasp chinning: five sets of twenty reps with 20 lb. weight tied to the
waist. (He feels he needs bigger lats!)
Bent-over rowing, taking weight to chest and done very strictly: three sets
of eight with 155 lb.
Overhead rolls, FREE-STANDING: three sets of thirty reps.
Monday, Wednesday, and Friday: Single-arm pressing with dumbbell 90-100 lb.
with one hand on wall bars or wall for support so that there is no body
movement. Very strict. Three-four sets of eight repetitions.
Super sets for the following:
Wide-arm dumbbell pressing on inclined bench, dumbbells held in line. Cross
between pressing and flying, three-four sets of eight repetitions.
Alternate with dips on parallel bars in super set fashion. Instead of weight
tied around the waist, tied around the neck to get more body lean forward.
Weight used: 30 lb. (This method NOT recommended for beginners.)
Seated dumbbell curls strict with full extension, 70 lb. dumbbells. Six sets
of eight repetitions. First three sets on their own then combined with:
Lying French press with dumbbells for triceps. Three sets of eight
repetitions with 75 lb. The increase in weight because Enrico considers his
triceps not as good as his biceps. These are combined with the last three
sets of curls.
Reverse curls: three sets of 100 lb.
Leg Work. Enrico never did squats for his Universe preparation because he
considers squats make his hips and waist too big.
Leg Presses: three sets of eight repetitions with 580-630 lb.
Alternate with leg extensions on a pulley machine, three sets with 75 lb. On
For the calves he lowers leg pressing machine across knees, and uses it for
sitting calf raises (as done with barbell across knees). v
Three sets of eight repetitions with 300-400 lb.
Abdominals: Three sets of thirty overhead rolls on bench.
Tomas is no faddist regarding diet. While he is sure we eat far too little,
he never fails to have one to one and a half pounds of steak or minced steak
a day. His favorite drink? Milk with added powdered milk. No picture of
the amateur Mr. Universe 1954 would be complete without his measurements:
height 5'7", normal weight 180 lb., wrist 7", forearm 13-1/2", neck 16-1/2",
waist 29", thigh 24'1/2", calf 16-1/2", ankle 9", upper arm 16-1/2 - 17-3/4",
That's the story of charmingly modest, cooperative Enrico Tomas, a really
superb athlete every bit worthy to be called Mr. Universe.
Courtesy of Health and Strength, 1954