Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Golfers, baseball players, poloists and tennis players, all recognize the great value of strong wrists. Weak wrists are a handicap even in such light forms of athletics as I have named. A "Strong Man" with weak wrists would be unthinkable. One thing about handling bar-bells is that you get strong wrists, whether you want them or not. In almost every exercise that is performed with weights, you have to hold the bar-bell in your hands. Even when performing an exercise for the back and legs, like the one shown in Fig. 10, you develop a great gripping power in the hands. In fact, when doing this exercise with 75 lbs. the beginner's fingers will commence to slip before the back muscles themselves feel the effect of the weight.
Nevertheless, most aspirants for super-strength spend some of their time in still further increasing the strength of the hands and forearms. There are no muscles in the wrist itself; only bones and tendons. Therefore, the only way to make your wrist stronger is to increase the size and strength of the muscles in the hands and forearms. As your wrist gets stronger, your hands will become thicker and more compact, even if they do not get wider and longer. If you work for super-strength, you simply cannot keep a lady-like pair of hands.
(George Washington was supposed to have the strongest arm of any man in the Continental Army. After his death a cast was made from his right hand, which shows that his hand was very much bigger than the average. Washington was a big man and apparently the best athlete of his time. He made a record of 23 feet in a running broad-jump, and this record stood until Malcolm Ford beat it by 4 inches, around 1880. Judging by the size of his hand, Washington must have had a forearm which measured over 13 inches.)
In order to fully develop the power of the wrist it is necessary to practice (a) gripping exercises for the hands, (b) twisting exercises for the wrists, and (c) forearm exercises for that part of the forearm near the elbow. The popular idea is that the way to get forearm development is to clinch the fist tightly and then to bend the wrist; but this gives only a partial development of the forearm. There is nothing which develops the gripping power of the hand so much as does using bar-bells with thick handlebars. When you use a thin handlebar, the fingers encircle the handle, and so there is not much strain on the grip. It is necessary to use thin handles in many kinds of actual lifting, and therefore some lifters make a practice of using a thick-handled bar-bell or dumbbell in some of their exercises. If the handle is more than 2 inches in diameter the fingers will not lap around it, and consequently the lifter develops an incredible pinching power in his thumbs and fingers.
One very good exercise for strengthening the wrist is to take a pair of light dumbbells, hold them by the hands, stretch your arms out to the sides, and then describe circles with the free ends of the bells. You should use dumbbells which have the mushroom-shaped end, and you should hold them as in Fig. 85. A pair of 5-pounders is enough to start with, and after a short time you will be able to do the exercise with a pair of 10-pounders; and when you have gotten so that you can use a pair of 15-pounders, you will notice a great increase in your gripping power and in your wrist strength.
But even that will not bring the forearm to the highest state of development. Some of the muscles in the forearm are attached at the lower end to the bones of the wrist, and at the upper end to the bones of the forearm. Therefore, every time you bend your arms against resistance, you develop those forearm muscles. Most of you consider that chinning the car is simply a biceps exercise; but it develops the forearms almost as much as the upper arms. When you curl a heavy dumbbell with one hand, the forearm muscles get more work than in chinning. Examine Fig. 73 and you can plainly see one of the forearm muscles which helps bend the arm. (It makes the line which runs from the base of the thumb to the bottom of the biceps.)
The very best forearm exercise is the one invented by George Zottman. He used to do it with a pair of 50-lb. dumbbells, and you can start it with a pair of 20-pounders. Stand erect, with the arms hanging at the sides. Then bend your right arm and bring the bell up in front of your chest, with the palm of the hand up and the wrist bent strongly inward. Bring the hand still further up until it is in front of the right shoulder, and then rotate your forearm until it is in front of the right shoulder, and then rotate your forearm until the palm is front, and then lower the bell slowly (with knuckles up) until the arm is again hanging at the side. The right hand describes a complete circle. When your right hand is in front of your shoulder, start your left hand coming up. Both hands work at the same time, but as the right hand is coming down the left hand is coming up, and vice versa. Fig. 86 shows the left hand (knuckles up) on the way down, and the right hand (palm up) on the way up. This exercise develops all the muscles in the forearm. By gripping the dumbbells firmly, you develop the muscles of the hand; the muscles which bend the wrist inward are developed as you raise the bells; and the muscles on the outside of the forearm (which bend the wrist outward) are developed as you lower the bells. The elbows should be kept close to the sides throughout the whole exercise.
Zottman's forearm strength is phenomenal. At one of our exhibitions he was acting as judge. One lift had been completed, and a couple of assistants were dismantling a very heavy bar-bell of the plate-loading type. (The kind shown in Fig. 14.) The biggest plates on this bell weighed 50 lbs. each and were 11 inches in diameter and 2 inches thick. In order to carry one of these plates, the average man would hold it in both hands. One of the assistants was justly proud of the strength of his grip. He stood two of these plates on edge, gripped one in each hand by the upper edges, walked over and placed them at Zottman's feet and said, "George, can you do that?" Zottman immediately leaned over, gripped the plates by the top edges, just as the other man had done, and then stood up straight and "muscled out" the plates, one to each side. Then he grinned at the other man and said, "And can you do that?" (Zottman was 50 years old at that time, and the only two men I know of who could have duplicated this stunt were Joe Nordquest and the English lifter, Vansart.) Any bar-bell exercise which develops the biceps muscle also develops the forearm. The ordinary two-arm curl, shown in Fig. 72, is a great forearm developer, if you are careful to bend the wrist inward as you raise the bell. To develop the outside of the forearms by curling, you have to hold the bell by the over-grip, knuckles up, as shown in Fig. 87. You can curl nearly twice as much with the under-grip as with the over-grip, just the same as you can chin yourself twice as often on the horizontal bar when you hold the palms of your hands towards you as when you hold the palms of your hands away from you.
One of the greatest tests of forearm strength is to curl a thick bar with the over-grip. Once I bought a round steel bar, about 3 feet long and 2 inches thick, which weighed 65 lbs. To do a two-arm curl with this steel bar was a cinch if you used the under-grip; but when you tried to curl it with the over-grip, the bar would slip out of your hands when the arms were bent half way. Lots of lifters who could do a back-hand curl easily with a thin-handled 100-lb. bar-bell, utterly failed to do the same thing with the thick 65-lb. bar. Anton Matysek could do it easily; Juvenal, the oarsman, could do it with even greater ease; and Zottman simply played with it. In order to curl the bar successfully, it was necessary to have tremendous gripping power in the hands and great strength in the muscles on the outside of the forearm; but the gripping power was more important. This stunt interested me so much that I had a special bar made, which consisted of a 2 inch pipe, and from each end of that pipe projected a 1-inch iron rod. We could load up the handle by slipping plates over the 1-inch rods. At one of our exhibitions Matysek demonstrated the exercise while I explained the principles involved. Joe Nordquest, who was present, demanded that he be allowed to try his strength, and soon there was a competition in progress. According to our rules, the lifter had to stand bolt upright and keep his elbows at his sides, in order to prevent him from getting any advantage from a swing of the body or a movement of the upper arms. One of the two claimed that the other one was not playing fair; so before each attempt we bound a belt around their upper arms, as in Fig. 88. Matysek finally won with 88 lbs., which was harder than curling a thin-handled 125-l.b bar-bell. Tests like that interest me far more than lifts in which a man's ability is dependent on skill as well as strength.
It is very important to develop your forearm to the limit, because the bigger your forearm gets, the bigger your upper arm can get. In fact, if you properly develop your forearms and the deltoid muscles on the point of the shoulder, your upper arms will develop themselves. If you have time only for a little forearm exercise, use the Zottman exercise, or two-hand curling in preference to the exercise shown in Fig. 85.
You remember that when I talked to you about the back and legs, I compared them to the two leaves of a hinge and said that both leaves must be of equal strength, and that the strength of the small of the back was influenced by the strength of the muscles on the back of the thighs, and vice versa. Exactly this same principal applies to the forearm and the biceps. The power with which you can bend your arm depends not on the biceps alone, but on the biceps plus the forearm. If you can grasp this principal, you will at once understand why it is that while devotees of light exercise rarely succeed in getting forearm larger than 11 ?-inches around, a bar-bell user is not satisfied with a forearm which measures much less than 13 inches.
Extreme finger strength can be developed by lifting weights from the ground with one finger at a time as in Fig. 89. That is a rather dangerous exercise, because if you make an attempt at a weight which is too heavy, it is possible to snap a tendon. It is perfectly possible to develop the finger strength to the greatest possible extent by using the whole hand, rather than one finger at a time. One-finger lifting is a favorite stunt with exhibitionists; but those men commonly use a prepared grip of such a shape that once the finger is inserted in the grip, it is almost impossible for any amount of weight to straighten out the finger. Such lifts are interesting from an exhibition standpoint; but they have little or nothing to do with the creation of strength, which is the subject in which we are concerned.
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Of course you spend some of your time in reading books and stories. Every once in a while you read a book where the hero, who is of average build, disappears from the scene for some reason or other; and when he reappears, after an absence of a couple of years, his friends fail to recognize him. When they are convinced that he is the same man, they say, "But what has happened to you? You are about 4 inches wider and about 8 inches more around the chest than you used to be." In the last three months, I have read two such books. In one of them, the hero's family got into some financial difficulty, and he got a job on a fishingboat in the North Sea; and in the space of two years, he raised himself from seaman to mate. In the other story, the hero was supposed to be threatened with consumption and was sent away to a logging camp in our own Northwest; and when he returned, had affected a complete physical transformation.
These story-writers might be suspected of using a scene like that so that their heroes could have a fine shape and the great strength that every well-regulated hero should have; but at that, they are not very far from the truth. I have known such things to happen in certain cases. I knew a man who went to the Klondike in the first gold rush. When he left this city, he was 23 years old and weighed, maybe 135 lbs. When he returned two years later, he was no taller; but he weighed 185 lbs., and he did not carry and ounce of surplus flesh. He seemed to be all bone and muscle. On his outward journey, he wore a size 36 coat, which hung loosely on his shoulders. On his return journey, he wore a size 42 coat, which fitted him closely. His shoulders were very much broader; his arms and legs thicker; and even his wrists and ankles were bigger. Also, I have known other men who went away for a couple of years and lived in the out-doors, and came back no bigger than they were when they started. It happened that the first man had done a whole lot of hard work, had climbed mountains, dug ditches, paddled canoes and carried heavy packs over long trails. Of course the pure air and the outdoor life helped him; but pure outdoor air is not enough in itself to account for such an enormous increase in size and strength.
If the heroes in those two novels made the gains which the authors claim, it means that those two particular heroes did a lot of hard muscle work. I understand that in a lumber camp, the work is very hard, and it involves the lifting, handling and moving of very heavy weights. It takes more than a little muscle to swing an axe, and to cut down a tree which is a couple of feet thick. It takes even more muscle to stand at one end of a two-man saw, and saw that tree into sections. The peavey, or "canthook," which lumbermen use in handling logs, is an instrument which enables a man to greatly increase his natural leverage; but even when using a peavey, a man has to have some weight and strength in order to move logs which weigh anywhere from 500 to 2000 lbs. When it comes to picking up one end of a log which weighs several hundred pounds and helping another man to carry it a great distance, or when it comes to up-ending a lighter log, letting it fall across your shoulder, and carrying it away, then you have to have bodily strength in great quantities.
It is well known that cold is a peptic stimulant; that is, it creates an appetite. Heavy work also creates an appetite. The combination of the two produces a kind of appetite which can be satisfied only by a large quantity of highly nourishing foods. A great deal of lumbering is done in the cold weather at high altitudes.
I claim that if you, being sickly and undersized went to a mountain lumber camp and did the kind of work I have just described, you would, in all probability, make bigger gains in a winter's work, than you could in as many years spent at calisthenics or "bending exercises." But if you went to the lumber camp in some clerical capacity, or as cook, you might gain a little in size and strength; but not much more than you would gain if you had stayed home and held the same kind of a job.
If a man ships as a "hand" on a sailing-vessel, it means that he has a job which takes the hardest kind of physical work; and if he spent his time climbing up and down the rigging, hauling on ropes in order to hoist heavy sails, and assisting in loading and unloading heavy cargoes, he would get a fine physique. If he shipped on a steamer as a wireless operator or something of that kind, he would not be likely to grow very much bigger and stronger than he was at the start. You can't transform yourself physically simply by going to a lumber camp or by going to sea. The thing that produces results is what you do after you get there. Your body will shape itself, and your muscles will develop, according to the kind of work you do; and if you know how to get that work either in the form or labor or play, you can develop yourself just as rapidly in your own home, as you can in the furthest lumber camp or most distant sea. One time, when I was tired of hearing enthusiasts talk about sleeping porches and ventilated gymnasiums and proper food and clothing, I said that if a young man would do what I told him to, he could take his exercises in a damp, unventilated cellar, that he could eat anything he pleased, smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, and drink wine or beer; and that if he got sufficient sleep and did the right kind of exercise, I could make him into a "Strong Man" in a very short space of time. Of course a man will naturally make better progress if he works under pleasant conditions; but it seems to me that sometimes there is a great deal too much attention paid to getting those pleasant conditions, and too little attention paid to the way a man works. Though you may think so, I am still talking about the same subject; which is, that great results come from great endeavor, and that great muscular development and super-strength can be acquired only by a certain kind of work. If you are willing to do that kind of work, and do it intelligently, you can get results in your own bedroom just as well as anywhere else.
In the stories mentioned in the first part of this chapter, it is noticed the hero's friends always exclaimed about the difference in the size of his chest and shoulders. They did not say, "My, your legs have gotten big!" or, "What wonderful arms you have!"; but, "What a chest you have!" and, "My, you have spread out around the shoulders!" In chapter 8, I described one exercise which will increase the size of the chest by increasing the size of the rib-box; and I urged you to practice that exercise even if you are not interested in the subject of great strength. I am convinced that the kind of chest which gives plenty of lung room, is the one which a super-strong man must have. I know that the average man can greatly increase his vitality and make himself somewhat bigger and stronger, merely by increasing the size of the chest, even if he does not take special exercises for the other parts of the body. Therefore, I believe that if a man actually wishes to "make himself over," the first and most important thing is to increase the size of the rib-box.
In the fall of 1923, I wrote an article in the Strength magazine in which I made a comparison of British and American lifters. I pointed out the fact that while England had a large number of first-class lifters among the smaller men, they had very few first-class big men. Also, that in this country, we had a great number of "Strong Men" in the heavy-weight division, whereas, England had only one or two. This article excited a good deal of discussion in the English sporting papers; and in their comments, they tried to make it seem as though I favored bulk and brute strength, in preference to lifting skill. That is not quite the truth. I cheerfully admit that I do find it a much more interesting and, I believe, a more valuable work to develop men, that to develop lifters.
One English writer admitted the shortage of first-class heavy-weights in Great Britain; but claimed that they "did not breed big men in England." Now I have seen plenty of big Englishmen; tall, broad-shouldered, deep-chested fellows, who could easily be trained into high-grade amateur "Strong Men." Some of the most famous "Strong Men" in history are Scotchmen. From Ireland, there come a large number of gigantic weight-throwers, and I cannot believe that large men are scarce in England. But perhaps none of their big chaps become interested in bar-bell work. My point is that the breeding has little to do with the cultivations of super-strength, and that individual training and individual effort can overcome the handicaps of heredity. A man whose parents were short in stature, is not likely to become very tall, himself; but one does not have to be a very tall man in order to be a big man. A perfectly developed man of 5 feet 8 inches, will weight anywhere from 165 to 185 lbs., according to the size of his bones. Steinborn stands less than 5 feet 8 inches, and weights 215 lbs. in a hard condition. Adolph Nordquest, who weighs about as much, stands 5 feet 9 inches. Certainly there must be thousands of men of that height in England.
In the article referred to, I mention some cases of phenomenal growth which have come under my observation. One English authority claimed that no man could make the increases I cited "unless he had the bodily framework on which to build"; apparently overlooking the fact that even at the age of thirty, it is possible to make a marked change in the bony framework of the body. I do not mean that you can make the bones longer or increase your height, or the length of your arms and legs; but I positively have seen cases where the bones became thicker and stronger, although such cases are somewhat rare.
If you examine a man's skeleton, the length of the bones will give you an accurate idea of how long that man's arms and legs were. The hipbones, which constitute what we call the "pelvic basin," will show you how wide his hips were. The size of the rib-box and the articulation of the shoulders, give an idea, (although not an accurate one,) of his shoulder-breadth. I do not claim that it is possible, after maturity, to make a man's hips wider by promoting the growth of the bones of the pelvis; although by properly developing the muscles of the upper thigh and hip region, it is possible to make them an inch or two wider.
While it is not possible to make the ribs, themselves, any longer, it is distinctly possible to increase the size of the rib-box by lengthening the cartilages which connect the ribs with the breast-bone. By the time most men are twenty-five years old, these cartilages have entirely lost their original elasticity; and if a man of that age has a flat chest, he gets the idea that he is condemned to have a flat chest for the rest of his life. By doing certain exercises, notably the one illustrated in Fig. 42, and combining them with special breathing, it is possible, in a few months' time, to convert a flat chest into a high-arched chest. The breast-bone, which has originally been flat, assumes a distinct outward curve. The breast-bone is made up of three sections, and its shape determines the appearance and size of your chest. The lower two sections are joined together so tightly that they seem to be one bone; but the upper section is more loosely joined to the other two. However, a high-arched chest is more dependent upon the shape of the rib-box than upon the amount of curve (or lack of curve), in the breast-bone. The round-shouldered man almost invariably has a high-arched chest.
Mr. Arthur Thomson, the eminent anatomist says, "After the age of twenty-five, when all the bones are fully ossified and the figure set, any form of exercise will have but little influence on the form of the thorax, except that it stimulates a more healthy respiration. Yet we cannot but admit the effect which the exercise has had on the man, for he appears now with braced-up figure and square shoulders. The increase in breadth of the chest is not due to any marked increase in the capacity or form of the chest-wall, but is due almost entirely to the increase in size of the muscles, brought about by exercise. As has been shown, some of these muscles lie between the blade-bone and the chest-wall, and one can readily understand how any increase in the thickness of these layers will tend to push upwards and outwards the blade-bone from the chest-wall, and so impart to the shoulders that squareness which is so desirable in the male figure."
According to Mr. Thomson, it would seem hopeless to alter the size or shape of the rib-box after the age of twenty-five, and yet I have seen men of thirty-five increase their chest measurements six, eight, ten, and, in one case, twelve inches. Such an amount of increase cannot be make simply by developing the muscles which overlay the ribs. The circumference of a circle is, roughly, three times its diameter. If you were to develop the pectoral muscles on the chest so that they were one inch thicker than before, and developed the back muscles so that they were one inch thicker, it would mean that the whole chest would be two inches thicker, and that would account for only a six-inch difference in the girth of the chest. The pectoral muscles can be made very big and thick, and the muscles across the back of the shoulders are capable of high development; but I do not believe that any of these muscles can be made two inches thicker.
Note that Mr. Thomson speaks only of the increase in the breadth of the chest. When you increase the size of the rib-box by promoting the elasticity of the rib-cartilages, the chest becomes deeper from front to back. The difference between a very shallow chest and a very deep one, is just the difference between weakness and super-strength. In converting a small and shallow rib-box into a big, deep and roomy one, part of the increase is obtained by developing certain muscles on the outside of the chest, which have a tendency to lift the ribs; and another part comes from the pressure from within, furnished by the growing lungs.
A man possessed of super-strength almost invariable has lungs of great size and high quality, and the upper part of his lungs is of larger size than in the ordinary individual. This is because most of them are adepts at costal breathing. (When it comes to breathing methods, I am an ardent disciple of the late Edwin Checkley.) In the chapter devoted to developing the upper-back muscles, I mentioned only one or two of the larger muscles. Besides these, there are a number of smaller muscles, some of which help to control the movement of the arm, and others, the movement of the shoulder-blade and the ribs. By developing those muscles you will help to make the shoulders square and to increase the width of the back. A man can have a big chest measurement without having any particular development of the pectoral muscles on the breast. Even if those muscles are of moderate size, the big-chested man is sure to very wide across the upper-back, from one armpit to the other, and it is around that part of the body the tape is passed when taking the chest measurement. If, in addition to a wide upper-back, a man has a deep rib-box, the chest measurement becomes phenomenal. (When I say a "deep chest" or a "deep rib-box," I mean deep from front to back; that is, from the breast-bone to the spine.)
When my English critic said "it was impossible to make enormous gains unless one had the bodily framework on which to build," he ignored this possibility of increasing the size of the chest itself. In my article I mentioned the case of a boy who had increased his chest measurement 7 inches in one month by the use of bar-bells. It would have been utterly impossible to gain that much just by developing the muscles on the upper body, because that would have meant making the chest muscles and the back muscles an inch thicker than before. So much development can't possibly be gained in thirty days' time; but since the boy referred to did actually make the 7-inch increase, at least half of that gain was due to an increase in the size of the rib-box. When the lad started his normal chest measurement was 29 inches. Bu developing the muscles on the outside of the chest he could possibly have brought his chest measurement up to 38 or 39 inches by a couple of years' steady work. All this gain would have been muscular, and his original framework would have remained the same. At the end of thirty days he had a considerably bigger bodily framework than at the start of his training, and with that framework, by developing the exterior muscles, he might have eventually gotten up to a 40-inch chest measurement; but as it happened, he continued at the exercises which expanded the chest, kept on increasing the size of his frame, and at the end of the year had a 43-inch chest, making a total gain of 14 inches in the year.
You may object that this boy was only seventeen years old when he started, and that therefore he was still growing. That is unquestionably true. If he had never exercised at all, it is quite likely that his chest would have increased from 29 to 32 inches in one year by natural growth; but at that, his chest never would have been more than 36 or 37 inches at the age of twenty-one, because he was originally built on slender lines. I do not merely claim that he enlarged and improved his bodily framework. I know it.
If I had the space I could tell you of almost as remarkable gains made by men who had passed the age where growth is supposed to stop. I saw a man of thirty years increase his chest measurement from 35 to 44 inches in one year; and during that time his shoulders became nearly 4 inches broader. I know a man, Professor Lange, who, at the age of thirty, started to practice the exercises which I have described in chapters 8 and 10. He had been interested in athletics all his life, and at the age of eighteen his chest measured only 30 inches. At the age of thirty his twelve years' practice had increased his chest to 36 inches. By specializing on chest development he increased the measurement within the next few years to 48 inches. When he chest grew, he grew all over. So far as I know, he did not grow any taller; but the development of his back, his shoulders, his arms and his legs kept pace with the growth of his chest. After he was thirty his upper arms increased from 13 ? inches to 18 ? inches, and his thighs from 21 inches to 28 inches. Even his forearms and the calves of his legs increased at the same rate, and the development of those parts of the body is supposed to be limited by the size of the bones below the elbow and knee. If that man had had a really big frame, it is impossible that his chest would have measured as little as 36 inches at the age of thirty. The fact that he has almost the deepest chest on record is positive proof that he made the rib-box larger. Therefore, he deliberately and successfully altered his own bodily framework. I regret that I cannot show you his pictures. He will not allow them to be published, although some pictures of him did appear in the Strength magazine in 1919 and 1920.
I could go on multiplying the number of these cases. The three I have just mentioned are exceptional; but they prove what can be done. For a bar-bell user to gain from 4 to 6 inches in chest measurement during the first three months is so common a happening that it is hardly worthwhile mentioning.
There is an immense difference between the shape of a man who has thus developed himself and the shape of a man who has increased his size just by thickening and developing the muscles. There is a certain relation between the size of the arms and chest in a well-proportioned man; in fact, there should be a fixed relation between the sizes of all parts of the body. A bar-bell user who has a 17-inch upper arm usually has a 44- or 45-inch chest and a 24-inch thigh. If his upper arm is 16 inches, his chest is 43 to 44 inches, and his thigh about 23 inches. I have seen professional gymnasts, especially Roman-ring performers, with 16 ? inch upper arms and only 39-inch chest and 20-inch thighs. That alone explains why the average bar-bell user so greatly excels the average gymnast in the matter of bodily strength.
As I said in a previous chapter, an increase in the size of the rib-box is always accompanied by a corresponding and proportionate increase in the breadth of the shoulders; which is puzzling, because the collar bones do not seem to become any longer, although the shoulder blades become wider spaced; that is, set further apart. A man with a 36-inch chest will have shoulders about 17 inches in width. A 40-inch chest usually means shoulders about 19 inches wide; whereas, a "Strong Man," that is, an individual with super-strength, may have a 46-inch chest, with shoulders that are fully 23 inches across.
The deltoid muscles lie on the points of the shoulders, but no man could increase the width of the shoulders from 17 to 23 inches by making each deltoid three inches thicker; and one would have to do that in order to add six inches to the shoulder-breadth. While Mr. Lange's chest was increasing from 36 to 48 inches, his shoulders became six inches wider, notwithstanding the fact that a large part of the gain in chest girth was due to the deepening of the chest box. When a novelist describes his "Strong Man" character, he is apt to say, "His broad shoulders and deep chest gave indication of his enormous physical strength." It seems to be an accepted idea that depth of chest is a sign of great natural vitality, and that broad shoulders indicate the possession of great natural power. (That is a case where the popular or general view is the correct one.) I go further and say that you can deliberately make your chest deeper and your shoulders broader, and that as you do so your natural vitality and strength will increase to an extent that will go a long way towards putting you in the class of the super-strong.
The bigger rib-box will mean more lung room, and big, high-quality lungs make not only for endurance, but for vitality and driving power. The deep-chested (and therefore big-lunged) man will sustain without fatigue a series of exertions, any one of which would exhaust a shallow-chested, small-lunged man.
The gain in the width of the shoulders is accompanied by a gain in sheer arm and shoulder power, which is due to the greater and more advantageous leverages. If you can make your shoulders broader by making your rib-box bigger, you will find that you are possessed of an entirely new kind of strength, even if you pay little attention to developing the muscles on the points of the shoulders and the front and back of the upper-body. If, in addition, you can properly develop those muscles, you will become so strong that you will be a source of pride to your friends and a terror to your enemies.
It is a great advantage to a "Strong Man" to have fairly wide hips; but the size of the hip-bones which constitute the "pelvic-basin," cannot be materially altered after full maturity, as the individual bones are firmly welded together. Nevertheless, the shape and power of the hips can be greatly improved and increased by the exercises in Chapters 2 and 4 for the thighs and lower back.
The "fashionable" figure is that of a man with wide shoulders and narrow hips. Novelists, and some writers on art subjects, seem to think that small hips add elegance to the figure; whereas narrow hips are a sign of immaturity. At present, women have such a craze for narrow hips, that the corset, which in other days constricted the waist, has been extended downward so as to act as a compressor of the soft flesh around the hips. Reason? They think that small hips make them look more youthful. "The boyish figure!" That is their present ideal. In men, unusually narrow hips are often a sign of arrested development. The hips and shoulders should grow wider between the ages of 18 and 23, after the full height has been attained. All of you are familiar with the spectacle of a youth "broadening out" as he approaches maturity.
I have always found it much easier to give perfect proportions to a beginner with good hips and comparatively narrow shoulders than to the beginner who has fair shoulders and poor hips. Qualify that, by saying my idea of perfect proportions, for I believe that a man is best built for bodily strength, when the girth of the hips is three or four inches less than the girth of the normal chest, (not the expanded chest). Saxon, Steinborn and men of their type have hips that are smaller in proportion to their chests. Undoubtedly, the Sandow-Donald type is more pleasing to the eye; but the Saxon-Steinborn type have more sheer bodily power.
Let us see how it works out. In the Strength magazine, we held a discussion as to the proper relative size of the hips and thighs. It appeared that is most men who combine great strength and great development, the thigh girth was about 60 percent of the girth of the hips. (Both measurements taken at the largest part.) For example; Sandow's hips measured 39 inches, and his thigh 23.7 inches. The thigh measurement is almost exactly 60 percent of the girth of the hips. Now Sandow's thigh-development was a thing to wonder at, and when you look at his picture, it seems impossible that a man could have more powerfully developed thighs with such trim hips; yet I have seen men with smaller hips and bigger thighs; for instance, Mr. Fred Rohde, Fig. 83, has a 25-inch thigh and hips measuring only 35 ? inches around. I could name several others whose thigh measurement is more than 60 percent as large as the hip measurement.
The foregoing reads almost as though I were trying to dodge the issue and to claim that great development could be acquired without changing the size of the bony framework of the hips. The hips may not actually get any wider; but unquestionably, they seem to get bigger as the chest grows in size. Look at the picture of Mr. Frank Dilks in Fig. 84. This man was extremely slender before he started to train, and the fact that he was above the average height, accentuated his slenderness. Since he had only a 36-inch chest and a 10-inch upper arm, his hips couldn't have been much more than 35 inches around. This picture of him was taken after one year of bar-bell exercises, and during that time, his chest had increased to 44 inches, and his thigh, from 20 inches to 24 inches. What his hips measure at present, I do not know; but surely they must be at least 40 inches around. While in the photograph they appear noticeably smaller than his chest, they are not so small as to give any impression of weakness. This is because Mr. Dilks, by practicing heavy exercises for the legs, developed the muscles on the upper part of the thighs where they emerge into the hips.
When Mr. Lange started at thirty years, with his 36-inch chest, his hips were of a size that corresponded to his chest. While his chest was increasing from 36 inches to 48 inches, his hip measurement increased about 7 inches, and his pictures in my private collection, show that at present the difference in size between his chest and hips is just about the same proportion as the difference between Sandow's chest and hips.
The important thing is that as your rib-box increases in size, the hips either grow, or seem to grow, in proportion; for I have never seen a man with a really big rib-box, who had inadequate hips. Perhaps the explanation is that the big-chested man can add to his muscular development with comparative ease, because there is very little muscle on the sides of the hips. It is possible to increase the hip measurement by developing the muscles which compose the buttocks, but that does not mean that you make your hips any wider.
In Chapters 2 and 4, I recommend that the beginner at bar-bell work start with exercises for the thighs and the lower part of the back. The strength of the lower-back is intimately connected and controlled by the size of the hips and the development and strength of the upper-legs. Some writers seem to think it indelicate to refer to the hips, especially to those muscles which compose the buttocks, and which are such an important link in the chain of muscles which hold the body erect. Big arms are spectacular; a big chest is almost indispensable; powerful legs are a great help; but to the man seeking super-strength, one great requisite is strong loins.
No matter how big your upper-arm is, you cannot exert the full strength of that arm unless the muscles of your shoulder are even more powerful than the arm-muscles. No matter how big your thighs are, they cannot exert their full strength unless the hips and loins are even stronger. That is why I was so particular in Chapter 4, to give you exercises which develop the hips and loins in connection with the leg muscles.
The most striking example I have every seen of strong loins and hips, is Henry Steinborn. This man trained himself to a point where he could take 400 lbs. on his shoulders and do the squat many times in succession, as in Fig. 27.
His constant practice of the quick lifts had given him immense power in the loins. In lifting heavy bar-bells from the floor to the shoulder, he could show more energy than any athlete on record. He could lift more weight clean from floor to the shoulders than any other athlete in the world; and in that style of lifting, the power that raises the weight from the floor comes from the thighs and the loins. In writing and article about his man, I said one stamp of his foot, he could crush the life out of any creature smaller than a tiger. His strength of leg and loin was the explanation of this unparalleled quickness of movement. In jumping, springing and quick lifting, the impulse comes from the hips; and Steinborn, who weighed 215 lbs., could move his body about with more rapidity and greater ease than even such famous fancy dancers as Nijinsky and Mordkin.
In a later chapter, I will say a few words about the connection between loin strength and general vitality.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Besides the lifts described in the preceding chapters, there are two or three dozen others which re recognized in different countries; for example, the British Amateur Weight Lifting Association lists 47 distinct lifts, all of which are considered standard lifts. To describe them all would take a lot of space; and while it would add to your knowledge of lifting it would not teach you much about developing yourself.
If you could read my daily mail, you would soon come to agree with me that the general public is far more interested in finely-developed bodies than in weightlifting records. When Sandow toured America, the people flocked to see him. If 3000 men attended one of his performances, it is safe to say that not 300 of them could the next day have told you how many pounds Sandow had lifted; but each and every one of the 3000 would probably have told you that Sandow was the finest physical specimen he had ever seen. For every one man who says, "I would like to lift as mich as Sandow did," there are one hundred men who will say, "I wish I could get a build like Sandow's." There was a time when I thought that lifting records were the only thing that counted; whereas, I now think that records are comparatively unimportant, and that the development of the individual is all important. If I get a written report from a student of bar-bell work, the first things I want to know are whether his chest is getting bigger, his arms and legs assuming a certain size and shape, and what he weighs. His lifts are of minor importance, especially if he, like most pupils, is using the bar-bells for the sake of getting a better build and more muscular and organic vigor. In England, a man who uses a bar-bell seems to think of nothing except the amount of weight he can lift. Consequently, he devotes his entire practice time to mastering the niceties of the lifting game. In this country, the vast majority of bar-bell users have but little use for lifting records and are after bodily improvement first, last and all the time, which is just as it should be.
Within the last year, I have received hundreds of letters in which the writer would finish by saying, "I am convinced that by using adjustable bar-bells I can make myself much bigger and stronger and healthier; but I have no desire to become a professional lifter or to ever publicly exhibit my strength. If I use a bar-bell, is it necessary for me to do the muscle-racking stunts that I have seen on the professional stage, and will I be compelled to use tremendously heavy weights?" (The wording of the different letters may vary a bit; but the foregoing is the way the average letter reads.) Invariably, I tell the writers of those letters that a man who uses a bar-bell does not have to do any sensational lifting stunts in order to become either beautifully proportioned, very strong, or very healthy. Many of the writers of such letters are middle-aged men; and why should a man of forty try to become a record-breaking lifter? If I answer such letters, I say that if I can take a man and lay out for him a course of progressive exercises, which will give him a better shape and far more physical and vital energy than he had when he was twenty-one, then I do not care a particle about how many pounds he can lift.
Now understand, I like to watch a lifting contest, especially if the competitors are well- trained and highly-skilled lifters. Although I have seen a great deal of informal lifting and impromptu contests, it has been twenty years since I have been able to seat myself in the audience and watch a big public exhibition or competition. If I were present at such an affair, it was because I had gotten up the program and had to act as announcer, master of ceremonies and special reporter; and so, at the end of the affair, I was much more tired than any of the competitors were.
I still like to see a first-class man make a big lift. I quite naturally feel elated if I see a friend, or a pupil, create a new record; but even then, I do not get the same solid satisfaction as I do when some other man writes a letter to tell me, that by practicing developing exercises with a bar-bell, he has restored himself to complete health; or that he has, by several months' steady practice, converted himself from a thin, undeveloped chap into an athlete of the Sandow-Matysek-Carr type. In the case of boys and very young men, one gets used to hearing of cases like that and one gets to take it as a matter of course; but when you get such a report from a man who was thirty-five or forty years old when he started to train, you get a feeling that you have witnesses a miracle. I have seen so many "near-miracles" accomplished through training with bar-bells that I sometimes wonder why people waste time on other training methods.
Right here I want to interject a bit of caution. If you ever buy a bar-bell, the chances are nine out of ten that you will become fascinated with the lifting end of the game; especially with lifting bar-bells or dumbbells to arms' length overhead. If you do that, you will deliberately interfere with your own progress to such an extent that you will never get as big or as strong as it is possible for you to be. When a man starts training with a bar-bell, the sensible thing to do is to adjust the bell to moderate weights; and, in each exercise, the weight of the bell should be adjusted to suit the strength of the muscle, or set of muscles, which are used in that exercise. Since some muscles are much bigger and vastly stronger than other muscles, it is naturally impossible to develop all the muscles to the limit by using a bar-bell of one fixed weight. For a beginner, even a 50-lb. bar-bell would be too heavy for use in some of the single-arm and shoulder exercises, although it might be too light to be used in such exercises as those described in Chapters 2 and 4.
The first thing to do is to increase the size of the chest, and to increase the strength of the lower back, and the size and strength of the thighs. During the first two months' practice, the arm and shoulder exercises are comparatively unimportant. Notwithstanding this, an uninstructed beginner usually spends almost all his time trying to develop his upper arm by pushing heavy weights aloft. When you start training, you must keep a tight rein on yourself; otherwise, you will plunge right into overhead lifting. The darned thing is so fascinating that there is a temptation to continually "try yourself out" to see whether you can push up a pound or two more than you did the day before. Then some friend drops in and says, "Bill, I hear you're training with a bar-bell. How much can you put up with one hand?" Such is your pride that you immediately proceed to "show" him. Then he wants to try it; and if he has never seen any other bar-bell than yours, the chances are that he won't lift nearly as much as you can, even if you have been training for only two or three weeks. So he goes out and hunts up some big husky friend that he thinks can beat you, and brings that fellow around. The first thing you know, instead of practicing your developing exercises in private, your exercise hour becomes a sort of reception, and all the time is spent in trying to outdo your visitors.
All the training during the first few months should be done in the privacy of your own room, or your own cellar. You can use a bar-bell in any space where you can use a pair of 5-lb. dumbbells. When practicing actual lifting, it is sometimes necessary to let the ball fall; although I know men who have become star lifters by practicing in their own rooms, and they never dropped a bell. In practicing the developing exercises, there is no likelihood nor necessity for dropping a bell.
The reason for privacy is the necessity for intense concentration on the work. I do not mean that you have to grit your teeth and get red in the face, or flex your muscles by mental effort; but that you do have to pay a lot of attention to the way you are doing the different exercises. In any exercise, a few repetitions performed correctly are of more benefit than three times as many repetitions performed in a slovenly manner. If you feel that you must invite someone to watch you practice, pick out some chap who is familiar with bar-bell work and who will be able to explain to you the details of the exercises. After you have gotten your strength and development, then, if you want to practice lifting, you can take your bar-bell to a gymnasium; but you should pick out a gymnasium that is patronized by other lifting enthusiasts. By that time you will have gotten a very good idea of the measure of your own powers, and you will know just how much you can lift; and when you lean over and lift a bell from the floor, you will be able to make a very accurate estimate of its weight, and can tell by instinct whether or not it is in your power to lift it in a certain manner. Since the other lifters will have just the same experience and the same good judgment, the lot of you can practice competitive lifting and learn a good deal by studying the lifting style of the various members of the group.
If you suggest to the average undeveloped man that he take up bar-bell exercises as a means of development, he will reply, "Oh, I don't want that kind of exercise! It's too much like work. All my friends go to a gym, and play handball, or join the class-drills. The proper answer would be, "Well, what do your friends look like after they have spent two or three years at class-drills?" Class-work is a lot of fun. You meet your friends; and after a lot of dilly-dallying, you stand up in rows and try to imitate the different movements of the instructor. You stretch your muscles, shake up your liver, get in a mild perspiration and give your lungs a little moderate work. When the drill is over, you all troop to the showers and do a lot of shouting; and afterwards, you all go away telling each other how "perfectly bully" you feel. After the first two or three sessions, any excuse is good enough to keep from going to the next class-drill. If you did keep it up all winter, you'd be benefited to some extent. Your muscles would work easier and would gain in tone. Your digestion would probably improve, and so would your complexion. Understand me, almost any kind of exercise is good; but class-drills are more like play than serious work. When an instructor is about to give a drill to a large group of men, he has to gauge the severity of the work by the capability of the average member. Therefore, if you are bigger and stronger and more athletic than the average, you feel that you're being kept at kindergarten stunts; and if you happen to be fat, middle-aged and out of condition, you feel that you're holding back the progress of the rest of the class. In many gyms there are what is known as "leaders' classes"; but I believe that such classes devote themselves, not to bodybuilding work, but to the performance of elaborate stunts on the rings, the vaulting-horse or horizontal-bar exercises.
I have always been very much more interested in individual supremacy than in mass results. A regiment of soldiers drilling, or a couple of hundred gymnasts performing a mass-drill, bore me exceedingly. The very fact that so many individuals are doing the same thing, or making the same movements, is the best possible proof that those movements are easy to perform. If I go to a performance of an opera, I endure the singing of the chorus until the principals are again on the stage. You would have to pay me to make me sit through a performance of an oratorio, or a cantata, by a big chorus; although I would pay a high price to hear in individual singing star, like Ruffo or Chaliapin, Hempel or Destinn. If I go to the Russian Ballet, I feel that part of the time is wasted when I have to watch forty or fifty girls doing toe-dancing movements or other evolutions at the same time; but when a great star like Nijinsky, or Nordkoff, or Pavlowa dances, I am all eyes, and I feel that I am getting more than my money's worth.
When it comes to gymnastics and athletics or bodybuilding work, I carry my likes and dislikes even further. One time there was a big convention of gymnasts, and the main feature was a mass-drill by 1000 men, who came from gymnasiums all over the country. I was specially invited; and the men who promoted the affair never could understand why I did not go to the Exhibition. The reason was that on the same night I had a chance to see at a local theatre, the performance of a pair of wonderful hand-balancers. Both of these men were superbly developed and enormously strong. They were living examples of what can be accomplished by specialized and individualized training. In order to do their act, each one of them had to have far more strength, agility and suppleness, than is possessed by the average athlete; and I learned more and got more satisfaction by watching them, than I could possibly have gotten by watching 1000 average gymnasts of average strength to average stunts.
Therefore, I am not very much impressed if I read a report stating that a class of forty men spent a winter at gymnastic training, and that at the end of the season, the average gain was 1 inch in chest measurement, 1/2 inch in arm measurement, 3/4 inch in leg measurement, and 5 lbs. in weight; because I know that the weakest member of that class, if trained individually, could have gained 4, or maybe 6, inches around the chest; 2 inches around the arms, and 3 inches around the thighs; and gained 15 to 25 lbs. in bodily weight. You can't get results like that in class work. Moderate improvement can be made by class work; but great improvement is a matter of individual instruction, individual training, and individual study. It is just as impossible for the best instructor in bodybuilding to give individual instruction to a class of twenty-four as it would be for a great music teacher to give twenty-four pupils real results if he made them sit down at twenty-four pianos and play the same music at the same time. If a gymnastic instructor could take twenty-four pupils one at a time and give each one of them fifteen or thirty minutes' special instruction, he could perform wonders with the majority of them; but that would not be class teaching, but individual teaching.
There is no "simple and easy" way of getting a magnificently built body and the super- strength which goes with such development. It is just the same as in any other work that you do for the purpose of improving yourself. In the columns of some magazines, you will find advertisements which claim that if you pay a fee of $2.00 or $3.00, you will be sent a "new method" which will convert you into a first-class pianist in the few weeks it takes to complete that special course of lessons. There must be people who believe such statements, because the advertisements continue to appear; yet if you know anything at all about music, you also know that it takes several years' study before a pianist reaches the front rank of players. If you went to a good music teacher and told him that you wanted to become a piano player like Paderewski or Hofman or Godowsky, he would reply, "Well, I will teach you all that I can; and you will have to give up a lot of time to it and practice several hours a day. After I am through with you, you may have to go abroad for a year or two and work in one of the big conservatories, or go to a man like Letzitsky for special coaching." If you did make such progress that a trip to Europe was justified, you would go with the foreknowledge that you would have to work and study even harder under the great coach, than under the preliminary coach; and that the large sums of money you would have to pay would not be for drills in the elementary part of the work, but for special knowledge. To get a magnificently developed body is a much easier matter than to become a great musician; but the principle is the same. You will never get to be very strong by elementary gymnastic exercises, any more than you will get to be a great pianist by practicing easy five-finger exercises for a few months. To master the piano or any other instrument, the performer has to learn the theory of music as well as the technical mastery of the keyboard. If a man of average size, poor health and little development, wishes to get the strength, shape and physical energy of a Sandow, it is not sufficient to know just which exercises to do. He must know how to do them, and why he does them.
A knowledge of muscular anatomy is a great help to anyone who is taking a bodybuilding course. There are over 200 muscles in the body; and at first glance, it seems as though it would be a tremendous task to learn the names of those 200 muscles, where they are, what they do, and how to develop them. If you are interested, the knowledge will come easily. I know men who can instantly tell you the 1923 batting average of any of the 200 baseball players in the big leagues. They carry those figures and a lot of other baseball dope, in their heads. They did not study hard to get that information, but absorbed it in the course of their daily reading of the sporting pages. If you use your muscles intelligently, it won't be more than a few days before you know the names of the principal muscles and what they do; and it will not be much longer before you know the names of practically all the muscles. Such knowledge of anatomy is not absolutely necessary; but it is a great help.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Now let us go back to the difference between the French and German styles of lifting. As I said before, when a German was going to make a one-arm jerk, he would lift the bell from the floor to the chest with both hands, and the Frenchman would lift it all the way with one hand.
If you ask a beginner to lift a heavy bar-bell with one hand to his shoulder, he will instinctively try to make the lift by arm-strength. He leans over, grasps the middle of the handlebar and slowly straightens up. This brings the bar-bell about opposite the middle of his thigh. Then he tries to get the weight still higher by bending the arm; that is, he tries to "curl" it. He quickly finds that his biceps' strength is not sufficient to raise the weight; so he leans his body back at the waist and tries to swing the bell outwards, and the only result is that the weight rises a few inches and then falls back against his thighs.
Here is the way a trained lifter manages it. The method is like that employed in the snatch, except that in the snatch you use the over-grip, but in lifting a bar-bell to the shoulder you use the under-grip. The lifter stoops down, as in Fig. 74, with his knees bent considerably, his body inclined forward from the hips and his back perfectly flat. His arm is as straight as a poker. He then "stands up" quickly; and if he puts enough vigor into the movement, and assists himself by pressing hard against the left knee with the left hand, the bell will fly up in the air until it is about opposite the nipples. Then the lifter bends his knees and lowers his body in a straight line, pulls the bell directly towards his shoulder; and from that point he can lift the bell aloft. If the bar-bell is a light one, a good lifter does not have to employ the second bend of the legs, because the first effort will be powerful enough to make the bell fly to shoulder-height. On the contrary, with a really heavy bell, the first movement will not bring the handlebar much higher than the waist-line; and then the lifter has to go into a deep crouch in order to pull the bell in towards his shoulder. (As in the overhand jerk, some lifters step backwards and some forwards. Some of them practically kneel on the knee of the right leg.)
When a dumbbell is used, it should be put fore and aft between the feet, and the lifter should start in the same way and swing the bell slightly outwards as he pulls it upwards; because it is necessary to turn the bell completely over to get it into pressing position. It is easier to lift a 150-lb. bar-bell clean to the shoulder than to do the same thing with a 120-lb. dumbbell.
In order to get a quick start for a 100-yard dash, the sprinter goes into a crouch, because it has been proven that a man can release more energy and get a quicker start in that position than if he stands upright. A football linesman, when about to charge his opponent, also goes into a crouch; he can push harder in that position. When a lifter is going to raise a heavy weight clean to the shoulder, he crouches almost as low as the sprinter does, although he does not bend either his back as far forward or his legs quite as much at the knees.
There is another example of the superiority of bodily strength over arm strength. I have seen a man who could not make a correct one-arm curl with 75 lbs. pull a 200-lb. bar-bell clean to the shoulder with his right hand.
For some reason or other, when a French lifter pulls a bar-bell clean from floor to shoulder, he uses the over-grip, just as he does in the snatch; and just why the French should elect to handicap themselves in this way is hard to decide. In May 1917, at an exhibition in my factory, Anton Matysek tried to make a record for himself in the one-arm clean and press; but for some reason he used the over-grip in pulling the bell from floor to shoulder. He did 190 lbs. easily and failed at 201. I told him then, and I am still convinced, that if he had used the under-grip he could have pulled 220 lbs. To the shoulder quite easily. The palm of his hand would have been toward him when the bell was at the shoulder, and in order to get the bell in position for the press, all that would have been necessary was to swing the right hand end of the bell backwards. By using the over-grip he landed himself in position, Fig. 75; and then, in order to get the bell so that he could press it, he had to swing the left hand end backwards and duck far to the left, so that the handlebar could pass over his head. However, that position has nothing to do with the fact that he deliberately restricted the amount he could lift to his shoulder through using the over-grip. At that time he could press aloft from the shoulder 240 lbs., any time he tried to do so, and occasionally he'd go over 250 lbs. Therefore, if he had started by using the under-grip, he would have made a record of at least 200, "clean" all the way. As it was, he didn't even get a chance to try to press 201, because he failed--through using the over-grip--to bring the weight to his shoulder.
There is a French, or French-Swiss, family called De Riaz; and three brothers of that name, Emile, George and Maurice, are among the most famous of European lifters. Any one of them can do 180 lbs. in a one-arm swing and 190 lbs. in a one-arm snatch. I think it was Emile who made a one-arm swing with 193 3/4, and Maurice who did a one-arm clean and jerk with 231 lbs. George Lurich, who in his youth was one of the world's greatest lifters, lifted from the floor to the shoulder, with two hands, and then jerked aloft with the right arm, a bar-bell weighing 266 1/5 lbs. From what I have seen of Henry Steinborn, I am sure that he could break either of these records with ease. He once promised me that if there was sufficient inducement, he would make a one-arm jerk with 270 lbs., clean all the way, and a one-arm jerk of 300 lbs., two hands to the shoulder.
Arthur Saxon, whose best public record in the one-arm snatch was around 200 lbs., could pull a 300-lb. bar-bell "clean" to the shoulder, and then "bent-press" it to arm's length. Anything that Saxon could do in the "clean lifts" or the "quick lifts," Steinborn can beat by five percent.
Lifting a bell to the shoulder with two hands, preparatory to a one-hand overhead lift, is a comparatively simple matter. You grasp the middle of the bar with the right hand, under-grip, and with your left hand you take an over-grip the fingers of the left hand encircling the knuckles of the right hand. From the half-crouch, you straighten up and lift with both arms. In some countries it is allowed to stand a bar-bell on end and rock it into position, but that is more a matter of leverage than strength. Fig. 76 shows Matysek about to rock a 220-lb. bell to the shoulder. First, he will tilt the bell until the upper sphere is away from him; then he will make the bell lean in the other direction, so that the upper sphere will fall over his shoulder. As he does this, he will slide the palm of his left hand down the under side of the handle and toward the lower sphere. When the top end of the bell commences to dip backwards, he will allow his legs to bend at the knees, and with his left hand he will raise the front sphere; which will make the bell slowly topple into a horizontal position. Then he will stand erect by straightening the legs and be in a position to start his press.
In lifting a bar-bell with two hands clean to the shoulder, you use the over-grip. When you straighten the body from the crouch, the bell flies up to opposite your chest, and the elbows will be pointed outward and upwards. Then, when the bell loses its momentum, you have to bring your elbows down like a flash and at the same time pull the bell towards you; and if you do the movement correctly, your forearms will be vertical under the handlebar and your upper arms pressed against the sides of your chest; and just as in the other clean lifts, some lifters step forward, some backward, and the best ones squat straight down. The French authorities used to claim that the world's record in the two-arm clean and jerk was Arvid Anderson's 328 lbs., although Des Bonnet recognized Cyr's 345 lbs. Steinborn's official 347-3/4 is the present record, and his unofficial 375 lbs. has never been approached. In German and Austrian competitions the rules formerly required (and may still require) that a lifter about to make a two-arm press should raise the bell clean to the chest; as it was considered that anyone should be able to raise clean to the chest the amount of weight which he could press to arms' length; because in the press you use the strength of the arms and the shoulders, without any assistance from the legs. As said in Chapter 12, the lifter about to make a two-arm jerk was allowed to raise the weight to the chest in any way he pleased. I have no partiality for the Germans and Austrians, but in any discussion of weightlifting, it is necessary to take those nations into account, because they numbered their lifters by the tens of thousands. The reason that they had a number of men who could raise over 370 lbs. in the two-arm jerk, while France had none who could raise 350, and England none who could raise 325, was bed the German rules permitted the lifters to practice with heavier weights. For a long time the French and English lifters never had a chance to show what they really could do in a two-arm jerk, because the amount of weight they could handle in that lift was limited by the amount they could raise clean to that chest. I am not interested in any controversy between the German-Austrian lifters on the one hand and the French-English lifters on the other, but I am vitally interested in knowing the amount of weight which can be lifted by the strength of any muscle or set of muscles. Since everyone knows that a lifter can raise from his shoulders to arms' length above the head a greater weight than he can bring clean from the floor to the chest, it is perfectly plain that any lifter, whatever his nationality, who restricts himself to the "clean" style will never be able to reach the limit of his powers in the overhead lift. For several years the world's record in the two-arm jerk was held by William Tuerk, an Austrian giant, who lifted 364 lbs., and the citizens of Vienna were so proud of him that they presented him with the freedom of the city. His record was later eclipsed by several other Austrians, Tandler, Grafl, Eicheldrat, Witzelsberger and Steinbach. Steinbach took a 386-lb. bar-bell to the shoulders and jerked it aloft twice in succession. About 1912 a new star appeared in the person of Karl Swaboba. This man, while not very tall, was immensely broad and weighed about 320 lbs. (He should not be confused with the Mr. Swoboda who is prominent in physical culture circles in this country.) I understand that Swaboba of Vienna made a two-arm press with 352 lbs., and a two-arm jerk with 402 lbs.; and that in that latter lift it took him five separate motions to raise the bell from the floor to the chest. When he did get it to his chest, he jerked it aloft quite easily. It is further said that on one occasion he made a two-arm jerk with 440 lbs. after four men had lifted the bell to his chest. I do not guarantee the accuracy of the foregoing figures, because I have lost, or given away, most of my old books and magazines which dealt with the subject.
This is not a book about records, nor does it pretend to tell you all about the most scientific methods of performing the standard lifts. One could write a book of considerable size, and deal with nothing except records and the way they were made. What we are concerned with is the creation of bodily strength; and since bodily strength is a great factor in the two-arm jerk, I have to devote a good deal of time to that lift. If you are going to practice it, I certainly advise you to learn the so-called "continental" method of raising the bell to the chest, for otherwise you will be unable to determine how much you really can raise in a two-arm jerk.
Authorities on scientific lifting claim that a well-trained and very skillful man, who has great agility as well as great bodily strength, should be able to raise, in a two-arm jerk, fifty percent more than he can riase in the two-arm press. This is a most interesting subject, because investigation proves that a middle-sized man, well developed and quick in his movements, can deliver much more power in proportion to his bodily weight than can the big giants. Cyr could make a two-arm press with 315 lbs., and could do only about ten per cent more if he used the jerk. When Swaboba did all the lifting himself, his best record in the jerk was less than fifteen percent better than his best record in the press. Arthur Saxon, who weighed about 200 lbs., and was exceedingly quick for a big man, showed a difference of about thirty-three and a third percent, as his records were 260 in the press and 345 in the jerk. Steinborn, who was the quickest heavy man I have ever seen, showed a difference of about forty percent for he has raised 375 in the two-arm jerk clean all the way, and I believe that his best record in the press is about 265.
There are a number of men weighing around 140 to 150 lbs. who have reached the fifty-percent standard. Max Sick, who weighed about 145 lbs., succeeded in raising 300 lbs. in the two-arm jerk, and I understand that his best record in the two-arm press was about 220 lbs. There are several of the European lifters in the 140 to 150-lb. class who can make a two-arm press with about 200 lbs. and a two-arm jerk with about 300 lbs. The ambition of every lifter is to raise double his own weight aloft in the two-arm jerk. So far there are less than a dozen men who have done this, and they are comparatively small men. I know two or three amateurs in this country who are rapidly approaching that standard. This matter of the two-arm jerk should be a great source of satisfaction to the lifter of average size, because it proves that a man does not necessarily have to be a giant in size or weight in order to be possessed of super-strength. Just think! Little Max Sick, weighing 143 pounds, did 330 in a two-arm jerk; and the gigantic Swaboba, who weighed over 300 (which is twice as much as Sick weighed), could raise only about 70 lbs. more than the smaller man could.
Super-strength is as much a matter of muscular development and co-ordination as it is of mere size and bulk. The middle-sized man who can raise twice his weight in the two-arm jerk is a far better athlete than the giant who can raise only a little more than his own weight. Moreover, super-strength positively can be cultivated, which is a very satisfying thought.
In the old days of lifting, that is, up to forty years ago, American athletes were acquainted with only one style of pushing a weight overhead. At that time such a thing as a bar-bell was almost unknown, although there were plenty of short-handled dumbbells. The best lifter of those days was the man who could take the heaviest dumbbell in his right hand, swing it to his shoulder, and then, while standing erect, push it slowly to arm's length overhead. In weightlifting circles that is known as a one-arm "military" press. The lifter is required to stand with the heels together, the legs straight and, as the name implies, to keep his body as upright as that of a soldier standing "at attention." In some parts of the world the lifter is made to stand with the left hand pressed against the outside of his left thigh, and in other parts he is allowed to hold the left arm horizontally to the side. The lift to the shoulder is unimportant, because the weight used is not very heavy; but after it is at the shoulder, you have to hold the bell slightly away from you and slightly in front of you, as in Fig. 78, and then slowly push it up; and if you lean your shoulders back an inch, or an inch to the left, you're disqualified. The force which lifts the bell is supplied by a contraction of the deltoid muscle on the point of the right shoulder and the triceps muscle on the back of the arm. The body muscles are involved because they have to keep the body in an upright position; the legs have but little to do. It is much harder to bring your arm directly overhead when the body is held erect than when you lean the body over sideways or forwards; because when you do lean the body over you are pushing the arm more out to the side, even though the bell travels up in a vertical line.
Arthur Saxon, who could make a one-arm bent press with 336 lbs., could not military-press 130 lbs.; and Sandow, who had a bent-press record of 271, could military-press only 121. The "military press" is a test of pure arm and shoulder strength, and, as I will show you in a later chapter, the bent-press is a feat of bodily strength. I can't tell you the record in the military press. In a previous book I said that Witzelsberger, of Vienna, had done 154 lbs., but I have since been told that while Witzelberger kept his heels together and his legs straight, he bent his body over slightly. It is said that Cyr once made a military press with a 165-lb. bar-bell, and Mr. Jowett says he saw the giant, La Vallee, do 165 lbs. The tradition is that Michael Meyer could make a one- arm military press of 150 pounds without much trouble. (This is the same man who is said to have muscled-out 112 lbs. to the front.) When doing a "strong" act with a circus, Meyer would stand with his back to one of the tent-poles. Attendants would wind a rope around his body, binding it fast to the post, but leaving his right arm free. He would hold his right hand in front of the right shoulder, and the attendants would put a 150-lb. bell in it, and Meyer would slowly push it aloft. This is not as hard as it sounds, because the ropes which encircled Meyer's body gave him a splendid brace. The man who can make the biggest one-arm military press is the man who can muscle-out the heaviest weight; which proves that a powerful shoulder muscle is the thing that counts most. The fact that Cyr could military-press 165 lbs. is explained by his ability to muscle- out 135 lbs.; and the same thing applies to Meyer, to Zottman and others of the big men.
Last summer I saw Robert Snyder make a beautiful one-arm military press with 91 lbs., and he weighed only a little over 140 lbs. He just failed in 96 lbs. He put the bell up easily enough, but he bent a little bit to the side.
In a two-arm military press, the weight should be lifted clean and then pressed aloft without any backward bend of the body or without the slightest bend of the legs. Your record in the two-arm military press should be nearly double your record in the one-arm military press. Shoulder strength is just as important, and back strength is also necessary. If you are of average size, the bell you would use in a one-arm military press is not as heavy as you are, probably not half as heavy as you are; but in a two-arm press it is possible to use more than your own weight, and in order to keep the body upright, your back must be very strong. The reason I can believe that Cyr made a one-arm military pres with 165 lbs. is because his record in the two-arm press is 315, and they say that he hardly leaned back at all when he made that two-arm press.
"Military-pressing," like "muscling-out," is a test of strength rather than an exercise. In making a regular two-arm press, the athlete is allowed to stand with the feet apart and one foot slightly in advance; but he must not bend the legs after the weight has been brought to the chest or while he is pushing it aloft; although he is allowed to lean considerably backwards from the waist.
There is an intermediate lift between the two-arm press and the two-arm jerk that is sometimes called "the push." After the bell is at the chest, the lifter leans his shoulders forward and brings his hips backwards, as in Fig. 79 and then, as he suddenly pushes the bell aloft, he brings his hips forward and bends over backward, as in Fig. 80. I can see no particular advantage in this style of lifting, either as a competitive event or as a training exercise. You can raise more by the "push" than by the press, but not so much as by the jerk. In one-arm lifting, you accomplish a right-arm push by standing with the feet apart and then bending to the right, as in Fig. 81; and then swinging the body to the left and slightly forward as you push the bell aloft, as in Fig. 82. A very strong workman or athlete seems to instinctively adopt this style the first time he tries to "push up" a heavy dumbbell.
There is also a variation called "the side press," and that can be dealt with in another chapter.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Now we have finally gotten as far as your arms. If I had started out by telling you how to develop your upper-arm muscles, some of you would never have gone beyond that chapter, because the average physical culturist is firmly convinced that great strength depends entirely on the size and strength of the upper arms. Such arm exercises as have been given so far were incidental to the development of the shoulders and back. When you push barbells, dumbbells or kettle-bells aloft, as in Figs. 51, 52, and 53, you are doing the best possible exercise for developing the outer head of the triceps muscle. When you lift a kettle-bell, as in Fig. 49, you are developing the inner side of the arm, which is another part of the triceps muscle. To develop your biceps muscles, all you have to do is to take a bar-bell in your hands, palms forward, and slowly raise that bell by bending your arms at the elbows, until the bell is in position Fig. 72. the exercise will be easier if you keep your hands a little farther apart than the breadth of your shoulders. Another helpful thing is to bend the wrists and lift the palms of the hands before you start to bend the arms at the elbows. If you are small and light, 30 lbs. is enough to begin with; if you weigh 200 lbs. you can start with 60 or 65 lbs. after you can repeat the curling motion several times in succession without much exertion, add 5 or 10 pounds to the weight of the bell. After the weight has been increased, you will be able to curl only two or three times; but after a few days' practice you can repeat as many times as you did with the lighter weight, and then you must make another weight increase and proceed as before.
When the bell is held with the palms in front, or what we call "the under-grip," the biceps muscle can exert more power than if you hold the palms down (the overgrip). That is because the forearm muscles, which bring the palm towards the forearm, are stronger than the muscles which bring the back of the hand towards the forearm. If you have ever practiced chinning the bar, you have undoubtedly found that you can chin twice as often with the palms towards you as with the palms of the hands away from you. In curling a bar-bell you will raise anywhere from 50 to 75 per cent more by the under-grip than by the over-grip.
The biceps muscle, which bends the arm, is only about two-thirds as large and as strong as the triceps muscle, which straightens the arm. A well-developed man who can make a two-arm curl (under-grip) with 100 lbs., should be able to make a two-arm press with 140 or 150 lbs. (The two-arm press is nothing more nor less than the shoulder exercise illustrated in Fig. 51.) Curling a barbell with both hands, or a dumbbell with one hand, will give you big biceps muscles; but the curling should be used only as an exercise, and not as a feat of strength. In European competitions I have never known "curling" weights to be included in a program of competitive lifts; although it sometimes appears on the list of English lifts.
The biceps muscle is not nearly as important as you think it is. The amount of weight you can lift by a contraction of the biceps is paltry compared to the amount of weight you can lift by the strength of one leg, or by the contraction of even one of the muscles on your upper back. If you practice with a bar-bell you will be surprised to see how quickly you reach your limit in "curling" barbells. Your record in pressing a bar-bell to arms' length overhead will always be far better than your record in "curling" a bar-bell. Although I have seen many middle-sized men take a 200-lb. bar-bell in both hands and press it slowly to arms' length above the head, I have never yet seen a man perform a two-arm curl with a bell of that weight I have seen lifters curl 100 lbs. with one arm, but they first placed the bell on the ground, and when they leaned over and took hold of the bell, they already had the arm slightly bent at the elbow, and as they straightened the legs it would give the bell a little bit of a start. The proper way to do a one-arm curl is to stand erect, with the bell in one hand and that arm hanging limp at the side. Then you can move the arm slightly forward, twist the bell so that your palm is front; and then, with the hand in the under-grip position, slowly bend the arm until you have lifted the bell to in front of the shoulder. While bending the arm, you should not lean back at the waist. Your body should be upright at all times. I have never seen 100 lbs. curled with one arm. There are, undoubtedly, men who can do this, but I have never happened to see one of them do it. I believe that Henry Steinborn, or either Joe or Adolph Nordquest could curl 100 lbs. with one hand, although I never heard any of them say that they have done so. I remember that Warren Travis once told me that he saw Horace Barre do a one-arm curl three times in succession, with a 100-lb. dumbbell. Furthermore, he said that Barre did not bother to rotate his arm and use the undergrip, but held the hand sideways, as in Fig. 73. if Barre had used the undergrip at the start of the curl, he would undoubtedly have curled 125 lbs. at least once; but then Barre weighed close to 300 lbs. himself, and it is not much of a trick to do a "one-arm curl" with a bell half your own weight. I saw Henry Steinborn do a two-arm curl five or six times in succession, with a bar-bell that weighed 173 lbs. (as in Fig. 130). It did not seem to be the least trouble to him. He was about to pose for some pictures, and he used the bar-bell for a few minutes to get his muscles flushed with blood so that they would be bigger and show up better in the photographs. Charles Herold, who weighed less than 160 lbs., could do a one-arm curl properly with 90 lbs., but when he curled 100 lbs. he would start the curl from the floor with his arm slightly bent. On one occasion Herold stood between two dumbbells, each of which weighed 103 lbs. He leaned over, curled one bell with the right hand in the style described, and then did a military press with the bell at arm's length above his head. He leaned over again, curled the other bell with his left hand, and slowly pushed it up alongside of the first bell. Each movement was either a slow curl or a slow military press.
In a recent article in Strength, Mr. Jowett made a statement that Louis Cyr once did a one-arm curl with a dumbbell weighing 238 lbs. I can believe most of the stories at Cyr, but with all due respect to Mr. Jowett, I can't believe that one. Cyr did a one-arm press with 273 lbs., and my friend, George Zottman, pressed 264 in almost exactly the same style that Cyr used. Zottman admits that he cannot do a correct one-arm curl with 100 lbs., and I doubt whether Cyr, who weighed 100 lbs. more than Zottman, could have done a one-arm curl with more than 165 lbs. at the outside.
(After I dictated the foregoing paragraphs, I went to see Zottman in order to get his opinion on the matter. He agreed with me in believing that it was impossible for Cyr to make a one-arm curl with 238 lbs. when I asked him his opinion as to whether Cyr could have "muscled-out" 135 lbs. with his right hand, he said that he could easily credit that feat, because he had, himself, once held out a 114-lb. dumbbell, although he was able to maintain it t arm's length for only one second. He first pressed the bell aloft and lowered it into position, and he showed me the position in which he stood. [It was something like Fig. 60, but he stood straighter and his right arm was not nearly so much bent; neither was his body bent as far to the left.] He said that he could muscle-out with one arm more than he could curl properly with one arm, and that he believes this is true of most "Strong Men" who can press big weights aloft with one arm. He further said that if he muscled-out 114 lbs., Cyr should certainly have muscled-out 135, because Cyr's arms were a little shorter and much thicker than his own.)
In a later chapter, I will show you how the size of the biceps is affected by the size of the forearm.
Friday, March 19, 2010
I am hurrying to get through with the technical descriptions of the various standard lifts, because I wish to get down to the really important part of this book; and that is the function of the barbell as a body-building and muscle-developing instrument. I used to be very fond of lifting, and made a study of it. I am still interested in it, and, consequently, when I write in these chapters about a certain lift I find that after I say, "In conclusion," I am apt a little later to say "Finally," and still later, "Now just one word more," in the manner of all the other long-winded preachers. (I did it in the last chapter, and at that, I forgot to tell you there was a lift known as the two-arm snatch. It is just the same as the one-arm snatch except that you use two arms. To me it is a very unimportant lift, because it is a movement you would rarely duplicate either in any kind of sport or in any kind of work.)
Next in order of discussion comes the lift known as "the jerk." In this lift, with the bell held at the height of the shoulders, the lifter (as in Fig. 67), while keeping his body erect, bends the legs slowly at the knees, and as he suddenly straightens them he simultaneously shoots his hand aloft. This motion will carry the bell to about level with the crown of the head, and then it loses its momentum. At that exact instant you must again bend the knees and squat under the bell, just as in Fig. 29. you will notice that this is exactly the position as one of the leg exercises. When a beginner starts to practice the "jerk," either with one hand or two hands, he is possessed with the idea that the first motion should carry the bell all the way to arms' length. So he will make a tremendous effort, which will carry the bell about 5 inches above the head, and then he will stand with the legs almost straight, and try to force the bell up the rest of the way by pure arm strength. You will probably do just that when you start to practice it, and if you do you must stop at once and learn the correct way. If you can master the second dip with the knees, your record will be 50 to 100 lbs. better than if you attempt to force the bell up entirely by arm strength. The second dip with the knees is the most important part in the whole lift. Some lifters perform a sort of split in order to lower the body; that is, they spring forward with one foot and backward with the other. Others step forward with one foot, and still others step backward with one foot. That is all lost motion. The correct thing is to drop the body straight downwards by sitting on the heels, which is the style used by Steinborn.
In making a right-arm jerk some lifters bend the body slightly to the left and allow the right arm to rest on the right side of the body, as in Fig. 68. in a two-arm jerk some lifters allow the handle bar to rest on the upper chest, as in Fig. 67, and jerk the bell off the body. Geo. Jowett holds the bell almost opposite his chin and extends the elbows out to the front. That is an extremely scientific method, because before Jowett has started to raise the bell overhead, his elbows are half way up; whereas if a man holds his elbows down by his sides, as in Fig. 67, they have to travel twice as far as Jowett's doe before the arms are straightened. But Mr. Jowett has a tremendous wrist and very thick forearms, and I doubt whether his style would be possible for everyone. However, it is interesting to know that Jowett at the weight of 158 lbs., and using his style, raised 286 lbs. in the two-arm jerk; whereas Steinborn, using the other style, raised 345 officially, and 375 unofficially, and Steinborn weighed 215 lbs. Since Jowett came closer than Steinborn to raising double his own weight, his style seems to be justified.
If you were reading a lifting-record book you would be very much confused by the multiplicity of records, unless you were posted regarding the styles used in different countries. In England and France the rules require that a lifter must raise the bell clean from the floor to shoulder before jerking it aloft. In fact, I believe that they still enforce that rule. The word "clean" signifies that the bell must be lifted in one motion to the chest without touching the body on its upward journey. In Germany and Austria the lifter was allowed to get the bell to the shoulders in any way that he pleased. If he were going to make a one-arm jerk he was permitted to take the bell in two hands and, with a mighty swing, bring it from the floor to in front of his right shoulder. Then he would let go with his left hand and make the jerk with the right arm. An English or French lifter would be disqualified if he did that. He was compelled to lift the bell with one hand all the way, and to use only his right arm in raising the bell to the shoulder, as well as in jerking it from the shoulder to overhead. In the two-arm jerk the French and English lifters raised the bell clean; but in Germany, Austria, and all the other European countries, the lifter could raise the bell from the floor, rest it on his abdomen, as in Fig. 71, then give a jump, get it across the lower part of his chest, and then with another jump get it opposite his neck and ready to jerk aloft. (Sometimes the rules were so lax that the lifter was allowed to wear a belt with a huge buckle in front. He would raise the bell and rest it on this buckle; then he would lean back from the waist and roll the bell up the front of his body. This is an easy trick for a stout man.) When you compare the foreign records you must take into consider the method used. The French record is something like 345 lbs.; whereas, the Austrian record is almost 80 lbs. more. That record stood for years until Henry Steinborn, in Philadelphia, did 347-3/4 pounds under official conditions. Then, a week later, he did 375 lbs. unofficially. He thought he was lifting 350, but the men who loaded the bell made a miscalculation, and the bell actually weighed 375. Steinborn failed in his first two attempts and got it up on his third attempt, because he knew in his heart and soul that he could do 350. when they weighed the bell and they found that he had done 375, he could hardly believe the news.
Before the War, I used to subscribe to French, English and German magazines which were devoted to lifting, and even then the German lifters sneered at the smallness of the French records, and the French in their turn sneered at what they called "the German's clumsy and unfair style." The only way in which I am interested in the controversy is in its relation to super strength.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
So far I have said practically nothing about the upper arms, and have mentioned the arm muscles only incidentally, as they were involved in chest or shoulder-developing exercises. I did this deliberately with the attempt to make you realize the greater importance of back and leg strength to the super-strong man. Suppose we now analyze one lift in which a dumbbell is lifted to arms' length above the head in order that you may see how, in that lift, the bulk of the work is done by the shoulders, back and legs, and only a small part of the work done by the upper arm muscles.
In this lift, which is called the "one-arm swing," it is best to use a dumbbell. You stand with the feet apart and well braced with a dumbbell parallel to the feet, and the rear sphere a couple of inches beyond the toes. You lean over by inclining the body forward from the hips and by bending at the knees. Gripping the dumbbell with your hand close to the front sphere you lift it from the floor and swing it back between the legs - as in Fig. 62 - keeping the arm straight.
This is simply to give you a start, because after the bell has reached the position in Fig. 62 you swing it forward again (keeping the right arm straight) in a semicircular movement until the hand which holds the bell is above your head. This is only a general description. What actually happens is that when the bell is opposite your eyes you quickly bend your knees and sit on your heels (as in Fig. 63), thus lowering your body in a way which enables you to get underneath the mounting bell. If you omit this second dip of the legs you will raise anywhere from 40 to 80 lbs. less than if you do use the legs correctly. If you will compare Fig. 62, showing the position at the commencement of the upward swing, with Fig. 12 in the chapter about back exercises, it will be seen that the positions are practically identical. The amount of vigor which you can put into swinging the bell forward and upward depends on the power with which you can press against the floor with your feet, and the vigor with which you can bring the body back to the erect position. The more time you have spent in practicing the back and leg exercises, the more weight you will be able to "swing" aloft.
The arm movement, which is forward and upward, is caused by the vigorous contractions of the muscles on the shoulder and upper back; therefore, exercises like the one illustrated in Fig. 12, which develop the shoulder, also give you the kind of strength you need in this one-arm swing. In the chapter on leg exercises you were advised to practice constantly the exercise illustrated in Fig. 28, because that particular exercise not only developed the muscles in the thighs, but gave you the confidence necessary to sit on the heels while holding a weight at arms' length overhead. Unless you have practiced that exercise diligently you will find that you have not the confidence necessary to successfully complete a one-arm swing. There are lots of fine points about this lift; as for instance the pressing against the left thigh with the left hand which gives you a brace and assists you in straightening the body. There are a lot of details about "timing" - which is the art of selecting the exact fraction of a second when the bell has lost the impetus given it by the act of straightening the body and legs, and at which instant it is necessary to lower the body by the second bend of the knees. Some lifters at the start of the swing place the bell on the floor behind them and dispense with the preliminary backward swing. Some lifters bend the body sideways instead of straight downwards at the completion of the lift.
But it is not the aim of this book to give instructions in scientific lifting. Its object is to show you how to get more strength and to tell you about what constitutes real strength. It is necessary to tell you something about the technique of the lifts so that you can understand why it is that some of these skillful experts are able to lift such enormous weights. It is perfectly possible for you to get a beautifully proportioned and magnificently developed body without ever practicing any of what we call "the standard lifts," but it is very likely that after you have developed super-strength you will like to occasionally make a test to know how you compare with others; and such a test would be greatly to you disadvantage if you did not employ the methods which skilled lifters employ.
In the old times a man who attempted the swing would stand with his legs almost straight, and bend over by arching his back. He would by a tremendous effort swing the bell at arm's length above his head, and would not employ the second bend of the legs as modern lifters do. Consequently, even the biggest and strongest old-timers could not do more than 125 lbs. in the one-arm swing; whereas modern lifters do a great deal more than that. The old-time lifter was considered good if he could make a one-arm swing with a dumbbell which weighed a little more than half as much as he did himself; while the aim of a modern lifter is to make a one-arm swing with a dumbbell of his own weight. The world's record (so far as I know) is 199 lbs., which was accomplished by the French lifter, Jean Francois (Fig. 64). Several professionals and a few amateurs have swung over 190 lbs., and 175 to 180 lbs. is nothing extraordinary for a big man to swing. I have never yet seen or heard of a big man swinging a dumbbell of his own weight, although the feat has been accomplished by several small men. I believe that Thos. Inch, of London, weighing 160 lbs., did a one-arm swing with 160 1/2 lbs. The present English record in the heavy-weight class is the 170-lb. lift of Edward Aston, and I believe that Aston himself does not weigh much more than that.
To successfully perform a one-arm swing with a bell almost as heavy as you are requires great speed of movement and accurate muscular co-ordination, as well as great bodily strength. To be successful in the quick lifts; such as the swing, the snatch and the jerk, you must have the speed of movement and the clever footwork of a boxer.
The point to be particularly noted is that when you perform a one-arm swing you do not feel the arm muscles working. The arm itself is held straight (though not rigid) throughout the entire lift, and it is just the part of you that transmits to the bell the power exerted by the contraction of the leg, back and shoulder muscles. If you use a moderate weight and perform a one-arm swing several times in succession, you get a fine exercise and one which will be valuable in teaching you co-ordination. It is necessary to learn all these "quick lifts" with a bell of such weight that you can handle it easily; but once you have mastered the principle governing the lift you will be able to increase the weight used very rapidly. In this one-arm swing you will probably be able to increase your record one hundred per cent within a few weeks after you do learn the methods, providing you have properly trained your back and legs. The advantage of making several successive lifts with a moderate weight is that the beginner always has a tendency to use too much arm strength and to try to finish the movement by an arm push. When making several repetitions the beginner's arm will tire rapidly, and about the third repetition he will find that, unconsciously, he is bending his knees more, and thus getting under the bell by lowering the body instead of by pushing with the arm. The more tired his arm gets the more he will bend his legs, and after a little experience of this kind he will be wise enough to do the second bend of the knees properly every time he swings the bell aloft. (Note: It is possible to use a kettle-bell instead of a dumbbell in the one-arm swing, but when using a kettle-bell you have to rotate the arm when the bell is opposite your face, so as to make the bell swing around and land on the back of the forearm, as in Fig. 65 (Frontispiece). This is a complicated motion that can be learned only by practice. If you do not rotate the arm correctly the kettle-bell will land against the upper arm with a jar that might break a bone.) Since you can swing more weight in the shape of a dumbbell than in the shape of a kettle-bell it is hardly worth the bother to learn the method of using a kettle-bell. Sandow made a one-arm swing with a kettle-bell weight, I think, 173 lbs. (I never heard his record with the dumbbell, but I am sure that he could swing a 190-lb. dumbbell.)
A somewhat similar and more popular lift is known as the "one-arm snatch," in which a bar-bell is used. The lifter stands back of the bell with the handle touching his ankles, leans over by bending the knees and inclining the body forward from the hips. In this lift you don't bend as far as you do in the one-arm swing and, therefore, it is necessary to round the back slightly. The bell is supposed to be pulled straight upwards in one unbroken line until it is at arm's length above the head, but most lifters raise the bell slightly forward as well as upward. In the one-arm swing the lifting arm is held straight throughout the entire performance of the lift, but in the one-arm snatch the arm is bent almost double when the bell is opposite the face. Just the same as in the swing, the lifter gets under the bell by lowering the body, and the correct instant at which to make the shift is when the bell has reached the level of the eyes. At the start of the snatch you stand up quickly, which means that you press hard against the floor with the feet, and straighten the legs and back at the same time; and if the movement is done correctly the bell will almost fly from the floor until it is opposite the chest. Continued practice is needed before you can exert sufficient power to make it fly up as high as the eyes. When the bell is that high you loosen your grip on the handle bar and instantaneously sit on your heels by bending the legs. This has to be done so quickly that you are under the bell with a straight arm, as in Fig. 66, before the bell has had time to drop an inch.
In the old times 100 lbs. was a good record in the snatch lift, because the lifters tried to throw the bell aloft solely by back and arm strength. The present record is somewhere between 215 and 220 lbs. Three years ago I erroneously stated that Henry Steinborn had created a new record when he made a one-arm snatch in Philadelphia with 208 lbs. I thought that the best previous lift was Vasseur's 205 lbs. I find that Vasseur has done close to 220 lbs. The night that Steinborn made his American record he had a few minutes before just barely failed to snatch 218 1/2 lbs. One of the most important parts of the snatch lift is where you ease up on your grip at the instant when you're getting under the bell, and in some cases they have gotten over this difficulty by using plate bar-bells in which the plates revolve very easily. Steinborn made his lift with the bell shown in Fig. 23. The plates fitted snugly over sleeves, which, in turn, fitted over the handle bar of the bar-bell. Between the sleeves and the bar there was a coating of vaseline; consequently the sleeves and plates would rotate very easily on the bar, making it unnecessary for Steinborn to loosen his grip. The night he made his record he snatched 208 lbs., and I know he could have done 220 in a one-arm snatch if that had been the only lift on the program. He did not push himself in the snatch, which was the first lift of the evening, because he was anxious, later on, to break Cyr's record in the two-arm "clean and jerk"; which he did.
I was told that Steinborn had a special bar constructed in which the sleeves revolved on ballbearings fitted between them and the bar. He came to me several days after he made his records, and when I told him I had found that Vasseur had done nearly 220 lbs. he wanted to make a bet with me that he could beat anything Vasseur did. He told me that he would try for a new record in the one-arm snatch, and if I would give him $100 for every pound over 230, he would give me $10 for every pound under 230 if he failed to reach that mark. As I had seen the man do over 220 in practice, I knew that he could do (especially if he trained for one particular lift), I declined the bet and saved my money. This man, although very powerfully made, was as quick on his feet as Benny Leonard, or any light-weight boxer. The records in all quick lifts are at his mercy. When, to his prodigious strength, he adds his speed of movement and his sense of timing, he can transmit to a bar-bell an incredible momentum. (By the way, when he does the snatch he uses a peculiar grip. Instead of holding the bell with the thumb outside the fingers he bends his thumb and puts it under the center of the bar and holds it there by placing the fingers outside of it. He claims that this makes it easier for him to make the "shift.")
In mentioning the records I have had to give those of the European lifters. This positively does not mean that the Europeans are any stronger than the men of this country. In Europe they have used bar-bells for years and competitive weight-lifting is a major sport. Consequently, the European lifters have, by the use of bar-bells, developed enormous strength and, by frequent competitive work, learned all the niceties of style. We, in this country, can do the same thing; in fact, we have done the same thing. Arthur Gildroy, who weights 135 lbs., has made a one-arm snatch with 146 lbs., and the other American lifters who have specialized on the snatch-lifting have done practically as well as the foreign lifters. There is no country of its size which produces as many really "Strong Men" as does this country. The Dominion of Quebec, Canada, produces natural "Strong Men" in wholesale quantities. In Finland they breed enormous men; but both Quebec and Finland are comparatively small, while this country is big. We have such an abundance of high-grade raw material that if we cared to go into competitive lifting I believe that America would hold the world's supremacy in that sport, just as it does in most other sports.
I have a friend in Philadelphia by the name of Jas. B. Juvenal, an ex-champion oarsman. From the time he was sixteen, Juvenal owned and used a 75-lb. dumbbell and a 150-lb. bar-bell. he had no adjustable bells because they were hard to get when he was a boy. He kept these bells at his boat club, and one day when he went to practice with them they were missing. The janitor said that he had been ordered by the captain of the club to throw the bells into the river. Juvenal hunted up the captain and have his orders that the bells should be fished up again. As his reason for disposing of the bells the captain said that he was afraid that some of the younger club members would start exercising with them, and in that way get "stiff and muscle-bound." Whereupon, Juvenal stated that he had been using those bells for a dozen years, and that in all that time no man out of the hundreds who rowed on that river had been able to keep abreast of him - much less beat him - and that by using the bar-bells he had vastly increased his muscular power and never lost a bit of his speed of movement. This Mr. Juvenal is so strong that when we once held a competition at the "one-arm pull-over" the only man who could beat him was the famous Joe Nordquest; Juvenal took second place over a lot of celebrated "Strong Men." I once asked him to try a one-arm snatch with a 135-lb. bar-bell. This bell was a solid affair with a handle bar 1 1/2 inches thick. Juvenal made the lift, but it was not a true snatch. He actually made a back-handed swing with the bar-bell; that is, he kept his arm straight just as though he were swinging a dumbbell. If he had used a thin-handled bar-bell and known the correct way to snatch the bell, he could easily have done 180 to 190 lbs., as he weighed over 200 lbs. himself. Although he must be over 50 years of age I know that he could make an American amateur record in the snatch if he were enough interested to practice the method.
In concluding this chapter I wish to say that I have never seen a star at the snatch or swing of was not beautifully built. The top-heavy man - the man with the big shoulders and thin legs - falls down utterly when he is asked to "swing" or "snatch" a really heavy weight. The men who hold the records in the swing and snatch are beautifully made. Their proportions are admirable, and they are of surpassing symmetry. Since the "quick lifts" require bodily strength it means that to succeed at these lifts you must have a body which is developed from head to heel.
But don't let us forget to analyze the action of the arm in the one-arm snatch. Because the weight it pulled almost directly upward the arm has to be bent as the bell mounts. When you first take hold of the bar the arm is straight and the knuckles of the hand are forward. (It would be impossible to make a snatch if you held the hand with the palm forward.) Therefore, the action of the arm is just the same as in the exercise for the upper back, illustrated in Fig. 49; and that, by the way, is the reason I described that exercise before I described the snatch lift. After the bell has reached the height of the face and you make the shift, the arm muscles are used hardly at all; because, if you bend your knees quick enough and far enough, your haunches will drop so that you can get your body straight up and down, and your lifting-arm straight up and down under the bell. Then all you have to do is to stand erect to complete the lift. Here is another reason for practicing the exercise shown in Fig. 28.
Now let us go back to Mr. Juvenal. When he was in his racing shell and started a stroke, his body was bent forward almost double, and his knees against his chest; and as he made the stroke he straightened his legs, drew his body backwards and pulled his hands straight in; using the same muscles as you would use in a snatch lift. I understand that he could put such immense power into his stroke that he never was beaten in a quarter-mile sprint rowing race, and so it is no wonder that he is able to make a fine record in a one-arm snatch. Also it will be noted that as a young man he claimed the world's championship in the stunt where you sit down facing another man, and both of you pull on a broom handle. The winner is the man that pulls the other man off the floor. In this stung one competitor presses the soles of his feet against the feet of the other man; and, as it is necessary to bend the knees slightly so as to lean forward and grasp the broom handle, the position is very much the same as at the beginning of the stroke in rowing. (I said "broom handle," but in lumber camps they use an ax handle. A broom handle would not last very long when gripped by two men of gigantic strength.) Once again let me say that I have found oarsmen to be far above the average in strength, especially those oarsmen who have devoted a lot of time to single sculling. They are an erect, square-shouldered, flat-back crowd, and their rowing has developed in them a keen sense of co-ordination. Almost any oarsman can be developed into a fine bar-bell lifter and can, if he cares to, greatly improve his physique by using bar-bells. He starts out with the advantage of knowing that it is important to know how to apply his strength. Juvenal, whose shoulders are immensely broad, has a chest of unusual depth. When he lies flat on his back and does the chest-developing exercise (Fig. 42) his chest swells up almost like a balloon as he lowers the bell.
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