Wednesday, April 21, 2010
It is impossible for any one to pick out an individual and say, "This man is stronger than any other human being in the world." The world is a very large place, and there are hundreds of "Strong Men"; some of them professionals, and many more of them amateurs. It is impossible to ever determine who is the strongest man; because, in the first place, it would be impossible to bring all the "Strong Men" of the world together; and in the second place, it would be very difficult to arrange a program of strength test which would be fair to all the competitors, skilled and unskilled.
When a man is extraordinarily strong, it frequently happens that he is lured into the professional ranks. Consequently, the best known "Strong Men" are professionals. Several years ago I wrote an article for the Physical Culture Magazine, in which I stated that the three strongest men of recent times were Louis Cyr, of Canada; Apollon, of France, and Youssoff, the gigantic Turkish wrestler. I should have qualified that statement by saying that these were the three strongest men who appeared publicly. There are men in Canada today who swear that the amateur, Horace Barre, was just as strong as his professional friend, Louis Cyr. Mr. Jowett says that the amateur, La Vallee, is stronger than either Cyr or Barre were. Apollon was a contemporary of Cyr's. The two never met in a contest. Prof. Des Bonnet, the French authority, claims that Cyr and Apollon were stronger than any other men of their time; but the Professor is a Frenchman, and so was Apollon, while Cyr was of French descent. Youssoff, as far as I can learn, was as strong as either of these two Frenchmen, and possibly stronger. The Germans and Austrians have several claimants for the title, and there is today is Vienna an Austrian named Carl Swaboda, who can beat any one in the world in two-arm bar-bell lifting, and lifting with two arms requires more bodily strength than lifting with one arm at a time. Swaboda is the only man in athletic history who has raised aloft more than 400 lbs. in the two-arm "jerk." His record far excels that of Cyr and Apollon. In Finland they breed a race of giants, and in that country there are undoubtedly men who, for brute strength, can compare to the best of any other nation. Eastern Canada is full of "Strong Men," and for that matter, so is this country. I have seen amateurs who could equal the strength feats of any professional on record, if they cared to devote as much time to training as the professional does. A man does not become strong because he is a professional lifter. It is just the other way about. He becomes a professional because he is strong. And it should be remembered that for every "Strong Man" who exhibits professionally, there are a dozen others in the amateur ranks. I am personally acquainted with three amateurs of prodigious strength, who are as magnificently developed as any of the perfect men you have ever seen on the stage. Not one of these men will allow me to publish his picture, or even mention his name. One of these men has a 48-inch chest, a 16-inch forearm and a 19-inch calf measurement. I once saw him pick up an 80-lb. steel bar, muscle it out, and then twist the bar from side to side; and I have never seen a professional who could equal that stunt. Another of these men is so strong that he can break any of the "dead-weight" lifting records. The third man is only of moderate size and weighs but 165 lbs.; but I believe he can walk with more weight on his shoulders than any other man I have ever seen.
There has never been a man so strong that he could far outdo the feats of other "Strong Men." What one man can do, another man in the same class can go very close to equaling. If you get the five best sprinters in the same 100-yard dash, the best man will finish only a foot ahead of the second man; which means that he is only a fraction of one per cent faster. If the best high-jumper can clear the bar at 6 feet 6 inches, the second and third best can do 6 feet 5 inches. The same rule applies to "Strong Men." As a class, these men are two or three times as strong as the ordinary man; but no one "Strong Man" is very much better than other leading "Strong Men." Some of them excel at one lift, some excel at others. Arthur Saxon could push aloft with one arm a bell 20 lbs. heavier than any other man has lifted in the same manner, but there were a number of men who could beat him at a two-arm lift. Steinborn is possibly the best man is the world at what we call the "quick lifts"; but there are men who can beat him at "slow-pressing," and other men who could undoubtedly beat him at "dead-weight" lifting; and so on down the list.
You can't even decide the question by examining the records. To publish a complete list of lifting records would take several dozen pages of this book, because they keep the records for men of all weight and for all styles of lifting. Many of the world's records are held by amateurs. Joe Nordquest, when still an amateur, broke records made by the professionals, Hackenschmidt and Lurich. The same thing applies to weight throwing. Most of the records for throwing the hammer or throwing the 56-lb. weight are held by amateurs. There is no reason in the world why an amateur should not be just as strong as a professional. You would be surprised if you knew of the thousands of men who by practicing lifting just for the sport of it have become magnificently built.
A strength contest is something like these newspaper beauty contests. Every once in a while you see in the papers the picture of some young woman who has taken first place in a beauty contest, and who is announced as "the most beautiful woman in America." And when you see that picture, you say to yourself, "I know half a dozen girls better-looking than she is." The truth of the matter is, that she happened to be the best-looking girl in that particular contest, or at least the judges thought so. You know perfectly well that for every pretty girl who goes in such a contest, there are fifty more girls equally pretty who never even thought of entering the contest; and you can rest assured that for every man who is announced as the "strongest man in the world," there are several dozen others who are just about as strong as he is. If you were willing to train, you have just as good a chance as the next fellow to become one of the strongest men in the world of your weight; and if you are of average size, that means that you can become almost as strong as anybody, because I have proved in a previous chapter that man who weight less than 150 lbs. have come very close to equaling the best records of "natural giants" who weight 300 lbs. Any man who is willing to devote six months or a year to practicing a progressive schedule of developing exercises can certainly double, and possible triple, his own bodily strength, and that means that in that length of time he will become two or three times as strong as the average man.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
The average citizen rarely sees a heavy bar-ball except when it is being used on the stage by some vaudeville "Strong Man." Consequently Mr. Average Citizen gets the idea that if he used a bar-bell he would have to do the same enormous lifts which are customarily shown in "Strong" acts.
The exhibition stunts you see performed by professional "Strong Men" have very little to do with the creation of strength. The professional does his training before he gets on the stage. For every one professional who does exhibition work, there are a thousand men and boys who use adjustable bar-bells for the purpose of improving their bodies. There are a great number of amateur lifters; but all these amateurs have put in several months at bodybuilding exercises with their bar-bells before they start the practice of actual lifting. I have never known a man to start training with the idea of becoming a professional, although I know several amateurs who have become so enormously strong that they have been induced by theatrical managers to appear professionally. If you train with bar-bells, you are not compelled to do any real lifting. If your aim is to become beautifully built and enormously strong, you can achieve your ambition just by practicing the developing exercises described in this book.
That part of the public which patronizes the theaters has very little interest in bar-bell and dumbbell lifting. They enjoy seeing "Strong acts"; but their preference is for marvelous and seemingly miraculous feats of strength. Therefore, professional lifters cater to the taste of their audiences. Instead of lifting bar-bells, they lift and support enormous quantities of live and dead weight. They try to make their acts spectacular.
After you have practiced for a while with bar-bells, you will discover some very surprising things. For example, you will find that while it is difficult to "push up" to arms' length a 150-lb. bar-bell, that it requires but little exertion to hold the bell aloft, once you have straightened your arm. Every professional lifter is fully aware of this fact, and it is quite natural that they should take advantage of their knowledge. In Fig. 100, you see a picture of a man walking while holding a bar-bell at arms' length. In doing this stunt he keeps his arm locked straight so that the bones of the forearm and upper arm are in one line. He keeps his back flat and walks with his knees slightly bent. Almost all the work is done by the thighs. If he arched his back and had his arm bent at the elbow he would find great difficulty in walking with the bell, but by keeping his arm and back in one straight line and walking with bent knees the feat becomes trivial. George Lurich, in his performance, used to walk across the stage while supporting Matysek walking with a bicycle and three men - a total weight of about 500 lbs. Eugene Sandow used to carry a small horse at arms' length. The horse was hauled in the air by means of a block and tackle. Sandow would stoop under the horse and grab hold of a loop on the side of a girth which passed around the horse's body. In performing this stunt, Sandow would lean forward and allow some of the horse's weight to rest on his shoulders. In Fig. 101 Matysek has bent slightly forward from the hips so that the lower part of the bicycle-frame rests against his back. Matysek would "push up" 250 lbs. with one arm; but he could carry 600 lbs. on the straight arm. Sandow could "push up" 271 lbs., and the horse he carried must have weight at least 800 lbs. Sandow himself stated that after his arm was straight, he could carry almost any weight.
I believe stunts like this to be entirely legitimate in stage work. If a man comes out and pushes up a 200-lb. bar-bell the onlookers are not very much impressed; because, to tell the truth, they do not know whether the record is 200 lbs. or 300 lbs.; but the audience gets very enthusiastic when a man comes out and carries on his straight arm several hundred pounds of live weight, like the three men on Matysek's bicycle or like Sandow's horse.
Another well-known exhibition stunt is the one illustrated in Fig. 102. After the athlete gets into the "bridge" position, an attendant places on his shoulder and knees the lower of the two planks. The upper plank, which supports the men, the horse, or the automobile, is place nearer to the knees than to the shoulders. Enormous weights can be supported in this position because most of the weight comes right over the knees, and is supported by the upright bones in the calves of the legs. Since the arms are straight, the bones of the forearm and upper arm are in one line, and each arm, in this position, is capable of sustaining a thousand pounds. I saw Sandow do this stunt with three horses on the plank and I have seen other men support automobiles. What the record is I don't know; but I have seen a 125-lb. woman support 2000 lbs. in this "human-bridge" position, and I believe that any amateur bar-bell user, after a few months' experience, could support over 3000 lbs.
The foregoing stunts are more in the class of supporting feats than lifts. Another supporting feat is the one shown in Fig. 19, but instead of using a bar-bell the professional will hold in his feet a long plan and on this plank will be seated a dozen men. Supporting a great weight is easy in this position, after the legs are straightened; but as I said in Chapter IV, the strength of a man's thighs is so prodigious that a well-trained lifter can hold 1500 lbs. on the soles of his feet, as in Fig. 19, and then raise it an inch or two by straightening the legs. Saxon used to do this with close to 3000 lbs.; that is, he would first lie flat on his back and raise his legs in the air. His younger brothers would then put the plank on his feet. Fourteen of the circus attendants would stand with their backs to the plank, and the two younger Saxons would pick up these men in pairs and seat them on the plank. After they were all in position, Saxon would bend his legs and lower the weight a couple of inches, and then again straighten his legs. Two of the Saxons used to lie flat on their backs and hold a bridge on the soles of their feet and a very heavy automobile would be run over the bridge.
The strength of the bones of the hips is something phenomenal. A well-trained bar-bell user can lift anywhere from 1000 to 1500 lbs. by the "hip" lifts, which has already been described in Chapter V. After the weight has been raised by straightening the legs, you can then straighten up the body without much difficulty. If you stand erect, with he legs straight and the feet a few inches from each other and firmly braced, it takes a tremendous weight to make you bend your legs again.
The first exhibition work of which I ever heard was performed by a German nearly two hundred years ago. In one of his stunts he would stand on a high platform. Around his hips was a strong belt, and from this belt a chain went through a hole in the upper platform; and its bottom end was hooked to a large cannon which weighed over a ton. This cannon rested on a wooden platform which, in turn, rested on a pair of rollers. The athlete stood with his legs straight at the start. The stage attendants would knock the rollers from under the lower platform and the athlete would stand there with the cannon hanging from the chain which was attached to the belt around his hips. Note that the man did not lift the weight, he merely supported it. As he was a very large and powerful individual, he undoubtedly could have lifted 2200 or 2400 lbs. in a "hip" lift; so it was perfectly reasonable to believe that he could have supported nearly twice as much after the legs were straightened. This man invented a lot of other "strength" stunts in the nature of supporting feats, and those stunts are performed on the stage up to this very day.
A professional "Strong Man" should not be blamed for giving a performance of this character. His business is to perform a sensational act; and it stands to reason that the average audience will be much more impressed if he uses weights that can be counted by the ton, rather than weights that can be counted by the hundredweight.
I do not want to give you the impression that any man can get up and do the sensational supporting feats that we see on the stage, because it takes a great deal of bodily strength to give such a performance. The thing you should learn is that many of the stunts which appear to be performed by the strength of the arms are really performed by the strength of the whole body. The average man can't lift 500 lbs. from the ground, and if he tried to walk with that weight on his shoulders, his legs would buckle at the knees and he would crash down in a heap; but a trained man like Matysek or Sandow can stride along easily while supporting 500 or 600 lbs. on the upraised arm. In men like these two, the back and the legs are so strong that it is a simple matter to carry several hundred pounds on the upraised arm.
If your back and legs are strong, you can stand erect and hold a great deal of weight on your shoulders. Fig. 103 shows an amateur walking with about 900 lbs. supported on his shoulders. If this young man stood erect with his legs straight, as the man is doing in Fig. 104, he could support 1500 or 1800 lbs.; but here he is walked with close to 1000 lbs. As has already been told, Barre walked several yards with a 1450-lb. bar-bell on one shoulder, and it is possible that he could have walked with 2000 lbs. across both shoulders.
You can't get the strength to perform supporting feats just by pushing dumbbells or bar-bells to arms' length above the head. To do supporting feats, you need enormous back strength and leg strength; and to develop that kind of strength, you have to practice the leg and back exercises described in Chapters II and IV. After a few weeks' practice of those exercises, you would be able to give quite an impressive show, if you were asked to appear at some amateur entertainment or at a Y.M.C.A. carnival. Back and leg strength will help you more in the ordinary duties of life than will arm strength alone; and that is why I am so insistent on the necessity of creating bodily strength by developing the back and legs.
After you have created strength, you should know how to use it to the best advantage. The combination of your strength and skill will enable you to handle four times as much weight as will the average husky day laborer. For instance, if you saw a bunch of workmen amusing themselves at noon hour by an impromptu lifting contest, you would find that they were using the ordinary "dead-weight" style; that is, they would put the weight to be lifted in front of them and stoop over, as in Fig. 14. Then they would stand erect and hold the weight as in Fig. 15. This is what we call the "dead-weight" lift. Most of the workmen would be unable to stand up in this way with 350 lbs., but if you had developed your back and legs by performing the exercises in Chapters II and IV, you would probably be able to stand up with 450 or 500 lbs. But if you wishes to show them, what really could be lifted, you could employ the "hand-and-thigh" method, illustrated in Fig. 16, or the "Jefferson" lift in Fig. 18, and amuse those workmen by lifting 1000 or 1200 lbs. a couple of inches from the ground.
Never let your enthusiasm for "putting up" bar-bells make you neglect your practice of the leg and back exercises; because leg and back exercises make bodily strength, and it is bodily strength which appeals to the average man. In a football game, when a burly player gains ten yards while carrying four or five of the opposite players on his shoulders and back, he is doing a great feat of bodily strength, and just as admirable a feat of strength as if he were walking with a 1000- or 2000-lb. weight across his shoulders. The great thing is that if you practice back- and leg-lifting, you can develop just the kind of strength which would enable you to make 20-yard gain while dragging or carrying half a dozen of the other team; the kind of strength that would enable you to lift one end of an automobile, and to do other stunts of that kind.
The professional "Strong Man" is an adept at this kind of work. he is the very last word in combined strength and skill. Most professionals are very different in private life than when on the stage. I know some of them who would prefer to give a straight lifting act, but if they did that it would mean that they could get no engagements. Therefore they have to do sensational stunts, and the theatrical manager has a great habit of exaggerating the amount of weight which the athlete uses in the act. If a "Strong Man" tells the manager that he is going to support or lift 2000 lbs. in a certain way, the manager will go immediately to the printing office and get out posters saying that the athlete is going to lift 5000 or 6000 lbs. in that manner.
The manager of a vaudeville theater has the fixed delusion that no one will come to see a "Strong" act, unless the athlete is billed as "The Strongest Man in the World." Hence, every new "Strong Man" at his first appearance is billed in that way. In the last twenty years I have seen at least fifty different professionals, each and every one of whom claimed to be "the strongest man on earth." AT the present time, there are seven professionals making that claim.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
The strength of a muscle is its ability to contract against great resistance. Strength is partly a matter of will-power, that is, of mental control over the muscles. Just the same, no man can make himself strong just by an effort of the will. The size of a muscle has a great deal to do with its strength. If there are two men of exactly equal measurements, the one who has the great amount of will power, or mental control over his muscles, will be the stronger of the two. Nevertheless, no slender, small-muscled man, no matter how great his mental control over his muscles, can hope to equal the strength of a man whose muscles are twice as big, and who has an equal control over them.
There is a great deal of unnecessary mystery about this subject of "muscle control." It is one of the simplest things in the world. You have been exercising a while, and your arms have gotten considerably bigger and much more muscular than formerly. If you get into a discussion concerning muscular development you are apt to say to your opponent, "Well, feel my arm!" And as he puts his hand on your upper arm you bend your arm at right angles, and tighten the muscles of the upper arm so as to make it bigger and harder. That is "muscle control." Anyone can do it. If you will think back you will recall that every time you ask a friend to feel your arm you instinctively bend your arm all the way, so as to make the biceps muscles stick up in a large hump; but if you are experienced you know that if you bend the arm only at right angles it is possible for you to harden the biceps on the front of the upper arm and, at the same time, harden the triceps on the back of the upper arm; thus making your arm bigger than if you flexed and hardened only the biceps muscle.
For many years it was a custom for a professional "Strong Man" to open his act by doing a few minutes' "muscle-posing" in a lighted cabinet. Such cabinets were usually made of a dark material, so as to make a contrast with the flesh of the athlete. At the top of the cabinet and out of sight of the audience were one or more very powerful lights, with reflectors so arranged that they threw a strong downward illumination on the body of the athlete. This strong light from above accentuated the shadows thrown by the muscles. In some cabinets it was possible to switch off the top light and turn on a light placed at the height of the athlete's elbow; and this light would throw shadows sidewise, and would bring out details of development which would not be revealed by a high light. The "Strong Man," standing on a low pedestal in the middle of a cabinet would strike one attitude after another, thereby displaying to the greatest advantage the prodigious development of his muscles. If you were so lucky as to see several different men pose you would notice that they all employed the same positions; that in order to show the biceps muscles to best advantage they would hold the arms in a certain position; that to show the abdominal muscles fully flexed they would bend their bodies in a certain way. There is a fixed routine of such positions or movements which is known to every professional and most amateur "Strong Men," and if you learn the positions and have sufficient development you can make a most amazing display, because as you go from one position to another different sets of muscles will be flexed, and huge bands and masses of muscle will appear on different parts of your body. The average reporter in describing such an act will say that the athlete's muscles moved about under his skin "like a mass of snakes writhing under a blanket."
All this posing work is simply a matter of "muscle control." The fundamental principle of "muscle control" is, that before you can flex of contract a muscle to it fullest extent you must place the body of the limb in the most favorable position. For instance, if you hold your elbow at your side and double up the right arm you can make the biceps muscle very hard, but that muscle will not be fully flexed. If you put the right hand behind your neck, and raise your right elbow as high as you can, as in Fig. 91, you can flex the biceps muscle with much greater force, and it will be bigger than it is when the elbow is at the side of the waist. If you wish to get full control of your biceps you have to first raise your arm in this position. After the elbow is up, harden the biceps as much as you can. Then release the tension and your biceps muscle will become softer and the humped-up appearance will disappear. If you keep your elbow up, and flex and relax the biceps several times in succession, you will find that after a couple of weeks' practice you can make the biceps stand up in a much more impressive curve than it formerly did.
When you have your elbow up, as in Fig. 91, you will find it impossible to harden the triceps muscle on the back of the upper arm, because that muscle has been stretched by bending the arm at the elbow. In order to get control of your triceps you have to stand with the hands clasped behind the hips, as in Fig. 91. In that position, if you press the elbows towards the back and press the hands outward, the triceps muscles will flex themselves, as shown in the picture. The moment you relax the tension the triceps muscle will relax and the back of the arm becomes perfectly smooth.
That shows you the general principle of "muscle control" It is easiest for most physical culturists to control the upper-arm muscles, because most of their developing work has been devoted to the cultivation of those muscles; but when he tries to do the same thing with the muscles of his back, his chest, his abdomen and his legs he can't make nearly as good a display; because, in the first place, he does not know the positions most favorable to contraction (and therefore, for display); an din the second place his muscle are not big enough to be impressive even if he does learn how to contract them. Most of the large muscles on the body and the limbs can be brought under mental control just as easily as can the arm muscles.
Fig. 93 shows an athlete with remarkably developed chest muscles. In this picture those muscles are relaxed, in fact, the whole body is relaxed, and this man's breast muscles are so large that they sag slightly of their own weight. Fig. 94 shows the same athlete with all his muscles flexed. you can hardly believe it is the same man, and the immense difference in his appearance is caused by an alteration in position and by "muscle control." The muscles on the breast bring the arms forward. In Fig. 94 the athlete is pressing his hands against each other with great force, and this has flexed the breast muscles and entirely altered their outlines. At the same time he has hardened the muscles on the shoulders, the arms and on the front of the abdomen. The beginner has to be satisfied with flexing one or two muscles at a time; but a bar-bell user, like this man, can instantly and simultaneously flex every muscle in the body. If you want to get control of your breast muscles you can do so by assuming the position sown in Fig. 94 and pressing the palms of the hands against each other. After a while you will get so that you can stand in a perfectly normal position and simply by thinking about it, harden the muscles on the breast and completely alter their outlines. But (and this is a very big "but") the flexed muscles will not look like much unless you have already made them big and thick by proper exercise. I have been familiar with the subject of "muscle control" for over thirty years. In 1893 I saw Eugene Sandow do most of the feats of "muscle control" that have since been done by other athletes. When Sandow was standing or sitting at ease his body and limbs, while of great size, were just as smooth as those of a Greek statue, although by a mere effort of the will he could make muscles stand out in knots and ridges all over him. Any other bar-bell user can do the same thing. After you get your muscles by work you can do marvels in the way of "muscle control"; but you cannot develop strong muscles or big muscles by simply flexing and relaxing them through an effort of the will.
The best exponents of "muscle control" are former bar-bell users. The man who is best known as an exponent of "muscle control" was making lifting records several years before he advocated "muscle control" as a means of development. As far as I can see his muscles were just as big and just as much under his control when he was doing bar-bell work exclusively as they are today. Perhaps the most skillful man in this line is a lifter by the name of Nowielsky, who is known on the stage as Otto Arco. Figs. 95 and 96 show two of his "muscle control" stunts. In Fig. 95 he is showing the rope of muscles on the abdomen at the same time that he displays the muscles of his arms and shoulders. (By the way, he is the originator of this "isolated control" of the abdominal muscles.) Fig. 96 shows what looks like an incredible development of the muscles on the upper back, but part of the effect is obtained by his control over his shoulder blades. In this pose, by flexing certain muscles, he has spread the shoulder blades apart and changed the angle at which they are usually inclined. I give you my word that when this man is standing at a normal position, with his arms hanging at his sides, his back does not show these extraordinary contours. His back is very broad and packed from shoulder to shoulder with wonderfully developed muscles, but when he is not flexing those muscles, the back, while perfectly shaped, is not humped up with muscle. But when he raises his arm in the position shown, spreads his shoulder blades and flexes all the muscles on the upper back, he looks just as in Fig. 96. It is quite possible for you to learn to spread your shoulder blades just as he has done, and you may make your flexed muscles just as hard as his arm when flexed; but unless your muscles are fully developed you will not be able to duplicate the effect of his pose.
Sandow used to say that, while on an exhibition tour, he never deliberately exercised. He claimed that the two exhibitions he gave every day afforded him plenty of hard muscular word, and that in between times he could keep his muscles in condition just by "flicking" them while sitting in a chair reading his newspaper. By "flicking" them he meant alternately flexing and relaxing them. I believe it is true that after you have developed your muscles you can keep them close to the highest pitch of development by practicing "muscle control" for a few minutes a day; but your muscles will not grow any bigger or stronger.
"Muscle control" is all right as a means of displaying your muscles, but it positively is not a source of increased strength or development. I have seen skinny men practice "muscle control" stunts for months without adding one inch to the size of the chest, or as much as a quarter of an inch to the size of the arms or legs. True, they were able to make such muscles as they had stand out in knots. Anyone can do that if he can learn the correct positions. Your little brother can learn to control his biceps muscle by putting his arm in the position described in the first part of this chapter, but after he does flex the muscle it is just one tiny lump. On the other hand, if you, personally have big arms, a little practice in the proper positions will enable you to display your muscles to far better advantage than if you did not know these positions. In Fig. 97 you see what looks like two immense lumps of muscle projecting from each side of the upper back. If you stretch your arms straight above your head, as this man is doing, and then after the arms are straight, reach as high as you can with your hands, thus lifting the shoulders, your shoulder blades will spread apart. If you shoulder blades are covered with big, powerfully developed muscles you will look just as this man does; but if you have very little muscle on the upper back, although the edges of the shoulder blades will push the skin outward, your back will not look like the back in this picture. Before you can make any great muscular display through "muscle control" you must have the muscle to start with. The bigger and stronger your muscles are, the more you can do in the way of controlling and displaying them.
(Referring back to Fig. 95 we see the one exception to the general rule. The ordinary athlete, when he wishes to play the abdominal muscles, leans slightly forward and contracts those muscles so that they appear in horizontal ridges, as in Fig. 34. This man, Arco, accidentally discovered that if the lungs were almost emptied of air there would be a partial vacuum created, and that when you flexed the front abdominal muscles the sides of the abdomen would cave in, as in the picture.) I consider that "muscle control" is valuable as a supplementary exercise, and that it is invaluable to the athlete who wishes to do muscular posing. Almost any exercise is good. Even "muscle control" has some value, because if you go through all the different positions which display all the different muscles in the body you get at least a little exercise out of it.
There are some other details which may interest you. If you can control your muscles you can, in certain poses, produce some very pleasing effects. In Fig. 98 the athlete's back is very broad at the line of the arm pits and comparatively narrow at the waist. He had made his back broad by spreading his shoulders apart; but is should be noted that as he does spread the shoulders the muscles in the middle of the back seem to disappear. That man can deliberately press his shoulder blades together and make his back nearly six inches narrower than in this pose, and when he does bring his shoulder blades together in the middle of the upper back is covered with mounds of muscle. If he stands up in this position, and first spreads his shoulders and then squeezes them together, and repeats the motion a dozen times he is getting some valuable exercise for those muscles in the upper back which control these two motions. But again, the reason he can make himself so extraordinarily broad is because in the first place he has a big rib box, and in the second place his upper-back muscles are unusually big and powerful. If you can induce some thin man to try this stunt you will find that by pressing his shoulders together, then spreading them apart, the width of his back will be altered only an inch or so (that is, when he spread his shoulders his back is only an inch wider than when he squeezes them together). If you are lucky enough to get hold of an amateur "Strong Man" and bar-bell user (one of these chaps with a 44-inch normal chest) you will find that he can make a difference of 6 inches in the width of his back, according to how he holds his shoulders. The star of this stunt was Joe Nordquest. Fig. 99 shows his extraordinary ability to voluntarily broaden his upper back. You must remember that Nordquest's chest measure 46 inches normal, and that his upper arm measures nearly 18 inches. So if your chest measures only 36 and your arms only 13 inches, you must not expect to duplicate the effect that he gets.
Most advocates of "muscle control" confine their practice entirely to the arm muscles and the abdominal muscles; whereas they could get very good all-around exercise if they devoted part of their time to getting control of the muscles on their back, their sides and their legs. If you stand squarely on both feet and then lock your knees back, you can harden the muscles on the front and outside of the thighs. If your thighs are of a fair size when you harden the muscles the thighs will assume the shape shown in Fig. 91; but if your thighs are thin, you can harden the muscles but the shape of the thighs will hardly be altered at all. The bigger and more powerfully developed the thighs are the more you can do in the way of mentally controlling your muscles. Mr. Max Unger, when doing cabinet-posing, could do more with his thigh muscles than any other man I have seen; that is, he could flex the thigh muscles in different ways, make them apparently jump up and down, and also move them from side to side without the slightest movement of the limbs themselves. He would stand squarely on both feet and make his thigh muscles move in a most extraordinary way, so that it seemed as though the muscles were being flexed by some outside power; whereas it was entirely a matter of muscular control. If Mr. Unger's thighs had been thin the movements of the muscles would hardly have been perceptible; but his thighs were of extraordinary size and power and beautifully shaped.
It would take too much space to describe the several dozen positions which you must learn if you wish to get complete mental control of all the muscles in the body; but if you will observe the rule that you must first put yourself in a position that causes one muscle to contract, it is then easy to get control of that muscle. Some of you may have trouble in hardening the muscles on the front of your thigh when standing erect; although most of you will be able to do so if you make your legs perfectly straight and push the knees as far back as possible. If, however, you stand in front of a chair and raise the right leg and place the hell on the seat of the chair with your leg straight, you will find it very easy to harden the muscles on the front of the thigh. This is because one function of those muscles is to raise the leg forward. Similarly, if you want to get control of the muscle at the right side of the waist, you must bend the body over to the right, which contracts that muscle.
After a few weeks' practice you will find that you can flex many of the muscles on the body without the necessity of bending the body from side to side. While seated in a chair you can, by a simple effort of the will, flex the breast muscles, or you can just as easily flex the big muscles on the upper back which lie close to the arm pit. You will be able to temporarily change the shape of your upper back through your control of the muscles which move the shoulder blades; but you must remember that it is far easier to learn mental control of a well-developed muscle than of one which is thin and undeveloped.
I believe that one reason why bar-bell users have such "muscle control" is that their practice of lifting has developed extreme speed. This statement will come as a revelation to some of you who think that weight-lifting stiffens a man's muscles and makes him slow in action. That may have been true of the old-time lifter; but the modern lifter has to be as quick as a boxer with his hands and with his feet. In making what we call the "quick lifts," the lifter has to learn to entirely change his position in a fraction of a second. This would be impossible unless his muscles responded instantaneously to the message telegraphed from the brain through the motor nerves and to the muscles themselves.
Recently I had occasion to take some photographs to illustrate some details of lifting. I had only an hour in which to get a model. The photographer happened to know of a hand-balancer who in his youth had gotten a fine development by using bar-bells. We telephoned the man and asked him if he was in shape to pose. He replied that although he had retired from the stage, and that it had been twelve years since he had seen a bar-bell, nevertheless, he was in perfect shape. A few minutes later he reported for the job, and stripped so that we could see his development. In order to prove that he was in condition he held up his right arm with the elbow slightly bent. There was not the least tension of the muscles of his upper arm, and the upper edge of the arm was perfectly smooth. He quickly flexed his muscles and his biceps simply leaped into a high curve. He did this several times in succession, contracting and releasing the muscles with such speed that the eye could hardly follow the movements of the muscles. When the upper arm is held out to the side and the muscles relaxed, the large muscle seems to be below the bone. That was the way this man's arm appeared before he flexed his muscles; but when he did flex his biceps the lower edge of the arm became taut, and the upper edge (the biceps) mounted in so high a curve that his arm was apparently two inches thicker than before. This man had never even heard the phrase "muscle control"; but the bar-bell training which he had done in his youth had given him a development which he had never lost, and a mental control over his muscles which he still retains, and which enables him to still flex any muscle in his body simply by concentrating his mind on it.
I don't want you to take my word for all this, - I would like you to try it. If you have no development you will be sadly disappointed by your efforts at "muscle control"; but if you have big and powerful muscles developed either through the use of bar-bells or by other kinds of vigorous exercise, you will find that in a few weeks you will be able to do almost any stunt of "muscle control" that you have seen in a picture, or actually done by a "Strong Man."
I have, at various times, been paid visits by lifters and bar-bell users who were interested in the subject of "muscle control," and invariably, in the course of half an hour, I have been able to show them how to learn to control their muscles. Those men already had the development and the mental control, and all I had to do was to show them the positions. On the contrary, I have never been able to do this with an undeveloped man, because such a man is handicapped by the fact that he has no muscle to speak of, and cannot control what little muscle he has. "Muscle control" is a thing that comes to you while you are developing the muscles; but it will not create muscular tissue nor will it make you any bigger or stronger.
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Bar-bell lifting is a fascinating sport. Almost every one who tries it becomes intensely interested. It seems to be a case of "once a lifter, always a lifter!" I know men who began using bar-bells twenty years ago, and who are just as much interested today in feats of strength, and in subjects related to muscular development, as they were on the day they started. But the matter of body-building, health-improvement and muscular-development, is much more important than lifting records.
When a man first starts to practice with adjustable bar-bells, it takes two or three weeks to break himself in to the new kind of work; that is, to learn the positions and to accustom his muscles to the more vigorous contractions. As soon as he commences to increase the weight used in the exercises, his body grows in size and weight in almost direct proportion to the increased weight used. His chest gets bigger, his shoulders broader, and his arms and legs commence to put on muscle.
Now where does it all come from? If a man at the start has a 12-inch upper arm, and that arm increases to 14 inches in girth at the end of three months and 16 inches in girth at the end of six months, it means that the has almost doubled the amount of muscular tissue in the upper arm. The upper-arm bone would not have grown any longer, so all the increase of the arm is in girth and muscular contents. When you say that your arm has increased from 12 to 16 inches in girth, it sounds as though it increased only one-third in size; but if you remember that an arm of 12-inch girth means a cross section of about 11 ? square inches, and that an arm of 16-inch girth means a cross section of more than 21 square inches, you will see that you arm has nearly doubled in bulk. Since the upper-arm bone is no thicker than before, all that increased bulk is solid muscular tissue; and that means that each individual muscle in the upper arm is nearly twice as big as before.
A muscle is made up of a bundle of fibrous tissue. So the question is, "Do the fibres in your muscles become thicker; do they become more numerous; or both?"
When you exercise a muscle, part of the tissue is broken down; and when you rest after exercise, the broken-down tissue is replaced and reconstructed by fresh material supplied by the blood. That means that in order to grow, the muscle must be well-nourished as well as thoroughly exercised. The greatest value of bar-bell exercise is its undoubted effect in promoting the vigor of your digestive and assimilative processes; and that brings me around to the question of dieting.
I am personally acquainted with dozens of professional "Strong Men," and hundreds of amateur lifters. Furthermore, I have examined the measurement charts and reports of thousands of bar-bell users whom I have never met personally. Among all those thousands, I can't recall a dozen who are "diet faddists." If you use bar-bells regularly - that is, two or three hours a week - you will get such an appetite that you can digest, assimilate and build yourself up on just the same bill-of-fare that the rest of your family eat. It is positively not necessary to confine your diet to certain articles of food; such as cereal, fruit, nuts or vegetables.
If you are a thin man and wish to grow bigger and heavier, as well as stronger, you must satisfy the appetite which you have created by exercise. You have to eat enough to repair the ordinary wear and tear of the day, and on top of that, you have to eat enough more to grow on. During the time that your chest is increasing 6 inches, your arms 2 inches, and your thighs 3 inches in girth, you will eat like a growing schoolboy. Why not? The boy is growing rapidly, and so will you be growing rapidly. You cannot add to your size and bodily weight if you deliberately restrict your diet, either in quantity or to particular foods.
The human teeth prove that a man can eat either meat, vegetables or grain, and it seems to me that the ordinary individual will grow faster on just the mixed diet that the average housewife provides.
Occasionally, a bar-bell user will write to me and say that he is not growing as fast as he expected to, and he will finish up his letter by saying, "And I can't understand this, because I am careful to eat properly." An investigation usually develops the fact that his idea of eating "properly" is to have the juice of an orange and some cereal for breakfast; some vegetables, toast, fruit and nuts for the noon meal; and that his evening meal is a sort of combination of the other two. I can readily see that such a diet might be very helpful in the case of a stout, middle-aged individual who had grown very fat through lack of exercise, whose digestive processes were debilitated, and who wished to reduce his weight by many pounds. But no one could build up real size and muscular development on such a diet.
It seems to easy when some one tells you that you can make yourself bigger and stronger just by eating some foods and avoiding other foods. Of course the thing is possible. By eating a malt preparation, either in a liquid or solid form, a scrawny individual can add 20 to 30 lbs. to his weight in a comparatively short time; but then a beer-drinker can do exactly the same thing. In both cases it means that you make a gain of, say, 20 lbs., most of which is soft flesh which you have to carry around, instead of an extra 20 lbs. of muscle which would help carry you around. It is easy for you to come back and say, "But that can't be entirely true. I know a man who is very strong who eats nothing except vegetables," or it may be "nothing except fruit and nuts." My answer to that is that if that man ate plenty of a mixed diet, including meat at least once a day, he would be even stronger than he is now on his limited diet. The amount of strength you will eventually possess will be more dependent on the kind of work you do than on the exact kind of food that you eat.
No one nation has a monopoly of "Strong Men." In East India there are "Strong Men" by the dozen, and most of these Hindus live on rice and highly spiced meat dishes. I have seen giant Chinamen who ate nothing but rice. I have seen enormously powerful Scandinavians who seemed to live entirely on fish. There are in the north of Italy some very strong men whose staple diet is macaroni, boiled chestnuts and white bread. I know personally some amateur "Strong Men" in New England who eat almost nothing except pork and beans. I can show you negroes and mulattoes who are magnificently built and very, very strong; if given a choice, they will live entirely on chicken and pork chops. Going to the opposite extreme, there are famous Turkish "Strong Men" who would rather die than eat one mouthful of pork.
Super-strength is a matter of bodily proportions and muscular strength, and I am convinced that you can get such proportions and such strength, no matter what kind of food you eat, so long as you do the right kind of muscular work.
I am perfectly well aware that there are many people who have no desire to become very strong, although many of them wish to become bigger and better built. To such people it seems a great deal easier to add to the size of the body by eating a certain kind of food than by doing any kind of work. When I first became interested in the subject of strength, most of the lifting records were held by Germans, and the popular idea was that the Germans got their strength by drinking beer. Some of their athletes were enormously powerful just because they are so big and heavy. In the last few years it has been proven that a finely developed man of moderate weight can lift just about as much as the biggest and fattest giant of the beer-drinking type.
I believe that a man who takes up bar-bell exercise should drink plenty of sweet milk; eat meat at least once a day; eggs at least once a day, and such vegetables and fruits as tempt his appetite. I can see no reason why one should eat bran, or whole wheat, or cereals, in place of white bread. I believe that a man will get the most benefit out of foods that he likes, and that it is a mistake to adopt a diet composed of distasteful foods. It seems to me impossible that a man can make any great improvement by eating a limited quantity of foods which are so distasteful that he gets no enjoyment from his meals.
Providing you do the right kind of exercise and satisfy your appetite, you can eat almost anything. I know one celebrated "Strong Man" who eats ice-cream three times a day, and several plates of it at each meal. The late Arthur Saxon, who was certainly one of the strongest men of your time, used to consume an average of four dozen bottles of beer every day.
The only restriction in regards to your diet is that you should indulge only moderately in candy and pastry; but after you have trained for a while you will find that you desire solid foods, and that chocolate and pie will lose their appeal.
One time I was visited by a "Strong Man" from the Middle West. He took part in one of your lifting carnivals and created one world's record on that visit. The day after the exhibition we went out to lunch together and he ordered a beefsteak. The waiter brought him a steak about four inches square and nearly two inches thick. Along with it he had three glasses of milk, and he finished up with a dish of rice pudding. When he was through, he said, "You know, Mr. Calvert, we can't get meat like this where I come from. If you keep me here a month and see that I can get a steak like that every day, I'll break every record that was ever made." He claimed that he felt much stronger after eating beefsteak than after eating a meal composed entirely of bread and vegetables.
Most "Strong Men" are very deliberate eaters. They chew their food very thoroughly, and sometimes I wonder whether their habit of thorough mastication is not responsible for a large part of their strength. Most men who use bar-bells develop very powerful jaws, and most of them have very good teeth. The strength of the jaw seems to be entirely a by-product of the bodily exercise, because very few of these men ever do the so-called "iron-jaw" lifting. In the same way, their necks get thicker and rounder, even if they do not specialize on neck exercises. If a man has a 44-inch chest, his neck should measure about 16 ? inches; and it seems to be true that if a man increases his chest from 36 to 44 inches, his neck, which measured 14 ? inches at the start, will grow to measure 16 ? inches, even if he never does any "wrestler's bridge" work. Strength of neck and strength of jaw seem to go together. The size and shape of your neck is an indication of your vitality; and it is commonly accepted that a man with a powerful, square jaw has more vital force than a man with a small and weak jaw. It is not necessary to do any special work to develop your jaw, outside of thoroughly chewing the food.
Every once in a while you come across some exception which seems to destroy the value of a rule. Most of us believe that a good set of teeth is about as valuable a possession as a man can have. It seems perfectly reasonable to say that without a good set of teeth a man could not become strong. It seems equally reasonable to say that if a man or boy ate candy to excess he would become soft and flabby. A number of years ago a young man of eighteen became seized with the ambition to become very strong, and started training with bar-bells. This youth's mother had kept a candy shop, and when a small boy he had put in his spare time eating candy. When I first knew him all his teeth were in bad condition, and the six teeth in the center of the upper jaw had rotted to such an extent that there were only stumps left. I give you my word that inside of a year's time that young man had gained enormously in strength and had become famous for the beauty of his figure. Later on, he made some amateur lifting records; and still later, some of our best-known sculptors employed him as a model. All of them raved about his build and wondered at his strength. After all this, when he was about to go on the professional stage, he had the stumps of his teeth extracted and now wears a plate. This sort of case is very upsetting to one's pet ideas and theories. One would have thought that a youth who had lost some of his teeth at the age of fourteen, and whose system must have been overloaded with saccharine, would thereby be prevented from making any noticeable improvement. When he took up bar-bell exercise he stopped eating candy, but he did not make any other change in his diet. It must have been the kind of exercise he took which so improved his figure and increased his development. If I had not seen the thing happen, I would hardly have believed it.
On any big athletic team, the sprinters and the long distance runners have to train vigorously, and their diet is carefully supervised; but the big weight-throwers train very little, and eat and drink anything they feel like. All they have to do is to practice at their particular lift; that is, "put-the-shot" and "throw-the-hammer" or the "56-pound weight." If you wish to become super-strong, and are willing to take the exercise, and are careful to satisfy your appetite, you do not have to bother any more about your diet than do these big weight-throwers.
The truth of the matter is, that as a man develops super-strength in his muscles, his internal organs acquire much greater vigor. Perhaps I have stated the case backwards. It may be that the improvement in the functional power of the organs takes place before the muscles grow in size and strength. Undoubtedly, the muscles would not grow so rapidly unless they were continually supplied with fresh material from the blood. The quality of the blood is dependent on the perfect working of the digestive and assimilative organs, and these organs seem to be stimulated and invigorated by vigorous exercise. Thin, anaemic individuals are said to have a "weak stomach," and no person with a weak stomach can be fundamentally strong. I believe that organs can be strong or weak just as the exterior muscles can be likewise; also that it is possible to strengthen the organs to the same degree to which you can strengthen the exterior muscles.
When you use the expression, "a weak stomach," you do not mean that the material composing the wall of the stomach is weak, but that the stomach functions feebly; that is, it does not secrete the digestive juices, nor do its part in digesting the food. A man with a "weak stomach" is easily upset by a couple of glasses of liquor, and is apt to become nauseated either by over-eating of by partaking of certain kinds of food. A man with a very strong stomach is one who can digest anything, and whose digestive functions are so perfect that he can quickly and thoroughly assimilate anything he puts in his stomach. Such a man can consume a very large quantity of liquor without showing the slightest signs of intoxication. Likewise, if he eats a large quantity of very rich foods, his stomach acts so perfectly that the food is thoroughly digested and there are no after-effects.
Mr. John L. Sullivan, besides being the champion fighter of his time, was physically one of the strongest men in the world. As a youth, he was a bar-bell lifter and traveled under the name "the Boston Strong Boy." Undoubtedly, his early training with bar-bells had a great deal to do with his tremendous muscular strength, and with the almost unequaled vigor of his digestion. It is related that on one occasion, Sullivan won a bet by consuming one hundred mixed drinks in the course of one evening without becoming intoxicated.
Now please do not think that I am suggesting that drinking is the proper thing for a "Strong Man." Sullivan died before he was 60 years old. A few years before his death, he became a violent prohibitionist. If he had used liquor in moderation, he probably would have lived to be ninety. Arthur Saxon's continual and inordinate drinking of beer may have weakened his constitution; although it is said that Saxon's death at the age of forty-eight was due partly to the injuries he had sustained in the War. Beer-drinking is supposed to make one stout; but Saxon never showed any surplus flesh, although it was not an infrequent thing for him to drink as many as one hundred glasses of beer in one day. Besides having a strong stomach, a man of super-strength must be possessed of great vigor in the other assimilative organs, and he must have a solid heart and large, high-quality lungs.
It would be the height of folly to exercise just for the sake of getting big muscles on the outside of one's body. Strength comes from within. The saving fact is that in order to get big muscles, it is necessary to have a vigorous digestive system, and in order to fully develop the strength of the muscles, it is necessary to have a sound nervous system, sound heart and powerful lungs. Any system of training worthy of the name strengthens the inside of the body, as well as the outside of the body.
I have seen men with weak stomachs, poor digestion and low nervous force so change themselves by properly graded progressive exercise, that in the course of a few months they acquired the digestion of an ostrich, great nervous force and, at the same time, increased their bodily weight thirty or forty pounds; and that weight was all good, solid, muscular tissue. I have seen fat men start with a 40-inch chest measurement and a 48-inch waist measurement, and without dieting increase the chest measurement to 44 inches and reduce the waist to 34 inches; and, what is more, I have seen these men hold their gains for years and never relapse into being very fat or very thin, even after they discontinued their exercise.
A workman who spends eight hours a day using a pick and shovel, or a lumberman who swings an axe and carries heavy logs for the same amount of time, can, and does, eat an amount and a variety of food which a slender, indoor workman would find impossible to digest. It should be remembered that workman is continually leaning over, both directly forwards and to the side, and that he is continually using the muscles of the loins, the sides of the waist, and the front of the abdomen. Those muscles form the wall of the lower body and enclose the digestive organs. Every time you bend over and pick up a weight, whether it is one end of a log, a shovelful of dirt, or a 50-lb. bar-bell you call into vigorous action those muscles of the waist region. The continued bending massages, compresses and shakes up the digestive organs, and the continued work develops the muscles in the neighborhood of the organs. A large, well-developed muscle draws more blood to it than does a small, undeveloped muscle. Men who have a fine set of muscles around the waist never suffer from digestive troubles. Such common ailments as "gas on the stomach" (flatulence), and constipation can be permanently banished by developing the muscles around your waist. As you develop the "washboard pattern" of muscles on the front of the abdomen and stomach, the intestines will become able to do more and better work. While you are developing the muscles on the small of the back and those at the sides of the waist, you're adding to the tone of your liver. Such exercises as those shown in Figs. 32 and 33 are much more effective in curing constipation than shaking up the liver by horseback riding.
The exercises which strengthen the muscles which lie across the loins and near the lower part of the spine greatly augment virility. This is a subject which cannot be discussed in this book, but any user of bar-bells can tell you that remarkable increase in vigor comes from developing the lower part of the back. Men who are thin and undeveloped really suffer from some form of malnutrition; that is, the assimilative organs fail to draw the proper nutrition from the food, and that means that the blood quality is poor.
Most excessively stout men are in that condition simply because they neglect to use the muscles of the waist, although it is true that some men are fat because of the improper working of some gland. The ordinary stout man can reduce his waist by the same exercises which build up the figure of the thin man. Fat cannot exist in, or near, an active muscle. That explains why some stout men have slender arms and slender calves long after the rest of the body has become hung with fat. The forearms and calves of the legs are the only parts of the body which they use continually.
In conclusion, I wish to say emphatically that in order to be super-strong a man has to be super-healthy. If you train properly, so as to increase the vigor of your internal organs at the same time that you are increasing the exterior development, you will get the kind of muscle that will stay with you the rest of your life, and you can create an upright, shapely figure that will not become bowed and enfeebled until extreme old age.
I always need good articles about drug-free strength training. It only has to be at least a page and nothing fancy. Just write it strong and truthful with passion! Send your articles directly to me: firstname.lastname@example.org