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Monday, October 4, 2010

The Key to Might and Muscle (Circa 1926) - Chapter 3 - Defining the Mystery of Strength - By George F. Jowett

There seems to be some mystery that surrounds the meaning of strength,
insomuch as the average individual finds it very difficult to explain. The
general way of figuring strength runs something like this: A baseball fan
knows Babe Ruth must be strong to be able to swat a ball for so many home
runs, and that Johnson, Washington's star pitcher, must have a strong arm to
send the pill hurtling over the plate with such terrific force. Charlie
Hoff and Charlie Paddock are strong by reason of the great leg driving force
possessed by each. However, these cases are purely demonstrations of
strength, and not definitions. When you ask for the explanation of the
strength of a man who is capable of raising a big load on his back, or
tossing a dumb-bell to arms' length overhead, the answer is partly
explained, in the absence of a broader knowledge, by the fact that the
person must have been naturally born strong.

These few answers prove how very little is known about the most desirable
quality of a man's body, and bring us face to face with the question of
whether all strong people are always naturally strong, or if it is possible
to be made strong - the difference between natural strength and made
strength, if there is any, and the relation of health to strength.

I have a friend who has a very analytical mind, and he just loves to produce
a difficult problem to be solved. He is not one of the kind who do it to
show how much they know, or think they know, as much as he is naturally
curious to know the answer for his own benefit. If it is beyond him, it
bothers him considerably. The question of strength was one of his problems,
and I well recall the time when he asked me if it was true that we could
make strength. Now if any other person but he had asked me, I would have
answered yes; but all his questions place me on my guard, and after a pause I replied
that I had my doubts. This, no doubt, will cause my readers to scratch
their heads in consternation, as I am well aware that some theorists have brought
forward the statement that strength can be made, and that there are two
kinds of strength, natural strength and made strength; but the distinction never
grew to be believed because no proper separation of the two kinds of
strength is possible. We have a habit of saying that a certain person was made
strong by practicing exercise or some particular sport, but that does not mean to
say his strength was made. Strength is the outcome of certain causes, and
like gravity, or the bloom of a flower, it cannot be disassociated from its
natural condition. If it was possible to control strength and disassociate
it from muscular growth of a certain nature from strength, we might consider
the fact that possibly strength could be made. It is the existence of the
type of muscle that lacks strength which causes the difference between size
and strength to be too often misunderstood.

You have often seen young men who possessed a fine muscular appearance, that
apparently had every indication of strength. Yet, on a test, you have been
amazed to see that these particular parties were seldom any stronger than
the average man. Then there is the other type of man who, while possessing no
larger proportions than the first, was capable of moving objects that were
immovable to both the first named type and the average person.

It is a mystery that has led theorists to state that muscle was all
artificial, and that there was some "n----- in the wood pile" where strength
was concerned.

Now there is a great deal of difference in the construction of muscle
tissue, and the student of body culture should be made familiar with the structure
of muscle in order to better understand its true existence, and the
interpretation of strength. Therefore, before we go any further, we will
supply ourselves with the knowledge which tells us what it is all about.
Then we will realize why strength is an inseparable part of one type of
muscle, and why it can never be associated with the other type.

First, bear in mind that there are about five hundred and twenty muscles in
our physical makeup that have to do with the transporting of our body. Each
of these muscles are made up of thousands of little fibres that lie side by
side, much like the fibres in a rope. These fibres are capable of
contracting on the same order as a stretched rubber cable contracts when the
tension is released. Each of these fibres has a cell or a brain, which
answers the call of the true brain through the transmission of nerves, that
causes them to contract or relax just as the order demands. The condition
of the muscles lies in the construction of these fibres. Some methods of
exercise bring about a coarse tissue, while other methods bring about a
steel-like construction where the fibres become more numerous and compact.

Now, whenever any one part of the body is under a greater stress of physical
stimulation than the rest, it is a natural condition that the blood is drawn
away from the other parts of the body where the blood is temporarily less
required, and drawn in greater quantities to the area under active
stimulation. The blood contains nourishment that re-fuels the muscles in
their state of activity, besides carrying away all the broken down tissue
that is thrown off by the exertion, as well as cleaning out the muscle cells
of any carbon dioxide that may have secreted within these cells. It also
acts as a fertilizer in the process of muscular reconstruction, by reason of
the fact that the blood continues to circulate around the center of
activity, after the actual action has ceased.

Now get the following explanation perfectly correct in your mind. It is not
in all motions of muscular activity that muscle tissue is broken down. The
movements have to be intense, and the muscles must be supplied with the
resistance that is necessary in order to break down the old structure.

Movements, or exercises, that do not give the muscles the required
resistance, but are the kind that involve a great number of repetitions,
never break down any amount of tissue, to speak of. These movements involve
a forcing process, that causes the blood to swell up the muscles, and simply
pumps them up. Thus a coarse tissue is created, that quickly loses its
proportions unless the muscles are supplied with a resistance, through
weights, that causes full contraction and extension of the muscles, as well
as a great flexion of the joints, which altogether rapidly breaks down the
old structure and commences its process of reconstruction. Not many
movements are involved because the motions are almost wholly physical. By
this I mean the muscles do not call for a fraction of the nervous energies
which is the case in the other instance.

Followers of bar bell exercise find that, before they notice any signs of
increase in their proportions, they have become quite a bit stronger. The
reason for this is that the musculature possessed in the first place has
passed through a stage of conversion, in which this tissue has become
converted into one hundred per cent material. The outcome of the other
condition is what I term inflated tissue of the balloon type. They register
no change in strength simply because the methods they use are not productive
of strength. The fact that strength has become manifest in the latter state
is positive proof that the condition created is the most natural and must,
therefore, contain the properties that are productive of great strength, in
both appearance and demonstration.

We have no control over strength alone. It is the natural outcome of
substantial muscular growth. It can only be stimulated, and this stimulus
must come from growth by development supplied from intensive exercise.

In speaking of strength, I really believe that we are apt to consider its
meaning in super terms. Anyhow, it is as such I want my readers to consider
it. It is in its super state that we are able to appreciate it better, and
if it did not have this exalted state, we would feel all our labors were in
vain, with no recompense for them. Again, if that state could not be
reached, it would not provide the lesson in which we are interested.

One strange peculiarity in muscle growth is the manner in which it
multiplies in its process of reconstruction, which goes to prove how nature is prepared
to take care of her children and is a factor to prove my story. To
continue, let me say that it is pretty hard for the average person to understand why
these tissues are broken down, and when they rebuild, why they grow in
excess of what they formerly were. Muscular tissues of the body fulfill their
duties, wear out, and are cast off like the dead leaves of a plant, and just
as the plant grows stronger, as a greater abundance of foliage appears,
equally so does muscle reconstruction act. Growth is life, and life is
growth; when growth ceases the body begins to age and finally dies. As
tissue is broken down, it multiplies and we become stronger with growth. In
other words, nature creates size, and strength is the natural sequence.
Size and strength are accumulated to meet possible future necessities in excess
of any work previously performed.

Let us prove this condition in another way, and be satisfied that I am
right. You, no doubt, can call to mind some fellow acquaintance who went into the
lumber camp, or on some railroad construction job, and how on his return his
changed appearance struck you as remarkable! - how he had filled out, and
how much stronger he was than before. Well, isn't that an illustration of how
natural growth takes place to fulfill the requirements of a more laborious

The year after the close of the war I took a notion to take another trip
overseas. I went into the Canadian Pacific Steamship offices in Montreal to
purchase my ticket. It was taken care of by a clerk who had his sleeves
rolled up to the shoulders. He displayed a fine pair of arms, and right
away I recognized those little traits that inform a trained eye that this
magnificent pair of arms was not always in his possession. He was too
consciously proud of them. By his "return button" I saw he had served
overseas, and to satisfy my personal curiosity, I began to question him. I
had to smile at his boyish enthusiasm as he replied, "I just had to have
'em. I was with one of the batteries, and had the job of trundling heavy shells
in a wheelbarrow. By gosh, at first I thought my back would break. My
knees wobbled, and I felt as though each of my arms was being pulled from its
socket. But, it had to be done, and I got better at it and began to like
it. Pushing that wheelbarrow full of shells just made me over." "And believe
me," he added with pride, "my legs and back are every bit as well formed as
my arms." No doubt you will recognize this incident as a common occurrence,
but it serves to prove that strength is always the result of a certain
condition, and not made in the sense that we are using this word.

If it was possible for you to cut into the living muscular structure of
inflated tissue and natural tissue, you would find the difference in
construction much similar in appearance to the difference that is seen in
the grain of cedar wood, as against the grain of oak. One is coarse grained,
and the other is tight. Try to break off an oak sapling and you will find it
very difficult, but a cedar sapling, twice the size, will snap off much more
easily. The condition of structure and resistance is the same here as the
quality of musculature under discussion.

Inflated tissue is artificial, which is borne out by the fact that this
tissue lacks lasting quality and has never been productive of strength.
Strength is never artificial. It is too natural, therefore its existence
must arise from the creation of a natural source.

Now you are apt to get all balled up if you have not read all this material
studiously, and I want it to be perfectly clear in your mind. So to
condense the whole discussion to a few words, as to what it all means, we find that
strength as a distinct and separate product cannot be made; it is the result
of developing musculature in its natural form. We know inflated tissue does
not contain this essential, but we do know that there is a form of tissue
that can be developed, that does create strength. In other words, the
muscular structure can be made.

As I have previously stated, intensive resistance of the muscles is the
method of muscular contraction, by reason of its natural function, that can
bring about the change. Therefore, it is just a case of following the right
method of exercise that can produce this type of muscle.

In order to receive confirmation in any belief, let us see how the first
examples of strength got their supply. I think I can safely say that I have
come in contact with as many strong men as any other man, by reason of my
travels and studies that have extended over twenty years, as a practical
athlete. I have known thousands, and without one single exception every man
instinctively practiced bar bell exercises on the progressive principle.
Thousands of times I have asked if they thought that that kind of training
was responsible for their fine development and great strength. Not one of
them ever repudiated the weights. They were tremendously emphatic in their
statements that no other form of exercise could possibly give the degree of
strength that they owned. Well, you will agree with me that they ought to
know. They had tried everything, and spoke from experience. No man is fool
enough to practice what he knows is wrong after he has found the answer to
his problem. With all this mass of testimonials behind my assertion I must
be right. More so, since it completely balances with my deductions and the
way we all know that nature works.

I do not ask any man to accept any of my beliefs, if I cannot prove them.
Likewise any one is foolish enough to believe any statement at all that
cannot provide the satisfactory proof, and the teacher himself is a fitting
example of what he teaches.

In all my life I have never seen a strong man who was not healthy, but I
have met many healthy men who were not strong. The stronger a man, the more
vigorous his health, and his body retains its youth and preservation in life
longer by far than the man who is healthy and yet not strong. A great
number of people would have us believe that strong people become terribly muscle
bound. Now nature never does anything wrong, and strength never created
such a condition as muscle binding. The term is just another that is wrongly
used. There are a number of muscle fans who have a mania to possess a pair
of large biceps, or huge pectoral muscles. All their efforts are thrown
into the exercises that will develop either of these conditions, and the trouble
is that their development becomes unbalanced and exists at the expense of
the rest of their bodies. Thus do other muscles become robbed of their rights
and remain in a weaker condition. Not until the muscle fan has acquired
this state does he realize how wrong it is, but he has no one else to thank for
it except himself. No teacher of body culture ever advised it. Fortunately it
is a condition that can easily be overcome by a little specialization that
will recover the balance between the various muscles.

Allow me to put before you one of my latest proofs of this. Not long ago a
young man, who is well known in muscle building circles, and who possesses
apparently a very imposing physique, came to me and said, "How is it, Mr.
Jowett, that I am no good at lifting weights? I have the development, but
lots of lighter men can easily beat me, and I can't understand it." Frankly
he admitted that the circumstances had become very acute and embarrassing,
due to the fact that he was not able to maintain his prestige. He was
troubled because too many were telling him he would never be strong and that
his muscular structure was inflated. I had seen him stripped various times
and I informed him that his condition was merely one of unbalanced
proportions, which I could quickly remedy; more so in his case than in most
others because he had the foundation. I pointed out his weak points and
showed him the best exercises to overcome his defects, and in one week he
had put over one inch on his thighs (his least developed part), and lifted a
weight overhead he never thought was possible. Only weighing one hundred
and forty-five pounds, he performed the lift known as the Two Hands Clean and
Jerk, using two hundred and twenty-five pounds. He was also capable of
raising the front of an automobile, to his great delight. Some improvement,
you will agree, when you remember he was miles away from these two feats a
week before.

Some men are naturally born much stronger than others, for physical reasons
or inheritance, but no man ever possessed the amount of natural strength
that placed him in the class of such giants of strength as Cyr, Saxon or Apollon.
These men were, all three, naturally strong, but it was exercise with
weights on the progressive principle that increased their natural powers,
stimulating their strength to a degree that enabled them to lift overhead four hundred
and forty-eight pounds. On the other hand, we have men like Sandow,
Tofolas, Maxick and Pullum, four men who were deprived of the natural blessing at
birth which clothed Cyr, Saxon and Apollon, but by intensive training they
created from themselves supermen. My own case is another example that goes
to prove, along with the other four named celebrities, that the creation of
substantial muscular tissue is the substance from which great strength is

Spencer, in his "Growth and Development," proves the natural condition of
what I have stated, and he had no knowledge of muscle building; but he knew
nature. He knew strength came from vigorous growth. You can see it in
animal and plant life, just the same as in human life.

All the men to whom I have referred were capable of providing their strength
in any way you wished to test them. Why people fool themselves into
believing that the strength of such men only works in one direction, is
positively ridiculous. As I have proven, there is only one kind of
strength, and that is natural strength. Whether it is born in a man or stimulated by
training under intensive exercise, it is just the same and cannot be
changed; whether it is capable of applying its qualities in tossing bar bells, moving
pianos, or lifting the end of an automobile out of a rut.

A man who resorts to tricks and the use of mechanical devices as an aid to
perform his feats, is never strong, no matter what he says he is or how he
impresses the mind. The few men whom I have named would scorn the mention
of such false methods. It is the work of such tricksters that has given rise
to the belief, so prevalent in many quarters, that trickery is connected with
great feats of strength. There is no connection at all between the two. A
strong man is always strong, no matter on what he is tested. His
musculature is substantial and possesses strength which he has created within himself. Earlier in this chapter, I state that this type of structure can be made.
However, there is another very important part connected with this growth
which I have purposely reserved until the last, simply because I did not
want to crowd you. By now, you will have thoroughly absorbed all I have written,
and be properly prepared for what I have to say. This explanation will
clear up the question which no doubt still lingers in your mind, that causes you
to wonder if the one man has secured the right material, surely the other must
be able to obtain some increase of power worth while. Your mind questions
that there must be some strength in all that muscular size. However, there
never can be unless they turn to intensive training. Although the
substantial material is formed, it is not exactly in that structure where
the power lies. It has a co-ordinating factor that really makes powerful
efforts possible, and this factor is the ligaments. The muscles are the engines of
the body and the ligaments the pulleys. It is these ropes of connection
that make it possible to apply the muscles in their greatest contraction. The
more muscular fibres in a muscle, the more steel-like their quality, and
they are capable of greater contraction. But if these ropes of connection are
not strong enough to withstand the resistance required, then their weakness is
evident. Because these two cannot be separated is the sole reason why
strength is never disassociated from substantial structure. Ligaments
always exhibit their quality by their thickness. As the right kind of muscle is
formed, they become thicker. Just look at the joints of a real strong man,
and note the depth of tissue that exists. Feel for the ligaments and you
will notice how thick and cordy they are, but you never note their
appearance on one who is not strong, or on the athlete who has not practiced bar bell
exercise. When I started heavy exercise my wrist measured seven inches, but
today it measures eight and a half inches. The ligaments are very thick and
prominent, and have an appearance that immediately tells the eye they must
be part of a sturdy combination.

Strength is better understood as resistance: - The power to resist the
resistance of some other object. The muscles are continually pulling, never
pushing. One group relaxes and another contracts.

There is no mystery to strength, it is just simply understanding its
definition. It has a natural source, and the only thing left is for the
muscle builder to cultivate that source by the right method of training -
the kind that has produced the most powerful men in the world in all classes,
irrespective of whether they were born strong or not. Material resistance
methods, which can only be supplied by progressive bar bell training, are
the only methods which can secure the desired outcome - great natural strength.