Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Key to Might and Muscle - (Circa 1926) - Chapter 13 - Creating Intense Vitality By Abdominal Development - By George F. Jowett

After explaining the conditions that control the small of the back, I will now draw your attention to the same region, but to the front of the torso, which we might safely term the pit of the body.

Just as the condition of the small of the back controls vitality, so does the condition of the abdomen control the vital sources of digestion. It is what the organs of digestion get from foods that really supplies the whole body with its energy. In the chapter on Curative Exercise I explained how the various particles of food were transferred into the blood stream, and conveyed to the various sources, to become finally absorbed by the living cells of the tissues. You are fully aware of the fact that if the muscular wall that protects the abdomen is not taken care of, many conditions will arise that will be detrimental to the lasting life of your organs. The one great object in our life, as body builders, is to increase the resistance of the muscles, internal and external, against the ravages of time and disease. We know that to do this we must build the muscles of the body to the highest state of their physical perfection. Fine arms, legs, neck and back are great, but with the fully developed torso they are all obtained in vain. The old saw still says you are just as strong as your weakest link, and it is only too true.

I wonder if you have noticed one thing missing in all of the chapters I have written in this volume, particularly here I have discussed building up the various muscles of the body. I think you have, but to make this positive in your mind, I will allude to it. With the exception of the chapter on finger strength, I have not mentioned any great feats of strength, or made any comparison of how much this man did, or that man did, to show the possibilities of the muscles outlined for cultivation. This may be considered strange, but I have a definite object in mind. Just this. I have known many aspirants for better bodies to become totally discouraged by such comparisons. Others defeat their purpose by believing they should come pretty close to what the best have done. You should remember that the fine achievements of those great exponents of muscle culture were the result of intensive training over a period of time. By following the same example as they, you also can succeed. Therefore, it is my earnest desire to teach the reader the principles rather than demonstrate the results of body-building. The latter will inevitably follow. I know you are interested in all those things, but I have taken care of them in other chapters. What I am concerned with now is building you over, and the abdomen is a good place to impress you with the fact, with the reminder that the condition of your abdomen is going to decide many things for you. If you have a strongly built abdomen you will have a strong back; but, that does not mean if have a strong back you will have a strong abdomen. Oh, no! Many men who have allowed themselves to slip still retain a strong back, but the obesity of the abdomen tells another story. Yet, we can always associate a well-formed torso with a well-formed back.

The muscles of the abdomen consist of the four twin sections, that armor-like, form a muscular wall of protection for the contents of the abdomen and are aided by the muscles of the sides, which we term the external oblique muscles. The abdominals are fastened to the breast-bone and to the pelvis, with the external oblique muscles running obliquely through the groin to their insertion. These muscles help to erect the body in all forward and side movements, but display their great power of construction in bending movements. They are very flexible, and can be actually controlled better than any other group of muscles. Unfortunately, they seem to be the first muscles in the body that are prone to degenerate more rapidly than the erector spinae muscles in the sacrum region, or the muscles of the neck. They lose their elasticity and contractile power, which is proven by the enormous percentage of obese stomachs, sagging abdomens and the constant liability to hernia.

You have noticed the formation of these muscles on the abdomen, ridges of fleshy cables that run horizontally across the body. In the well formed body builder this is termed the "wash board." They give that appearance when they are contracted, four ridges rolling upon each other. The last section commences on the line of the naval, and has a long conical construction tapering away in the pelvis. None of these muscles are distinctly separated from each other. Acting more like sympathetic muscles, they are attached to each other by a thin membranous fascia. The most popular exercise is the "sit up." The exerciser lies on the floor with a light weight held behind the neck, and has some heavy object over his feet to hold him down, as he performs the exercise. This may be a bar-bell, or else the feet are placed under the edge of a bureau. Pulling on the bar at the back of the neck the exerciser rises to the "sit up" position. Common as is this exercise, many have a lot of trouble with it, and no wonder, because they keep the back too straight. The back should be rounded as much as possible so that the distance between the face and the knees is shortened. It is in this rounded position that the abdominals obtain their strongest contraction and benefit. My advice to those who find it so difficult is to commence to the exercise from the sit-up position, rather than lying down. The back can be better rounded at the start, and the exerciser should lower his body to the floor in a rolling movement. Just as soon as he feels the broad of the back touch the floor, he should immediately begin to rise again. Only a very light weight is required to start. Professional athletes used to use the Roman Chair and Roman Column a lot, but those are not very handy in a bedroom, so we might as well forget them, apart from the fact that are also difficult to purchase. However, by allowing the small of the back to rest across the seat of a chair, with the feet placed under some object, the exerciser can get some good abdominal action by pulling a weight over the face and rising to a "sit up" position on the chair, a pair of dumb bells are handier in this position than a bar bell.

Yet another exercise that is good is to kneel on the floor with the knees wide apart and a light bar-bell held across the back of the neck. By bending forward as low as possible, with a rounded back, you will find it not as easy to straighten the body back to the erect position.

Another form of developing the abdominal muscles has been widely practiced of late years, but it is not so successful for many reasons. As a method of muscle building it is not very important, but as a means of massaging, and stimulating the digestive tracts, it is good. Better known as "muscle control." it was first written of in America by Ottley R. Coulter, who was a great exponent of this method, besides being of pupil of the famous Maxick, who introduced the study in England. Maxick could perform some remarkable controls, and for a while this method of training became the rage.

A few of the controls are the complete isolation of the diaphragm, the double isolation of the rectus abdominals - which is better known as the "rope," because it creates the impression that the athlete had swallowed a piece of heavy rope, and it was standing upright in the cavity of the abdomen. Another is the single abdominal isolation. In this last feat, just one side of the abdominals are tensed, and the other side shows only a deep hollow cavity. In the full isolation of the diaphragm, the stomach and all the intestinal organs seem to disappear, leaving a huge hollow. Both fists can be buried in the large hole formed under the thorax. What really happens is that by taking a few deep intakes of breath, and exhaling same, a vacuum is created that sucks or draws in the abdominal space. The same happens in all of the abdominal controls, the only difference being that a different muscular control is called into existence operating with the created vacuum. An athlete does not necessarily have to possess any remarkable development to be able to perform these controls, although the better abdominal development the more effective are the controls displayed. I would much rather see a body culturist concentrate on building up the muscles of his abdomen rather than put the same amount of time in learning these controls. Take the abdominal development of Siegmund Klein, or Ottley Coulter. There is something very impressive in the ridges of muscle that ripple over either of their abdomens. It is far more worth while to secure these results first. The controls will come easily afterwards. I have seen Mr. Coulter display the Pauperts ligaments in some of his controls. To my mind that is the only demonstration I ever saw of these ligaments.

In the chapter on Curative Exercises I gave a number of exercises, and among them was the "sit up," which I did not explain as fully there as here, as stated at that time. For muscle building it is all right and has a great influence in decreasing the stomach. For the muscles on the lower abdomen the leg-raising exercise is the best. Next, attention should be given to the external oblique muscles, which fit on the side of the body from beneath the ribs, and are flanked on the back by the latissimus dorsi. They run into the groin, and help make the superb development seen on the torso of Klein and Coulter. If you ever pay attention to the Grecian torsos, and other statues, you will quickly notice the crest of muscle that seems to bulge over the side of the hip bone. That is the muscle. Grecian torsos did not die with the decline of that Empire. They are one of nature's possessions that the efforts of man can always hold. There are just a finely built men today as two thousand years ago, and the columns of the various physical culture magazines constantly display them.

Raising a weight to arms' length, while bending over sideways, is an important exercise for external oblique muscle. So is holding a weight at arms' length overhead and bending over sideways so that you are able to touch the toes with the other hand. The one thing you have to watch in this exercise is to keep the lifting leg straight throughout the exercise. A little feat that is very attractive and helps considerably to build up these muscles is done as follows: Raise a bar bell to arms' length, lie flat on the back on the floor. Still keeping it at arms' length, rise to the erect position. In fact, this stunt stimulates into action all the muscles in the abdominal region, but due to all the side bending necessitated, the external obliques receive a little extra play.

Balance a bar bell on the hank, and as you continue to balance it thus you will be obliged to juggle it in order to maintain the balance. All the movement caused by the juggling will be controlled by the muscles in the waist region. When you get good at it, you can make a deep knee bend, and then sit on the floor still balancing the bar bell, and rise to the erect position. You really will be surprised to see just how much play is given to the abdomen and side muscles by this little feat.

It is necessary that the boxer should have a well-muscled abdomen, otherwise the solar plexus blow will soon put him out of commission. It appears that there is a little knot of nerves at the pit of the stomach that are very sensitive, and a well-placed blow there seems to paralyze the nervous system temporarily. Some boxers are very proud of there abdominal strength, and I have seen them stand up and allow others to punch them all over the abdomen as hard as they like. On one occasion I saw a man strike an old pugilist with a ten-pound dumb-bell, but so well formed were his muscles that they absorbed the blow without his flinching. It is not an uncommon feat to see some men allow others to jump on their stomach, even from the height of a table, and with no ill effects. Frank Dennis, allowed an automobile to run over his stomach while flat upon his back on the ground, with no protection.

Personally, I do not approve of such stunts. They are not necessary, but still they go to prove to what a remarkable extent the abdomen can be developed, and the terrific resistance of which the abdominal muscles are capable.
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Bob Whelan

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