Monday, April 18, 2011

The Key to Might and Muscle - (Circa 1926) - Chapter 14 - Banishing Round Shoulders & Protruding Shoulder Blades - By George F. Jowett

"Straighten up there. Haven't you got any backbone in you?" Did you ever hear a top sergeant yell this at some raw rookie? I will bet you did if you were ever in the army. There is more talk of this kind than anything else where the army is breaking in its new men. However, we do not have to go to any army training quarters to see such specimens, for they are as thick upon the streets as hair on a dog. Humpbacks, round shoulders, or shoulder blades that stick out like razor blades are a common sight. It really is a shame when you think of it, and realize how the internal organs of the thorax become congested through such negligence. I have often thought that he characteristics which are developed between the age of fifteen and eighteen are those that will control the young man's future, both mentally and physically. Around that age, we see more slouchy boys than well set-up young chaps. To walk erect at sixteen years of age generally brings contemptuous comments from others of the same age, who tell the rest of the "gang" that that guy likes to show off, or thinks he is somebody. Well, it is the age of the growing boy, who wants to be a man before his time. The boy, some mock, is invariably their pride on the diamond, or the gridiron, and more or less all the boys admire him, but they feel they want to be just a bit different. It is right here that their mistake is made. The gawky boy effects a slouchy walk, which makes his shoulder blades stick out and spoils the natural carriage of his back. Then, when he begins to straighten up, he finds the new position a little distressing. But, I will say this; that if there is one part of the body on which the effect of exercise is felt almost immediately, it is the back. Just for an example, take a bar bell loaded to about fifty or seventy-five pounds, and press it to arms' length overhead a few times. Then place it on the floor and stand up and walk. If you raised the weight two or three extra times by just determining that you were going to lift that bar bell as many times as you could, you will feel a very forcible back-pull as you walk. For a few steps the unusually erect carriage will make your stride feel different. Anyhow, you will notice how much more erect you were after the exercise than before. Of course, this will not be permanent, but it will only take a few weeks of intensive bar bell training to make the result permanent.

You see, it is like this, from lack of proper use, the muscles on the broad side of the back lose their natural power of contraction. They become stringy and weak. The result is that the scapula bones, or shoulder blades, are not held in place, and the arms soon become too heavy for the shoulders.

Some time, when you are attending a swimming pool, just look the boys over and see if you do no find these conditions. First take a really ordinary person, and on the upper body you will notice that there appears to no trace of the existence of the latissimus dorsi muscles, the serratus magnus, deltoids, trapezius and arm triceps. At the best, they will only appear in a rudimentary condition. Is there any wonder they have such unnatural upper body development? Turn your attention to the earnest exercise fan, and you see a completely different type of manhood.

The serratus magnus has a scapular origin, and if it only exists in a mediocre condition, how can one expect the shoulder blades to be in their original place? The trapezius is the muscle that covers most of the shoulder blade. It is a large triangular slab of muscle that is attached to the spine covering both the cervical and the thoracic part of the spine, or, as we would commonly say, from the base of the skull down to the small of the back. It slants from the lumbar region up to the should girdle, and then travels along the clavicle, or collar-bone. This is what gives this muscle its threefold origin. Even with this, I used to wonder why it contracted so strangely. If you clasp your hands behind the back and press downwards, bringing the shoulder blades together, you will notice right at the base of the neck a bunch of muscle, shaped like a crater. It has a hollow depression, but if you pull on your head with your hands you see the trapezius forms into a cable of muscle, something like a continuation of the erector spinae muscles. I found out why it functioned this way. From the lumbar region the muscular fibres slant up toward the girdle of the shoulders, and from there they go in the opposite direction, slanting from the site of the collar-bone to the base of the skull. This is the reason why greater neck power can be employed by lifting the head in a spiral movement than in a straight, backward movement. With this knowledge of the trapezius, I acquired more respect for them, although I used to think, like the majority of exercise fans, that the latissimus dorsi was the most important muscle in the broad of the back. Hand balancers, and ground tumblers, always have a finely developed upper back, as have wrestlers, but unquestionably bar bell fans and weight lifters build up the most powerful backs.

I once owned a real old book on physical education. In those days the anatomical names were not so well understood as they are now. I remember that the trapezius was spoken of as the "monk's cowl" muscle. I can quite well understand why it was termed that, as it takes the appearance of a cowl of a monk as it spreads along the collar-bone. I have heard some real old-timers use the same term, but in general we never hear it any more.

A good broad back is a fine thing, but broad backs and broad shoulders do not always go together. Some men have very long clavicles, and yet only have a narrow back. Still, the back is very easily built up, and as the back muscles become stronger they pull the shoulders back, making the bodily carriage more erect. One sure thing about the trapezius is that you cannot develop them without the aid of the latissimus dorsi muscles. I know you have been taught that shrugging the shoulders while holding a bar bell at arms' length across the thigh is a very good exercise. There is no doubt that it is, but you must always bear in mind that because this muscle has a threefold origin, it cannot be fully developed from one angle or by one exercise. We find that by bridging and shrugging, the trapezius is developed from two angles. The way this muscle works is in this fashion: The upper fibres elevate the shoulder girdle, and the lower fibres pulling on the base of the spine of the scapula depress the vertebral margin. These two movements result in a rotation of the should blade. The main action is to draw the scapula backwards and upwards like drawing the shoulders back, and raising the arms overhead. Now, this movement being understood, let us figure which exercise will give us the best results. Shrugging the shoulders we will retain as one good exercise, but I am satisfied it does not fulfill all of our requirements. Still, pressing a bar bell overhead was always considered good. Well, I only rate it as being fair, but I do not lose track of the existence of this muscle being vitally important in raising objects overhead. At the same time, we all know that the back is stronger than the arms. Then our object should be to develop the back muscles by movements that will give them their fullest contraction. Pressing a bar bell off the chest to arms' length involves the operation of many muscles, but as the arms are naturally carried forward, the trapezius muscles are not fully contracted. Now if you place the bar-bell across the back of the neck, resting upon the shoulders, and by standing perfectly erect, begin to press the bar-bell to arms' length, you will find an altogether different action is brought upon the trapezius muscles. They will bulge more.

At one time bar-bell users trained considerably with dumb-bells, but at the present time dumb-bells and kettle-bells are seldom used. Perhaps you may not think so, but to press a pair of dumb-bells to arms' length overhead is much more difficult that pressing a bar bell, and this is even so of the jerk. If you have any doubt about it, you are able to jerk one hundred and fifty pounds overhead with both hands, just load up a pair of dumb-bells to seventy-five pounds each and try to jerk them. You will find it much harder. It, using a bar-bell, you are able to jerk two hundred pounds overhead, it is doubtful if you can jerk the same weight with dumb-bells. When you get up to heavy weights, from two hundred pounds up, you will find that kettle weights are even harder to handle than dumb-bells. One reason is, that one arm is weaker than the other, and the division of weight makes the weaker arm do its full share of the work without the aid of the stronger arm.

A good exercise practiced with kettle bells is pressing each one alternately from the shoulder to arms' length overhead, but a better on is practiced by standing erect with a dumb-bell in each hand, hanging by the side, with the feet together and the body erect. With a pure arm movement, curl one dumb-bell to the shoulder, and press overhead. As you begin to lower this overhead dumb-bell, curl the other and press it aloft. Keep on raising each one after the other from the side and going overhead, in a continuous movement. By this I mean, you must not stop at the shoulder, neither when going up or coming down. A variation of this exercise can be done using both dumb-bells at once. A variation of this exercise can be done using both dumb-bells at once. Curl them to the shoulder and press them simultaneously. These full movements completely employ all of the trapezius muscle in all its movements of full contraction. Also, the latissimus dorsi muscle is largely called into action. As these muscles grow they deepen the mass of muscle that forms on the back, but if you have a craving to broaden the shoulders you will be obliged to employ different methods. This increase must be supplied by the latissimus dorsi muscles. As I have stated in other chapters, these broad muscles are attached to the biceptial groove of the upper arm, and any movement that draws the arm forward, naturally involves these muscles. Therefore, it stands to reason that the greater the resistance that draws the arms forward the greater the contraction that will be required to pull the arm backward. If you pull a bar bell to the chest off the floor, you will feel a great spreading of the shoulders as the latissimus dorsi comes into play. I was always very particular about the way I performed this movement, as I realized the value of the exercise, but it does not take any close figuring to understand why these muscles, being so large, must be given a great deal of resistance. A twenty-five pound bar bell or even a fifty-pound bar bell is too light for the average man. He is capable of handling more, and must if he wants the results. The general way to practice this exercise was with the feet apart, legs straight and body bent over, not quite at right angles to the waist; but in my quest to secure the position that would give the latissimus dorsi their best workout, I found that by bending the knees a little I was able to handle more weight, and the action was brought more directly upon the right muscles. By the other method too much effort is thrown upon the small of the back, due to the fact that the body cannot be so correctly centralized as it is when the knees are bent a little. Still, you may say it is giving the latissimus dorsi muscles action in the lumbar region. I certainly agree, but muscular activity in that region is not going to broaden the shoulders. The main effect of the exercise is absorbed too low down. It is the pull given by the arms, and the effect it creates upon the latissimus dorsi muscles in its process of insertion on the humerus, that is going to do the thing for us. When I take up my position to commence this exercise, I always allow the bar bell to hang at arms' length. You know you can hold a weight at arms' length, and you can allow it to hang at arms' length. The difference is that by holding, the muscles are tensed, while in the hand no muscular tension is required. Just pick the bar bell off the floor, about an inch, and allow it to hang in the arms a few moments. You will feel a drag upon the shoulders which spreads them to their fullest extent, then slowly pull the bell towards the chest. See that the elbows are pointed outwards, so that they are on a level with the shoulders at the finish of the exercise. You will feel the value of the bent knees, as the leg muscles come into action to resist the pulling forward tendency of the back. More weight can be handled this way and a better balance secured with the effort borne at the right place. As the weight is lowered, I never allow it to touch the floor, but always clear by about an inch, relaxing the muscular contraction at the hang, so all the possible pull is brought upon the shoulders. You will find that where you make twelve repetitions in the ordinary movement, you will be lucky to make nine in this more effective way; but the results are a hundred per cent better.

Yet another mighty good back broadener is a variation of the last exercise. Instead of a bar bell use a pair of dumb-bells. Place them between the feet and pull them separately to the chest. Don't make the mistake of pulling them to the waist and think that that movement is correct, or just as good. It is a lazy way of practicing either of these two exercises.

In the last namcd exercise I do not mean that you should pull one dumb-bell to the chest a number of times first. Let each hand in the hands at the same time, and alternately bring each one to the chest as many times as you feel comfortably able. Try it out with a pair of thirty-five pound dumb-bells, and see that the elbow of each arm is always pointed well outwards so that all the possible spread is given to the shoulders.

I feel that we should consider the deltoids in this chapter, as they form part of the shoulder girdle and play an important part in shoulder construction, as well as enhancing the physical appearance. If you want to find out just how good your deltoids look, stand in front of the mirror in a relaxed pose. The chances are that the shoulders are going to have a slope hat will be magnified by the lack of the fleshy mound which should appear at the extreme end of the collar-bone. To make sure that you are not being deceived, hold your arms out at full stretch, in a straight line with the shoulders, then clench the fists and bend the forearm on the upper arm. If these muscles are in a developed state, they will have a great fullness that will seem to have a cup shape. Underdeveloped, they will be flat, and the biceps will have a bulkier appearance by contrast. The deltoid makes for the prominence of the shoulder, and derives its name from the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet, delta, because this muscle is shaped like the triangular formation of that letter. It has a threefold attachment on the shoulder blade, the collar-bone, and the humerus bone. Its operating duties are to lift the arm horizontally with the shoulder, sideways and in front. The fibres of this muscles are not as finely woven as those found in most other muscles. Its structure is really very coarse. The developing process of this muscle requires a little more careful consideration than any other muscle in the body, not because it is a weaker muscle, but because the methods of exercise include a certain leverage not found anywhere else, and the exerciser is apt to not consider this point when laying out his routine.

The muscular principles of leverage are just the same as the mechanical principles involved in raising as stone with a stick. If you have a long lever against a heavy object, you are going to move it easier, but if you change your point of leverage, taking only a short hold with the hands and allowing the heavy object to be at the long end of the stick, it is going to be a harder task to accomplish. That is just what the deltoids are up against. The kettle-weight, or any other object you are using, is at the farthest end of the leverage point, as against a shorter control, and that is why we cannot hold much weight at arms' length in a line with the shoulder. But, if you bend your arm at the elbow and allow the hand to come close up to the chest, you will be able to handle twice as much weight as at arms' length, because the leverage is shortened and the advantage is more with the deltoid. So, when you start to develop the deltoid muscle, do not allow your ambitions to run away with you and imagine that you can handle more weight than you are able. Start out easily.

Most of the exercises for the deltoids are best performed with kettle weights. The crucifix is probably the most popular exercise. The manner in which most exercise fans perform the crucifix is something like this. Taking a kettle bell in each hand, they curl them to the shoulders, and form this point they thrust the arms out horizontally with the shoulders, with the palms of the hands held up. It is not much of an exercise, and seldom registers any great degree of deltoid growth. The movement is too isolated. It causes the muscle to tense rather than give a full contraction. As I have always remarked, if you want to get the most out of your muscles, you will have to give them full contraction, which means the same exercise must give them equally full extension. Therefore, the best movement is to commence with the hands hanging by the side, and without leaning backwards, raise the kettle bell until they are in a straight line with the shoulders, and then lower them. This exercise can be performed with variations, such as raising the arms from the side with the palms of the hands turned down, then with the palms turned up. In doing any of these movements try and shorten the length of leverage; when you raise the kettle bells with the palms turned up, bend the hand at the wrist towards the shoulder. With palms down, bend the hand at the wrist back on the forearm towards the shoulder. Perform the crucifix, or muscling out exercise, lowering the weights from above as well as raising from below. Also, lower them from above without a stop until the kettle bells hang at arms' length by the sides, then raise back to arms' length overhead, always keeping the arms straight. Raise the weights alternately as well as simultaneously, from the front as well as the sides, and your deltoids will quickly take on both shape and size that will add to the breadth of the shoulders. Muscling out was a great practice at one time, and I can well remember the time when this practice was very popular with laymen and professionals

In the highlands of Scotland, throwing the shoulder stone was a great pastime, and it is one of the most ancient sports known to history. I have often visited the glen where a certain stone was kept for that purpose. This sport was often combined with muscling out, but this was much easier than holding out a ring weight. A stone weighing from forty pounds up is often large, although that depends a lot upon the composition of the stone, as some are much heavier that others. However, they generally looked for a flat stone, which rested as much on the forearm as the flat of the hand. The French use block weights considerably. I remember that most of their block weights are more oblong than those we use, and part of the block weight rested on the forearm, too. Our block weight is much like the English block weight, the only difference being that ours weigh fifty pounds and the English block weight is fifty-six pounds. Nearly every man I ever saw with a fine flat back, and broad shoulders, had a finely shaped pair of deltoids, and if you practice the exercises I have described in this chapter, you will quickly acquire the carriage of a grenadier, with the backbone of real God-made man.
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Bob Whelan

Bob Whelan

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