Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Key to Might and Muscle - (Circa 1926) - Chapter 16 - How to Develop Superb Hips and Thighs - By George F. Jowett


If I were to be asked, which are the muscles to which muscle builders pay the least attention, I would say the muscles of the legs. For every one physical culturist that I see with a pair of well built legs, I see fifty without them. It is also a fact, that the majority of people I meet who possess good legs were aided by nature in the first place. Naturally, development was not very hard for them to acquire. Honestly, I admire a man who has earned his leg development. I know just what he has gone through. The knowledge that the average exercise fan has at his command for promoting the growth of these various muscles is very meager, which means that he has to go through a lot of torturous work in order to succeed, as well as call upon all the reserves of his will power.

It is very common to see a splendid upper body development spoiled by a pair of spindly legs, and the trouble is, that the average exercise fan does not wake up until he is made to feel very conscious of the fact.

You will always hear the same old worn out alibi when you ask them why they did not spend an equal amount of time upon developing their legs: "I do exercise them, but they just wont grow." Well, let us agree on the point that they all do a certain amount of training according to their knowledge, an let us see just about how much they are likely to do. Ninety percent are limited by just practicing the squat, or deep knee bend. Another five percent add the exercise,which is a variation of the Kennedy Lift. In this movement the position is taken astride the bar bell and the bar is grasped with one hand in front of the body and the other hand behind. Standing erect, only a slight bend of the knees is made a number of times. The remaining five percent have either developed some exercise movements of their own, or have received some expert coaching. It is among this last quota that you find the few who have actually earned their leg muscles. Consequently, we find the majority of body culturists using only two exercises at the most. Compare these two with the number of movements employed for arm development. There is no comparison at all. If as much time was spent on proportioning the legs as is spent upon the biceps, we would certainly see better legs. It is actually the craze for big biceps and chest muscles that absorbs most of a student's exercise period, which has brought about the spindly leg condition.

It is my intention to devote this article entirely to the thighs, which will compel the including of the hips by reason of their co-operative existence. To a certain extent the calf muscles are brought into action by these same movements, but not enough to guarantee any amount of muscular growth.

The mere suggestion of an exercise with an explanation, is like putting a ship to sea without a rudder. It sails, but gets nowhere, and to name the muscles is not sufficient. We have to go much deeper. We have to find out just why that muscle is there; how it operates; or whether it operates best alone, or in conjunction with another muscle. Then we have something on which to work. This knowledge enables us to find out the best means of control in order to make muscles more subject to growth. Boiled down, we become acquainted with the cause, effect, and determination of the muscles and their growth.

Commencing with the front part of the thigh, which is properly known as the anterior aspect, we find that the Quadriceps Femoris is the chief muscle, and covers the major frontal portion. As the first part of the name implies, this muscles is fourfold. The name is significant of another fact, which testifies that these muscles work in one group. Of course, many muscles work in groups, but nature adapted these particular four for actual co-ordination. They are capable of greater resistance because of their fourfold nature. Consequently, any exercise that involves the Quadriceps as a group, can safely be of a vigorous nature.

The Quadriceps have generally been explained as the triceps of the thighs. Not in the sense that this group is threefold, as the word triceps implies, but to illustrate the fact that the Quadriceps operates like the triceps of the arm. That is, it helps to straighten the leg. Yet, if you examine the anatomical construction of the front of the thigh, you will almost be led to believe that the Quadriceps is composed of three muscles. However, it is not, because the Rectus Femoris has a double tendinous origin. The word Rectus, explains to you that the muscle operates in erection, or straightening.

In fact, the Rectus Femoris is a very interesting twin muscle. It is a flexor of the hip joint. Therefore, any exercise that involves these twin muscles must necessarily employ the hip muscles. Under physical movement, the straight head acts when the movement begins, and the reflected head is tightened when the thigh becomes bent.

The parts of the Quadriceps extensor are supplied by separate branches of the Femoral nerve, which is reason why the thigh muscles can operate in terrific movements of propulsion, where great nervous energy is required, such as speed racing and lifting heavy weights overhead quickly.

The Externous Vastus muscle, the one on the extreme outside of the thigh, is always the most noticeable on an athlete. It is the hump of muscle so easily discernible, about one-third of the distance up the thigh, which arcs outwards in one sweeping curve to the hip. Just tense your thigh by locking the knee tightly backwards, and you will see how it shapes itself. But this muscle is not entirely surfacial as the outward contour makes it appear. If you raise the leg to right angles with the body, you will notice a little hump of muscle about two inches long lying along the outside, at the extreme end of the thigh nearest the hip. This muscles is attached by a very long tendon that runs down the side of the thigh to the knee. It is under this muscles that the Externus Vastus finally loses itself. Raise your leg again and you will learn something more. Aside from the appearance of the little hump of muscle, you will notice that the Externus Vastus becomes so vigorously tensed that you can see it taper to its tendon.

Now let us get back to exercise. The squat or deep knee bend, whichever you want to call it, is generally practiced balanced upon the toes with the heels close together. I once read a statement that of the Quadriceps group, this exercise developed the Internus Vastus the most. But I disagree, and I will tell you why. I have noticed that this particular muscle is lacking in development with most of the indoor exercise fans. Even the majority of weight lifters do not show pronounced development we would expect. It is the Rectus Femoris and the Externus Vastus that are the most prominent. But if you practice the deep knee bend with the feet flat on the floor pointed forwards, you will soon find that this bunch of muscle just above the knee cap, on the inside of the thigh, will grow rapidly, for this reason. With the heels together and the bodyweight balanced on the ball of the feet, you cannot make as deep a squat, which is necessary to bring this muscle vigorously into action. It is always noticeable that strong men who finish their feats with a deep knee bend, have well formed Internus Vastus muscles. The Germans call it the Shenkel muscle which means "a muscle of the shank." That is why I prefer a flat foot squat, because it brings the entire group of Quadriceps muscles into play at once, and does away with the necessity of a number of exercises that are not required. This again proves the fact that when you find the right exercise, where a natural group of muscles co-ordinate so powerfully, as in this case, you can secure better results.

However, we have more muscles to consider. For one, the little hump on the outside of the thigh.

In most cases, the Externus Vastus start off with a sweeping arc, but instead of completing the curve, it becomes a straight line. Why? Well now, did you learn something when you raised your leg to right angles with the body? Remember how this little muscle tensed, and you felt such a powerful contraction of the entire Externus Vastus? Perhaps you also noticed how insignificant the little mound of tissue was. Proof you have not exercised the muscle to promote any growth, but if you do, you will create an appearance when the thigh is tensed that will form a beautiful curve from where the Externus Vastus commences all the way up to the groin. This muscle is always highly developed in football kickers, because its action has a lot to do with raising the leg forward.

Just hitch your toes in the handle of a light kettle bell and raise the leg forward to right angles with the body. Keep the leg perfectly straight and don't lean backwards too far or bend the other knee too deeply. You will probably find it necessary to place one hand lightly on the back of a chair in order to control your balance. This is a fine developer.

Now we come to last important muscle on the face of the thigh. The one that gives the thigh that fullness so pleasing to the sight. It is a long strip of muscle that is attached at the extreme height of the thigh on the outside, and crosses the top of the entire thigh to become fastened on the inside of the shin bone just below the knee. We call it the Sartorious, which means "The tailor's muscle." The Germans call it the "cutting" muscle. Both express the meaning adequately. The German version implies that it cuts across the others, but I like our interpretation best, as it seems to contain more. The abductor tendencies of this muscle is not as great as Femoris, despite its great length. The Tailor's muscle is mostly employed in rotating the leg from side to side. Another of its great functioning qualities is the direct effect it has of supporting the Quadriceps muscle. I believe that from its capacity to act in this direction, it acquired its peculiar name. Anything special a tailor would do on his work, would naturally be as a better aid or support, or to give better service. His object would be to bind the material better. The Sartorious acts the same way. Something like a strap around a barrel, it straps around the Quadriceps muscles and holds them more powerfully together under vigorous movement. Stick your foot into the handle of the light kettle bell and again raise the foot to right angles. From this position move the leg from side to side as much as possible, but be sure to keep it straight.

I hope you have all this clearly fixed in your mind, and that my explanations have enlightened you a little more on these muscles. Of course, the muscles I have named do not constitute the whole mass of tissue on the front of the leg. There are others that lie beneath, but their action is guided entirely by the surfacial muscles we have just studied.

We have the muscles on the back of the thigh to consider. Because the muscle builder cannot see them without the aid of a mirror is the main reason why they are so badly neglected. Just stand in profile in front of the mirror, and you will surprise yourself. From the back of the knee up to the buttock muscle, there is apt to be a straight line where fullness should exist. Remember, your thigh is not developed unless it can stand criticism from every angle. Coming back to the point, I will explain that the muscles on the back of the thighs are called the biceps because of their double origin. They contract and control the body as the knees become bent. No doubt the thought has come to your mind, if his is the case, why are they not as well developed as the muscles on the front of your thigh from practicing the squat. I used to wonder why their appearance was not improved more than it is from the various deep knee bending exercises, but by careful observation of pupils in practice, I found the reason. The average exercise fan makes the squat far too quickly to really employ the biceps to any extent. The real exertion lies in coming to the erect position, and this exertion is entirely taken care of by the Quadriceps muscles.

A very peculiar but interesting feature about the muscles of the front of the thigh and the back of the thigh is their relative pole of balance.

Strange as it may seem, I have never seen it explained, yet I have seen lots of field and weight lifting coaches scratch their head in consternation. To their mind the athlete had all the science down pat, and for the world they could see no reason for his lack of improvement. In shot-putting, throwing the hammer and lifting weights, the athlete appeared to secure enough crouch or dip. But, there was the trouble, they got too much crouch or dip. I have met a few coaches who recognized the fact, but could not explain the cause, which bolsters my argument that you must know why you do a thing.

When I see an athlete make too deep a knee bend in lifting a weight overhead or in shot-putting and broad and high-jumping, I immediately, mentally register a failure. The cause is that he has traveled past the pole of balance. Strange as it many seem, to secure the best effect, only a light dip is required of two or three inches; if the athlete travels further the biceps secure the balance of power. The snap is taken out of the movement. If anything, the balance should be with the Quadriceps.

The concentrated effort from the waist up registers a great downward pressure before the up-heave is made, and where any amount of weight is employed the downward pressure is always greater. Of course, the better developed the thigh biceps, the better is this condition overcome.

I found that lying upon a table with a kettle bell hitched on each foot, and then curling the heels to the buttock, was an ideal exercise for these muscles. Some allow a person to sit on the soles of the feet and curl their bodyweight, but a person is not always handy, as are kettle bells.

This exercise has a fine effect on the calf and buttocks also. You will find, lying on the back with a weight balanced on the feet and pressed to straight legs, is also very good.

Of course there are many other exercises that have a good influence upon the thighs, but as the major part of body culturists practice within the confines of their room these other movements are out of the question. But, if you can get out where your opportunities are not so restricted, you would naturally find improvement more rapid.

The benefits of thigh exercise do not begin and finish with the increased proportions and bettered appearance. You will find that in nearly all thigh movements the buttock muscles are equally involved, and as the thighs improve the buttocks become firmer and will take on a fullness that will magnify the contours of the thighs. In fact, their will be a considerable change in the hips, groin, lower back and abdomen that is well worth working for.

However, I will not go so far as to say the chest and upper back will be benefited in proportion. I don't believe it. In theory it may sound all right, but anatomically it can't be done.

A person with wide hips will develop the largest legs, as he has the natural construction. That is, he has more space to build upon and generally is possessed of greater concentrated energy. The small of his back is wider and the rope muscles on his back appear like huge twisting columns. The pit of his body is larger and gives a greater space for the entire torso. Such men always have powerful vital organs.

The part of the spine that embraces the region of the hips is known as the sacrum. Its translation signifies that it forms a sacred area, which we know it does. All our procreative powers are contained in this region, which makes the reception of our virile forces. The ancient sages of biblical days when referring to famous men of their time would explain their qualities as being due to the fact that they "sprung from the loins" of so and so. Their term was more correct than our present day assertion that so and so is a real "chip of the old block."

The floor of the pelvis is a natural foundation for the base of the spine and considerable support is given to the fixed spines of the sacrum region by the depth and breadth of the hip bones. If a man has wide hips he is bound to have good legs, and, as I have inferred any exercise that operates the thigh muscles brings into action the powerful buttock muscles. Have you noticed when you went to push against an object how these big muscles tightened up? The same thing happens if you resist somebody who seeks to push you away. These muscles contract very vigorously when a person bends backwards, as he pushes some object overhead. An exercise fan feels the resistance in all two-arm push and press exercises. I remember when I was making records in these lifts how many of my friends would remark that it was my great arm and back strength that enabled me to do so well. They were surprised when I explained to them that the whole secret of that lift was in the support I received from the buttock muscles. They were my support, and I could feel the bolstering effect upon the small of the back. Their tension helped to keep the knees locked, which is extremely important, for as the battle is fought to pass the sticking point in raising the weight aloft, the pressure upon the legs is greatest, and the least relaxation of tension at the knees will spoil the lift. As I referred in a previous chapter that years ago a favorite supporting feat of professional performers was to do what was termed a hip support. How they had a belt that fit loosely over the hips with a hook and chain attachment that passed through the platform on which they stood, to be fastened onto the supports of a platform underneath. On the platform were horse or a number of people. The lower platform was lowered (not always lifted) until the whole platform with the people on it would be suspended, supported by the strong man's hips. To make the feat more impressive, the lifter would press overhead a bar bell, or else hold kettle weights out at arms' length level with the shoulders in a crucifix. The by a mouthpiece he would sustain the weight of some other heavy object. This feat is not nearly as hard as it looks, although it certainly requires strength: The main thing is to keep the knees locked against the great downward pressure. So you see, it is a great asset to have good hips from a physical standpoint as well as on account of the organic strength they control.

I often feel that the more we know about these facts the richer we become . We are taught to realize more than ever the efficacy of exercise. Observation and analysis teach us many interesting things.

My life has been spent among athletes of every form and no one has had any better opportunity of noting the effects of exercise and sport that I have had. Shot-putters, hammer throwers and sprint racers have the finest legs among field athletes. But I have noticed that it is only since the crouch start has been practiced among sprint racers that they have acquired an all-round thigh development. The old-time standing-up start never seemed to have much effect upon the Internus Vastus. Jumpers generally have good thighs, but none of these field athletes show the development in their upper body that some imagine. Shot-putters and hammer throwers naturally have the more powerful physique. Yet, they all fall short of the muscle builder. The latter studies his physique more thoroughly and seeks to perfect his proportions as well as to increase them. The sportsman runs , jumps, or throws the hammer just for the love of the sport, and mostly train to master the science of his particular sport. As a rule, he is not interested in development, which is all wrong. I have increased the ability of many field athletes from constructional exercise. A body culturist is the best all-round athlete because he perfects his whole body. He is interested in harmonious development, which after all, is the only thing that counts.

The biggest fault I have against the home exercise fan is that he will fall into such unpardonable hit-and-miss habits. Just consider the deep knee bend a moment. How many ever practice this and completely straighten the knees when coming to the erect position. The knees are invariably bent. You should always straighten the legs in all leg motions I have explained, by locking the knees. Half the effect is lost if you do not.

Long distance runners run flat foot. If they did not, the arches of the foot would quickly become pounded to death. Shrubb, Longboat, Hayes, Kolehmainen, and Nurmi all run flat foot and none of them have remarkable leg development.

I have noticed the German troops on parade, marking with their famous goose-step action. They actually walk with a locked knee, but the leg development of these troops is not out of the ordinary. Neither are the legs of the crack British troops. Wile they do not march in goose-step formation, yet, when marking time, at attention, and when marching, the knee is stiffened to straighten out the leg. Even the vast numbers of Swedish gymnasts who practice the gymnastic march secure no unusual leg development from that special walk. This march is fine for the calves, but more weight than the bodyweight is required to give these muscles the necessary resistance.

Years ago I was quite friendly with the famous Swiss athlete, John Lemm, who at that time was the world's greatest wrestler. He had wonderful legs, and he was the first to explain to me this difference. His occupation was divided between athletics and that of an Alpine guide.

Ordinary walking becomes too habitual to ever provide material leg size. If it was not so, then we would find professional walkers and long distance runners with legs the equal of the mountaineer and sprinter.

A little mental deduction will prove how illogical such an idea is. The muscles of the body are given to us to adequately take care of all our physical movements. This is the reason why the muscles do not grow from merely carrying the bodyweight. Try to build a big thigh or biceps with a pair of two-pound dumb-bells. It can't be done. You must give the muscles the necessary amount of resistance and they grow, in order to be more capable of handling the greater weight. In other words, the greater the material resistance, the greater the muscular growth.

Before I had been properly informed of the difference between employing the calf muscles and the effect of the Achilles tendon in walking, climbing, sprinting and distance running, I was always mentally wrestling with the problem of why the red Indian, who could carry freight on the trump line over portages and mountain trail to the wilderness, never showed any exceptional leg development. These men are capable of handing heavy loads and shamble along all day in that particular hodge-podge gait, that literally eats up distance. After receiving enlightenment I noticed that the Indian trailed flat foot under the trump line, and never appeared to straighten his knee. I have done a lot of road work for improving the wind in my time, but any improvement I got for my legs was obtained from the intensive training of home exercise.
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