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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

PHYSICAL TRAINING SIMPLIFIED - The Complete Science of Muscular Development - (circa 1930) - CHAPTER 14 - SQUARING YOUR SHOULDERS - By Mark H. Berry

Whether or not broad shoulders have anything to do with one's ability to survive the cares and worries of this earthly existence, as you will hear some folks say, we cannot properly decide. Nevertheless, we are certain that the broad-shouldered man should have the edge on the majority of his fellow men so far as health, strength, and personal appearance is concerned. Naturally, broad shoulders are caused by skeletal construction or the length of certain bones in the shoulders, mainly the length of the clavicles. It cannot be satisfactorily decided whether or not the bones of the skeleton can be lengthened by the influence of exercise and healthful methods of living. We are fairly certain concerning the thickening of the periosteum covering the bones, due to healthful exercise and hygienic living, and it would seem to us as thought such influences should have a similar effect of lengthening certain bonds. Especially if the good habits of exercise are formed during the period of active growth.

Strange as it may seem to the average person and contrary to popular beliefs, growth does not cease at twenty-one, that is so far as growth affects average American and Northern Europeans. Normally, some growth should continue till twenty-five and even to thirty and beyond in some cases. Therefore, it is possible that the actual framework of the shoulders may be widened as well as the muscles on the points of the shoulders may be developed. The latter method of shoulder improvement will account for the greatest increase of course, and is the surest means of changing your appearance in this respect. The effect of broad shoulders upon physical proportions and athletic ability is discussed at considerable length elsewhere in this volume.

The athlete, whether stripped or semi-stripped, will look his part if his shoulders are properly developed. The principal muscle to be fully developed, if we are to acquire the limit of our possibilities, is the deltoid. Athletes of class in every popular branch of sport must have exceptional shoulders. No man can make a name for himself in the game of strength without very well developed and powerful deltoids. Good deltoids are simply one of the essentials in the make up of the man of strength. For many years a popular test of the strength of a man was to see how much he could hold out at arm's length. In those days a good deal of the work of earning a livelihood depended on vigorous deltoids, as in the swinging the scythe, flail, axe, pick and shovel, or pitchfork. Back in those days when the "muscling out" test was originated, they took it for granted that a man was equally strong all over if his deltoids were strong. Men toiled with the whole body, and light exercise methods of developing muscles "individually" were unknown, so it would be unusual for a man to be strong in the shoulders an weak in the legs, hips and back. Today it is possible for a fellow to have fairly strong shoulders and at the same time be woefully lacking in strength in other important parts of his anatomy, due to the popularizing of certain forms of gymnastic and light resistance methods of exercise. No fellow of that type would have the strength to compare with the well trained bar bell user, who would have superbly powerful muscles below the waist to back up his shoulders and arms. The man with nothing but shoulder strength will be limited by the general weakness of his lower body, while the properly trained man will be able to produce greater deltoid strength because the strength of his lower body is capable of holding him erect against the strain of a resistance well beyond the strength of the other fellow.

So much for the desirability of possessing shapely deltoids; the ambitious reader wants to know the quickest and most dependable method of acquiring them. To develop a given part of the body, we must place a certain amount of strain upon the individual muscle while forcing it to move throughout a full range of contraction. If we were to attempt to exercise each muscle individually, we would find it quite a difficult thing to do, that is, to endeavor to exercise each muscle individually without bringing other muscles into play. Such a thing is, in fact, impossible, as no muscle on the human frame can be moved without effecting other muscles. We can approach this effect by bringing one muscle into the principal action, the other muscles involved acting as auxiliaries. The use of light resistance to develop the shoulders may succeed to a certain extent, but not to the satisfaction of ambitious muscle culturists. The man who uses light methods will be neglecting his legs and the powerful back and hip muscles. He who is wise enough give the lower part of his body the correct of amount of resistance will be capable of exerting a greater amount of strength with his shoulders than the light exercise advocate who has used simple exercises for the large leg and torso muscles. These muscles, when properly developed and strengthened, will hold the body erect and keep the feet firmly planted while the shoulders and arms are performing their required tasks. At first, no direct effort need be made to exercise the deltoids if you are just starting on a bar bell program. All overhead pressing movements will suffice for quite some time. Usually the first exercises will be the two arm press in a few variations, both in front of and behind the neck, plus one or two movements with a bell in one hand. The next step should consist of special work for the deltoid alone, such as the one arm military with variations, as the regular style with a dumb bell, also another style with a kettle bell. The alternate kettle bell press is likewise splendid; holding a light kettle bell in each hand, you alternately press them from the shoulders to arm's length overhead. The crucifix should be included in this class of shoulder exercises; it is best performed by first lifting two kettle bells to full length of arm overhead, then dropping the arms to the cross or crucifix position. For developmental purposes, it is very good to practice raising and lowering the bells from the thighs to full length of arms overhead, but be careful not to cause a cramping of the deltoids.

Such movements may be made directly in front of the body, as well as at the side. When fairly heavy weights are used these movements are as effective as they are simple. You must be careful to avoid too great a percentage of this form of exercise in the program, as although the range of contraction is complete, a stiffening effect must be guarded against, as slow leverage movements may tend to cramp and tighten the muscles and tendons. It is doubtful if many physical culturists will narrow their exercises down to the sole practice of this class of movements. Those most liable to do so are the fellows who use solid iron dumb bells only.

The third principle is exercising the deltoids is to work them in conjunction with the legs and the back. You will notice we continually refer to this particular principle in connection with developing and strengthening different parts of the body. It is a principle long advocated by STRENGTH Magazine, and one reason for the superiority of the properly trained bar bell man. The majority of lifting movements incorporate this principle, and of course we are referring to the bar bell lifts where the weight is raised overhead. Herculean hand balancers also use this principle, though unconsciously, while performing difficult feats in their line of work. Consequently, to the last man, they possess admirable deltoids. Hand to hand work also gives exercise to the deltoids while the body is held in various positions. The all around bar bell man who follows a routine of widely variated exercises and lifts is certain to possess completely developed deltoids.

One thing to be guarded against in physical development is a restriction of the shoulder action. Possibly this is the condition some persons refer to as muscle bound, although I am making no allusion to an actual cramping or binding. Simply a restriction or limiting of the freedom of action. There is only one way in which this condition may be brought about, and that is through practicing nothing but slow developmental movements for the development of the muscles surrounding and governing the shoulders. For instance, if your only form of exercise was the practice of dumb bell movements where it was necessary for you to tense the muscles each time you contracted them. To illustrate, if you take a pair of dumb bells and practice pulling the arms backward for the development of the latissimus muscles. The movements will always be relatively slow and while you succeed in a acquiring a certain degree of development the muscles will be tightened too much through becoming accustomed to the slow movements of limited range. Or, if through any form of exercise you bring about a condition of too much flatness of the shoulder blades, the range of arm movement will be limited to some extent. If you do not quite get my meaning; presumably you have noticed some capable athletes in all branches of sport whose shoulder blades protruded in a certain extent, yet there was really nothing wrong with their usefulness as an athlete. The looseness of the shoulders in consequence of this freedom of the shoulder blades in reality added to their athletic efficiency by giving them a greater range of arm movement.

Do you understand? If instead of the shoulder blades being free they were held back very flat, the arm movements would be limited for the reason that the shoulder blades could not move freely. This does not mean that a man should be round shouldered, as there is considerable difference, though we have noticed some round shouldered athletes who were quite capable. As long as the shoulders are not pulled forward and the chest cramped, the man is physically O.K. in respect to posture. A condition akin to that which we have just described may be brought about by practicing slow movements entirely for the pectorals or the deltoids. If the first, the tightness would be in front rather than in back as in the case of the latissimus. If in the deltoids the entire arm action would be limited. If at all three points, then his usefulness would be greatly limited. Such a condition cannot be brought about if you practice actual bar bell lifting, especially of a quick nature. Nor can it be brought about if you practice the sort of bar bell developing exercises outlined herein, as the range of movements is very wide and no effort is made to tense the muscles with each contraction.

A general program such as we suggest repeatedly throughout this volume is the best insurance against such a condition. Another reason why the condition will not result from the practice of approved bar bell movements is that the muscles are exercised in large groups, whereas in practicing light dumb bell or other light resistance forms of exercise he muscles are worked singly. A man may also have a flat back and not be troubled with this condition as long as great mobility of the shoulders blades exists; that is, if the shoulder blades can be moved with great ease and freedom.

Iron Nation