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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

THE TRUTH ABOUT WEIGHTLIFTING - (circa 1911) - CHAPTER 11 - By Alan Calvert

Physical culture authorities are divided in their views regarding the proper way for a novice to train in order to prepare himself for the strenuous sport of weight-lifting. A great many trainers assert very strongly that before a man attempts to handle heavy dumbbells he should put his muscles in good condition by a long and arduous spell of training with a pair of 5-lb., or a pair of 10-lb. dumbbells.

Other trainers equally famous, state positively that light dumbbell work is only a waste of time, because when a man takes up heavy weight-lifting the muscles are employed in an entirely different way from the manner they are used when light dumbbells are employed. Personally I am inclined to the latter view, and most of the famous lifters agree with me. The proper way to train for weight-lifting is for the pupil to start with a moderately heavy bell, say 40 to 50 lbs., and increase the weight of the bell as rapidly and consistent with perfect safety.

When a young man wishes to excel in Marathon running he does not prepare himself by going to a gymnasium and doing exercises to strengthen the muscles of his legs. Instead he will go out on the road and start in by running three of four miles at an easy pace, and gradually increase the distance and speed until he can cover the full Marathon distance in fair time. Any man who attempted to train for long-distance running by doing calisthenic exercises would be looked upon as a crank. The same principle should govern the athlete who wishes to excel in feats of strength. Light dumbbell exercises are valuable as a means of benefiting the health and keeping the body in good working condition, but they are valueless for the purpose of developing of great muscular strength and energy. People who are unacquainted with weight-lifting often entertain the very peculiar idea that heavy-weight exercises are precisely the same as light-weight exercises. For instance, persons of this sort who exercise daily with a pair of 5-lb. dumbbells will go through a prescribed number of exercises and will make about fifty repetitions of each movement, and therefore they assume that training at weight-lifting would require the use of a pair of dumbbells weighing 75 or 100 lbs. each, and that they would have to go through exactly the same exercises and make exactly the same number of repetitions as with 5-lb. bells.

Now, when a man uses light dumbbells he invariably aims to exercise the muscles singly, but in heavy-weight lifting the muscles are always exercised in groups. The cardinal principle of a correct system of weight-lifting is that a different amount of weight should be used in almost every exercise. All the muscles of the body are of different size and strength. If 15 or 20 lbs. will fully exercise the small muscles of the arm, it would take at least an equal amount of work. For this reason the athlete who takes up weight-lifting must have the use of a large number of heavy dumbbells of different weight, or else he must use a single dumbbell which can be adjusted in weight.

The reader should be very careful not to confuse "weight-lifting" and heavy dumbbell exercises. Weight-lifting proper is he lifting of heavy dumbbells in the standard feats described in Chapter III of this volume, or of the other well-known feats and lifts described in Chapter IV. Heavy dumbbell exercises are practiced with moderately heavy dumbbells, or bar-bells, and are intended to prepare the muscles for the more arduous work of weight-lifting.

There are professors of physical culture who have gained reputations as dumbbell lifters and yet apparently discourage their pupils from attempting heavy dumbbell work. On investigation you will generally find that these professors are perfectly willing to teach any one to use heavy dumbbells, but they insist that the pupil first take their particular course in 5-lb. dumbbell work, or other light exercise. This sounds very plausible, because a professor can assure his pupil that it is necessary to do the light work in order to put his body in condition to take up the heavy work, but as a matter of fact it enables the professor to sell his pupils two courses of instruction and get a double fee. In 99 cases out of 100 preliminary work is not necessary and is a sheer waste of time. Any man who can use a pair of dumbbells for 15 minutes is plenty strong enough to start with a bar-bell or a dumbbell of moderately heavy weight; for instance, and adjustable bell that can be made to weight as low as 30 lbs. as a dumbbell and 35 to 40 lbs. as a bar-bell.

Send a child to a primary school and have him do nothing else but addition. If he spends all his time at this simple process he will, in the course of a few months, become able to add for an hour at a time without tiring his brain, but also without developing his brain power in any marked degree. If the same child worked from addition though subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, decimals, etc., and finally came to sums where he had to employ these different arithmetical processes and to use his reasoning powers in solving the sums he would eventually develop much higher quality of brain than if he had stuck to addition. They are very easy to perform and the industrious pupil can only make the exercises longer instead of harder. His muscles gain a certain amount of endurance, but they do not gain much in real strength. On the other hand if a man takes up heavy dumbbell work and gradually increases the amount of weight handled in the various exercises, his muscles will gain not only in size and strength, but will also acquire the faculty of co-ordination; because heavy dumbbell work always exercises the muscles in groups. When the pupil advances from heavy dumbbell exercises to weight-lifting proper he has the sums which employ the strength, skill and co-ordinative power which have been developed by the heavy dumbbell work.

Nowadays the aspiring lifter generally combines the practice of weight-lifting with heavy dumbbell exercises. Some authorities claim that in order to secure the very best results the athlete should confine himself entirely to weight-lifting. The handling of heavy weights requires a whole lot of energy, and if a man dissipates his energy by performing a lot of arduous exercises with heavy dumbbells he does not have much reserve force left to put into weight-lifting. The best amateur weight lifter I ever knew never took any light exercise or any heavy dumbbell practice. Three or four times a week he would practice the standard lifts and the "bent press," and after a year or two of this kind of work he developed a wonderful figure and tremendous strength. He was a very ambitious young man and was continually trying to increase his records in the various lifts. Starting out with a 50-lb. dumbbell in the bent-press, he was able within two years to raise 230 pounds by that lift. On the other hand, I have known many athletes who got very good results by practicing heavy dumbbell exercises two or three times a week, and practicing weight-lifting once or twice a week, but I have never known a man to make even respectable records at weight-lifting if he wasted his time exercising with 5- and 10-lb. dumbbells.

All the famous "strong men" and weight lifters have followed the same method in building up their remarkable muscular power. In Germany, Austria and France, where weight-lifting is the most popular indoor sport, every gymnasium has a large and complete assortment of heavy bar-bells, dumbbells and kettle-bells. The young men who attend these gymnasiums, instead of playing basketball and using pulley-weights (as is the custom in this country) will confine themselves almost entirely to work with the heavy dumbbells. The average man will start with a 50-lb. bell, and with the advice and encouragement of his comrades, who are pursuing the same line of work, will rapidly master the various standard lifts and at the same time increase the amount of weight he handles in those lifts.

Arthur Saxon, who was naturally very strong, started with a 75-lb. bell when he first joined the Leipzig Athletic Club, and at the end of 18 months he was by far the strongest member of the club. In this country, where weight-lifting is still in its infancy, the enthusiastic amateur generally has to practice alone; unless he is fortunate enough to live in some large city where there is a gymnasium whose proprietor takes an interest in this line of sports.

If the reader has any intentions of excelling in weight-lifting I strongly advise him to try and interest some friend or companion, so that they can both practice together, one man lifting and the other sitting by and criticizing and correcting the lifter's methods. In heavy dumbbell exercises this is not necessary, but in weight-lifting itself it is almost imperative for the lifter to have some one to watch him and tell him whether he is lifting correctly.

When light dumbbells are used and not much concentration is required, it is very easy for the man who is exercising to stand in front of a mirror and see for himself whether he is going through the exercises in the proper manner, but in lifting heavy dumbbells or bar-bells over the head, in weight-lifting proper, where intense concentration is required, it is dangerous for the lifter to take his attention from the bell for the fraction of a second. The gaze of the eyes must always follow the dumbbells, and if the lifter would attempt to watch himself in the mirror he would immediately lose his balance and probably injure himself. For this reason the advice of an interested friend is almost indispensable. As pointed out in Chapter III, if a man wished to lift any great amount he must lift correctly, and in order to lift correctly he must master the proper manner of handling the bells at the beginning of his course; bad habits in lifting are very hard to break, and if a man starts out correctly he is much more apt to develop to a first-class lifter than if he trains by a hit-or-miss method.

Many of my correspondents have asked me what is the proper age to start training for weight-lifting. A boy of 14 will write me and say that he thinks he is too young to benefit from this form of exercise, while a man over 30 years frequently expresses the opinion that it is too strenuous an exercise for him. As a matter of fact, I do not advise any one to take up weight-lifting proper until they are over 16 years old, although heavy dumbbell exercises can be performed with good results by any one over 14.

Launceston Elliott, former amateur champion lifter of the world, started in to lift weights when he was fifteen. At that time he weighed about 130 lbs. Many trainers will tell that weight-lifting stunts the growth, but his was not so in Elliott's case, for at the age of 21 he stood 6 feet 3 inches, weighed 225 and was considered the strongest man in England.

While American gymnasts are fairly familiar with dumbbells, they seem to be rather ignorant regarding the proper use of the long-handled bar-bell. This is shown by the fact that almost every American writer who has dealt with heavy lifting, or heavy dumbbell exercises, has always assumed that in a two-arm exercise a pair of heavy dumbbells should be used, while the more convenient bar-bell is ignored. Any man who takes up heavy dumbbell exercises will get much better results from his two-arm work if uses a bar-bell rather than a pair of heavy dumbbells, and the convenience of the bar-bell shape is even more marked in weight-lifting proper. In handling heavy bells, frequently the lifter has to concentrate all his attention and will power on making the lifting muscles contract strongly enough to raise the weight; and anything which tends to divert the lifter's attention will interfere with the success of the lift, or exercise.

When a man grasps in both hands the shaft of a bar-bell he is able raise much more than if he used two dumbbells, simply because with the bar-bell he only has to think about raising it from one position to another, while with two dumbbells there is always the necessity of keeping them moving together, and if, as it often happens, the lifter has to make an extra exertion with his weaker arm, the dumbbell in the stronger hand is liable to get out of line. This does make so much difference in lifting from the hips to the shoulders, or from the ground to the shoulders, but in lifting from the shoulders to above the head it is quite an important matter. It is far easier to hold a 200-lb. bar-bell steady when it is above your head than to control two dumbbells of 100 lbs. each, and, furthermore, it is far safer. The lifter who uses the bar-bell has only one object on which to concentrate his attention. The man who is holding the two dumbbells must keep both balanced, and while he is watching one the other may get out of line and cause a shoulder or wrist strain in the endeavor to keep it in position. If you will compare the records of lifts with a bar-bell and the same lifts with a pair of dumbbells you will find that this is proved. Steinbach has "pressed" a 329-lb. bar-bell and has "pressed" two dumbbells whose total weight was 309 lbs. His records in the "jerk" are 392 lbs. with a bar-bell and 334 1/2 lbs. with two dumbbells. The difference is more marked in the "jerk," because in that lift the bells are tossed upward, while in the "press" they are pushed slowly upward, and are, therefore, much easier to control.

While I am on the subject of dumbbells I wish to advise any reader who thinks of taking up heavy-weight lifting that, if possible, he should buy a combination adjustable bell, and by that I mean a bell which can be used as a long-handled bar-bell, as a dumbbell or as a pair of kettle-bells. Without advertising myself, I feel at liberty to state that I was the first manufacturer of heavy bells to introduce this convenient combination. When I made provision for the kettle-bell form it was my intention that the lifter in training should use the kettle-bells one at a time in either hand or else one in each hand, but I never intended that two-arm exercises should be performed with a single kettle-bell. The kettle-bell is a piece of one-hand apparatus and is principally useful as an arm and shoulder developer. It can be adapted to some few other exercises which are useful in developing the back and legs, but the kettle-bell is not intended as a piece of all-around weight-lifting apparatus. I make the above remarks for the following reason:

Other manufacturers who followed my lead in making "three combination" bells have tried to make the public believe that if they could afford but a single bell they should start in with the kettle-bell. The public, acting on the idea that a kettle-bell only weighed half as much as a bar-bell or dumbbell (as it consisted of only one sphere, where the other bells consisted of two) naturally thought it would be safer to start in with a kettle-bell. This is a great mistake. The most valuable weight-lifting exercises are those which are performed with the long-handled bar-bell, and the man who buys only a kettle-bell and thinks that he is going to be able to train all the muscles in his body to the same degree of development, is going to be very badly fooled. I cannot too strongly condemn the practice of those "professors" who thus mislead their customers. If a man can afford to buy only one bell he should buy a bar-bell, because with the bar-bell you can do all the most valuable two-hand exercises and most of the one-hand exercises.

The American public naturally associates a dumbbell with one-hand lifts, whereas, with the exception of the swing, every "one-arm" lifting record has been made with the bar-bell, for the simple reasons that the bar-bell is easier to raise to the shoulder, and easier to balance than a dumbbell of the same weight.

To return to the kettle-bell, the reader who has carefully read the description of the standard lifts will be able to see for himself that it would be impossible to perform a one-hand snatch with a kettle-bell, and that two-arm "presses" or "jerks" would also be out of question. Another thing to be considered is this: Kettle-bells of the ordinary size can only be loaded to 100 lbs., and any man who can handle 50 or 60 lbs. in a "single-arm" dumbbell or kettle-bell exercise should have at least 125 lbs. to give his back and shoulders a corresponding amount of work in the two-arm lifts and exercises.

Authorities on athletic training concur in the opinion that a man should be at his best for heavy work between the age of 30 and 40. In athletic events which require great quickness and elasticity a man commences to go down hill after he is 30. A man can be a champion sprinter, or jumper, at 20 years, but he commences to lose his speed when he gets to be 28 or 29 years old. In any athletic feat which requires strength and power the man in this thirties would always excel his younger opponent. I believe that a man should be at the zenith of his muscular power at the age of 40. A man who goes in for hammer-throwing or the still more exacting sport of throwing a 56-lb. weight will retain the championship for years.

James Flanagan, who I understand, is now about 40 years of age, has held the championship in hammer-throwing for the last dozen years and is apparently a better man today physically than he was when he was under 30.

The most striking example of how a man retains his skill in heavy athletics is that of William Teurk, the famous Vienna lifter. Teurk started in to practice heavy lifting at the age of 32 and was then only a fair performer. He was, however, very fond of the sport, and he persisted in his practice for a number of years, and at the age of 42 he created a world's record in the two-arm jerk, and his record stood until 1903, when it was exceeded by the present champion, Joseph Steinbach. Today Teurk is still well up in his fifties, but even now he can go into a gymnasium and lift much more than the average professional of 30 years.

There are a few men who could afford to give the amount of time to lifting that Teurk did, but any man at the age of 40 can take up heavy dumbbell exercises with perfect safety and derive great benefit from them. When a man uses heavy dumbbells he gets his exercises in a tabloid form. He gets the maximum amount of work in the minimum amount of time, and, although the popular idea is that heavy dumbbell work is exceedingly strenuous, as a matter of fact, a man will expend far less energy in 15 minutes' heavy dumbbell work than in an hour of light dumbbell or pulley-weight practice.

Physical Culture