Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Key to Might and Muscle (Circa 1926) - Chapter 4 - Curative Exercises - By George F. Jowett

Broken in health, in spirit, and financially, without a single hope for the future.
Nothing but pain, sleepless nights, and a nauseating terror of food.

The absolute necessity of a mother to turn bread winner in order that food
and clothing could be provided for two little tots who were beginning to feel
the pangs of poverty. Five years under treatment at home, in hospitals and
in convalescence had stolen the little nest egg that had been hoped would
some day provide the foundation for a home. The future appalled, and no
wonder, for who can ever hope to stand for long against the ceaseless
battering of ill health. No man is so constructed that he can resist
forever. Such was the condition of one man who eventually came under my 
observation and direction in the search for better health.

The wife of this man happened to know an acquaintance of mine, who had
unbounded faith in my abilities. Together they talked the situation over
with me, which finally ended by my promise to see what I could do for him.
He was only a young man as far as years were concerned; that is, he was only
in his early thirties, thirty-two to be exact, but so much sickness had made
him appear haggard and worn-out. Stomach trouble had necessitated an
operation. I kept my appointment to talk over things, and the end of our
conversation was that I carried hope into that home of trials. I talked to him 
something like this:

"Now look here, my friend, I know you are in a bad enough condition, and I
realize your circumstances, but you have to remember that there is a
beginning and an end for all things. There is a place and time for medicine,
and a place and time for corrective exercise. You have long since arrived at
the point where medicine finished and exercise should have begun. You have
no kick against the physicians; they have done their part. When they
informed you that the cause of your stomach troubles was removed, it was
practically all over for them. They gave you medicine to allay your
sufferings and a specified diet for you to follow. Medicine will do a lot of
things, but it will not rebuild weakened tissue. The trouble is you have
relied too much upon medicine, and you failed to grasp the fact that your
whole system had weakened through so much illness. Here is where exercise
comes in. You do not have to look at me like that. I am not going to put a
heavy weight in your hands and tell you to juggle it around, and at the same
time practice Christian Science. It will be altogether different. You will
find it a battle, but the chances are a hundred to one in your favor if you
are game enough to struggle."

Well, we started the next day, and believe me or not, within three months
from the date of our conversation he was helping around the house. Another
four weeks saw him accepting a light position. Six months after the day he
commenced he was happily working at his old job, and within the year he was a
picture of health. Not a Hercules, but much stronger than the average man.
The sun was shining for him and the world appeared like an entirely new place
to his wife and children.

This true story is not a miracle, or a near miracle. It is just common sense
methods applied in the right place.

Too many people neglect their body in the first place, and it becomes a
depository of dangerous elements that destroy tissue and lead to sickness.
It is only natural that when a person becomes very sick, he should turn to
his doctor and seek aid; but how many times do people have to listen to the
physician say, "At some time or other you exposed yourself, and added neglect
to exposure. This is the result." Then they realize that they are too late
and have to face the music. Later the stage of convalescence is reached,
usually after a harrowing experience, but it is the same story - neglect.
The physician has performed his duty, and instead of the patient thinking a
little for himself and profiting by the doctor's advice, he relies too much
upon the doctor. Too frequently I hear the same story, "Oh, I've never been
the same since that illness." Is there any wonder when they turn a deaf ear
to nature? As the old scriptural phrase reads, "They have eyes but they see not."

The convalescent stage should be the commencement for remedial exercise. In
making the following statement, I am not for one moment overlooking the fact
that the physician is a very valuable man, and medicine one of our blessings;
yet there are many ailments that can better be taken care of by exercise than
by medicine, as my medical friends will agree.

Stomach trouble, for instance. A common enough ailment, only too prevalent,
but it is generally the result of a lack of body toning, bad eating, drinking
alcoholic liquors and excessive smoking. Indigestion and hyperacidity are
two of the worst, although the last is generally the cause of the first.
Wrong functioning of the pancreas fails to absorb the fats, or break up the
sugar and starch elements in the food. Although I have named the condition,
incorrect functioning of the pancreas, I believe I would have been more
correct if I had stated that wrong foods caused the pancreas to work overtime
and have fagged it. The liver becomes sluggish as the digestion becomes
poor. The biggest reason for the stomach disorders is lack of physical
activity, that allows food to lie dormant too long in the stomach before it
is dispelled into the channels of evacuation. This is one of the main causes
of constipation, prolapsed stomach, and the unsightly protruding abdomen.

Now I want you to remember that the lining membranes of the stomach and
bowels allow certain things from the food, like sugar molecules and little
droplets of fat, to pass through just as water is passed through blotting
paper. These particles enter into the veins, which are very numerous on the
other side of the membranes. Consequently, you will readily realize the
necessity of good digestion, and the natural requirements for these elements
of nutrition to enter the blood stream. Food is absorbed in the blood very
quickly, because the size of the absorbing surface is so large. It is
actually claimed that the lining membranes of the stomach, the small and
large intestines, taken together, have an area of twenty square feet.
Somewhat more than the area of the entire outside of the body.

The more vigorous the daily vocation, the greater quantity of food is eaten,
and the greater quantity of substance drawn into the blood stream, and also
evacuation has more volume besides being more regular.

Your food is your energy, and it is a proposition entirely up to yourself
whether you are going to use this energy or misuse it. The majority misuse
it, hence the disorders. Now to correct these various ailments, I will
select a few exercises that have a gentle persuasive effect upon the muscles,
the organs of digestion, and the nervous system.

Take up your position with the hands placed upon the hips, feet spaced about
six inches apart, just enough to keep the balance of the body comfortably.
Bend from side to side in a slow, easy rhythmic movement. Let your breathing
be regular and not forced in the least. Do not make the mistake of trying
how many times you can do each exercise. About nine or ten times in each
direction is enough with which to commence. In every case the individual
should allow his physical condition to be his guide.

The next exercise should be taken up with the feet spaced much wider apart,
with a light bar of ten or fifteen pounds lying across the broad of the back,
each end grasped in the corresponding hand. From this position twist the
body sideways from the waist, not the hips, in a spiral movement. As the
body seems to be turned to its limit, the person should pull against the bar
in order to obtain a little more twist. The reason the bar is allowed to lie
across the shoulders, or broad of the back, instead of on the shoulders, is
to gain more twist from the waist. It used to be that the exerciser would
use the palms of each hand against the side of the chest, but my objection to
this is that it causes a compression of the walls of the chest, interfering
with both breathing and progress.

In all exercises where possible, I desire to see the person use some amount
of weight; it helps to give a muscular resistance that cannot be supplied by
the body only. Of course, if a person is in too weak a condition, that is
different. Going back to the last exercise, I want to advise against
allowing even the heels to leave the floor; that is why I suggest a waist
movement against a hip movement. The feet must be kept flat on the floor.

For the third exercise I like to choose the one where the person lies upon
the back on the floor, then slowly draws one knee up at a time to the body.
In the second stage of progression, this exercise can be performed by drawing
both knees, simultaneously, up to the body.

Then, turning over face downwards, so that the hands and toes only are
resting upon the floor, with the arms locked at the elbows, and body straight
upon its points of balance, we begin an exercise that is a little more
vigorous. From the position described, draw the knee right up to the body,
but allow the toes to rest on the floor. It is from here that the exercise
is really commenced. Give a slight hop and straighten out the right leg, and
at the same time pull the left knee up to the body. Do not hesitate, but
keep both legs going one after the other. However, do not do it as though a
race was being run; do it gently and always keep the hands on the floor.

These four exercises are quite enough with which to start, and as the
conditions become improved and a greater degree of strength is acquired, more
movements can be added and these can be eliminated for exercises of a more
vigorous nature.

I know many have the idea that bending from the waist forwards and backwards
are also good exercises. I agree, but the reason I have omitted them is
because I want to say that people who are susceptible to vomiting from
stomach disorders should not do them until after two or three weeks of
practice with the other exercises. Where vomiting is not one of the
troubles, the forward and backward bends are all right to use at the

These exercises are not as vigorous physically as those recommended for
constipation and some other ailments. At the same time there is enough
action to prepare the muscular toning for the exercises that follow in the
various stages of progression. However, the circulatory organs are
stimulated and the blood stream wonderfully nourished.

Constipation requires a somewhat more vigorous routine, due to the collection
of feces that has clogged the intestinal passages. The exercises must be
such that a continual massage is being brought to bear upon the intestines,
at the same time that their natural functioning abilities are being repaired.
Laxatives rob the channels of evacuation of their natural power. All along
these passages are rings of muscles that contract and relax continually, and
which gather and thrust the feces along the passages. As I have said, drugs
interfere with the work of these muscles by relieving them of their natural
duty, and the trouble is that the muscles deteriorate with non-use. When the
body has become used to the effect of the drugs, which it does sometimes, the
person faces a serious proposition.

However, I have known of many chronic cases of constipation effectively cured
by exercise. The muscles of the abdomen are naturally equipped to aid the
thousands of ring muscles that are part of the intestines.

Body builders have made the expression habitual, when describing the
abdominal muscles, as having a washboard appearance. They have more than a
washboard appearance; they have the washboard effect, continually massaging
the intestines in order to prevent solidification of feces and stimulate
evacuation; but we never see a victim of this ailment with a well developed
set of abdominal muscles. In most cases the waistline is large, sagging, and
fat. The muscles have lost their elasticity, and the armour of muscle
protection is gone. A victim can wear all the body belt supporters he likes,
but nothing like that will give back life to the deteriorated muscular tissue.

In a chronic case, I generally advise a few days fast, in order to give the
stomach a rest. As a matter of fact, a short fast is sometimes advisable
with stomach trouble, but not in all cases. A person should always seek
advice on this before going ahead on his own initiative.

Since the working powers of the muscles have gone, we are obliged to devise
exercises that will perform these duties as much as possible, and at the same
time coax these muscles back into vigorous existence and build them up. The
most commonly known exercise for the abdomen is the "sit-up." In this
exercise the person lies full length on the back upon the floor, with some
heavy object across the feet to hold the legs down as the sit-up is made.
This is performed by either folding the arms upon the chest or locking the
hands behind the neck. From the prone position the exerciser rises to the
sit-up position, and then lowers the body back, repeating the movement a
number of times. Personally, I do not like the exercise from a curative
point of view, in fact, not for a beginner. My objection is based upon the
fact that beginners, who are not seeking curative aid, are seldom able to
perform the movement correctly. They invariably come up with a snap, which
is wrong. Others cannot do it at all. A very few can. The movement should
be done slowly in both raising and lowering the body, so that the muscles
receive full play and give the desired effect upon the intestines. I prefer
this exercise for a more advanced stage of muscle building. In its place I
advocate sitting upon the floor with the feet under some object, back
straight, and the arms folded behind the back, leaning at the slightest
possible angle backwards. From this position twist the body from side to
side as much as possible with a slow movement. After this, lie flat upon the
floor on the back, then place the hands on the floor and raise the body until
the arms are straight and only the hands and heels are resting on the floor.
Keep the body free from any bend. Now raise one leg straight as high as you
can. Keep the legs moving thus, one after the other. Then you can practice
drawing the knees up to the body alternately. Both exercises are good.

In the more advanced exercises, I find that raising the body onto the
shoulders, from the prone position, with the hands pressed upon the hips, and
the elbows on the floor as a means of support, is a very good body reducer
and aid for constipation. From this position the legs should be worked up
and down in a movement similar to pedaling a bicycle. This exercise can be
followed by another exercise from the prone position. Lie flat upon the back
and place the hands under the hips, then raise one leg upwards in a circular
movement towards the head. As the leg is lowered, the heel should not be
allowed to touch the floor; then raise the other leg. Keep the legs
straight, raising and lowering in a slow rhythmic movement. After this, the
same position can be adopted, and both legs raised together.

As a further aid a good massage of the abdominal muscles will help

The beauty of the last two exercises is that they develop the muscles of the
abdomen from the lower extremities of the abdomen upwards. This part of the
abdomen is of the most importance. From the line of the navel down into the
groin, the fourth twin muscle of the abdomen begins and ends. It is in this
region that the appendix becomes affected, and hernia is made possible or
impossible, according to the state of development in which the muscles are.
I have seen many body culturists who could show a nice upper abdominal
display, but were sadly neglectful of the lower part. That is another fault
of the "sit-up." It develops mostly the abdominals from the chest to the
navel, and the last pair of muscles which are long and wedge shaped are
almost passed over. The exercise where one and both legs are raised while
lying on the back in the prone position is the best, as it gets them all.
Better progression can be made upon this exercise, by increasing the
resistance by hooking a light kettle bell over each foot.

These last two exercises, and the shoulder stand, or bicycle tread, are
effective in strengthening the lower torso, and should be among the exercises
used by those who feel that they have a tendency to rupture. The external
oblique muscles should be specialized upon in hernia tendencies. I have
actually known of several cases of hernia cured by these and other exercises.

Hernia is the result of weak musculature. The muscles of the body are our
anatomical protectors, and if we neglect them we are trifling with our lives
equally as much as the soldier who forgets his rifle.

An exercise that I like very much for strengthening the external oblique
muscles is practiced by taking a fairly light dumb-bell in each hand, of
about fifteen pounds each, then raise them to arms' length overhead, and
stand with the feet set firmly apart. Look up at the dumb-bells and lean
over sideways as far as you can, then straighten up and lean over to the
other side. Keep up the movement, and you will find that the weights held
overhead will cause a great leverage from the external oblique muscles in
order to bring the body back to the erect position. Then again, the
dumb-bells are so light that the arms will not tire before the side muscles
get their workout, and the overhead principle provides a fine leverage upon
which the exercise can be made progressively more difficult.

Do not practice the "sit-up" or the leaning forward exercise with a weight
held behind the neck, if you feel the tissue of the groin to be weak. In
fact, do not perform any exercises that have a bearing down tendency upon the
abdomen. Exercises performed upside down are always good and can be safely practiced.

Perhaps the condition of nervousness is another of the most common ailments
that often makes life seem unbearable. A nervous person may not be too sick
to work, but he finishes the day ragged, and always on edge. This condition,
more than any other, is a lack of body toning. It is invariably a condition
of the nerve cells that have been deprived of the necessary amount of
nutriment in proportion to nerve expenditure. Among people whose vocation
involves more mental effort than physical, are found the largest numbers of
sufferers. The muscles of the body lie under the skin practically useless,
expending none of their surplus energy, and conserving none. Your batteries
are running on their own reserve, and that cannot last. What we put out must
be accounted for. Nature demands some form of recuperation, and that is only
obtained from physical stimulus. Insomnia is one of the big evils resultant
upon nervousness. Even the hours nature has set on one side for recuperation
and conservation are stolen by this fiend. But it is a condition that has to
be decided by the individual. It is not a condition which has to be put up
with, or that cannot be overcome. Exercise will solve the problem.

A number of years ago, one of my clients, who was one of the biggest business
men in America, was a nervous wreck, and on two occasions I was informed he
had tried to end his life. Everything, apparently, had been done. The best
experts in one thing and another had failed. Two of our foremost physical
instructors had failed, and also an imported expert from Europe. I was later
approached, and when I had my first interview with this millionaire, he
frankly told me that he did not believe any one could help him. I talked to
him, and he placed his confidence in me, and inside of three months I had a
new man. According to our tests he had improved 230 per cent and he showed
his gratitude to me in many ways. I applied psychology with exercise in this
case and won. I try to apply psychology with every person I handle. In the
thousands whom I have handled, I have learned a lot in applying it. I study
them, place myself in their shoes, and figure out what I would do in the
ignorance of facts. Ultimately I see their problems, and my knowledge and
experience on health and body building have successfully helped me to bridge
the gap and restore all who were willing to help me, help them.
Does modern bodybuilding make you sick? You should write for Natural Strength! I always need good articles about drug-free weight training. It only has to be at least a page and nothing fancy. Just write it strong and truthful with passion! Send your articles directly to me: bobwhelan@naturalstrength.com

Vintage Bodybuilding Literature

Vintage Bodybuilding Literature
Oldtime Strongman Books

This site does not provide medical advice. We assume no liability for the information provided in NaturalStrength articles. Please consult your physician before beginning any exercise or nutrition program. Copyright © 1999-2024 NaturalStrength.com | All Rights Reserved.