Saturday, December 17, 2011

THE TRUTH ABOUT WEIGHTLIFTING - (circa 1911) - CHAPTER 15 - (Last Chapter) - By Alan Calvert

In my long association with heavy-weight lifters, both amateur and professional, I have been a witness of some very funny incidents. I remember one time that a friend of mine was about to write an article describing a certain Herculean “hand-balancer.” My friend wishes to illustrate his article with photographs of this gymnast, so he arranged to have the gymnast meet him at the photographer’s studio, and I was invited to attend. The whole party met at the photographer’s studio, about two blocks distant from the theatre at which the gymnast was exhibiting. In his stage act the gymnast used two or three kettle-bells, which were supposed to weigh 75 pounds apiece. The manager of the theatre promised to send these kettle-bells by a team to the photographer’s studio, but on our arrival we found that the bells had not yet been delivered.

We ‘phoned down to the theatre and told the manager to hurry up the team. In this theatre they employed two or three very young boys who between the acts walked up and down the aisles and handled out ice water. After we had waited 10 or 15 minutes we went to look out of the photographer’s window. Coming up the streeet we saw one of these small boys with two of the gymnast’s kettle-bells in one hand, and one in the other. He was marching gaily along, swinging the bells and whistling a tune. Anybody who saw the boy at once realized that the bells weighed less than 15 pounds apiece, although the figure 75 pounds was painted on the side of each bell. If this gymnast’s muscles are as strong as the language he used on that occasion he must be a wonder.

Several times I have endeavored to get a good phootgraph of harness-lifting, but on each occasion something has happened to spoil the picture. On one occasion, however, I saw an expert photographer work in conjunction with a first-class harness-lifter, and I think if I copied their methods I would be able to get results in the future. At the time I mention the lifter wished to have a photograph taken showing him raising, by the harness lift, two good sized horses. I was among the few invited to witness the taking of the picture. We all repaired to the yard of a livery stable where the athlete’s lifting platforms were already in position. The athlete mounted the upper platform and two fair-sized horses were driven on the lower platform. I do not consider myself a judge of the weight of horses, but the stableman said that the horses weighed 1300 pounds apiece. When they were driven on the lower platform (and stood as quiet as lambs) the photographer got his camera ready, the signal was given, and the lifter made a tremendous effort - but the platform would not budge.

The lifter was very much put out; the audience was surprised, because it was supposed the lifter would have no trouble in raising anything under 3000 pounds. After a few ineffectual efforts to lift the horses, the lifter and the photographer held a consultation. The horses were led to their stalls and the stableman brought two ponies, which were led on the platform. The photographer took the camera from the tripod, laid the tripod to one side, knelt down and rested the camera on the ground, pointing it slightly upwards, so as to get the whole group. The lifter had no trouble in raising the ponies and the photograph was a beauty for advertising purposes. The ponies which were near, and above the camera looked almost as big as elephants, and the lifter who was high in the air looked very small in comparison.

One of the best stories regarding lifters that I ever heard was told me by an Englishman, who claims to be an eye witness of the scene. It appears that in a certain city in England two great weight-lifters were appearing in the same week, at rival theatres. I will not mention their names, but the reader would recognize them at once. One of the lifters had boasted for years that he was the real champion in trhe “Bent Press,” and this man was a popular idol in England. The other man was equally proud of his prowess in the “Bent Press and had long desired to meet lifter No. l.

Lifter No. 2, in order to decoy lifter No. 1, had posters printed announcing that he would give L50 ( $250) to any other lifter, amateur or professional, who could raise a 240-pound bell (belonging to lifter No. 2), by the right arm “Bent Press.”

These posters were scattered broadcast and everybody in town knew it was an indirect challenge to lifter No. 1. The advertised performance finally arrived. Lifter No. 2 produced the 240-pound bell, which had 12-inch globes and a handle-bar nearly three inches thick. The bell was weighed by one of the city officials and it was announced that the advertised weight was correct,

Lifter No. 2 took the bell, stood it on end, “rocked” it into position on his shoulder and then after balancing it very carefully, slowly pressed it to arm’s length overhead and stood erect. At that instant a man sprung out of one of the boxes and with a dramatic gesture tore off a false beard and stood revealed as lifter No. l. Immense applause!

No obstacles were put in the way of lifter No. 1, who, after a short hesitation, took the bar-bell, stood it on end, “rocked” it into position at his shoulder, and then tried to press it. As he started to push the bell aloft, he suddenly lost control of it, and the bell dropped to the stage with a tremendous thud. As challenger he was entitled to five trials, but he was not able to get the bell over his head, although he took advantage of all the trials. Finally he had to leave the stage amidst the jeers of the supporters of lifter No. 2.

Lifter No. 1 was prefectly capable of performing the “Bent Press” with an ordinary 240-pound bar-bell, but this bell was very far from being ordinary. The big handlebar which looked so massive was nothing but a piece of hollow tubing, about 6 feet in length, and this tubing contained about 50 pounds of mercury, which ran freely from one end of the tube to the other, and naturally made the bell extremely difficult to balance. Lifter No. 2 had practiced for weeks before he had mastered the art of holding the bell absolutely horizontal. He knew that lifter No. 1 always tilted a bar-bell slightly in making the “Bent Press,” and he figured that when the bell was so tilted the mercury would do its duty and run to the lower end of the handle and wrench it from lifter No. 1’s hands. I believe the case was afterwards taken into Court, but lifter No. 1 failed to recover and damages.

I remember a little incident I saw on the stage some years ago. A couple of traveling lifters, one of whom was a European celebrity, appeared at a vaudeville house in Philadelphia and offered a substantial money prize to any local lifter who could raise with one arm above the head a certain dumbbell. I saw one attempt made, not to lift the dumbbell but to get a chance to do so. The young Philadelphia lifter to whom I refer on page 140 jumped on the stage and demanded the chance to tackle the big bell. This man looked so strong that the strangers were evidently afraid of him. One of them stepped forward, took two 56-pound ring weights, passed his little fingers through the rings and quickly swinging them to his shoulders, pressed them aloft a dozen times. He then invited the Philadelphian to try the same thing.

For some reason the Philadelphian was unfamiliar with the feat. He did not notice the stranger had the rings between his third and little fingers and really had the weights lying on the back of his forearms. When the Philadelphian tried it he hooked the first joint of little finger in the rings and tried to lift the weights above his head while they were hanging from his little fingers. Naturally he was unsuccessful and because he had failed to see through the trick (which was really a simple one) he was refused the chance to try the big bell. The next day another local lifter “put him wise.” The Philadelphian tried the feat, found he could do it with two 90-pound weights, and you never saw a more disgusted man when he realized how he had been fooled by a competitor in his own line of work.

I believe that I have seen as many “strong acts” as most men, but I have never seen anything to equal the feats performed by the heroes of some novels. Even writers who have the reputation of knowing something about physical training will make absurd statements. I remember reading a story in a magazine which was devoted to bodily exercise. You would have thought that the editor of the magazine would have known better than to publish such a story.

The hero of the tale was a small, slight youth who located in a western town. The youth’s weight was about 130 pounds, and he appeared in the town carrying a gripsack in each hand, and it afterwards appeared that these gripsacks each contained a 100-pound dumbbell, and that the youth had carried them from the nearest railroad station (which was five miles away). The youth astonished the old inhabitants of the village by exercising for an hour every day with these dumbbells. (Personally I do not know any 140-pound man who could use two 100-pound bells for an hour, but to the writer of the story this was evidently a commonplace form of exercise.) Of course as the story proceeded the wonderful youth got into a quarrel with the town bully, who naturally, was a 200-pound giant. The little hero won. He always does in stories. In real life, when a big man and a little man get into a scrap, the big man usually comes out on top, but he is never by any chance allowed to do so in fiction.

To be serious, it is not as hard to push up 100 pounds as most people suppose. Most men and boys who have done apparatus work in the gymnasium have strength enough to push up a 50-pound dumbbell, and if they were instructed how to supplement the strength of their arms with the strength of their back and legs, they would learn to raise 100 pounds in a very few lessons. I have seen a 200-pound bar bell lifted with one arm by a boy of 17 years.

There seems to be a great deal of interest among amatuers regarding the professional lifters’ habits of life, diet, method of training, etc. As I have pointed out before, the man who lifts steadily does not have to worry much about condition. Very few of the lifters whom I know, pay any attention to diet. They eat what they like and when they like. I do not know any “strongmen” who are vegetarians. Meat seems to be an essential part of their diet; beef and pork being the favorite meats. A man who performs feats of strength need the kind of food that will produce a great deal of energy and the lifter seems naturally to incline to meat, eggs, cheese, etc.

Most great lifters are temperate drinkers. An occasional glass of beer or ale helps to keep them from getting overtrained. Any man who wishes to excel in feats of strength should be careful not to train himself into a finely-drawn condition. A few extra pounds of flesh form a good reserve. The very strongest men are naturally inclined to flesh and excel the wire-drawn athlete, both in strength and endurance.

Most of the lifters of my acquaintance are moderate smokers. Some care must be exercised when indulging in tobacco. Too many cigars or cigarettes in a day will affect the heart, and cut the wind.

Most professional lifters train only for a short time every day. Some lifters only train three or four times a week. A total of two hours’ time each week is enough to keep a man in the highest possible condition, and it is also enough to develop a novice from a a totally undeveloped condition into a perfect Hercules.

The reader is probably aware that when a man takes up a sport like running or rowing, he is compelled to train most rigorously. I do not mean that he simply has to practice, but that he has to pay special attention to his diet, regular hours, etc; but a man who is training for jumping, or throwing weights, does not have to train nearly as rigorously as a man who runs or rows. The man who practices weight-lifting scarcely has to train at all. The nature of the exercise promotes a good appetite, good digestion and sound sleep. And these things make for good health.

Most lifters are of phlegmatic temperment. I do not know whether they are lifters because they are phlegmatic or whether heavy dumbbell exercises fosters a calm, even dispostion. There is one thing about heavy dumbbell exercises, and that is they do not impose any strain on the nervous system. The work is thrown entirely on the muscles.

When a man takes up light dumbell exercises or resistance exercises, he cannot get any benefit from them unless he concentrates his mind upon the muscles he is using, and every time he flexes a certain muscle he contracts it as much as he possibly can. All the tension he puts on the muscles results from this intense concentration, and this causes a great drain on the nervous system. I have seen men practice for half and hour at resistance exercises and get their nerves in such a high-strung conditgions that they were unable to sleep for twenty-four hours.

Are great “strong-men” born, or made? As I have assisted in the making of a good many first-class amateur lifters and strong men, I naturally incline somewhat to the latter point of view. I am not so foolish, however, as to make a sweeping statement that any man or boy who practices with heavy dumbbells can develop himself inot a Cyr, a Steinbach or a Saxon. Nature gives us a certain foundation on which to build, and nature also fixes a certain limit to the amount of development any individual can acquire.

As a general rule, the larger a man’s bones the larger the muscle they will support. Like every other rule this one has its exceptions. Sandow is a small-boned man; so is Thomas Inch of London. Both these men have superb muscles. I think that a man with small bones and large muscles is apt ot have a better figure than a large-boned man, because when the bones are small the joints are small, and everybody knows that a small, trim wrist or ankle helps the appearnce of the arm or leg. But these small-boned men, nothwithstanding the beauty of their figure, are rarely as strong as their large-boned brothers. Some authorities go so far as to judge a man’s natural strength by the girth of his wrists and ankles, but I do not think that this is a gauge of real strength.

The size of a man’s parents, naturally, greatly influences his ultimate development. The son a six-foot father and strongly-built mother, naturally, can make himself a great deal stronger man than the son of a pair of puny parents. Some men inherit physical strength, and other men inherit physical characteristics from one or both parents, that will assist them, or retard them (as the case may be) in their pursuit of great muscular strength and development. The careful observer will have noted that in some cases all the male members of a certain family have extraordinarily broad shoulders. Other men inherit long arms from their father, and in such cases as these, where good physical characteristics are inherited, the acquirement of strength and muscle becomes an easy matter. I know one man who is celebrated for the size and strength of his wrists and forearms, and he once told that his mother had the largest and strongest forearm he had ever seen on a woman.

The general athletic public usually underestimates the improvement they can make by systematic exercise of the right kind. They are apt to judge by the very meagre results which they, or their friends, have gotten from the use of light dumbbells, pulley weights, etc. Go out on the street, take the first hundred men you meet, and I doubt if more than five men out of the hundred have enough physical strength to raise from the ground 400 pounds in a dead-weight lift. After a year of heavy dumbbell exercises any sound man, no matter how weak his previous condition was, should be able to press above his head with one hand, a 125-pound dumbbell, to raise a 200-pound bell with both hands to arm’s length above his head, and lift at least 600 pounds dead weight from the ground. These are not unusual results, but are if anything, a low average.

To illustrate - two or three years ago I helped to form a class of eight young men and put them under the instruction of an expert weight-lifter. They exercised with heavy dumbbells and barbells four times a week during a period of three months. Not one of these boys was above the average in size or strength when he started. I suppose a 34-inch chest, 12-inch upper arm and 20-inch thigh was the most any of them could show in the way of development. Not one of them had seen a heavy dumbbell before starting this course, and not one had strength enough to raise a 100-pound barbell above his head with both arms. The average increase in chest measurement was 4 1/2 inches; the upper arm measurement 1 7/8 inches; the average increase in thigh measurement was 2 1/2 inches. The most wonderful increase was in the bodily weight. From an average weight of 140 at the beginning they went up to an average weight of 162. These boys had the advantage of expert personal instruction, but any intelligent man could do almost as well by training in his own room with heavy bells.

In conclusion, I wish to defend myself from the charge that I lack patriotism because I state that foreign lifters are better than our American professionals. As I have endeavored to show, it is merely a matter of numbers and systems of training. When a nation has 25,000 or 30,000 men training for strength, they are bound to produce more champions than a nation which has only a few hundred men training along the same line. I have seen my fellow-country men, many young men, who, if they took up progressive weight-lifting would give the European champions all they could do. I have a pupil in New England who can raise 295 in the two-arm press. He weighs only 220, and is only 24 years of age. This young man will improve. I know a Philadelphian, a former champion oarsman, who has “snatched” 160 pounds with his right arm. If this man would practice steadily for one winter, at all-around weight lifting, and specialize on the snatch, he could create an American record for that event. Every day I see men who have been favored with great physical advantages, and if I had the chance to train some of these men, I would produce some great lifters.

If this little volume encourages any number of young men to take up this fascinating sport, I will consider that the time and trouble spent in producing it have been well repaid.

Physical Culture
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Friday, December 16, 2011

Iron Nation Gym Trade Mark Rights (USA) For Sale

If you're interested in owning the American Trade Mark Rights to Iron Nation Gym, (we hope it's because you love the iron game, weight training, physical culture, building strength without drugs etc), Please email Bob at or call (772) 646-0549
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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

THE TRUTH ABOUT WEIGHTLIFTING - (circa 1911) - CHAPTER 14 - By Alan Calvert


For some reason or other, the physical culture public seems to have the idea that my whole buisness consists of training young men to become professional stage performers, and I am constantly being consulted about the advisability of taking up weight-lifting and “strong man” work as a profession. As a matter of fact, I am a manufacturer of heavy-weight dumbbells, but in the course of several years’ experience in selling goods to professional lifters, and in furnishing almost all the goods used by amateurs, I have acquired a great deal of information regarding weight-lifting both as a sport and as a profession.

When a young man asks me whether I advise him to become a professional, I invariably tell him that he would make a great mistake by so doing. Weight lifting as a sport is not only one of the most beneficial forms of exercise, but is also one of the most fascinating of pastimes. On the other hand, as soon as a lifter turns professional he is compelled to give the greater part of his time to stage exhibitions, either in the circus or in the vaudeville theatres. It is an odd fact that no lifter could make even a living wage if he was to introduce on the stage what is known as a straight dumbbell act; that is, if one of the best lifters in the world was to give an act consisting of standard dumbbell lifts and announced exactly the amount of weight handled in the different lifts, he would not get enough applause to justify any manager in letting him appear for a second time, even if his lifts happened to be world’s records and were performed in absolutely perfect style.

The audiences in this country demand something sensational. They do not understand lifting and they would very much rather see sensational supporting feat, which looks dangerous as well as difficult, than to see a man pushing a heavy dumbbell. Naturally the professionals follow the principle of giving the public what it wants. If the public wants to see fakes, the lifter, having his bread and butter in view, is perfectly willing to oblige them. The more apparatus a professional carries about with him and the more absurd his claims, the more apt he is to earn a big salary. There is absolutely no encouragement for a first-class amateur lifter to take up professional work.

What does it matter if he is able to push a 250-pound dumbbell above his head with one hand? The audience would much rather see him lift a man weighing 150 pounds in the same manner. This spirit is not confined entirely to the weight-lifting act, but applies equally well in all acrobatic feats. For instance, if Sweeney, the champion high jumper, was to reproduce on the stage his world’s record leap of 6 feet 5 inches, he would get very little applause; if he would jump over the back of a small horse, or over a wooden fence painted to represent iron spikes, the audience would be delighted.

Another odd fact is that no man can hope to earn good money on the stage unless he is beautifully built and very heavily muscled. There are a number of men who are extremely strong, but who do not show much muscle. Personally I know a number of lifters who can perform some surprising feats but who are so slender that the average person would not believe a truthful stagement regarding these lifters’ performances. The audience demands that a man appears strong, but it does not care whether or not he really is strong. There is one young man on the vaudeville stage today who is gifted by nature with a superb figure, and by doing a moderate amount of heavy dumbbell work he is able to keep his muscles in the finest, clear-cut condition. When you see this man across the footlights you would readily believe that it would be child’s play for him to lift a ton, and, in fact, such is his claim. I happen to know that the man is all “looks.” He possesses very little strength and knows very little about lifting, but he trades on his appearance and when he handles heavy dumbbells or other weights he is very clever in giving the audience the impression that is working very hard. He never has any trouble in obtaining an engagement and earns on the average $100 to $150 a week all year around.

As a contrast to this case I might mention another lifter of an exactly opposite type. This man has been lifting dumbbells for years; he is remarkably clever in his work and lifts so correctly and gracefully that you cannot realize how much strength he is putting forth. He stands six feet in height; weighs less than 150 and his upper arm is only 13 1/2 inches in girth, and yet this man will press above his head with one arm a 200-pound bar-bell, and, moreover, does it so easily that the average observer would probably guess that the bell weighed 50 pounds.

This man cannot possibly get a paying engagement on the stage. If he was to lift 200 and put up a sign to that effect, the audience would laugh at it and consider that was a faker, because he does not look strong enough to handle even 100 pounds. I doubt whether he could earn $20 a week owing to his very slender physique, while the beautifully built man alluded to above earns a big salary simply because he “looks the part.” I have seen this well-built man take a hollow dumbbell weighing 40 pounds, push it up in the air with every appearance of immense muscular effort and fully convince every member of the audience that he had lifted 240 pounds.

The weight lifter who travels “on his shape,” as in the case above mentioned, almost invariably precedes his lifting act with what is known as “cabinet posing,” of which I will give a short description. The lifter will have an iron framework about four feet square and seven feet high. On this framework he will hang curtains of black, or deep red, velvet. At various points on the framework will be fixed small electric lamps, and these lamps are so cunningly placed that when their light falls upon the lifter it greatly accentuates the shadows thrown by his highly developed muscles. The athlete stands on a revolving pedestal in this cabinet, and for the space of four or five minutes he will fall into various positions which throw the different sets of muscles in the highest possible relief. I calculate that a properly lighted cabinet will exaggerate a man’s development anywhere from 100 to 200 per cent.

After the members of an audience have watched an athlete pose in a cabinet for a few minutes, they unconsciously become impressed with the fact that this man in a mass of muscle, and consequently when he comes out to perform his lifting stunts, they are in a frame of mind to believe any claim he makes. Needless to say the clever professional takes advantage of this state of affairs. There are many men whom I could name and whom the reader would recognize at once who earn big money simply “on their shape,” as the vulgar expression is. The acts they give are perfect farces. Several times lately I have seen “strong man” acts which were perfectly absurd to anyone who understood the principle underlying the lifting of heavy objects, and yet the arrant fakes were well received by the audience.

The whole object of the professional lifter is, naturally, to make his feats of strength appear so wonderful that the members of the audience leave the theatre with the impressionl that the “strong man” whom they have just seen is at least ten times stonger than the ordinary individual. I know many professionals who are under the impression that the Creator only made one of their kind and that He broke the mould when He was through.

Now, I do not object to the professional doing this if he can get away with it, and help himself thereby, but I do oppose the practice from one point of view, and that is, that it discourages a great many amateurs from taking up heavy-weight lifting because they are afraid that they would never be able to equal the development and strength of some famous professional. Development is moreor less a gift. Almost any one can develop large muscles, but no one can be sure these muscles will be shapely. Beauty of figure is as far beyond our control as beauty of feature. Any man can reach a high point of muscular development; thousands of men have chests and limbs as large as Sandow’s, but not one man in a million can equal Sandow in shapeliness. If the average amateur realized that the best professionals were no better than the best amateurs, I believe that many more men and boys would go in for heavy-weight work. Amateur runners can run just as fast as professionals and I can assure the reader that good amateur lifters are usually stronger than professional lifters.

Physical Culture
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Sunday, December 4, 2011

SUPER NATURAL STRENGTH - By Bob Whelan ... A Drug-Free Weight Training Masterpeice

"Super Natural Strength is a great source of information for anyone who wants real drug-free strength training, without hype, fads, worthless supplements or training advice from steroid users."
--Dick Conner, Powerlifting Coach, (Multiple National Champion), Strength Expert

"In an era where trends and training fallacy run ramped, 'Maximum' Bob Whelan has stepped up and provided rock-solid information in his new book, SUPER NATURAL STRENGTH. Bob’s candid, no-nonsense approach to training will unquestionably leave an indelible mark on the strength world as he shares his years of experience on all aspects of physical culture. With a strong emphasis on safety, progression and down-right hard work, Bob shares tons of insights on how to get strong without conjuring up gimmicks, fads or the use of enhancing supplements. Suffice it to say that SUPER NATURAL STRENGTH is one of those collections that won’t be sitting dormant on your bookshelf for too long as it will undoubtedly become a 'go to' source of information for you to reference over and over again."
–-Fred Fornicola, Strength/Conditioning Coach, Strength Writer/Author

"As usual, Bob Whelan has written an excellent work on the subject of physical training that makes great sense and should be in the library of every strength and muscle seeker! He knows what he's talking and writing about, and if you're in the market for sound advice and instruction, get his new book!"
--Bradley J. Steiner, World Famous Strength and Martial Arts Expert

"Have you ever wondered how much real world experience some authors have when they write articles and books about weight training and weight lifting? Who is that person behind the computer or typewriter? What do they really know about the Iron Game? If you picked up this book, SUPER NATURAL STRENGTH by Bob Whelan, you have definately come to the RIGHT place. You have opened yourself to the universe of knowledge and understanding of real world weight training and how the human body responds to training. The author Bob Whelan has spent several decades in the iron game trenches training himself, competing and coaching in powerlifting, earning academic credentials too numerous to mention, and thousands of hours training and instructing athletes and trainees of all levels at his Washington D.C. gym since 1990. He has not only devoted his life to motivating and pushing people to heights they have never been to, but elevating the trainees understanding why certain methods work better than others. Bob is one of the most respected and revered trainers in the business today, this book is sure to surprise and amaze you at the same time."
--Osmo Kiiha, Editor, The Iron Master

"Super Natural Strength could also be called Bob Whelan's Greatest Hits. The book is a compilation of his decades of experience that was forged in the trenches. It's a great read that's not to be missed."
--Matt Brzycki, Assistant Director of Campus Recreation & Fitness, Princeton University

"Super Natural Strength is the best blend of tough, progressive training and common sense advice I have read. Bob Whelan's approach and routines will work for anyone, whether a beginner or hard core veteran. An enjoyable and informative book."
--Todd Baisley, Author, Workforce Warrior

"Bob Whelan's mantra of 'No Toning, No Chrome, No Bull,' rips through the pages of Super Natural Strength in gale force fashion. You can feel the intensity, inspiration, emotion, and commitment to hard, productive training grip your attention like the knurling on your favorite bar. If you were introduced to strength training in a musty cellar that was lit with a single light bulb, a floor covered with paint chips from the corroded stone walls, and accessorized with implements covertly manufactured in the local steel mill, then you possess the pre-requisite mind-set for this truly outstanding work of training science and art."
--Ken Mannie, Head Strength/Conditioning Coach, Michigan State University

"The one word that best describes Bob Whelan is HONEST. Super Natural Strength is a wealth of information about training the RIGHT WAY."
--Drew Israel, Co-Author Iron Nation, Passion for Hard Training

“Super Natural Strength is literally a gold mine of strength training information that is the nuts and bolts of what is necessary for someone to get big and strong. Bob's works are synonymous with Common Sense Strength Training. Needless to say, I highly recommend this book to be a part of every iron warrior's library.”
--Bill Piche, Editor,

“SUPER NATURAL STRENGTH is a wonderful source of honest information, especially for those who train drug-free. It cuts through the fads and hype, and provides a wealth of guidance that really works. I was very happy to have had Bob as one of my main writers for about 10 years -- he was one of my rocks. His book is comprised of his HARDGAINER articles, and thus expresses the "basics, 'breviated and best" drug-free philosophy that the magazine taught. I strongly endorse this outstanding source of rock-solid information.”
--Stuart McRobert , Author of Brawn, Publisher/Editor of Hardgainer Magazine

No fads, no cults, no gimmicks, no bull! Just hard work, heavy weights, good food and plenty of recovery - 392 Pages!

Dispels "Muscle-Rag" Fiction

"If I have an original contribution to HARDGAINER,...I'll first turn to my article and check for spelling and punctuation errors. It may surprise some to know that after that has been done, I don't usually read what I have written, at least not at first. In HARDGAINER, I first read Bob Whelan's column. Bob and I often talk or email to discuss some aspect of training, and have many productive conversations. I respect his opinion and perspective on all areas of the weight game, and he's to be commended for his hard hitting and common-sense approach to things."
--Dr. Ken E. Leistner
(Hardgainer #84)


This book is earnestly dedicated to a great physical culture pioneer. We need men like him now more than ever!

Strongman Priest and Strength Coach
Father Bernard Lange of Notre Dame University

Buy on Amazon and Kindle

Super Natural Strength - Introduction - by Randy Roach, Author of "Muscle, Smoke & Mirrors"

"Physical culture is about what you do in the dark. It’s about how hard you train when there is no one to impress. It’s about what you eat, how you think, and what you do on a daily basis. It’s about doing the right thing.

The philosophy comes ahead of the end result. I don’t care if they don’t know anything and can’t bench press an Olympic bar without any plates. That’s not important. What’s important is attitude. It’s not how strong you are now, but where you are going that’s important as far as attitude is concerned… They must be interested in doing the right thing."
--Bob Whelan

And just what is “the right thing” when it comes to true conditioning? Does anyone really possess the answer to this emotionally charged, commercially-loaded question? Bob Whelan is man enough to step forward and make his case within the pages of his latest publication, “SUPER NATURAL STRENGTH.” To Bob, “the right thing” is simply the fortitude in conducting a training ethic that is natural, hard and progressive. In fact, “natural, hard, and progressive” would serve as a definitive motto for Whelan Strength Training. His T-shirts bear the words, “No Toning,” “No Chrome,” “No Bull,” “Just The Workout of Your Life” which also reflect the essence of this man’s exercise constitution.

Bob has definitely built his own philosophy and sticks to it. He refers to himself as a coach over that of a personal trainer, the latter being a faction of the profession that he finds highly questionable. He feels that the vast majority of personal trainers have prostituted themselves due to lack of education, fundamentals, and a core philosophy. Whelan at heart is a pure strength coach. He does not believe in a fountain of youth, but feels that strength training is the closest thing to it. And Bob certainly has a set of strong core beliefs when it comes to strength development.

The readers are indebted to Stuart McRobert, the publisher of Hardgainer, a magazine from which the contents of this book were drawn. McRobert let a breath of fresh air enter the stuffy Iron Game hall in July of 1989 with the release of his first issue of Hardgainer. The compact, comparatively commercial-free publication steadfastly catered to the hardcore, natural men and women of iron for 15 years.. 

It was through the editorial craftsmanship of Stuart McRobert that Whelan was introduced to the Hardgainer audience in the September, 1994 issue. Stuart had cut and spliced a number of fax exchanges between he and Bob to compile an inaugural article titled, “Maximum Bob.” From that point onward, Bob would compile his own material and be a constant contributor to Hardgainer until its finale in the spring of 2004. It was from that decade of contribution of articles and extensive Q&A columns, Maximum Bob Whelan brought a wealth of knowledge to the Hardgainer readership.

Although Bob holds a master’s degree in exercise science and health from George Mason University and a master’s degree in management from Troy University, academia alone could not give to Bob what he in turn shares with his fortunate clientele. What shines from his Iron Game soul he was born with and naturally cultivated on his own beginning as a youth. It was then that Bob mastered the heavy demands of pushups and pull-ups his father forced upon him.

Like so many die-hards of the game, he became hooked on training at a very young age. Bob continued with his pushups and chins, added cement blocks and copper tubing, dips between chairs, and everything else he could come up with until he attained his first York barbell set at the age of 13. With the York influence, he began purchasing Muscular Development and Strength and Health, followed later with Iron Man magazine. Bob captured the exuberance of so many youths that had both preceded and succeeded him through the decades:

"I was a fanatic and devoured everything related to training I could get my hands on. I was sad when I'd read all the articles in a new issue. I couldn’t wait ‘til the next month so I could ride my bike to the apothecary in Sherborn, Massachusetts, and buy the next issue. I can remember the smell of the ink in the new issues. I had to hide the magazines because my father thought all the bodybuilders were “musclebound,” but I knew better. My biggest heroes were Bob Hoffman and, especially, John Grimek." 

From these early publications, his fundamentals were cast. Bob was already mentally equipped to build strength and muscle with the most basic of equipment as demonstrated from 1976 to 1979 at a “small, dingy, minimally equipped gym” at Bitburg Airbase in Germany. He went on to both coach and compete for seven years as a natural powerlifter setting several military records on his way. His raw lifts are as impressive and extensive as the rest of his vast array of credentials too numerous to mention.

With such levels of education, depth of knowledge, and breadth of experience, Bob Whelan became one of our prominent modern day Physical Culturists: a hybrid of old and new, wise enough to endear the old, yet open to what the new era offered. He does not get stuck in the mud squabbling over pure traditions if common sense clearly shows that the old could benefit from the new. In his own words:

"I see myself as a tradesman with a shed full of tools... I see the various modes and methods of strength training as tools in a tool chest. A craftsman can collect and use many tools to perform his art. Only a fool would throw useful tools away and insist on using just a few tools. Different tools can be used for different people." 

You will see this tradesman at work through the pages of “SUPER NATURAL STRENGTH” as Bob shares his arsenal of conditioning wisdom from the first installment of “Maximum Bob” in the fall of 1994 until the spring of 2004. For those 10 years, Bob remained loyal to the concepts of his trade with some minor evolution in areas where technology and further research had enlightened us all. However, you can’t help but respect him even more when he uses his own experience, intellect, and common sense to draw the line on some of the modern day fads, gimmicks, and crazes that constantly sweep the fitness industry. 

What you will get from these pages is serious tried and true strength and muscle building techniques and advice from one of the most passionate trainer/coaches in the world. Bob’s mission is to bring the best out of everyone even if it means screaming encouragement at a young training enthusiast as he/she struggles to carry a 100 to 200 pound bag of sand around a building or simply accompanying a first time client for a gentle walk around the block. As hardcore as Bob is, that military-based drill ethic is still governed by intellect and a rationale. As he says:

"Deaths are not good for business! ...A good coach must be a good judge of effort. Not everyone can give the same amount of effort. There are huge differences in ability. Nonetheless, whatever they can give, I want it all. You must be smart enough to recognize the differences in individuals, and be a good judge of effort…. Extracting effort is an art form…. There are some coaches who don’t think you’ve had a good workout unless you use the bucket. This is wrong. I view the bucket as getting a “purple heart” medal. You get a purple heart when you get wounded, but you don’t want to get wounded…. You can’t fake passion. You either have it, or you don’t. If you’ve got it, it makes your job a lot easier, and a lot more fun. Everything flows from passion."

And it is passion that drives Whelan Strength Training. It was that same passion that led Bob to leave a lucrative job as a government agent, sleep only feet from the barbells of his burgeoning gym, and stay the course right to the top of the field. Passion ruled over silly arguments such as which was superior, free weights or machines. As Bob notes, “strength training is similar to religion as far as strong opinions go.” 

And with Bob, you will get in this book a solid philosophy on how to get the best from your body without drugs, powders, pills or any other magic potion outside of hard training and real natural foods. Much of the content of this publication is an extensive Q&A collection that spans many issues of Hardgainer from 2000 to 2004. Bob answers a myriad of questions including how to successfully build a personal coaching business plus much, much more.

I was both honoured and happy to write this introduction to Bob’s book, “SUPER NATURAL STRENGTH.” I agreed to do it out of gratitude for the years of work and effort he has put into his craft. So much of what constitutes Bob actually became manifest in his website, years before I had the privilege of meeting him. was a godsend to me during my early years working on my own historical project. Only a man with true passion would put such effort and thousands of dollars personally into bringing so much of Physical Culture to the mainstream free of charge as Bob has done.

“SUPER NATURAL STRENGTH” is just the beginning of what will come to print from Bob Whelan’s shed of tools. His first book, “Iron Nation,” was an excellent compilation of training strategies from heavyweight players within the lifting industry. This second publication is “naturally” a compendium to his first. From what I understand and would expect, there is much more to come in the ensuing years from this super-charged, extremely positive, and highly motivating personality. 

In the meantime, prepare to reap the benefits of a 10-year romp with Bob Whelan through Stuart McRobert’s successful publication, Hardgainer. Bob will definitely take your training to the “Maximum!”

Randy Roach,
Author of “Muscle, Smoke & Mirrors"

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

THE TRUTH ABOUT WEIGHTLIFTING - (circa 1911) - CHAPTER 13 - By Alan Calvert

My hardest work is to try and combat a number of time-worn superstitions which the average person holds regarding heavy dumbbell lifting. If the reader will take the trouble to ask any friend whether it is advisable to take up weight-lifting, ther are ninety-nine chances out of a hundred that the friend will reply:

“Weight-lifting is dangerous because it makes one slow, because it makes one muscle-bound and because it is apt to strain the heart.” I have made careful investigation of all these charges and I have found that the people who repeat them are simply handing dwon what they have heard from their fathers and grandfathers. If you investigate you will generally find that the friend who advises you so earnestly against heavy dumbbell work, has never had a heavy bell in his hands. He does now know hwo a heavy bell should be used; he does not know the nature of the exercises which should be performed with heavy dumbbells, and in most cases he is of the type that simply repeats, parrot-like, what he has learned from some other persons who are equally ignorant regarding all phases of weight-lifting.

For some reason or other the average man on the street is absolutely positive that every successful dumbbell lifter has to be a man of gigantic physique, with enormous muscles, as strong as an ox and just as slow. I have done my very best to trace this belief to its origin and I have come to the conclusion that it has its foundation in the fact that a couple of generations ago all of the men of that time who were famous for their strength happened to be of the Louis Cyr-Sebastian Miller type. Both Cyr and Miller were tremendously strong men and they were also undoubtedly rather slow in their movements because they were men of sluggish temperment. As these two men were held up for years as the best examples of “strong men,” the public has seemingly drawn the conclustion that any one who rivals them in strength, must necessarily resemble them in appearance. The same public is ignorant of the fact that every feat in dumbbell lifting performed by these two men has been far exceeded by the active modern lifter.

It seems that the popular idea of the weight-lifter is, that he is a man who is covered with large, knotty muscles, that he is exceedingly slow and clumsy in his movements, and that he is invariably “muscle-bound.” The average athlete, when speaking of weight-lifters, always produces the words “muscle-bound” with an intonation of horror. It appears that the average athlete would much rather be in his grave than be “muscle-bound,” and yet, to save himself from the grave, the same athlete cannot define the term “muscle bound.” As far as I can gather, the popular idea is that the man who uses heavy dumbbells gets his muscles in such a condition that he is able to move them through only a small arc of the circle. Statements are made to the effect that some lifters cannot fasten their own collars at the back of their necks. I have never seen a man in this condition. The men who really do get stiff and slow in their movements are the men who specialize on harness-lifting and dead-weight lifting.

The man who goes in for heavy dumbbell lifting, especially the quick lifts, such as the snatch and the jerk, will increase his activity almost as much as he increases his strength. If a little bag-punching or Indian club exercise be taken in connection with heavy dumbbell work, the muscles will retain all their flexibility. Any one who has seen a good weight lifter tuin a back somersault while holding a 40-pound dumbbell in each hand, or jump over a table with the same weights, should realize that weight lifters are pretty fast on their feet. Any one who has seen Arthur Saxon toss a 300-pound bar-bell from one hand to the other above his head will marvel at his lightning-like movements. In my own experience I find that when a lifter first takes up the “snatch” and the “jerk” he is unable to master them because he lacks speed in his foot work. After a few weeks’ practice with weights he develops the agility necessary to properly carry out the above lifts.

In regard to the knotted appearance of the strong man’s muscles, I beg to remind the reader that the man’s muscles are knotted only when some on is looking at him, or when he is having his picture taken. Some lfiters make a habit of keeping their arms tensed and their shoulders hunched up every minute they are in view of the audience; and when a lifter has his photograph taken his one idea is to make as many muscles prominent as is possible. If you are fortunate enough to catch one of these strong men in costume, when he thinks he is not observed, you will find that he is not nearly as heavily muscled as he appears when he is on the stage.

If the reader will take the trouble to look at some illustrations, which show the various “strong men,” he will notice that very few of these men are of the extremely muscular type. Lurich probably shows more muscle on the surface than any of the rest, but, then Lurich is famous as an artist’s model. Jean Francois is very muscular and shapely. Steinbach, Cyr, Witzelsberger, and many other great lifters do not show any knotty muscles. Ther chests and limbs are smooth, but that does not prevbent them from being enormously strong. I know that the common idea is that only men who have gnarled and knotty muscles can handle dumbbells, but on investigation we find that it is the smoothly-built men that hold the strength records.

Ninety-nine out of a hundred will solemnly assure you that the use of heavy dumbbells is sure to cause strain. After many years’ search I think I have found the origin of this belief. Suppose there were five men standing on a dock at the edge of a deep river and that none of them knew how to swim. Do you suppose for a minute that any one of them would be so foolish as to jump into 10 feet of water and take their chances of acquiring the art of swimming by inspiration? Or, if these same five men went out and bought a bicycle, do you suppose that any one of them would be so silly as to try and ride 100 miles the first day; that is, supposing that never before had they ridden a wheel. But let us take a third case: Suppose that these five men were sitting in a room smoking and indulging in general conversation and some one of their number would discover in onc corner of the room a heavy dumbbell, weighing, say 75 pounds. It is a ten-to-one bet that every man in the party would at least make an effort to push up that dumbbell.

Now, it is an exceedingly foolish thing for a man who has had on experience in handling heavy balls to attempt to push 75 pounds aloft. It is fairly safe to assume that none of our five men have had any experience in lifting and it is very hard to understand why they should be so foolish to attempt to make the lift. The reason is that the average man is secretly very proud of his strength and very loath to admit than any one of his fellows can outdo him in any feat where strength alone is required. Therefore, if one make of the five makes an attempt with the bell, the other four throw caution to the winds and run a great risk of straining themselves by attempting the lift. In fact, I might as well say that they do strain themselves. To see the average man attempt to push a heavy dumbbell aloft is enough to make an experienced lifter weep. I am quite positive that incidents like the above are the foundation of most of the charges that lifting heavy dumbbells causes strain. The real cause of the strain is not the lifting of the bell, but the conceit which prompts the untrained individual to attempt a feat far beyond his power. The reader may laugh and think that I am making pretty strong statements, but if will make a little test he will find out that what I say is true. The next time the reader is in the company of three or four men who are past middle age, let him perform some feat that requires considerable strength. I am willing to wage a dollar to a dime that three out of four of these elderly men would at once say: “Oh, that is pretty good, but when I was your age I could do so and so.” I distinctly recall one time I was in a photographer’s studio superintending the work of taking a picture of a celebrated athlete who posed, pushing above his head with one hand another man who weighed 180 pounds. There were a number of interested witnesses present and among them was an elderly military man, who certainly id not weigh more than 140 pounds. When the lifter carefully lowered his partner to the ground the colonel, or major, I forget which he was-came to the front and said that was all very fine indeed, but that when he was a young man he lifted above his head a 200-pound man in each hand. Respect for the aged forbade my making any comment at the time.

It is very hard indeed for me to understand why there is such a deep-rooted belief that a man is sure to strain himself if he uses heavy weights. This belief is not confined to the ordinary athletic public, but is shared by a number of athletic trainers and physicians, who certainly should know better.

Let us compare heavy dumbbell lifting with apparatus work in the gymnasium. When a boy or young man starts in an ordinary gymnasium, it is very seldom that he confines himself entirely to “free movements” and “pulley-weight” work. After a few weeks’ experience his natural desire is to try the more difficult work on the horizontal bars, parallel bars, flying rings, etc. Two of the first feats that he lars are to “chin” himself on the horizontal bars, and to “dip” on the parallel bars. The feats are so well known that it is not necessary to describe them here. The point I wish to make is, that in both of these feats the athlete raises and lowers the weight of his body, less the weight of his arms. If a 150-pound man chins himself he is raising at least 120 pounds by the strength of his biceps and back muscles; when he dips he raises the same weight by the strength of his triceps and pectoral and shoulder muscles. The instructor in the gymnasium will not only permit, but will encourage his pupils to attempt such feats; but if one of these pupils should suggest raising a 60-pound bar-bell from his hips to above his head by the strength of both his arms and his back and shoulder muscles, the instructor will at once tell him that he is in danger of straining himself.

If there is any instructor who can explain to me why it is more dangerous to handle 60 pounds of iron than to handle 120 pounds of flesh and blood, I would like him to do so. Now, mind you, I not state that a 150-pound man who can dip once, has strength enough to raise a 120-pound bar-bell above his head in a two-arm press. I readily admit that it is easier to handle an equal amount of dead weight; but any man who has strength enough to make half a dozen repetitions of the chinning movement, and the dipping movement, is plently strong enought to take up heavy dumbbell exercises with dumbbells and bar-bells ranging in weight from 50 to 100 pounds.

Physicians sometimes agree with these trainers, but I think it is merely because they have not considered the situation from my point of view. I am happy to say that I sell a large number of adjustable dumbbells to physicians, who not only use them in their own daily exercise, but also recomment them to their friends and patients. A couple of months ago a New York physician ordered a bar-bell, and when sending his instructions I specified the amount of weight he should use in the various exercises. Of course, I had the doctor’s bodily measuements before me and I knew that he did not wish to train for feats of strength, but intended to use the dumbbells to develop his muscles and to increase his bodily weight; therefore, in his case, I specified a much smaller amount of weight than I would in the case of an ambitious young athlete whose aim was to acquire tremendous strength in a short time. After receiveing his instructions the doctor wrote to me and asked if I did not think I had specified too much weight in certain bar-bell exercises that called into play the biceps and triceps muscles. In replying to the doctor I pointed out the fact that when he submitted his measurements he had also given me his previous gymnastic experience and had stated that he could chin himself eight times and dip twelve times. He weighed 170 pounds and yet was afraid that 60 and 75 pounds in corresponding bar-bell exercises were too heavy for him. When I explained the matter to him the doctor at once acknowledged that I was right and admitted that if he had started in with lighter weights he would have been wasting his time.

This, by the way, is where the great value of expert advice comes in. Any intelligent man can learn in a few days’ or weeks’ practice the correct way in which to perfrom heavy dumbbell exercises, and it is not very much harder to grasp the principles which govern weight-lifting proper. The average man, however, is not able to judge for himself the proper amount of weight necessary to properly exercise a given set of muscles, especially at the start of his course, and this is where the experience of the expert who has handled thousands of such cases is almost invaluble to the novice in heavy dumbbell work or weight-lifting. I personally have sold thousands of heavy-weight dumbbells and, in the majority of cases I have advised the purchasers regarding the proper use of the bells, and I am happy to say I have never had reported to me a single case of serious injury or strain. Of course, when a man takes up weight-lifting proper he is very apt to sustain slight sprains of the wrist or shoulder, but such sprains are generally only temporary and a man who is the habit of handling heavy dumbbells is sure to be in such fine bodily condition that he recovers from strain three or four times as quickly as an untrained man would.

In any strenous sport there is always a slight element of risk, In football the percentage of participants who get injured is very large. In long distance rowing, and long-distance running, young men and growing boys frequently do themselves serious bodily harm. Even in baseball injuries are frequent. And yet, all of these sports, with the possible exception of football, are considered less dangerous than weight-lifting. In Germany and Austria weight-lifting is the national sport. I suppose in those two countries there are at least 30,000 amateurs who daily practice with heavy dumbbells. Weights running from 50 to 300 pounds are used by these athletes, and yet in Germany you never hear a word about weight-lifting being dangerous.

I trust the reader recalls the difference in the definition of weight-lifting proper and heavy dumbbell exercises. As I stated above, I am willing to admit that in weight-lifting proper there is a slight element of danger of strain, but in heavy dumbbell exercises there should not be the least danger whatever. Most men who take up heavy dumbell exercises do so with the desire and intention to improve their physical condition. When a man is exercising with a heavy bell there is no rule that compels him to continue his exertions after he feels that he is becoming fatigued. As soon as the muscles commence to tire the pupil is at liberty to put the bells on the floor, and a short period of rest will recruit his energies and enable him to resume the exercise

In this respect it is very different from competitive athletics. I would much rather permit a young boy to practice heavy dumbbell exercises, and a moderate amount of weight-lifting, than to allow him to take part in Marathon races, or in four-mile rowing races. The trouble with us in America is, that we make our sports too much of a business. The young athlete especially is liable to allow his desire to win overcome his judgment. In long-distance running races a young man will often continue from sheer pride, when he knows that he is on the verge of utter exhaustion. In rowing it is even worse. Often, at the end of the third mile of a four-mile race, some member of the crew will be at the point of collarpse, but the fear of spoiling his crew’s chances will impel him to stick at the work during the whole of the fourth mile and in almost every race one or more members of the crew will faint or collapse at ehe finish.

The results of such collapse are not simply momentary, but affect the athlete’s health for the rest of his life. In heavy dumbbell exercises, where there is no such stimulus of competition and a man who practices weight-lifting in the company of several other apsiring lifters, progresses much more rapidly than the man who practices in the seclusion of his own room. In the heavy dumbbell exercises, where the whole aim is to increase the muscular power, to develop the body and to improve health, there is absolutely no more danger of strain than there would be in taking a ten-mile walk or taking your best girl for a four-mile row. .

There is no other form of bodily exercise which yield results as quickly as does the use of heavy dumbbells. The reason lies in the quality of the work. When adjustable bells are used, the weight can be gradually increased and the muscles respond by growing in size, strength and shapeliness, and the pupil in training gets the maximus results with the minimum expenditure of his time and energy. When the pupil advances far enough to take up weight-lifting proper, he finds that he has discovered a sport which is infinite in its variety of combinations, and fascinating in its practice. No man can learn all there is to know about weight-lifting. Even a professional, who has specialized for years on dumbbell lifting, will find that every week he can learn something new.

It is most amusing to listen to men who realize that there are many benefits that can be obtained by the practive of progressive weight-lifting, but are afraid that the use of dumbbells is going to make them slow in their movements. Sometimes I think that every man in the United States wants to be the champion boxer in the world. Almost the first question every man asks me, is whether or not he will become slow and clumsy if he takes up the use of heavy dumbbells. Somestimes a stout man of 40 who can hardly get upstairs without the loss of breath, will solemnly assk me whether the use of the weights will make him slow. Other men, whom I know are extremely sluggish in their movements, are worried on the same account.

Now, I don’t attempt to deny that if a man will confine himself entirely to harness-lifting and dead-weight lifting, or even to simply curling and pressing extremely heavy dumbbells, that he would, in the course of time, become a little slow and stiff in his movements. You cannot have everything at the same time. If you want extreme strength you have to sacrifice a little bit of your speed. If you want extreme speed you cannot have enormous strength, but I can assure the reader that the average well-trained lifter is as much quicker as he is stronger, than the average man. Most people, when they take up training of heavy dumbbells, have a definite aim in view. This aim is to encrease the size of the muscles, to increase the strength and improve the health. These aims can be attained most easily by using heavy dumbbells and I do not think that the fact that a man may possibly sacrifice a little bit of his activity should allow this to deter him from taking up heavy weights. Now, understand me when I say a man sacrifices some of his speed, I have in mind a man who earns his living or who has daily necessity for extreme agility. I would not advise a feather-weight boxer to take up weight-lifting if he depended upon his agility to win his bouts. But, on the other hand, the ordinary individual, after he has practiced weight-lifting, will be surprised to find that he can move faster than he could before he started training.

Another extremely deep-rooted belief is that men who use heavy dumbbells are bound to die young. When Sandow came to America in 1893 he created a great sensation. He was the first of his kind, and people marveled at his wonderful physique and his apparent strength. (The reader will now understand what I mean by the word “apparent,” because, if he ever saw Sandow, he will remember that Sandow’s acts were mostly supporting feats.) However, a great many physicians were interviewed by enterprising reporters and were asked to give their opinion about Sandow. Several hundred such opinions were published. The physicians united in praising Sandow’s wonderful figure and his feats of strength, but they most all wound up their statements by saying: “But youmust remember that when a man does terrific feats of strength like Sandow that his heart becomes hypertrophied--that is, it becomes thickened from excessive work. Sandow will be all right for a few years, but the minute he stops lifting weights he will die like a blown out candle.” Sandow is still giving exhibitions. He includes some dumbbell lifts, but none of them are hard. Within the last two or three years Sandow has been accepted by several insurance companies. He carries a great deal of life insurance and the fact that he is successful in passing the rigid physical examinations shows that he must be still on good physical condition; for insurance companies are not anxious to write policies on stage performers. Sandow has been lifting dumbbells, to my knowledge, for the last twenty-three years.

Now, let me give you another case. There is in Philadelphia a man who, away back in the late eighties, toured the country with John L. Sullivan, and the famous Billy Muldoon. This Philadelphian was billed as the “strongest boy in the world,” and he probably was, at that time. He continued as a professional lifter until about 1890 when he retired from the stage, and I doubt he has touch a heavy bell more than once a year since that time, and yet this man is in absolutely perfect physical condition. He has retained his superb figure and almost all of his marvelous strength. He is in his forties today, but he thinks nothing of making a dead-weight lift of over 1400 pounds.

During his last few years on the stage this man worked with a partner who was also a first-class weight lifter. This partner retired at the same time as the first man, and is today a practicing dentist in Philadelphia. He also has retained his strength. I know this for a fact because two or three years ago I induced this dentist to act as a referee in a weight-lifting comptetion. In the last lift in this competition a 140-pound bell was used. After the competition was over the dentist took up this bell and tossed it at arm’s length above his head and threw it easily from one hand to the other. After putting it on the floor he stated it was the first time he had handled a heavy dumbbell in three years.

Most retired weight-lifters are very healthy men. There is no reason in the world why men should break down after giving up heavy dumbbell lifting any more than a man who has been engaged in heavy manual labor should break down.

For instance, there are in this country quite a number of men who have worked in their early youth at the heaviest kind of labor, and have gone from labor into business ventures where thier occupation is entirely sedentary, without loss of health. I know one man in western Pennsylvania who was a roller in an iron mill from the time he was twenty, to the time he was thirty-five. This man’s specialty was rolling 1000-pound steel rails. He used to handle tons of them every day. When he quit as a roller he became foreman and ultimately superintendent of the same mill. He has never broken down in health and yet he formerly did more work and heavy lifting in one day that a professional dumbbell lifter will do in a month.

Weight-lifters should not be confused in this respect with prize fighters. The average weight-lifter trains from 15 to 30 minutes every day and is usually a man of temperate habits, while the prize fighter will subject to a period of the most vigorous training and will then relax into a period of the utmost indulgence. Prize fighters frequently die of consumption. I never heard of a “strong man” dying from that cause.

The one thing in weight-lifting that may cause a weak heart is the unfortunate practice of holding the breath. If you will watch a novice attempt to lift a heavy bell you will see him strain a great deal and become red in the face, and the veins will stick out on his temples and forehead and at the sides of his neck. If he was breathing regularly this would not happen. When a tremendous feat of strength is to be performed (such as a two-arm jerk) it is permissible for the lifter to take a deep breath, holding it during the time the weight is being raised, and then immediately expel it.

A good many years ago there was a writer who advised all his pupils to hold their breath while performing vigorous exercises, and he guaranteed that if they would do so, they would gain strength very rapidly. I am afraid this man is responsible for a great many enlarged hearts. In heavy dumbbell exercises any possible strain on the heart may be avoided by systematic and rythmic breathing. In fact the pupil-in-training should make a rule never to make several repetitions of a movement unless he can breathe regularly while doing so. The adoption of the rule, and the practice of rythmic breathing in conjunction with the heavy dumbbell exercises will greatly increase lung capacity, as well as preventing strain.

Any weight-lifter who is slow and clumsy in his movements would have little chance of making a repetition in dumbbell lifting as it is practiced today. The standard lifts as arranged by the authorities on weight-lifting, put a premium upon skill and activity.

Besides this, if a man allows himself to become too heavy, he spoils himself for such lifts as the “bent press.” We have seen Louis Cyr was unable to take advantage of the bent-press movement owing to the great girth of his waist, consequently his one-hand lift of 273 pounds has been exceeded by three or four men who were not as strong as Cyr but were certainly better athletes and lifters. A quarter of a century ago dead-weight lifting and harness lifting was the stock-in-trade of both the professional and amateur strong men. Since dumbbell lifting has become so popular, harness lifting and dead-weight lifting have gone out of vogue. This is partially due to the fact that dumbbell lifting can be practiced in the privacy one one’s own home, and the expense of buying an outfit of dumbbells is very small, and for these reasons the amateur naturally prefers dumbbell work to harness lifting, because in the last-named style cumbersome and expensive apparatus is a prime necessity.

A man who excels in quick lifts such as the “snatch,” the “swing” and the “jerk,’ is almost always a good jumper. In the “quick lifts” strength of legs and back is all-important and on examining the records we find that the men who are best in the one-arm jerk and snatch oftenb hold fine records in the standing broad jump. Weight-lifting and jumping are similar in the respect that they both call for a sudden and forceful expenditure of energy. Deriaz, one of the best weight lifters in France, is able to clear over 10 feet in a standing broad jump. Hackenschmitt, the celebrated Russian wrestler and weight-lifter, excels at the running high jump. He has cleared a height of 5 feet 10 inches, which is a very creditable jump for a man who stands only 5 feet 8. By the way, Hackenschmitt in addition to his activities in wrestling and weight lifting, was , in his early manhood, champion amateur swimmer and champion amateur bicyclist of all Russia. His case is an answer to those critics who claim that weight lfiting renders a man unfit for any other form of athletics.

There are a whole lot of trainers who will tell you that once you start to lift heavy dumbbells you might as well give up all ambition or hope to excel in any other sport. Generally speaking, the opposite is the case in most sports. I do not claim that a sprinter or long-distance runner would be materially benefited by a course in weight lifting, but I do believe a jumper, a shot-putter or hammer-thrower would be greatly benefited by imdulging in a moderate amount of weight lifting practice during the winter months. This practice with the heavy bells would not only make his muscles stronger, but it would also teach him how to use his muscles.

Weight lifting is largely a matter of co-ordination, and no one can hope to shine as an athlete unless he is able to train his muscles to act in concert with each other. Occasionally you see some large, powerful young man practice for months in the endeavor to “get the hang” of hammer-throwing or shot-putting. He will apparently have all the necessary physically attributes to enable him to shine at weight-throwing, but for some reason he never becomes able to master the details which are absolutely essential if the hammer is to be thrown, or shot to be “put.,” for anything like a record distance. I think that most athletic coaches will hear me out in the statement that most unsuccessful candidates for the position of hammer-thrower on a track team, fail not because of lack of strength, but beacuse of lack of ability to master the details of the event and to teach their muscles to co-ordinate. In other words they are unable to get the “knack.”

And now we come to that much-abused word, “knack.” How many times I have seen a weight lifter perform, with a heavy dumbbell, some feat which required unusual strength and skill, only to hear some puny bystander remark: “Oh, I could easily lift as much if I only had the knack.” The ordinary person seems to think that no strength whatever is required to lift heavy dumbbells, and that all that is necessary is to possess that mysterious “knack.” It is certainly hard when a lifter has spent months, and perhaps years, in developing his muscles and perfecting his skill in order to be able to accomplish a certain lift, to hear it discredited in the above manner.

The real basis of this mental attitude lies in the fact that it is very hard from one man to acknowledge that another man excels him in the matter of strength. I do not know why it is, but I have noticed it a hundred times. Ther average individual is generally willing to admit that a man who is six inches taller and 50 pounds heavier than he is, may possibly excel him in strength, but it seems to go very much against the grain for any man to acknowledge that another man of his own size can possibly be stronger than he is.

Right here I wish to give the reader a warning in this regard. If the reader (who I assume is more or less interested in this subject) takes up heavy dumbbell lifting, he should, in the course of a years’ practice, increase his physical strength 200 or 300 per cent. Now for the funny part: If your perform your feats of strength for strangers or casual acquaintances they will readily admit that you are unusually strong ; but you will never be able to convince your family and intimate friends that you are two to three times as strong as you formerly were, even if you perform your most wonderful lifts. If, for instance, you raise above your head with one hand a bar-bell that your chum cannot even lift from the ground he will be sure to ascribe your performance to “knack,” and not to increased strength and skill.

Many people think that heavy dumbbell exercises will develop only the arms, chest and shoulders, but such is not the case.

It must be remembered that when a man exercises with heavy bells he is standing on the ground, and even if he perfomrs an exercise intended to develop the arms, his legs are working vigorously to support the extra weight. We have seen in the discussion of supporting feats in Chapter V how great a part is played by the back and lower limbs; and likewise in most standard lifts back and leg strength is absolutely essential. Any man who practices the “snatch” and the “jerk” will develop his liegs just as rapidly as he develops his arms. Weight lifters are noted for their tremendous strength in the waist and back. One-arm lifting from the shoulder above the head develops great strength in the sides of the waist. Two-hand lifting to the shoulders and from the shoulder to above the head develops great strength in the back.

In heavy dumbbell exercises the back and waist muscles are almost continuously in action. For instance, if a man takes a bar-bell in two hands and “curls” it from hips to the shoulders in order to develop his biceps, the small of the comes in for a fair share of the work. You can take a 5-lb. dumbbell in each hand and “curl” them continuously for 10 minutes without noticing that the back muscles are working. Take a bar-bell weighing 60 lbs. in both hands and “curl” slowly, and you will notice that when the bell is half-way up and the arms are at right angles, the muscles of the small of the back are working very vigourously to keep the body in erect posititon. This is even more marked when a man holds a bell straight out in front of him. In all exercises with heavy bells, the muscles of the truck and legs supplement the muscles of the arms an shoulders.

Physical Culture
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