Friday, March 25, 2011

The Key to Might and Muscle - (Circa 1926) - Chapter 5 - Building a Mighty Chest - By George F. Jowett

The first thing about Henry Steinborn that inspired me was his magnificent
chest. Although the rest of his proportions were splendidly formed, yet his
chest appealed to me as one of the most magnificent I had ever seen. The
width, the depth and the unusual prominence, all gave forcible evidence of
terrific concealed power. Unlike many other large chests I have seen, the
chest of Steinborn begins to rise from the throat with a powerful surge that
falls squarely over the entire thorax. It looks like a big square box with
the edges rounded, so massive is its construction. A great many athletes
rely upon the development of the latissimus dorsi for their largest chest
measurement, which does not correctly explain the actual size of the chest.
I suppose most of you know what I mean, but for the benefit of those who are
not so familiar with the influence of the latissimus dorsi muscles upon the
chest, I will explain that many athletes give their expanded chest
measurement as a proof of its size and in order to make it appear larger than
it really is, they flex the latissimus dorsi which causes these muscles to
spread out, giving the upper body a fanlike appearance. Any fairly well
developed body culturist can increase the tape measurement at least two
inches by performing this muscular movement. I have actually known two cases
where the measure showed an eight inch increase by flexing these muscles
after the chest had been expanded to its limit, but you can plainly see that
it is not a true indication of chest size. The normal chest measurement is
the honest indication of what your chest it. If you were to tell me that
your normal chest measured thirty-six inches, but it was forty inches
expanded, it would be the first measurement which would guide me in
estimating the qualifications of your thorax. It is the space that is
naturally allotted to your heart and lungs in the ordinary circumstance that
counts most. What space can be supplied in one single movement of expansion,
is only a minor consideration in chest power.

Actually, the more powerfully constructed the chest, the less expansion it
has. A person who suffers from asthma, bronchitis, and tuberculosis has much
greater chest expansion than the athlete with the best built chest.
Struggling for breath causes the lungs to become abnormal in expansion,
although the reaction from this is that the walls of the chest cave in, and
the muscle deteriorates so that normally the chest is a sorrowful sight. In
this condition, the lungs become elongated by the abnormal relaxation of the
rib box, and the sternum of the chest become hollow. All this means that
ordinarily the breathing space is very limited, and the supply of oxygen
drawn into the respiratory organs is all too insufficient to combat the
amount of carbon dioxide that saturates the life chambers of the lungs.

A great deal of our success in body building relies upon the amount of
success that is reached in developing a powerful chest. There is no doubt
that we all admire a well-built chest, and we all want to possess one with
all its attendant qualities, without which, the chest becomes a sepulchre.
At one time there was an awful fad among young men to appear as though they
had a finely built chest, which brought about the forced chest condition, and
a very lamentable condition at that. A young man was taught to be constantly
conscious of his chest, and walk with it thrust out, and to further aid the
condition, they had their clothes made to suit the occasion. It was very
amusing to see a man of very slim stature wearing a suit cut full at the
chest and the shoulders padded, and from the center was sticking a scrawny
pipe stem neck. This method of walking with the chest forced out was an odd
army habit which developed the "puffed chest" condition, so termed by an army
medical man. It had a very serious effect upon the heart, and when this was
found out, the forced attitude was discouraged. I tried it, like every one
else, but it gave me such pain that I quickly gave it up. I was very young
at that time, but I was fortunate in receiving advice from a very well
informed instructor, who taught me the difference between holding the
shoulders back and thrusting the chest out.

You know you can't go after chest growth like you can that of any other part
of the body - there are too many things to take into consideration, including
the heart, lungs, the structure of the chest and its muscular coating. The
exercises must be such that no organic stress is evinced, and apart from
exercising to increase the chest size, adequate consideration must be given
to the increase of muscular tissue in order to hold the gains, and thus
provide the natural method of retaining the chest size obtained from exercise.

Did it ever occur to you how it is possible for the chest to increase its
size, when ordinarily the average person figures the construction of the
chest is all bone? "How can you stretch none?" has been the unanswerable
question in many minds. Hundreds have asked me that question, and I have
even had people take the other side and ask, "Now, if it is possible to
increase the chest, which is a mass of bones, why can't we stretch our back
bone, our thigh and calf bones, so that a very short person can be made much
taller?" Well, offhand there would seem to be no logical reason why this
could not be done, looking at the question in the light they do. But, we
know that neither is correct. We have to delve into anatomy to understand it
correctly. I hope you do not get tired reading the various anatomical
explanations. I know they sound rather dry, but the only way to understand
whether the explanatory advice is correct, is to analyze the construction of
what we have in mind. Our subjects have to be educational as well as
instructive, so we must tackle the chest in this manner.

The thorax, as a whole, commences at the throat and extends downwards to
where the abdomen commences. It is composed of twelve pair of ribs that
appear to have a barrel in shape formation. All these ribs have a double
connection with the exception of the last two pair, which are known as the
floating ribs and are free in the muscles of the flank. The first seven pair
articulate with the sternum, more commonly known as the breast bone, by means
of their cartilaginous attachment. You must remember that each of the ribs
are attached to the spine with a cartilage, but the first five are directly
fastened to the breast bone, and the sixth and seventh join together and then
divide to be separately attached at the base of the sternum. These seven
pair of ribs are termed the true ribs, and as the other five are not attached
to the sternum in the same manner, they are called the false ribs. The first
three of the last five ribs, that would be the eighth, ninth and tenth, are
united by their cartilage to the cartilage of the seventh rib. The remaining
two are, as I have previously stated, the floating ribs, and have only one
attachment, which is on the spine. These cartilages are all termed costal
cartilages, which means ribs attachments.

Now the sternum, or breast bone, is divided into three sections. The first
rib is fastened to the first section and the second rib is attached at the
joint, midway of the first and second section. The second section of the
frontal bone is the largest, and the one to which all the other costal
cartilages are attached. The third part is very small, being tail-like in
fashion. The word sternum means, "connection with" which explains the true
nature of the breast bone as a part that connects the costal cartilages.
Apart from the rib attachments, the pectoral, or breast muscles have an
origination here, and the sternum helps to support the clavicle.

Now, let us go back and see how it is we can increase the chest size by a
natural process. In order to do this, we must make our exercises co-ordinate
with the natural construction of the chest formation. Nothing must have a
false origination, or influence, so we must commence with an analysis of the
information we have on hand. When we raise up the chest, not necessarily
expand it, the upheaval hinges upon that first dividing place of the sternum
bone, and when we expand the chest, it is the muscular action without and the
volume of air inhaled, that together cause the ribs to be spread apart by
this action. The cartilages stretch in order to make this possible.
Therefore, to make the chest naturally increase, and stay so, the muscles
that surround the chest must be exercised in such a manner that they not only
spread the rib sector, but accumulate the muscular tissue to such proportion
that they will retain the growth. Exercises that simply spread or expand the
chest, as is the case with all free movements, do not mean a thing.
Undoubtedly they give a greater expansion, but that means nothing, as the
heart and lungs do not acquire any greater space for natural inspiration.
The most important muscles of the chest are the pectorals, and the serratus
magnus, and as these muscles acquire growth, so do the cartilages of the ribs
become longer, thicker and more secure in their attachment. As this process
takes place, the chest becomes deeper, higher and more square. The muscular
coating is heavier and more protective. These muscles are the real agencies
of chest growth, and since we have made ourselves fully familiar with the rib
construction and articulation to such an extent, that we know the course
nature takes in promoting chest growth, we will pass on and study the whys
and wherefors of these muscular agencies, so every chest builder can obtain
the results that will overcome all his chest difficulties.

Hollow chests, by reason of their sunken appearance, worry a person the most,
but when a chest has caved in, it is easy to see that the walls of the chest
have fallen in also. But this condition is not quite as noticeable. Yet, in
all such cases, it will be found that the breast muscles are very
undeveloped. The pectorals are so named for they are armour plates, or
covers. Like plates of armour they cover the entire upper part of the chest.
They are divided in two sections on each side, into minor and major muscles.
The origination of the major muscle is upon the sternum bone, and finally
becomes attached in the biceptal groove of the humerus bone, upon which the
biceps of the arm is lodged. The end of this muscle tapers off into a very
strong flat tendon, that seems to disappear under the deltoid muscle on its
way to insertion in the humerus. The minor pectoral lies somewhat
underneath, and is attached upon the breast bone in the region of the third,
fourth and fifth rib, and is also inserted by a flat tendon, but into the
scapula or shoulder blade.

As I explain all this, my mind goes back to the days when all this material
was more or less of a mystery to me.

I used to read anatomical books, but I was completely swamped by those long
technical names that were so devoid of understanding to the layman. Maybe it
is this reason why I take length, and perhaps more than necessary care, to
explain it all to you in an understanding way, free of all technical phrases.
A simple analysis enables you to immediately visualize where these muscles
originate and become inserted, then you are better able to realize how they
operate. The action of the pectoral major is such that it draws the arm
forward and inward, and is termed an accessory muscle of forced inspiration.
By this I mean the muscle is an aid to stimulate the breathing. By bringing
the arms forward the chest is contracted, and by spreading the arms which
include the help of the serratus magnus, the chest becomes expanded and thus
helps the lungs to inhale and exhale. Then we must figure that any movement
that brings the arms forward and inward, is the best to promote the
development of the breast muscles. Some very good exercises come to my mind
immediately, which I know you can practice with profit. The first is an old
exercise of mine that I practiced every since I was a youngster, and which I
always enjoyed. Take your position standing erect. The feet can be placed
any way to suit yourself, as they do not count in this exercise. Hold a
light dumb-bell in each hand, then breathe in gently and at the same time
begin to cross the arms across the chest, just as far as you possibly can.
The arms must be kept straight, and no deflation of the chest take place
before the arms begin to travel back to their original position at the side.
As a form of variation, it is a good idea to allow the left arm to cross
under the right arm, and then on the repeat, allow the right arm to cross
under the left. Keep the chest held high, and do not bend the arms the least
bit, and I will guarantee that your breast muscles will receive vigorous play.

Another fine exercise performed from the erect position with a pair of
dumb-bells, is as follows: From the sides you simply raise one bell until it
is held straight out in front on a level with the shoulder; as the arm
descends, raise the other, but see that the dumb bell is held end ways with
the floor, in each hand. This same movement can be practiced by holding a
very light bar bell, but it must be light. With a heavier poundage, I use
this exercise for a very important forearm muscle developer which I will
explain in its proper place.

The pectoral minor operates in a slightly different manner, inasmuch as they
are muscles or depression, as well as being very important in elevating the
chest when the shoulder blades are drawn back. Without inflating the chest
just draw the shoulder blades together, and you will feel the pull from these
muscles and the chest will rise. Also, while the arms are hanging by the
sides, clench the fists and without bending the body, thrust downwards and
you will feel the pectorals contract as you do so. Therefore, you can see if
you hold a fairly heavy dumb-bell in each hand, by pressing downwards, the
weight of the dumb-bells will aid you and give greater contraction to the

Some exercise fans find it difficult to always have their outfit with them,
and feel they would like to keep up the good work. I never like to see them
have to lay off, if it can be prevented in any way, so for their benefit, I
would advise them to practice the following exercises without weights. Clasp
the hands upon the chest, and without allowing the body to be twisted in the
least from the waist, force the left hand across the chest with the right
hand, and at the same time resist with the left hand, until the right arm is
straightened out across the chest. Then force the right arm back with the
left, applying the same form of resistance. However, always bear in mind to
keep the hands close to the chest throughout the exercise. Then, practice
the regular floor dip which is an exercise common to all. I might say that
the first group of exercises can be practiced to an advantage when the use of
weights is not possible.

Some athletes develop beautiful breast muscles, the finest of which I know
are those that adorn the chest of Andrew Passanant. J. Trullio also has fine
breast muscles. However, this training can be overdone. If other parts of
the body are not taken care of equally, the breast muscles will draw the
shoulders forward. Wrestlers usually have very large breast muscles from
constantly hugging their opponents, therefore wrestling can be practiced to
an advantage for pectoral development.

Now let us consider the serratus magnus muscles for a while. I do not
believe my readers are quite as familiar with these muscles as they are with
the pectorals. In fact, I have been surprised at the number of letters I
have received asking me where these muscles are located, and just what they

The prominence of these muscles has given rise to some amusing comments. It
is not unusual to hear a person exclaim, after studying a photo of chest
development, "Look how his ribs show." Well, I must admit that to the
uninitiated, they do give that impression, but what is actually prominent, is
the serratus magnus muscles. These muscles are even more powerful in
inspiration than the pectorals. They have their insertion on the scapula
bone or shoulder blade, and arise from the space of nine ribs. From their
insertion, they separate or become, as their name implies, serrated, which in
another way means to acquire a saw tooth formation. When viewed upon a well
developed chest, they have the appearance of spread fingers. In fact, as you
will later see, the hand and its fingers give a fine interpretation of how
these muscles function. Each of these nine serrated points, are lodged upon
nine of the ribs, all in different lengths. Most of this great muscle covers
the intercostal spaces at the back, and partly on the sides, before they
reach their costal, or rib attachment. (By intercostal, I mean the spaces
between the ribs.) Now here is something I want you to remember, so you will
better understand the threefold action of this muscle. It is because the
insertion of the serratus magnus is threefold upon the scapula, that it is so
powerful in its movements of inspiration. Any movement that gives action in
all positions that are vertical, horizontal and rotary, belongs partly to the
serratus. For instance, raise your arms overhead, then from the shoulder
stretch them out level with the shoulders. After this, slowly rotate the arm
in a circular movement, and in all these movements you will feel "pulls" that
have a varying effect upon the chest. In all such actions the serratus
magnus operates. You will also gather the idea that the back muscles are
going to get a lot of help out of this, which is true. A man with a good
chest invariably has good back muscles. Bar bell users always display the
best developed serratus magnus muscles, and also all they who follow weight
lifting as a sport, by reason of lifting heavy weights overhead. As these
muscles contract, they bring about a pulling and an uplifting action upon the
chest which causes the saw tooth attachments to spread the walls of the
chest, by stretching the costal cartilages. If you close your hand and then
open it, stretching the fingers, and bend the hand upon the wrist you will
get a similar movement of what takes place, as the scapula is moved by the
arm, compelling a serratus movement.

I have a few more exercises in mind, which I believe are the very best for
stimulating the increase in chest size and muscular growth. At the same
time, I want to warm you against certain others which some people will insist
upon doing despite the detrimental effects.

The two arm pull over has been advocated very strongly during the last few
years, although I am not one who insisted on its practice as the best thing,
because I know this exercise is fraught with a condition, after a certain
point is reached, that does more harm than good. I know the exercise is a
good one, but only up to a certain point, then again, I know other exercises
which are much better, and have not the attendant danger of the two arm pull
over. This last named exercise was originally taught in the following
manner. The pupil would lie flat upon the floor with a light bar bell lying
across the thighs, grasped with both hands, the arms of which would be
straight. From this position the weight would be raised in a half circular
movement, until it rested upon the floor at arms' length behind the head.
All the time the arms are kept straight, and the back kept as flat as
possible upon the floor. The bar bell would be brought back to the original
position in the same half circular movement. Later, this exercise was
changed. No doubt because many complained that when they had reached a
certain weight, they were not able to move the bell off their thighs, and yet
the weight appeared to be so light as to have not the sufficient pull upon
the chest. In order to give greater chest action, the movement was made
quarter circular. The starting place for the bell this time, was at arms'
length over the face and lowered to arms' length at the back of the head.
The trouble was that it gave too much chest action. Exercise fans who were
eager to build a big chest began to crowd on the weight; the result was that
a great depression of the diaphragm took place, and the space became too
congested which began to crowd the heart. I strongly disapprove of any
exercise that will cause a protracted isolation of the diaphragm. It is not
natural. Many who have practiced this, complained to me of how their heart
would palpitate after. Such is always the case. They found the amount of
weight easy to handle until the weight was about six inches off the floor,
lowering and raising the weight. When these points were reached, the deltoid
action became similar to a hold out in front. A position where little weight
can be handled. Many of them develop kinks in the deltoid for the same
reason. Remember, it is a good exercise as long as you do not exceed
twenty-five pounds, if you are a light man. Fifty pounds is enough for any
man. Of the two methods of performing this exercise, I prefer the first,
because the exerciser is restricted with weight at a position where no harm
possibly can occur. A much better exercise is to take up the position upon
the floor with the back between the shoulders resting upon the floor with the
back between the shoulders resting upon the seat of a low stool, and the
heels on the floor. Take in each hand a ten pound dumb-bell, and hold at
arms' length over the face. From this position begin to breathe in and lower
the bells down sideways, as low as your shoulders will permit. While keeping
the arms straight return to the original position. About ten counts is
enough to start on and work up to twenty movements as the limit, then use
heavier dumb-bells and start out with ten counts again.

From this same position, on the stool, another exercise can be done that is
good. Instead of lowering the arms outwards as before, lower them in
opposite directions parallel with the body. That is, the left arm would
travel to arms' length behind the head, and the right to arms' length by the
side. Each arm working in this manner with the same amount of weight and
conditions governing it as in the last exercise will help to build for you a
mighty chest of which you can be proud.

Iron Nation
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