Friday, April 22, 2011

The Key to Might and Muscle - (Circa 1926) - Chapter 18 - Building a Shapely Arm - By George F. Jowett

When Sandow started a wave of enthusiasm for physical training throughout the world by the demonstration of his beautiful physique, his admiring followers were entranced with the beauty of his perfectly built arm. It was a sight that started many off on the quest for a similar arm, but very few obtained one like Sandow. At the time his biceps measurement was only a little over sixteen inches; it had the appearance of being eighteen inches. Sandow was fortunate by nature in having clean-cut joints. This, combined with the shapeliness of his arm, made his biceps appear very massive. He also possessed a thin skin, which allowed the muscular separation to stand out with a very pronounced distinction. I have heard some people remark that the public had never seen such beautifully shaped muscles before the advent of Eugene Sandow, but I would not say that, for I know that there were other beautiful specimens of physical manhood at that time, but they lacked that something, whether it was showmanship or popularity, that put Sandow over. This, no doubt, was the reason why they were overlooked while the world was lionizing the famous inspiration of Audrey Hunt. However, it seems that every young man's idea of being strong and well built consists of being able to show a big biceps. Well, I certainly like to see a well shaped arm, providing it is balanced and symmetrical, but I dislike a big biceps that does not show forearm and triceps development to balance it. Performers on Roman rings generally have large biceps. I knew one young man who only weighed one hundred and twenty pounds and he had a sixteen inch biceps and stood less than five feet three inches in height. He was a marvel on the rings; but a sixteen inch biceps on a man so light in weight and so short is out of all proportion. His upper arm looked larger than his thighs. Chinning fiends get the same development. A fine looking young chap came to me one time and told me he would like to be a good hand balancer, but he was not able to straighten out his arm to make a handstand. I asked him what he was best at, and right away he began telling me how many times he could chin himself. He rolled up his sleeve and showed me a mighty fine biceps, but he had practically no triceps worth speaking about. I told him if he would devote as much time daily to his triceps development for the next four weeks as he had to his biceps work, and leave out the chinning, he would then have what I termed a real arm and, besides, become capable of doing hand stands. It did not take him four weeks. Three weeks later he came to see me and you should have seen those triceps. The arm was beautiful.

Just notice any mechanic who is using a hammer all day. You will see a nice looking arm, but notice how his arm is bent at the elbow. With so much flexion of the arm the biceps have become shortened, and to straighten the arm out is almost painful in some cases. If you do any amount of heavy shoveling the same condition will come about. No man can become a successful weight lifter, or hand balancer--understander as well as top mounter--unless he displays a perfectly balanced arm. Therein lies the real secret of arm strength, and if there should be any disproportion it should favor the triceps and not the biceps. The triceps is an extensor muscle, and the biceps is a flexor.

I have often advised arm builders to practice chinning, and I do yet, but the trouble with the chinning fiend is that he never fully straightens his arm out; and the more tired he becomes the less he straightens his arm. That is where he is wrong. If he straightened his arm out completely, as he lowers his weight, the biceps would receive full extension as well as contraction. The supinator longus will straighten the arm more than the triceps will in chinning, but the triceps get a little action.

Some men find their bodyweight too heavy to handle in chinning, especially when they are around two hundred pounds, and have had no previous experience. But by following the advice I will give here they will not be deprived of the benefits of chinning. Tie two lengths of rope on a bar-bell and pass these ropes through a couple of pulleys placed in the ceiling, or throw the ropes over a horizontal bar. Take the two loose ends and tie a stick in them for a handle, then pull on the stick with both hands. You will be obliged to experiment a little before you know to what weight to load the bar bell in order to pull up. Pull on the handle bar until it is at your chest, just the same as if you were chinning yourself on a bar. This method will satisfactorily answer the purpose and give you a good workout.

Curling dumb-bells and bar bells is another standby of the big biceps boys. I often watch them, but I seldom see them carry out the real idea of a one or two arm curl. Maybe the first two or three curls are fair, but soon I begin to see them lean forward and then the curl becomes shortened from not lowering the weight enough. It might interest you to know that the two-arm curl is a stunt which a weight lifter likes to see his opponent try before a match. Sometimes he will even try to get him to warm up with it. If he succeeds in doing this he will try to start the contest off with a two hands snatch, and force the pace. The other lifter, knowing his possibilities, will start near his limit. To his amazement he finds that while the weight is snatched, yet it comes down before he can lock his arms. Generally he becomes rash and uses up his three attempts with the same weight or a heavier one, and fails each time. This is the penalty of curling before the contest. His biceps become shortened just enough so that it prevented him from locking his arms, and the match is lost.

When an exerciser gets to about fifty per cent of his bodyweight in the two-arm curl I like to see him make a change. Not because this amount of weight will shorten his biceps, but because the two-arm curl brings about a depression of the diaphragm, which has a similar effect to that produced by the two-arm Pull Over when using too much weight. In the place of the bar-bell curl I advise curling with a pair of kettle-weights. You may ask yourself, "What is the difference?" a great deal. In the first place a greater extension of the biceps is given, and a longer pull is secured, which develops the muscle in a more capable manner, and makes it strong every part of the way.

Sometime or other you have tried to do a feat that a friend of yours did, or perhaps you saw a stunt at the vaudeville theatre you wanted to duplicate and you failed. Do you ever remember remarking to your friend how you almost got it, but at a certain angle your muscles did not have just the right power ? That is because your muscles lacked the full power in their pull. The cables of connection lacked the power, or else the contraction of the muscle fibers was not sufficient at that point for the appointed task. Perhaps by now you will see the value of my constant urge to always give the muscles their full play when exercising them. What is the use of half exercising them? Nothing is right unless it is done correctly. Getting back to where I left off on the curl, let me say that the divided action prevents any diaphragm compression. Curl the kettle weights simultaneously and curl them separately. Use dumb-bells also, curl them endways for a change; bend over from the waist and while in that position curl one of them to the shoulder without standing erect. Keep the other hand on the knee for a support. If you raise a pair of fairly heavy dumb-bells overhead, and then slowly lower them by bending the arm at the elbow, until the upper arm is level with the shoulder, you will find the action of the biceps again different. Develop your muscles from every conceivable angle. Then their quality becomes better in construction, as well as in action.

The biceps has a double head, as its name implies. They also have a double insertion, and the two bellies unite into one tendon that is attached deeply in the hollow the elbow joint. The action of the muscle is described as being of the shoulder and humero-radial and radial ulnar joint, and altogether it is an extremely variable muscle. It has been know to have possessed a third head of origin, and rated at ten per cent, which is the reason why some people naturally seem to have larger and better formed biceps than others. Some diligent arm builders have been very puzzled over the fact that while their biceps registered only a slow gain in size, their biceps strength has increased out of all proportion to its gain in size, their biceps strength has increased out of all proportion to its gain in size. Invariably they attribute this to the possession of a longer humerus bone than the average. That is the bone of the upper arm. This condition is common among tall people, although once in a while I do come across a short person with a longer upper arm than usual. However, that makes no difference, but it is an actual fact that a person who has a longer humerus will have a stronger arm all-round. This is not due to having more muscular tissue over a greater space. The source of power is found in the longer attachment, which is seated further up on the bone of the forearm. This gives the biceps a greater leverage, and make flexion of the forearm upon the upper arm easier. The individual thus constructed is capable of pulling weight off the floor to the shoulder more easily, and also of raising a weight to arms' length in a jerk movement more readily.

The biceps has a peculiar method of shaping itself as it grows larger. In some cases it shapes itself like a ball, showing a groove where both heads separate. On the other hand, some biceps just become a mass of muscle that completely fills up the entire space on the upper arm. The tissue at the elbow joint will be almost as dense as it is further up the arm. This type of muscle is more apt to be like good rubber when relaxed, and hard when tensed. I have noticed the ball shaped muscle is inclined to be very hard when tensed and there is not a great deal of change when relaxed; but the latter is by far the more admirable muscle form the standpoint of its beautiful shapeliness. Yet, if they lack a certain amount of depth at the elbow joint, they take on a grotesque appearance. Personally, I never like to see any abnormal in muscular development. No matter how large or how small the muscles may be, they can all acquire symmetry.

Otto Arco and Sam Kramer both have beautiful upper arms, and I remember that Arthur Saxon had, too. There are many who have beautifully shaped arms, but it would be useless for me to mention them, as the reader is not familiar with them. Well shaped, strong biceps are not such a rare possession. They are a gift that can be acquired by yourself. You do not have to stand by and be satisfied admiring others. However, never forget the triceps. Let us turn these muscles now, which are actually more important and more powerful than the biceps. The next time you go to the theatre and see a hand-to-hand balancing tam, just pay careful attention to the contour of the understander's arm when it is relaxed. He will have to be standing so you obtain a side view of him. Then you will see in the back of the arm a curve commencing from a little above the elbow joint which swells out as it runs up to the shoulder. This is the triceps. For a contrast, look at he upper arm of a clerk, or a salesman, or anybody who does not use the arm muscles to any great extent. In place of the curve you will see just a straight line, and probably the elbow joint will look as though it is going to stick through the skin. It might surprise you to see how weak the latter is when it comes to raising any heavy object overhead. Most of them, if they had their arm cut off, would hardly miss the little good that their triceps are to them. So little are these muscles employed by the average person that their existence is very rudimentary, whereas they should be swelling and powerful. As their name implies, the triceps has three heads. They are the only muscles on the posterior part of the upper arm. Each has a lateral, a medial and a scapular origin, and becomes inserted on the forearm. In appearance, it takes the shape of a horseshoe, but one head is longer than the other, as you can easily see. The triceps is the extensor muscle of the elbow joint, but he long head also acts as an adductor of the humerus, at the shoulder joint. Because we always speak of this muscle as the one that straightens out the arm when pushing a weight overhead, it is often referred to as s pushing muscle, but as I have said before, there are no such things as pushing muscles; they all pull.

Perhaps the finest pair of triceps I ever saw are those that adorn the arm of Joseph Urlacher. They are remarkably clean-cut, and show every line of separation in their process. Unlike the majority, his triceps seem to form more deeply. I mean, that while most triceps show a great fullness closer to the shoulder, his starts to swell out from their points of insertion at the elbow. Especially the inner head. Arco has a beautifully balanced upper arm, and also Arthur Hyson, but their triceps are exceptionally well developed. Also, I can recall a slaughterman, who was employed by a butcher who had his store next door to where I once lived. I never grew weary of looking this man over. He was the most magnificent specimen of what we would call untrained manhood that I ever saw. His biceps measured seventeen inches, and he weighted around two hundred pounds. From the crown of his head to the soles of his feet he was beautifully built. I never saw him other that bare-headed, shirt throat open, and sleeves rolled up to the shoulders. Often I have seen him carry on his shoulders, from the slaughter house to the butcher shop, a distance of half a mile, a dressed beef; and incoming he had to walk up a very steep grade. When he flexed his biceps the triceps bellied out underneath in a wonderful sweep. However, no professional weight lifter ever did more heavy lifting than he. His work entailed long hours and he enjoyed using his strength in place of a block and tackle. Every muscle in his body got a workout. But those arms! They were a sight for the gods.

Just pushing a bar bell to arms' length is not enough, although a lot of this will develop fine triceps, but everybody does not have that amount of time to spare. Such labor is not necessary, as direct methods will give faster results that are equally as good. Here is a real good exercise. You take up your position as the illustration shows on page 231. The main thing for you to observe is that your body is kept perfectly straight. The moment it is allowed to sag at the waist the exercise becomes useless, simply because very little triceps contraction is registered. From that position, lower yourself by bending the arm, but keeping the body absolutely straight when lowering and raising. If the exercise becomes a little too easy, attach a weight to a sling and have it handing around the forehead. This will supply you with the necessary resistance. Two more good exercises are as follows: Stand erect with a light bar bell of about twenty-five pounds hanging from the waist, and at the same time, raise the bar bell as high as you can, backward, then lower, and at the same time, straighten the body. The next exercise should give the triceps a little more kick. It always give vigorous play to the triceps and it really has been my favorite triceps exercise. Take either a light dumb-bell, or an iron plate in your hand and stand erect with the feet spaced a suitable distance apart. From this position bend the hand back on the wrist, and do not let the palm of the hand twist sideways. Keep it facing forward throughout the exercise; then grip the weight strongly and begin to raise the arm backwards. As you do this you will have a tendency to twist the body sideways. This you must vigorously counteract, and by so doing, a stronger pull will be given to the triceps. When the arm is at the limit of its height, pause, and then rotate the wrist and hand in a circular movement. If you do this right you will feel the triceps action very strongly. After two or three wrist rotations lower the arm and stand erect before you repeat. Work out both arms and massage the muscles after each exercise period. The severe contraction of the muscle in this exercise necessitates this procedure.

There are many movements that will give these muscles a certain amount of play, but the trouble is that the play is not sufficiently direct. All the exercises I have given are specific in their uses, as required by the various muscles. I know they will give you the very best results if you concentrate upon them as you should, and I hope you will. Unless you do you will never have a shapely arm, and when remembering about triceps exercise, don't forget that this muscle helps to swell the tape measure to sixteen inches.
Does modern bodybuilding make you sick? You should write for Natural Strength! I always need good articles about drug-free weight training. It only has to be at least a page and nothing fancy. Just write it strong and truthful with passion! Send your articles directly to me:

Vintage Bodybuilding Literature

Vintage Bodybuilding Literature
Oldtime Strongman Books

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