Wednesday, July 6, 2011

THE WAY TO LIVE - (Circa 1908) - Chapter 3 - Adaptability and Characteristics - By George Hackenschmidt

I should like to say a few words upon this subject and I know that I echo the opinions of well-known authorities on training.

It is natural that a sound constitution, inherited from healthy parents, and a proportionate build, should be great advantages for a future athlete. Especially should the heart and the lungs be normal, although I quite admit that one finds strong and healthy children of comparatively weak parents, and vice versa; and I know of many cases in which seemingly weak or ailing youngsters have developed into strong men, thanks to their energetic endurance and steadfast desire to achieve that result.

As regards stature, I will only mention that a moderate height of from 5 ft. 6 in. to 6 ft. seems very favourable, seeing that that is the average of most strong men ( I myself am 5 ft. 9 1/2 in.); but, of course, there are exceptions to this. The body should be built very uniformly, so that the whole appearance makes a harmonious impression. It would not matter much whether the arms or legs were somewhat under the normal length, but a short trunk would indicate poor development of the important inner organs, such as lungs, heart, and stomach, and therefore, would be less favourable. For wrestling and boxing, long arms are and advantage, whilst for weight-lifting, I should prefer shorter arms, but, of course, the principal point lies with the more or less favourable leverage capabilities of the frame.

Now it is a fact that by reasonable physical exercise the growth of the structure is encouraged; by reasonable exercise I mean such as is adapted to the personal constitution and the age of the individual.

During the process of growth and bodily development, say until about the twenty-fifth year, one ought not to practise any extreme athletic feats, but ought to pay chief attention to agility and alertness. Great exertions in youth hinder the growth and bring a too early maturity, which tends to shorten life.

For great feats of strength with heavy weights experience teaches, that between the years of thirty and forty is the most favourable age; I suppose though, that I am an exception, as I had already established world's records before I was twenty-one.

It will, however, I think, be of interest to quote the opinions of a few eminent authorities on these subjects.

Adolph Andruschkewitzsch, who is a well-known Russian athlete and authority on Physical Culture, of Reval, says:- "Every country can produce strong men; Estland (Russia) in general offers no special advantages, although one might argue that Estland, similarly to, perhaps, Eastern Prussia (the native country of Sandow, Sturm, and Siegfried), has few industries, and that therefore its inhabitants pursue their vocations principally in the open breathe pure air, and live on healthy, unadulterated foods. Estland's percentage of people of consumptive tendencies is very low, just is that of Eastern Prussia; while in the thickly-populated kingdom of Saxony the ravages of this terrible disease are very severe. At the same time, however, Arthur Saxon, who is undoubtedly the best weight-lifter of the present time, hails from Saxony!

"To become a good athlete the candidate should, in my opinion, be possessed of a strong boned frame and a good sound chest, and he should be generally healthy. To attain this, he ought to avoid worry and strenuous daily toil; the choice of food is of secondary consideration, as long as his meals are wholesome, regular, and properly digested. Alcohols and stimulants may produce seeming momentary strength, but in reality, they weaken the system.

"An essential point is, that the candidate puts his life and soul into the study of proper training; enduring will power is the mightiest factor for good results, and for the production of men like Hackenschmidt, Lurich, Sandow, Saxon, Aberg, or Hoeppener."

Max Danthage, of Vienna, the well-known athlete gymnast, says:-

"My principal nourishment consists of meat. I drink very little. For my breakfast I take very weak tea and buttered roll. With my luncheon and dinner about one pint of beer; I never drink wine, spirits or water. Except in summer, I do not bathe often, but I wash and take douches frequently, and use the towel well. I never fail to go through the washing performance after every exertion which has produced perspiration, and I may add that I use cold water. This cold washing should, however, not be of longer duration than a few seconds, if the body has been perspiring. As regards training, I recommend the following items:- "Moderation in everything, of whatever nature.

"Daily short baths and vigorous rubbing down.

"Daily physical exercise, avoiding great feats of strength but performing feats of endurance, and this until one begins to perspire slightly.

"I began to practise physical exercises regularly and systematically six years ago, when I was thirty-one. Of course, I went through the usual physical training at school, between the years of six and seventeen, and after this I continued gymnastics a few times per week on the horizontal bar at home in the garden and practised with small dumb-bells. I like swimming, and have always indulged in this pleasurable exercise when I had an opportunity. Skating and cycling were other hobbies, and anything pertaining to gymnastical sports, except fencing or riding. I have never made a study of any particular line of sport. My present endeavour is to develop by body in every direction, and so give it every day not only its necessary food, but also to exercise it until, as I said before, my pores open and perspiration commences. The precise observation of all these points fitted me for such feats of endurance as your are familiar with, and my hardihood has become proverbial among my friends and acquaintances. I have been called the man who never catches cold or catarrh, and who is never ill. My measurements are: Height, 5 ft. 8 in.; chest, deflated, 36 1/2 in., normal, 37 1/2 in. inflated, 40 3/4 in.; thighs, 24 1/4 in.; calves, 15 in.; biceps, 14 3/4 in.; wrist 7 1/4 in.; weight 159 lb."


I must draw the reader's attention to the fact that Danthage, who is a member of the Royal Opera Bank, is the gymnast who, among other feats of endurance, made what the Germans call the deep knee-bend 6,000 times during four consecutive hours. The "knee-bend" is a capital exercise, and consists of bending your knees outwards by moving from the erect position to a sort of sitting position without moving the feet.

Monsieur Gasnier, the well-know athlete of Barnum and Bailey's Circus, writes:

"Lots of people ask me whether they can become strong. Most certainly! You all can acquire great strength if you have the will and proper guidance. But before all you must cultivate will power, and this first lesson is the most important one. If physical exercises alone, without your will and mind, were all that was needful, every one could become a strong man, whether he be a brain or muscle worker.

"The labourer, however, who never particularly uses mind while he strains all his muscles in hard toil, and every day lifts weights, does not necessarily augment his strength.

"Those who would like to have well-developed muscles should guard against over-exertion and impetuous exercise. One can become strong by daily exercises with light dumb-bells, and such exercises should take place either two hours before or after meals. Before one begins with heavier weights, one ought to study what weights would not cause over-exertion for the constitution as it then is.

"I recommend cold baths twice a week, or daily cold washing of the whole body with a sponge, and this immediately upon rising in the morning. This is very healthy and invigorating.

"I should advise an amateur to vary the duration of his exercises; for instance, if he feels particularly fit he may exercise a bit longer than on days when he feels more or less tired.

"There is no doubt that simple food is the best."

Iron Nation
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