Monday, August 15, 2011

PHYSICAL TRAINING SIMPLIFIED - The Complete Science of Muscular Development - (circa 1930) - CHAPTER 18a - OVERCOMING YOUR DEFICIENCIES - By Mark H. Berry

One of the prime essentials of physical training science is the correction of physical defects. We may have in mind the ultimate betterment of the human race, raising the majority of humans to a much higher state of physical and mental efficiency than now enjoyed by any individual. We cannot, however, begin to accomplish these high aims until we reduce the number of persons who are below normal to a minimum. Presuming there will always be a certain number of persons below normal due to injuries and the aftermath of serious disease, it must be realized that at the present time the largest number of humans are physically below a healthy normal and the mean average could not possibly be taken as a normal state of health, development and strength.

I have before me thousands of figures showing various measurements of the American youth in several great Universities. The proportions of the average college student show a physically inferior type of young manhood, when compared with even the most conservative tables of "ideal" measurements. Certainly the young men in our colleges, composed of youths in the late teens and early twenties, represent a higher type, physically than the average citizen 18 to 30 years of age. The average college youth must be considered as a very much undeveloped young man, so far as the physical culturist or idealist is concerned. This, then, only gives us a slight idea of the weak and undeveloped state of the average citizen. Before we can suggest measures for the correction of any physical defects, we must arrive at some normal conclusion regarding the physical state which must be accepted as normal as well as the higher type may be accepted as more ideal. The primary aims of the individual who is below par should be directed towards reaching the state recognized as normal. Having corrected the defects, the ambitions may then be directed towards perfection.

It matters considerably whether your physical defects consists of lack of muscular development of certain parts of the body, or a condition such as bow legs or knock knees; the latter two conditions in many cases result from uneven development of the leg muscles, and may be corrected by means of proper exercise. However, if the bones are bent as a result of rickets in childhood, or the legs vary from normal due to some peculiarity of build, it may be impossible to actually bring about any change altering the appearance by a complete development of the leg muscles. If you are bow-legged we must first determine why. Stand before a mirror and observe where the bend occurs. If the lower leg bones seems fairly straight and the bow is caused by a deflection at the ankles and knees, we may prescribe proper exercises to develop the muscles on the outside of the thighs. A long swelling curve of the lower leg bones is quite natural, so if a bowed condition of the legs is caused by this curve, it is only necessary to properly develop the calf muscles.

To correct knock-knees, we have to develop and strengthen the muscles on the inside of the thighs, providing the condition is amenable to correction. Some men are naturally knock-kneed due to broad hips and formation of the ankle and knee joints. You may easily notice that women, as a rule are knock-kneed as far as the bones of the legs are concerned. Still, if the legs are properly filled out with flesh, the condition is not apparent. If the leg bones of a woman run straight as in the case of the majority of men, a bow-legged appearance is quite evident, though the legs are actually not bent. A man with a natural inclination toward knock-knees may overcome the appearance by filling out the legs with muscle. Whether a person toss in or out is very important in connection with the correction of either bow legs or knock knees. We do mean by this that a person whose legs are bent one way turns his feet in a certain direction. The reader knows from observation that this is not true, as some bow legged persons are pigeon toed while others toe out very much. In either case, the appearance of the legs can be changed considerably by the person making some effort to change the position of the feet while walking. The big objection to the practical application of this advice is that most persons are very conscious of the manner in which they walk, and to change their manner of walking would make them fearful of ridicule. While it seems most natural, theoretically, to advocate walking with the toes pointed straight ahead, we must consider that some persons inherit an inclination to walk toeing in while others find it most natural to toe out. This may be due to the formation of the feet, ankle, and knee joints. By means of conscious effort, the manner of walking may be changed, but at the same time we doubt very much if it is practical for every one to attempt to walk with the toes pointing straight ahead.

Allow me to digress for an instant to mention something we have observed. Two middle aged sisters in whom there was born a great urge for walking, and although they themselves never had occasion to do a great amount of walking, the male children of both were born with the urge for fast and long distance walking. It is strange to relate that one sister always had walked with toes pointed out at an exaggerated degree, while the other has always walked with the toes turned in. Or, rather, there may be nothing so strange in that fact, but it is very strange that the male children of these women should point their toes exactly in the manner of their mothers. We have not had an opportunity to observe whether or not these characteristics were handed down from generations back, but the one living parent of the two women to whom we referred walks with his toes pointed straight ahead. Furthermore, among the brothers of the two women, the toeing in characteristic is very predominate. In support of the contention that these characteristics are inherited, let us point out the oddity that the majority of the members of the second and third generations toe in while one sister who toes out has a son who walks in the same manner. It is also quite evident that bow legs run in some families, which can only be due to a peculiar formation of the leg joints.

In cases of this kind, we may actually bring about a change in the appearance of the legs, but an actual alteration of the bowed condition can hardly be expected. Referring again to the matter of changing the position of the feet, it was our intention to call attention to the possibility of bringing about a complete development of those muscles which might be lacking in size and shape.

Another observation we have made, and one which you may quite easily conduct to your own satisfaction concerns the proportion of men and women with good calf development who toe in. Some may actually be placing the feet in straight line, but the impression is created by a pigeon toed walk. An observation of this sort cannot be accepted as final for the reason that too many things must be considered. It is possible to observe only a limited number of men whom one can only see in athletic, gym, or bathing costume. That is, you cannot walk along the street and observe upon the average man whether there is any connection between good calves and "toeing in." Then again, among well built girls who have schooled themselves to walk in a dainty or graceful manner, you would hardly find any walking with toes turned in. Possibly in the days before they realized the possession of shapely legs, they may have walked in that manner. Observation among girls who are no so particular as to the manner of walking will tend to show some connection between well-rounded calves and the manner of walking to which we have alluded. When speaking of a good-looking calf in this respect, we refer to the muscles on the inside of the calf. Sometimes you see a calf which looks good from the side, but a front or rear view shows it to be lacking in shapeliness. It is very rare for a calf which is well-developed on the inside to show to disadvantage in any position. A well rounded and properly developed lower leg, of course, needs full development on all sides, but a poorly looking calf is generally lacking in the inside bulge of the muscle.

Certain we are not going so far as to presume that everyone who toes in has well shaped legs, as such is far from the truth. What we refer to is the great percentage of persons with good calves who toe in. We trust you discern the difference in meaning which we intend to convey. Rather than good calves resulting from turning the toes in while walking, it is quite likely that the mode of walking is influenced by the formation of the calves. If the latter were true, then we would have to decide what caused the calf development among those who live under natural conditions, as primitive people, very few will be found who walk with the toes turned out. There seems to be little reason for questioning the manner of walking with the toes pointed straight ahead or slightly turned in as being most as being the most natural.

The habit of wearing heels on shoes, and particularly high heels, has undoubtedly leg to turning the toes out. This mode of walking is supposed to be more graceful and pleasing to the eye. Truly, a decided pigeon-toed walk is far from graceful, and while modern shoes are worn a slight toeing out probably does look best. The "Charlie Chaplin walk" is by no means graceful or good to look upon, but we doubt if it is any worse than and exaggerated toeing in. In our way of thinking, a physical balance is maintained, regardless of the manner in which you walk, providing the body is carried erect and you really walk. It is taken for granted that we do not include a slouchy, shambling, or shuffling gait. As agreement has never been reached regarding the proper way to walk. In the army, where they make a business of walking, it all depends on which army you belong to. In different parts of the world, the armies march in somewhat different gaits. For instance, the "German goose-step" compared to the U.S.A. stride. One authority on walking will tell you to lean slightly forward, while preserving an erect carriage, and let the forward progression be governed by this forward inclination of the body. Most authorities agree on a very erect carriage, modified heel and toe stride, while the first mentioned style of progression would require the weight to be placed on the ball of the foot, the heel to be used only incidentally. A correct heel and toe bring the knees into action very little, the drive coming from the hips; while many people walk correctly enough while employing very free action of the knees, which places the main work upon the thighs. We have digressed somewhat from our original intention in a discussion of walking, in order to make certain a proper understanding of the part of the reader.

What we started to say was-as long as the individual really walks- a muscular balance is maintained, and while a toeing in action of the feet may be better for development purposes, one who toes out may walk just as fast as the one who does not. I have heard it claimed that good walkers always toe straight ahead or toe in, but this claim is certainly not substantiated by fact. Now, it is to be observed when the toes are turned either in or straight ahead, there is an entirely different action of the foot and lower leg than takes place when the toes are turned out while walking. In the first mentioned style, the calf is brought into more direct action in raising the heel, while in the latter style the calf muscle more or less locks itself and the effort is placed on other muscles to compensate for the loss of calf action. If there was any close connection between calf development and walking ability, the man with the largest calves would be the best walkers and among competing pedestrians we would find the best calf development. Such, however, is not the true state of affairs. That there is some connection between good inside calf development and the rapid forward progression of the body is attested by the splendid calves to be found among first class sprinters. In walking, other muscles may claim some extra share of the burden and preserve an equal balance of efficiency, but in sprinting, the last ounce of effort is required of all the muscles involved. At least, we believe that to be a fair definition to apply to the case.

The calf muscles bearing the greater brunt of the work of propelling the body forward, are the gastrocnemius, the soleus, the flexor longus pollicis, the flexor longus digitorium, and the tibialis posticus: various other muscles play an important part. The point to be remembered in connection with exercising such muscles is that as long as the complete action of the limb is involved, all of the muscles, of both major and minor importance will be benefited. However, at present we are discussing the muscular action of walking in relation to the calf, with a possible solution of whether the manner of walking has some bearing on the development. As I have just said a short while ago, a balance is preserved by the muscles regardless of the manner of placing the feet; but while we may walk just as efficiently in one way as in another, the result in muscular development may not be as satisfactory. The flexor longus policis muscle which we have just mentioned has the function of governing the main effort of the big toe in conjunction with extending the foot. This muscle will be brought into most active play when toeing in or straight ahead. An exaggerated toeing out would result in giving this muscle only a small share of its rightful work. The other two muscles, mentioned directly after the above, will do a greater amount of work when the foot is pointed straight ahead, or when the toes are turned in slightly. The gastrocnemius and soleus muscles carry on the greatest amount of the work, consequently they are the strongest and the best developed of the lower leg muscles. Toeing out continually will result in developing and strengthening these muscles on the outer side of the leg, which is more desirable. Furthermore, as we have hinted, the straight or the inward turning of the feet will bring about a better development of the three underlying muscles above mentioned. A greater bulk underneath will tend to increase the bulge and circumference of the entire calf.

Probably the most common physical fault to be observed amount the great bulk of humanity is the condition or defect of carriage known as round shoulders. The majority of persons are not concerned as to whether or not they stand or walk erect, but among those seeking physical fitness grave concern is entertained. We would venture to state that although normal muscular tone is responsible for the proper relative positions of each part of the body, a mental condition is most often to blame for anyone being round shouldered. If one fails to be concerned regarding his carriage, and occupational habits engender faulty posture, then a stoop shouldered, round shouldered, or partly hump backed condition is most likely to result. It is not our contention that so far as the average person is concerned, a desire must exist in favor of proper posture. Some individuals work at the most arduous forms of toil and yet remain erect, and in an instance of this sort we would say the physical efforts have been so properly distributed over the entire muscular system as to result in balanced muscle pulls among the muscles of progression. The chain of muscle groups known under the term of muscles of progression are mainly responsible for holding the body properly erect. We refer in particular to the great muscles of the legs, buttocks, and back. When a balanced condition of strength is present in these muscles the shoulder blades are pulled down and back, the head is held erect on top of the spinal column, and the entire body is well-balanced on the feet. You may have notice laborers who work all day with pick and shovel in a bent over position, but still walk erectly; but the majority of these will be of the short, and stocky type of build. The stocky man compactly built and due to being thick in proportion to length, a permanent bend is less likely to occur. Slender men, especially those who are tall and slender, are more prone to faulty posture.

As it was our intention to state at first, mental condition on the part of some people predisposes to faulty posture. They fear ridicule if seen to walk with shoulders back and chest out. The average person is only too likely to look upon correct posture as an exaggerated way of walking, sitting or standing, and then the slouchy, "street corner tough" sort of carriage is least likely to provoke comment among average people. The soldier is trained in correct posture through compulsion until it becomes second nature, but the man in the street has no one to compel him to hold an erect carriage. Have you ever noticed an exceptionally tall person, particularly a tall girl or young woman trying to bend down to the height of the average person around them? Short persons are more apt to hold themselves erect in an attempt to look taller. A small amount of observation among those around you will convince you of the accuracy of these assertions.

Correct posture is not altogether a matter of proper muscular development or unusual physical strength, as we have noticed quite a few strong men, and many athletes in other branches of sport and athletics who were round shouldered and made no attempt at holding an erect carriage. On the other hand, you may observe thousands of young women who are certainly not muscularly strong, but nevertheless carry themselves very erect. Possibly this is due to the normal female lumbar arch, which is more accentuated than on the male. This arch would tend to cause a greater normal contraction of the back muscles, and an interlocking of the back and buttock muscles, resulting in a downward pull on the shoulder blades and a consequent protrusion of the chest. I remember the remarks of my maternal grandfather on this subject. At the time he was sixty years of age, tall and fairly slender, and though he had for years been accustomed to strenuous physical effort, his carriage was exceptionally erect at all times. It was not until seventy-five that he showed any signs of bending, and then it was as the result of the shrinking in height which accompanies old age. He seemed to believe that proper posture was an inborn trait, firmly imbedded in every fibre of the individual and those who were properly constructed would remain erect, regardless of the amount of bending involved in their work. Perhaps there is a great amount of logic in such reasoning. At least, we have noticed that the world's most famous strength athletes are examples of correct posture. In correcting round shoulders, we would first urge the cultivation of a subconscious desire for correct posture.

The sensible procedure in correction of round shoulders is to first implant in the mind a subconscious desire for correct posture at all times. Then we work to strengthen the muscles which hold the shoulders in their natural position. And in combination with these two factors, we impress upon the individual the necessity of practicing correct posture. As to the exercises possessing the most value in correcting the position of the shoulders, we must strengthen the muscles across the broad of back by practicing exercises which call for the shoulders to be drawn back against resistance. Likewise, the muscles all along the spine must be developed and properly toned up. As suggested a few paragraphs ahead, the muscles group known as the muscles of progression play a most important part in the scheme of fostering correct posture. These muscles are best strengthened and developed by forward bending movements, especially where the back is held straight and the hips or buttocks act as a hinge. Exercises in each of the above groups would include exercise No. 3 on the bar bell chart; the deep knee bend with feet flat on the floor and where the body is bent well forward during the movement of coming to the erect position; also the stiff legged dead lift exercise, being particular to pull the shoulders back and throw the chest out each time you straighten up; also such lifting exercises as the one and tow arm Snatches. The majority of the movements given in my special course of lifting motions are also excellent for the correction of round shoulders.

Another common physical defect is flat feet. Some persons have flat feet without suffering any pain or discomfort, or in fact without the presence of any defective condition. Persons in this class have a naturally extremely low arch of the foot, but their physical efficiency is impaired in no way. I have known of first class athletes who had this type of arches, who could run and jump with the best. I might mention particularly one of the best adagio dancers on the stage who is noted for his strength and agility in handling his partners, and yet his arches are of this type. Instances of this sort only go to show that in imprint of the foot really means nothing, and the fact that the imprint shows a high arch would not necessarily imply that that no foot trouble was present. Cases have been known of people suffering foot discomforts when the arch was of normal height and curve. A painful case of fallen arches should receive the attention of a foot specialist, but simple cases may be corrected by proper exercises combined with sufficient rest. Adhesive tape bandages are helpful, but should be put on at the direction of a foot specialist who could also prescribe a proper fitting arch support in case one were needed. Calf exercises, such as you will find described in another chapter, are most beneficial for strengthening the arches.

Iron Nation
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