Wednesday, August 24, 2011

PHYSICAL TRAINING SIMPLIFIED - The Complete Science of Muscular Development - (circa 1930) - CHAPTER 25 (Part I) - SANDOW, SAXON, ET AL., FURTHER DISCUSSIONS ON THE SUBJECT OF STRENGTH - By Mark H. Berry

The wave of popularity upon which the doctrine of muscular development has ridden for some years has often been attributed to the rise of Eugene Sandow, and his contemporaries, to fame. To delve into the matter at some little length will convince us that Sandow and his fellows were merely fortunate to appear during a certain period. As we might put it in other words, they were actors with parts in a great play. Sandow first become known in 1889; quite a number of very good strength athletes preceded him during a period of ten years or so. These athletes comprised but one side of the rising consciousness of the necessity of physical education in the life of modern civilized humans. The great strong men of that day represented the purely physical side. The other side could more aptly be referred to as being purely mental, represented by educators, physicians and scholars who began to make a scientific study of the problems of physical education. Some of these men introduced systems of physical exercise, ranging all the way from a simple group of calisthenic movements up to the most complete and complicated systems embracing the use of all forms of gymnasium apparatus.

If we were to delve into the subject, intent upon finding some cause for the increasing interest in physical education, we might arrive at a conclusion similar to the following brief hypothesis. The age of machinery was rapidly advancing in all parts of the civilized world. Men were finding less reason to employ physical strength in the performance of the world's work. Is it not reasonable to surmise that some urge within man, inherited from toiling ancestors, prompted the adoption of some means of substitution for the physical activity lacking in their occupations. The scholar, with plenty of time at his disposal for thinking, probably observed the physical decline of the urban populace, resulting from insufficient exertion. The urge within the blood of man, coupled with the observations of the scholar, undoubtedly accounted for the interest in physical education. It would take an entire book to follow this hypothesis to a satisfactory conclusion. However, a little thought will convince you of the truth of the assertion that the lack of wearying toil in the necessary work of the world has a close relationship to the present day popularity of athletics and active games of diversion. Furthermore, modern machinery gives us the leisure time to engage in such games.

The beginning of weight lifting as we now know it is rather remote, and its early history is most indistinct. Certain it is that ancient man must have at times held some form of impromptu contest to determine the strongest man in the tribe or village. Such a contest, most likely would have consisted of the lifting of cumbersome rocks. Just what sort of tests would be included in the contests we can only imagine; it seems that men of that ancient date would have been impressed by the lifting of a huge rock from the ground more than by the overhead lifting of stones with either one or two hands. We are inclined to believe that one hand over head lifting is the most modern of all styles as more science and study of the subject was necessary before methods were perfected.

Without the employment of some science, it is impossible to lift a stone or other cumbersome object of any size with one hand. Primitive man, if he engaged in any contests to determine the strongest man ( without engaging in physical combat) would have confined such efforts to the lifting of the largest stone from the ground, and the throwing of large stones with either one or two hands. The shouldering of heavy objects must have held the interest of men of ancient times, when the subject of strength was discussed. Such tests would have a practical application to his regular life. It might at times be necessary for a man, unaided, to lift or roll a rock of large size; it might also prove a matter of life or death to be able to throw or hurl a large stone at an animal or adversary; and, throughout most of history, it has been of immense practical value to be able to shoulder and carry a heavy load.

Just when, or why, dumb bells were originated it is impossible to tell. The earliest employment of a lifting apparatus in the form of a bar bell probably was the use of an axle and two wheels in a lifting contest. That would have been ages before a dumb bell or anything like a dumb bell was thought of. Exhibiting strong men appeared in public only during the past few hundred years. They would lift familiar objects to be found anywhere, such as casks, kegs, barrels, large stones, and with the aid of harness might also lift a horse or cow. Scale weights of solid iron could also be easily procured for single arm feats like muscling out a weight at arms' length or lifting a weight in the teeth. Sometime during the past two centuries, some instructor in physical exercise conceived the idea of holding handy pieces of iron in the hands as an aid to the effectiveness of the prescribed exercises. Besides observing hat different weights were required for individuals of different degrees of strength, it was also soon noticed that a greater degree of strength and development could be obtained by exercising with slightly heavier weights than they had been accustomed to handling.

In time, impromptu lifting contests with the heavier bells created a demand for bells of still heavier weight. After impromptu contests developed considerable interest in lifting as a sport, even though of no more than local importance in certain communities, some of the more clever men struck upon the idea of a longer handled dumb bell for two-handed lifting contests. This in brief outlines the evolution of the bar bell up to its most crude state, a solid piece of iron on each end of a long bar. That stage was reached something over a hundred years ago. Since that time, various changes have taken place in the design of bar bells, in order to add an efficient means of making them progressive. Progressive graded weight exercise, as we know it today, with bar bells and dumb bells and kettle bells has been known for a relatively short time. Probably it would not be so easy to prove exactly where, when, or by whom it originated, as undoubtedly very strong claims might be advance in favor of men of different nations. Professor Edmund Desbonnet, of Paris, began along modern lines in 1885. Various changes have been brought about from time to time, but the fundamentals have remained the same, wherever the system has been adopted. Professor Louis Attila, an athlete with a wide European experience, opened a physical culture studio in New York City in 1894 and was instrumental in proving to American athletes the value of heavy exercise. The system, however, was known to American athletes previous to the advent of Attila, through the visits of European strong men to gymnasiums in our leading cities. Eugene Sandow did a lot to popularize lifting exercises when he toured this country in 1893.

In spite of all these preliminary efforts at introduction, the public in general did not begin to recognize the value of heavy exercise until the Milo Bar Bell Company came into existence. It was then, in 1902, that the progressive graded weight system of physical culture was introduced in a thorough manner to the American public. The subsequent establishment of STRENGTH magazine has undoubtedly proven a greater influence in the popularization of heavy exercise than any other factor.

In America, the bar bell and weight lifting movement can be said to be purely of a physical culture nature. In Europe, bar bells are used chiefly as a means of indulging in the sport of weight lifting, while in the United States, but a few of those who follow progressive weight exercise become interested in weight lifting as a sport. In the United States there are undoubtedly a few hundred thousand men who have exercised to some extent with bar bells. As to the number of men actually interested in the sport of weight lifting in an active way, there are probably as many as five thousand. These figures are purely hypothetical, it must be understood, but we believe that we are qualified as much as anyone to make a fairly accurate guess. Truly, a large percentage of the non-lifters among the bar bell users practice some of the lifts occasionally, or at least they have at odd times tried their hand in at the game, as we might say. Proficiency at any thing, however, only attends the efforts of those who are persistent over a considerable length of time, and as greater number of men and youths are interested in muscular shapeliness and physical proficiency than in exhibiting strength publicly, more time is devoted to developing exercises than to lifting practice. Many mistaken impressions are current concerning bar bell exercise and weight lifting.

One of the most mistaken of all these faulty impressions is the belief that strong men and their followers are to be classed as rough necks; or if the use of that particular expression seems too strong, we might state it more mildly by saying popular belief classifies those who practice strength feats and muscle developing exercises among laborers and truck drivers. There is no intention here to malign men who make their living driving trucks, but I trust you know as well as I the popular use of the term "truck driver" when hard work is mentioned. Having personally had different ideas of those who are followers of the "iron game" as it is called by enthusiastic devotees, I have kept a close check for a long time on the occupation, as well as the ages of those who enroll as my pupils. This check has proven that only about one-fourth of those who enroll in a bar bell course are to be classed as not belonging to white collar occupations. This would include farmers, mechanics, machine operators, laborers and all men who follow what might be termed ordinary jobs. This one-fourth would also include policemen, soldiers, railway and street car employees, and many other lines of work. Another fourth we find consists of college and high school students, with the largest percentage among the former. One half of the total enrollment, we find, belongs among office workers, clerks, and many others employed in white collar occupations, or as they are sometimes called, pencil pushers, who are not called upon to perform any amount of physical work. Of the remaining one-fourth, we find fifteen percent belong to the class of higher salaried men, small business men, office executives, school teachers, etc. Ten percent of the total number are from the professions, mostly as physicians, clergymen, lawyers and dentists, with some few big business executives. When you consider the relative number of average citizens employed in the classes listed above and compare them with the enrollment figures you can appreciate the high occupational standard of those interested in bar bell exercise. The reader may then readily understand how mistaken the impression is that bar bell users are comparable to the class mostly associated with pugilism or as they are otherwise known, "rough necks."

Iron Nation

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