Friday, August 26, 2011


Overwork must be guarded against by the ambitious seeker after superb physical condition. Overzealousness is quite certain to spell defeat, if it leads you to continually over exert yourself.

The ambitious beginner, especially the beginner of youthful age, may try to follow the training pattern of some well-known professional pugilist or other athlete. What he does not understand is that the pugilist is training to reduce his bodyweight, by removing all traces of surplus flesh, drying as much water as possible out of his system, and making himself as lean as possible and still hold enough strength and endurance to give a good account of himself in the ring. The man or boy who takes up physical culture with the idea of building muscles all over his body and adding to his bodyweight must follow an entirely different procedure. If such a beginner practices endurance work involving countless repetitions of exercise movements and covers miles on the road and track, he will be draining any reserve he happens to possess and will only succeed in making his muscles scrawny. The published bodyweight of the pugilist is very deceiving when compared with averages citizens. The pugilist of ability who weighs l45 pounds may have the framework and muscular structure of a pretty husky ordinary man of 160 or 165 pounds; and the pugilist of the latter bodyweight, if out of hard training and living the life of the ordinary man, would probably weigh around 180 pounds and possibly more.

The beginner is following the wrong track if he expects to build up to the fighting weight of a pugilist, and expects to enter the ring at that weight. For instance, if a young man of 135 pounds bodyweight aspires to fame as a boxer and desires to enter the lightweight class. The average young man of 135 pounds bodyweight would first of all need to build himself up to 145 or 150 pounds by means of body-building exercise. Then when he was in fairly good condition at that weight he could begin the necessary training to get in condition for boxing as a lightweight. It is a mistake for the average young fellow to imagine he only needs to build up to the boxer's fighting weight. Of course, if it were possible to follow the boxer's training stunts and build up a certain bodyweight, that would be fine. But it is not possible for the average fellow to train as hard as the pugilist and at the same time gain weight. If the training routine of the pugilist brought about an increase in bodyweight, it would not serve the purpose of reducing him for a bout. Some forms of exercise will have the effect of bringing the body to a normal state whether you are overweight or underweight, but his is not true of endurance exercise. Some boxers do grow while following active training, for which a sound explanation can be given. The majority of boxers enter the game before reaching maturity, hence there is a natural tendency toward additional growth. The continued exercise also influences the development of harder and larger muscles, plus a thickening of tendons and ligaments throughout the body. The internal organs should also accumulate a certain amount of weight as the athlete reaches full maturity which may be as late as thirty.

Many athletes, amateur as well as professional, are continually carrying on a battle with nature in an attempt to keep their bodyweight down to a minimum. When nature is opposed, such opposition can only be temporary or there is only one result. Weakness, and possible disease or death. It is nothing short of slow suicide to interfere with the natural rate of growth when a youth or young man has not stopped growing. In the majority of cases where boxers grow into a heavier class, it simply means that he was unable to further resist the efforts of nature towards full growth.

Recently a pupil wrote me of his failure to realize results in developing muscles. He had read somewhere of the necessity of breaking down muscular tissues before any increase could be accomplished. Wherefore he reasoned that the only sensible thing to do was to bring about a continual breaking down of the tissues if he wished to cause a worthwhile degree of upbuilding. He selected one part of his body, his arms, and every day went through a tremendous amount of movements. Needless to say, his efforts netted him nothing.

Another pupil followed a similar line of reasoning. That is, he is a pupil but decided to disregard the instructions we gave him and follow a scheme of his own. He had been exercising two or three months when he reported the plan he had followed during the entire period. His routine consisted of exercising every day and on each day he repeated an exercise schedule several times. His plan was something like this; practice the Two Arm Curl, also the Two Arm Press repeating each six times, and during the evening return to each of these exercises ten times and repeat the full number of repetitions. Not only did he practice the Two Arm Curl and the Two Arm Press on this plan but altogether included about a dozen exercises for all parts of the body and repeated each one in the same way. We don't understand how he managed to survive such a strenuous and tiresome program for so great a length of time. A very well-trained bar bell man of husky build may be able to stand a program similar to either of the above for considerable time with apparently no harmful results.

There can be no sensible reason for training along such lines. Overwork, in the form of exercise, may not be attended with noticeable harmful results. One may be overworking the body continually, month after month, and never be aware of the fact, as no unpleasant effects may be noticed. The only visible sign of such overwork may be a lack of progress in strength, development and physical abilities. To exercise or train steadily for several months or a year without noticeable improvements must certainly be a sign that something is wrong. To determine what is wrong may call for careful observation of the case by an experienced expert, still be believe a careful study of the present volume will make it possible for any intelligent student of physical exercise to diagnose and correct any condition in his own case.

It must be pointed out that overwork may not be the underlying cause of one's failure to improve consistently, and all factors involved must be given due consideration. Theoretically, one who continues regular progressive exercise of the proper sort should continue to improve almost indefinitely, or at least until the age of physical decline sets in. In this particular instance, our thoughts will be centered upon actual weight lifting as well as exercises of weight lifting nature. We have stated that theoretically improvement should be continuous. However, practically, we are apt to find that the majority of lifters and bar bell physical culturists do not continue to improve steadily according to our theory. We have often stated that continuous improvement over an indefinite period cannot be expected, as at sometime in life one must expect to reach the pinnacle of his achievements, and from that point a gradual decline must be expected, though added effort may result in being able to more or less preserve the ultimate abilities for some time. Granting the accuracy of this qualification of the theory of continuous improvement, we must point out the weak point in applying it to the individual case. Just when can we expect the individual to reach the pinnacle of his physical abilities? In some sports, the average athlete seems to be at his best between twenty-one and twenty-five, while in other sports the average may be considerably higher. Although we are sure to meet with the rare exception, it seems logical to expect the average man to reach the peak of possible improvement around the age of forty. Please understand that our remarks apply to the man who has been training since a youthful age, and not to one who has only started physical training in his late thirties. In a case of the last mentioned kind, where the individual has been in either a weak or only fair condition up to his late thirties, he may continue to improve for many years. But, a man who became interested in physical improvement at that late date would never know the true possibilities born in him. These remarks also apply to a man of a more advanced age, up the time when actual old age has set in. Many men may improve physically as late as sixty, but he degree of improvement which is to be expected depends upon many factors. This will be discussed at another time in this book.

Our remarks for the present will deal with the athlete in the flush of manhood; for instance, a young man of twenty-five to thirty who has been exercising and training for a number of years. It is only in such instance that really worthwhile observations can be made. Having studied rather closely the comparative abilities and improvements of weight lifters who perform in public competitions, we have observed here and there an instance of an athlete continuing to improve at a rate comparable to the rapid advances made by the science of weight lifting in general. Whereas the majority of competing athletes seem to reach a certain peak in their abilities and then either hold such abilities over a period of time or lose some of their speed, strength or agility, certain others improve with each passing year.

At times we were tempted to form the conclusion that certain known limits of lifting ability must be set as the ultimate point of improvement which may be reached by any athlete. The main factor determining this being a high average of existing records in the bodyweight class of the athlete. Many times we have nearly reached the point of accepting this conclusion as final, only to notice a man here and there passing all known standards of strength possibilities, basing strength upon the lifting ability. And, following on his heels, we find dozens of other athletes passing the previous limitations. We are now about willing to conclude that a limit really does not exist, so far as either strength or lifting science are concerned. This conclusion, we believe, may also be applied to all forms of athletics. This conclusion must, of course, be made with reservations, as no one would hardly be so foolish as to say that athletes of the future will be capable of doubling or trebling the strength or speed of the present day athlete. What we mean when we refer to the non existence of a limit is that such a limit is at a point far beyond present day capabilities. For years there has much speculation concerning developing "nine second men" in sprinting the hundred yard dash. The most authentic record of speed over this distance seems to be 9-2/5, and I believe some professional has tried to lay claim to either 9 or 9-1/5 seconds. Any claim such as the latter must, at the present time, be regarded as gross exaggeration; but we are sure the day will come when nine second hundred yard dashes will be as common as 9-9/10 or 10 second dashes during recent years.

A better understanding of training methods, physical conditioning, and running science will result in faster running time. Just as in weight lifting; not so many years ago it was considered extremely exceptional for a man to succeed in Snatching with one hand a weight equal to his own bodyweight. Now, it is nothing uncommon for lifters to Snatch far in excess of bodyweight with one hand, and many can do so with either hand. For years the evident limit in single handed Snatching was around two hundred twenty pounds, for the heaviest and strongest men. Likewise a weight of three hundred has long been regarded as most exceptional for a one hand lift even when the slow and scientific Bent Press was resorted to. A few men succeeded with slightly over three hundred pounds in the Bent Press, but a quick lift of that poundage has remained as practically an utter impossibility. However, a young Frenchman, Charles Rigoulet, has lately been improving by leaps and bounds on the one hand Snatch and recently set a new mark of 254 pounds. To us it seems with the realm of things possible to say that three hundred will some day be accomplished in the one hand Snatch. This is true of practically all modern lifting and will be discussed later.

We may seem to have digressed somewhat from our observations on overwork as applied to physical exercise. However, it has been our desire to impress upon the mind of the reader certain obviously logical and related matters pertaining to continual wasting of the energies. If we reach a logical conclusion that physical improvement should be continuous up to a certain age, then any physical stagnation or failure to improve rather indefinitely should be considered as a sign of incorrect training methods. Generally, if one over-exercises for any length of time we would expect certain signs of overwork to be plainly evident. These signs might include a continual feeling of languidness throughout the day, inability to thoroughly recuperate through sleep, repeated stiffness of the muscles, extra susceptibility to colds, a lack of the feeling of well being, and loss of the desire to train or exercise. We would expect, however, that the individual would recognize danger signals so plainly evident as these. Furthermore, it is quite likely very few individuals would continue training if so distressed. So, our discussion should more properly pertain to those muscle culturists who are evidently in either fair or seemingly excellent condition and still fail to make continuous progress at an age when such improvement should rightfully be expected. Much discussion has attended the matter of daily exercise. For some time, recognized authorities on bar bell exercise have contended that daily exercise with heavy weights was far too strenuous, and that better results could be expected if a program was followed of exercising on alternate days or only three times a week. Some physical culture instructors have taken exception to this advice, and a few men of high standing in the bar bell field have likewise seen fit to disagree with any rule which did not prescribe exercise for practically every day in the week.

A like controversy has been carried on concerning whether or not we should continually strive to handle heavier weights, or regularly practice with moderate weights and attempt the limit only occasionally. To us, these are two of the most important points to be decided, and we might call them the key-notes of proper training. The ideal amount of exertion is the question all instructors and athletes would like to have answered to their entire satisfaction. In the entire scope of physical training, that is probably the most difficult question to decide. Knowledge of physical education will be nearly complete when a definite solution to this problem is arrived at. In lieu of exact knowledge, applicable to every case, we can at least proffer the advice that in case of doubt it is best to under exercise slightly than to risk the chance of over exercising. We can definitely establish this fact that during extremely rigid training, little or no reserve energy is stored by the body.

Iron Nation

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