Wednesday, October 19, 2011

THE TRUTH ABOUT WEIGHTLIFTING - (circa 1911) - Chapter 1 - By Alan Calvert

Originally posted on on 08 April 2006

In dealing with feats of pure strength, we regret to have to admit that most of the strength records are held by European athletes. This does not mean that the European races produce larger and finer man than we breed in America, but really indicates the fact that for the past 25 years the European nations, especially the Germans and the Austrians, have taken as much interest heavy athletics as we take in light athletics in this country. We would not expect England, for instance, which has only a few hundred baseball players, to produce ball players equal to our big league stars, and as Germany happens to have about 100 amateur weight-lifters where we have one, it is only natural that they should hold the records in that particular line of athletics.

So far we Americans have not distinguished ourselves in any line of heavy athletics with the possible exception of "putting the shot." This is a feat which requires considerable skill, in addition to size and bodily weight, and, as American amateurs have made a point of acquiring the correct form in this particular event, they have succeeded in making records.

In "hammer-throwing" we have produced some good performers, but none that were quite good enough to win the national championship. A couple of imported Irish-men have monopolized the honors in "throwing the hammer" for the past dozen years, and these same men, and one other of their countrymen, have always won in the still more strenuous sport of throwing the 56 lb. weight. Why is it that, while we have produced "record breakers" in running, jumping and in all sports which require activity, that we have not, in the last generation, produced a winner either in weight-throwing or in weight-lifting? The answer is that we do not train in the right way; and among other things the proper method of training is to be dealt with in this volume.

One of the most prominent athletic clubs in Philadelphia has in its gymnasium a long-handled bar bell of 150 lbs. weight. We are informed that for a long time there were only two members of the club who could lift this bell above their head, even when they used two hands in the lifting. Some time ago a delegation of German Turners made a visit to this club and were being shown over the clubhouse by an Entertainment Committee. When they came to the gymnasium, the Germans, twelve or fifteen in number, expressed their surprise at the absence of heavy dumbbells, and one member of the committee, after some search, was able to discover and produce the 150-lb. bar-bell alluded to above. One after another the Germans stepped out of line and raised this bell above the head. Not one of them had any trouble lifting the bell with one arm. They were simply amazed when they were told that not of the 500 members in the club could perform the same feat, and they stated that a one-arm lift of 150 lbs. was a very small affair to the average German athlete.

These Germans were men of average height, but they were all very sturdily built, with deep chests, broad shoulders and powerful arms and legs; and every one of them was an enormously strong man, and active as well, as they proved by doing many difficult feats on the different pieces of gymnasium apparatus.

It is here that we come to the great difference in the German and American systems of training. The Germans train in order to develop a finely built body and a great deal of all-around ability; the American is much too apt to specialize on some one particular feat, and, therefore, generally has a one-sided development. The Germans recognize the principle that in order to become very strong it is necessary to make the exercise harder and harder.

Every German gymnasium, or athletic club, keeps on its gymnasium floor a large assortment of heavy dumb-bells and bar-bells, and the club members train principally with this kind of apparatus. Heavy dumb-bell lifting is one of the greatest sports in Germany, and throughout the winter season there are contests almost every evening in one or the other of the larger cities or towns. In order to give an even chance to men of all sizes, the contestants are divided into four classes, according to their bodily weight; very much the same as we classify boxers. A lifter who weighs only 125 pounds is not expected to compete with a 220-pound giant, and in this way every ambitious lifter is given a chance to prove his strength and skill against men of his own size.

Frequently weight-lifting tournaments have 150 or 200 entries and it is no exaggeration to say that there are, in the average German lifting club, more first-class lifters than there are in the whole United States of America. It is not the intention of the writer to give the impression that the Germans are naturally a larger or stronger race of men than the Americans. We have the raw material in this country and as soon as we train properly we will produce champions and record-breakers in weight-lifting, the same as we have done in every other line of athletic sports.

Physical Culture
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