Monday, October 5, 2020

Wisdom From The Past - By Jim Duggan

     It's no secret that I've always enjoyed reading vintage weightlifting magazines, especially the old York publications.  While looking through some old Strength and Health magazines, one particular issue caught my eye.  The October 1937 issue of S&H had an interesting variety of articles.  Who would guess that information that was published eighty-three years ago would still be pertinent today?  Actually, the answer to that question is quite simple.  Anyone with an appreciation for valuable training information recognizes that good material is timeless.  Just about everybody can benefit from closer study of the classic physical culture publications.  
     In this particular issue, there were several articles that resonated with me.  The first one was Bob Hoffman's editorial.  "Home Exercise is Best" was the title.  The opening words are of particular significance today.  "Are you a person who has always wished to be strong, healthy, and well-built but has put off the commencement of training because there is no gym near you?"  
     Back in 1937, commercial gyms were not all that common.  Today, while there are plenty of gyms, for many months they were forced to close their doors due to the pandemic.  Sadly, many had no choice but to go out of business permanently.  Even with the re-opening of most gyms, many people are reluctant to return out of health concerns, or unwilling due to time constraints, mask requirements or social distancing restrictions.  So, in a way, serious Lifters are facing some of the same challenges that were around in the 1930s.  
     There are a few more useful quotes from Mr. Hoffman's editorial.  Here is a good one: "You need not make a lot of noise.  Handling the bells gently, setting them down lightly, will make you stronger than if you constantly drop them." I guess abusing equipment was an issue back then, just as it is today.  We've all seen this particular type of gym character.  Attention-seeking  yo-yos  who insist on yelling, screaming, and making as much noise as possible.  If screaming like a banshee isn't enough, then intentionally dropping a loaded barbell will certainly draw enough attention.  
     Even if you don't train at a commercial gym, a casual glance at some of the YouTube videos floating around will provide you with a laugh.  "Screaming meemies," as Dr. Ken used to call them.  And what about all these so-called world records that we see on a weekly basis?  A lifter, surrounded by his screaming entourage, approaches a barbell ( or dumbbells, or power rack), and performs a "world record." Since many legitimate contests have been cancelled or postponed,  we are subjected to these glorified "gym lifts" masquerading as world records.  And, of course,  the requisite yelling, chest bumping, adds to the drama, all caught on video.  What a joke!  Noise doesn't make you stronger, and yelling and screaming do not make the weight lighter.  Even if you are attempting a "world record," a real lifter doesn't need a cheering section.  A good rule to follow, whenever you have the urge to make a lot of unnecessary noise, is "empty barrels make the most noise."
     In addition to Bob Hoffman's editorial, there is an article by Dr. Frederick Tilney titled "Quit Making Excuses."  It seems that excuses, procrastination, and laziness have been around for a long time.  Dr. Tilney goes on to describe the Strength and Health way of life as "earnestly striving each day to get the MOST out of life."  Basically, if you're not happy with your training- or any other aspect of your life- then it is up to you to help yourself in order to change things for the better.  
     "Tomorrow is the devil's motto."  Putting things off until tomorrow will not make you stronger or healthier.  How many times have you heard someone promise to start working out tomorrow. Or next week. Or next month.  "The present time is the raw material out of which you make whatever you will.  Instead of worrying about the past, or dreaming of the future, seize the the present instead."  Sound advice for anyone who needs motivation to get going.  Wasting time equals waste of energy and vitality.  
     Dr. Tilney goes on to address those who are "getting on in years."  Even in 1937, there were euphemisms for getting older.  The only difference is, back then, forty was considered to be "older."  Fortunately, we are more enlightened about age and getting older.  And I say this not because I recently turned 56, but because so many people today are still going strong in their sixties and seventies!  And, if you are indeed "older," it is never too late to begin a weight-training program.  You can still accomplish what you want if you quit making excuses and "plunge into action." 
     There was another article by Bob Hoffman that caught my eye.   "Heavy Exercise Saves Time and Energy."  While he was making a case for his york Heavy and Light System, there was one salient point: "It's necessary to use heavy weights to get results." If you want to get stronger, you must train progressively, and that includes training heavy.
     "You can build your strength in a minimum of time and effort through heavy training for the large muscle groups and all-around training for the entire body."  Sounds familiar?  Any sensible drug-free training program is based on that concept.  While today's "muscle magazines" may feature steroid-bloated bodybuilders pumping away on isolation movements, we know better.  Apparently, so did Mr. Hoffman back in 1937.
     I will close this article with the closing line of Bob Hoffman's editorial:   "Cooler weather is coming soon.  Fall is a time for those striving to reach physical perfection.  Get into action NOW to train."

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