George F. Jowett, The Truth About Exercise (c. 1925)

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It takes all kinds of people to make a world, but some we often feel should be given an island, to make a world of their own. There are people who apparently are born with the pessimistic germ in their systems. They just cannot help taking a contrary view of the situation. You find them everywhere, and antagonistic to the popular beliefs of life, law and religion. I agree that the major part of their criticism is destructive rather than constructive, but why worry about them if you know you are right. You may say, “Look at the harm they do.” But I do not believe that. Like attracts like is my belief. Some people prefer to believe that black is white, so let them believe it. We have the same spirit to contend with in teaching the valuable precepts of physical training.

I happened to know a man who had an argumentative belief that exercise was harmful; he accosted a heart specialist on the question, with whom I am familiar. The specialist informed him that the causes of cardiac conditions were reduced to four, none of which were caused by exercise. The only time sports or exercise are liable to injure the heart are when the heart is out of condition. Then anything would injure it. More often bad eating, but rarely right exercise, which is constructive. The other man replied that just the same he believed exercise hurts the heart. Now a wall would have to fall on such a man before he would believe it had fallen. And, as an angel could not convert such a person, why worry about it?

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The History of the Plank Exercise

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Chances are every single one of use has spent a seemingly endless amount of time stuck in the ‘plank’ position shown above. When I first began weight training for rugby as a starry eyed teen we did every kind of vacation imagine. We did it for time, we moved in circles, we placed weights, and even at times each other, on our backs to increase the resistance and improve our core.

Was it all a waste? Probably if truth be told. Though one can feel the effects of the plank on their abdominals almost instantly, any pain I suffered from having a week ‘core’, that oh so mercurial term, was eventually solved through copious amounts of squats, deadlifts, reverse hyper extenions and back extensions combined with strict cable crunches and hanging leg raises If these exercises don’t challenge your core, I’d suggest re-evaluating your form.

Now in any case it’s undeniable that the plank exercise has become a mainstay in the fitness community over the past two decades. Though fading out in my own gym, at least somewhat, it’s still used by numerous personal trainers and classes the world over. This leads us to the point of today’s post. Who invented the plank exercise and how did it become so damn popular? Furthermore, is it actually beneficial? I’ll put my own prejudices aside as best I can for the last point.

Bradley J. Steiner’s General Rules for Training (1972)

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As stated previously, no definite rules can be said to apply to all trainees at all times, since every case is uniquely different – and the final trainer is the individual himself. However, there are helpful guidelines that can be followed, and I present the following as such, to be considered in light of your present stage of development and current goals . . .

Harry Paschall, ‘The Ideal Man’, Muscle Molding (1950)

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For mid-century American Iron Heads Harry Paschall represented one of the most informative and humorous writers on all things related to fitness. Through the use of cartoons and an alter ego named Bosco, Paschall provided just the right mixture of old school methodology combined with the latest ideas, exercises and techniques. If you want to know more about Paschall and the infinitely more famous Bosco, check out Clarence Bass’s detailed write up here. Alternatively if you want evidence of the great man’s writing, The Tight Slacks of Dezso Ban provides some nice samples. I digress…

Now recently I was lucky enough to pick up a second hand copy of Paschall’s 1950 work Muscle Moulding. Briefly known as the Bodybuilder’s Bible, Muscle Moulding detailed everything from nutrition to workout programmes in a simple and concise manner. It’s well worth the read and unsurprisingly given Paschall’s focus on simple exercises, much of the advice has latest the test of time. Something that caught my eye while reading it was Paschall’s standards for “the ideal man” given by Alan Calvert in 1914. Though lifting weights had progressed quite a bit since Calvert’s time, I found it interesting that Paschall was so in favour of his ideal man. While measurements are inherently subjective they do give pause for thought.

So without further adieu…

Guest Post: George Eiferman – The Lost Tips

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Our latest post comes from the wonderful and talented Samantha Olivier from Ripped.me. We’re delighted to have Samantha featured on the site again and know you’ll enjoy her latest piece.

When you live and lift in a world where bodybuilding has been reduced to supplementation, cutting workout time in half and putting size before health, you become hungry for this noble sport’s true roots. And where better to look, than to the legends of lifting, to beasts such as Leroy Colbert and the gentleman from the title of this article who were and still remain at the forefront of the sport?

John Grimek, ‘Shaplier Biceps’, Strength and Health, November (1957), 35-49.

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The arm, particularly the biceps muscle, the best-known of all the muscles and incite more interest and controversy than any other group of muscles. Both old and young are for some inexplicable reason, fascinated by strong, muscular looking arms. The very young are always intrigued and not heard anyone with a fine pair of arms “to show me your muscle!” Youngsters don’t realise the almost 700 muscles comprise the muscular makeup of the body, but to then only the biceps muscles because they not up to a peak when the arm is flexed.

Vilhjalmur Stefansson’s All Meat Diet Part Two

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Yesterday we had the first of Vihjalmur Stefansson’s amazing account of his all meat diet. Today we look at the second installment.

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Now that the experiments in diet which Karsen Anderson and I undertook at Bellevue Hospital have been accepted by the medical world, it is difficult to realize that there could have been such a storm of excitement about the announcement of the plan, such a violent clash of opinions, such near unanimity to the prediction of dire results.

The History of the Prowler

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Though athletes and workers have long pushed or pulled heavy weights, the idea of the Prowler is a relatively new one. Who amongst us, upon seeing this shining behemoth on the gym floor has not been tempted to try it out?

As an admittedly recent convert to the Prowler, I’m somewhat late to the party. As is so often the case, something comes along, everyone raves about it, and I grow incredibly cynical about it. Louis Cyr didn’t use one, why should I etc. While this attitude served me in good stead with the Swiss Ball, it led my astray with the Prowler. Putting my pettiness aside, I finally tried the device several months ago and have been hooked ever since.

It has kicked my ass on several occasions thereby leading my mind to the object of today’s post. What sadistic individual invented the Prowler? And what heinous group promoted its use?

Vilhjalmur Stefansson’s All Meat Diet Part One

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Vilhjamur Stefannsson was a man of note for several reasons. Born in Canada in the late 1800s, the would be explorer discovered new lands and continental shelves, all the while publishing a host of books, articles and journals. Between 1906 and 1918, he went on three expeditions into Canadian and Alaskan Arctic, with the duration of each trip varying from sixteen months to five years. During these years he observed the dietary habits of the local Inuits, whose primary food source was meat. 

In 1935 Stefannsson published his experiences in Harper’s Monthly over two articles detailing the all meat diet he encountered. Below is Stefannsson’s first article.

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In 1906 I went to the Arctic with the food tastes and beliefs of the average American. By 1918, after eleven years as an Eskimo among Eskimos, I had learned things which caused me to shed most of those beliefs. Ten years later I began to realize that what I had learned was going to influence materially the sciences of medicine and dietetics. However, what finally impressed the scientists and converted many during the last two or three years, was a series of confirmatory experiments upon myself and a colleague performed at Bellevue Hospital, New York City, under the supervision of a committee representing several universities and other organizations.