Who invented progressive resistance training? Or in simpler terms, who discovered that lifting heavier and heavier loads made one bigger and stronger?
It’s a strange question admittedly. A question that we may never be able to answer.
Luckily that hasn’t stopped people trying. One such theory comes from the magical world of Greek mythology. A body of literature where Gods are swingers, you buy your way to heaven and animals are regularly employed as torture devices.
According to the Greek writers of yore, it was Milo, a wrestler from the Magna Graecian city of Croton who discovered the importance of lifting heavier weights albeit in a strange fashion.
Growing up in Greece, Milo had always admired the Greco-wrestlers training in Croton. They were universally admired by the townspeople, possessed unbelievable strength and had bodies carved out of granite. Milo’s admiration for such men was so strong that from a young age he made the decision to become just like them.
In achieving his dream Milo ‘discovered’ progressive weight training. Legend goes that one day, Milo stumbled upon a newborn calf near his household. Rather than walk past the calf and continue his daily business, Milo hoisted the calf onto his shoulders and carried the small animal on his shoulders. The next day, Milo did the exact same thing. And the next day….and the next.
While lesser men would have grown bored of such an activity, Milo flourished. Each day the calf grew bigger and each day Milo carried incrementally more weight. After four years of carrying the calf to and fro, Milo was capable of lifting a heavy bull on his shoulders with ease.
What did Milo achieve from doing this? Was it merely for bragging rights or something else? Well unfortunately for Milo’s opponents, he chose this repetitive task in order to become the biggest, strongest wrestler in all of Greece. A goal he accomplished, and then some, winning six Olympic medals in a row.
Milo combined this weight lifting with a very generous appetite if reports are to be believed (and they’re so fun, we choose to believe them!). His daily diet allegedly consisted of 20 lb of meat, 20 lb of bread, and eighteen pints of wine but he wasn’t done there. Topping off his daily menu was alectoriae (the gizzard stones of roosters to you and me).
So what can we learn from Milo?
Milo began his programme in earnest and steadily added weight over time. He combined this with a monstrous appetite and set about his task day after day. A good lesson for the modern lifter!