There is no doubt in my mind that Eugene Sandow’s rise to fame was due more to the symmetrical shapeliness of his enviable body than to the difficulty of feats of strength he performed. Generally speaking, there are two things which will always impress the mind of the body culturist, shape and strength. With strength, we have already dealt.
Therefore, we will now direct out attention to the value of shapeliness, and the influence it has upon our mind and body. Oh yes, it has a great influence upon the mind. The next time you visit an art gallery notice the quiet reverence that is displayed by the art lovers, as they move from one picture to another. The serene beauty of the pictures permeates the whole atmosphere, leaving the beholders in silent wonder. I have a great friend who is a wonderful artist, and he often makes sketches of the body in varied postures, which he brings to me for scrutiny. On one of his visits he said to me, “I can always tell whether the drawings meet with your approval or not. Not by what you say, as much as how little you say. Your eyes are always drawn to the pictures you like best, and I have noticed that you have sometimes been so enraptured that you did not hear me speak to you.” He was quite right. Pictures of the body beautiful, correctly translated, never weary me. I can feast my eyes upon them for hours at a time. This rather contradicts the statement that, familiarity with the most beautiful objects, breeds contempt. For twenty-five years I have lived in the atmosphere of beautiful bodies, and I am still as enthusiastic as I was when I first commenced my studies.
Universally the young body builder will accept for his ideal the athlete whose form is symmetrically formed, in preference to the man who is known for his great strength alone. If an athlete is so fortunate to possess both these attributes, he is idolized even more. I believe it was this exceptional combination possessed by George Hackenschmidt that made him my life long ideal. We all have our ideal. Just as the athlete of today accepted Sandow, Hackenschmidt and others, as their inspiration in their early days, so is the young body idealist of today inspired by the magnificent body of men like Adolph Nordquest, Staff Sergeant Moss and Siegmund Klein among others. Each is striving to mould the shape of his body on the same lines of his ideal, and each will in turn become the example for the generation of body builders of tomorrow.
About the first thing a body builder does is to inquire about the measurements of his ideal along with his other habits. Irrespective of his own weight and structure, he jumps into his training with the idea that some day he is going to have the same muscular dimensions. In other words, he struggles to imitate and duplicate in every way. He is all wrong there. If he had to concentrate on securing the same proportions, according to his height as his ideal, he would then be on the right track.
Measurements have become almost a curse in determining what the ideal figure should be. No two men are built alike, even though they are the same height and bodyweight. If one man has larger feet and hands, or if his head is larger than another, his appearance will be very different. His hips may be large, or the clavicles of his shoulders may be short, in either of which case he will have to change his ideas on his own ideal measurements. The condition of these two parts will influence your whole build, as much as the size of the hands, feet and head. As I said in a previous chapter, do not bother about your bony structure in determining the proportions you should acquire in order to achieve the ideal physical state. Let your height guide you first, then see how the rest of your body measures up. If your hips are large, the thighs are likely to be heavy, and if your hands are large, your forearm is likely to be larger in proportion than your biceps. All these points have to be taken into consideration first, and then you have to lay out a routine that will satisfactorily bring up the smaller parts to balance with the heavier parts.
Where shapeliness is the supreme desire, care will have to be taken to see that all the muscles are balanced and shaped. Your measurements are not going to tell you this. Your upper arm may span sixteen inches, but that does not mean to say the triceps will balance with the biceps. The same thing applies to the legs. As a rule the biceps of the thigh is below par, and the absence of that muscle certainly takes away from the beauty of the thigh formation. Balance. That is the key to a beautiful physique. It is your balanced appearance when stripped that will always decide the issue before judges, and not primarily what your measurements are. As the body becomes balanced the measurements will be taken care of in their own way.
The art of posing has become a very prominent one in a body culturist’s program. At one time he sought only to excel at tumbling, wrestling, or lifting weights, and when he stripped for a picture he would generally strike some pose in which his muscles bulged into horrible postures that made him appear to be a grotesque being. This has passed away, and the poseur’s art has developed a better understanding of the body.
Today we are capable of displaying the body in graceful, flowing lines that clearly enhance the value of body building, and do not detract from the suggestion of strength.
At one time the Apollo style was greatly in vogue, and many sought to duplicate the effeminate lines; but this example never had general favor, for nature calls for a man to look like a man, and not like an underdeveloped girl. The Theseus for was discovered and found to fill the need of a masculine ideal more satisfactorily. This is now the accepted standard as it was in the ages past, when that statue was first made. It combines the graces of Apollo and the sturdy strength of a normalized Hercules. I have often studied the statues of Apollo Belvedere, and the Farnese Hercules, and I could only see one quality in either, neither seemed to have the proper combination. The Apollo suggested grace, poise and beauty, but the form was too feminine to be perfect. It bespoke under development more than anything else, for the legs are heavy in proportion to the slim, straight lines of the upper body. The Farnese Hercules is just as badly exaggerated the other way, and the legs are way of out proportion also. Just the same, the suggestion is there, making us realize its colossal power. In Praxtiles, Theseus, we find the most appealing form. It breathes power, manly beauty and gracefulness. There is no standard measurement to actually determine how you can know whether you have the Theseus form or not. You simply cultivate your muscles so that they will balance.
One day my artist friend and I were talking this subject over, and during this discussion I took out a number of photographic poses of several well know body culturists, including Hackenschmidt, Staff Sergeant Moss, Dandurand, Bobby Pandour, Chas. MacMahon and Sigmund Klein. Spreading these out on my desk, I asked my friend to pick out the most perfect type of manhood. He couldn’t. Every man drew his admiration. Finally he remarked, “There is no choice among them. They are all wonderful.” He was surprised when I told him that their bodyweights ranged from one hundred and forty-seven pounds to two hundred and ten pounds, which goes to prove that no matter how tall, or how short you are, the Theseus standard can be applied to all. Study their attitude in every pose. There is nothing forced in their positions. They are wonderfully natural. Some of the measurements of some of these men would not impress you at all, as against the measurements of Hackenschmidt, which again goes to prove my statement that balance rather than measurements is what counts. Every muscle is shaped, rounded or curved in the most exquisite lines. For instance, take the legs of Moss and MacMahon; I don’t care from what position you view them, they are a glorious interpretation of muscular anatomy. Balanced with the hips and calves, they explain to you much better than I can write, how a pair of legs should look. Incidentally both of these men are artists’ models of international reputation. Charles MacMahon has done more posing than any other model I know of in this country. His services are always in great demand.
He led the movement away from the effeminate poses characterized by those who were led to believe that the Apollo Belvedere was the correct form. All his casts like those of Moss and Hackenschmidt depict life, vigor, or rest, according to the study. The Greeks have never produced any more beautiful specimen in the physical entirety. Klein and Pandour, both have torsos of such magnificent formation that they will live like the glories of Greece, always. Hackenschmidt and Dandurand are men of weight, and vital
types who radiate power in every symmetrical line and curve of their body. I have known all of these poseurs personally. I know how their adamite bodies strike the eye and impress the mind when you see them pose. The magnetic influence they radiate compels you to become a body culturist without a mention of the fact. However, their qualities do not begin and end merely as expositors of the body, as each man is possessed of the extraordinary speed, suppleness and strength that makes them efficient athletes.
You will notice in the physiques of each of these men, a very fine tapering off of the body. Commencing with the breadth of the shoulders, a slope begins that gives the body a well balance V shape as it finishes at the feet. The neck should be a little larger than the biceps, about an inch, and the calf should be about a half inch to three- quarters smaller than the biceps. There are all kinds of measurement tables on the market, but none of them have stood the test of time. Some of them are utterly ridiculous. From the mass of information that I have collected over the years on measurements, I made an average of the measurements as they are possessed by the majority of the best built and strongest men in each class. These measurements I am including because I know the interest among all body builders for such. You will find them quite different to most you have seen, but these are the actual measurements of the majority per height that really looked more like what we are after. These measurements, as you see, are made up with a gap of two inches between each tabulation because I find that five feet four inches and five feet five inches and so on have too much similarity to consider, and they also cover the ages from eighteen years up.
I want to draw your attention to a few facts as I see them. You will notice that the five foot four and five foot six inch grades, have larger waists by comparison with the chest on the average, than the men in the five feet ten and six foot grades. This is due to their more compact bodies, which has less space between the ribs and the hips. For the opposite reason have the five feet ten inch and six feet grades apparently got a more trim waist. That is, their waist covers a greater length and the mass of tissue is naturally distributed over a longer area. The five foot eight inch grade jumps an inch in waist difference, making the difference of eleven inches between chest and waist as against ten inches in the first two grades and twelve inches in the last two, but you will find his extra weight is accounted for by a bigger jump in biceps and calf size than any of the others, and his hip measurement jumps higher by two inches over the five feet six inch grade. It is in this grade that we find men of great vitality. These few facts will prove to you the unreliability of measurements in determining what proportions a man should have in order to build for himself the ideal shape.
Take Hackenschmidt for example; he stood less than six feet and stripped at two hundred and ten pounds, his measurements are way above the six foot grade, but on one can find a fault with that masterpiece. Charles MacMahon stands about five feet eight inches and weighs one hundred and eighty pounds, his measurements run a little better than the five foot eight inch grade but any one would be proud to own a physique like his. If you want to accept measurements according to statistics, then you can safely accept these tables as being somewhat approximate, but you will be obliged to consider your physical peculiarities in order to be more definite. When I see a man I can tell right away pretty near how he should shape up, as I immediately take into consideration the points that I have explained in this chapter. But you will find it just to be as I have stated; that is entirely your appearance as you strip that will count the most of all in acquiring the shape which is best described as “Sculptor Form.”
Thank you for the critical analysis.
I like your focus on looking over measurements. It’s so easy to get caught up in numbers and ratios, but they are only guidelines, not absolutes.
Apollo never resonated with me as an example of an ideal physique. A lot can be learned from cultural ideals. I suspect it was palatable to a more gentile taste. It only hinted, as youth itself does, at more “vulgar” aspirations of a true masculine beauty.
I also agree with your assessment of Hercules. I consider today’s mass monsters to be grotesque. My criticism isn’t meant to diminish their accomplishments. They are amazing, fascinating and mesmerizing. But their bodies are not in the realm of ideal physique.
Probably no surprise that I am happy Classic Physique as been introduced as a category. I see it as a return to a more holistic physique that aspires to balance strength and beauty as well as health and fitness.