Physical training, which is also commonly called exercise, personal training, or strength, weight, and performance training has been around for millennia and has a rich history. It is common practice nowadays to have trained and certified professionals help bring you to your peak physical condition; I even sought the services of a Personal Trainer in Maui while on vacation there. But physical training wasn’t always the way it is today.
Earliest Records of Physical Training
Some of the earliest records of training for fitness can be found in Egypt. These records are in the form of drawings on the walls of the Beni-Hassan funerary chapel and are estimated to be almost 4500 years old.
We also find records of heavy weight lifting competitions as early as the sixth century, where athletes would lift heavy stones. Strength and weight training date back to ancient Greece and China, and some poems by Homer reference weight throwing as well where Odysseus proved his strength by throwing a diskos (discus) farther than any Phaeacian.
Ancient Greek Art also shows us how they were obsessed with strength and physique, and their carvings and statues depict heroes as muscular an in prime physical condition. Strength in those times was highly valued because strength was power. One famous ancient strength athlete was the Italian Milo, who lived around 558 B.C.
He is credited for inventing progressive resistance training as he would shoulder and carrying a calf across the full length of the stadium at Olympia. He did this every day for 4 years, the cow grew and so did his strength.
However formal weight training has its origins with the early Romans, whose armies would train to improve their strength.
Development of Specialized Systems for Training
While the Greeks valued strength in an effort to enhance the mind by strengthening the body, the Romans developed special systems of training with military applications. They started to utilize strength training to collectively train and strengthen their armies. The Romans also had their gladiators follow training regimens to give their audience better sport at the Colosseum.
However, the Roman training systems were mostly lost with the fall of the Roman Empire.
Emergence of Gyms as Commercial Concerns
French strongman Hippolyte Triat is often credited with being the pioneer of commercial gyms in the early to mid-19th century. He opened gym facilities in Brussels and Paris. Towards the end of the 19th Century fitness and training icon Eugene Sandow opened his gym called the London Institute of Physical Culture. Sandow is acclaimed as the first ever body builder and the Mr Olympia Statue modelled after him. Sandow’s clients followed his style of progressive weight training. However, these gyms were not commonplace or meant for the common man. Gyms as we know them today did not come into play until the 20th Century when Jack Lalanne decided he wanted to change the notion that the gym was only for bodybuilders or the military and brought health clubs and gyms to the masses.
These pioneers are responsible for laying the foundation of the fitness industry which has become a multimillion-dollar business today.