Author: Conor Heffernan

Conor is Assistant Professor of Physical Culture and Sport Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. When not in the library or the gym, he likes to try his hand at writing, often with mixed results.

Alan Calvert, ‘General Training Program’, Health, Strength and Development (Philadelphia, c. 1920s).

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Hundreds of prospective pupils write me to ask how long they will have to train; how much time they will have to spend each week, etc., etc. This seems a good place to answer those questions.

The average pupil practices the first course in developing exer­cises for two or three months. He practices every other day (that is, once in 48 hours), and the practice period covers about 30 minutes.

By the end of the second or third month the pupil has attained a certain degree of strength and development, and then his training program is altered. On two days a week he will practice the more strenuolls of the developing exercises from the first course, and two other days a week he will practice the Eight Standard Lifts; that is, the second course. He keeps up this training for two or three months and during that period the time consumed is about three hours a week.

The Standard Lifts Course, as well as the First Course in Devel­oping Exercise, is given free to every pupil who buys a bell-whether it be a low-priced plate bell or the most expensive MILO TRIPLEX bell on the list.

Louis Abele’s Back Program c. 1948

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Although unknown to the modern olympic lifter, Abele was one of America’s finest lifters during the 1940s and 1950s. Unfortunately he was overshadowed by fellow US lifters John Grimek, Steve Stanko, and John Davis during the course of his career. Similarly the outbreak of the Second World War denied Abele the chance to lift at the 1940 Olympic Games, a time when he would have been in his prime.

Nevertheless, Abele’s lifting career saw him put up some rather impressive poundages as you’ll read about.

With regards to training philosophy, Abele was a strong advocate of specialisation and high intensity training. Illustrating this, Abele tells the reader that he once exercised so hard that his teeth hurt from breathing! I suspect that this level of intensity is relatively rare in today’s gyms. Anyway what fascinates me about Abele was his advocacy of specialisation and by that Abele meant training primarily legs for 2 to 3 months before moving on to another body part for a similar amount of time. In this way Abele would focus almost exclusively on one body part, to the detriment of others, reach what he felt to be a maturation point and then switch his training up. From memory I can’t think of too many current lifters who adhere to this sort of programming although one supposes that the concept of a deload week is vaguely similar.

Anyway, the below article details Abele’s back workouts from his early 20s. For interested parties, the text itself comes from a series of letters written by Abele to Chester O. Teegarden which were published by Iron Man Industries of Alliance, Nebraska in 1948.

As always… Happy Lifting!

John McCallum, ‘Training for Gaining’, The Keys to Progress

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A bunch of us went down to the gym one time to watch Reg Park work out. He was in town doing a show. We lined up along the wall with our eyeballs hanging on our cheeks and tried not to look too jealous when he started lifting.

Park walked in looking more like Hercules than Herc did. He was weighing around 235 and it all bulged. Every time he moved he looked like he was coming through his skin.
The kid standing beside me poked me with his elbow. “Check the arms,” he whispered.
I poked him back and whispered from the corner of my mouth like they do on T.V.

Forgotten Exercise: Lat Pulldown Curl

So, cards on the table, I recently reread The Complete Keys to Progress by John McCallum. The result of Randall Strossen’s meticulous collecting, The Complete Keys details McCallum’s numerous articles for Strength and Health magazine. Admittedly McCallum’s work was more concerned with rapid bulk and strength building practices, The Complete Keys still has some things to say about bodybuilding and defining exercises. One such example was the Lat Pulldown Curl.  

Guest Post: History of the Mediterranean Diet

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The Mediterranean diet is a very healthy eating plan, which is primarily based on plant foods, olive oil, and lots of herbs instead of salt. Red meat is a no-no, and fish is a staple. Plus, red wine. Who could say no to that?

The idea behind this diet is limiting, but not eliminating fat consumption. It’s all about making smart choices and choosing monounsaturated over saturated fats. It’s a diet that many doctors recommend as a heart-healthy eatingplan. Research shows that it reduces the risk of heart disease, since it’s low in bad cholesterol.

But where did it all start?

The History of the Glute Ham Raise

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Owing to the inquisitive nature of a PCS reader, I’ve finally gotten my act together, or at least come close enough to some semblance of normality, to go down the rabbit hole once again. The topic of todays post, is the rather more niche but nevertheless effective Glute Ham Raise (GHR) machine.

Having spent years devotedly using reverse hyperextensions and 45 degree back extensions, my own relationship with the Glute Ham Raise only began in the last twelve months. Since then I’ve made a point of trying as many different alternatives as possible. As is so often the case, I became too engrossed in using the machine that I forgot to look into its history. An email this month asking me about the GHR finally set me straight.

So without further ado we’ll crack into the history of the GHR. What is it? Who invented it and how did it become so damn popular?

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.