Author: Conor Heffernan

Conor is currently researching Ireland's physical culture movement as a PhD student at University College Dublin. When not in the library or the gym, he likes to try his hand at writing....with mixed results.

Mark Bell, ‘One on One with Ed Coan’, Power Magazine, 1, no. 1 (2009), 28-31.

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Ed Coan entered his first powerlifting competition at 16 years old, he went on become one of the best (if not THE best) powerlifters in the world. Here is my candid conversation with The Legend, Ed Coan.

Eat like a Saxon!

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Those acquainted with the history of Physical Culture will no doubt recall the Saxon brothers, a travelling troupe of German strongmen who performed at the turn of the twentieth century. Blessed with remarkable physiques, the trio’s mighty strength was undoubtedly aided by their healthy appetite for food and drink. In fact, as today’s brief post shows, the trio consumed a gargantuan amount of food even by today’s standards.

According to Kurt Saxon, who acted as the trio’s chef on the road, a normal day’s consumption for each individual man was as follows:

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?

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.

The History of the Dumbbell Pullover

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Earlier this week I was given a very generous gift. The gift in question was a complete set of Wills’ Cigarette Cards. Produced for an Irish and English audience in 1914, the cards depicted various physical culture exercises one could engage in to keep fit and healthy. The irony that the cards could only be obtained by buying a packet of cigarettes was evidently lost on the manufacturers.

In any case I gleefully went about examining my present and stumbled across the below photographs. Said to be breathing exercises with dumbbells, the movement represents an early iteration of the pullover exercise.

As is so often the case, I set to work uncovering the history of this particular movement with the result being this very article. So today, we’ll begin by examining the popularity and history of the pullover from the early to late twentieth-century. The pullover exercise has fallen from grace in the lifting community, from a once hallowed movement to a more niche and often poorly executed assistance lift.

Joe Weider, ‘How it All Began’, Joe Weider Bodybuilding System (Weider Health & Fitness, 1988), 5-7.

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As a Weider student you should be interested to know that the Weider System is the most popular and successful bodybuilding course in the world. Because of my 50 years of involvement in the sport, the Weider System is the basis of all modern bodybuilding and weight-training techniques. Literally everything in bodybuilding has sprung from the Weider System. My system has stood the test of time! The results speak for themselves.

It is not by accident that the Weider System enjoys such popularity. Champions I have helped train hold every important bodybuilding title. Among my famous stars are Arnold Schwarzenegger (seven times Mr. Olympia), Frank Zane (three times Mr. Olympia), Sergio Oliva (three times Mr. Olympia), Larry Scott (twice Mr. Olympia), Franco Columbu (twice Mr Olympia), Chris Dickerson (Mr Olympia), Rachel McLish (Ms. Olympia), Lou Ferrigno (Mr America, Mr. International and twice Mr. Universe), Corinna Everson (American Women’s Bodybuilding Champion and threetime Ms. Olympia) and Lee Haney (American Men’s Bodybuilding Champion, World Bodybuilding Champion and three-time Mr Olympia).

Mike Mentzer, ‘Balancing Your Muscle Building Diet’, Heavy Duty Nutrition (1993), 9-10.

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The majority of bodybuilders I meet at my numerous exhibitions and seminars all over the country still seem to think that protein is needed in tremendous quantities to build muscle. The fact that muscle is only 22 percent protein suggests that our protein requirements are not nearly that high. And just because muscle is more than 70% water doesn’t mean we should begin drinking gallons and gallons of water a day to hasten the muscle growth process either.

What would happen if we were to drink such large quantities of water? We would go to the bathroom a lot to eliminate the excess water. In the case of consuming excess protein, however, we aren’t so lucky, since protein contains calories which turn to fat when consumed in excess. The point I am trying to make here is that our bodies possess specific needs for all the various nutrients each and every day. We don’t force more utilization of nutrients by taking mega- doses. Nutrients consumed beyond need are excreted, in part, and the rest is turned to fat.

Forgotten Exercises: The LaLanne push up

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This website’s love for Jack LaLanne is perhaps firmly established through our previous posts. Well with that in mind, today’s post discusses the LaLanne push up, a fingertip push up now synonymous with one of twentieth-century’s most vibrant fitness personalities. So in today’s short post we’re going to examine the exercise, its history, and most importantly, its application.

The Confusing History of Strength Co-Efficients

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Undoubtedly we’ve all been faced with the question, who is stronger? As a teenager it emerged when those weighing 150 lbs. or less sought to square up to their heavier brethren. Was it more impressive bench pressing 200 lbs. at 150 or 280 lbs. at 200 lbs. bodyweight? While our adolescent selves often solved this problem by calling the other side fat or skinny, we were nevertheless ignorant of this perennial problem. Can strength across bodyweights be compared? For powerlifters or weightlifters currently reading this post, the words Wilks or Sinclair has undoubtedly passed through your lips. For the unaware, the answer is yes, albeit with some reservations.

Since the 1930s a series of formulas have been used to with the express intention of discovering who is the strongest lifter across all weight classes. Varying in their level of nuance, the strength coefficients, as they’re termed, have given a scientific air to locker room debates about the strongest lifter. Perhaps more significantly, they’re also used in competition to determine the overall winner. With that in mind today’s post seeks to examine the history of strength coefficients, beginning in the 1930s and continuing to the present day. As will become clear, the evolution of the strength coefficients used largely echoes the growing professionalism of weightlifting and powerlifting more generally.