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.

Eugen Sandow’s Combined Toy and Physical-Culture Apparatus (1913)

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This is one of the odder products examined on this website, and that is really saying something! One of the great issues facing parents and schoolmasters is how to get kids excited about exercising. Well, a century ago, Eugen Sandow claimed to have the solution. What do kids love more than anything else? Candy!

With this keen insight in mind, Sandow devised a pulley toy which combined candy and exercising.

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Guest Post: The History of Sports Medicine

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Sports medicine, as you probably know, is the branch of medicine dealing with injuries and illnesses resulting from participation in sports and athletic activities. Very few people have never had their knee, leg, back, shoulder or hand injured as a consequence of playing sports. Luckily, today we can enjoy the benefits of many breakthroughs and rapid developments in this field. However, we should acknowledge that it has taken a long time to reach the present heights.

Guest Post: Fitness Activity Trackers – A Brief History

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Even though it sounds as if they are part of the latest, high-tech smart gadgets, there were various versions of ancestors of fitness activity trackers that we use now, in the 21st century. From the first industrial revolution, and rapid progress in technology, we have managed to create devices that would be unthinkable for mankind just 50 years ago. Today, we use some of these gadgets daily, and can’t imagine everyday life without them. So, let’s take a look at how we get there historically.

A History of Pre-Workout Supplements

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Situated halfway between the gym and the nightclub, pre-workout supplements have taken on a remarkable popularity amongst gym goers in recent years. Labelled with ‘hardcore’ names such as ‘Anarchy’, ‘Mr. Hyde’ or ‘Rage’, the pre-workout supplement has become a staple amongst portions of the lifting community.

Indeed, one may be forgiven for thinking that bodybuilders, powerlifters, weight lifters and just about anyone else who has ever graced the gym floor have been using these supplements since the dawn of gym going. This however, is not the case. In fact, the first major pre workout supplements did not hit the markets since the 1980s.

So what came before the pre-workout supplement? What did bodybuilders do in the time of physical culture or the time of Arnold and co.? Furthermore when did pre-workouts hit the market? And why did they become so popular? An ambitious set of questions, which today’s article seeks to answer.

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 Big Gulp

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In the 1970s the average can of soda weighed about six ounces. Nowadays you can buy one weighing 32 ounces or more from 7-11s and other convenience stores.

The reason for this dramatic increase can be traced in part back to the history of the ‘Big Gulp’, 7-11s iconic colossal drink.

Today we look at the history of the Gulp, who created it? Who bought it? And why did it become so popular?

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.  

Physical Culture Library: John McCallum’s Iconic ‘Get Big Drink’ Article

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John McCallum has been covered at several points on this site already. What’s been missing in our discussions has been an insight into just how wonderful his writing style was. McCallum wrote in parables that were simultaneously funny and inspiring. This was best seen in McCallum’s iconic ‘Get Big’ drink article.

The ‘Get Big’ drink was a bulking technique that offered thousands of extra calories in an easy fix. Without delving into the article too much, I’ll stop now by saying that all of McCallum’s articles can be found in The Complete Keys to Progress, available here.