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.

Guest Post: From Kings to Kicks – The Evolution of Football Shoes

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Take a moment to envision the famous figure of King Henry VIII known for his six marriages and numerous unorthodox decisions (pardon the pun), wearing the very first custom-made pair of soccer shoes. In 1526, the very same year the Tudor ruler started courting his soon-to-be second wife Anne Boleyn although already married to Catherine, he also made another historic decision – to have his soccer shoes made.

The game of football as we know it today does stem from England, and the king’s single capricious demand may have very well been the catalyst for the footwear we use today. The game itself, however, is over 3,000 years in the making, dating back to the old Mesoamerican cultures, so it took us a substantial amount of time to get to the level of superior engineering that today’s football players enjoy. Here’s a brief, but thorough glance at how this quite literally game-changing footwear has come into existence.

The (Somewhat Complete) History of the Deadlift!

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Having previously looked at the history of the squat, bench press and even the smith machine, it seemed about time that we did a history of the deadlift. We’ve been putting this one off for quite a while, even looking at the Romanian Deadlift en lieu of the actual thing.

The stumbling block in approaching the history of the deadlift is the amount of smoke and mirrors surrounding one of the most popular exercises in the Iron Game. Someone writes something in a training book or blog and suddenly it becomes part of the popular lore. Actual research is a lot harder to come by. Nevertheless, it’s clear that deadlifts and variations on the deadlift have been around since time began. Man and woman kind has seemingly always displayed an insatiable desire to pick heavy things up from the ground.

For the sake of my sanity and timekeeping however, we’ll begin in with the eighteenth-century when a variation of the deadlift, of heavy lifting, briefly took England by storm.

Bradley Steiner, ‘Partials, Rack Work And Isometrics’, POWERLIFTING (1972), 16-17

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In 90% of the training you do the emphasis should be on picture-perfect form AND heavy weights. Cheating is undesirable, and while it SEEMS that you are working harder because you are lifting moreyou are, in fact, working less intensively since the “heavier” work is being distributed over many hefty muscle groups – instead of being placed on the ones that you wish to work.

Sometimes – SOMETIMES – a little cheating is okay. But more often than not when the urge comes to really pile on the workload you are better doing partials. This way you will actually be putting forth the work where it is desired, with no outside assistance. Let me show you what I mean by partials.

Guest Post: A Brief History Lesson: Trophies and Awards

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Today, awards and trophies are a huge business. No matter if they are being lifted above winners’ heads after a grueling sporting match or if they are being handed to actors and singers at gala events, they have a clear purpose to award achievement. Each trophy tells you that the person holding it is a champion—they are the best of the best. They leave such a big statement that people of all ages from all sorts of organizations and branches get awarded trophies for their success. Since we live in a material world, most of us have a weird fascination with everything sparkly and glitzy, but trophies go beyond our love for glitter and gold. Want to know more? Here’s a brief history of trophies and awards.

Vince Gironda, ‘Common Errors in Bodybuilding’, The Master Series of Nutritional Bodybuilding (Iron Guru Publishing, 1983), 5-7

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Gironda is undoubtedly a site favourite. Known for his unique style of training and nutritional approach, Gironda didn’t pull any punches when it came to giving his opinion. The below errors, 35 in total, may raise a few eyebrows. Nevertheless they demonstrated Gironda’s willingness to give his opinion!

Peter McGough, ‘The Mike Menzter Story’, Flex Magazine, September (2001).

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In a career that spanned four decades, Mike Mentzer, who passed away on June 12, 2001 was one of bodybuilding’s most prominent, inspirational and controversial figures. In order to flesh out the unique life, times and psyche of this complicated star, we’re reprinting (beginning on the next page) a feature on Mentzer from the February 1995 issue of FLEX. Although the article was first published six years ago, we think it still provides insight into what drove this future Bodybuilding Hall of Fame inductee.

When this feature first appeared, Mike was writing regularly for FLEX, but he later moved on to work for Muscular Development. In the last two years of his life, he contributed to Ironman. His theories and writings continue to be a source for debate, and his books and articles remain popular (see http://www.mikementzer.com).

The History of the Cambered Bar

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Cambered bars, that is bars with a slight or pronounced bend, are one of the more niche elements of the gym floor. While many of us will be familiar with the EZ Bar, undoubtedly the most popular form of cambered bars, far fewer will have used Safety Squat, Buffalo or straight Cambered Bars as part of our routines. Somewhat unluckily for me, a recent shoulder problem has forced me to use safety bar squats as part of my routine.

Normally the preserve, at least in my mind, of the powerlifting community, the Safety Bar squat has allowed me to continue training my legs at a time when the traditional squat set up of pining the shoulders back is nothing short of agony. Aside from facilitating my obsessive need to squat, the Safety Bar provides the subject for today’s post. Who invented these bars? What advantages do they provide and how can we effectively use them? These are just some of the questions dealt with in today’s post.

The History of Weightlifting Belts

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Owing to the increasing popularity of powerlifting, cross fit and olympic lifting, chances are you either own a weightlifting belt or see them on a regular basis on the gym floor. A means of bracing the abdomen, weightlifting belts are a source of controversy in the weightlifting world between those who see them as legitimate tools in the quest for heavier weights and those purists who prefer all lifts be done without any equipment whatsoever. For the majority of us, they’re simply a novelty to break out on a deadlift PR.

In today’s post, we’re going to explore the history of the weightlifting belt, from ancient mythology to the present day. Far from a new phenomenon then, the belt has long been a lifter’s friend.