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.

An Early History of Weightlifting

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Recently on this website we have looked to the Ancient World in search of the origins of health and fitness. It is likely that weightlifting is as old a pastime as time itself but it’s important to take this into account. So often we take the short view on the history of fitness and date it from the mid to late 1800s. Regardless of what we may think, exercise was part of man’s (and woman’s) life two thousand years ago just as it is today. In fact archaeologists have uncovered bronze objects dating back to 5000 BC that are not unlike the dumbbells we use today.

Lifting heavy things up and down is as natural to human beings as walking or running. It is perhaps unsurprising that very quickly in the history of mankind, people began to realise that the stronger a muscle is, the heavier the object that can be lifted. Thus the idea of weight lifting was born. Having looked at Athens and Rome in previous posts, today we will examine Ancient China, Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt.

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Drug-taking in Ancient Times

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Performance enhancing drugs seem to become more problematic every year. Athletes are getting bigger, stronger and faster. Spectators are getting curious, suspicious and concerned. Performance enhancing drugs have touched nearly every major sport at one level or another. It’s a modern problem right?

Well not exactly…

The History of the Mind-Muscle Connection

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“What puts you over the top? It is the mind that actually creates the body, it is the mind that really makes you work out for four or five hours a day, it is the mind that visualizes what the body ought to look like as the finished product.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger

The mind-muscle connection? That’s what Arnold talked about right?

Well yes but he wasn’t the only one as I discovered recently when going through some old material written by Peary Rader.

History of the Squat…Kind of

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Bench Press, Deadlift, Squat. What could be easier than that? For most people it makes up the brunt of their training programme, yet we rarely stop and ask where did these exercises come from? I mean after all, if you’re going to spend countless hours in the squat rack, at some point you should question how the Squat became popularized. Right?

So who did invent the Squat?

Fitness in the Classical Age

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Were people as concerned with being fit and healthy two thousand years ago?

The need to be fit isn’t a new phenomenon. In fact two thousand years ago, the the ability to run fast, lift heavy things and punch hard was arguably much more important than it is today. For many civilisations it was matter of life and death. Take for example the ancient Greeks who prioritized health and fitness. For the Greeks being in tip-top shape was a necessity for the sake of their Empires. Back then, fitness was a backbone of military strength.

Are You WW2 Strong?

SoldierThe Second World War re-introduced the Western world back to the importance of health and fitness. The inter-war years were characterised by concerns that Europeans and Americans were no longer as strong as they once were. In the midst of war, Leaders became concerned. Victory in the battlefield could only be achieved through victory in the gymnasium. In 1942, the US Army introduced a formal fitness test to the incoming troops, with this in mind.

For the first time in American history, troops would be put through their places in several exercises to determine their value to Uncle Sam.

The men of 1942 had to do it. How would you have fared?