Category: Basics

Guest Post: The Roots and History of Golf

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As with any other modern sport, the early origins of golf stretch thousands of years back. A game similar to what we know today as golf was played during the reign of Julius Caesar, and has gone through various changes until it became the modern-day sport. From striking a feather-stuffed ball with club-shaped tree branches, to a game where a leather ball was hit with the intention of reaching a target, several hundred yards away, to hitting a ball through hoops using a hammer ‒ various nations had different versions of the game, but the roots of today’s game are traced back to 1457 in Scotland.

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The History of the Goblet Squat

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Some exercises prove so simple and effective that we often take their existence for granted. The goblet squat has for me, been one such exercise. Over the past five years I’ve helped numerous friends begin their journeys into the lifting world with the aid of this trusty mechanism. While not everyone is as enthusiastic about the Goblet Squat as me, the exercise is a great primer for people learning about correct squat mechanisms. Furthermore it has proven a godsend in opening my hips before a heavy set of squats on leg day.

So what exactly is a Goblet Squat? Who invented it and how did it rise to popularity?

Dr. Ken Leistner, ‘Hip and Thigh Power’, The Steel Tip, Vol. 1, No. 12 (1985).

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Heavy training for the hips and thighs gives the trainee the most return for the effort expended, but is usually not at the top of the list of “Favorite Modes of Training” due to the discomfort one is subjected to if the training is intensive enough to stimulate gains. The earliest lifting advice I received as an aspiring football player was to train the hips and thighs heavy, hard and consistently, even if it meant reducing the work done for the other body areas. Great gains in “overall body strength” come not from bench press specialization programs but from thigh, hip and lower back work. The proviso is that one train in a meaningful and productive manner, truly taking each set of each exercise to the limits of one’s momentary ability.

The History of 20 Rep Squats

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Though few exercise programmes maintain a venerated status for long in the Iron Game, the mystique surrounding 20 Rep Squat programmes has endured. As hinted by the name, such programmes require lifters to back squat twenty times before unloading the bar, and in my own experience, lying on the ground questioning your decision-making.

Primarily touted for individuals struggling to build mass or to bulk up their legs, such programmes originated in the 1920s and 30s. That they still exist, albeit with some modifications, is testament to their efficacy and popularity. The goal of today’s post is to highlight the original promoters of the programme, to explore the writers who kept the idea in the public mind and finally to question why the programme remains popular in the current age.

Guest Post: History of Gyms: Then and Now

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Whether you want to get toned, lose weight, gain weight or just spend some time active, gyms have become such a staple part of our routines. There seems to be a gym on every corner, and they are all filled with an amazing variety of equipment. But have you ever wondered how this all started? When were the first gyms opened, and were they anything similar to the ones we frequent today? Knowing the history of it might not be crucial for building up muscle and stamina, but it can give us an interesting insight to how similar or different we are to our ancestors and where the future of gyms might be heading.

The Planet Muscle Growth Squad, ‘Growing Muscle’, Planet Muscle, Volume 4 (2001).

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…Have you ever noticed all the people who come into the gym and do the same training every time? You know who they are. They are the skinny guys in the dingy T-shirts, sans belt and with baggy cargo shorts that come down to their shins.

…These misinformed wannabes always do the same exercises, the same sequence of exercises, the same sets, and the same reps and take the same amount of rest between sets and/or exercises. They move their training weights in the same mindless, drone-like ways, never incorporating new or maturing training principles. They usually are accompanied by a so-called “training partner” who does nothing but chatter endlessly about Monday Night’s football game.

The First Weightlifting Supplements

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Weightlifting supplements, despite their ubiquity nowadays, are a relatively new addition to the realm of weightlifting. While the practice of eating mystical substances in the hope of improved athletic performance dates to Greco-Roman times, the marketing of explicit ‘body building’ supplements is a far more recent phenomenon.

Dating really to the emergence of physical culture in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, these supplements represented the first rudimentary efforts to market foods explicitly for those interested in picking heavy things up and putting them back down again. As expected, these supplements centred on muscle building, celebrity endorsements and benefits extending far beyond strength.

The History of the Pull Up

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There are some exercises so basic, so ubiquitous and so difficult that their origins are often taken for granted. Previously when detailing the history of the squat, we encountered the difficultly of tracing a movement found in every culture and arguably every human movement. The Chin Up and the Pull Up exercises offer a similar problem.

The purpose of today’s post is not to discover the inventor of the pull up, if such a thing is possible, but rather to discuss its evolution over the past two centuries from gymnastic exercise to Crossfit controversies. As will become clear, even a simple movement carries a lot of history.

Maxick, Willpower and Muscle Control (1910)

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THE SERIOUS student of muscle-control will soon become aware of the fact that his will- power had become greater, and his mental faculties clearer and capable of increased concentration.

Thus it will be observed that the controlling of the muscles reacts upon the mind and strengthens the mental powers in exactly the same proportion that the control of the muscles strengthens the body and limbs.

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.