Category: Basics

Eugen Sandow on Heavy Weightlifting

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A point previously discussed on this website was the regularity with which early physical culturists promoted light weight training as opposed to heavy lifting. The reasons for this are numerous. In the first instance, light weightlifting is easier to promote to the general public than heavy weightlifting. It requires less equipment, can be done in the comfort of one’s own home and can be done with relative ease. It was for this reason that individuals like Eugen Sandow, Professor Attila and a host of other physical culturists promoted light weightlifting for their followers. A few, like Arthur Saxon, bucked the trend and argued that heavy lifting was needed to build a strong physique.

With that in mind, today’s brief post examines the brief words Eugen Sandow gave to heavy weightlifting in his seminal book, Strength and How to Obtain It. Published by Sandow first in 1897, Strength was, for many, Sandow’s most important work. It came at the height of his popularity, sold widely and was more accessible than some of his later works which were far more medical in composition. Thanks to the British Library in London, I was able to consult Sandow’s 1897 edition, as well as his third edition published in 1905. Sandow did not expand greatly on how to lift heavy but nevertheless provided an insight into the progressive training practices of the late 1890s and early 1900s.

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W. A. Pullum, ‘Great Strenth’, How to Use A Barbell (London, 1932), 21-24.

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To gain great strength one needs to consider the factors that unite to produce it. For until this is done one cannot be sure upon what lines to work.

The things that make for outstanding physical strength are great vital force, a high degree of nervous energy, and superlative quality of muscular tissue. Contrary to the belief that still persists in some quarters, the mere quantity of muscle that a person possesses is not a decisive factor. And at the beginning the student of this section would do well to understand that clearly.

The History of Resistance Bands

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A recent spate of travel has made access to heavy weights a near impossibility. Hotel and College gyms with dumbbells up to 30 kilos and in some cases, with not a barbell in sight have forced me to be inventive with my training. In the past such occurrences would have caused me a great inconvenience but thanks to the advice of a friend, I finally capitulated and bought a set of resistance bands.

Admittedly I’d been sceptical. Resistance bands for me, conjure up images up Charles Atlas-esque resistance training that although promising much, could not compete with actual weights. Nevertheless, my head has been turned, and although not a fully fledged convert to resistance training, I can’t deny how useful they’ve been recently. My very unexotic travels have however spurred my interest in the equipment. So in today’s post we’re going to examine the history of resistance bands. Where they came from, who popularised them and some useful tips on how to use them should you be stuck on your own travels.

Guest Post: The Incredible History of Bodybuilding Contests

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When it comes to a broad meaning of bodybuilding it concerns a process of maximizing the muscle hypertrophy by mixing various exercises into training. The modern meaning of the concept has changed significantly since the first-time bodybuilding came to be. As a sport, bodybuilding focuses on a series of athletes who are showing off their physiques to a panel of judges who then grade them based on their appearance.

While many believe that bodybuilding originated in the 20th century, this sport can actually be traced back to the 11th century India. In order to build up their health and increase stamina, men in India have been lifting stone weights called Nals. However, back in the day, no physical display of the body was present. The ancient Greeks and Egyptians also underwent weight training to improve their aesthetic beauty and refined muscular body, and bodybuilding has gone through several phases until it became the sport we know today.

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.

Guest Post: A History of Indoor Sports at the Olympics

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When you think of the Olympics, you probably imagine Usain Bolt sprinting towards another world record or Yelena Isinbayeva pole vaulting over the crowd. These outdoor sports have somehow become synonymous with the Olympics, probably because we don’t get to see them every time we switch to any sports channel. However, indoor sports are continuing to build a huge audience since the first time they were introduced at the competition. Some very well-known, some not so popular, indoor sports are slowly taking the center stage at the biggest sporting event in the world. Actually, eight out of ten most exciting and popular sports to watch at the Games today are indoor sports! So, let’s get a bit more familiar with the history of the indoor sports at the Olympic Games.

Eugen Sandow and Thomas Edison

Oddly given the site’s extensive interest, we have yet to detail Eugen Sandow’s most exciting remnant, a short film clip taken in 1894.

Taken during Sandow’s extensive promotion tour of the United States, which began in 1893 and included everything from posing sessions to fights with lions, Sandow’s film is one of the earliest movies we have of a bodybuilder on film. Long before Steve Reeves, Reg Park, or later Arnold Schwarzenegger were wowing audiences, Sandow appeared before the camera.

Vicki Goldberg, ‘Is It An Art, A Sport or Sheer Exhibitionism?’, The New York Times, 30 November (1975)

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The front wall of Gold’s Gym in Venice, Calif., used to have big glass windows, but owners of the gym had to cover them over—so many passers-by stopped to gape that the men inside couldn’t concentrate. The interior of the gym is Rube Goldberg paradise inhabited by grotesques, men so colossally muscled they look like inverted pyramids.

Gold’s is crammed with wacky machines, welter of steel poles, shiny weights and pulleys, and more than two tons of iron barbells wedged into racks against the walls. The newest Nautilus exercise machines, complex steel and chrome booths that might be misguided models for electric chairs, stand guard by the door. Benches tend to slant up at cuckoo angles instead of lying flat. man teeters on one at a diagonal, with his knees bent, then straightens his legs to push the weights at his feet.

 

The History of the Face Pull

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I grew up in the age of rotator cuff injuries. Whether or not the danger was as real as people believed, it didn’t matter. I, like many others, spent the first five years of training involved a series of mind numbingly boring shoulder exercises as part of our warm up. Taking light dumbbells, we would wave at one another in a variety of stilted poses and directions. Slowly but surely our coach’s obsession with shoulder injuries lessened but I still remain convinced that a shoulder injury was just one sloppy set away. Some time ago, I was told that the face pull was the answer to my fears.

The face pull has existed in a variety of forms over the past century but in my developmental stage of training, the exercise gained a remarkably important stature. We were told that, done correctly, this exercise would add mass to our backs, ensure we remained injury free and keep us standing upright, which admittedly is a tall task of any teenager.

In homage to an exercise which has taken up hours of my time, today’s post looks at the face pull. We’re going to examine its origins and, perhaps more importantly, how it came to be popularised among the lifting populace. Aside from the prowler, it is probably fair to argue that the face pull was one of the first real exercises to benefit from a mass internet exposure.

Guest Post: The First Sport Injuries in the History of Medicine

Sport injuries are a frequent problem both professional and amateur athletes are faced with. With the development of medicine, people have always tried to deal with these injuries in the most effective way, so that they leave no permanent consequences on the athlete’s health and that the athlete can return to their regular exercise routine as soon as possible. But what were some of the first sport injuries? In order to learn about the first registered sport injuries in the history of medical science, one should look to historical writings dating back to ancient Greece. Here are some interesting historical facts regarding this topic.