Category: Biographies

PIONEERS AND PARIAHS: ORANGE FREE STATE BANTU F.C

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It’s often difficult to pinpoint seminal moments in sport. This is especially the case in football. Ask people when the first football match was played and the answers will range from the fifteenth-century to the recent 1800s. History teaches us to be weary of ‘first ever’ occasions in a sport with such a long past.

Luckily the birth of Black football in South Africa is a much less fraught affair. Brought to Southern Africa in the mid nineteenth-century, the beautiful game quickly spread across the country among settlers and natives alike. By the 1890s, African football boasted a host of tournaments and had begun to attract the attention of British teams. In 1897, the revered English amateur gentlemen side Corinthians toured South Africa for a 23-match tour. The purpose of Corinthian’s tour had been to test the mettle of the South African sides and raise the sport’s popularity even further. Little did the English side know that two years later a representative African side would travel to England to return the favour. Remarkably this team was made of native African players, as opposed the whites only teams Corinthians faced two years prior.

Their name was Orange Free State Bantu F.C and they were the first black South African football team to tour the world. Their story is one of politics, race and of course, the beautiful game.

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Bernarr McFadden’s Physical Culture Cookbook

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It’s funny given the current obsessions with macro counting that few bodybuilders produce cookbooks for the general iron populace. This is in stark contrast to the early foundations of the sport, which saw dozens of cookbook and health works printed by enthusiastic physical culturists.

Today’s brief article focuses on Bernarr McFadden’s 1901 ‘Physical Culture Cookbook’ produced in the United States. Readers of the site will already be familiar with McFadden, one of America’s most prominent physical culturists of the early twentieth-century who notably staged America’s first bodybuilding show.

While McFadden put his name to over one hundred books during his life, the Physical Culture Cookbook remains among the most relevant for readers in 2016.

Soy, Science and Selling: Bob Hoffman’s Hi-Proteen Powder

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will be well aware that protein powders are big business. Nowadays protein powders, bars and even brownies can be picked up in airports, gas stations and local convenience stores. Gone are the days when your Whey protein was sold in a shady part of town by a man resembling the Hulk.

According to a 2013 report by Euromonitor International, annual sales of protein powder in the US alone rose from $1,200 million to just over $2,000 million from 2008 to 2013. Furthermore the group estimated that by 2018, sales could be as high as $3, 000 million. Its big business, and despite what people many think, its a business that is becoming increasingly scrutinised.

While the FDA and other government bodies are often criticised for slackness in their testing mechanisms, the average consumer has begun to take an interest in the contents of their powder, resulting in a series of freely available test results on which supplements are the real deal.

So with all this money and scrutiny in today’s modern climate, it seems a good time to examine Bob Hoffman’s ‘Hi-Proteen’ protein powder. A supplement devised in the 1950s that lays claim to being one of the first ever bodybuilding protein powders. While today’s producers use labs and testing, Hoffman’s methods were a little more lax to say the least.

Bruce Randall and the most amazing transformation in Bodybuilding

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Although bodybuilding is known for having its fair share of impressive transformations, there is perhaps no weight loss tale as impressive as that of Bruce Randall. In 1955 Randall was a 400lbs. athlete interested in nothing but lifting heavier weights. Three years later, he was not only competing in, but winning, bodybuilding shows at a weight of 212 lbs!

Randall’s weight loss was enough to make the Biggest Loser seem like an exercise in sane weight loss. So who was Bruce Randall? How did he get so heavy and how did he become Mr. Universe in 1959?

Bodybuilding’s First Champion: William Murray

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While many credit Eugen Sandow as the father of modern day bodybuilding, very little is said about William, ‘Billy’, Murray, the world’s first recognisable bodybuilding champion. Today’s post will look at the interaction between Sandow, the unofficial father of bodybuilding and Murray, its first official king.

So who was William Murray? How did he win? And why has his place in bodybuilding history been largely forgotten?

Tony Sansone’s Weight Gain Diet

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Born at the turn of the twentieth-century, Tony Sansone is perhaps one of the most famous physical culturists never to turn his hand to bodybuilding. Nevertheless his influence on bodybuilders and those seeking to get in shape was remarkable. Training under both Bernarr McFadden and Charles Atlas, Sansone developed one of the most sought after physiques in 1930s America.

He modelled, quite provocatively at times, wrote extensively on good nutrition and ran a series of gyms, which included a regular training spot for the legendary Steve Reeves. Shunning excessive bulk for definition and aesthetics, Sansone possessed a body that many men today would envy. Indeed, the renowned physical culture historian David Gentle once commented

If Sansone had been born in Greek antiquity, he would have been immortalized as a god.

With this in mind, today’s post looks at Sansone’s simple and effective way to build muscle mass while maintaining a relative level of leanness.

Bigger Faster Stronger: The Mr. Olympia

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Bodybuilders, like most other professional athletes in the last four decades, have undergone an unprecedented change. Whereas the first Mr. Olympia weighed in at just over 200 lbs, the modern champion is more likely to be sixty pounds heavier and leaner as well.

While the reasons for this, at least in bodybuilding, are clear, it is still interesting to reflect upon this change. Today’s short post discusses the average weight for the overall Mr. Olympia since it’s inception and shows how and when ‘the mass monsters’ gained a foothold in the sport.

The History of Calorie Counting

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Ah yes the much-maligned calorie. Whether you’ve ever tried to lose weight, put on mass or even just feel okay about eating junk food, chances are you’ve come across those pesky calorie numbers on food labels. You may be surprised to learn that despite the ubiquity of calorie counting in today’s society, this unit of measurement is a relatively recent phenomenon and the idea of counting calories for health purposes is even newer.

In today’s post we’re going to look at who invented the calorie, how calorie counting became popularised and finally, how calorie counting became the mainstay of bodybuilding diets 

Marian Mason: England’s Trailblazing Woman of Fitness

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Although sporting historians have long noted the importance of Englishwomen in the development of sport in general, few studies have devoted themselves to the study of callisthenics. Those that do, often employ problematic timelines. Indeed, although Fletcher, McKrone and Holt famously argued that women used sport and callisthenics to gain some form of social freedoms, all dated their studies from the latter half of the nineteenth-century. A decision which has done a great injustice to Marian Mason, England’s first female physical fitness instructor, who beginning in the 1820s, ran one of the most sought after training studios in all of England.