Category: Biographies

FAQ, ‘Complete Muscle Building Course’ (c. 1970s)

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This booklet will not only help you, the average man to become many times stronger than you are at present, but will give you the inside knowledge and information required for developing a body of dynamic muscular proportions.

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David Rensin, ’20 Questions with Jack Lalanne’, Playboy Magazine (October, 1984).

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“When the interview began in La Lanne’s living room at 8:30 A.M., he had already been awake for five hours. He’d exercised, had breakfast and donned a red jump suit.”Most people know La Lanne only from his TV show. It’s the least of his achievements. On each birthday, La Lanne performs a muscle-numbing feat. At 45, he did 1000 push-ups and 1000 chin-ups in an hour and 22 minutes. At 60, he swam from Alcatraz to Fisherman’s Wharf–handcuffed, shackled and towing a 1000-pound boat. At 66, La Lanne swam more than a mile–handcuffed, feet shackled, towing ten boats carrying 77 people. In 48 minutes.”Most of us have trouble just turning on a tape recorder. Happy birthday, Jack.”

Q1 Playboy: What incredible feat are you planning to do to celebrate turning 70?

Jack La Lanne: I’m planning to swim underwater from Catalina Island to Los Angeles. That’s 26 miles. I’ll do it in less than 24 hours. But what I really wanted to do was carry a 350-pound bar bell on my shoulders down Hollywood Boulevard to protest all the male and female prostitution, all the dope and crap. I wanted to show people that there are better things in life, that you can be fit at any age. Can you imagine 350 pounds on your back for half an hour? All your muscles contract simultaneously. That’s plain pain. And I would challenge anyone in the world to do that and give him $10,000 if he did. But I can’t do it now. Some kid hit my new Porsche 924 head on. About $15,000 damage. I had to have surgery on my knee to take cartilage out, and that took care of that. But I got a new Porsche 944 recently. It’s a pistol. I had it up to 130 the other day.

The History of Kaatsu Training

“Wrap a band around your bicep until it begins to go numb, then pump out 30 reps with a light weight… Trust me, the pump is worth it.”

These are not the words of an enlightened man but rather my first experience of Kaatsu or Blood Restriction Training. Brought to my attention by a training partner whose grasp of science is not always the strongest, Kaatsu training has grown in popularity over the last decade. While my friend’s description may seem appropriate at first glance, there is quite a lot more to this training system than first meets the eye.

With this in mind today’s post seeks to answer three simple questions: what is Kaatsu training? How was it created? And, perhaps most importantly, should you try it?

Guest Post: The Evolution of Combat Sports

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Mixed martial arts as we know it began in November 1993 in Denver, Colorado, the night of UFC 1. What began as a showcase of individual martial arts disciplines from Jiu Jitsu to Tae Kwon Do and all the rest, has become a recognised sport with competitors and followers from all over the world. While the concept of mixed martial arts is still relatively new, martial arts have been around for thousands of years, MMA is the culmination of millennia of training and perfecting different disciplines from around the globe.

Guest Post: Jack LaLanne’s “My Daily Dozen” (1962, 1968)

Fitness guru Jack Lalanne’s “My Daily Dozen” pamphlet offers a short glimpse into the broad appeal of LaLanne’s early productions. 

LaLanne’s popular television show is often thought of as being aimed at mid-twentieth century American suburban housewives who wanted to lose weight.  But the charismatic LaLanne had a way of reaching out to a broad audience, including children. Published first in 1962 and revised in 1968, “My Daily Dozen” was an attempt to interest kids in exercise and healthy living. The simple booklet contains cartoon images and rhymes meant to make fitness fun and to encourage youth to move, eat well, and get rest.  The back of “My Daily Dozen” contained a chart that allowed users to mark their fitness and hygienic activities on a daily basis.

Forgotten Devices: Edward Aston’s ‘Anti-Barbell’

Much to my surprise, and great shame, Edward Aston is not someone mentioned a lot on this website. This, I hasten to add, has everything to do with my own deficiencies. Born in England in the late nineteenth-century, Aston was known to contemporaries as one of the strongest men around. In 1910, he won the title of ‘World’s Middleweight Weightlifting Champion‘ after defeating Maxick in a series of lifts.

Renowned for his grip strength in particular, a topic he published extensively on, Aston also tried his hand at barbell designs. Well barbell designs of sorts. In late 2018, I had the opportunity to spend several weeks at the Stark Center at the University of Texas where, aside from other things, I stumbled across Aston’s ‘Anti-Barbell’, an unevenly loaded barbell Aston claimed would revolutionise the weightlifting community. Shown below, Aston’s ‘anti-barbell’ was marketed during the mid to late 1910s, primarily in British physical culture magazines such as Health and Strength.

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Sandow, Hercules and the Birth of Modern Weightlifting

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While Eugen Sandow has long been been held in esteem in the lore of bodybuilding, fans of weightlifting have seldom seen the Prussian as a figure of great importance for their sport. This is unsurprising given that over the past half-century, Sandow’s image has become so integral to bodybuilding that the sport’s top contest, the Mr. Olympia, hands out miniature Sandow busts as trophies. Nevertheless part of Sandow’s fame, at least initially, came from his raw strength which he used to set records, wow audiences and defeat opponents.

With this in mind, today’s post looks at Sandow’s 1890 weightlifting contest with ‘Hercules’ McCann, a controversial bout during which the men’s weights measured to a tee, the first time such precision had ever been introduced to the growing sport. The contest can thus be seen as a pivotal moment in the evolution of weight lifting as a recognised sport in its own right.

Lies, Snake Oils and Downright Deception: Selling and the Fitness Industry

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The fitness industry, was and is, a notoriously dubious business place. For every honest athlete seeking to help his fellow trainer, there are dozens of genetically blessed individuals who seek to make a living with half-truths.

This chicanery, is however, a time honoured tradition as evidenced by today’s article. Surveying the great names of the physical culture game, today’s post looks at the forerunners to the current market industry and demonstrates how many sought to promote their products over the truth. Unsurprisingly names like Sandow, Sick and Inch all feature.

So if you thought that deceit was a new phenomena in bodybuilding, you are sorely mistaken!