Category: Biographies

The ‘Great Competition’: Bodybuilding’s First Ever Show

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Given the number of bodybuilding shows held every month, let alone every year, in places like the UK and USA, it’s difficult to imagine a time when there bodybuilding shows were relatively unheard of. Yes, vaudeville shows were performers would show off their muscles had been established in the 1800s but it took some time for a dedicated bodybuilding show to emerge.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was Eugen Sandow, the man many credit as the Father of Modern Bodybuilding, who helped initiate the first ever bodybuilding competition in the Royal Albert Hall in 1901. Billed as ‘the Great Competition’, the show helped kickstart the bodybuilding craze and bring about a world of Mr. Americas, Universes and Olympias.

What is Strength?

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So often in today’s world of World’s Strongest Man, Olympic Weightlifting and Powerlifting, the assumption that strength is defined by maximum weight lifted goes unchallenged. It is as if we accept unquestioningly that the person who can lift 500 pounds once is stronger than the those who can ‘only’ lift 400 pounds for reps.

It’s important to remember that strength was and is, a highly contested issue. Today we are going to look at a 20th century European strongman’s views on what strength really means.

The Bloody History of the Intercontinental Cup

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From 1960 to 2004 UEFA and their counterparts in South America were responsible for the Intercontinental Cup, an annual tournament that pitted the winners of the European Champion Clubs’ Cup against the winners of the Copa Libertadores. In part driven by lofty ideals of creating a closer footballing family, the first decade of the Cup was troublesome to say the least. By the end of the ‘60s, the Cup had become synonymous with bloodshed, sendings off and misbehaving fans. Sadly it could have been so different.

It’s Complicated: Nkrumah, Football and African History

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“The masses of the people of Africa are crying for unity…”

Kwame Nkrumah

Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president in the nation’s post-colonial history was a controversial figure at the best of times. He proposed African unity but was at times an authoritarian leader. He lent a helping hand to those in need, but often on his terms only. Regardless of people’s opinions of him, one thing was clear. He was sincere in what he fought for. Nkrumah had a grand dream of uniting all of Africa and whilst ultimately he failed, he left an interesting story. This is especially the case when it comes to Ghanian football history.

Politics and football in Africa are more often than not bedfellows. Ghanaian football is no different.

Joe Louis versus Max Schmeling: America versus Nazi Germany

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It was only two minutes and four seconds
‘Fore Schmeling was down on his knees
He looked like he was praying to the good Lord
To ‘Have mercy on me, please.’

Bill Gaither, 1938

June 22, 1938 and over 70,000 fans  crammed into Yankee Stadium to see the ‘Brown Bomber’ Jou Louis face off against German boxer Max Schmeling for the second time in two years. Their interest was matched by the 64% of radio-owning Americans who tuned in that night to hear the fight’s broadcast. In 1936 Schmeling had beaten Louis in the very same venue after exploiting a weakness Louis’s boxing style. It was a defeat that sent the black community in America reeling. Joe was the first black boxer to gain acceptance by the American boxing federation since the controversial Jack Johnson and his defeat was met with utter devastation in black communities. At a time when the Ku Klux Klan was enjoying a revival, Joe had been a symbol of hope that blacks could integrate in white society. His loss was about more than sport.

How to gain 63 pounds of Muscle in 28 Days: The Infamous Colorado Experiment

19Is it possible to gain 63 pounds of muscle in less than a month? What about 15 pounds of muscle in twenty-two days? By any metric such results would be phenomenal but few people believe such a feat is manageable.

Yet in the early 1970s, Arthur Jones, creator of the Nautilus machines, claimed it was possible through his own brand of High Intensity Training (HIT). What’s more, he claimed he had scientific backing for his claims.

So what exactly happened during the Colorado Experiment conducted by Jones and was he telling the truth? Have strength enthusiasts been selling themselves sort by setting low targets for muscle gain? After all if such training can yield 15 to 63 pounds of muscle in one month it must be worth doing.

The Sandow Story in Ireland

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During the prime of his career, Eugen Sandow was known for having ‘the perfect physique’ and for being one of the foremost proponents of physical culture. Physical culture being broadly understood as the social movement concerned with health and strength that swept across Europe and the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century. A man built to a Grecian ideal of beauty and presented as the ideal of what good health should be, Sandow toured the world performing and lecturing the masses about the importance of physical and spiritual health. Such was Sandow’s mass appeal in the late 19th and early 20th century, that some commentators have credited him with launching the body obsessive societies of today. His influence stretched from America to Australia and many places in between. Much has been written about Sandow’s time in Great Britain and the United States, but few have examined Sandow’s time in the south of Ireland in the late 1890s. His time in Ireland was brief but it was to leave lasting results.

Malcolm Allison and the Modernisation of English Football

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Playboy, character or revolutionary?

Rarely are such terms used to describe the same person and that is what made Malcolm Alexander Allison such an enigma to those who knew him. Allison was hugely influential in the introduction of modern training systems in 1960s England but his reputation as a trainer was often overshadowed by matters off the pitch. A shame when one considers Allison helped spread ideas about weight training, aerobic fitness and nutrition in a sport renowned for its archaic training methods.

Hakoah Wien and Muscular Judaism

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Is there a Jewish style of football?

Once upon a time this question would have been answered definitively. Yes. In the early 1900s, Hakoah Vienna or Hakoah Wien were a dominant force in Austrian football who were staunchly proud of their Jewish roots. From 1909 to 1938, Wien rose up the ranks in Austrian football before being shut down by the Nazi Regime. It’s a story few know, but one worth examining.

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Attached below is Eugen Sandow’s classical book Strength and How to Obtain It. Whilst Sandow wrote a number of works, Strength and How to Obtain it was by far his most popular. Luckily for us in 2014, it’s also free to download and free to read.

Strength And How To Obtain It

Find out Sandow’s measurements for the perfect body. Sandow’s tips for heavy weight training and even some great anecdotes from Sandow’s life. It’s a great book for the strength enthusiast and the physical culture historian alike.

So go on, download it now and enjoy it for yourself!

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