Category: Resources

Bradley Steiner, ‘Partials, Rack Work And Isometrics’, POWERLIFTING (1972), 16-17

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In 90% of the training you do the emphasis should be on picture-perfect form AND heavy weights. Cheating is undesirable, and while it SEEMS that you are working harder because you are lifting moreyou are, in fact, working less intensively since the “heavier” work is being distributed over many hefty muscle groups – instead of being placed on the ones that you wish to work.

Sometimes – SOMETIMES – a little cheating is okay. But more often than not when the urge comes to really pile on the workload you are better doing partials. This way you will actually be putting forth the work where it is desired, with no outside assistance. Let me show you what I mean by partials.

Guest Post: Why Poor Posture is the Silent Killer

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From as far back as the 18th century, upright posture has been associated with a ‘moral’ upper-class society vibe. This has caused the development of many devices to help with posture, and despite its tendency to almost squeeze people close to death, the first-ever posture corrector known as the corset was introduced. Evolving societal standards may have changed how much importance we put on proper posture, leading to the disuse of phrases related to posture such as “stand up straight” and “elbows off the table”, but this doesn’t mean that poor posture should be ignored. Here are some of the ways your poor posture can silently kill you:

The Long History of the Medicine Ball

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Few pieces of equipment have a century’s long history. Aside, perhaps, from the Indian club, most of the machines or devices we exercise with today count their origins to the eighteenth or nineteenth century. Sure some may argue that dumbbells have long been used by trainees but a simple look at Ancient Greek halteres makes clear that the modern dumbbell bears little resemblance.

The relatively new nature of exercise equipment obscures the fact that there is one piece of exercise equipment, used in almost every gym, that has a centuries long history. Enter the humble medicine ball. No other piece of equipment is treated with as much disrespect as the medicine ball. It is slammed, thrown, lifted, kicked and, at times, even hit with sledge hammers. Our relative ill treatment of it aside, the medicine ball is also one of those few devices that serves a variety of goals and training methods.

Few of us, myself included, acknowledge the long history of the medicine ball. With that in mind, today’s post tracks the long history of the medicine ball, beginning with its time in Ancient Greece, its re-emergence in the nineteenth century, right up to its modern day use.

MIKE MENTZER, ‘The Essential Nutrients’, HEAVY DUTY NUTRITION (1993), 11-14.

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In order to maintain health and provide for optimal growth, our bodies require more than 40 different nutrients. These various nutrients can be found in the six primary food components: water, protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals.

WATER: Whether or not you believe live began in the sea, the fact remains that life exists in an inner sea within our body, two-thirds of which is water. All of life’s complex biochemical processes take place in a water medium, which accounts for the fluidity of our blood and lymph system. Water is our waste remover through urine and feces; it lubricates our joints, keeps our body temperature within a narrow range; and last but not of least importance to the bodybuilder, water is the primary constituent of muscle tissue.

Mike Mentzer,’High Calorie Diet: 6000 Calories,’ Heavy Duty Nutrition (1993), 16.

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Many young men take up weight training because they are underweight. Individuals who have been underweight most of their lives usually have high metabolic rates, i.e., they burn calories at a rapid rate, making it difficult to add mass to their frames. Having such high BMR’s, these individuals are especially prone to overtraining. In such cases, the individual should train very hard with moderately heavy weights for a few sets per bodypart, and no more than three days a week. An underweight bodybuilder who wants to gain muscle and isn’t worried about adding a little fat must increase his caloric intake by as much as 500 calories a day above his daily maintenance needs. If he were to discover (using the method previously described) that his daily maintenance need is 5500 calories, he should up his daily intake by 500, making a total of 6000 calories a day.

The Life and Times of Professor Dowd

Born in Nelson Flats, New York, in 1854 Dowd was, if his own accounts and obituaries are to be believed, a somewhat unathletic child in his youth. Writing some decades after Dowd’s passing, W.A. Pullum, a renowned British physical culturist, claimed that Dowd “showed nothing in his youth to indicate that destiny marked him out to become one day a great physical culture figure.” Pullum went on to claim that while Dowd did not suffer from any serious illness, his physique, according to his peers was “rather on the meagre side.”[i] This idea of the young weakling was, as explained by Ana Carden-Coyne, a common trope in health biographies.[ii] By disclosing one’s own personal shortcomings during a previous stage in their lives, health entrepreneurs could advertise their miraculous transformation using a specific dietary protocol or workout. The most dramatic example of this was of course Charles Atlas who, during the 1930s and 1940s, advertised using his now famous “Insult that made a man of Mac” comic strips.[iii]

Ireland’s First Bodybuilding Show

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Since beginning my study of physical culture several years ago, I have been fascinated by  the extent of Irish physical culture. Part of the British Empire in the early twentieth century, Ireland was very much influenced by the broader spread of physical culture in Great Britain. So close were the two regions that the Irish physical culture industry was largely predicated on what was happening in Britain, but more specifically, in London.

Thus in the late 1890s and early 1900s numerous Irishmen, of all age ranges, began writing in to British physical culture periodicals seeking advice, support and kudos for their interest in purposeful exercise. Without simplifying things too much, Irish physical culture at this time was very much a poor imitation of broader British developments. When a British Amateur Weightlifting Association was founded in the early 1900s, a smaller Irish branch was opened the same year. Where Britain had physical culture magazines, Ireland had physical culture newspaper columns. What Britain did, Ireland followed and this extended to bodybuilding competitions.

Ding Lifting in Ancient China

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Today’s short post comes primarily from Nigel B. Crowther’s wonderful chapter on Ancient Chinese sport and physical education. Looking primarily at Chinese physical cultures, Crowther found that weightlifting, archery, weight throwing, tug of war, boxing and a host of other activities were practiced by Chinese men. Of interest to us today, was the use of Ding’s as feats of strength.

Guest Post: Brawny Books – Harvey Green, Fit for America

Harvey Green’s Fit for America is written for curious gym goers and professional historians alike. The book demonstrates that the American pursuit of health and fitness started long before Arnold Schwarzenegger’s bodybuilding career, or the running boom of the 1970s. Published in 1986, Green’s work was among the earliest books to address the history of physical culture. Its’ wide-ranging subject matter and coverage of over 100 years of history continue to make Fit for America one of the field’s best introductory texts.