Category: Resources

Eugen Sandow, ‘The Jar and Fret of Business Lift,’ Sandow on Physical Training (New York, 1894).

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Theoretically, at least, we all pay tribute to the value and importance of physical education. We admire physical strength and beauty, and recognize, though only faintly as yet, the inter- relation of mind and matter. We know, moreover, that a healthy, active brain is sadly handicapped by an ill-developed, sickly body. We see around us every day of our lives masses of our race of imperfect growth and unsound constitution, and almost daily the lesson comes home to us of the break-down of some friend or acquaintance, whose weakness of body could not withstand the mental and bodily strain in the struggle of life.

Nautilus Machines and the Growth of the Gym Industry: An Interview with Thomas Todd

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Earlier this week I had the pleasure of chatting to Thomas Todd, a lifelong fitness fanatic with several decades experience in the health and fitness industry. Todd very kindly got in touch having read a recent Barbend article of mine on Arthur Jones of Nautilus fame. Readers of this website will recall Jones’ controversial nature, his incredible marketing ability and his, at times, outlandish claims of progress, most notably seen in his infamous ‘Colorado Experiment.’ Much to my delight, Todd had worked in a Nautilus facility in the mid-1970s, at the precise moment when the fitness community was truly engaging with Jones’ equipment and was willing to chat about his experiences.

Over the course of our conversation, Todd detailed his experiences in the Nautilus community, highlighting their popularity and uniqueness. Furthermore, he was able to give some lived insights into the changing landscape of the American fitness industry more generally.

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: 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:

John Kuc, ‘A Guide to Thigh Development’ (1984)

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When I did the original outline for this article I tried to think of an appealing title. Many trainees do no leg work at all, and those that do usually do not do enough. I thought an appealing title might entice some of them into including leg work in their training programs. I later decided that an honest evaluation of the pros and cons of leg work would be the best enticement.

I won’t try to deceive anyone; leg work done properly can really be tough. There are no easy leg exercises, and to be effective you really have to go all out. This is one factor against leg work. The fact that your legs are normally covered is the second factor. Most individuals prefer to work the muscles that are seen by everyone. Also, some leg exercises require a relatively heavy weight to be effective. Heavy poundages seem to create a mental barrier for some individuals. Combine all these factors and you can see why leg work could be ignored.

Louis Abele’s Back Program c. 1948

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Although unknown to the modern olympic lifter, Abele was one of America’s finest lifters during the 1940s and 1950s. Unfortunately he was overshadowed by fellow US lifters John Grimek, Steve Stanko, and John Davis during the course of his career. Similarly the outbreak of the Second World War denied Abele the chance to lift at the 1940 Olympic Games, a time when he would have been in his prime.

Nevertheless, Abele’s lifting career saw him put up some rather impressive poundages as you’ll read about.

With regards to training philosophy, Abele was a strong advocate of specialisation and high intensity training. Illustrating this, Abele tells the reader that he once exercised so hard that his teeth hurt from breathing! I suspect that this level of intensity is relatively rare in today’s gyms. Anyway what fascinates me about Abele was his advocacy of specialisation and by that Abele meant training primarily legs for 2 to 3 months before moving on to another body part for a similar amount of time. In this way Abele would focus almost exclusively on one body part, to the detriment of others, reach what he felt to be a maturation point and then switch his training up. From memory I can’t think of too many current lifters who adhere to this sort of programming although one supposes that the concept of a deload week is vaguely similar.

Anyway, the below article details Abele’s back workouts from his early 20s. For interested parties, the text itself comes from a series of letters written by Abele to Chester O. Teegarden which were published by Iron Man Industries of Alliance, Nebraska in 1948.

As always… Happy Lifting!

ROBERT FITZSIMMONS, ‘HOW THE HEAVY MAN SHOULD TRAIN AND FIGHT,’ PHYSICAL CULTURE AND SELF-DEFENSE (LONDON, 1901), 106-109.

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THE big men often do not know how to handle themselves when in a light, so I will tell them.

The greatest mistake that big men make is in spending so much of their time in doing all kinds of work to develop their muscles and wind and hitting powers, and so little in study­ ing out the tricks of the game. Any big, heavy athlete has an immense advantage, if he wants to become a boxer, right at the start. He has the power; all he lacks is the knowl­ edge how to use it to the best advantage. I will give him three rules to follow:

Be aggressive.
Do not be careless.
Remember that you have the punch.

Forgotten Exercises: Kazmaier Shrugs

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So admittedly I am a massive fan of the World’s Strongest Man competition having grown up watching clips from the 1980s and 1990s. As a child I marvelled at the strength of Geoff Capes, the ‘Viking’ Jón Páll Sigmarsson and I even had a soft spot for Rick ‘Grizzly’ Brown. There was one strongman however, who always captured my attention and it was the immortal Bill Kazmaier.

An accomplished powerlifter, strongman and, for a brief period, wrestler, Kazmaier is rightly counted as one of the strongest men to have walked the earth. Looking at his old World’s Strongest Man footage, it’s impossible not to be impressed with the man’s sheer size. As a powerlifter, Kazmaier totalled over 2,000 lbs. and his body reflected that. Like other strongmen and accomplished lifters, Kazmaier regularly devised new methods and approaches to his training, including the Kazmaier shrug.

Arthur Saxon, ‘The Bent Press’, THE DEVELOPMENT OF PHYSICAL POWER (LONDON, 1906)

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Constant practice is the only way in which one may succeed in raising a heavy weight in this position. It will, no doubt, be useful to read below how the lift is performed, but it will be no use to expect an immediate increase in your present lift simply by reading my instructions as to this position. PRACTICE is the great thing, all the time endeavoring to find a position which will suit yourself. I will describe the barbell lift, as in a bar bell more may be raised than in any other way.

Sig Klein’s Beginner Workout

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Earlier this year I had the great fortune to visit the H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports in Texas. Founded by Jan and Terry Todd, the Stark Center is a playground for anoraks like me. Containing the collections of Bernarr MacFadden, Professor Atilla, Bob Hoffman and several other Iron Game legends, Stark holds the history of the Iron Game.

So gushing praise aside, part of time there included a search through Sig Klein’s own personal papers. For those unaware, Klein ran one of the most popular and revered gymnasiums in New York from the 1930s to roughly the 1970s. Famed for his strength and amazing physique, Klein’s best known motto was to train for shape and the strength will come.

Though an advanced lifter in his own right, Klein was always keen to encourage the beginner. With this in mind today’s post details Klein’s beginner workout given to those new to his gymnasium. No tricks, no gimmicks, just simple hard work and consistency were Klein’s twin pillars for success.