Previously on this site we’ve looked at fitness in the classical age and today we’ll be continuing that theme with a brief examination of the Greek Halteres. The halteres were the Greek equivalent of the modern day dumbbell and had a variety of uses from athletics to aesthetics.
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.
Is 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.
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.
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.
Recently on this website we have looked to the Ancient World in search of the origins of health and fitness. It is likely that weightlifting is as old a pastime as time itself but it’s important to take this into account. So often we take the short view on the history of fitness and date it from the mid to late 1800s. Regardless of what we may think, exercise was part of man’s (and woman’s) life two thousand years ago just as it is today. In fact archaeologists have uncovered bronze objects dating back to 5000 BC that are not unlike the dumbbells we use today.
Lifting heavy things up and down is as natural to human beings as walking or running. It is perhaps unsurprising that very quickly in the history of mankind, people began to realise that the stronger a muscle is, the heavier the object that can be lifted. Thus the idea of weight lifting was born. Having looked at Athens and Rome in previous posts, today we will examine Ancient China, Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt.
Performance enhancing drugs seem to become more problematic every year. Athletes are getting bigger, stronger and faster. Spectators are getting curious, suspicious and concerned. Performance enhancing drugs have touched nearly every major sport at one level or another. It’s a modern problem right?
Well not exactly…
“What puts you over the top? It is the mind that actually creates the body, it is the mind that really makes you work out for four or five hours a day, it is the mind that visualizes what the body ought to look like as the finished product.”
The mind-muscle connection? That’s what Arnold talked about right?
Well yes but he wasn’t the only one as I discovered recently when going through some old material written by Peary Rader.
Bench Press, Deadlift, Squat. What could be easier than that? For most people it makes up the brunt of their training programme, yet we rarely stop and ask where did these exercises come from? I mean after all, if you’re going to spend countless hours in the squat rack, at some point you should question how the Squat became popularized. Right?
So who did invent the Squat?
Were people as concerned with being fit and healthy two thousand years ago?
The need to be fit isn’t a new phenomenon. In fact two thousand years ago, the the ability to run fast, lift heavy things and punch hard was arguably much more important than it is today. For many civilisations it was matter of life and death. Take for example the ancient Greeks who prioritized health and fitness. For the Greeks being in tip-top shape was a necessity for the sake of their Empires. Back then, fitness was a backbone of military strength.