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?
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.
The Second World War re-introduced the Western world back to the importance of health and fitness. The inter-war years were characterised by concerns that Europeans and Americans were no longer as strong as they once were. In the midst of war, Leaders became concerned. Victory in the battlefield could only be achieved through victory in the gymnasium. In 1942, the US Army introduced a formal fitness test to the incoming troops, with this in mind.
For the first time in American history, troops would be put through their places in several exercises to determine their value to Uncle Sam.
The men of 1942 had to do it. How would you have fared?
Picture the scene. It’s 1911 and famed Wrestler George Hackenschmidt has finally retired from the squared circle. Looking forward to a life of relaxation and leisure, the man from Estonia grants you the privilege of an interview. In his strength and wrestling career, Hackenschmidt has popularised the Bear Hug, the Hack Squat and even set a world record in the Bench Press. His athletic exploits have dazzled crowds around the world for years. So when you sit down with him to talk training, a nervousness enters your body. The ‘Russian Lion’ is known for taking no prisoners.
Q] You have your first question lined up. Nervously you look George in the eye and timidly ask how to become strong like him…
Puffing out his chest, Hackenschmidt bellows out
“It is only by exercising with heavy weights that any man can hope to develop really great strength.”
When people think of the father of modern day Bodybuilding, Eugene Sandow is the name that comes to mind. Without denying the incredible work done by Sandow in the spreading of physical culture, to speak of a ‘father’ of bodybuilding does a great disservice to the men and women who preceded Sandow. One such man is Ludwig Durlacher or Louis Attila, the man who discovered Sandow. Today at Physical Culture Study we are going to examine the life of ‘Professor Attila’ and ask why his name has largely disappeared from popular physical culture narratives.
Free Weights or Machines? Cardio or Weight Training? TRX or Crossfit? These days the fitness enthusiast seems to be bombarded with a wealth of choices to keep themselves fit and agile. Training systems may seem relatively benign and a matter of personal choice, but scholars often raises uncomfortable questions about why people do what they do.