James Chiosso’s Polymachinon

Invented in the late 1820s and publicised for several more decades, the Polymachinon represents one of the nineteenth century’s more interesting fitness devices. Created by the Professor of Gymnastics at University College School, London, the […]

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Guest Post: The History of Running Shoes

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In order to be able to truly understand all the changes and breakouts the modern running shoe industry is trying to promote, we should really look back to the very beginning. So much change has been made to this piece of footwear over the years.

From spiky to rubber soles, over brand rivalry and ingenious inventions, these pieces of footwear really have an interesting history. That said, let’s explore some interesting historical facts regarding running shoes and see how we got to the place we are today.

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.

Two Worlds Collide: Bill Kazmaier and Cactus Jack

The internet can be a truly wonderful way to occupy one’s time and recapture childhood memories. As a child of the 1990s, who grew up with television shows from the 1980s, I had two twin loves, wrestling and the World’s Strongest Man (WSM) competitions. Sadly for me, television broadcasting in Ireland during that time meant that I was often limited in my consumption of either. Despite these limitations, I still found my sporting heroes, two of whom feature in today’s post.

Bob Whelan, ‘Common Sense Periodization’, Hard Gainer, July-August (1999), 21-24.

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Periodization means “to divide into periods,” when defined by most dictionaries. That’s also the way that I view this term as it applies to strength training. I’m a big believer that some form of change in a routine every three or four months or so is as good mentally as it is physically. In addition to this, as noted in some previous articles, I like to have a day or two each month when I mix things up a little bit. The change keeps enthusiasm high, helps you through sticking points, bolsters your motivation, and re- energizes your training.

I want to be very clear on one thing. When I use the word “periodization”—I actually call it “common sense periodization”—I’m not advocating the orthodox definition used by the NSCA and some other organizations. I find that definition illogical. I don’t believe in a “hypertrophy phase” as being separate from a “strength-building” phase. There are also other aspects of the orthodox definition that I don’t agree with, but rather than get into all of that I’d rather just focus on my definition.

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?