The History of the Pull Up

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There are some exercises so basic, so ubiquitous and so difficult that their origins are often taken for granted. Previously when detailing the history of the squat, we encountered the difficultly of tracing a movement found in every culture and arguably every human movement. The Chin Up and the Pull Up exercises offer a similar problem.

The purpose of today’s post is not to discover the inventor of the pull up, if such a thing is possible, but rather to discuss its evolution over the past two centuries from gymnastic exercise to Crossfit controversies. As will become clear, even a simple movement carries a lot of history.

Andreas Munzer – The Ideal Way to Massive Legs (1995)

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Forced Rep, Negatives, Free Weights & Machines – People have called me mad. They say no sane man would inflict my degree of discipline on himself. Perhaps they’re right, but I feel that extremism in the quest of your best is no vice.

If I seem to be in be in the iron grip of Spartan self-denial, it’s only because I’m convinced that’s what it takes for me to compete with the greatest bodybuilders i the world. The monsters out there today strain the very definitions as to what constitutes a human being, so I simply have to lift myself that much further beyond mortal effort just to stay with them, not only in training but in diet and lifestyle. If I can discipline myself more than the next guy, I will someday beat him.

Forgotten Exercises: Cyclist Back Squats

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Just this week we spoke about Dr. Karl Klein and his 1960s research on the back squat. As a quick reminder, Klein found that squatting below parallel or pushing the knees over the toes was detrimental to the knee’s stability and long term health. Klein and those following in his wake advised against full range of motion and stressed the fact that knees were not to go over the toes when squatting.

Though discredited in later decades, Klein’s ideas are still prevalent and are perhaps the cause of contemporary fears surrounding the back squat. Disregarding everything that Klein fought against, today’s post looks at the Cyclist Back Squat, an often neglected exercise that not only requires squatting below parallel, it necessitates bringing knees over the toes (Gasp!). Today we’re going to examine what this exercise is, what its origins are and why you should include it into your own training.

Guest Post: A History of Indoor Sports at the Olympics

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When you think of the Olympics, you probably imagine Usain Bolt sprinting towards another world record or Yelena Isinbayeva pole vaulting over the crowd. These outdoor sports have somehow become synonymous with the Olympics, probably because we don’t get to see them every time we switch to any sports channel. However, indoor sports are continuing to build a huge audience since the first time they were introduced at the competition. Some very well-known, some not so popular, indoor sports are slowly taking the center stage at the biggest sporting event in the world. Actually, eight out of ten most exciting and popular sports to watch at the Games today are indoor sports! So, let’s get a bit more familiar with the history of the indoor sports at the Olympic Games.

Fred Hatfield, ‘I May Know Diddly, But I Know Squat!’ (2001)

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The passing of Dr. Fred Hatfield in 2017 saw the passing of one of the lifting community’s most prolific coaches. Known as ‘Dr. Squat’ thanks to his own immense strength, Hatfield also helped to popularise scientific forms of training. The above article, written sometime before 2001 is perhaps the most comprehensive guide I’ve come across dealing with different types of squatting. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as me!

Leroy Colbert Workout c. 1978

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Previously on this website, we’ve discussed Leroy Colbert’s tragically short bodybuilding career and his successful foray into health store management. Today’s post focuses more on the nuts and bolts of Colbert’s bodybuilding routines from the 1970s. First published in Three More Reps, written by George Synder and Rick Wayne, Colbert’s split body workout was simple in its execution.

Aside from the obvious need to commit oneself to a prolonged course of training, Colbert’s own training philosophy demanded quite a bit of intensity during workouts. Training four days a week, Colbert would each of the main muscle groups twice a week as well as training his waist each workout.

Looking at his workout in 2019, it is interesting that much of the advice concerning volume and exercise selection was arguably already being done by Colbert. I’ll leave that you to you to decide. So, without further adieu, I present Colbert’s workouts from the 1970s!

Eugen Sandow and Thomas Edison

Oddly given the site’s extensive interest, we have yet to detail Eugen Sandow’s most exciting remnant, a short film clip taken in 1894.

Taken during Sandow’s extensive promotion tour of the United States, which began in 1893 and included everything from posing sessions to fights with lions, Sandow’s film is one of the earliest movies we have of a bodybuilder on film. Long before Steve Reeves, Reg Park, or later Arnold Schwarzenegger were wowing audiences, Sandow appeared before the camera.

Vicki Goldberg, ‘Is It An Art, A Sport or Sheer Exhibitionism?’, The New York Times, 30 November (1975)

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The front wall of Gold’s Gym in Venice, Calif., used to have big glass windows, but owners of the gym had to cover them over—so many passers-by stopped to gape that the men inside couldn’t concentrate. The interior of the gym is Rube Goldberg paradise inhabited by grotesques, men so colossally muscled they look like inverted pyramids.

Gold’s is crammed with wacky machines, welter of steel poles, shiny weights and pulleys, and more than two tons of iron barbells wedged into racks against the walls. The newest Nautilus exercise machines, complex steel and chrome booths that might be misguided models for electric chairs, stand guard by the door. Benches tend to slant up at cuckoo angles instead of lying flat. man teeters on one at a diagonal, with his knees bent, then straightens his legs to push the weights at his feet.