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!

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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.

Guest Post: THE PELOTON WIFE AND DEBBIE DRAKE

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Images of a young, beautiful woman filming herself with her Christmas gift went viral last month. A television advertisement for the home exercise cycle Peloton depicts her trying out the new product, a present from her partner/husband, as she records her experiences on a cell phone. The appearance of the woman—identified as “Grace from Boston”—sparked controversy. Selfie stills from the commercial emphasize her complicated expression, a face somewhere between being excited about using her Peloton bike and seemingly terrified of it.

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.

John Balik, Total Muscularity: SuperStar Nutrition (Santa Monica, 1979)

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Describing himself as Arnold’s Seminar Nutritionist, Balik opened his short pamphlet on gaining muscle with the often forgotten law that ‘nothing beats persistence.’ Produced alongside a pamphlet on gaining muscle, which we’ll be discussing in a future post, Balik’s Total Muscularity represents a great insight into the training philosophy of 1970s Muscle Beach bodybuilding. Sparing myself the task of typing out his pamphlet word for word, which I suspect would infringe on some form of copyright law, I decided that a brief synopsis of the book would suffice. At the very least it would pander to our ever decreasing attention spans.

So in today’s post we’re going to look at Balik’s theories on individual body types, the type of diet he recommended and also what we can learn from it nearly forty years after its publication.

Bill Starr, ‘Sex and the Barbell’, Defying Gravity How To Win At Weightlifting (New York, 1981), p. 24.

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I once wrote a piece for the “Behind the Scenes” section in Strength & Health magazine dealing with the subject of sex before competition. I thought that I was quite obviously tongue-in-cheeking the presentation and made the comment that lifters would do well to lay off sex during the final week before a meet. As it turned out, I was not obvious enough as I received numerous letters and a few phone calls from irritated wives. It seemed that many lifters took my advise as gospel and denied their ladies any sexual gratification in the week prior to the contest. I have often suspected that many of these lifters merely used my words as an ex-cuse and most likely were doing a bit of hankey-pankey on the side at my expense.