Dr. Mel Siff, A Short History of Strength and Conditioning (Dolfzine, 2003)

Strength training has always been synonymous with the so-called “Iron Game,” a broad generic term that includes the competitive lifting of heavy objects by “strongmen/women” during the last century or so. Feats of lifting strength, however, have appeared throughout the history of most nations, but it has only been in very recent times that training to produce strength has become a scientific discipline.


Mel C Siff Ph.D.
This science did not arise overnight, but is the culminating point of thousands of years of trial-and-error methods of training.

The earliest reference to formal strength training occurs in Chinese texts dating as far back as 3600BC when emperors made their subjects exercise daily (Webster, 1976). During the Chou dynasty (1122-249BC) potential soldiers had to pass weight-lifting tests before being allowed to enter the armed forces.

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Guest Post: Here’s A Brief Look At The History of Physical Therapy

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Physical therapy, which is a unique treatment approach for healing musculoskeletal and neuromuscular conditions has a rich history that dates back to 460 BC. Used nowadays for treating conditions like hip fracture, backaches, neck pain, shoulder injuries, foot and ankle pain, and headaches etc., physical therapy is not a new treatment method as most people think. Yes, physical therapy had been used by people belonging to different civilizations for managing pain and healing injuries for ages.

Whether you talk about ancient Greeks, Parisians, Egyptians or Chinese they all had been using physical therapy to treat the pain caused by injuries and prolonged illnesses for centuries. With the passage of time physical therapy continued to evolve and today it’s a very renowned form of treating a wide range of musculoskeletal and neuromuscular conditions.

Joe Weider, Why I Entered the Mr. Universe Contest, Your Physique, February 16: 7 (1952), 7

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UP UNTIL a few minutes ago, I had not the slightest intention or expectation of writing this article. Since my return from Europe, my mail has been flooded with letters asking my why I entered the contest. “How good are the European bodybuilders compared to our boys?” asked one reader. “What were your experiences, and how was the show conducted and organized?” inquired another. I read a score of letters and as the pile of mail slowly grew higher and higher before me, I realized the futility of answering separately each piece of correspondence. So after a few minutes consideration, I decided to make an article take the place of a letter to those many fellow enthusiasts who have congratulated me, and have expressed pleasure and surprise that the editor of a physique culture magazine had the courage to show the world he practised what he preached.

Dorian Yates’ Workouts from 1982-1985

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Yates in 1986

Known as ‘The Shadow’ in bodybuilding circles, Dorian Yates was the goliath of early 1990s bodybuilding. Winning the Mr. Olympia six straight years in a row from 1992 to 1997, Yates was famed for his intense approach to training. A modified form of the high intensity training advocated by Arthur Jones and Mike Mentzer, Yates’ success briefly brought this style of training to the bodybuilding fore.

The following post, stemming from a Dorian article with Flex magazine from the mid 1990s, details the Englishman’s training programme prior to his meteoric success. While everyone wants to know how a champion trains, knowing how they became a champion is equally important…Enjoy!

Notes on John Grimek, Brooks D. Kubik, Dino Files (2000)

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Grimek’s Workout, 7 November, 2000

I reprinted a terrific article on Grimek’s training in an early issue of the Dinosaur Files. The author was Joe Berg, and the article was titled, I believe, “The Greatest Physique Story Ever Told.” It originally ran in S&H in the early 50’s. The premise of the article was as follows:

History of the Good Morning Exercise

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Depending on the gym you attend Good Mornings are either a commonplace exercise or a complete rarity. Aside from the cynical observation that far too many back squats one sees in the gym are bastardised good mornings, the reality is most like the latter. Used by numerous bodybuilders, powerlifters and athletes, the Good Morning is oftentimes a neglected thing, confined to a few strange individuals no doubt wearing belts and high heeled shoes.

This, the present post argues, is a rather pitiful thing. The Good Morning has a long and rich history within the Iron Game, one that we’re going to delve into today.

Bruce Lee’s Workout From Warm Marble: The Lethal Physique of Bruce Lee by John Little (1996)

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After much research, and with the help of two bodybuilders who were also his close friends and students in the San Francisco Bay area, Lee devised a three-day-per-week bodybuilding program that he felt fit his strengthening and bodybuilding needs perfectly. According to one of these men, Allen Joe, “James Lee and I introduced Bruce to the basic weight training techniques. We used to train with basic exercises like squats, pullovers and curls for about three sets each. Nothing really spectacular but we were just getting him started.” This program actually served Lee well from 1965 through until 1970 and fit in perfectly with Lee’s own philosophy of getting the maximum results out of the minimum — or most economical — expenditure of energy.

The every-other-day workout allowed for the often neglected aspect of recovery to take place. Lee coordinated his bodybuilding workouts in such a way so as to insure that they fell on days when he wasn’t engaged in either endurance-enhancing or overly strenuous martial art training. The program worked like magic; increasing Lee’s bodyweight from an initial 130 pounds to — at one point — topping out at just over 165 pounds!

Should you Workout to Music? Old School Approaches

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Unless you own a home gym, the issue of whether or not you train to music is usually decided for you. Nowadays the gym stereo is a much a part of the gym floor as the weights themselves. Depending on your gym, the decision to leave your headphones at home results in anything from pop music to death metal drumming through your ears. There is, very little wrong with this in theory. After all, the early callisthenics teachers of the nineteenth-century advocated exercising to music.

How were things done during the so-called ‘Golden Age’ of bodybuilding in the 1960s and 1970s? Furthermore, if possible, should you train without music? The bodybuilders of yore held mixed opinions…

Forgotten Exercises: The Dumbbell Swing

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Almost a half-century ago the one and two hand swing lifts were very popular among lifters and bodybuilders alike, especially the one hand lift. Over the years, however, both of these lifts have slumped into oblivion so that today there are very few who ever practice them, either as an exercise or for record-breaking performances. Because of this the world record in both lifts still remains at that poundage that was lifted many years ago. The one hand record is 199 pounds, and the two hand record is 224 pounds, just 25 pounds more than the one hand swing.

John Grimek, The Dumbbell Swing (1959)

This weekend I had the pleasure of dipping once more into Arthur Saxon’s excellent work from the early 1900s, The Development of Physical Power. Notable, for me at least by Saxon’s no nonsense attitude and frankness, the work does not seek to deceive or flatter. Instead, one of the strongest men of his generation sets out his remarkable strength and some of the means used to sustain it. Many of the exercises set out by Saxon are still done today, except for the above mentioned dumbbell swing.

The purpose of today’s post is thus twofold. First, we’re going to examine what this exercise is and how to perform it. From there, we get to delve into it’s fascinating history.