The History of the Dumbbell Pullover

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Earlier this week I was given a very generous gift. The gift in question was a complete set of Wills’ Cigarette Cards. Produced for an Irish and English audience in 1914, the cards depicted various physical culture exercises one could engage in to keep fit and healthy. The irony that the cards could only be obtained by buying a packet of cigarettes was evidently lost on the manufacturers.

In any case I gleefully went about examining my present and stumbled across the below photographs. Said to be breathing exercises with dumbbells, the movement represents an early iteration of the pullover exercise.

As is so often the case, I set to work uncovering the history of this particular movement with the result being this very article. So today, we’ll begin by examining the popularity and history of the pullover from the early to late twentieth-century. The pullover exercise has fallen from grace in the lifting community, from a once hallowed movement to a more niche and often poorly executed assistance lift.

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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.

Forgotten Exercise: Lat Pulldown Curl

So, cards on the table, I recently reread The Complete Keys to Progress by John McCallum. The result of Randall Strossen’s meticulous collecting, The Complete Keys details McCallum’s numerous articles for Strength and Health magazine. Admittedly McCallum’s work was more concerned with rapid bulk and strength building practices, The Complete Keys still has some things to say about bodybuilding and defining exercises. One such example was the Lat Pulldown Curl.  

Guest Post: Fitness Activity Trackers – A Brief History

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Even though it sounds as if they are part of the latest, high-tech smart gadgets, there were various versions of ancestors of fitness activity trackers that we use now, in the 21st century. From the first industrial revolution, and rapid progress in technology, we have managed to create devices that would be unthinkable for mankind just 50 years ago. Today, we use some of these gadgets daily, and can’t imagine everyday life without them. So, let’s take a look at how we get there historically.

C.F. Langworthy, ‘Dietary Study of Sandow, The Strong Man.’

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One of the things which always fascinated me is the diets of those early physical culturists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. At a time when gym culture was in its infancy, these men and women experimented with their training, their diet, and their mindsets to achieve maximum results. For some, like the Saxon Trio, their diets were the thing of legend – they ate everything in sight. Others, like the vegetarian Bernarr MacFadden, took a meticulous interest in what they ate. 

The subject of today’s post, Eugen Sandow, lay somewhere in between. Deemed by many as the world’s most perfectly developed specimen, Sandow was frustratingly coy about what he ate on a day to day basis. That’s what makes today post so fascinating. A reproduction of a one day study conducted in the United States, it is the first time, to my knowledge that we have verified audience of what Sandow ate. It’s not particularly illustrative, but it does give an indication of what Sandow ate in a scientific context. Enjoy!

A Drug Free Mr. Olympia? The Strange Case of the 1990 Mr. Olympia

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Bodybuilding, at a professional level, is a sport fuelled by anabolic steroids. This is not to take anything away from the competitors themselves, but is rather an acknowledgment that those at the elite level often resort to chemical means in order to further push the limits of human strength and muscularity. Certainly the Mr. Olympia competition, the Super Bowl of the bodybuilding calendar, has always been an arena for the freakish and dedicated to flex their muscles in search of the big prize.

That Mr. Olympias have used anabolic steroids should come as a surprise to no one. Heck even Arnold Schwarzenegger admitted to dabbling with steroids during his political career despite the negative reaction this risk. This preamble is my way of saying that the idea of a drug tested Mr. Olympia is strange. Yes, we have natural bodybuilding shows but elite, professional, non-tested shows have always proven the most popular form of competition.

With this in mind, today’s post looks at the one moment when the Mr. Olympia contest introduced an explicit drug testing protocol which, it was hoped, would stem the tide of drug abuse within the sport. Examining why this came to be, we’re going to look at the background to the Mr. Olympia, the event itself and the consequences of a drug free Mr. Olympia. In case you’re wondering, it went about as well as you could have imagined!

The First Mr. Olympia

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It all began in April 1965 in a Joe Weider magazine…

Sick and tired of conversations about who was the greatest bodybuilder, Weider had decided to create a competition pitting champions from around the World against each other. In the same year that the iconic Gold’s Gym opened, Weider’s ‘Mr. Olympia’ would see A Mr. Universe, Mr. World and Mr. America pose, flex and tense in front of thousands of fans to determine the best that Bodybuilding had to offer.

Why create a new tournament?