The Birth of the Arnold Strongman Classic

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Earlier this year we were treated to perhaps the most exciting Arnold Strongman Classic to date. We saw Hafthor Bjornsson win the event for the second year in a row with a domineering display of power. The ‘Wheel of Pain’ from Conan the Barbarian made an appearance and it was joined by an exact replica of the famed Husafell Stone. The competition itself, and its sponsor, Rogue Fitness, spared no expense or difficulty in devising a truly remarkable show.

For those unaware of the Arnold Strongman, the competition is an annual gathering of some of the strongest athletes in the world held as part of the Arnold Classic, a multi-sporting event hosted by Arnold Schwarzenegger. While the Classic itself began in 1989, largely as a bodybuilding contest, it has grown since then to include everything from Ninja Warrior to fencing. It’s this multi-sporting appeal which resulted in the inclusion of a strongman event.

Regular readers of the blog will no doubt be asking why a strongman event came to the Arnold. After all, the World’s Strongest Man contest (WSM), as detailed previously on this site, had been running since the late 1970s. Herein lies the beauty of the Arnold strongman. Whereas the WSM is often times decided by a combination of muscular strength and athletic endurance, the Arnold, as conceived by the Todds, Peter Lorimer and Arnold Schwarzenegger, is interested solely in brute force. In the WSM, a competitors’ endurance is often a limiting factor. This is especially the case in any long distance carrying events or lift for reps features. In the Arnold, the lifts are closer to one rep maxes or are done under very strict time limits. The thinking behind this is that the Arnold is a better indication of who is the strongest man while the WSM combines strength and endurance. Think of the Arnold as a test of strength alone.

Now while that is simplifying things somewhat, it provides a nice indication of the organiser’s initial motivations. So with that in mind, today’s post takes us back to 2002 and the inaugural Arnold Strongman Classic.

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Henry Downs, How I Trained to Win the Mr. Britain Title (1957)

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December the 11th, 1955, was a date to remember for me, for it was on that day I was placed second in the Mr. Britain contest. I had trained harder for that contest than any up to that time and thought I was in better shape than ever before. Well as you know, I didn’t make the grade, so this year I used a different approach to what I had previously done.

Before the Carnivore Diet? Rheo H. Blair’s Meat and Water Diet (1960s)

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The Carnivore Diet – the practice of solely consuming meat products – has grown exponentially in the past few years. As someone who has experimented with a range of diets, everything from all fruit to raw meat, it’s remarkable to see an all meat diet gain traction for the lifting community and the general populace. While Vilhjamur Stefannsson popularised the Inuit’s meat dominated diet in the early 1900s, an all meat diet for athletes or lifters appears to be a new development.

So being the type of individual that I am, I decided to go through the annals of bodybuilding and see if anyone had dabbled with a carnivore-esque diet in the past. Echoing the wonderful ‘nothing new under the sun series‘ produced by Chaos and Pain (definitely not safe for work!), we have a precedent for the current carnivore diet in the form of Vince Gironda and Rheo H. Blair’s ‘meat and water’ diet, a short term weight loss diet used by bodybuilders prior to a competition.

With that in mind today’s post examines the reasons behind Blair’s experiment, the bodybuilders he used it on and what lessons, if any, his meat and water diet holds for present day lifters.

Guest Post: How Has the Olympics Changed Over Time?

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The first Olympics, inspired by the Olympian Gods, was held in Greece in 776 BC. Centuries on, the game has been carried from country to country, through a range of wars, political developments, boycotts and above all, great human achievements.

120 years since the first modern Olympics took place in Athens in 1896, it makes you wonder how the games, including rules and requirements, have changed ever since.

How Indian Clubs Came to England

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Originating in modern-day India, the practice of club swinging has a long and deeply embedded cultural Indian history. In the first instance, the Indian clubs featured heavily in the Mahabharata, a Hindu religious epic written during the Indian Vedic Age (1500 – 500 BCE). Highly allegorical, the epic focused on two warring sects, the Pandevas and Kauravas, with their fierce battle a metaphor for life itself (Dasgupta, 2004, 411-420). While several figures used gadas (Indian club precursors) throughout the religious epic, it was the final gadabattle between Bhima, the king and Duryodhan, the man vying for Bhima’s throne, which became synonymous with the Indian clubs’ importance (Roy, 2012, 21-23). That each man, famed for his power and force wielded gadas linked the clubs to overt images of strength, masculinity and military prowess. Similarly, that Bhima killed Duryodhan with his club demonstrated its very real destructive capabilities (Ibid.).

Dan Levin, ‘Here She Is, Miss, Well, What?, Sports Illustrated, 17 March (1980), 64-75

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We always knew women could never build muscles, at least not, uh, real women. Muscles belonged on men, and women didn’t want any. They didn’t need them, either, not for typing 70 words a minute, not for staying at home all day baking cakes for honeybun. But we also always knew women could never run marathons, and now we have Grete Waitz breathing down Bill Rodgers’ neck. Even more unexpectedly, we have Laura Combes’ sensational double biceps pose.

Alan Calvert, ‘General Training Program’, Health, Strength and Development (Philadelphia, c. 1920s).

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Hundreds of prospective pupils write me to ask how long they will have to train; how much time they will have to spend each week, etc., etc. This seems a good place to answer those questions.

The average pupil practices the first course in developing exer­cises for two or three months. He practices every other day (that is, once in 48 hours), and the practice period covers about 30 minutes.

By the end of the second or third month the pupil has attained a certain degree of strength and development, and then his training program is altered. On two days a week he will practice the more strenuolls of the developing exercises from the first course, and two other days a week he will practice the Eight Standard Lifts; that is, the second course. He keeps up this training for two or three months and during that period the time consumed is about three hours a week.

The Standard Lifts Course, as well as the First Course in Devel­oping Exercise, is given free to every pupil who buys a bell-whether it be a low-priced plate bell or the most expensive MILO TRIPLEX bell on the list.