Bob Hoffman and the World’s First Protein Bar

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As many readers will no doubt be aware, protein bars have become almost ubiquitous in certain parts of the Western world, owing in part to their durability and in part to their successful advertising. Indeed, at the time of writing, I can walk five minutes to the local shop where I will be greeted by the sight of Quest, Fulfil, Yippee and Weider protein bars among others. To quote Jasper from the Simpsons…’What a time to be alive’.

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Now if we leave aside the fact that most of these bars represent nothing more than candy with a scoop of protein in it, we are still left with a hugely profitable element to the fitness industry. An element that has often been neglected by those interest in the history of health.

This element, as will become clear, is a relatively recent introduction to the world of bodybuilding and fitness more generally. Indeed, today’s post on Bob Hoffman’s Hi-Proteen Fudge reveals that one of the first precursors to the modern protein bar only came about in the early 1950s, sometime between 1953 and 1954.

Continental and Military Pressing

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What could be simpler than lifting a weight overhead?

Well like everything else in the world of fitness, a simple idea is often needlessly complicated, something exemplified by today’s post on overhead pressing at the turn of the twentieth-century.

Unlike modern weightlifting competitions, which have largely standardised the manner in which lifts can be executed, the competitions of one hundred years ago were notable owing to the sheer variation in how weights were lifted.

Take for example, the often acrimonious debate about continental and military pressing.

Negative Ions – James Wright (1991)

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The following article comes from Muscle and Fitness editor James E. Wright on the dangers on negative ions for bodybuilders, which can be lumped in with the dangers of pollution in a sense. While you’re unlikely to see such an article nowadays in the muscle magazines, Wright’s writing demonstrated the fact that many bodybuilders were concerned not just with lifting weights, but also the environment in which they existed.

“Three more reps!” screamed my training partner.  I was determined and thinking positive. But after eight sets my quads are about to combust spontaneously! Quivering uncontrollably!  Despite my attitude I wasn’t sure I could get those last squats without big-time help form my partner.  To put it mildly, I was sucking wind.  I didn’t need motivation; I didn’t need concentration.  What I needed was faster recuperation.

Sandow, Hercules and the Birth of Modern Weightlifting

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While Eugen Sandow has long been been held in esteem in the lore of bodybuilding, fans of weightlifting have seldom seen the Prussian as a figure of great importance for their sport. This is unsurprising given that over the past half-century, Sandow’s image has become so integral to bodybuilding that the sport’s top contest, the Mr. Olympia, hands out miniature Sandow busts as trophies. Nevertheless part of Sandow’s fame, at least initially, came from his raw strength which he used to set records, wow audiences and defeat opponents.

With this in mind, today’s post looks at Sandow’s 1890 weightlifting contest with ‘Hercules’ McCann, a controversial bout during which the men’s weights measured to a tee, the first time such precision had ever been introduced to the growing sport. The contest can thus be seen as a pivotal moment in the evolution of weight lifting as a recognised sport in its own right.

Clint Eastwood – the Ambassador of Fitness (Scott Hays, 1991)

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Published in Muscle & Fitness in 1991, the following article details the keep fit routine of Clint Eastwood, the Hollywood actor/director then in his early sixties. Coming at a time when celebrity training routines were becoming an item of public interest, the article is interesting in its own right as a piece of bodybuilding history. Furthermore, Clint’s avoidance of eggs shows how the low-fat craze permeated through several parts of American life.

Clint was also well known within the bodybuilding world having trained with several high profile names including Vince Gironda and Arnold Schwarzenegger. In fact the above photo was taken in Vince’s studio during the 1970s. 

Here’s the article in full.

Joe Weider’s Power Bracelet

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Joe Weider is undoubtedly a divisive figure in the history of bodybuilding. Influential to the nth degree regarding the modern climate of the sport, Weider has been continually criticised for selling snake oil supplements to a naive public.

Today’s post briefly examines Joe’s ‘Hell-Bent for Leather N’Lead’ product, a set of bracelets brought out by the Canadian entrepreneur in the early 1970s. Utilising the bodies of then Mr. Olympia Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mr. America Roger Callard, Weider promised incredible muscle gain and strength through the sheer act of wearing one of his patented bracelets.

Mike Mentzer, Nutritional Illusion, Delusion and Confusion (1993)

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The following excerpt comes from Mike Mentzer’s 1993 nutritional work, Heavy Duty Nutrition. A keen follower of Arthur Jones’s Heavy Duty training system, Mike was the poster child of an alternative and oftentimes radical form of bodybuilding. It should come as no surprise then that his nutritional advice also tended against the norm. 

In the following weeks, more chapters from Mike’s book will be shared on bulking, cutting and general good health. Enjoy!

Casey Viator’s Workout Routine -Chris Lund (1981)

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During the very early part of 1970, a muscle-building time bomb exploded in the form of “Nautilus” and its inventor, Arthur Jones.

The writings and advertisements for Jones and his mysterious machines emerged via the pages of top bodybuilding magazine “Iron Man.”

The articles, and even the ads, became so popular that countless readers wrote to Editor Peary Rader, claiming that they much preferred to digest the “Nautilus Ads”, before they read anything else!

Thomas Inch’s Diet

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One of the strongest men of the early twentieth-century, Thomas Inch was known in both Great Britain and the United States for his feats of strength. Unlike others however, Inch was hardly strict with his diet. In fact Inch was recorded as saying

There is nothing so wearisome as having to be extremely particular about what one eats or drinks. I can never believe that the food faddist is happy, that it can be nice to go through life feeling that it is extremely difficult to get the peculiar meals which have been adopted on some nature-cure plan, that everything has to be exact in quantity with nuts and fruit predominating.

Arthur Jones, Dick Butkus and the Long Con

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Controversial to the nth degree, Arthur Jones was a man known for his pull no punches approach. Wonderfully innovative, the founder of the Nautilus exercise phenomena had a strict sense of right and wrong when dealing with his small circle of clients.

This was demonstrated, most spectacularly, when Jones was approached by Dick Butkus, then linebacker for the Chicago Bears, in 1973. One of the most feared players in the NFL, Butkus had by then built a legacy based on ferocious tackling and a dogged determination to make quarterback’s lives a living hell.

On the first meeting of the two men however, Butkus was something of a sorry sight. Despite a physically imposing frame (Butkus stood at 6ft 3 and weighed over 240 lbs.), the Bear’s legend was almost crippled with the knee problems that would soon force him to leave the NFL. Compounding matters was the fact that Butkus was now out of contract with the Bears, meaning that any idea of a last payout was becoming slimmer by the day.