Marian Mason: England’s Trailblazing Woman of Fitness

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Although sporting historians have long noted the importance of Englishwomen in the development of sport in general, few studies have devoted themselves to the study of callisthenics. Those that do, often employ problematic timelines. Indeed, although Fletcher, McKrone and Holt famously argued that women used sport and callisthenics to gain some form of social freedoms, all dated their studies from the latter half of the nineteenth-century. A decision which has done a great injustice to Marian Mason, England’s first female physical fitness instructor, who beginning in the 1820s, ran one of the most sought after training studios in all of England.

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The Workouts and Diets of the Bodybuilding Champions

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* This article first appeared in Iron Man magazine in 1991 and includes the workouts and eating patterns of Lee Haney, Rich Gaspari, Lee Labrada and Mike Quinn. Jerry Brainum was the author. 

Needless to say it’s a fascinating insight into the dietary and training habits of some of the greatest bodybuilders of the 80s and 90s. Check it out below. You might just learn something!

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“One thousand dollars to any charity if I cannot conclusively prove that every alleged instructor of physical culture in this country is either a former pupil of mine or using one of the systems I have originated and perfected.”

Professor Attila,  1894

Can you build muscle with just five pound dumbbells? For Professor Attila, the man who kickstarted Eugen Sandow’s career, the answer was an unequivocal yes. Today’s lost read is Professor Attila’s Dumbbell Exercises, a short monograph published in 1913 by the publishing house of Richard K. Fox.

Although many may scoff at the idea of training with five pound dumbbells, it is important to remember that Attila trained in a way very different to modern lifters. For Attila, dumbbells acted merely as grippers to allow maximal tension within the muscle. For example, in doing a bicep curl you would tense every muscle in the arm and slowly execute the movement for reps. This method was hugely similar to the dynamic tension advocated by Charles Atlas and a more intense form of training than the mind-muscle connection advocated by modern bodybuilders.

Aside from describing a new way of training Attila’s work also has some fascinating insights such as the use of one legged squats or back extensions to build muscle, exercises, which truth be told, I thought were more ‘modern’ methods.

So click below, have a read and enjoy!

Professor Attila’s Five Pound Dumbbell Course (1913)

John McCallum ‘Get Big Drink’

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The quest for greater size has long plagued both the ‘hard gainer’ and the muscle bound hunk. At times it can seem that the need to ingest greater calories is almost as taxing as our workouts. A predicament that John McCallum, the focus of today’s article, was keen to address. As you’ll read below, McCallum devised a simple but highly effective weight gain drink for those seeking to put on weight in the shortest possible amount of time.

The History of Weightlifting Shoes

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This work is largely a retelling of Andrew Charniga Jr.’s excellent post ‘Why Weightlifting Shoes’ available on his website here. Any errors are of course my own and I do recommend you check out the original. 

A regular problem for gym goers concerns the right type of shoes to wear and this is especially the case when it comes to weightlifting shoes. Whether you bodybuild, Olympic lift or crossfit, chances are you own, or have at least considered owning, a pair of weightlifting shoes. These days, weightlifting shoes are becoming something of a fashion accessory for the avid gym goer, a way of colourfully distinguishing oneself in the weightroom and adding a couple more pounds to their squats.

But where did these bizarre shoes with high heels come from? How have they evolved over the past century and what do we know about their history? In today’s blogpost, we’re going to discuss one of the relatively unexplored elements of the weightroom. Having previously examined the history of foam rollers and swiss balls on this site, it seems only fair to look at footwear.

Forgotten Exercises: Zottman Curls

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Looking for a new arm exercise? Of course you are, who isn’t?

Following our discussion of the see-saw shoulder press last week, we thought it was time to examine another forgotten exercise, the Zottman Curl. Named after 19th century strongman George Zottman, the Zottman curl is a fantastic way of stressing the biceps, brachialis muscles, and forearm supinators.

So what are Zottman Curls and how do I perform one?

The Lost Art of Swingbell Training

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Looking for something to break the monotony of dumbbell and barbell training? Admit it, every once and a while you like to try something new. Exercises or machines that truly test you. Well today, we’re going to look at the Swingbell, an old school piece of bodybuilding equipment promoted by York during the heyday of the 1950s.

In today’s post we’ll discuss some of the exercises you can do with this retro piece of equipment along with some tips to make your own.