Tag: Back Training

The History of the Pull Up

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There are some exercises so basic, so ubiquitous and so difficult that their origins are often taken for granted. Previously when detailing the history of the squat, we encountered the difficultly of tracing a movement found in every culture and arguably every human movement. The Chin Up and the Pull Up exercises offer a similar problem.

The purpose of today’s post is not to discover the inventor of the pull up, if such a thing is possible, but rather to discuss its evolution over the past two centuries from gymnastic exercise to Crossfit controversies. As will become clear, even a simple movement carries a lot of history.

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The History of the Assisted Pull Up Machine

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Now admittedly this is not the catchiest title I’m ever going to use but it hopefully conveys the purpose of today’s post. Back when I started training, assisted pull up machines were a thing of scorn. Who, we would wonder, would bother with such an oddity? Couldn’t individuals muster a solitary pull up by themselves? Well several humbling years later, during which time I realised my version of pull ups was generous to say the least, I discarded the arrogance of my teenage years and used the machine for the first time. It has since become a staple in my training, used at the end of workouts to ensure my back and ego is fried in equal measure.

While we’ve covered mainstream machines like the leg press, prowler or leg extension, I have to admit that I find niche and oftentimes strange devices like the bosu ball or foam roller to be far more interesting. You see for me, the more esoteric devices often represent an attempt to reach out to new trainees or those uncomfortable in the traditional gym setting. As becomes clear when studying the assisted pull up machine, the device was born from a increased societal interest during the late 1970s.

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.

Louis Abele’s Back Program c. 1948

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Although unknown to the modern olympic lifter, Abele was one of America’s finest lifters during the 1940s and 1950s. Unfortunately he was overshadowed by fellow US lifters John Grimek, Steve Stanko, and John Davis during the course of his career. Similarly the outbreak of the Second World War denied Abele the chance to lift at the 1940 Olympic Games, a time when he would have been in his prime.

Nevertheless, Abele’s lifting career saw him put up some rather impressive poundages as you’ll read about.

With regards to training philosophy, Abele was a strong advocate of specialisation and high intensity training. Illustrating this, Abele tells the reader that he once exercised so hard that his teeth hurt from breathing! I suspect that this level of intensity is relatively rare in today’s gyms. Anyway what fascinates me about Abele was his advocacy of specialisation and by that Abele meant training primarily legs for 2 to 3 months before moving on to another body part for a similar amount of time. In this way Abele would focus almost exclusively on one body part, to the detriment of others, reach what he felt to be a maturation point and then switch his training up. From memory I can’t think of too many current lifters who adhere to this sort of programming although one supposes that the concept of a deload week is vaguely similar.

Anyway, the below article details Abele’s back workouts from his early 20s. For interested parties, the text itself comes from a series of letters written by Abele to Chester O. Teegarden which were published by Iron Man Industries of Alliance, Nebraska in 1948.

As always… Happy Lifting!

The History of the Pull Up

images

There are some exercises so basic, so ubiquitous and so difficult that their origins are often taken for granted. Previously when detailing the history of the squat, we encountered the difficultly of tracing a movement found in every culture and arguably every human movement. The Chin Up and the Pull Up exercises offer a similar problem.

The purpose of today’s post is not to discover the inventor of the pull up, if such a thing is possible, but rather to discuss its evolution over the past two centuries from gymnastic exercise to Crossfit controversies. As will become clear, even a simple movement carries a lot of history.

The History of the Dumbbell Pullover

645px-Dumbbell-bent-arm-pullover-2

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.

Forgotten Exercises: The Butt Punch

Admittedly a strange name for an even stranger looking exercise, the Butt Punch came to the weightlifting community’s attention in the late 1990s thanks to the late Jerry Telle. Telle, for those unaware of him, was briefly touted as one of the freshest thinking minds in the Iron Community. Bursting onto the scene with a host of new ideas and, more importantly, interesting exercise, Telle is perhaps best known owing to his fondness for drop sets.

Nevertheless, Telle contributed a number of exercise variations, the Butt Punch being one of them. Aimed primarily at, you guessed it….the glutes. The Butt Punch hits the glutes and lower back like it’s nobody’s business. Having spent the last month playing around with the exercise, it’s a great substitute for Good Mornings and Romanian Deadlifts. But before we get into its applicability, we’ll let Telle do the talking.

T.C. Luoma, Back Training in Focus: Back Training with Shawn Ray (1995)

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It happened to Rocky Balboa. He got soft. He earned all that money, got used to the good life, and lost his competitive edge, his “eye of the tiger.” His old fart of a trainer told him, ” The worst thing that could happen to a fighter happened to you – ya got civilized.” Rocky had to return to his roots to get his edge back. Will the same thing happen to Shawn Ray, now that he’s living the good life?

Forgotten Bodybuilding Exercises: The Gironda Motorcycle Row

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How do I train my back? A common concern for weightlifters, bodybuilders and the average Joe or Jane seeking to get the most from their training.

We all know the basics: chin ups, rowing movements, pulldowns and of course the deadlift. But what else can be done to throw some variation into our training systems. Well, as we so often do on this website, we decided to return to Vince Gironda’s bag of tricks for inspiration.

Aside from pulldown movements utilising a range of hand positions and his own unique style of chins ups, Gironda was greatly fond of the 45 degree row or the motorcycle row as it has been termed in later years. Seen by the Iron Man as one of the quintessential back builders, the Motorcycle row is undoubtedly a neat addition to your regular workout.

How to Row Gironda Style

The History of the Reverse Hyper Extension Machine

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Lower back pain is an all too common problem these days for the average office worker. Long stints in the chair, hunched over, with poor posture. It’s little wonder back ache is one of the leading complaints for desk jockeys. If just sitting for extended periods of time causes such pain, imagine what lifting hundreds of kilos in a squat or deadlift does to the lower back!

It’s this juncture between the regular Joe and the super strong that the Reverse Hyper Extension Machine takes it place. Once a niche piece of equipment, the machine is beginning to crop up in more and more gyms. Though not my new gym but that’s a personal gripe!

So what is this machine that promises to strengthen the lower back, resolve back pain and build a damn strong posterior chain? Where did it come from and, perhaps most importantly, who invented it?