The Physical Culture Creed We Believe… That our bodies are our most glorious possession; that health-wealth is our greatest asset; that every influence which interferes with the attainment of superb, buoyant health should be recognised […]
It’s funny given the current obsessions with macro counting that few bodybuilders produce cookbooks for the general iron populace. This is in stark contrast to the early foundations of the sport, which saw dozens of cookbook and health works printed by enthusiastic physical culturists.
Today’s brief article focuses on Bernarr McFadden’s 1901 ‘Physical Culture Cookbook’ produced in the United States. Readers of the site will already be familiar with McFadden, one of America’s most prominent physical culturists of the early twentieth-century who notably staged America’s first bodybuilding show.
While McFadden put his name to over one hundred books during his life, the Physical Culture Cookbook remains among the most relevant for readers in 2016.
Born at the turn of the twentieth-century, Tony Sansone is perhaps one of the most famous physical culturists never to turn his hand to bodybuilding. Nevertheless his influence on bodybuilders and those seeking to get in shape was remarkable. Training under both Bernarr McFadden and Charles Atlas, Sansone developed one of the most sought after physiques in 1930s America.
He modelled, quite provocatively at times, wrote extensively on good nutrition and ran a series of gyms, which included a regular training spot for the legendary Steve Reeves. Shunning excessive bulk for definition and aesthetics, Sansone possessed a body that many men today would envy. Indeed, the renowned physical culture historian David Gentle once commented
If Sansone had been born in Greek antiquity, he would have been immortalized as a god.
With this in mind, today’s post looks at Sansone’s simple and effective way to build muscle mass while maintaining a relative level of leanness.
After three years of pumping up, slimming down and posing, Britain, and the world was treated to the first ever bodybuilding competition in 1901. Hosted by the legendary Eugen Sandow, the ‘Great Competition’ as it was known claimed to have found the most perfect specimens alive. Unsurprisingly it wasn’t long before other nations, notably America, began to hold their own bodybuilding shows.
Within two years of Sandow’s ‘Great Competition’, the US was hosting its own bodybuilding show. Today we tell their story.
Attached below is Bernarr McFadden’s classical book Vitality Supreme. Whilst McFadden wrote a number of works, Vitality Supreme is one of the more interesting publications. Luckily for us in 2014, it’s also free to download and free to read.
Find out McFadden’s advice for strengthening your stomach, improving your diet and building inner strength. It’s a great book for the strength enthusiast and the physical culture historian alike.
So go on, download it now and enjoy it for yourself!
When Atlas Wasn’t Playing Tug-of-War he was giving out Diet Tips
“I realize you are anxious to build up great strength and power as soon as possible. Here is a simple secret which should help give you the results you hope for.”
Charles Atlas, Mail Order Workout Programme, Lesson Two, c.1930s
In 1921 Charles Atlas won Bernarr McFadden’s ‘Most Perfectly Developed Man Competition’. In 1922, he won again and by this time McFadden ceased holding the competition. Rumour has it McFadden stopped because he felt Atlas would win every time. By the end of the 1920s Atlas was marketing his own unique mail order workout programme aimed at delivering fast results to his customers. The World’s Most Perfectly Developed Man promised to turn his weak students into dynamic man, just as Atlas had done with himself. In just 12 basic lessons, Atlas covered everything from diet and training to the right mind-set for building an awesome physique.
In the second lesson of the Atlas programme, aspiring muscle men (and women) were given a secret muscle-building programme by Atlas. It revolved around a single food…a ‘super food’ in modern day parlance.
Constipation: a condition in which there is difficulty in emptying the bowels, usually associated with hardened faeces.
Constipation may seem an odd topic of study, but the history of the condition and efforts aimed at relieving it open up interesting social, political and economic histories . From 1900 to 1940, the United States suffered a pandemic of constipation. The condition was widely acknowledged in public discourse and a thorn in the side of the medical profession. Today’s article focuses on Physical Culturist Charles Atlas’s role in promoting anti-constipation remedies. In examining Atlas’s story we will look briefly at what the medical profession had to say about the condition and what marketers were selling to consumers before examining what the ‘World’s Most Perfectly Developed Man’ had to say. It’s a story as bizarre as it is interesting.
Consciously or unconsciously, we are all aware of Charles Atlas and his business. In today’s article we will look at Atlas, Physical Culture and constructions of White Masculinity in 1920s to 40s America. I believe Atlas’s ‘Dynamic Tension’ product was successful in this time as claimed to provide men with masculine qualities that they wanted at a time when American White masculinity was seen as threatened. Atlas did not target other races, genders or sexual orientations instead focusing solely on white male heterosexuals. Atlas once said: “15 minutes a day! Give me just this and I’ll prove I can make you a new man.” Well in much less than 15 minutes you’ll have an idea of what type of man Atlas and his customers had in mind.