While many credit Eugen Sandow as the father of modern day bodybuilding, very little is said about William, ‘Billy’, Murray, the world’s first recognisable bodybuilding champion. Today’s post will look at the interaction between Sandow, the unofficial father of bodybuilding and Murray, its first official king.
So who was William Murray? How did he win? And why has his place in bodybuilding history been largely forgotten?
“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.
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.
It’s a simple question but one loaded with controversy. Today most Internet forums are filled with heated arguments about whether the ‘mass monsters’ of today are helping or hurting the sport.
Rather than continue the common narrative that the 1990s and the Dorian Yates era was the dawn of the ‘Mass Monsters’, today’s post argues that bodybuilders and their forerunners have always taken their physiques to the extremes of their time. In other words, bodybuilders regardless of the decade, have always displayed bodies well beyond the reach of the common man.The bodybuilders of today who stand tall and wide are rather than damaging the sport, continuing the tradition of freakish bodily appearances.
After all, Bodybuilding has always judged physiques based on the best combination of size, shape, symmetry and conditioning. With this framework in mind, let’s examine the freaks of bodybuilding past.
Well if that strongman is Eugen Sandow, the father of modern day bodybuilding, the answer should be obvious. Sandow came at a time when steroids hadn’t infiltrated gyms and exercisers were forced to rely on food and training alone. Coupled with this Sandow was inspired by the aesthetics of old Greco-Roman statues, a look that most gym goers today are striving for. So why not train like a strongman from the 1900s?
Detailed below is Sandow’s exercise regime which he claimed kept the body in equal and awesome proportions. Combine it with the man’s advice on diet and you’re on to a winner.
From Eugen Sandow to Charles Atlas, physical culturists have long made a living through mail order ads. Check out this old Arnie one from the late 1960s flogging the latest Weider product. So next time […]
Type ‘Eugen Sandow Supplements’ into Google and you’ll find an interesting result. Half the results will talk about the virtues of Sandow and other physical culturists who ‘didn’t need supplements’ and the other half will discuss the selling technqiues of these very same men.
Whilst it is not the case that the impressive physiques from the men of yore were built on supplementation, it is fair to say that these pioneers of health and fitness had few qualms about selling supplements to aspiring fitness enthusiasts. This was especially the case of Eugen Sandow, the “World’s Most Perfectly Developed Man”.
Given the number of bodybuilding shows held every month, let alone every year, in places like the UK and USA, it’s difficult to imagine a time when there bodybuilding shows were relatively unheard of. Yes, vaudeville shows were performers would show off their muscles had been established in the 1800s but it took some time for a dedicated bodybuilding show to emerge.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was Eugen Sandow, the man many credit as the Father of Modern Bodybuilding, who helped initiate the first ever bodybuilding competition in the Royal Albert Hall in 1901. Billed as ‘the Great Competition’, the show helped kickstart the bodybuilding craze and bring about a world of Mr. Americas, Universes and Olympias.
So often in today’s world of World’s Strongest Man, Olympic Weightlifting and Powerlifting, the assumption that strength is defined by maximum weight lifted goes unchallenged. It is as if we accept unquestioningly that the person who can lift 500 pounds once is stronger than the those who can ‘only’ lift 400 pounds for reps.
It’s important to remember that strength was and is, a highly contested issue. Today we are going to look at a 20th century European strongman’s views on what strength really means.