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.
During the prime of his career, Eugen Sandow was known for having ‘the perfect physique’ and for being one of the foremost proponents of physical culture. Physical culture being broadly understood as the social movement concerned with health and strength that swept across Europe and the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century. A man built to a Grecian ideal of beauty and presented as the ideal of what good health should be, Sandow toured the world performing and lecturing the masses about the importance of physical and spiritual health. Such was Sandow’s mass appeal in the late 19th and early 20th century, that some commentators have credited him with launching the body obsessive societies of today. His influence stretched from America to Australia and many places in between. Much has been written about Sandow’s time in Great Britain and the United States, but few have examined Sandow’s time in the south of Ireland in the late 1890s. His time in Ireland was brief but it was to leave lasting results.
Attached below is Eugen Sandow’s classical book Strength and How to Obtain It. Whilst Sandow wrote a number of works, Strength and How to Obtain it was by far his most popular. Luckily for us in 2014, it’s also free to download and free to read.
Strength And How To Obtain It
Find out Sandow’s measurements for the perfect body. Sandow’s tips for heavy weight training and even some great anecdotes from Sandow’s life. 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!
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.
“What puts you over the top? It is the mind that actually creates the body, it is the mind that really makes you work out for four or five hours a day, it is the mind that visualizes what the body ought to look like as the finished product.”
The mind-muscle connection? That’s what Arnold talked about right?
Well yes but he wasn’t the only one as I discovered recently when going through some old material written by Peary Rader.
How many times do you eat a day? Do you eat carbs after 3pm? Post-workout protein shake?
Such are the questions faced by the modern day strength enthusiast. Are we overthinking the way we eat? In a world faced with a growing obesity epidemic and continuous production of low quality foods the answer may appear no. If we dig deeper however we may begin to question why we stick to rigid diet tips by people supposedly in the know. Where should we turn for diet advice? The muscle mags are one place, yet one often has to traverse through forty pages of advertisements before stumbling upon anything remotely sane.
What about the strongmen of yore? What about Eugen Sandow? How did he eat and why?