Tag: Fitness

The History of the Bulgarian Split Squat

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An exercise designed to enact as much pain as possible.

That at least is the thought that almost inevitably runs through my mind during a set of Bulgarian split squats. Heavy squatting? Fine by me. Heck throw in breathing squats for fun. I can grind through that. But high volume split squats? That’s an altogether different story.

By the tenth rep, I’m a sweaty mess. My quads are burning, hip flexors being stretched beyond belief and I’m making internal deals with myself about the next rep. Only three more reps then we rest…promise!

What keeps me coming back to the exercise again and again? Its sheer effectiveness.

Here is an exercise that overloads the quads, improves flexibility and prevents to a large part, any degree of cheating. Try leaning forward too much on the Split Squat and you’ll end up on the floor toot sweet. An experience many of us have encountered at one point or another.

Who then is responsible for this oh so necessary evil? When was the exercise created, who popularised it and what is the correct way of doing things? Stick around, and you might just learn a few things.

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Guest Post: The History of Physical Fitness

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Society often makes certain demands on the level of physical strength of its members. This is especially the case in times of primitive communal systems. Yet even then, even in ‘pre-modern’ societies, there were peculiar principles of physical education, because a person’s life was largely dependent on their physical qualities.

Today, fitness is still of paramount importance to health and well-being. With that in mind, the following post details a brief history of physical fitness.

Alan Stephen – Bulking is Easy (1950 article)

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Published by the mid-century Bodybuilder Alan Stephens, the following article from Your Physique magazine details some time honoured means of bulking up in the easiest and most efficient way possible. Though much of Stephens’ advice will seem like old hat to those a few years in the Iron Game, his writings were geared toward the beginner and those seeking to change things up.

What’s more. It was never overly complicated. Indeed according to the man himself

All you need to do is follow the right exercises, eat plenty of nourishing food and get as much rest and relaxation on your non training days as you possibly can.

With that in mind though, we’ll dig a little deeper.

Forgotten Exercises: The One Arm Clean and Jerk

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Recently I had the good fortune to stumble across Alan Radley’s excellent History of Physical Culture work. A combination of fun facts, serious scholarship and enough photographs to keep any Ironhead happy, it’s likely that I’ll be dipping in and out of this work for years to come.

In any case, Radley’s scholarship highlighted a number of odd lifts and techniques that although hugely popular during the heyday of physical culture in the early 1900s, have now largely fallen by the wayside.

The focus of today’s short post is one such lift, namely the one arm clean and jerk.

Forgotten Exercises: Barbell Kickbacks

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Let’s face it, very few people in the business of muscle building seem to respect the Tricep Kickback. Indeed a cursory glance online sees it described as pointless, useless and ineffective. Strong words for a relatively simplistic exercise. From my own observations, it is interesting to note in my own gym that women tend to gravitate towards Dumbbell kickbacks while men use the cable machine. Speaking to this with some friends recently, I was told that men don’t want to be seen with brightly coloured or small dumbbells working on there arms. A matter for an entirely different post…

In any case, the dumbbell kickback has served countless champion bodybuilders over the years, including but not limited to Frank Zane, Ronnie Coleman and even Arnold Schwarzenegger. Maybe that will improve their street credibility, or maybe not. Now in any case, in a futile attempt to discover the inventor of the Tricep Kickback exercise, I stumbled across an interesting variation promoted by the first, and two-time, Mr. Olympia, Larry Scott. That being the Barbell Kickback, the subject of today’s post.

The Lamb-chop and Pineapple Diet

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Hollywood transformations have long been a subject of intense public scrutiny. From Christina Bale’s incredible body transformations for what seems like most of his movies to Charlize Theron’s weight gain for Monster, we the consumer have read in amazement at the lengths actors seem to go to in order to secure a part.

This, it would seem, is not a recent phenomena. Something that became clear to me recently as I read Heather Addison’s excellent monograph entitled Hollywood and the Rise of Physical Culture. Dealing primarily with the period 1910 to 1940, Addison showcases how both male and female stars of the age faced an almost daily struggle to keep and maintain a svelte physique.

One such technique was the ‘Lamb-Chop and Pineapple’ diet, the topic of today’s post which was favoured by many females actresses during the 1920s.

The History of the Front Squat

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Having briefly discussed the history of the back squat some time ago, efforts were made over the past few days to create a similar account for the front squat. Sadly, perhaps owing to the popularity of its older brother, histories of the front squat are virtually non-existent as many writers seem to take its existence as a simple fact.

Nevertheless it is clear that all exercises are created at some point in history and with this in mind, I went trawling through old Physical Culture magazines and a selection of secondary books on the topic.

Dorian Yates’ Workouts from 1982-1985

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Yates in 1986

Known as ‘The Shadow’ in bodybuilding circles, Dorian Yates was the goliath of early 1990s bodybuilding. Winning the Mr. Olympia six straight years in a row from 1992 to 1997, Yates was famed for his intense approach to training. A modified form of the high intensity training advocated by Arthur Jones and Mike Mentzer, Yates’ success briefly brought this style of training to the bodybuilding fore.

The following post, stemming from a Dorian article with Flex magazine from the mid 1990s, details the Englishman’s training programme prior to his meteoric success. While everyone wants to know how a champion trains, knowing how they became a champion is equally important…Enjoy!

Joe Weider, Why I Entered the Mr. Universe Contest, Your Physique, February 16: 7 (1952), 7

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UP UNTIL a few minutes ago, I had not the slightest intention or expectation of writing this article. Since my return from Europe, my mail has been flooded with letters asking my why I entered the contest. “How good are the European bodybuilders compared to our boys?” asked one reader. “What were your experiences, and how was the show conducted and organized?” inquired another. I read a score of letters and as the pile of mail slowly grew higher and higher before me, I realized the futility of answering separately each piece of correspondence. So after a few minutes consideration, I decided to make an article take the place of a letter to those many fellow enthusiasts who have congratulated me, and have expressed pleasure and surprise that the editor of a physique culture magazine had the courage to show the world he practised what he preached.

Vince Gironda’s Beginner Bodybuilding Course

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Well known as one of the greatest trainers of his age, Vince Gironda’s name has become synomous with bodybuilding champions from Larry Scott to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Though Gironda made his name producing some of the greatest bodybuilding champions the sport has ever seen, he sent countless hours with beginners and intermediates seeking to sculpt their bodies or build muscle.

Today’s post discusses Vince’s general bodybuilding approach for beginners with the caveat being that Vince was known for changing exercises based on each trainer’s physique. Nevertheless, there is much to learn from his more generic approaches.