Tag: Old School

Harry B. Paschall, ‘How Barbell Men Go Wrong’, Muscle Moulding (London, 1950)


You cannot spend a third of a century around physical culturists and barbell men without coming to a few conclusions. You see many enthusiasts who thrive on their training schedules and attain a perfectly satisfactory degree of physical development. You see others work and strain without noticeable improvement for months or years. Quite often these latter cases come up with the time-worn excuse that they are simply not the type to gain. Some experts even have given various names to these unsuccessful barbell men and inform them with regret that they cannot change their type and they are therefore doomed to failure.


George F. Jowett, Why Home Exercise is the Best (c. 1925)


You may have heard would-be body culturists say, “Aw gee, how can I train? There is no gymnasium around here, and any way if there was, I couldn’t afford it.” Actually, hundreds of young men have presented this problem to me, hoping that I would be able to solve the little difficulty for them. It is quite natural for any person to consider exercise and a gymnasium at the same time. As I have said at different times, it depends on what you are after. If it is games or calisthenics, all right. By all means become a member of a gymnastic class. They will certainly teach you to become good at the game you prefer, and this will help to keep you healthy and fit at the same time. Calisthenics will freshen you up and keep you normally fit, but if it is your whole body you want to build up to a stage of perfection, then it is an entirely different proposition. Of course, there are exercise rooms in all gymnasiums to which you can go and seclude yourself, but they do not always have the proper apparatus at hand for the body culturist to use. Of course, there is always the congeniality of companionship, but I have found that this is often very embarrassing, especially to the man who is under developed or too fat. There is always somebody willing to pass remarks, which even when made in fun, go a long way to diminish enthusiasm. Often a man is too conscious of his condition, and what he requires is encouragement, not to made the object of fun no matter how good natured it may be.

Michael H. Brown, ‘Developing an Iron Claw’ (1974)


Many years ago, before most of today’s weight trainees were even a gleam in their daddy’s eye, a fellow named John Y. Smith used to specialize in the one-handed deadlift. The late Harry Paschall, who used to write quite regularly for Iron Man Magazine in the 1950’s, had met Smith several years earlier and, in Paschall’s opinion, Smith’s hands looked like iron claws. Years of one-handed deadlifting with thick handled barbells had so thickened Smith’s finger tendons in the palm of the hand that those same tendons stood out like the webbing on a duck’s feet. Smith at the time was doing one-handed deadlifts in his exercise routine with about 400 pounds. Paschall, who could do almost 300 pounds in the same exercise, decided he could equal Smith’s performance without a whole lot of effort. Paschall made his living as an artist. After a few weeks of specializing on the lift he gave it up as he was afraid he would lose his artistic ability, the tendons in his hands were developing far more rapidly than he had expected. His hands too were beginning to look like “iron claws.”

Forgotten Exercises: The Bradford Press


One of the most maligned exercises of recent decades has been the military press done behind the neck. Owing it is said to the undue stress this exercise places on the shoulder joints, lifters have been advised to avoid this technique at all costs. I, for many years, was one of those lifters. Not only did the exercise feel uncomfortable, I couldn’t go as heavy on it, thereby hurting my fragile ego.

Some months ago I stumbled across another trainee performing Bradford Presses in the gym. This same trainee, an advocate of old school training, had previously alerted me to the Butt Punch and Swingbell exercises previously covered on this site. When pressed (no pun intended) about why he was performing said lift, I was curtly informed that he had performed this exercise for two decades without shoulder pain. I, was curious to put it mildly.

Fast forward to the present day and my shoulder health has improved dramatically, as has my conventional military press. I owe a large part of this to the Bradford Press, hence the topic of today’s post.

Sarah Pileggi, ‘The Pleasure of Being the World’s Strongest Women’, (Sports Illustrated, 1977)

Katie Sandwina was a professional strong woman who performed in John Ringling’s circuses in the early 1900s. She was celebrated for great feats of strength, such as carrying a 600-pound cannon on her back, and lesser ones, like executing the manual of arms with her 160-pound husband Max instead of a rifle. Sandwina was a handsome woman, standing 6’1″ and weighing 210 pounds. She had a narrow, corseted waist, in the style of the day, and well-rounded thighs filling out her white circus tights. Some people think Sandwina was the strongest woman who ever lived, but because very few strong women have thought it prudent to advertise their strength, the matter is difficult to judge.

In a genealogy of the spirit, Jan Todd would be in a direct line of descent from Katie Sandwina. The day four years ago when Jan first heard of Sandwina was also the day she began to turn over in her mind the possibility of shedding a feminine physical ideal that was not of her own making. Until that day she had been a naturally strong, athletically talented, intellectually well-equipped schoolgirl who took her strength for granted and worried, off and on, about her height (5’7″), her weight (165) and her posture (round-shouldered).

Stuart McRobert, Ten Years Wiser, Hardgainer Magazine, 11:1 (1999), pp. 13-16.


This issue of HARDGAINER marks the start of our eleventh year. In it we’re starting a new series in which an article from exactly ten years prior to the current issue will be reviewed and updated, to reflect what the respective author has learned over that ten-year period. Because Iwrote most of the articles in the early issues of HARDGAINER, I’ll be writing the early installments in this new series. But later on, other authors will be involved.

– Stuart McRobert

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.