Tag: Physical Culture

Ireland’s First Bodybuilding Show

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Since beginning my study of physical culture several years ago, I have been fascinated by  the extent of Irish physical culture. Part of the British Empire in the early twentieth century, Ireland was very much influenced by the broader spread of physical culture in Great Britain. So close were the two regions that the Irish physical culture industry was largely predicated on what was happening in Britain, but more specifically, in London.

Thus in the late 1890s and early 1900s numerous Irishmen, of all age ranges, began writing in to British physical culture periodicals seeking advice, support and kudos for their interest in purposeful exercise. Without simplifying things too much, Irish physical culture at this time was very much a poor imitation of broader British developments. When a British Amateur Weightlifting Association was founded in the early 1900s, a smaller Irish branch was opened the same year. Where Britain had physical culture magazines, Ireland had physical culture newspaper columns. What Britain did, Ireland followed and this extended to bodybuilding competitions.

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Eugen Sandow’s Combined Toy and Physical-Culture Apparatus (1913)

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This is one of the odder products examined on this website, and that is really saying something! One of the great issues facing parents and schoolmasters is how to get kids excited about exercising. Well, a century ago, Eugen Sandow claimed to have the solution. What do kids love more than anything else? Candy!

With this keen insight in mind, Sandow devised a pulley toy which combined candy and exercising.

Eat like a Saxon!

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Those acquainted with the history of Physical Culture will no doubt recall the Saxon brothers, a travelling troupe of German strongmen who performed at the turn of the twentieth century. Blessed with remarkable physiques, the trio’s mighty strength was undoubtedly aided by their healthy appetite for food and drink. In fact, as today’s brief post shows, the trio consumed a gargantuan amount of food even by today’s standards.

According to Kurt Saxon, who acted as the trio’s chef on the road, a normal day’s consumption for each individual man was as follows:

Eugen Sandow, ‘The Jar and Fret of Business Lift,’ Sandow on Physical Training (New York, 1894).

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Theoretically, at least, we all pay tribute to the value and importance of physical education. We admire physical strength and beauty, and recognize, though only faintly as yet, the inter- relation of mind and matter. We know, moreover, that a healthy, active brain is sadly handicapped by an ill-developed, sickly body. We see around us every day of our lives masses of our race of imperfect growth and unsound constitution, and almost daily the lesson comes home to us of the break-down of some friend or acquaintance, whose weakness of body could not withstand the mental and bodily strain in the struggle of life.

The History of Kaatsu Training

“Wrap a band around your bicep until it begins to go numb, then pump out 30 reps with a light weight… Trust me, the pump is worth it.”

These are not the words of an enlightened man but rather my first experience of Kaatsu or Blood Restriction Training. Brought to my attention by a training partner whose grasp of science is not always the strongest, Kaatsu training has grown in popularity over the last decade. While my friend’s description may seem appropriate at first glance, there is quite a lot more to this training system than first meets the eye.

With this in mind today’s post seeks to answer three simple questions: what is Kaatsu training? How was it created? And, perhaps most importantly, should you try it?

Arthur Saxon, ‘The Bent Press’, THE DEVELOPMENT OF PHYSICAL POWER (LONDON, 1906)

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Constant practice is the only way in which one may succeed in raising a heavy weight in this position. It will, no doubt, be useful to read below how the lift is performed, but it will be no use to expect an immediate increase in your present lift simply by reading my instructions as to this position. PRACTICE is the great thing, all the time endeavoring to find a position which will suit yourself. I will describe the barbell lift, as in a bar bell more may be raised than in any other way.

Tom Burrows and the 100 Hour Indian Club Swing

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Readers of this blog will undoubtedly be familiar with my fondness for Indian club swinging, that great Hindu and Persian practice which became all the rage in England and the United States during the nineteenth and early twentieth century. The history of Indian club swinging has been previously covered here with one big exception. I have said little to nothing of my favorite Indian club athlete, the great Tom Burrows.

Burrows was an Australian athlete who came to Britain in the late nineteenth century to train soldiers at the Royal Army Physical Training Corps gymnasium in Aldershot. Once there, Burrows became a minor physical culture celebrity owing both to his expertise as a coach but, more importantly, his ability to swing Indian clubs for hours on end. This is no exaggeration. By the late 1900s, Tom Burrows could swing Indian clubs for eighty hours without resting. Such was his popularity and demand that he even went on a world tour during this time to showcase his abilities to foreign audiences.

Today’s post, which is based on an article I wrote for Sport in History, centers on Burrow’s ultimately failed efforts to swing the Indian clubs for 100 hours without rest. Interested? Read on.