Tag: Sports History

Pumping Iron II and the Birth of Female Bodybuilding

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Who can forget Pumping Iron? The iconic bodybuilding movie which pitted an enviably charismatic Arnold Schwarzenegger against Lou Ferrigno, the man who later became the Incredible Hulk.

A tragic epic of Homeric proportions, the initial Pumping Iron has been credited with helping bodybuilding become a more mainstream sport or at least pursuit, in the eyes of many. Furthermore it became a source of inspiration for hundreds of thousands of gym goers seeking to replicate the muscularity, determination and definition of the men on screen. In short, Pumping Iron helped normalise and accelerate male bodybuilding’s popularity.

But what then of Pumping Iron’s sequel Pumping Iron II, which focused exclusively on female bodybuilding? Why was it made? What impact did it have? And just where can one watch the original?

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The Rise and Fall of the World Muscle Power Classic

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Admit it. We’re somewhat spoilt for choice these days when it comes to contests of strength. Though not as well televised as some of us might like, myself included, strongmen competitions have grown exponentially over the past decade and a half. We have the World’s Strongest Man (WSM) and its various qualifying rounds around the globe. We have fiercely contested domestic competitions and even contests in your local gym should you be so lucky.

Time was, that this was not the case. Indeed for a long period, the world of strongmen had but two real contests to look forward to, that is the WSM and the World Muscle Power Classic (WMPC). Showing my nostalgic side, today’s post will examine the rise and fall of the WMPC, a strongman competition that for a brief period, was every bit as contested as the WSM.

World’s Strongest Man and the Crunch Bunch or ‘Are Strongmen Athletes?’

Nice muscles, what can you do with them? A common question and also the title for a series of YouTube challenges well worth watching.

The underlying point remains however. Are men and women of muscle athletes? Can they challenge others athletically or are they simply lumbering oafs? While anyone who watches World Strongest Man will testify to the athletic abilities of these men, the common man or woman may be dubious. Imagine then the wonder of 1988 when a rag tag bunch of strongmen donned American football uniforms and set off against the Glasgow Diamonds. The ‘Crunch Bunch’ as they were termed compromised some of the world’s strongest men, and undoubtedly the scariest defensive line in recent memory. This is their story.

1966 MR. OLYMPIA REPORT (December 1966 – Muscle Builder)

Having previously discussed the first ever Mr. Olympia contest held in 1965, it was a great and welcomed surprised to stumble across this report on the ’66 Olympia. Featuring a host of names from the golden age of bodybuilding, there’s something almost quaint about the sportsmanship and seeming politeness of this particular show. Especially when compared with the strictly professionalised competitions held nowadays.

The big question in 1966 was of course whether Larry Scott, the champion from the previous year, would retain his coveted title. At the risk of spoiling anything, I’ll just say read on!

Steve Michalik’s Training Diary from 1968

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How bodybuilding champions train is an area of intense interest for muscle fanatics the world over. How many sets, how many reps and how intensely? What makes them great?

Seeking to satisfy demands, muscle magazines often publish polished workout routines written by the Champions. Yet nothing compares to the first article, making today’s post on Steve Michalik’s 1968 training diary just so fascinating. In it we see Steve’s hopes for the future regarding the stage and also his thoughts on training poundages an intensity. A gem of a find that I stumbled across on Dave Draper’s excellent bodybuilding website and forum.

You can check out the training diary below.

The History of the Preacher Curl

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A piece of equipment ubiquitous across the gym floor, the Preacher Curl is a go to exercise for gym bros and dedicated trainees alike seeking to build their biceps. Combined with the EZ Bar, whose history is covered here, the Preacher Curl is likely an exercise we’ve all turned to in need of arm development.

When did this piece of equipment enter the gym zeitgeist, what was its original purpose and how did it become so popular? Furthermore, how does one perform the exercise correctly? Well strap in folks as we take another trip down memory lane…

3 Sets x 10 Reps: The History, Logic and Reasoning

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Earlier in the week I was fortunate enough to spend time with a friend of mine who has recently qualified as a physiotherapist. Discussing the relative merits of different exercises and training protocols, my friend lamented his profession’s reliance on cookie cutter protocols for rehabbing patients. In their view, many physiotherapists tended to prescribe 10 reps x 3 sets on exercises for patients regardless of their training experience, interest or age.

Now admittedly my friend has been strength training for the better part of a decade, which perhaps explains his enthusiasm for varying rep ranges across populations. Indeed in their training lifetime, they’ve used 5 x 5, 3 x 8, 1 x 20 and a host of other schemes. Hence they’ve experienced the effects that different protocols can produce. Ruminating however on their complaints, I realised that even outside the world of physiotherapy, people can adhere to rep ranges with a quasi-religious real. After all, when was the last time you heard someone promote 4 sets x 11 reps? Sacrilege….rep ranges must be divisible by 2 in the vast majority of cases!

Indeed, it’s not just the world of physiotherapy that has become enamoured with 3 sets x 10 reps. Many beginner and advanced programmes promote likewise. Certainly when I finished my first ‘real’ programme of 5 x 5, I was encouraged by older lifters to move to 10 x 3 for an introduction into bodybuilding. So with this in mind, today’s post examines the history of ’10 x 3′, a training protocol favoured it seems by gym goers and professional clinicians alike.

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1903 and the birth of American Bodybuilding

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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.

Who Invented the EZ bar?

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A piece of equipment so commonplace on the gym floor that we often take its very existence for granted. That, at least, is my impression of the E-Z Bar. Having previously discussed the history of barbells, the ancient origins of the dumbbell and even the Swiss Ball for God’s sake, it’s somewhat shameful that the E-Z Bar’s history has been neglected. Especially after it helped me to rehab my elbows following an overzealous few months doing triceps extensions with a straight barbell (Not the smartest in hindsight).

So who do we credit for the EZ Bar and when exactly did this handy piece of equipment come into being?