Sunday, September 24, 2023

Modern Strand-Pulling, Part One - David Webster


Courtesy of Jan Dellinger.
Thank You, Sir! 

by D.G. Johnson
Editor of "Health and Strength" and
"The Body Builder." 

In assessing the lessons to be learned in the highly competitive sports arenas of today, every unbiased authority will declare emphatically that skill alone is not sufficient and that it must be applied by an athlete who is physically perfectly suited to the event. 

The top-flight athlete today must be "body-built" for the particular tests demanded of him. He must be the acme of perfection in both mental and physical aspects. And so it is that the pastime, or sport, or hobby, of BODYBUILDING, in all its phases -- and there are many -- has so grown in popularity that very few folk of either sex do not come into contact with it in one form or another in one or many ways. 

Today, Bodybuilding, having survived its earlier difficult times of apathy and ridicule, has won a well-merited place in the life of millions because its effects are real and long-lasting. 

Bodybuilding is the application of progressive resistance exercise to the body for a particular purpose. 

It is not generally appreciated that there are several excellent ways of applying progressive resistance exercises to the body, and it is, in my view, a great pity that some have been neglected. 

Strandpulling is one example and that is where the author of this book, 
my old friend David Webster, comes in.      

David is the supreme enthusiast, a veritable dynamo who turns out brilliant ideas and masses of practical information which every bodybuilder can read easily and fully understand. 

Like all great enthusiasts, he holds definite opinions which sometimes may prove unacceptable to his closest friends, among whom I have the privilege to be one. But his practical knowledge and his ability to instruct in his own field are unexcelled. 

It has been my pleasure to encourage him in every way and his splendid instructional articles in "The Bodybuilder" especially have brought a great new interest in the use of strandpulling as a sure and certain method of all-round development. 

Quite obviously this method he so brilliantly expounds has advantages over other methods, and for this one fact alone it deserves commendation by anyone who is anxious to see British physical culture prosper. 

Note: Here's more from David Webster: 

Yikes! Along with the two previous strandpulling articles by Mr. Webster. 

Now, on to Part One . . . 


It is customary for the budding author to to start his first book with a short autobiography relating the highlights of a wonderful life. With a physical culture publication more often than not it is a tale of overcoming of physical handicaps, to reach great heights in the realm of Muscledom. 

I cannot claim to have had a poor start in a life that has been crammed with sport and physical culture as long as I remember. My parents brought me up on healthy lines with good plain in large quantities and anyone acquainted with Scottish culinary customs will agree that porridge, Scotch broth, haggis, "skirlie," "neeps," "tatties," and such like are just the things to build a firm foundation for a growing lad. 

From the time I started school  I can remember that visits to pictures and theaters never held any great interest for me, but the regular wrestling shows in town were quite a different story! I used to queue for a good cheap seat and sit enthralled by the mighty physiques and strength of the pachyderms of the mat. I came to know many of these grapplers personally and collected a store of knowledge enabling me to study form and forecast results accurately. 

Note: Over the last little while I have found that a lot of lifters got their first inspiration to build their bodies from the masters of the mat. Some great physiques with plenty of strength among those men! 

Before long I was a cigarette card millionaire, my brother and I having opened a book on the results, and with well placed bets with the opposition, using cigarette cards instead of money, we gathered what to us was a fortune. Our collection for many a long day was the talk of the school! 


Now, I know that these boyish interests in sport will not be of great reading value to most of you, so I shall skip the next few years of visits to Highland Games, Sports Meetings and shows till the dark days of World War Two. 

In Scottish strandpulling, one name stands out above all others -- Gavin Pearson of Glasgow. With Ron Clemson of Middlesbrough, in 1940, Gavin founded the International Steel Strand Association and did a great job in encouraging physical fitness and morale boosting, as a glance at the physical culture mags of that period will show. Hardly a week passed without a display; the enthusiasts traveled great distances at their own expense to demonstrate and compete in competitions until a good following resulted and the Association was well established.  

Note: International Steel Strand Association handbook, here:

In 1945 I joined the I.S.S.A. and traveled to Leeds to see some of the top notchers in action. I had been training with a set of ungraded strands and had no knowledge of the poundages that I was handling. I knew only the numbers of springs on the handles for the various exercises I practiced. I believe this was a very good thing, because I had no mental barrier and did not realize that what I was doing was in any way out of the ordinary. 

Gavin Pearson has always given me great encouragement and that day persuaded me to attempt some Certificate of Merit poundages. I did extremely well and broke the North of England records. I was only sixteen years old at this time and I believe the only strand-puller to break this achievement was the popular Sammy Perkins, one time member of the stage teams, the "Zenith Brothers" and later Reub Martin's "Martinis" and "Trois des Milles."

In October of 1945, back in Scotland, I was runner-up in the British 9st. Championships and the proud North of Scotland title holder. 

A very active year followed in 1946. I entered for and won, the title of Scotland's Best All-round Strand-puller, a contest of several rounds. This gave me great competition experience, a chance at record breaking and an opportunity to meet many other strand-pullers. I managed to establish several new records, including a Right Arm Upward Push, my best pull, which is regarded as a World Record. The record is still held by me at the time of writing with a poundage of 350 pounds. 

I was a tired but very happy traveler back to Aberdeen that July evening with a double victory to my credit, having won the final round of Scotland's Best All Rounder and having beaten Gavin in a special challenge match at the Dennistoun Weightlifting Club, Glasgow. 

My first experience in International competition took place in London in January, 1946, representing Scotland with Gavin Pearson against Bill Blackman, winner of many titles and awards, and Charlie Schilds, who was by far the heaviest of the quartet. 

This was my first attempt at  rubber strands, and I was amazed to find the method of ascertaining the poundage of the strands very different from the acknowledged principles of Hooke's Law, as taught in schools and universities. It is possible to be credited with much higher poundages on rubber strands than on steels owing to this testing anomaly and also owing to the greater lengths of strands approved by the B.A.S.P.A. I have decided views on the subject of testing strands and all the aspects of this, and intend entering into greater detail later in the book.

The exercise value of all-round strand pulling had increased my weight nearly a stone -- ye earnest seekers after body-weight, please take note! I now weighed in the region of 10 stone, my legs remaining comparatively light, and was determined to win the Scottish Open Championship before going into the Army, continued in Part Two. 

Enjoy Your Lifting!  



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