Muscle control is the art of controlling or isolating the muscles. Anyone can learn to control his muscles by diligent practice just as he can control his arms, fingers and toes. Time spent in learning the art of muscle control is time well spent. For when once you have acquired a fair or excellent muscle development, you can show it to the best advantage when it is photographed by knowing how to bring out the various muscles. Frequently the man who has developed an exceptional physique is asked to give an exhibition of his development and muscular ability at the school auditorium, at a club meeting or smoker if he is an older man, at a weight lifting contest or strength and health display, or to a group of friends who pay him a visit. At any weight lifting contest of strength and health show, muscle control is the feature of the program. The spectators never seem to see too much of it and if toward the end of the program a full dozen of the nation’s leading strength stars take their place on the platform, in the posing cabinet under the lights, the spectators continue their enthusiastic and vociferous applause and their rapt attention as long as the stars will continue their exhibition. Some years ago Tony Terlazzo, America’s Olympic, world’s, North American, and of course the United States champion, John Grimek who millions of strength and development lovers admirer and believe to be the best developed man not only of the present but of modern times, and myself gave a series of exhibitions throughout the western states. We drove 9000 miles and took part in 24 exhibitions in 30 days. Enthusiasts drove over a thousand miles to see this group in action and the most impressive part, the best liked part, the feature of the display which evoked the most applause was always the muscle control display and then the incomparable Grimek.
Grimek has been in great demand at shows all over the nation, his act has always been the last, the feature act of the history making strength and health shows which have been staged in
It was muscle control more than any other one thing besides their wonderful physiques which made many of the old timers famous. For men who were not large, unimpressive when clothed, not too forcible in appearance while training in the gym, became muscular marvels under the lights of the posing cabinet. Charles McMahon, Antone Matysek, Frank Denis, Joe and Adolph Nordquest, Bill Lilly, Eugen Sandow, the great Otto Arco, who as this is written is 64 and in exceptional muscular condition, and the great Bavarian strong man Max Sick, best known as Maxick, always opened their acts with a darkened stage, and with a superlative posing exhibition under the lights. These men could literally make their muscles talk, and command or control them in the most unusual manner. It has been said that Sandow made a million dollars standing still, he traveled throughout the world and inspired many millions of young and old men to do something about their bodies.
These great strength stars could literally command their muscles to do their bidding, make the muscles dance of spread out into displays of sheer muscularity which thrilled their audiences. They learned the art of standing at ease or in pleasing, attractive poses, forcing one series of muscles after another into bold relief where they could be seen most impressively, while retaining a natural expression.
Maxick wrote a book about muscle control, and was the most enthusiastic claimant of the fact that much of his world record breaking strength had been acquired by muscle control. While it is debatable just how much strength can be gained by muscular control alone, how much development, the experts all agree that the practice of muscle control will improve the shape and appearance of one’s muscles, will give them a bettered appearance and definition which adds to the all around development and impressiveness of appearance of the strength athlete who practices the art.
Two of the best results of weight training are balance and control of the muscles. The practice of muscle control will amplify the ability of the body. Will teach muscular coordination and promote maximum efficiency of the muscles. These benefits alone make well worth while the long and continued practice of muscle control. The athlete learns to command or apply his muscles and with this proper direction, it is reasonable to believe that he will acquire greater skill in whatever he may undertake, the ability to apply his complete resources to the athletic endeavor or other use to which he puts them. And most important of all to some, it will provide the admiration creating figure which is the most desired asset many men seek, it will enhance a man’s fame as a strong man, give him a deserved reputation for being a real man, make it possible to get his photo in the leading health and exercise magazine of the day, Strength and Health, and be invited to display his excellence of physique at local and larger gatherings.
The enthusiastic body culturist should obtain for himself a complete book or course which deals with the art of muscle control. We will interest ourselves in this volume only in displaying the shoulder muscles with a word or two about the display of the muscles which are interconnected with them.
The muscle controls which we will describe will be the isolation of the trapezius, the pectorals, which while they are the chest muscles connect with the shoulder bone and the shoulder muscles, the various displays of the scapula, the deltoids, and even the latissimus dorsi, for this large and impressive muscle extends up to a position just under the armpits and is interconnected with the shoulder muscles.
The secret of gaining success in controlling the various muscle groups in an impressive manner is to command, by will power, the muscle or muscle group which you wish to bring out, while relaxing other adjacent muscles. I am not making an exaggerated statement when I say that anyone can learn to control what muscles he has just as most people can lift their chests, pulling in their oversize waistlines when desired, many have learned in childhood to wiggle their ears, an art which became lost by the average person some thousands of years ago, most people can harden or control their arms, legs, some can harden or make rigid their abdomen so that it can withstand a hard blow, others can tense or move their pectorals or their buttock muscles, the Gluteus Maximus. There are few persons who can not do something in the line of muscle control. The real object should be to obtain an impressive development of the muscles and then learn to display them to the best advantage.
A muscle control expert learns to feel his muscles, must “feel” just what he wants to do, know just which ones he wishes to isolate and bring out. Muscle control should be practiced in the privacy of your own home in the beginning; after you acquire at least some ability you can practice in front of the mirrors in the gymnasium if you have such a place in your city or town. The enthusiastic body builder will best succeed in his endeavors, particularly in learning to control his muscles if he has a full length mirror in his bedroom or the room which has been designated a home gymnasium. It is pleasing to note that more and more homes have allotted space for home gymnasiums, the time is coming when the home gymnasium will be found in as many houses as dens, recreation or sewing rooms, almost as many as dining rooms. For the difference between being half alive, from experiencing a constant succession of major or minor pains, ills and discomforts is the having and using, or the not having, a place to practice regular exercises, and best system is to train progressively the York way with weights. This will aid in the obtaining of perfect, super health, resistance to disease, improved glandular and organic action, better digestion and better elimination, the overcoming or the prevention of constipation, the arch enemy of modern men and women, one which is considered to be responsible directly or indirectly for about 99% of the serious sickness of the day, more endurance, more rapid recuperative power, the ability to do things one likes to do. If this mirror is so placed that there is a single light overhead and slightly to the front, shadows will be created and you can more easily see just “how you are doing.” An essential is a mirror of some sort for you must see what you are doing.
We will skip the controls of the neck, of the abdomen, the pseudo vacuum, the washboard, the stomach roll, the rope, the isolation of one or both rectus muscles, the control and isolation of the external obliques and serratus magnus, the Indian face as Sig Klein calls it, a method of displaying the abdominal muscles, and go on to muscle controls which are a part of the shoulder girdle or are adjacent to and interconnected with the shoulder muscles.
I urge all readers of this book to spend a fair share of time in the practice of these various controls. During the very hot weather, when it is late at night and you don’t wish to disturb others, as a partial rest between the more vigorous exercises in the gymnasium, you will amplify or retain the development of the muscles through the regular practice of muscle control. Sandow practiced his muscle control act at every opportunity and this every opportunity was almost constantly. When he sat, apparently idly reading a book, he would “flick” his pectoral or abdominal muscles, tense the various muscles of the shoulder girdle. It’s reasonable to believe that this constant flexing, flicking and tensing of the various muscle groups aided him in developing the physique which has made him one of the immortals, which brought to him everything that a man could desire in this world: the sincere and lifelong admiration of one of the world’s most beautiful women who became his wife, the love and admiration of beautiful children, his own, riches, over a million, world wide fame, respect; he trained kings, emperors, world’s leaders. Surely he received a rich reward for his body building and body displaying efforts.
One of the simplest muscles to control is the latissimus dorsi. It’s a very large and powerful muscle, which aside from its multitude of uses in lifting, in athletics and at work, imparts the curve to the back, the breadth or spread to the back. In the advanced weight man, in the stars of strength and development, it spreads out like a pair of wings. When fully developed and tensed, it causes the arms to spread far to the side. In the past I have seen some extraordinary physical specimens who by keeping this muscle spread or tensed as they walked along the street, caused the arms to stand out so far t the side that it gave rise in the thoughts and opinions of many that the man was so muscle bound that he could not put his arms down to the side. It is too bad that this condition was created but it does prove that this muscle is one of the easiest to develop. That it is one of the easiest to control, and when controlled it shows that its owner is greatly physically superior to the average man.
While this large muscle is best developed in the body of the weight man, swimmers frequently have an impressive curve to their backs, for this muscle serves to draw the arm downward, and of course that is exactly what it does in swimming and what it would do in flying if that were possible for humans. So what is known as the flying exercise, while lying on one’s back on a bench or box, will aid greatly in the development of this muscle. Since this is one of the chief muscles which adds shapeliness to the body, all body culturists should spend ample time in developing it and learning to control it to the greatest extent. You must have often seen some man strolling around on the beach with this muscle so prominently displayed that it very evidently added breadth to the shoulders.
To control this muscle: Stand in front of the mirror, relaxing all the muscles of the body, in this position you will probably note that there is little difference in the breadth of the back and the waist, unless you are one who is exceptionally broad shouldered and slender waisted. Place your hands on your hips, raise your shoulders, bring the shoulders forward. You should feel a tenseness in the muscles of the upper back. After practicing this for a time, try to tighten the muscle without leaning forward, and with constant practice you should learn to make this muscle stand out so it is displayed conspicuously from either the front or the back view. The arms will at first assist you in controlling the latissimus, but in time you will be able to tense it, isolate and display it in any position without the help of the arms. It will have a shoulder broadening effect, first in appearance when tensed, but ultimately a noticeably increased breadth when standing at ease. Muscle control experts have a fullness, a roundness to their physiques, a shapeliness, that is not possessed by other men who train as long and as hard, who can lift as much and can perform physical feats of an equal magnitude. There seems to be no doubt that the practice of muscle control will definitely improve the physique, and in this case widen the shoulders. It is difficult to determine just how much strength will be produced through muscle control, men of the past who have developed their muscles through the hardest sort of weight training have later sold muscle control courses claiming that they were responsible for their great strength, that they only lifted weights to demonstrate their strength. But in the opinion of the writer, they built their strength through weight training and weight lifting and used muscle control to demonstrate the development they had obtained through standard weight training. After continued practice of isolating the latissimus you should have an apparent wider and thicker development of this muscle.
If you have ever seen a muscle control artist in action, or even a strong, well developed man, you must have been impressed with the way he could cause the back muscles to writhe, wiggle and ripple. The upper back, although it consists largely of the two major muscle groups, the latissimus and the trapezius, also includes many other lesser known but strong and impressive appearing muscles which when controlled by alternately tensing and relaxing them, not only produce the impressive display of the muscle control man but provide a favorable massage and development effect for these muscles and the other muscles and attachments of the upper back.
The most impressive muscle exhibition of which the back muscles are capable is the various displays, isolations and spreads of the scapula. The most common and one of the most marked ways to display the muscles of the upper back through spreading or manipulating the shoulder blades is done as follows. This control is easy for many, and even for those who require some time to get the feel of it, in a moderate lapse of time, the method of controlling this muscle group will be acquired. Interlace your fingers, and extend them overhead as shown by John Grimek in the illustration. You will note that the hands are turned about so that the palms are up. Now exert pressure upward and outward as though you were trying to separate your hands but resisting this by the power of the fingers. You should feel that the shoulder blades are at least somewhat displaced.
By continued practice you will isolate the scapula to an astonishing degree. Frequently photos are sent to us which look at first glance as if we have found another outstanding physical specimen, but when a relaxed pose of the same barbell man is seen, it illustrates that he is not much more than average in development, but has been able to make this impressive display because he has developed the ability to control the upper back and shoulder muscles. The ability to impressively control these muscles is one of the best way to build a reputation, locally at least, as a strong and very well built fellow. You must bear in mind throughout the practice of this movement that the muscles of the back must be completely relaxed. This is a control of the shoulder blades, and a tensing of the muscles will defeat their ability to spread impressively. To isolate the shoulder blades to the limit of their ability an even pull must be exerted and there must be a constant attempt to spread the shoulder blades farther with each day’s practice. If you find it difficult to acquire this control, hanging by the hands on an overhead bar of some sort, with the feet clear of the floor, will cause you to feel this muscle. The hanging will loosen and separate the muscles in this region and in time will permit greater displacement. As you hang for a time you will note that the deltoid muscles almost touch your ears, the lower you can drop your body while in this position the more pull you will feel and the more you will be able to displace the scapula.
Hanging in this manner should give you the feel of the shoulder blades, raising and lowering the body in this position should help you spread the scapula. While some believe that the display of the spread shoulder blades is most impressive in the manner described, there are other methods of spreading the back through spreading the shoulder blades. As briefly mentioned in another chapter, the scapulas are fastened to the clavicles at their upper portion, and this constant pulling or spreading of the shoulder blades has a tendency to stretch the ligaments and attachments of the collarbone, thus broadening the shoulders to a considerable degree.
You can spread the scapula in the following somewhat different way. Interlace the fingers in a manner which will permit, when the palms of the hands extend to the front, a strong and spreading pull. The pressure can be applied about the same as with the method formerly described. This different method may be easier for some, harder for others, but at least it will bring the muscles into action in a somewhat different manner, and be an additional display you can use in taking physique pictures or in taking part in exhibitions.
When you have mastered these two controls, you can practice them successively in what could be a part of your muscle control routine. Isolate the shoulder blades with the arms extended overhead, bring them down to the second position described, meanwhile relaxing the muscles, then keeping the muscles relaxed, in this new position spread the shoulder blades to their limit again. By alternately practicing these two movements the muscles of the shoulders and the upper back will become much more flexible so that a considerably greater spreading of the shoulder blades becomes possible. Controls of this sort always impress the spectators and they marvel at the ability to move these great masses of muscles so readily and impressively. I recommend that you practice these movements at every opportunity so that you can go from one control to the other, smoothly and apparently without effort.
The muscle control stars acquire the ability to spread these muscles in diverse manners. Rudy Gambicorta, one of the present day masters of this art, spreads his shoulder blades most impressively, quite possible farther than any other of the present stars, except John Grimek. John is more muscular than Rudy which adds to the impressiveness of his display, but if you study the shoulder spread as performed by Rudy Gambicorta, you will observe that it could not be excelled. Note the position of the hands in this display by Rudy. Consider the raised position of the shoulders and the very wide spread of the shoulder blades. In the front view of the same contour by John Grimek we believe you will agree that you have never seen a more impressive display. Note the great spread of the muscles under the shoulders, it’s doubtful if they have ever before been displayed so prominently by any strength athlete. While we are not discussing other parts of the body except the shoulders, you can not help but notice the superb excellence of the Grimek physique. Practice this spread of the shoulders, and you will never fail to impress the onlookers.
A brief word about isolating or controlling the pectorals. As they are so closely allied with the shoulders, to obtain the maximum of shoulder broadening, shoulder strengthening, shoulder developing effect, it is necessary to practice the control of these muscles too. The way to gain control of them is to clasp the hands, so that the pressure can be exerted against them when desired, by leaning slightly forward and pressing one hand hard against the other the pectoral muscles will become tensed and rounded. It is evident that the shoulders play a part in bringing about this control. By crossing the arms over the chest and tensing these muscles you can learn to prominently display them in that position too. As a part of the muscle control exhibition that you may wish to offer at some time, to best display the pectorals, stand with the fingers interlaced and extended slightly to the front, bend forward somewhat and thus by exerting a mere pressure upon the hands, you can make the muscles jump. By increasing the pressure you can separate the pectoralis major from the minor. You will observe a hollow in the chest muscles just below the shoulder blade which, when evident, is the proof that you are separating these two major muscle groups. Your hands for easier control of the two pectoral muscles, for ease in isolating or separating them, should be raised almost to shoulder level. By exerting and relaxing pressure you can cause these hollows to appear and disappear.
After you have become thoroughly skilled in performing this isolation with the hands clasped, you can learn to do it with the hands stretched out to the sides. In this position by rounding the back slightly and rolling the shoulders forward, you can control the pectorals and bring out the “hollows” which clearly indicate that you are isolating the pectoral muscles. While it is harder to produce this control, it is very impressive when once you have done so and will be one more movement in the muscle control routine you should strive to develop. You can learn this display if you find it difficult by standing in such a position that you can hold to supports with your outstretched hands. By rounding your back and bringing your shoulders forward this control is automatically simplified when you attempt to bring your arms together, resisting the supports you holding on to. A trial of this suggested method will show you how easy it is to perform as compared to the unsupported arms held out to the side.
As described in another chapter the trapezius, a huge and powerful muscle, is situated across the back, sloping from the base of the neck over to the points of the shoulders, and runs far down the backbone. While this muscle has bee called by some writers the monk’s cowl, by others it is referred to as the kite like muscle. Either terminology describes it fittingly. This is the muscle which when fully developed imparts the impressive slope to the shoulders.
The “quick” lifts develop this muscle to an advanced state and no outstanding lifter is seen who does not have a most excellent development of this muscle group.
As stated, controlling or isolating the trapezius like the ability to perform the rope, is very difficult for some to learn, some never develop the ability to show it satisfactorily, yet to others its isolation is only a question of minutes or hours of practice. The display of the trapezius is most impressive for it and its allied muscle groups, which can be prominently seen when the trapezius is isolated, number among them some of the most outstanding muscles of the body.
It is rather difficult to describe and explain just how this display should be performed, all we can ask you to do is practice and with persistence you will no doubt acquire the ability to make a noteworthy trapezius display. This can best be obtained by lacing the hands back of the body, drawing the shoulders back and together, and then endeavoring to raise the arms, keeping them straight throughout the movement. As this is done you should notice two mounds of muscle appearing on either side of the neck. While it is impossible to isolate the trapezius in great measure in this position, it should give you the “feel” or partial control of the muscle so that you will be ready to try other means to isolate it. Then attempt to isolate the trapezius with the hands behind the body as before, but permitting the elbows to bend as the shoulders are shrugged and inclined forward. Then you can clasp the hands in front of body, extend them forward somewhat, endeavor to relax all of the muscles but the trapezius and attempt to isolate it. With the permission of one of the greatest muscle control artists of all time, we will quote from an article he at one time wrote concerning the control of the trapezius. By studying the figure of Antone Matysek in which he is portrayed as a three quarter back pose you will see how the scapula looks from the back when the trapezius is isolated, which can be done either singly or doubly. In this picture the double isolation is being performed. Assume your position before the mirror as shown in the photo of John Grimek painted in bronze, and face the mirror in the front view pose as illustrated. Furthermore, I suggest that you first learn the single isolation, and after that the double, which will be easy after you have acquired the ability to control one of them. Having your hands clasped as shown, drop one shoulder as low and as far forward as possible and allow the shoulder blade to protrude as in illustration. Now press down with the other hand while resisting with the one on which you are trying to perform this isolation, keeping this arm almost straight at the elbow. The downward pressure will force the scapulae to protrude even more, at the same time allowing the trapezius to become more prominent and isolated on top of the shoulders. There is one thing you must remember in performing any trapezius controls, the latissimus dorsi muscle must be kept absolutely relaxed, and failure to do so will result in utter failure to isolate the trapezius. It is impossible to control or isolate the trapezius to any great degree and at the same time expand or contract the latissimus dorsi muscle, anatomical structure of these muscles prevents this. The trapezius isolation depends entirely on the complete relaxation of the latissimus dorsi muscles. Bear this in mind when you are having difficulty in isolating the trapezius and look to your latissimus dorsi muscles and observe whether they are sufficiently relaxes to permit a dislocation of the scapulae and separation of the trapezius. In nearly every case of failure to isolate the trapezius is the failure to relax the latissimus. Remember this.
In controlling the pectorals a pressure against the hands is made, in isolating the trapezius just the opposite muscle action takes place. One hand is clasped around the other and force is exerted outward as in an attempt to break open the grip, at the same time allowing the scapula to dislocate which if performed properly will result in a display of the trapezius. After you have learned to isolate the trapezius in this way, practice with the hands back of the hips, elbows bent. You will find after practice that this is one of the easiest ways to isolate the trapezius ad you should learn to control them more in this position than in any other. In this position you place your hands against the small of the back, leaning your shoulders slightly forward. You press the back of the hands against the back and at the same time press down, the scapula will isolate and protrude from the back and the large trapezius muscle alongside the neck will be prominently separated. This isolation can be done either single or doubly, and it is more impressive and perhaps comical to your audience when performed alternately, giving the muscle control artist the effect of having newly sprouted wings with which he is endeavoring to take off, when viewed from the back. From the front it appears like some mechanical device in heavy labor, first appearing and then disappearing in rhythmic coordination. In every instance this control is very effective and never fails to impress the audience as they view the master will power the artist exerts to control his body.
In the beginning, after the practice of these controls, you may find the muscles a little stiff, although after a bit of practice they will become much looser. To effectively display the muscles of the deltoids, the arm and triceps muscles must be displayed too. Hold one arm at the side, clasp the other hand around the thumb, press down with the arm which it is desired to display, pull with the other hand, and the triceps as well as the deltoids will be impressively displayed.
By reading these instructions carefully, observing the illustrative photos, you should with practice learn to isolate the muscles described. Bear in mind that the relaxing of the opposing muscle groups is essential. Study the pictures carefully, and if at first you don’t succeed as well as you should, keep trying, you’ll succeed in the end.