Saturday, October 18, 2008

Broad Shoulders - Chapter Six







Why the Shoulder Muscles Are So Important


Without much special attention, much effort to develop all the muscles of the shoulders, they never attain the full rounded super development of which they are capable. The shoulder girdle is designed in a manner which gives it the capacity to exert force from every possible angle. While nearly all forms of physical activity, of sport and of labor, have a tendency to operate the muscles nearly in the same groove always, it is necessary to develop them from every possible angle if the ultimate of shoulder strength and development is to be attained. As described in the anatomical portion of this book, the deltoid is a huge, three headed muscle, which when well developed can exert force from every conceivable angle. To develop it to its limit it is necessary to practice a great many exercises, a good share of the thousand exercises we often write about.

While the shoulders are designed to exert force from every possible angle as previously mentioned, their chief function is to lift or exert force overhead. There are so few laborious vocations or activities where overhead lifting is preformed that very few men who do the world’s work have even a fair development of the shoulder muscles. While most men who habitually or at times perform arduous labor have the capacity to lift fairly heavy weights from the floor or ground to waist height, few of them have the ability to lift any sort of a weight overhead. This statement is well proven when the untrained lifter observes how heave a barbell he can lift overhead. With the skilled lifter the easiest part of a lift is jerking the weight from the shoulders to overhead. Frank Orant, the great South Philadelphia lifter, whose record in the clean and jerk, one motion to the shoulder then jerked overhead, is 335 pounds, has jerked 400 pounds from the shoulder to overhead after friends lifted it to the jerking point. Yet the untrained man invariably can pull much more weight to the shoulders than he can jerk overhead. He simply lacks shoulder strength, and this again brings out the point that the only way to possess broad, strong, well rounded shoulders is through the medium of practicing many exercises which strengthen the shoulders from every possible angle. Beautifully rounded deltoids, sloping shoulders, the sloping appearance being produced by the well developed trapezius muscles, and the development of the muscles above the knee, the sides and the midsection, are the chief mark of the advanced weight lifter or body builder.

There is no other sport or physical activity which brings these muscles out to the extent which regular weight training will do. Men who do much shoveling have better deltoids than most workmen, but even theirs are flat in comparison to the rounded muscles on the point of the shoulders possessed by all barbell men. At the York barbell foundry, where far more barbells and dumbells are made than anywhere else in the world, than everywhere else in the world we believe we can say without exaggeration, there are over a hundred men who spend most of each day shoveling sand. They take this sand from a pile on the floor and raise or shovel it into a flask in which they are making the particular mold which is their work for the day. A fairly high lift is required, and these men work at top speed all day long. Some of them are reasonable strong, some can chin with one hand, but not one of them has a rounded deltoid development. When Jules Bacon is working in the foundry as he habitually does, his shoulders are so outstanding as compared to all others of he men employed there, that they stand out almost like sore thumbs. Immediately any visitors who are present remark about the wonderful development of Bacon with his Mr. America type of physique.

Of all the other forms of work, I can think of no other that could develop the shoulders as well as the old time blacksmith. There are a few of these men around, not many, for the use of the horse on the farm has been greatly diminished. I believe that I know, or at least have met, all the smithies in our country, in fact one of them aged 76, for years spent an hour or two each afternoon charging out cupola, throwing the broken iron into the cupola where if is melted and then poured into the molds, there to become barbell plates and solid dumbells. These men have spent their lives at practicing the trade of blacksmithing, and some of them are very outstanding physical specimens. Remember the old and never to be forgotten poem by Longfellow, “The Village Blacksmith.”

The smith a mighty man is he, with large and sinewy hands,
And the muscles of his brawny arms are strong as iron bands.

There are few of us who are old enough to have been born before the advent of the gas or horseless carriage put the horse and carriage almost entirely out of business, who did not spend some time in our youth hanging around the door of the village blacksmith shop watching the smith work. Invariably they wore some sort of a shirt, at least elbow length, so it was hardly possible to see the shoulder development. I have often wished that Longfellow had written a few lines about the shoulders of the village blacksmith, for undoubtedly he would have had better shoulders than most any man in the village. His closest rival would have been the miller, who might even have better deltoids owing to the necessity of piling sacks of flour and grain, considerable of which necessitated overhead lifting, which, as we have said, is the best way to develop the shoulders. But back to the blacksmith. The strength of the blacksmith is proverbial, especially of their stronger than usual arms, but the arms would be useless if it were not for the shoulder muscles, the pectorals, trapezius, latissimus dorsi, and upper back muscles which assist them in their every movement for the muscles of the arms are connected in some manner to all of these muscles. Much of the smith’s work is only the pounding of a piece of hot iron upon the anvil, then his elbow is held close to the side and the movement of the hammer, the power applied comes from the hand, wrist and forearm. As the majority of his work is done in this position it accounts for the strong and sinewy hands and arms that Longfellow could so easily see. What he could not see were the better than usual shoulder muscles which imparted the powerful blows to the hammer. For when a fairly large piece of iron was being worked upon, the blacksmith would lift his heavy hammer above his head and bring it down with great force. When the hand goes up the elbow is above the head and it is the front part of the deltoid which is the primary motivator of the arm, and when the arm is brought down with force, the inner head of the biceps, some of the muscles of the back and the rear part of the deltoid are in action. When it is necessary for two smiths with large hammers to work upon a very large piece of iron, even more strength is needed and is developed. But once again we have the condition of the muscles being operated in the same groove always, up and down, down and up, with little work for the middle of the deltoid, the larger muscle of this important group. So lacking in development that even the village blacksmith would have the flat deltoid of the usual working man.

If you were to ask the average artist to draw a picture representing muscular power, the majority of them would make a drawing showing a powerful blacksmith swinging a heavy hammer aloft. The smith would have a strong and sinewy hand and wrist, a good forearm, only a fair shoulder. Few men, and artists are no exception to this rule, know where to measure a man’s strength. The vast majority of them to gauge a man’s strength would desire to feel his arm muscles, not realizing that these muscles of the biceps are not more than one-fiftieth of the muscular bulk of the body. Also when a man first has the desire to build his muscles an increase his strength, he immediately thinks of and practices exercises such as chinning and dipping on two chairs, parallel bars, benches, and when he has practiced persistently for long months he will have a nice appearing arm, but little more. This has frequently been proven by the many men who have practiced courses of exercises without apparatus, consisting largely of chinning and dipping but also including exercises of a tensing and resistance nature, who are much chagrined to find that they can not lift nearly as much weight overhead as a barbell man who has an even smaller, less impressive arm. There are weak spots in the body of he chinner and the dipper and aside from the fact that the largest and strongest muscles of the body, the back and legs are not put into action and strengthened to the limit of their capacity, except by the weight trained man who employs heavy weights in his training, the shoulders are lacking in strength. A chain is no stronger that its weakest link, and the man who is weak in the legs, back and shoulders, although he may have sizeable arms and chest, may look strong, is not strong all over, for he is unable to apply even the strength he already possesses.

Such men frequently write to me and say, “Why?” They would add “Pourqoi” or “Warum?” if they had sufficient linguistical ability to express themselves in other languages. The answer to this “Why” in any language is because the shoulder muscles have not been developed as well as other parts of the body and as the shoulders are important links in the chain, the owner of such a partially developed body, the man who has neglected to develop the shoulders, is lacking in all around strength. Chinning is chiefly beneficial to the biceps muscles of the arm, to some degree to the latissimus dorsi muscles. Dipping is a prime developer of the triceps, the back of the arm muscles, the pectorals or chest muscles. Men have developed their arms and pectorals progressively by tying weights to the feet or using the York iron boots in chinning, by placing a weight on the back while dipping. While these exercises have their important place in physical training they are not sufficient in themselves, do not build all around strength, and the man who specializes in them, while he will have a development a little better than the average, will be sadly disillusioned when he attempts to match his strength against a smaller weight trained man or a laboring man, who has built strength in all of his body by hard work or progressive training.

Too many men are interested in little more than the muscle of the front of the arm, the biceps; they seek to obtain a large and impressive arm by concentrating of curling exercises of all sorts. While the arms themselves are only a small part of the muscular bulk of the body, the biceps or front of the arm muscle is only one-third of the arm. There is the much larger and more powerful triceps, and the deep lying muscles the Brachialis Anticus and the Coraco Brachialis, which must be developed to add size and bulk to the arm. Such a man developed a fair sized arm, which in girth would compare favorably with the arm of some lifters or some village blacksmiths. The man to whom I refer sincerely wished to become strong, but he had been sadly misled by the “train you by mail without apparatus” professors who sell courses of training including non apparatus exercises. To acquire the ability to put big weights overhead he thought that all he would be required to do was to practice dipping in various forms and at every opportunity. When performing the floor dip he pushed his arms forward, when on the parallel bars he pushed his arms downward. As a result of the constant practice of these movements he acquired a nicely developed triceps, a good looking pair of pectorals, but did not obtain either size of roundness to his deltoids. He did not present a balanced, attractive appearance, for his arms seemed too large and insecurely fastened to his body. When he put his recently acquired muscles to various tests he was much surprised and chagrined to find that he could not throw a ball or put the shot as far as smaller men who apparently were less developed. And when it came to endeavoring to put up weights, he was doubly surprised to find that all the other fellow could beat him. He had been misled by the lifting claims of the “train you by mail professors,” all of whom since the beginning of such business have developed themselves through weight training and then claimed they received their development through some form of dynamic exercise, through muscle control, resistance exercises or other types of non apparatus movements. Their sole purpose in not selling weights, which had played a major part in developing their own bodies, was the fact that it is much more profitable to sell you a few printed pages for $37.50, if you act quickly to as little as five dollars if you wait long enough. Atlas, Swoboda, Brietbart, Sandow, Jowett, Titus, Bonomo, all trained with the heaviest of weights, all laid claim at some time of their careers to exceptional lifting records. And later sold what suited them best, and made startling claims for their courses without apparatus. Very definitely the man who does not train in lifting weights overhead is bound to have serious weak spots in his body and will not be nearly as strong as smaller, perhaps less impressive appearing newcomers to weight training.

The young man about whom I am writing after his failure in all sorts of athletics and strength tests to equal his companions physical ability happened to be visiting in a small town one summer and in passing the place of the village smith, he was attracted to the working smith and to his arms, wrists and hands which were so evident at first glance. Interested in the smith’s development, he soon brought the conversation around to muscular strength, arm size, lifting records and feats of strength. He rolled up his sleeve, still proud of his arm in spite of the shortcomings he had learned his body possessed when compared with others, and proudly showed the swelling biceps to the smith. His arm was just as large as the blacksmith’s and to anyone not familiar with the shape and appearance of the arm muscles of a really strong man, it appeared as strong and impressive looking as the blacksmith’s arm.

The smith who had paused in his work smiled kindly and said that he really had a fine arm, but “What could he do with it” Was it as strong as it looked?” “Oh yes,” said the visitor, “I can make 40 dips on the parallel bars and that’s more than any of the fellows in my club can do.” “I’ve never tried that,” said the smith, “but how about lifting a weight or muscling one out? How about putting those muscles to some useful action? Can you do that?” In his turn, the visitor said that he had never muscled out a weight and had never used his muscles in any sort of work, he was a student, a senior in high school. “Well,” answered the smith, “I have no parallel bars or fancy weights. I have never trained in my life, just worked for these many years, but watch this, then see if you can do it.” He reached over, grasped a small anvil by the horn, a 90 pound one, swung it to the shoulder, and then pushed it slowly aloft. He held the anvil by the small end, the horn. Imagine if you can the gripping power required to hold the anvil in that position, the strength of wrist and forearm required to turn it over, to hold it balanced and steady as he pushed it overhead, and the shoulder as well as triceps strength required to push it overhead. The young visitor then tried it. He could not even hold the anvil by the horn and of course lacked the strength to swing it to the shoulder. The smith placed the anvil in his hand at shoulder height and although it was not too difficult to hold it there he could not even start to pres the bell aloft in this position. He then tried to put the anvil overhead with two hands, finally after several attempts managed to get it to his chest in the pressing position but could not press it overhead with two hands.

He was astonished at the strength of the blacksmith, chagrined that he could not do with two hands what the smith who was no bigger than he had done with comparative ease with one hand. “How did you get such strength?” he asked. “By working at my trade, swinging my hammers. How else? I never exercised in my life, but I started at this trade when I was a boy. I have been swinging my hammers for these many years now. My life, my entire future, the well being of my family depend on the work I do with these arms, they are indeed my fortune.”

The young visitor remembered that word swinging; he had heard somewhere that swinging weights developed the shoulders and he was keen enough to realize at long last that the blacksmith surpassed him is strength because he had shoulder strength and development, which resulted from practicing his trade. The young fellow finally realized that he had wasted his time, had built only sizeable, showy muscles that were of little practical use to him.

A man can devote a great deal of time to developing his arms if he wishes, for he can be pardoned for desiring above everything else to have big, fine looking, impressive upper arms, but if he wishes to be strong, to be able to do something with that strength, he will have to develop all parts of his body, particularly the shoulders, whose chief work is to move these arms.

It is too bad that the general public has come to believe that big arms are always a sign of strength. For some of the well known York lifters have not had big arms, although they have won weight lifting championships. It was only after they desired arms big enough to match their lifting strength and practiced exercises designed to build larger arms that they increased the girth of their limbs by inches. When Gord Venables first acquired fame as a lifter, when he won North American championship after championship, when he snatched 242 pounds, the highest lift of the day, at the national championships of 1936, his arm was less than 15 inches. Through special training a year ago, he built his arm to 17 inches, but although this sizeable arm was nice to look at, it did not improve his lifting. Any of the York lifters who have big arms, notably Stanko and Grimek, you can be sure have practiced a great many exercises to develop these larger than normal arms. A few years ago Jack Cooper came to York and became a human guinea pig to show just what he could accomplish through lifting with the York team. He gained weight, and much strength, he learned to two hands snatch 275 pounds, clean and jerk 335 pounds, he had wide spreading, beautiful shoulders, a strong back, at his height of 6-4 ½, but he only had 14 ½ inch arms. This illustrates the point that a man’s strength lies more in his legs, back and shoulders, and the arms with which most people measure strength play a small part in it.

The men who do the world’s work, notably those who shovel coal, firing in warplants and on ships, who pitch hay, who work in flour or feed mills, who labor on trucks and have occasion to lift boxes and crates high when they pile them on their trucks, the men who lift weights in any form overhead and of course the men who train with weights are the world’s strongest men. For it is necessary to lift weight overhead to build the shoulders, to strengthen them and broaden them as a real man’s shoulders should be. To be strong, broad shouldered, it will be necessary for you to practice a great many shoulder developing exercises with weights.

I have been interested in muscles all my life. Just as a shoemaker looks at shoes, a tailor at the condition of men’s suits, a hatter at his hat, I am always looking for muscles, and when I see them, I wonder just how they were acquired. It is a great temptation for me when I see a better than usual masculine physical specimen to go up to him and ask him how he got that way. I have succumbed to the temptation at times and invariably the man has done something more than just work. Years ago we had a display of the York barbells and dumbells at the York fair which is famed far and wide as one of the world’s most outstanding county fairs, and to create interest we offered prizes to the untrained man who could lift the most weight in some of the popular styles. Over a period of years I came into contact with many men who had the reputation of being strong men, and had the opportunity to ask them what sort of work they habitually performed. The strongest of all the men I encountered was a man who labored in a brick yard, he had an outstanding physique from heavy lifting, considerable of which was the placing of bricks overhead in the ovens to be baked. Other strong men were those who charges cupolas, who had to lift heavy iron to a fairly high position, the men who worked in flour mills and where feed was sold had good developments through lifting sacks of flour and grain, the piling of bales of hay, and excelled at lifting, one or two were truck drivers who had to lift heavy bundles or boxes to some extent overhead as they loaded their trucks, only a few of the farmers could even approach the lifting of their bodyweights overhead, for while many of them were strong in the back and legs, strong enough to lift a wheel or one end of a motor car, they could not exert overhead strength. For about the only work on a farm which brings the shoulder muscles into action in even a fair fashion is the pitching of hay or manure, and neither of these activities is hard enough to develop much muscle.

The day of the sailing ship is over, but we still have one outstanding example of the fact that men who followed those vocations, if they lived a reasonably sane life when ashore, would develop much more than average strength. John Y. Smith is the man. He left the sea in his early thirties. He had remarkable strength in his hands, shoulders and arms, enough so that he won a bet when he was fifty years of age. He was told that when he ceased the hard work of seafaring, when he gave up the strong act he had on a vaudeville circuit that he followed for a time, that he would quickly go to pieces. He then made a bet, that 14 years from that date, on his 50th birthday, that he would put up two hundred pounds or more with one hand. He succeeded in winning his bet, elevating with one hand overhead 203 pounds with his right arm and 200 with his left. His strength stayed with him very well as evidenced by he fact that at the age of 60 he won the title, Strongest man in all New England, although he weighed but 153 pounds and was lifting against men who were much heavier and far younger. At 80 years of age he is still straight and strong, looking no more than 60 years of age.

But John Y. Smith, like all the other stronger than average men with whom I have been in contact, engaged in some other form of exercise than their daily work. They had the reputation for being strong, they were constantly asked to exhibit their strength and they did a fair amount of training which increases this strength. John Y. Smith was a habitual dumbell lifter and almost without exception the strong men I have encountered have done something besides their actual work to produce more than normal strength.

When you consider all the forms of work, all the athletic pastimes, you will realize more fully than ever that there is no form of work or athletics which will build the shoulders to anywhere near the limit of development of which they are capable. Therefore, if you desire outstanding shoulder development, and every real man should, you must practice special exercises to build them. A wide variety of exercises, designed to strengthen and develop them from every possible angle. To do this you will require the accepted forms of apparatus that permit progressive training, dumbells, barbells, cables or springs, the swing bar, for swinging rapidly builds the shoulders, and added to this a fair amount of dipping, weight lifting, chinning, climbing and hand balancing will help. Each physical activity practiced regularly will develop at least some of the fair share of the body’s four billion muscular fibres which are located in the shoulders.

Remember that muscular action. by accelerating the circulation and increasing the absorption of nutritive materials, not only builds muscles, assists the regenerative processes but wards off disease. One is not slow to discern the advantages to health, physical and mental, in developing as far as possible, all of the muscles of the body. This is the chief work of muscular exercise. It is not the mere acquisition of strength, or even skill in the performance of certain feats, of building more muscles, which should be aimed at, but that degree of health and vigor of mind which shall best fit the race for its various vocations, by the constant use of dumbells any man of average strength and health can bring his muscle to their highest point of development. Can build wider shoulders, bigger arms, a fuller, rounded, deeper chest, a strong midsection and a pair of powerful legs.

If you want to see just what sort of deltoids you have, stand in a relaxed pose in front of your mirror. You should observe particularly whether in this position the deltoids appear flat, or whether they are cleanly separated from the arm muscles and present a well rounded appearance. Another way to observe the development of the shoulders is to extend the hands to the sides at shoulder height, clench the fists and hold the palm side of the hands up. If the deltoid forms a high, rounded mound in this position, you have good shoulders. If the deltoid forms a high, rounded mound in this position, you have good shoulders. If it doesn’t compare favorably with the deltoids of men pictured in this book, you need more deltoid development.

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