Powerful Arms For You
by David Willoughby
Industrial Occupations That Develop The Arms
A study of certain forms of manual labor in which subjects with exemplary arm development are often found id of value in ascertaining the kind of exercises best suited for improving the arms. The proverbial example of fine arms resulting form the form of daily work followed is the central character in Longfellow’s poem, The Village Blacksmith. The work of the old-positions, he structural ironworker who operates a riveting machine, the street repairer who manipulates a compressed-air cutter. In fact, any kind of labor that requires the worker to use his hands and arms vigorously is instrumental in their development. The smith required that he maintain a firm grip on a heavy hammer while he delivered on the anvil countless blows, often for a half-hour stretch, some light, others heavy, as touch and feel were also an important part of these labors. Varying the monotony of the endless hammering were jobs of a heavier nature, such as lifting and carrying weighty form implements, wielding a heavy sledge, and forging strips and plates of wrought iron into the required shapes.
But the work chiefly accountable for the smith’s strong wrist, vise-like grip and brawny arms was the gripping and swinging of a hammer, supplemented by similarly effective manipulations with tongs and pliers. The knowledge to be gained from the blacksmith’s example, therefore, is that the arms are best developed by exercises in which the gripping muscles of the hand and forearm are used in conjunction with lifting and levering movements which bend and straighten the elbows.
In other occupations that produce fine arms the same principle – of exercising the arms as a unit, and not separately in each of their own functions – may be observed. The carpenter, in a tough job of manual sawing, exercises together the muscles of the hand, forearm and upper arm. The lumberjack in felling trees and the laborer in digging a ditch each combines swinging and lifting movements of the arms and shoulders with twisting movements of the forearms and wrists. Extricating an axe from a tight cut or freeing a shovel from a clinging load are movements that bring into play practically all the muscles of the arms.
Other examples of labor productive of strong, well-developed arms could be offered almost without end. The reader doubtless can recall many. There is the foundryman who handles a heavy ladle of molten metal, the husky machinist who is forever working with a wrench or pliers, the farmhand who develops extraordinary strength in his fingers by milking several dozen cows, the plumber who must bend and thread pipes and fit them in all positions. However, the actual development that may be attained depends in each case upon the individual – his capacity for acquiring large arms, and the extent to which he “thrives” on the daily work he must do. This variability of different individuals in their response to effort applies, of course, to all forms, of endeavor. It is an important factor, however, and should be born in mind.
Now while we may be guided by the examples furnished by manual labor as to suitable activities for developing the arms, it is unlikely that any man would take up such an occupation merely to improve the development of his arms. Fortunately, it is not necessary to go to any such extreme. For though in certain forms of labor individuals with impressive arm development are to be found, these instances appear in spite of the fact that the use of the muscles in daily livelihood is not the most effective way of developing them. The galley-slave labor on the ancient sailing vessels was productive of fine physical development in the few who withstood it; but for every man of that endurance there were hundreds who collapsed from overwork. Exercise is beneficial only so long as it is not carried beyond the point of healthful fatigue. It is never beneficial when carried to exhaustion. The impressive muscular development we see occasionally on manual workers would, in all probability, be still more impressive if those individuals had had the advantage of systematic exercise instead of monotonous toil; if they had been privileged to alternate work with adequate rest. It is only through the latter procedure that the development of the body, either in parts or in its entirety, may be carried to completion. For this reason and notwithstanding the occasional physical giants developed apparently by nothing other than their work, we can look for fine arm development to best advantage among the followers of recreational physical training and sport. This field also presents an advantage in that those of its devotees who have exceptional physical development often have it as a result of deliberate cultivation. Such individuals are generally willing to cooperate with the investigator who wishes to record their measurements and accomplishments and learn their methods of training.