Top Photo - Karl Norberg
Bottom - Reg Park
Organic Strength Through
Developing The Thorax
When you see a man with a big, round, deep chest, what do you think? – that there’s a strong, superhealthy man, of course. Public opinion is quite correct in this belief, for a big chest provides more room for the organs which it encases. The lungs and heart have more “living space” – a larger chest box permits them to grow larger and stronger and makes it possible for them to do their work more efficiently.
Few strength and health seekers realize the importance of a large rib box in helping them attain their cherished desire of greater strength and improved health, vigor, endurance, recuperative powers and longer life. Everyone should realize the importance of big, efficient lungs and a strong enduring heart. The heart starts beating before birth and the lungs commence their lifelong function of breathing an instant after the baby is born. For threescore and ten years, or, as the Bible informs us, “if by reason of strength, for fourscore years,” these two organs maintain life within the body.
Briefly, it’s the work of the lungs to draw air into the body, extract the oxygen, impregnate the blood with it, which is then pumped or driven to every part of the body. Oxygen is necessary for life. It mixes with the blood fuel which in turn makes possible all bodily movements, pushing, lifting, pulling or carrying. On the return journeys the carbon dioxide is carried by the blood, extracted at the heart and expelled by the lungs. These two organs are partners in most important functions of the body.
Although everyone knows that the lungs are important, they more fully realize the necessity of a strong heart in continuing to be useful and active and to remain in this world longer. When the lungs fail, it is never suddenly. Over a period of many years the little-used lungs will become weaker as a result of less bodily activity.
The lungs are capable of extracting the oxygen from an estimated thirty times more air than is needed when completely inactive. As most persons spend their lives with as little physical activity as possible, the greater portion of their lungs is unused. In these deep, dark. moist recesses, germs can congregate, breed by the billions and cause consumption of tuberculosis. While there is less tuberculosis today than some years ago, every state has its sanitariums where people with weak lungs must go to spend months to get back to normalcy or perhaps be doomed to spend a lifetime (a shorter than normal life) with lung trouble.
Less thought is given to the lungs than to the heart. When it fails through this gradual weakening process, or this slow insidious creeping of disease, it is less spectacular than the sudden heart stopping suffered by a friend or some other persons – a condition we know as heart failure. The heart will gradually weaken as a result of leading an inactive life; a competent physician’s diagnosis may disclose the fact that it is no longer functioning properly. But the majority who die of heart failure are not aware that their hearts are not working normally. Slight pains near the heart are usually attributed to indigestion or muscular aches.
In our own country alone, more than a million people die of heart failure every year, for forty per cent of the total deaths result from a failure of this most important of organs. Hardly a day passes but we read of the sudden passing of some fairly youthful, well-known man. The very young seldom succumb to heart failure, but there is an increasing number who leave our good earth in that manner in their twenties, more in their thirties, with the forties and fifties being the most dangerous time. Heart failure causes men, in particular, to leave this world in their prime, just when they should be enjoying the results or their labors, and with their experience be so much more valuable to the nation through their vocation or profession. When one considers what a man has been able to accomplish in thirty of forty years, before his sudden death, how much more good would he have done in the world if he had lived longer – at least the normal span of threescore years and ten. He’s taken form the midst of his loving family and is no more.
We must remember that no man can even exist, certainly not become strong and well developed, if he does not have a strong heart. “No man is stronger than his heart” is a good rule to remember. We hear so much of arteries that it’s easy enough to forget that the heart is the organ which must propel its life-containing properties to every cell and muscular fiber in the body. You have often heard it said that a man is as old or as young as his arteries. In advanced age arteries frequently stiffen, there is less flexibility, less expansion and smaller quantities of blood pass through them. The heart must work harder, and finally, after years of battling against these odds, it will give up, perhaps suddenly and spectacularly enough that a man makes the newspaper headlines in a way that he certainly has no wish to make them.
You may be saying to yourself, “I know that a lot of people die of heart failure. Uncle so and so went that way and so did grandfather, but what can we do about it? One thing I can’t understand is why so many medical doctors, when they find some slight murmur in the heart of a patient, will warn him to cease all physical activity, to take things as easy as possible. He becomes afraid to bend or even to move for fear he’ll hurt his heart. The leaders of the American Medical Society, from their learned experience and study of many thousands of cases of heart ailments, inform us that exercise cannot, will not hurt the heart. By this I don’t mean that it would be wise to see how far you can swim under water, to see how fast you can run a mile when not in training, or to endeavor to run a twenty-six mile marathon, play thirty-six holes of golf or a full set of tennis if you are not in training. But the medical authorities as well as leading physical directors do teach that the heart is a muscular pump, a muscle, and like other muscles of the body it responds to exercise and becomes larger and stronger. It’s a common belief that athletes commonly die of athletic heart. Of the more than a million persons who die each year of heart ailments, some are certain to have been athletes. A man plays football, baseball, rows or goes out for track during the short years of his college career. Ever afterward he is considered to be an athlete. More than likely when he hangs up his spiked shoes, and concentrates on making a success of life, he feels that he is too busy to exercise. Like any other muscle, his heart will weaken somewhat through only ordinary use. If the muscles of the arms, legs, or torso are seldom used, never vigorously, they will become smaller, soft, flabby, weak and less enduring.
As the heart is made up of similar muscular fibers it too will weaken with only normal use which is just a fraction of the work of which it is capable. Although it is known by the authorities in the medical and physical training world that the heart is only a muscular pump, that it is not possible to build up enough blood pressure even through the most intensive use to weaken it, there still are many who believe that the heart can be harmed through training.
On the contrary, as we well presently relate, it is strengthened through exercise. The former athlete, who has spent long years of inaction physically, still believes that he is
“as good as ever,” and he is the man whose life is often ended prematurely. In spite of neglect, misuse and abuse of his body he still believes that he is a superman.
I have frequently written that there are two chief reasons for exercise. It makes you look and feel better. Many men take up the practice of physical training because they wish to build a handsome, admiration-creating figure. There are others, usually the younger fellows, whose sole purpose is to develop the greatest possible strength and the largest muscles which can be obtained. This is a worthy ambition, for since the dawn of history strength has been admired and literally worshipped by men and women alike. Life has always been a survival of the fittest. In this modern day, as in the past, the strongest win the better things of life.
It takes these younger men a while to discover that there is a definite close relationship between strength and super-health. While the very young man doesn’t want to read about the organs, anatomy, correct eating or various phases of health – only wishes to learn how to develop his muscles, not realizing that it is not possible to develop strong, good-sized muscles without a knowledge and observance of the rules of correct eating, proper sleeping and the maintenance of a tranquil mind, the average man, usually the older man, will tell you that he doesn’t want big muscles. All he wants is health and physical fitness. Like the younger fellow who does not realize that he can’t have powerful, well-developed, shapely muscles without observing the laws of health, the man in the opposite category does not understand that he cannot have the health and physical fitness he desires, permanently, unless he has more than average strength.
The average man in seeking health, too often, through the apparently easy ways of pills, medicines, and capsules, has not learned that obtaining strength and muscle is the best way to overcome the headaches, indigestion, constipation, colds and many other serious physical irregularities which annoy or even torture him. He may believe that these major and minor ills are a part of life. But the strong men do not experience them, nor do the animals in a wild state. They enjoy perfect health, and possess organs and internal functions which operate with super efficiency.
If every man could realize in how many ways the possession of strength and the health that accompanies it affects our daily lives, even if our work is such that we need not employ strength, they would first investigate the best form of physical training, and then put into practice the proven facts that they have learned.
Older men and women who wish to regain their youthful figures and youthful health and vigor should determine to spend a part of each week in physical activity, for physical activity will improve the action of all internal processes, greatly benefit health, how one feels, and promote longevity. The internal processes and organs are taught to function more efficiently through the demands made upon them by the muscles. Better-operating organs result in the building and storing up of greater reserves of vital energy. Strong internal organs – two of the most important of which are the heart and lungs, encased in the chest or rib box, to the strengthening and developing of which I am dedicating this book – are the result of proper care and exercise.
To live in this good old world of ours longer and more fully you need good kidneys, a capable liver and digestive system and proper elimination. Your future well-being is controlled to a great extent by the capability of your stomach and allied organs, but at the head of the list in importance of your internal works we would find the heart and the lungs. If any of these parts do not perform their work properly, usually a most painful form of illness with ultimate premature death is sure to result.
You depend upon these internal works and they depend upon you. You must take care of them so that they will take care of you. While nearly everyone knows that exercising the muscles will strengthen them they don’t know how to go about strengthening the organs. The organs can’t use dumbbells, barbells, or cables but they need exercise just the same. You are their partner; it’s up to you to strengthen them and to take care of them. Your physical success makes them stronger, more efficient and more successful, and your success even your life, depends upon how they perform for you.
I believe you are coming to realize the importance of strong, efficient organs. You must believe that they need exercise and you know that they can’t take this exercise themselves. Baths, massage and proper feeding are also essentials and it’s your task – you who depend upon these organs – to provide the stimulation, the feeding and the exercise they require. Exercising the muscles is the only way to strengthen and beneficially affect the organs.
You must know many men who enjoy perfect health; perhaps you enjoy perfect health yourself at the present. I hope you do. If you do, plan now to so organize your life that you will always enjoy more than normal, able-to-be-around health. If you are not quite well at present, plan to so regulate the activities of your life that you will build internal strength and efficiency. If you are one of the men who enjoy perfect health you have a strong heart, big lungs, perfect digestion and elimination; the strong heart and lungs, the perfect digestion, mean that all organs are well supplied with the materials they need to carry on their functions of building, maintenance and repair of all organs and cells. Your mode of living has been responsible for developing these strong internal functions. You not only want to keep them as they are, but plan to strengthen them and lengthen their life and usefulness, for this makes it possible for you to live much longer and more fully.
You must have observed that the men with perfect health, perfect internal organs, are usually stronger than the average. Think of the strong men you have known. Aren’t they supermen; superhealthy too? It’s reasonable to believe that there is a close relationship between organic strength and muscular strength. You may wonder, are strong men strong because they have strong organs, or do they have strong organs because they are strong? Strong, sizeable muscles, the result of proper physical training, produce strong internal organs. Similar methods of exercise produce strong, powerful, sizeable, shapely muscles and strong organs. These exercises which build the size and shape of the muscles strengthen the internal organs. These exercises which build the size and shape of the muscles strengthen the internal organs. It can’t be seen but they are strengthened, improved and benefited just the same.
While everyone knows that the voluntary muscles can be strengthened by causing the to exercise or work, few realize that an organic muscle such as the heart can be made more powerful through exercise. The growth and strength of the heart cannot be effected quite as easily as that of a voluntary muscle such as the biceps of the arm, but either the heart or lungs can be rapidly strengthened.
You have often heard the expression, ‘Getting back into training.’ You know that prize fighters or wrestlers train more intensely before a contest. You know that the members of a football team spend some weeks training or preliminary conditioning before their season opens. In rowing if the first race is on Decoration Day, May 30th, the ambitious oarsmen have started to work out on the rowing machines sometime in February. Early in March they will take advantage of the first balmy breaths of spring on some fine day to have their first experience on the water. And from then on until the race the crewmen will train with ever-increasing severity until they are able to put forth great power over a four mile course and perhaps win the championship of America or the world.
The average man goes out for football after some months of physical activity or at least only moderate exertion, unless he is smart enough to find that he should use graded apparatus such as barbells, dumbbells or cables to not only keep in condition but to better his physical state during the time of the year when he is not actively engaged in his favorite sport. And the football trainer knows that the men in his charge must start out gradually – pass the ball a bit, run a few times around the field, and not participate in more intensive practice for a time, such as “scrimmaging.” The preliminary training will wear off any fat which may have accumulated, but most important of all it will improve the action of and strengthen the heart and the lungs. A man can be quite strong, but he could not row four miles, run a mile race, or play a full sixty minutes of football unless he has done something particularly to strengthen the heart and the lungs; to improve his wind.
You start out to condition yourself and you run around the track two times. It is hard enough to make these two round trips the first day. But within a week you have increased the distance to four times around and the first two are mere child’s play. Each day the work becomes easier, so that before long you can run a mile with strong, steady strides and with only deep breathing as a result of the continued activity. The strengthening of your heart and lung action has made this great difference.
In physical training the man with weak muscles and the weak internal organs which accompany them will make his start with moderate resistance and few repetitions. He handles more and more weight as the muscles respond to this gradually progressive resistance. As the muscles are coaxed along, continually trained, as they increase in size, strength and efficiency, their partners, the organs, particularly the heart and lungs, improve likewise. Just as in running, you find yourself able to run a little farther each day, you become able to perform more exercises or handle more weight in the exercises through this bodily conditioning series of physical exercises or activity. You won’t see the improvement in your organs as you can see that in the muscles, but it takes place just the same. The added strength and endurance you obtain through various forms of athletics or physical training comes as a result of the work of the internal organs.
The organs provide the fuel for the muscles, feed them and drive them. When you build greater strength and endurance you have actually built better functioning organs and glands. When you run a bit, if you are unaccustomed to it you will soon find your heart pounding and you will be breathing so forcefully that it actually hurts. The lungs will ache and burn afterward. You can feel that the muscular action has made demands upon the organs. The muscles are burning fuel very rapidly, and just as the gasoline in your motor car, or the oil burner in your cellar, requires great quantities of air with its all important oxygen, the working muscles, with the process of combustion which takes place in them, require many times the usual quantity of oxygen. When you become tired so tired or weak that you must stop, it’s because an oxygen debt has piled up. The muscles have been forced to operate without the necessary amount of oxygen.
You must have experienced a condition of second wind. It takes place in long distance running. After running a mile or so, depending upon the condition and training of the athlete, he will feel tired, almost exhausted for a time. But after a while as he continues to run he will have more pep and energy, breathe without distress. A balance has taken place. The lungs and heart have caught up to the demands of the hard-working muscles; the oxygen debt has been overcome and physical activity goes on more smoothly.
Training therefore has made possible better operating lungs and heart, and stronger heart and lungs. The special effort amplifies the heart and lung action, breathing is deeper, circulation is improved, worn and broken-down tissue is carried away and it is more rapidly replaced with additional fresh building material. The improved respiration benefits the blood stream, impregnates it with life=giving oxygen which unites with glycogen, providing combustion or power in the muscles. There are other favorable results of exercise which aid the organs in their work. Perspiration, which eliminates much waste from the body, is one of these. The continued exercise creates a rubbing, massaging effect which helps elimination, hastens digestion, improves assimilation. From this you can see that any form of physical activity has a beneficial effect upon the internal organs – chiefly the heart and lungs. And the more your muscles move, the harder they work the more work your internal organs have to do. In a later chapter you will read that one of the best chest-developing exercises is the deep-knee bend, and the explanation as to why this vigorous exercise, which brings into action the largest muscles of the body – those farthest from the heart and lungs – is one of the best to develop these important organs. And just as the muscles strengthen with the work progressively demanded of them, the organs strengthen too.
The muscles are trained to run faster, jump farther, lift more weight, and this gradual improvement comes about because the heart and lungs are improving too. The strongest men have the strongest organs – particularly the strongest heart and lungs. The strongest lungs result from the increased, more intensive breathing. As the heart is a muscle it has been strengthened and generally benefited by the work demanded of it and of course the result of other organic action has caused it to be supplied with the materials it needs to build and strengthen itself.
While this book is intended only to supply means for the care and development of the chest, I can’t refrain from reiterating once again that this tremendous strengthening of the organs if the reason for the fact that strong men live longer and retain their physical ability to a very advanced age. The pages of Strength and Health magazine have carried the stories of a legion of men well past the threescore and ten age who are splendid physical specimens – far stronger than much younger men who are inactive. It has been told before how John Y. Smith of Boston, at the age of sixty, weighting only one-hundred and sixty pounds outlifted men of larger size and all ages to win the title “Strongest Man In All New England.” He’s now seventy-five; his friend and training mate, Oscar Mathes, is seventy-seven. There are Warren Lincoln Travis, Prof. Wm. Hermann, Prof. Adolph Rhein, George Hackenschmidt, George Zottman, Joe Lambert, Arthur Dandurand and scores of others who are past sixty, seventy, eighty and even ninety, all former strong men, and so many others – all proof that building strength in the muscles is accompanied by strength in the internal organs. Strong men are strong all over; they have perfect-operating organs; aren’t troubled by even minor ills such as indigestion, belching, gas, heartburn, or other minor or major digestive and eliminative complaints; their organs, keeping pace with the increased efficiency of their muscles, synchronize and operate more efficiently when properly treated, which also means properly exercised. All of what I have written is meant to convince you that gradually progressive resistance, gradually increased physical endeavor of any sort, constantly increasing the strength of the muscles so that they can handle more weight, is the road to superorganic action which will in turn result in a longer, fuller and happier life.
As I stated earlier in this chapter, there are some young men who are willing to exercise just for the improved appearance that muscles give them. But the vast majority exercise for the improved feelings which they have learned are the result of exercise. The majority would consider it the height of folly to exercise just to get these muscles on the outside of the body if it were not for the improved appearance, the superior feelings, the happier and longer life the developing of these muscles will produce.
The true facts are that a man must have a perfectly operating heart, powerful lungs, a vigorous digestive system, and a good sound nervous system to enlarge the chest or build muscles on any other part of the body. Modern barbell and dumbbell training, as I teach it, produces the most amazing and beneficial effect on the organs of the body.