Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Big Chest Book - Chapter One - Bob Hoffman

Top Photo - Abe Goldberg.

Bob Hoffman


1. Every Man Should Seek A Better Chest
2. Organic Strength Through Developing The Thorax
3. Big Chested Men Are Strong And Healthy
4. Chest Improvement Through Proper Posture
5. “Getting Into Condition”
6. The Treasure Chest Of Life
7. Anatomical Description Of The Lungs
8. Strengthening The Heart
9. How To Develop The Chest
10. Building The Muscles Of The Upper Back
11. Developing The Latissimus Dorsi
12. The Muscles Of The Chest
13. Expanding The Rib Box
14. Displaying The Muscles Of The Chest And Back
15. Big Chested Men
16. More Important Chest Facts

Chapter One

Every Man Should
Seek A Better Chest

I believe there is more interest, among those who are seeking physical betterment, in the development of the chest than any other part of the body. Most experienced bodybuilders understand that the building of a larger chest means that the entire physique becomes larger and better developed. Bigger chests mean broader shoulders, more muscles on the outside of the chest, and larger limbs. While less thought is given to the important fact that a larger fib box means more room for the all-important heart and lungs, with an improvement in strength, health, and longevity, this should be the paramount reason for developing the chest.

Regardless of the reason why bodybuilders want bigger chests – whether it is the realization that a bigger chest will mean greater strength, superior health, more vital power and endurance, additional resistance to disease, greater longevity, or whether it is the desire to look better through having a bigger chest – the fact does remain that every man who is seeking greater health, strength and development is interested in building the chest.

I believe that a man with a large, roomy, deep chest excites admiration and commands attention even more universal than the man with broad shoulders or big arms. The vast majority of those who take up the practice of physical exercise do so to look better and to feel better. Although the big, well-developed chest is impressive in appearance and adds to the aspect of the physique when clothed or in athletic costume, the most important feature about big-chested men is the fact that they are always extremely healthy, which of course means that they not only feel well but like the proverbial million.

I have at times written that I am a leading competitor for the title: “World’s Healthiest Man.” It’s impossible to be healthier than I. Few can be so completely free from the slightest pain or physical irregularity of any sort, have such unusual pep and energy, and more than their share of physical strength. I believe that my own good-sized chest has been responsible for much of the much of the wind, endurance and rapid recuperative powers I have always shown in athletics and after enforced periods of heavy work. As you go on reading the chapters of this book you should be impressed with the fact that a big chest provides room for good-sized, powerful, efficiently-operating internal organs of all sorts.

The man with a big chest almost without exception is superhealthy, usually healthy in proportion to the size of his chest. There are exceptions to all rules, but the man with the biggest chest should be, and most often is, healthiest because of the size of his chest; while the man with just big arms or broad shoulders is not necessarily healthy on account of them, but usually is healthy because the exercises which made possible his development have built a big chest and unusual internal strength too.

As we will consider farther on in the chapters on anatomy, the upper chest contains a large part, a highly important part, of the vital organs – the heart and the lungs, in particular; and in the lower part of the chest, the stomach, liver, kidneys and spleen, as well as many important glands. When a man possesses a large, roomy chest box, there is plenty of space for these organs to develop, to increase in size, with a simultaneous increase in internal strength and vigor.

Some time ago I received a letter which I remember particularly from among the many thousands of other letters, for it illustrates how little some medical men know about physical development. Modern, well-informed doctors fully realize the beneficial development effect, strength of the body inside and out, which results from weight training. But there still are a few like the one reported in the letter under discussion. The writer of the letter was thirty-six years of age; he told me that he had been interested in weight training for about one year as a result of reading Strength and Health magazine, but before taking up this form of training – using “Iron Pills” – he considered it prudent to consult with his family physician as to the advisability of training with weights. Friend doctor told him not to use weights, that he was too old. He said that weight training would build larger muscles, and as the heart was a muscle it would grow, too; with the enforced breathing which resulted from intensive training, the lungs would strive to get bigger; but a man at his age could not increase the size of his chest as he was too old – past the stage when the skeletal framework could be altered in any manner. With larger organs congestion and serious ills would result.

The man thought things over for a time; he saw the picture of myself illustrating the fact that my chest had grown fourteen inches since I reached a mature are, and he began to believe that he could follow the instructions in the York Courses, and probably augment the size of his rib box. He knew, too, that if he felt any sign of congestion in the thorax through the growth of his heart and lungs and failure of the rib box to increase in size, that he could moderate his training, or cease altogether.

He wrote me a letter and asked if I thought he could increase the size of his chest at his present age. I cited my own case of continued growth when past the age of thirty. Most of my chest growth resulted since I found myself in a position to train more regularly ten years ago, when I was thirty-two. A man’s nose and ears grow until he is a hundred if he can live that long. The shoulders can be widened and the chest enlarged until the age of fifty at least. Even after that age, there is a good possibility of gaining larger chest measurements by increasing the development of the muscles which cover the chest on all sides.

Bone itself seldom grows after the age of twenty. Some men have grown taller after twenty-one years of age, but they are the exception rather than the rule. There is some broadening of the shoulders through a readjustment of the bones, and a stretching and thickening of the attachments which hold the clavicle bones together. The breastbone itself will not grow, but bones of the ribs will spread through the lengthening of the cartilaginous attachments of the rib bones.

I recently received a letter form this same man saying that I was exactly right, for in the first three months of regular training his chest increased in size from thirty-six to forty. In another chapter I will enumerate a few other cases of men who increased the size of their chests to a considerable extent after they had reached an age of maturity.

Nature takes care of her children; if a demand is made upon the body, this demand will be met. If the activities of the body require larger hearts and bigger lungs a greater space will be made for them to occupy. Hundreds of cases are now history, which prove that the chest can be greatly enlarged when well past the age of normal maturity. If a man has a chest of only thirty-six inches, isn’t it logical to expect that he also has small organs, and isn’t it reasonable to believe that these organs have less chance to cope with various ills and any attack of disease upon their particular selves?

It’s a rather homely comparison, but any farmer can look at a group of chicks a week or two old and point out those which will amount to anything. Those that have plenty of chest room and space in the section which corresponds to the lower chest will live and grow and pay their way. The chickens with the longer bodies are the ones which possess the quality of livability and have sufficient resistance to possible disease. Those which remain small and round will probably never grow up, and if they do, they will represent a loss either in weight gained or egg-laying ability. Or ask any man who knows mature chickens and can cull them. Those with smallest chests, with lack of development in the portion of their bodies which holds the organs encased in the lower chest of humans, are the first to be culled; for it is known that they have little chance to continue living – less to lay and pay their way.

A well-developed chest box, which has been greatly enlarged and is in perfect condition, has a much better and surer chance of doing its work well, withstanding any sickness or ills, or to aid in recuperation from any ills which ma be contracted due to lack of condition in the remainder of the body.

You are guaranteeing your future health, your strength and longevity by developing your chest. It provides room for the internal organs, strength to protect them, and of course adds to the appearance of its owner. It should interest the bodybuilder to know that the chest is the easiest part of the body to develop, as well as the most important. It can be increased in size more rapidly than any other part. It is not unusual for a gain of from ten to twelve inches to be registered in a year’s time b the young man who is going through or has just passed through the period of puberty or of rapid growth. Not so rapid gains are usually registered by men who are older but three to six inches in one year is quite usual. A considerable portion of this growth is the development of a larger fib box, but the muscles of the upper chest, the sides and the upper back account for quite a lot of it.

When a man builds a really well-developed chest, he has little or no expansion because his chest is always near the limit of its possible enlargement. I am often asked how much chest expansion I have, and always report that I have almost none. If my interrogator apparently doubts this statement I go on to explain that if I would stand in the position of a soldier, with the chest erect, arms hanging naturally at the sides, thumbs along the seams of the trousers, I must get my shoulders back to the point where the chest is held almost at its limit even when not fully inflated with air. Try this yourself. If you already have a good chest, you won’t be able to expand much, if any, past the position of attention.

Years ago, one heard a great deal of chest expansion. A man was not considered to be strong and well developed unless there was an expansion of five to ten inches – even more with those who had developed the chest expansion art to the limit. The men who had the greatest chest expansion art to the limit. The men who had the greatest chest expansion were never strong men. They were usually men who had performed no exercises except those of a chest expanding nature. If a chest was really covered with firm muscles it could not enlarge to such a great extent. And strange as it may seem, some of the men with greatest chest expansions were those who experienced at least a slightly tubercular condition. The lungs were not so efficient in their operation and thus a much greater area of lung surface was required to perform the normal, moderate work of the breathing apparatus in an inactive person.

A few years ago John Grimek and I went backstage to see a friend of mine who was appearing at the theatre. Another act included a man who was claimed to have the world’s greatest chest expansion. From extreme of contraction to maximum expansion he claimed fourteen inches. Contracting his chest, he would place a derby hat under a strap upon the chest. Then removing the hat he would expand until the strap was tight. I told him, although strong men rarely have actual chest expansion, those who are well developed and of good size, having a knowledge of muscle control, can apparently show a great expansion. I said that I believed John Grimek could perform the same feat. Which John proceeded to do, contracting his mighty chest, then expanding it to its limit, with the muscles of the chest, back and sides extended to their limit. You can judge from his photos if you have not seen him in person that this man Grimek has amazing control of his muscles. Off the subject a bit, but another time we were in the side show of Ringling’s Circus; a man was displaying his ability there who was billed as “the man without a stomach.” He was a man of slender frame, otherwise undeveloped, who had the ability to control his muscles and draw the waist in to an astonishing degree. Although Grimek was so much more heavily muscled, possessing superlative ability at the same sort of feat, muscles and all, his contracted measurement was no greater than the “man with no stomach.”

It has often been said that my friend, Otto Arco, great old time strongman, who is still one of the world’s most muscular men, one of the first three men in the world to lift double his bodyweight overhead, has no chest expansion.

In two months of training, the regular training course and a bit of specialization in chest exercises, twenty-four hours of actual training time devoted to the regular, interested and intelligent practice of a few specialized chest-developing exercises, changes in one’ chest which are truly astounding will take place. Two months devoted to the development of any other part of the body, the arm, for instance, will bring results, but where the arm might be increased an inch in three months, four inches should be gained in the average case in increasing the chest measurement.

This unusual rate of increase compared to that of any other part of the body comes about, primarily, because most of us – even those with the most sedentary occupations – use our arms and legs to at least some extent. They are better developed in comparison than is the chest. And the chest, being nearly three times as large as the arm in inches of circumference, naturally can gain more in inches to make the same proportionate gain. Three inches in chest gain is no more than one inch gain in arm or thigh.

The body’s needs during enforced breathing as compared to the normal respiration of most of us. Even moderate exercise, increasing five or tenfold the operation of the lungs, will create demands which must be met by increased lung size and rib box capacity. Little permanent development of the chest will result merely from deep breathing alone, forcing much more air into the lungs than the body requires. Growth results rapidly when a demand has been made for more lung capacity, and that demand is made by deep breathing with moderate weights to aid the movement. The demands for more air are quickly and permanently met by increased lung size and rib box capacity.

And when the bodybuilder becomes strong enough to work against very heavy resistance, to create an even greater demand for oxygen to meet the needs of the hard-working muscles, then really enforced breathing is necessary and the chest grows by leaps and bounds. The more muscles that are employed in the exercise, the harder and more continuous movement, the more oxygen is required. The deep knee bend is best known as a chest developer, for this movement brings into vigorous play the largest muscles of the body, those of the back as well as the legs, which include nearly half the muscular bulk of the body. Muscles farthest from the heart, powerful enough to vigorously and continuously exert themselves, require great quantities of oxygen to aid the working muscles and of course there is a commensurate gain in chest capacity. Compound exercises of a particularly vigorous nature, such as five movements in succession, each consisting of ten repetitions, exercises which involve all the muscles, such as deep knee bend, dead weight lift, rowing motion with the two hands curl and the two hands press to start the compound exercise, will make such demands that near the end of the fourth or fifth exercise, if substantial poundages have been employed, the bodybuilder should be breathing like he is near the completion of a mile race. When a breathing exercise such as the press on box or some form of the two arm pullover while lying follows such vigorous exertion, greatly increased chest size is sure to result.

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