Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Big Chest Book - Chapter Three

O. D. Wilson

16 year old Lamar Gant

Doug Hepburn



Do you remember drawings of statues showing a Herculean man who stands with his feet braced, body leaning slightly forward, a huge globe resting upon his shoulders? This figure has been used a great deal in advertisements in recent years to denote the strength or substantiality of the organization which selects this figure as its trademark. I’m referring to the figure of Atlas holding the world upon his shoulders. The story of ancient mythology relates the manner in which the world come to rest upon the shoulders of Atlas. It was originally the work of Hercules to hold up the world; so goes the ancient tale. Atlas should have shared in the labor, but he sought to have Hercules support the world permanently. Hercules, however, had ideas of his own. The story does not tell us that he became fatigued with the work, but id does inform us that he tired of the confining labor, and desired to wander farther about the universe in search of other worlds to conquer. He was reluctant to see others go about their pursuits of pleasure while he had to be constantly at work.

So he did a great deal of thinking. He planned a way to get out from under. He told Atlas that, since he must hold up the world forever, he would appreciate it if he (Atlas) would support it for a short time while he adjusted his lion skin and his pads for a long session of work that he had before him. No doubt this shifting of the world back and forth caused the ancients to believe that there was an earthquake of great severity in some part of their world. Atlas was slow-thinking and it never occurred to him that Hercules might relegate the task of holding up the world to him when once he got out from under. With his shoulders once more free, Hercules sauntered off, leaving the fuming and indignant Atlas tied down to the laborious and boring task of supporting the entire world upon his shoulders.

If we are to judge by the paintings and statues the ancient artists have bequeathed us which illustrate the physical development of these two famous gentlemen, Atlas and Hercules, there is little doubt that either of them could carry the burden that was placed upon him. Every ancient statue it has been my pleasure to see emphasized size and depth of chest. There were broad shoulders too, but the size and breadth of the chest were especially evident. Throughout the ages it has been known that men with the deepest chests are the strongest, most enduring, healthiest, and usually live the longest. Few people fully realize the importance of depth of chest.

The rapid development of the chest which is realized by all bodybuilders who launch upon a regular course of heavy, progressive training is most encouraging. The chests of most persons have long existed in inactivity; poor posture has compressed them rather than given this important part of the body an opportunity to grow; the lungs have been compressed and restricted in their action, and when the chest is raised, the shoulders held back, when the almost dormant muscles of the chest region are stirred up and brought into play by proper exercise, an inevitable result follows. Newer and better blood-circulating avenues are opened, the cells are exhilarated and rejuvenated, they are expanded and the muscular tissue increases in size and weight.

There is a great deal to write about the chest. It is one of the most important parts of the body, encasing as it does so many of the vital organs on which our very lives depend. Before going father I would like to present a question. Do you know just what the chest is? At first thought you may say, “That’s a bit ridiculous; why, it’s right here,” tapping the upper part of the chest in the vicinity of the breast-bone, the portion covering the lungs. This is not quite the right answer, for it is too general, not sufficiently specific, and to provide a good definition of anything it must be concise and specific.

The chest is that part of the body which covers the lungs, the region under the armpits as well as the part connected with the shoulder blades. The chest is all of these parts harmoniously assembled. By searching for the definition of the word chest in a dictionary we find that the correct answer is a box. And a box, as everyone knows, is composed of four sides, as well as a top and bottom.

Considered anatomically the human chest is that portion of the body comprising the breastbone and the ribs on the front, the ribs on the two sides and the shoulder blades forming the rear. The backbone is also a very important part of the rib box. All the parts just mentioned form the framework. The framework is covered with muscle, covered with some of the most important (both from the standpoint of health and appearance) muscles of the entire system. These muscles are woefully weak and neglected in the bodies of the vast majority of human beings. While the limbs of all persons obtain some exercise in going about the daily tasks of living, the muscles of the chest and abdominal regions are too often neglected.

The muscles of the outside of the chest can plainly be seen and are well known to bodybuilders but there are many equally important but little known muscles of the chest which are under the surface. These work in conjunction with the rib box to protect, assist in their function and hold in their place the important organs of the chest region. When the muscles on the outside of the body are neglected, the internal muscles also find themselves in a weakened state after long years of little use. Millions of years ago when every living thing upon this earth traveled on all fours, or at least with the backbone more or less parallel with the ground, the organs were suspended form the spinal column not unlike clothes are hung from a line. Finally some of these animals, which through the process of evolution, so geologists and biologists have informed us, became men, stood up. Then to prevent the organs from piling up on each other just would the clothes on a line if you held it in a vertical position instead of a horizontal, muscular attachments were developed to hold the organs in their intended place and to assist them in performing their highly important functions.

Reasonable exercise, or other forms of at least fairly vigorous physical activity, strengthens these muscles so that they permit the organs to remain in place and function properly. Weakness in the muscles on the outside of the body coincides with weakness of the internal organs. When a person neglects himself completely, many of the organs slip down and add to the protruding abdomens which are a part of so many persons. Fat-encased organs are sluggish, can only partially perform their functions, while those of the man or woman who maintains proper posture and has sufficient internal strength to hold the organs in their proper places enjoy a brand of health unknown to most humans.

It must be evident to you who read this that if the muscles controlling, hoarding and covering these organs are not healthy, are not strong and vigorous, the organs lying beneath are very likely to be in a similar condition. And it is just as evident that if the muscles controlling, guarding and covering these various parts of nature’s human mechanism are healthy, strong and vigorous, then the various internal parts must likewise be in the same robust, efficient condition.

Therefore the individual who desires to possess real health, superhealth, not just able-to-be-around health, should develop the muscles of the chest, not just one or two – those which can be seen best when exercising in front of the mirror – but all of them, for in so doing he will also develop all the internal organs contained in the chest or rib box.

There are many good chest-developing exercises, scores of which will be offered in chapters to come. The more vigorous of these exercises bring best and quickest results. While it’s beneficial to walk over to an open window and take a few deep breaths, or to take deep breaths any time of the day you may think of it, it is not to be expected that such deep breathing will create appreciable chest growth. The deep breathing will make you feel better, sort of brush the cobwebs from your brain, for the same blood which serves your big toe and every other part of your body also supplies the brain. All of this blood every few moments passes through the heart and lungs, and the deep breathing will cause the blood stream to be more bountifully impregnated with necessary, vitalizing life-maintaining oxygen, which in turn provides a feeling of exhilaration. Deep breathing is a good thing at any time, for most of us are very shallow breathers, utilizing, while the body is in repose, only about one-thirtieth of the actual capacity of our chests, only a fraction of the amount of air from which the chest can extract the oxygen it requires to keep the muscles working.

It is evident from this brief description and repetition of this all-important physical development truth, which is bound to appear at times owing to its maximum importance, that you cannot expect much if any progress in developing the lungs – thus increasing the size of the rib box – through free hand exercises or just through breathing, without some form of exercise severe enough to demand a great deal more oxygen to continue the greater effort expended. Effort which greatly increases the body’s need for oxygen is required when chest-building progress is made.

Few of us realize how little we use our lungs, how much of the space within the lungs is unused. It remains in idleness as a dark, warm place where cold germs or even more serious disease germs can rapidly multiply because they have ideal conditions for their germination, warmth, moisture and undisturbed quiet. It is good for all of us to breathe deeply at times, draw the fresh air into the lowest depths of the lungs, the innermost cavities, the most remote recesses, filling every tiny cubic millimeter with fresh air. This enforced breathing is a good way to prevent colds.

The divers of the South Sea Islands develop a great depth of chest. It is their work to swim far below the surface of the water to gather the pearl-bearing oysters. The better divers stay under the water for at least three minutes, undergoing considerable exertion every moment they are under the surface. Therefore they must develop great lung capacity to follow their vocations. Unless practiced regularly and from early, diving and underwater swimming are not a beneficial means of developing the chest, for the continued exertion, with insufficient quantities of oxygen for the body’s needs, entails considerable strain upon the heart. When under the water for a considerable period the supply of oxygen is depleted, exertion continues, the heart labors faster and faster and harder and harder, in order to supply the crying need for oxygen. Finally a condition is created similar to the pounding of a motorboat when the propeller shaft breaks or is momentarily out of the water.

Some years ago I enjoyed underwater swimming. I would swim around for an hour or so, coming up for air when necessary and immediately going under again. I entered an underwater swimming contest and, to win, traversed a distance of 123 feet, across a 90 foot pool, and part way back. I continued for 22 strokes after I thought I must come up for air. And my good old heart rattled and thumped alarmingly for many minutes after that exertion.

Great exertion causes unusual effort on the part of the lungs. So much more oxygen is required by the body when it is working hard and long and it is the work of the lungs to extract the needed oxygen from the air and the task of the blood to carry it to the working muscles. There the oxygen unites with glycogen (blood sugar) and forms the combustion or energy which makes it possible for the muscle involved in the action to continue at the task which has been set for it.

If you were to start out running rapidly, in a short time (or a longer time if you are in training) you would experience a feeling of breathlessness. The breathlessness might result in unusual fatigue, a cramp or pain in the chest. But if you persisted, training with moderation each day, you would find that the parts of the body adjusted themselves in such a manner that you could run without unusual fatigue or discomfort for many miles; that is, if you were training to be a distance runner. This ability to keep going for a long period, to run mile after mile, is what we calla endurance. It is accustoming the muscles, but most of all the internal processes – the heart and lungs – to carry on the work they are asked to do, for long periods.

The feeling of breathlessness or fatigue comes about, first, because the blood cannot supply enough oxygen to the working muscle. An oxygen debt piles up; deposits of lactic acid form in the muscles, which cannot be dissipated until the supply of oxygen adjusts itself to the requirements of the body. Fatigue poisons can cause death; in fact they create a condition in the muscles, usually temporarily, like death. The difference is that in life the lungs, heart and other organs are working desperately to normalize the condition they have encountered, and if you are in good condition the internal organs will eventually catch up to the increased output of glycogen and oxygen demanded of them; they will finally be in balance with that of the muscles. Most of you are acquainted with the phenomenon called “second wind.” This if renewed energy which comes about when a balance between the output of the internal organs and the output of the muscles is attained. Horses have frequently been driven or ridden at high speed for many miles, to the point of complete exhaustion, the exertion continuing to be so tremendous that there is a greater and greater oxygen debt, no chance for the heart and lungs to catch up, so that poisoning actually takes place and they drop dead.

Most of you have heard of the ancient runner who ran the first Marathon race. The Greeks had met the Persians at the field of Marathon, twenty-six miles from Athens. The actual distance traversed by this ancient soldier ultimately became the regulation Marathon distance. The soldier who made the first Marathon fun famous had fought all day, then when the tide turned and his side had won victory, dispersing and pursuing the Persians, he was given the task of running to Athens to notify the worried people of the great victory and the future safety of their country. After fighting all day and running twenty-six miles, he dropped dead just as he shouted, “Victory id ours.” He thus gained immortality, but he also proved that the human body or the animal body can be driven to the point of complete exhaustion, or even death, by too long continued unusual exertion. The condition which killed the Greek soldier was an extreme case of fatigue poisoning. Most moderns are so situated that we can stop to rest long before we experience serious ill effects from overexertion.

To develop a real chest, both powerful and sizeable, real demands must be made. A condition of breathlessness must be created. In our form of physical training this is best attained by practicing any exercise which brings into play vigorous action of all the muscles of the body, particularly the largest muscles, those farthest from the heart, such as the legs. It is impossible to create breathlessness through arm exercises alone. But the legs when exercised vigorously can create an oxygen debt which is manifested by extreme breathlessness. After the exercise which causes the breathlessness is the best time to practice breathing exercises. In all of the York courses, a breathing exercise, some form of pullover with barbell or dumbbells while lying upon the floor, bench or boxes, is listed as the exercise next after some form of leg-developing movement. When you really need oxygen, you can breathe so hard that the ribs will actually separate and you may experience growing pains for some weeks to come. But don’t let this worry you; in a moderate length of time you will be rewarded by a larger chest and a much healthier internal condition.

I recently received a letter from a young man who said that he had received his first copy of Strength and Health magazine a short while before. He also sent for and carefully read my booklet, “The Road to Super Strength,” which shows a number of before and after cases, great improvement through weight-training methods, and also depicts many of the champions that York methods have built. He said that the book was very well written, whoever wrote it knew his business, but he did not believe he could the results in developing his chest that he wanted, through exercise alone. He believed he could get the best results after he exercised so strenuously through swimming or playing vigorous games such as handball, that profuse perspiration was induced and a condition of breathlessness created. And he was sure that he could not do this with exercises alone. That young man should try ten to fifteen repetitions in the deep knee bend with a heavy weight, or even the same number of dead weight lifts with a similar or heavier weight, or practice ten or more dead hang snatches. I consider this latter exercise the best exercise in the entire line of physical training because it brings all the muscles into play, employs all the muscle groups simultaneously and teaches them to coordinate and work in unison. It greatly amplifies or speeds up the action of all the internal processes, the organs and the glands which are stimulated by their proximity to the working muscles. It builds athletic ability, skill, speed, timing, nervous energy, endurance and strength. But most of all it induces perspiration, more rapid circulation and very deep breathing. You men who have tried repetition snatching will agree with me.

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