Monday, March 3, 2008

The Big Chest Book - Chapter Four

Eugen Sandow

Chapter Four

Chest Improvement Through
Proper Posture

We need power and endurance to put more effort back of our work and the business of living. With power and endurance we can keep on fighting, working and striving for what we hope to win from life. Physical condition is the greatest attribute to success in life, of anything we undertake. The following quotation from the writings of Dr. R. Tait McKenzie should be given thought. He calls for “men” (and of course women too) with clear brains, flushed with blood, driven by a sound heart and purified in capacious lungs, with an unimpaired digestion, erect carriage and elastic step. whose bodies are the keen, well-tempered instrument of the well-trained and well-stored mind. These are the sort of men from whom we can expect audacity in the approach, courage in the attack and tenacity in overcoming those obstacles which stand in the way of success and progress. What a fine interpretation of perfect condition that is!

To acquire a rounded, deep chest and additional well-developed bodily components to go with it, we must take into consideration our position in standing, walking or sitting. Posture is so important in the acquisition of a well-developed, fine-appearing chest and a comparatively slender waistline which improves the chest by the favorable contrast its lesser size creates. A few minutes several times a week spent in chest-enlarging and developing exercises will produce very satisfactory growth in the rib box, providing good posture is made a part of living. If poor posture is assumed for hours each day, it will dissipate the beneficial effects of the chest-developing exercises. Through proper posture, proper holding of the chest, we retain what we have gained as a result of chest-enlarging exercises. It’s customary for most people to permit their bodies to slump, so that an improper curve is permitted on the back. The head bends forward, nearly resting upon the upper chest. The chest is compressed; the abdomen protrudes. These faulty, careless habits of posture should be corrected in childhood when it is easiest to correct or form any habit. It should be a part of the physical training program in the schools. During youth, before the framework of the body becomes fairly rigid, correct habits of posture should be acquired. While it is more difficult later in life to overcome faulty habits of posture, it can be done.

To improve posture we should start first with the head. The manual of arms, which so many young Americans will be learning since conscription or selective service has become a normal part of American life, and the position of a soldier which it contains, calls for a position of the head so that it is erect, chin drawn in slightly with the axis of the head and neck vertical; shoulders back and falling equally – just how far back will be determined by the next instruction, so that, when the arms are hanging naturally at the sides, the thumbs will be along the seam of the trousers. To assume this position it’s necessary to raise the chest and force the shoulders back.

The simple habit of holding the head in the proper position, pulling the chin in, tends to correct the other faulty habits of posture. The back immediately flattens to a more desirable position; the chest rises and becomes fuller. Correcting your posture should take place first in front of a mirror where you can see your normal position and the desired postural changes. It may be a little difficult to overcome habits of faulty posture, which have taken years to hold the body in the proper position, but the muscles will soon adjust themselves and correct posture will be just as easy to maintain as your former faulty posture.

This year’s weightlifting champions – Fiorito, Terry, Terlazzo, Terpak, Davis and Stanko, with the addition of that greatest of all physical specimens, John Grimek – are all examples of good posture. Their good posture has had a tremendous influence on the development of their matchless strength, in their bodyweight divisions, and their splendid physiques. John Grimek in particular is noted for the great depth, roundness and size of his chest. Coupled with it is a well-muscled but slender waist which is so much smaller than his chest that it seems to be wasp-like in comparison. Good posture more than any other one thing has accounted for this splendid development of the chest and favorable contrast in size between the waist and chest. Grimek has good posture at all times. While sitting at the table, or driving in his car, chest is erect, waist drawn in; when standing in the gym his posture is always good. He early recognized the vital need for good posture, and a large share of the physical glory that he has won has resulted from these habits of proper posture which he early acquired.

Your own feelings and the impression you create upon others are determined greatly by the development and carriage of your body. If you slouch, permitting your back to round, your chest to flatten, your abdomen to protrude, you more than likely will experience a lazy, lackadaisical feeling. But if you will contract habits of proper posture, what a difference! You exercise only for an hour or two, two to four times a week, when you follow a system of progressive training with apparatus,; to develop all the parts of the body, but you must always be watching your posture; and particularly if you have spent long years in faulty positions, you should acquire habits of good posture.

Your task is to train your muscles to hold your bony framework in the proper and most beneficial positions. During the day, at your work, whether it requires that you stand or sit at a desk, going to and from work, practice good posture in every position and in every act you must perform.

We exercise primarily for two reasons: to feel better and to look better/ and correct posture plays an important part both in how we feel as well as how we look. We form our first impression of a man, of his strength and ability, by looking at him. If he carries his chest high, has depth of chest, with shoulders that are square and held well back, we are duly impressed with the fact that here is a vital man, capable of carrying through any task which may be given to him. But when we see a man who slumps and slouches along we expect him to have other faulty and careless habits. We feel that he is the type who has a cigarette constantly drooping from the corner of his mouth and spends a good share of his spare time at habits which are not beneficial, to say the least.

Your personal appearance, which is an important part of the whole we know as your personality, weights tremendously toward your success in life and the happiness you obtain from that life. A well-developed physique, and good posture to show this physique to its best advantage, is a great factor not only in producing a pleasing personality, but the good appearance development and posture engendered is a great asset to any man or woman in any trade, profession or vocation he or she may follow, as well as in all social contacts.

While favorable first impressions are very important, from our own standpoint how we feel is most important. Here a deep, well-rounded, roomy chest is highly important in the promotion of health, vigor and vitality. The chest is the box which contains very important organs on which our well being and very lives depend, and how we carry it and how we build it depend upon whether it will be a little weak, box, a middle-sized box, or a big powerful box. In it are contained our most valuable possessions – not gold, silver or jewels, not money or bonds, for all of these are useless to us if our hearts and lungs do not continue to perform their functions. The organs on which our very breath of life depends must be given ample space in which to work; they should not be crowded of they cannot work properly, efficiently and for seventy or eighty years which should be our normal span of life.

If the heart and lungs are cramped, impeded in their work, many ills from which mankind suffers will be present sooner or later. The flat-chested, stoop-shouldered man or woman is far more likely to have lung disorders or even the common colds and catarrh. But give these organs plenty of space, exercise them, revitalize them through creating demands and meeting these demands with ample supplies of fresh oxygen, rich air, and plenty of space in which to work and you will be rewarded with abundant vitality and perfect synchronization of all the organs of the chest region.

All armies of the world and every military academy have placed particular emphasis upon proper posture. It does add to the appearance of a group of men to have them uniformly present attractive physiques on which the marks of good posture are indelibly stamped, but the chief reason for the army’s good posture is the knowledge that correct posture and better bodies encourage men, inspire them, give them confidence, make them more enduring, better disciplined and more courageous. We in civilian life don’t have anyone like the drill sergeants in the army to constantly pound into us – inculcate into our very being – the necessity for correct posture; we must be intelligent enough to recognize the need for proper posture, and to constantly maintain our bodies in the most favorable position.

Look around you in any group and observe the poor body mechanics of most of the individuals within your sight. If these people only realized that good posture is an inherent part of good health, and the physical debility and internal disorders are just as surely the result of faulty posture! With less than half of the population of our nation possessing even fair posture, it’s not much wonder that we are the sickest nation in the world; that two million of us are constantly sick and unable to work; and that a great many others experience just-able-to-be-around health and strength.

A physical examination at Harvard University disclosed the fact that eighty per cent of the freshman class ranked in C class concerning posture. And many of them were still lower – in the D class. Poor posture is often the result of bodily weakness. Therefore strong bodies should mean good posture. But it is surprising how many well-built fellows still maintain a poor posture. So often an excellent musculature is hardly visible due to faulty posture. You should contract the habit of being chesty. Don’t mind if someone kiddingly remarks about your outthrust chest.

You who read this are interested because you are a bodybuilder – actually a sculptor of your own body. In the beginning, John Grimek possessed sub-average bodily proportions. In his earlier photos it seemed to me that his legs were too short, his torso too long, his waist too broad. he studied his physique, and really chiseled it into the beautiful, statuesque effect that it creates wherever seen at present. He molded his upper body and limbs, narrowed his waist through proper exercise and proper posture. He deserves more credit than most men for building the superlative physique he now possesses. You want to develop your physique to its fullest. In spite of the musculature you may develop, the size and shape of chest and muscles, it will not present a good appearance because it will be lacking in symmetry and poise unless you make a habit of maintaining the body in the proper position. In every best built man contest there are men with magnificent muscular developments who are not even placed among the leaders and the prize winners simply because they permit themselves to slump in improper postural positions.

While poor bodily posture is so prevalent, the result of carelessness or ignorance, there are a few who go to the other extreme of walking around constantly with their chests inflated to the limit, with the muscles of the latissimus constantly under tension, with their arms stiffened so that they stand out from the sides at an angle of forty-five degrees. This creates a wrong impression; has caused some to believe that weightlifters are so muscle bound that they cannot let their arms hang naturally at the sides. The arms of the most powerfully built men will hang naturally at the sides with the thumbs along the trousers if the latissimus dorsi muscles are not constantly tensed. Hold the chest up and out, the head erect, the shoulders back, but so not keep the chest constantly over inflated.

A study of the anatomical charts in this volume well illustrate why a stooping, faulty posture cramps the heart, lungs and liver and greatly hinders their action. But even more serious ills result from this cramping of the organs which are high up in the chest occur when a slouching position is habitually maintained. The heart and lungs are upheld by the diaphragm; the liver fits into its underside, but the remainder of the organs in the body do not have so secure a support. The kidneys, stomach, large and small intestines, and important glands, all slip down a little when faulty posture permits the abdomen to be constantly relaxed, and to slip farther and farther forward, as is done when lack of exercise and bad posture continue to be the order of the day.

The stomach will fall as much as two or three inches, resulting in a stretching and constant tension upon the nerves and blood vessels, as well as the tubes which lead to the stomach. The tone of the entire internal system is greatly lowered, and with additional months or years of little use, the muscles become increasingly flabby, fat forms on the outer muscles and about the organs and their action is greatly impaired – much more sluggish than when they are reasonably and unimpeded by fatty deposits. For the reasons that I have briefly mentioned, improving posture alone normally results in a quick change for the better in one’s innermost feelings.

Habitually bad posture enlarges the waist, diminishes the size of the chest. Our Success Stories, which are received in ever greater abundance, illustrate some startling changes in comparative chest and waist measurements after a short period of training and improvement I posture. Starting training as competitors in the Self-Improvement Contest, March 4th, and training for three months, fifty-two training periods in all, forty-seven-year-old Harry Moss, of Portland, Ore., gained three inches in normal chest size during this period, and had to change from a 37 to a 40-inch coat. Jerry Charbonneau, St. John, Quebec, reduced his weight 11 pounds during the three months training. Starting with a 37-inch normal chest and a 37-inch normal waist, he had a 45 ½-inch expanded chest and a 32 ½-inch waist at the end of the special training period.
B. Broodall of Douglass, Arizona, increased his chest from 38 ½ to 42 ¼ in eight weeks time and he was thirty-five years of age at the time. And these are only several we have selected at random from hundreds of pleased contestants in the Great Strength and Health Self-Improvement Contest.

Many men do not exercise properly. They stand at the pulley weights in a Y.M.C.A. gymnasium, pulling on the weights with their backs curved, their chests flat and their stomachs permitted to sag and protrude. Good posture and proper breathing are first requisites in proper training, for muscles developed in an improper position are very apt to remain that way at all times. Between exercises most men will walk about for a minute or so. During this period remember your posture. George Hackenschmidt, still renowned as one of the best built men the world has ever seen, performed between each heavy exercise what he called the Hackenschmidt walk. He would practice full breathing during this period, shoulders back, and draw the waist in with a conscience effort. When he recently made a trip to these shores from his home in France, where he now lives, I had the opportunity to meet him, and at an age past sixty he is still a remarkably well-built man, who at all times maintains a good posture.

Proper bar bell exercises, using the widest possible range of muscular movement, from extreme of contraction to extreme of extension, will stretch all the muscles so that it should be easy to form habits of correct posture. The two simple Hackenschmidt exercises were practiced by other famous strength athletes of the day. Hold up the chest and breathe strongly and deeply after the vigorous exertion of the preceding muscle building exercise. This tends to put the spine in the proper position. Pulling in the waist with a constant muscular effort should be a part of every exercise program. Ten times between exercises will be sufficient. If it is not your regular training day, pull in the waist with an effort of the will and the muscles, as many as fifty times in succession in the morning, and a similar number at night . Every time you think of it during the day, particularly as you stand or walk about, pull in your waist and hold it there. Even while shaving, remember to practice pulling in your waist. This not only develops the muscles of the abdomen, and compresses the internal works, making the stomach comfortably filled with less food, reducing possibilities of becoming fatter, but massages and invigorates the action of the internal works. Both Eugene Sandow and Louis Cyr spent a great deal of time at pulling in the waist or moving the waist muscles when not engaged in any form of physical exertion.

Before closing this chapter on posture, just another word to help you know when you are maintaining proper posture. Stand with your back to the wall, with your head, hips and shoulders touching the wall. The heels should be one to four inches from the upright surface, depending upon your size and the normal construction of your body. Facing the wall, with your body in the proper position your toes and chest should touch.

A phrase often applied to maintaining correct posture when standing or sitting is to stand or sit “tall.” In standing, make yourself as tall as possible without rising upon the toes. Stand with the head up, the chin drawn in slightly, the neck back, and the shoulders back enough that the thumbs touch the seam of the trousers when the arms are hanging naturally at the sides. When long accustomed to poor posture, this will require considerable effort for a time. Plebes or first year men at military academy are required to walk for the first few weeks with their little fingers along the seams of their trousers, the palms front. Try this somewhat exaggerated position. You will see how the shoulders soon can be comfortably maintained in the proper position. As you look at yourself sideways in a full length mirror, standing as you habitually carry yourself, arms hanging naturally, you may find that your thumbs range from six inches to a foot in front of the seams of your trousers.

Hold the chest up without straining; this alone should keep the abdomen flat. But for a time it will be wise for you to walk around with it pulled in a bit. This will be easy, for the muscles are becoming stronger and firmer through regular practice of abdominal exercises. Some men wear a tight belt to remind them to stand straight. As the years pass and you order new suits, refuse to have the waist bands made larger. If they are larger it is so easy to eat more or stand less straight, permitting your waistline to grow. Recently I pulled out of the closet and wore for a few days a suit that I wore to the 1932 Olympics. It fits comfortably about the waist in spite of the gains in strength and weight I have made in these eight years. In fact in ordering two suits recently I had to call the tailor’s attention to the fact that the waist was a bit loose – to make the new suits an inch smaller. If you find your trouser waist getting tighter don’t permit the tailor to make alterations; make alterations in your living habits and your posture.

Maintain the spine in as straight a position as possible, particularly the lower part or small of the back. Some men permit themselves to become “sway-backed” by going on year after year standing in a faulty position. The legs have some bearing on proper posture – stand and complete each stride with the knees straight; keep the toes nearly straight to the front. Europeans have a tendency to toe out, American Indians to toe in; straight to the front is the best way.

While your exercise periods will average three or four hours a week a half hour a day, you’ll have sixteen hours a day or more during which you are up and about. Proper posture during these hours will not only aid you to keep the gains in chest size that you have made, but help you increase these gains. Spending these long hours slumping about in sitting or standing will not rob you of all that you have gained, but it will retard your much-desired gains in chest size. Therefore remember to sit tall, for more of the majority of people’s time is spent sitting than standing or walking. Keep the spine straight in sitting. When it is necessary to lean forward, lean from the hips, keeping your back as straight as possible. Keep the feet flat upon the floor. In sleeping, spend as much time stretched out as possible rather than with the body in distorted positions.

It’s wise to take an inventory of your physical condition, including your posture, at times. Good posture, as we will constantly reiterate, means better health and far better and a much more admired appearance of the well-built man. There is a favorable contrast between chest and waist which causes the former to appear even larger than it is. When taking this physical inventory of yourself be sure that your shoulders are not rounded, your chest flattened or your abdomen protruding.

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