Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Story of Joseph Curtis Hise - Peary Rader (1940)

Article and Photos Courtesy of Liam Tweed and Michael Murphy

This is a very rare treat, and it allows us a view of just how different the world of weights was not long ago. Now, we suffer from a deluge of training info and nutritional details. Call it The Poverty of Abundance if you like. Back then for the majority of lifters it was for the most part word of mouth, hand written letters and experimentation on oneself. But make no mistake, there was, as this article on our first Powerlifter J..C. Hise shows, no lack of passion and an almost iron-like bond between practitioners of the Barbell Arts. 

Joseph Curtis (J.C.) Hise

Hise, at a height of 5'9" brought his weight to 298 pounds.
Both photos from the late Andy Jackson's collection. 

A few years ago there was a little magazine published by the Milo Publishing Company and edited by Mark. H. Berry. I have had many Iron Men tell me that never before or since has there appeared a magazine of such value to the barbell man. Anyhow Mr. Berry in his little magazine and also in the old Strength Magazine made a practice of promoting the squat or deep knee bend exercise as the finest growing exercise in existence. He always gave the stories of men who had used the squat to gain their desires of added bodyweight. All of them were startling enough but one day while reading through the latest issue of the "Strong Man" which was the Feb. 1932 issue I came across a letter in the back from a man who neither gave his name or address.

His gains on the squat and milk drinking were so great as to seem absolutely impossible. However the simple and compelling style of his letter proved to me that he was really telling the truth and had made the marvelous gains he claimed. I was very much impressed for I, myself, had for years labored unceasingly in my efforts to gain much needed bodyweight. I at once decided to go on this program which was sketched in his letter and I too received the same results though not quite so startling yet sure and certain never the less. 

To be sure I had read all of Berry's instruction in regard to the squat as a weight gaining medium but never seemed to get the true meaning until I read of the efforts of this man. Well, I went on with my squat program and milk drinking and continued to gain until I had made a gain of 75 pounds in bodyweight. 

From time to time more appeared about this man, whose name I had not yet found, showing that he was still making the same fast gains and surely becoming the world's strongest man on the squat and dead lift. At last I got hold of this man's name. It was J.C. Hise of Homer, Ill. I at once wrote him telling him of my own experiments since reading his letter. He wrote back at once a very long letter full of very helpful advice and details that were very valuable to me in my training. Since that time we have corresponded regularly and several years ago he visited me at my home here in Alliance for 10 days and I came to know him very well.

Now before going further in the story let's look at the condition of Mr. Hise when he started and note a few of the gains he made in the first part of his experiment.

He had some years previous bought a barbell from the Milo Barbell Co., and worked very hard at the regular courses in an effort to build a powerful body. He had gained from about 160 pounds at a height of 5'9" to a bodyweight of slightly over 180 pounds. However here he stopped and try as he might he could not gain for some years time.

Now we find that he had been reading some of Berry's articles on the deep knee bend and had been thinking it over and decided to give it a trial. He at this time found himself weighing near 190 and with some spasmodic squatting had brought his weight to 200 pounds.

Then he went at it in earnest and began drinking one gallon of milk per day in addition to his regular meals. He also ate considerable meat, and especially salt pork as he said this increased his thirst and caused him to drink more and thereby aided his weight gaining. He also cut out all abdominal exercises and concentrated on the deep knee bend with his only other exercise being the press behind neck for 10 or 15 reps. In one month on this program he gained 29 pounds of bodyweight! His measurements gained as follows:

Weight 200/229
Chest 43.5/46.5
Arms 15.25/16.25
Thighs 25.5/28
Calves 14.5/15.5
Forearms 12-3/8 to 12-7/8
Waist 36/41.

He started out using 240 pounds in the squat and increased to 320. He first used this poundage and did 8 counts (reps), then rested and did 8 more, then rested and removed 100 pounds and did 20 more. He then progressed to 365 pounds in the squat in the next two weeks and weighed 231. At this time he lost his balance and strained a small muscle in the calf and had to lay off for two weeks and gained to 237 pounds bodyweight and now had a 47 inch chest. He was 26 years of age at this time.

After this he used 20 reps straight in the squat and found that he gained best on this number. He also did plenty of deep breathing between each squat making 3 to 6 deep breaths between every repetition.

He continued his experiments along this line and always continued to gain. He finally reached a bodyweight of 298 pounds and had an arm of 19 inches and a chest of 56 with a thigh of over 33. His waist never measured over 44 normal.

One day he came to do his workout on the squat to find that his bar had been bent by someone using it for a crowbar while working on a Ford. Mr. Hise just had to do his squats and so used his bar bent. Much to his surprise he found his squats went easier than ever before. The bent bar actually helped. It did not roll up and down his neck as before and the weights had a perfect hang for squatting in his style which was the round back style. That is he would come up from the squat position with the back rounded. Since that time Mr. Hise has made the bent or cambered bar very popular for squatting. All the boys have been putting a camber in their exercise bars. For as Joseph said, "A man can't exercise right with a straight bar and can't lift with an exercise bar and exercise right."

Later on he decided to try his hand at the dead lift knowing that it went hand in hand with the squat in developing power. He worked on it in regular style for a while then stiff legged but this caused back trouble when performed in the regular way. However Joe did not give up. His inventive mind turned to ways to remember the trouble as he knew that the stiff legged dead lift was the key exercise for great power if it could be used in some manner that would not cause the back trouble. It wasn't long before the exercise world was hearing of J.C. Hise and his "Hopper" system of doing the stiff legged dead lifts.

Joe had discovered that if he bounced the weight from hard wood planks which were raised at each end about 2 inches it relieved the strain from the back at the danger point and allowed him to handle the weight where it did the most good. He was soon doing the stiff legged dead lift with 550 pounds five times.

His regular dead lift reached a figure of 675 pounds. This was nowhere near his best mark for his training was never regular as he had to train out of doors and often the weather would not permit his workouts. However this was more than any other man in the world had done. He did repetition squats with over 500 pounds.

Mr. Hise was perhaps the first man in America to jerk 300 behind his neck which he did during his early training with the squat and hardly thought it worth mentioning. He also pressed 190 behind his neck.

He never practiced the [Olympic] lifts because he had only exercise bars and had to train either in a cold garage or in the open out of doors. However, with his power he could have cleaned 400 as he could pull that much or more almost nipple high. It was just a matter of proper training in form and style. He was fully confident that with proper training he could have cleaned and jerked 450 with a press and snatch of proportionate poundage.

It is his belief that all present records are far below their possible top. He believes that if lifters would work intensively on their back and legs with the squat and stiff legged dead lift they would bery greatly increase their lifting poundages.

During Mr. Hise's experiments he found that if a man would take about bodyweight and squat approximately 20 times and take from 3 to 6 breaths between each squat he would make remarkable gains in chest development. He has applied this system to many of his pupils whom he helps by mail and has proof that it really works. Many gain as much as 3 inches in one month in chest size.

Joe also believes in plenty of good food and he himself eats plenty. However many stories told about him are slightly exaggerated in regard to his eating habits. While staying with me he did eat a lot but I also noticed that he ate rather slowly and he drank huge quantities of water with his meals. Finally my mother sat a quart of water by Joe's plate for each meal and often this would require a second filling.

He also believes in plenty of rest and sleep. In justice to Joe I will say that he is not lazy as some seem to think. With his it is a philosophy. Something he believes in and knows he must do if he is to gain in his aims. When necessity arises he can do a terrific amount of work. When he left my home here he weighed 270 pounds. From here he went to California where he worked in lumber camps and such was his labors that his bodyweight went down to 208 pounds. From there he went to Careta, W. Va., where he worked in the mines and his weight still remained the same as he was working very long hours at the very heaviest work. Now he is back in Homer, Ill. and at present weighs around 250 pounds in pretty hard condition. He has an unusual ability to weigh whatever he wants to at any certain time providing he can train as he wishes.

Mr. Hise is one of the best informed men on any subject that we have ever met. He loves to read and spends most of his spare time reading books on philosophy and all the classics. He has a wonderful memory and has at his command details about any subject that you might care to converse on. He is an able writer and has a style all his own.

He is a handsome fellow and usually wears some kind of a beard. For years he wore his beard natural without shaving. His most recent style I believe is a handlebar mustache.

He has one of the deepest chests in the world as a result of his great efforts on the "puff and pant" squats. His hips are trim and compact. His thighs while of good width when viewed from front and are simply tremendous from front to back. His waist doesn't look as large as you would expect in a man of his bodyweight. He certainly is the most massive looking man dressed we have ever seen. He is very light and fast on his feet and his lifting movements are as fast as those of a lightweight. He does carry a layer of fat over his entire body but this is deliberate as he believes and rightly so that he is much stronger when not finely trained down.

He has no bad habits and once he sets his mind to a task it is as good as done and successfully too.

We hope that we have given you a little of the information about this man that so many of you have asked for. it would take a good sized book to tell you all about him and detail the results of his experiments but much of this will come in later articles in the "Iron Man".

Mr. Hise has been the inspiration and promoter of the great deep knee bend craze that has brought success to so many thousands of barbell men in this country in their quest of added bodyweight, great chests and powerful backs. Many of us can attribute much of our success to information given so freely by this Kentucky Gentleman.


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