Sunday, November 22, 2020

Charles Smith Letters, Part Nine


Saul Bellow


When my heart was younger and my hopes higher I could indeed bat them out with ease. One only has to go through Weider's mags from 1949 to 1957 to see the volume of my output - some stuff carried names other than mine - for instance Reg Park, Steve Reeves and Doug Hepburn. Now of course - and naturally too - at 76 years of age I just don't have the mental ability to bash them out as I did when forty. In nature, ALL things come to an end some time. Nothing stays the same. There is action and reaction. But when I think of what I once did, even I am amazed at my output. Some people won't believe me and tell me I am full of what food turns to when ingested and digested That's their problem But ask Weider if you ever meet up with him.
I have found article writing - especially the "lead" - made easier by recounting some of my personal experiences, even though these may have had little or nothing to do with weight training. Most books written are products of the authors' life experiences - example Charles Dickens, and most noteworthy of his works is David Copperfield, which is regarded by all of his biography. A delightful work. 
I call Terry Todd "Reverend" since he, to my way of thinking, looks remarkably like the Reverend Terry Waite, the British Anglican - there's a tautology for you - envoy who does, or did all that negotiating for hostages.
Doctor C______ V______. A mysterious chappie. 

He CLAIMS to have done four reps, or is it five or was it three in the bent press with 400 - THAT'S RIGHT - FOUR HUNDRED pounds, and a single bent press with FIVE HUNDRED. However, he was "honest" in this latter claim, telling all and sundry that he was "unable" to come upright with it. What the good "Doctor" doesn't tell you is that this was performed on a Smith machine. I do know that he has threatened to sue anyone who says he didn't do the feat he claims to have done. I have HEARD that he started life as a physical therapist. I also have been TOLD he wrestled professionally. 
As for his "Doctor's" degree, I am TOLD that this came from a "University" that isn't credited, in other words a diploma mill. Do to bent press 400 for REPS at way over the age of forty, should convince one that the age of miracles is still with us. Or it might well be in the same category as the feat of S__ C______ who claims - and has pictures and certificates to prove it - to have pressed 7,063 - SEVEN THOUSAND AND SIXTY THREE POUNDS WITH ONE ARM. So the only conclusion one can draw is that C_____ comes from the land of the monsoon, where the heavy rains wash away all the bullshit into the Indian Ocean from which it promptly drifts over to the United States.
The Flushing Flash has got himself into a splendid pickle. He spent a day in durance vile but made bond eventually and is now facing a few terms in a college whose location will be chosen for him - as well as having to pay stiff tuition fees.
Seems the Flash, or one of his cohorts had discovered a way of shoving more postage into a Pitney Bowes mailing machine. They came across this Mother Lode in 1979 - so I am informed - and kept it up until a week or so ago, when the Postal Authorities said, "Hmm. How come this cat never comes in to have more postage shoved onto his meter?" So the Postal inspectors did a little survey - these types are worse wolves than any thousand of IRS investigators - and found that someone had been "tapping the till." Needless to say they were vastly irked at this saying "tut tut. How could he. Oh the shame of it all" and other pithy apothegms and laid a brutal hand on ______'s shoulder and hiked him off to the hoosegow. He is blaming it all on one of his satraps. Anyway, it was all over the New York papers. 
I do believe that somewhere in Strength & Health there appeared a shot of Venus and his brother, but I can't remember what info went with it or if there was any "story" about him.
Moving on, it may, or may not, surprise you to learn that there were just as many Physique contests being held in the 1890s as there are today - MEN AND WOMEN. I attended the first Miss Britain contest in the late 1920s, won by Miss Elsie McKiersey, long before Joe W. was lifting anything heavier than school books. It may also surprise you to learn that there were HUNDREDS of Lifting and Physical Culture Clubs in London, England in the 1890s and early 1900s for MEN AND WOMEN. Look through some of the old mags of that period and you will see for yourself just how wide spread it was. In my mind it is well worth remembering that Joe didn't "invent" bodybuilding nor did he invent ANY of the so-called "principles" he claims he did. This does an IMMENSE DISSERVICE to the true pioneers, men like MacFadden, Liederman, Jowett, Pullum, Hackenschmidt and countless others - Mark Berry, Alan Calvert, all from whom Joe W. got what he now knows.    

       Joseph Curtis Hise
           Photo Courtesy of Joe Roark

[Some notes on the Book "Mass" here.] 

Blocking out all negative thoughts and training in a positive manner. Again not new. Hack, Jowett and Saxon all wrote of this in their books - or books bearing their names - repeatedly. When writing a training book or article, I believe it is important that beginners do not get the impression that the exercises and principles within are all new - they aren't. 

Fast and slow twitch fibers. These may be conditioned by the weight trainer's previous athletic experience. Before I began lifting, I was well into competitive swimming and wrestling sports that place emphasis on endurance. Thus, when I started weight training, I found that I was good at high reps but not so hot at fewer reps or limit lifts. What poundages I used for sets, left one with the impression that I could do a high limit lift - I couldn't do anywhere close to what my reps indicated I could do as a limit lift. [Users of max-single calculators may want to take note of this] 

After the initial breaking in period - in my opinion - each lifter becomes a law unto himself - again, what suits one man might not suit another. 

You mention "strict form" in which each exercise is to be performed but give no explanation as to what "strict form" is. Example, on page 29 we have a shot of Franco Columbu using lateral raises. He is NOT DOING THEM IN STRICT FORM, but is using an obvious body heave and bent arms.

If you will refer to Bill [W.A.] Pullum's book, WEIGHTLIFTING MADE EASIER AND INTERESTING

you will find that the lateral raise standing HAS to be done with the arms held absolutely straight, no body bend or heave, legs together and not RAISING. This was the competition rule, for the standing lateral raise and is still used by the BAWLA. Thus Columbu is using a Cheat form of the movement. Pullum's book was published in 1920. Joe W claims or has had it claimed for him that he invented the cheat principle - which is sheer balderdash.

Flat and incline benches were in use in the early part of this century. So again we have nothing new here. In fact, in 1913 an incline bench was being advertised in a French physical culture journal that could also double as an abdominal board, was adjustable to various heights of incline and could be folded up into a suitcase.

There is a comment on bench pressing improving the standing press. While this may be so in the majority of cases, it wasn't so in my case, nor in several other individuals I could name. 

Adding washers to the bar [microloading]. My point here once again is that this is not new at all, as it is often presented to be. This method was being used in the early 1920s and up to the Ron Walker era. It was written about extensively in Vigour, Health and Strength, Superman and other British mags. It was also being used by dozens of lifting club members in London, including the Pembroke AC, the Plaistow Lifting Club, the First West Central Lifting Club and countless others worldwide. Again the beginner is led to believe that this technique - if it can be called that - is NEW and IT ISN'T.

There is a reference to "pulling and pushing muscles." I got the distinct impression from what books I have read on Kinesiology and Physiology that ALL muscles PULLED.

On another page the somato type Endomorph is referred to as the "Nervous" energy type. This is wrong. It is the ECTOMORPH who is the nervous type . . . tall, lanky, often very thin, prone to acne and stomach troubles. The ENDO is the low energy type, lazy, good digestion, roly poly type. But it must be remembered that Sheldon's theories, for that is all they really were, have now been discounted, many believing that he didn't give a sufficient enough study time to his theories to render them valid. There are many, MANY variations of the types - mixtures if you will - of ALL three types. 

Pages 63 to 72. I liked the way the routines were laid out. VERY, VERY GOOD! 

Burns. Again this method was being used way, way back. In the early 1920s there was a lifter attached to Bill Pullum's club. Arthur Verge.  

He weighed around 132 but had 16" arms. Verge's favorite exercise was the two hands curl with barbell. In fact for years he held the British Record - can't remember the poundage - but he used to hold 56-lb block weights, those with a half moon cut out of the top and a bar bridging the gap. If you ever get hold of one of these, you'll quickly see how tough it is to curl one. 

Big Thanks to John Wood for all photos used here! 
Check this out . . . 
And This . . . 

Verge would do FIFTY alternate repetitions with two 56-lb block weights. He'd also do three or four burns at the end of the full reps. The only man who was lighter than he was, but whose arms were as big, was Jose Prada, a Mexican Roman-Ring artist who stood just five feet tall, scaled around 124 and had 16" arms. He would tie a 15-lb dumbbell around his waist, jump up and get hold of the rings, palms out, arms dead straight and locked at the elbows, and then pressing outwards would press himself up into a crucifix position and DO REPS. No bend of the arms whatsoever, pure chest, deltoid and arm power. 

Forced reps. Again as old as the hills. Ron Walker used it extensively. I can recall one Sunday morning after he had met Manger, the German heavy, snatching in the backyard of George Walsh, who claimed himself as Ron's trainer. He had, that is Walker had, failed, I think, 280 odd pounds in the Snatch during his match with Manger. Now this was 1936, so my memory regarding his failures in the match may be a pound or two out. However, that Sunday morning he snatched, ON AN ORDINARY ONE INCH BAR - 320 POUNDS. After this, Walsh stood in front of him as Ron took 350 off the deck. Walsh shoved his forefinger under the bar and kept it going while Ron took the 350 to arms' length. Walker used forced reps in his pressing routine, as well as using the so called High Intensity Training AND the Negative Training Principle, touted as MODERN today, and also microloading with washers. This in the early 1930s. 

There is constant reference to the "SCOTT CURL." The impression given is that Scott "invented" it. He didn't. Why or why do people keep calling this type of curl by Scott's name. It was being used way, way before Scott or Gironda were lifting anything more than a baby rattle. I was using it in the late 1920s. Alan Stephan was using it in the 1940s and countless others were before Scott ever came along. But despite the mention of Scott, there isn't a single picture of him in the book.

Note: Sorry to barge in, but here's two books I came across while looking for something else . . .  written by Hackenschmidt after he retired from the Iron Game: 

"Man and Cosmic Antagonism to Mind and Spirit: The Psychical, Physical, Mental and Spiritual Related to Physiological Processes." 1935 

"The Three Memories and Forgetfulness: What They Are and What Their True Significance is In Human Life." 1937

Up and down the rack system. Again the name of Scott is mentioned doing this and again he didn't invent it - though many young bodybuilders will get this impression. This goes back to the old European German gym. On the Kette or chain were dumbbells or kettlebells ranging from 20 to 110 pounds - roughly, since the DBs were in kilos. The trick was to go up and down the chain curling, then pressing the DBs or kettlebells overhead, and then back again to starting poundage. Hermann Goerner was the only man able to do this in his gym, the Leipzig Weightlifting Club. 

Here's an excerpt from another Smith article on Goerner: 

"Around the four walls of the gym were benches, and above them the shelves where you kept your personal beer stein. In Goerner's gym, running up the side of one of the walls was the "Chain," a rack with solid kettlebells resting in its notches. These ranged in weight from 13 to 52.5 kilos, with jumps of 5 to 10 lbs. [28 to 115 lbs.] The trick was to see how far you could "go up the chain" swinging, pressing, curling, then pressing again each kettlebell - using alternate hands as you went up. Only Goerner could go the length of the rack from the lightest to the heaviest. This was his regular warmup. 

From here

The Multi-Poundage System. I believe I wrote in a previous letter that this was extensively publicized by Henry Atkin who ran the Britisn mag "Vigour." But it was being used long before that. [Think drop sets here]

More here:

Joe Assirati and I AND others used it but discarded it since the memory of having failed with an empty bar stayed with us. In other words, though the system may seem to have some validity, it DOES have its drawbacks in that it encourages a psychological "block."

The Rest Pause System. Another oldie - got moss [not the Staff Sergeant given-named Alfred] growing out of it. Joseph Curtis Hise used it, along with other pioneers of that era. As far as I have been able to determine Hise used it first. 

Production of Continuous Gains. It has been my experience, as well as the experience of others, that NO CONTINUOUS GAINS ARE EVER MADE. One can form a graph of sloe rises, a leveling off, a slight drop, a small gain, another leveling off and so on. In fact, by looking at Nature one can see just how valid it is. The birth, the slow rise, the static, the slow rise again, the slow decline and finally the fall. One can see this all around. 

"Escape From Samsara" starring Kurt Russell. 
Page 119. Some interesting debate could ensue over the question, "What is power?" For instance, is a marathon runner strong? Is a swimmer who is a record holder at 100 and 200 meters strong? Is a miler strong? What is "wrestling" strength? Simply put, strength or power - is there any difference - is giving your best possible performance at a given time?  

Yeah, yeah, yeah, save the all-knowing comments . . . 

Page 123, entitled "A Treasury of Bodybuilding Secrets." What secrets? We were using this stuff sixty years ago, and others were certainly using it before us. As for squats, although I agree with you that they are an important part training, there is a man at the University of Texas, Professor Emeritus, Karl Klein, the expert on physical rehab, who will give you a heavy and convincing argument AGAINST SQUATTING. In fact he was instrumental in getting the Armed Forces to stop giving squats to recruits in their physical training sessions. I do not agree with Klein, but certainly bow to his superior knowledge. In my humble opinion, injuries incurred are the result of genetics or lack of same. However this is just my opinion and I am not saying it has any merit. 

There is mention of "Hack" squats in the book. Surely some mention should have been made of the man who used them and popularized them, George Hackenschmidt. And HE got them in the 1890s from Dr. von Krajeski who was using them 10 and 15 years before Hack was - 1875! 

There is a lot more to the development of the calf muscle than toe raising. The calf muscles are involved in inversion and eversion, plus plantar flexion and dorsi flexion of the feet. One of the very best exercises to calf work is running along a beach in loose sand. Try it some time, keeping on tiptoes while running. 

NEVER DO STRAIGHT ARM PULLOVERS as an all out limit lift. You can get all sorts of elbow trouble as well as wrecked deltoids, Ask me. I know. 

There are some individuals who can do pullovers with straight arms and suffer no adverse effects. Among those I have known are Bert Assirati and Sam Kramer(?). The elbows should always be slightly bent when using heavy poundages. 

Page 143. 18" forearms - or over 18". Come, come, old chap. I have the largest forearms ever - on Goerner. And though his wrist taped 9.1 inches, his forearm measured 15.8 STRAIGHT. And this was the man David Willoughby considered to have performed the greatest feat of gripping and forearm power when he ONE HAND deadlifting 727-1/4. Even the giant Bill Kazmaier didn't have an 18" forearm. To possess one this size would mean a wrist of around 11.5 inches and a very high bodyweight. Not even the giant French strongman Apollon had an 18" forearm. In this claim you gotta show me. Goerner weighed 290! 

Page 145. The function of the abdominal muscles is to flex the torso, upper trunk, onto the pelvis. Therefore ANY situps done with straight legs are a fine exercise for the leg extensors. Situps should ALWAYS be done with bent legs. Perhaps one of the finest abdominal exercises I have ever come across is a simple one - STANDING JUMPS OVER A ROPE. To do this you have to tuck the legs up into the torso, a reverse crunch if you will. I used to do it over a rope 3 feet high, jumping forward over the rope then back without turning around. Try it sometime. Great. 

Page 160. Breathing Squats were introduced by Joseph Curtis Hise during the the late 1920s. In fact it was Hise and this type of squat that sends lifting history and screaming into the into modern bodybuilding and lifting world. But Hise used a cambered bar patented and invented by Bill Pullum in the late 19 O O's - 1920. Bill had it made since it was easier in the bent press. No one thought of using it for squats. But then Hise came along and ordered a cambered bar from Bill Pullum and off we went.

Hise did his breathing squats thus. He would collapse under the weight, recover with a rebound [and not a "muscle rebound"] to starting position, take THREE DEEP BREATHS, forcing his breath in and out, then squat again and continue this. In between sets he would do breathing BENT ARM pullovers. Hise used a cambered bar because it didn't roll on the shoulders, thus leaving the skin where it should be. But Joe Assirati and I used it for ALL exercises, including bench presses - this was in 1932 - AND CURLS AND CLEANS. You must remember that the Pullum Cambered Bar isn't like the so-called cambered bars used by power lifters in benches. Pullum's bar was cambered in the bar's dead center. And it was thicker than an ordinary one inch training bar.    

J.C. Hise,  cambered bar, in his garage dugout "power rack". 
Photo, again courtesy of Joe Roark. Thank You! 
I honestly do not know if that is a Pullum Cambered Bar. 

Page 163. In all my close to seventy years in weight training I have known NO OVE user of weights who remained injury free. We ALL, at one time or another, manage to get that little strain or sprain or whatever you want to call it. 

Page 168. My advice is NOT to treat injuries yourself. Go to some competent physiologist or sports physician. 

Page 171. DON'T EVER DO STIFF LEGGED DEADLIFTS ON A BENCH, where the bar goes below the level of the bench. This is one of the most dangerous exercises in the book of training. The trunk should NEVER go below level or horizontal position with the floor. Even light weights can cause sacroiliac injury. J.C. Hise had the right idea with his HOPPER DEAD LIFT. 

Page 181. There are those who can tolerate cow's milk and those who can't. For these latter individuals drinking cow's milk can give them nasty cases of the "Trots" or "Montezuma's Revenge." For these people, if milk must be drunk, then goat's milk is a good substitute and the chaps who can't tolerate coe's milk, can do so if they use goat's milk in its place My youngest grandson has this problem. 

CAUTION! Always be very wary of the measurements some bodybuilders claim. When John Davis was in his heyday and was capable of cleanly standing pressing 330, snatching over 300 and clean and jerking over 400, I taped his arms. At 220 pounds bodyweight and a height of 5'9" his arms measured 17-5/8". When next some bodybuilder tells you his arms tape 22 or 21 or even 18 or 19, whip out your steel tape and say, "Let's see." And YOU see how many excuses you will get as to why you can't. Not even the giant Goerner's arms, when he scaled 290 at a height of just over 6 feet measured 22. In fact the correctly taped right flexed 18.9 and left flexed 18.1. The measurements were taken when he was 43 years of age. Date: December 16th, 1934. And he scaled at the time EXACTLY 290. 
There are some idiots who claim to have a 30 inch waist at 200 pounds plus. Seldom if ever do they tell the truth, whole and nothing but.
Enjoy Your Lifting! 

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