Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Weight Training and Cable Exercise - Charles Coster (1953)

                                                                          Are ya havin' fun yet? 
                                                        Overly serious types please exit the site now.
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fun-seekers only need apply.


93 page download. Beautifully done and THANKS for doin' it. This is a large, in depth book that may be a little overwhelming for a lifter new to cable training. I plan to put up more on expander training, articles taken from magazines of a more introductory nature. This book is definitely a keeper!  

The practice of pressing a barbell to arms length is not necessarily the ONLY method whereby an Olympic specialist can improve his pressing ability. There are other factors known to improve an athlete's natural ability in this direction, and Cable Training is ONE of them. 

A set of good cable apparatus is a most valuable possession from the body-builder's and weightlifter's point of view, because of certain unique features which are present. 

In the first place, cable equipment takes up very little space, and they are therefore most convenient for transporting from one place to another inconspicuously, and this is quite an important feature for the ordinary working-class enthusiast who usually has to undertake such endeavors in addition to his daily work.

There must be untold thousands of young men who could find time to have ten minute or twenty minute cable workout on some special portion of the anatomy during their slack moments or meal breaks, if only the equipment was on the spot at the right time. 

It is generally admitted that certain muscles and tendon groups are difficult to "get at" and these areas need frequent "blitzing" . . . 

Okay already . . . when was that word first used in a muscle publication. 

. . . with specialized types of work if undeveloped or stubborn parts of the body are to be made to expand their volume and increase in strength. 

Cables are therefore a very convenient medium for such purposes, since they can be carried around all day long if need be . . . cost only a small sum of money to purchase [I had plans to grow out my steely nose, ear and underarm hairs to a great lengths and go all out expander with 'em, but my second late wife's ghost ate the lot in a dream one night. Finding no solace in the bars and bells I chose to order a set of expanders, razor, strop, and aftershave lotion), make additions or replacements and with reasonable care, last for years.

I have heard the mermaids singing and the cry of the Israelites . . . stop it. 
This is not That kind of writing! 

I have heard of numerous instances of Olympic weightlifters who succeeded in making an appreciable improvement in their pressing ability after embarking upon an intensive and suitable course of cable training. One man in particular had been "stuck" for a long time with the same pressing poundage, but at the end of six months with the cables he surprised everyone by making an increase of more than 30 pounds. His deltoid, serratus, triceps, together with the entire scapulae area became very heavily developed, and moreover it was the type of muscle that showed up to advantage, with plenty of definition.

Mind you, he was not afraid of hard work and did not shirk the muscular "ache" and fatigue that often attend special muscle-building programs when additional strength is desired, and that, as many topnotchers can verify, is one of the all-important secrets of success in the Iron Game.

It is not necessary to dwell on the various cable exercises that can be made, since many of them are well known. But the design of such equipment and the shape of the human body make a really thorough workout of the shoulder girdle most effective when performed with cables. 

When additional strands are added for purposes of progress a full schedule of sets of repetitions requires much more efforst and willpower. The easiest way to master increased cable resistance is for the person concerned to lie in a prone position for as manyh of the exercises as possible as this will enable him to concentrate upon bringing a much greater degree of muscular effort upon the particular movement being used. 

The Overhead Downward Pull, the Standing Triceps Overhead Stretch, the Front Chest Pull (performed in sets from various angles), the Lateral Raise Standing (from both the front and rear of the thighs), and the Single of Double Handed Back Press-Out . . . are all movements known to build shoulder strength and development, especially when combined with other forms of dumbbell and barbell training. 

The Front Chest Pull can of course be performed either standing or lying down. It can also be used to advantage when the body is bent over from the hips and the hands close to the ground. 

Three excellent triceps exercises that are best performed with cables are the Left and Right Arm Overhead Triceps Stretch . . . in which the hand and forearm are raised from behind the head to the full arm stretch position. 

The famous Archer's Triceps Stretch movement . . . in which the elbow is extended to shoulder level (in line with the back), the knuckles of the engaged hand being just in front of the shoulder . . . from which commencing position the cable is stretched outwards and sideways until the arm is completely extended at shoulder level. 

Only the forearm should be allowed to move . . . the upper arm and shoulder remaining stationary. If you have not tried the Archer's Stretch so far -- you will be surprised at the small resistance you can at first handle. 

The Left and Right Arm Downward Stretch is the last of the triceps trio. In this movement also . . . the forearm is the only part that should be allowed to move, the upper arm remaining quite still.

The commencing position is for the disengaged arm to hold the other end of the cable firmly overhead against the wall or some suitable obstacle. The hand of the arm about to be exercised (knuckles turned inwards) will thus be resting against the side of the chest . . . from which point it should be steadily and firmly extended outwards and downwards until the knuckles point to the floor by the side of the hip.

There is a curious and arresting difference between using a barbell an using a set of cables, and this difference is quite important.

When dumbbells or a barbell are used the poundage almost invariably tends to get "lighter" as the movement nears completion.

When cable apparatus is used . . . the reverse principle operates, for the last stages of cable expansion are very definitely much more strenuous as the strands become extended -- than they are at the commencement of the pull. 

This important difference is something which I feel should be exploited to the full by both Olympic specialists and body-builders alike. 

Body-builders need a maximum amount of contraction to take place at the completion of each repetition if they are to be successful in their efforts to gain both bulk and definition . . . and needless to say it is not nearly so easy to make peak contractions if the poundage decreases in intensity towards the finish of any particular movement. 

This problem was brought home to me some years ago when I was trying to improve upon the Lateral Raise Lying in the twelve stone (168 lb.) class. I had already broken the British Record, and was making an effort to establish a heavyweight record also.

It had been noticeable for some time that the first half of the movement was the toughest when the bells where being raised from the floor . . . the last part of the movement was comparatively easy.

It occurred to me, together with other devices, that one way to strengthen ability on the most difficult part of the lift might follow if only I could find a way to make the "easy" part HARDER. After a little experimentation I made an arrangement with some cord and cables of suitable strength which pulled in an outward direction once the dumbbells had reached a certain height. With regular use I found that I could adjust and increase the cable resistance considerably without interfering with the weight of the dumbbells, and the exercise became one of continuous tension throughout. Even when the hands were immediately above the face, strong tension had to be maintained in order to combat the strong pull in the opposite direction.

My efforts were rewarded in the end and I was able to make a new 12 stone and heavyweight British record by raising 120 pounds. 

This idea need not be confined to just one exercise, for it could just as easily be used for the Pullover at Arms Length or the Crucifix lifts. 

Even repetition deadlifting can be improved upon if fairly strong springs or cables are brought into play during the last part of the movement. 

*Yes, the new and thilling, hugely result-producing effect of bands, er, cables back in 1953.*

A glance at some of the excellent advertising illustrations which appear from time to time will amply show the many different uses to which such equipment can be put. 

One of the most interesting experiments I ever made some years ago was to construct a PRESSING BAR for repetition work which was composed entirely of cables and springs clipped onto an empty bar and the floor beneath. 

Providing plenty of resistance is used -- a workout will be found to be extremely strenuous and thorough, for there is a strong tendency for the bar to "wobble" forwards and backwards during upward and downward movements, the this factor will help the lifter to improve his balance, whilst the wobble makes the deltoids ache to an unusual degree. 

Alan P. Mead believed that muscles should be exercises from as many angles as possible . . . and he certainly introduced me to many queer pieces of equipment when I visited him at his gymnasium. 

He had a cable deadlift apparatus attached from the middle of the wall down to the floor and through a pulley wheel by using flexible steel wire attached to a gripping handle which was extremely difficult. 

It was necessary to pull upwards with the steel wire running through the pulley wheel in order to operate the apparatus, and the direction of the pull could be varied with each set by moving a step forward or backward. 

It made the muscles ache in my back more intensely, an in more different places than any appliance I had ever used before. 

Enjoy Your Lifting! 






Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Looking Back at the Last 50 Years - John Grimek (1982)


We are reading this courtesy of Liam Tweed


Has weight training for developing a shapely, muscular body changed very much in the past 50 years? And, has the training  equipment designed for muscle-building improved all that much in the last half-century? 

I don't know if these questions will ever be answered to the satisfaction of everyone. Some people will say that nothing has changed in the way of training and training equipment. Others think that each "new" piece of equipment exceeds even the wildest imagination and that it represents a great step forward for all mankind seeking the ultimate gains in development. 

These same people are who are swayed by equipment also state that there are many more "men of muscle" today than there were back in the '30s. 

Well, we won't argue the issue but it should be pointed out that even back in those "dim days of bodybuilding" there were a substantial amount of outstanding, powerful men. And some of these men came up with self-designed exercising equipment, variations of which are still in use today. 

As far as the old reliable barbell is concerned, you can easily go back not 50 years but 100 or even 200 years and find barbells -- crude though they may have been -- that efficiently served the muscle-building needs of the free-thinking individuals of those eras. 

In fact, it seems as though the barbell has always been with us. Many muscle-developing inventions have come and gone over the years but the ordinary barbell has remained . . . and it is still considered by many to be "the only way" to achieve muscular development. 

So what does this all prove? 

Simply that in spite of all the new ideas relating to muscle-building equipment, barbells and dumbbells remain the most popular of all training devices. 

It is reasonable, then, to ask why more people don't use weights in order to improve the strength and appearance of their bodies. And the answer to that is again very simple. Over the years I have often mentioned that some people who had the desire to develop their bodies avoided doing so because of the stigma that was attached to lifting weights. They didn't want to be ridiculed nor did they want their family and friends to be embarrassed by their chosen activity. 

Believe me, I personally know about the stigma, although I never allowed it to affect me. I learned that most people associated muscles and strength with circus strongmen and, although everyone admired the prowess such men displayed in their exhibitions, no one wanted to look like them. They were usually built along sloppy, heavy lines and were thought to belong in the circus because they were considered "freaks."

*Before the turn of the century wrestling circuits were extremely popular throughout continental Europe and almost anyone who did any serious weight training but didn't like giving exhibitions gravitated to the sport. George Hackenschmidt, lower center.* 

Muscles, to most people in that era, were considered to be grotesque. Yet, in spite of such feeling, long before the turn of the century a number of men did succeed in developing Herculean bodies. 

For the most part, these men were from Europe, especially Vienna, which was a real "hotbed" for strongmen and circus performers. But even in such capital cities as Paris, London and Berlin as well as parts of Russia there were contingents of strongmen. 

Many of these men visited the United States and toured the country while exhibiting their prowess. Their strength displays, as has been indicated, always impressed the local populace but not too many ever wanted to emulate the strongman. The key words here are "not too many;" there were always one or two who were wiling to put up with the taunts of their fellow townsmen and, consequently, took up barbell training. 

By the turn of the century, an interested spectator, Alan Calvert, observed what he thought to be a growing interest in "strongmanism" and he formed the Milo Barbell Company. In addition, he published a small pamphlet, Strength, which was actually the first magazine to exclusively devote its contents to developing the body and its muscles. 

A professional looking individual, Calvert had hollow barbells designed in a spherical shape, with barbell plates made to fit into the hollowed globes. He felt this type of barbell would be good for training and also for use as a stage-bell by some of the professional strongmen, and he was right because his globular bell was used for juggling and supporting feats by many strength performers. 

Within a short time, Calvert's company produced a training pamphlet, The Milo Barbell Training System, which was based on a course used by Professor Siebert, a strongman and gym owner in Germany, who was getting rather fine results from the students who were using his system.

*Strongman Anton Matysek was Milo Barbell's star pupil. He posed for the Milo Training System with the company's unique barbell, the Duplex set. The large empty spheres and bar weighed under 100 pounds but looked impressive. "Loaded" it weighed 225 pounds. Here, Matysek demonstrates the misnamed "prone press."*

What makes this particularly interesting is the fact that most of the exercises in this system are still in use today. The fact that today's trainees put more concentration and effort in their training is the only reason for there being more overall success among the present-day practitioners of the system. 

Nevertheless, there were also some outstanding specimens of previous generations. One case-in-point is the immortal Sandow. Granted, Sandow may not have been one of the largest musclemen ever, but his symmetry, which closely resembled the ancient Grecian statues, was such that even today's top men have difficulty surpassing it. If anyone was a living statue, it was Sandow. 

And while he is a good example of the excellence achieved by yesteryear's musclemen, he is not the only outstanding example. The great "Russian Lion," George Hackenschmidt, displayed a strength and development that was the talk of all wrestling circles. 

Besides these two men, there were many others who possessed outstanding physical development built largely through the use of their self-designed muscle-building gadgets. 

No one can forget the mighty Otto Arco in this regard.  

*Here's a device Mr. Arco had on the market; page courtesy of Jarett Hulse*

 Arco was an amazing athlete with an outstanding development. Then there was the British serviceman, S/Sgt. Moss, whose development never failed to impress those who saw him give an exhibition. 

And if still more examples are needed, consider the amazing Maxick, Bobby Pandour, Monte Saldo and Clarence Weber *below* in addition to others. 

None of these men were overly muscled but they oozed power and symmetry. If these and many others succeeded in developing their physiques so long ago, it is reasonable to assume that many others might have done as well had they taken the time and made an effort to do so.

But here again we come back to that old "bugaboo" of the general public considering those who trained with weights to be freaks. And it wasn't until Bob Hoffman introduced a magazine devoted exclusively to strength and muscle-building that things began to change on this continent. 

The publication, of course,  was . . . 

 and the first issue was dated December 1932. 

*upper left, cover of this issue, which the article is taken from:*

This at first little magazine pointed the dignified way to improved health and better developed bodies through weight training with barbells and it showed that such training was for everyone and not just for a select few. 

In addition to the magazine, Bob also sought every other avenue to promote better health and better bodies through the use of weights. To that end, York Barbell gave many exhibitions of training and lifting around the country and all demonstrations were followed by discussions of how weights could be used to advantage by everyone. The people who attended these "seminars" came away with a newfound acceptance of weight training . . . and, of course, it has snowballed ever since. 

The magazine, however, isn't the only thing that has come a long way in the past 50 years. There are more gyms and health clubs around today than anyone ever thought possible.

But the question still remains: "Is today's training and equipment superior to what was around 50 years ago?" As we said, this will never be answered to everyone's satisfaction. But one thing is certain . . . today's enthusiast has a large variety of equipment to choose from, even though it might not be the largest collection ever assembled.   

A book published in 1885 listed the equipment that was available in the Harvard University gym. While we don't have room to reprint the entire list, we would like to give you an idea of the plethora of apparatuses that were available.

The gym contained all kinds of leg extensor and contracting machines, as well as other machines for leg development. There were lifting and rowing machines, pulleys of all sorts, and many pairs of dumbbells, both wooden and iron, ranging in weight from five pounds to 125 pounds. 

Something called a foot machine was available as were machines to work the supinators and pronators of the forearms, and those which worked the wrists, ankles and abdominals. 

In addition, there were countless benches, several types of harnesses for heavier lifting and strength feats, and countless other devices as well as the rings, horses and parallel bars that are normally that are normally found in such gyms. Now, what modern-day gyms offer more? Few if any, and remember that this equipment was available more than 100 years ago. 

In going over this list of equipment, I reminded of a recent discussion with a youngster concerning incline benches and curling. He favored the preacher's bench for curling and he said that old-timers never had such a bench. I pointed out that while he was technically correct, there was also such a thing as "where there's a will, there's a way" and I proceeded to relate the following. 

In place of an incline bench, I used a footstool, about 12 inches high, under my back as I sat on the floor. This provided me with the angle desired for my exercise. 

For curling similar to a preacher's bench, I placed my arm on a table, pushing the table into my armpit and then proceeded to do my curls. On another occasion I fashioned a board about 30 inches long on a chair. The lower end of the board was anchored at the edge of the seat and the other end rested against the back of the chair. The lower end of the board was anchored at the edge of the seat and the other end rested against the back of a chair. This gave me an even sharper angle for doing "preacher bench" curls. However, since I found these curls to be stressful in the elbow area, I only included them on occasion. 

THE POINT I AM TRYING TO GET ACROSS, though, was that any weight training enthusiast, if he was really devoted to actuating gains, could readily come up with ways of doing particular exercises. 

Back in the "old days" another piece of equipment that we take for granted today was not available but the trainees of the time did not lack for imagination in devising a way to perform a "bench press."

One simply laid on the floor and pulled the weight overhead onto his chest and pressed from this supine position. Joe Nordquest made close to 400 pounds back in the early '20s. 

Article above courtesy of the late Reuben Weaver. In a time of clawing, self-serving shortsightedness, Reuben was a beacon of brotherhood and iron game community, and it still shapes my attitude to this day. His generosity and willingness to put back into the game he loved in return for what joy it had given him was never less than stellar. When he provided me with answers to questions back then that were likely repetitive to him, he remained patient. When he provided me with actual pages taken from magazines, he turned down even the cost of shipping. There are still many wondrous people in this thing, and several of them have helped ENORMOUSLY with what you are reading here. Please try to remember that moving forward in your own lifting affairs, and in the shaping of the way you look at this grand old hobby, this thing we love, this thing of ours. 

Sig Klein developed a powerful physique from such training, and, at 80, he's still going strong. 

Another rugged individual was Milo Steinborn. Milo has always favored "simple weights." For more than 70 years he has been using weights although he includes a lot more stationary bike riding for conditioning purposes today. But he still uses weights, and for a man edging into his 90s, that's saying a great deal. 

No one would deny that great strides have been made over the past 50 years. On the other hand, don't sell some of those old-timers short. 

They didn't develop muscles "for show" because that type of thing wasn't popular in their day. Rather, they worked to improve their health and their athletic ability. And many of them had a lot of ability. They were either strongmen performing various feats of strength, or they were into wrestling. 

Only the great Sandow "posed his way to fame," although he did popularize the bent-press movement. As far as the movement of the Iron Game in the next half-century, most of us won't be around to report it . . . but you can bet that the sport will flourish . . . and we hope that those of you who are here to see it will do likewise. 

Enjoy Your Lifting! 



Sunday, August 13, 2023

Some Tough Expander Movements -- David Webster (1950)

                                                          From this issue, courtesy of Liam Tweed. 


Get a stretcher. 
Find a masseur. 

I have just finished a really tough workout on the strands with some of the club members and they all agree that some of the exercises prove excellent movements to produce the "ache" so many bodybuilders desire in their training. 

This month, with this in mind, I am going to explain some really good muscle ticklers. If you like to know you have been working hard, het not feel utterly fatigued, then these are the exerises for you. You may think it is strange to work extremely hard yet not feel exhausted. This phenomenon is easy to explain . . . 

Where "big" movements, i.e., movements where combined muscle groups work at the same time are performed, a most tiring effect is experienced, especially if the thighs or back are functioning strongly. However, many of these strand pulling exercises give us isolated work which gives a burning sensation in the muscles being used. Follow the instructions carefully and you will have added bulk and definition within your grasp. 

Here goes . . . 

Back Press and Trunk Twist.

A very easy one for limbering up, but if you have tight hamstrings you will feel a bit of stretching on the back of your legs. The strands are held across the back in the usual position for back pressing, i.e., elbows well into yhour sides, forearms horizontal. The feet should be a little apart. As you press the strands to straighten your arms turn to push the right hand as near as possible towards the left toe without bending the knees. The head should bend right forwards, endeavoring to touch the left knee. Resume the upright position, bending the arms as you do so, then repeat to the opposite side. 12 reps, 6 each side, should be sufficient to warm up. 

Curl Variation

You are going to like this variation of the Curl. Many call this a cheating curl and I don't particularly like the term because trainers tend to think of leaning back, using heaves, jerks and so on. Actually, what happens is a reduction of the range of movement while the muscle work remains the same as the standard version.

The exercise is done in the usual manner one handle under the instepm the other in the hand. Use a heavier poundage than normal and when you feel another rep is impossible in strict style shorten the movement so the arm is not locked as the strands are lowered. Each successive rep should get shorter until only half movements are being done, from the halfway position to the end of the exercise where the biceps are very strongly contracted Do get that contraction without deviating from the vertical plane by twisting the forearm. It's a terrific pumping up exercise if done correctly. 

Back Press. 

The back press provides great shoulder work as well as taxing the triceps. A better power and muscle builder is hard to find. The variation to start with is the back press in strict style, that is to say, without body movement. The photo above shows the starting position, and the angle of the forearms should be carefully copied.  

Now, this next part is most important. As you start pressing the strands to shoulder level turn the hands and lift the elbows. Push slightly forwards so that the strands never lose contact with the body. When the arms are straight return to the starting position. 

3 sets of 8-10 reps will be sufficient but use as many strands as you can hsandle doing the stated number of reps. Later you will find by bending forwards heavier poundages can be handled and by still more advanced movements really terrific poundages can be done without very much change of muscle work. 

For the Calves 

To give your arms a rest if you are performing these in sequence I suggest a calf exercise. In common with all calf exercises better results are obtained if the toes are raised. Several methods can be adopted for strand attachment but when boiled down they all amount to the same thing . . . a heel raise with toes raised at the start of the exercise. 

One end of the strand should be fixed very low by some means and the other end held in the hand The photograph shows the ends looped under a dumbbell. You can improvise with an easy chair leg (look out, Ma!), hooks or eyes screwed into wall, floor, or block.

Tension can be adjusted by holding the strands high or low so always have the hand in the same place each workout A single heel raise is done making the body travel directly upwards. 

Note the free hand is used to prevent forward leaning. Try to get a good stretch as you lower and when you can raise make sure you go as far as you can. It's that last fraction of an inch that produced the "ache." Do this movement properly, brother, and you will get muscles on your muscles on your muscles on your muscles on your muscles on your muscles on your muscles on your muscles on your muscles on your muscles on your muscles on your muscles on your muscles. 

Triceps Stretch

The triceps stretch when done with the strands is even more severe that when practiced with weights and those who have done this exercise with bar or dumbbell will know just how hard it is. 

It may be practiced standing or seated. I prefer sitting for several reasons. First, it checks the natural inclination to bend back or push the hips forward. Secondly, It also helps prevent lateral movement, and lastly by holding the hand on the seat as shown in the photo you stop the hand from sliding thus reducing the distance the strands are being pulled. 

Keep the non-pulling arm straight at all times and the top part of the other arm should be kept as close to the head as possible. The pulling hand should start from behind the neck and without moving the upper arm the elbow joint should be straightened so that the arm is overhead. 

Sure is hard, isn't it! Just wait, fellow, 'till you do 3 sets of 8 hard reps working each arm alternately. 

That's all space permits so till next time bash on, and don't groan too loudly, will you . . . 

Enjoy Your Lifting! 



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