Sunday, December 3, 2023

The Lower Back - Added Once - David P. Willoughby (1949)


Some of the muscles, fasciae, and skeletal prominences of the back. The location of the erector spinae, or loin muscles, discussed in this article, is clearly shown. 

NOTE: This series is courtesy of Joe Roark. Thank You, Joe! 
For much, MUCH more, sign up here: 

The Loins - the Keystone of Bodily Strength

A powerful development of the loins, or "small of the back," is an absolute necessity to a real, all-over strong-man, for if this part be lacking in strength, the man is only partially strong. Of course, the same thing may be said of the other parts of the body, but these other parts, such as the neck, chest, arms and legs, are not so centrally located and universally important. 

For the small of the back is like a hinge connecting the upper and lower halves of the body, and upon it falls the greatest leverage. Hence, as a base from which the other parts of the body may exert their force, the small of the back must be thoroughly strong, otherwise the individual may excel only in feats in which he sits, lies, or hangs, but not stands. The small of the back, or loins, is related to the gluteal muscles, from them to the hamstrings, and so on down the legs to the ground. 

The principle function of the loin or spinal (erector spinae) muscles is, as their Latin name implies, to erect or straighten the spinal column, as in restoring the body from a bent-forward position to the upright. 

The muscle lies half on each side of the spine, arising from the back of the pelvis in the form of two thick columns. The location of the erectores spinae, as well as of many other muscles on the back of the trunk, is shown in Figure 1. 

From its origin, or basic attachment, to the back of the pelvis, sacrum, and lumbar vertebrae, each half of the erector spinae (also called sacro-spinalis) passes upward the full length of the spine, attaching to the processes of the thoracic and even the cervical vertebrae, the ribs, and finally the base of the skull. 

As each half of the muscle reaches to level of the lowest rib, it divides laterally into three parts. Each of these parts, as well as additional subdivisions of the muscle higher up, is given a separate name, but names need not concern us here. 

Each of the outermost portions of the erector muscle, being well away from the spine (sideways) and attaching to the ribs, has the power to bend the trunk toward that side. Accordingly, the erector spinae muscles in this latter function are brought into action and developed, so long as the trunk is not bent backward, by typical side-bending exercises, as well by all one-arm overhead lifts, particularly the bent press. 

A third function of the erectores spinae, in addition to their action in erecting the spinal column and bending it from side to side, is to assist in rotating or twisting the spine, as in simultaneously bringing one shoulder forward and the other backward. In the latter action, it is the right half of the erector spinae muscle which contracts in twisting the loin muscles, the buttock and thigh muscles coming later in an article on leg development. 

Note: The Weider "Your Physique" mags from this time period had some great book length" features on bodyparts. Real nicely done, extensive, each with an anatomy section and description of the bodypart's actions, followed by exercises and sometimes a layout of how to place them in your routines. Hey, in my view the mags went downhill over time, evolving into something lame and malformed even though their popularity grew along with the wealth attained by producing them.        

Exercises for the Lower Back

A simple and reliable test of general body strength is to PICK UP A HEAVY AND UNWIELDY OBJECT, SHOULDER IT, AND WALK WITH IT. 

A creditable poundage poundage handled in this manner is better proof of all-round strength than any localized arm or leg test. 

Many of the genuine strong-men of other days used feats of this nature to "stump" spectators who fancied themselves strong and who thought that all a professional strong-man could do was lift barbells overhead. As a choice of simple, familiar apparatus for "the man from the audience," the strong-man would usually bring out a heavy sack or barrel, and the test was for the amateur to shoulder the object and walk off the stage with it. 

Note: Depending on what was in the sack or barrel, I wonder if any audience guy just kept on-a walkin' till he got home with his free stuff. Well if he did, he wouldn't be an "amateur" anymore! 

Dr. Felix Oswald, in his book "Physical Education" (1883), says that the "best man" in a Yorkshire parish "is generally he who can shoulder the heaviest bag and carry it farthest and and with the firmest step." 

Thomas Topham, a famous "natural" strong-man, who, as the proprietor of an inn in London [I'd love to be in an inn in London, with a Guinness and a pack-a fags, crisps never-ending, a song in my heart and a pair of raconteurs delightful to talk to/with. They may drink Gin and Tonic, they may swill Shandies in Winter, no matter, never mind, never matter, no mind, oops.]

Thomas Topham . . . 

more on this fine man, in several parts beginning here:

 . . . a famous "natural" strong-man, who, as the proprietor of an inn in London, early in the 18th century, had many an opportunity of exhibiting his strength, used to amuse himself with pranks like the following one. One night, seeing a watchman asleep in his box, he gently carried the sentry-box, with the man in it, a considerable distance and placed them atop the wall of a church yard. Imagine not only the surprise of the watchman when he awakened, but the tremendous general strength Topham must have had to perform casually such a feat. 

Louis Cyr . . . 

a little on Mr. Cyr, from W.A. Pullum, here:  

. . . the old-time "Canadian Hercules," in his public exhibitions frequently performed the feat of shouldering a barrel of sand, using only one arm to do so. He is credited with having shouldered in that manner 445 pounds (!). What tremendous strength of the back and midsection this lift must have required, even granting the Cyr used his knee in helping raise the barrel. 

Arthur Saxon . . . 

more on this man from Thomas Inch:

and Bill Good:

. . . who also had an especially powerful lower back, once performed a tremendous feat in raising clear to arms' length overhead with both hands a cumbersome, off-balance, slippery sack which weighed over 300 pounds. Probably a large part of Saxon's loin strength was developed by his continual practice of the bent press, in which lift, after over 40 years, his record of 370 pounds still stands unapproached. 

Picking up a barbell from the floor to the erect position is a simple and direct exercise for developing the muscles of the loins and buttocks. In performing this movement in the usual manner (as a competition lift it is known as the "two hands dead lift"), the lifter will stoop forward by bending at the hips and knees, but will keep his back as flat as possible so as to avoid throwing any unnecessary strain on the loin muscles. The feet should be spaced from 12 to 15 inches, and the bar grasped with the knuckles of both hands facing forward. If the weight is so heavy as to tax the grip, the lifter may use a hooked grip or thumb-lock. The bell should be lifted as cleanly as possible in one movement to the erect finishing position, avoiding any dragging of the bar up the thighs. 

The best way to practice this lift as an exercise is with a heavy plate-loading barbell (one having discs 15 or 17-3/4 inches in diameter), with which the weight can be increased in jumps of 20, 30, or even 40 pounds. 

Start with a poundage that you can repeat comfortably 4 or 5 times in succession; add some weight and do another series [set] if 3 or 4 repetitions, and so on, increasing the weight and decreasing the number of repetitions until each poundage is lifted only once. Finish with a weight, say, of from 20 to 40 pounds below your limit.

Note: I am working on an excel file for this deadlift layout and should be done by Christmas . . . 
Now, if I can get A.I. to lift the bar for me and follow the spreadsheet things should be wonderfully 'disruptive' and 'innovative' moving forward. Of course nothing will be changed in the real world, but that's not the point. It's all about the progress of technology, not me! Apparently there are "people" or near to it who are using A.I. to design programs for their johns, er, clients. Get lost. How complicated do you think this crap is for God's sake. But then, to each his own, as they say, much like I say . . . Progress? Leave me the fuck alone, thank you so much. Everyone's a champeen, very special individuals at beginner and near-intermediate stages. Spoiled bastard pups, led to believe this is complicated, and all thanks to fake photos, the usual lies, stringy over-lean bozos painted orange and a general greed for cash as opposed to respect for the game. Aw, how distoibing this modern woild is.]

By employing a "flat" back in lifting (which always should be done in heavy lifting), the work is thrown largely on the buttock muscles. 

The loin and spinal muscles may be more directly exercised by lifting with the legs straight and the back rounded. When exercising with this purpose in view, arch the back as much as possible in slowly raising the barbell from the floor to the upright position. 

To increase the stretching effect on the back-thighs, the exercise may be performed while standing on a strong stool or box. 

Do not, however (duh, it's too complicated, I need a P.T. with A.I. and possibly syphilis like Sandow) use anywhere near the poundage used in the regular bent-leg style of dead-lift. Employ a weight that you can raise without undue effort from 10 to 15 times in succession. By doing this, you will derive all the beneficial developing effects of the exercise without subjecting the erector spinae muscles to strain, which might result if these muscles were taxed unduly while they were being exercises in disadvantageous position. 

For the loin muscles, if once strained, may never be the same! 

Strains and wrenches of the smaller muscles of the limbs, while by no means pleasant, are of small consequence compared with a torn erector spinae muscle or a sprained sacro-iliac joint. 

Continued from here in Part Two. 

Enjoy Your Lifting! 

Enjoy Your Lifting! 

Enjoy Your Lifting! 

Son, you're overtraining. 

And to end with a nice, clean, straight joke . . . 
We're getting rain up here the last few days that's crazy! 
It's the kind my late Father In Law Archie used to call
"fish on the freeway" weather. 



  1. Thank you for the content. I've been a reader your years. Your effort to keep sense in a deceived world is appreciated. I've been using stone and sandbag carries as a finisher for years, can't say it was with the intention to build my erectors but certainly would agree it has helped develop them.

  2. Love the supportive links interspersed in the back and BoHo articles.

    1. A trip through an era and several known names in there to check out. I like to sometimes imagine someone landing on a new post and reading this blog for the first time . . .


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