Reprinted on NaturalStrength with permission of The Iron Master
The library of books dealing with the various branches of Physical Culture, and with matters of Health and Strength, generally, grows appreciably in volume. Some few of these works have probably been recognized as being partially liable to the accusation of having been issued more or less as "catch-pennies." But I think it will be conceded that no single branch of the world's affairs has been so ably catered for in the matter of literature. The vast majority of books issued have been from the pens of authors admirably qualified to preach, since they have given ample proof that they have, before they began sermonizing, thoroughly practiced the gospel which they later on sought to spread among their fellow-men.
Nevertheless, a captious critic may be pardoned for pointing out that these experts are often a little too inclined to be dogmatic. They venerate too highly the "system" which has brought success to themselves; and they therefore, not unnaturally perhaps, are inclined to believe that this same system which they have found so beneficial to themselves, must of necessity prove of equal value to all their readers.
Unfortunately, this superstition of theirs has often been the cause of dissatisfaction and disgust to many possible converts to the cause of Physical Culture. The budding neophyte, who feels himself suddenly awakened to the necessity of Physical Cultivation, purchases one of these books by a recognized "strong man," and, taking it to be the sum of human wisdom on the whole subject (for has he not seen the magnificent results which the author himself has obtained from his own system?) endeavors to carry out the precepts set forth therein with honest, whole-souled endeavor.
Now if the neophyte's constitution at all closely resembles that of the evangelist in question, he will, of course, derive great benefit from the instruction contained in the book, and will not only become strong and healthy himself, but will very probably enlist himself among the army of enthusiastic missionaries who carry on the good work.
On the other hand, should his temperament and constitution vary considerably from that of the author in question, the practice of the particular system itself may not impossibly not only be devoid of beneficial results, but may even occasion harm. The neophyte in that event generally becomes disgusted with Physical Culture itself, and not only remains in his old enfeebled, degenerate condition, but, being converted into an active opponent, denounces the movement at all times and seasons as a "flat-catching craze."
The trouble is that neither instructor nor pupil have learned the truth of the old adage of one man's meat being poison for another.
Of course, the truth is recognized by many instructors, who wisely make a point of studying the character and constitution of each individual pupil before thoroughly taking him in hand. Two notable examples of this class of instructor are Professors Inch and Newton, both of whom are careful to impress this very important item on all their pupils, both in the way of precept and practice. And it is because of their having recognized the necessity of studying the physical, mental, and moral differences in their pupils, that both of them have attained to such a degree of success especially from the pupil's point of view.
A very striking example of the fact that hard and fast rules and "systems" generally are by no means of universal benefit, has recently been given to the world in the shape of a very interesting and candid confession of faith by Arthur Saxon.
Any book from the pen of a really famous strong man must possess special interest for Physical Culturists. And surely no work of this description could possible possess greater interest than this from one who is indisputably the strongest man on earth. Nay, more, the great Arthur can claim to be the strongest man of whom there is any authentic record. His astounding feats, all of which are certified, are so well known that I need not relate them here, especially as it is almost certain that all readers of this article will become possessed of a copy of "The Development of Physical Power," seeing that the outlay required is only three shillings post free.
One of the most striking features of the work is Arthur's candor. He does not claim to have followed any of the usual rules laid down for Physical Development, but to have followed a course of training which seemed best adapted both to his progress as a weight-lifter, and to his own personal comfort. He even confesses to a taste for beer and stout, especially to lager beer. Then, again, he pleads guilty to a moderate indulgence in tobacco. Indeed, some of his habits (as confessed) are almost enough to make the stereotyped theorist's hair stand on end.
Then, again, the reader will find that many of his own pet views concerning tests of real strength, muscular development, etc., are diametrically opposed to those entertained by the Strongest Man on Earth, while the latter's opinions on light exercise must be adjudged heterodox in the extreme.
There can be no doubt that "The Development of Physical Power" will cause no little commotion in the Physical Culture World, and that the dicta set forth therein will be most vigorously combated.
But the chief difficulty which the average authority will experience in combating the "Heresies of Arthur" is that these same heresies have not prevented his performances of feats which have never been even approached by anyone else. I am, of course, dismissing from comparison some very mythical feats, alleged to have been performed by such people as Milo of Croton, Polydamus, the Roman Emperor Caius Maximus, Augustus the Strong, Scanderbeg, Hercules, etc., etc. Possibly these feats were genuinely performed, but the accounts are often very hazy, and the evidence not absolutely reliable; while, owing to the lapse of time, it is certain that most of the performances have been greatly exaggerated.
Our Hercules, on the contrary, labors under no such cloud of suspicion. True, as he naively confesses, he has experienced more difficulty in convincing people of the genuineness of the miracles he performs than in performing the said miracles themselves. But he never shirks this difficulty. Many a long journey has he taken to convince skeptics of the truth of his marvelous powers. One of the chief doubters was grand old Donald Dinnie, now one of Mr. Saxon's most ardent admirers. The scene of the conversion of Donald from a "doubting Thomas" into an enthusiastic believer, is detailed somewhat amusingly in the book. Donald had a very short and awkward bar-bell, weighing 230 lbs., which he greatly doubted that Saxon could lift with on hand. The latter would not even attempt the feat till Dinnie had tied a 56 lb. weight to the bell. Arthur then easily pressed the 286 lbs. with one hand, and later, tying on another 56 lbs., pressed this very awkward 342 lbs. to Dinnie's absolute stupefaction.
What would Donald have said had he seen the wonderful Leipziger slow-press his 370 lbs. at Stuttgart, or repeat the extraordinary feat he performed at "The Achilles Club," at Dresden, in Germany, when he raised overhead 336 lbs. with his right hand, and then stooping down lifted, brought to his shoulder, and thence raised overhead a ring-weight weighing 112 lbs., in all 448 lbs., easily-a world's record for the double-handed lift, weights to be got up anyhow?
And then how he would have been flabbergasted had he seen the 311 lb. barbell raised clean to the shoulder and jerked overhead, and then lowered to the shoulder at the back of the neck, to be again jerked up to arm's length. And I really believe that he would have fainted with astonishment had he been present when Arthur slow-pressed 315 lbs. overhead with his right hand, and then threw the huge mass of iron across into his left hand.
But Donald had seen Arthur perform, and having had the truth as to his extraordinary strength gently broken to him, is quite willing to give unhesitating credence to even more extraordinary feats than these. Like everyone else who has witnessed Saxon's feats, he would not be astonished even by a one-handed lift of 400 lbs.
No, there can be no question as to the truth of Saxon's claim (testified to by Mr. Bostock) that he is the "Strongest Man on Earth, Undoubtedly."
I have recited these feats in order to show that the Mighty Man of Muscle is well provided with evidence to prove the virtue of his very heretical views on training, diet, etc.
But while I can strongly recommend all readers of Health and Strength to study Saxon's views, I do not at the same time advise their adoption until each "would-be strong man" has proved to his own satisfaction that they suit him. Their especial virtue lies chiefly in the incontrovertible evidence they offer to the truth that there are many roads to success, even if these roads would seem to diverge greatly at times. Many beginners, and even advanced students, will possibly find help and assistance in the author's maxims, and will, in consequence, be able to make alterations in their systems of training where they have found the same to be at fault, but have feared to diverge from the beaten track, since such divergences have been hitherto strongly discountenanced by the majority of experts. For it is not to be forgotten that Saxon has won fame as a wrestler as well as a weight-lifter, and in his youth particularly was greatly attached to the healthy and active exercise of tree climbing.
Weight-lifters, of course, will find absolute mines of very valuable information in their science imparted by the one man who is most prominently qualified to teach. The book is most profusely illustrated, not only with interesting and even amusing drawings, but chiefly with very valuable photographs, displaying not only the correct position for the different lifts described, but also the immense powers of endurance possess by the author, who, incredible as it may seem, was able to remain stationary under the tremendous strain of his weights while the photographer was at work.
Press cuttings, referring to the chief performances of the wonderful trio, and a special report of the author's recent performance at the National Sporting Club, are among the by no means least interesting features of the book, which is published by the well-known Physical Culture expert, T. Inch, of the Broadway, Fulham, S.W., who, by the way, intends to make a specialty of book publishing, his attention being confined, of course, to works on Physical Culture.
IRON GAME/PHYSICAL CULTURE HISTORY