Super Strength - Chapter 25 (Part 1) - Statuesque Development
By Alan Calvert
Posted on NaturalStrength.com on 12 July 2002
I have become so accustomed to seeing complete physical transformation in a comparatively short space of time, that I am not only surprised, but actually grieved, when an enthusiast fails to make the gains he should have made. When such a thing happens, the investigation shows that the disappointed individual has deliberately hampered his own progress by specializing on arm and shoulder work, instead of adopting the all-round program which results in a bigger chest, broader shoulders, and a general readjustment of the lines of the figure. That, by the way, is one reason why this book is written. The fascination of lifting weights above the head is so great, that it is necessary to remind enthusiasts that by neglecting back, loins, sides, and thighs, they are deliberately hampering their bodily growth; and actually preventing their arms from becoming as strong as they could be.
There was a time when I would get startled if a man wrote me and said that he had increased his chest measurement 6 inches in six months, but I have gotten over that. I have actually seen a slender youth increase his chest measurement from 29 to 36 inches in a little over a month's time. I have seen a tall, slender man, whose chest was no larger than his waist, so alter his proportions that at the end of a year his chest was 12 inches larger than formerly. Mind you, he was thirty years old when he started. I have seen fat men over forty-five years old start at bar-bell work, and inside of six months so improved themselves that their bodily proportions would compare favorably with those of any of the beautifully-built athletes whose pictures illustrate this volume. I have seen puny sixteen-year-old schoolboys increase so rapidly in strength and development that inside of a year they achieved nation-wide fame for the beauty of their proportions and for their immense muscular development. I have seen a long, rangy office worker, of no particular strength, become one of the best amateur lifters in the world, and when he started he was nearly thirty. Like most of the others, he got a 44-inch chest, a 16-inch upper arm, and other measurements in proportion. It would take several books to even briefly mention the startling cases which have come under my observation.
Years ago I started to tabulate the measurements of bar-bell users, so as to get an idea of the bodily proportions which could be attained. I published my conclusions in a magazine, and subsequently they had to be published in the form of a pamphlet,* and I understand that it has been very widely distributed, and has been accepted in many quarters as a standard.
I was familiar with a number of tables of so-called "ideal measurements" which had been compiled by artists, sculptors, physicians, and various authorities on bodily proportions. According to my ideas the measurements given in these tables were less than those possessed by many bar-bell users of my acquaintance. So I sat down and worked out my standard, and found that it was much higher than the standard given by the other writers on the subject. For example, it was claimed that a well-proportioned man of 5 feet 8 inches should have a 40-inch chest; whereas I knew lots of beautifully shaped and not overly big men of that height whose normal chests measured 43 to 44 inches. There are some who have claimed that my standard represent over-development, and that the true beauty of the figure is better represented by the ancient Greek statues. In order to discover the truth in the matter, I had a lot of these statues measured, and found that in most cases the statue came very much closer to equaling my standard than the more slender standards previously published. When we measured the statue of the Apollo Belvedere, we found, for example, that a man six feet tall, built on those lines, would have a chest measuring 38 1/2 inches, waist 31 inches, hips 36 inches, thigh 23 1/2 inches; neck 16 inches, calf 15 1/2 inches, wrist 8 1/8 inches, and upper arm about 15 inches. The Apollo Belvedere is supposed to represent the slender figure, but in this case the effect of slenderness was deliberately created by the sculptor when he made the trunk small, and the arms and legs large in comparison. There are lots of present-day six-footers who have chests measuring 38 1/2 inches, but very few of them have 15-inch upper arms, and 23 1/2-inch thighs, and almost none of them have wrists measuring more than 8 inches.
In measuring some of the other statues of Greek athletes, we found that if the statue showed a man 5 feet 8 inches tall, the chest measurement would be 44 inches, the thigh more than 24 inches, the upper arm 16 inches, and so on. People rave about these ancient Greek athletes, and say how beautifully proportioned they were, and how smooth their muscles were; yet the measurements taken show that these apparently smoothly-built men have the measurements and the proportions of a modern "Strong Man." If you try to make yourself "built like a Greek statue," you will find that you have to make yourself very much bigger and more powerfully developed than you are at present. If a sculptor was to make an absolutely accurate statue of a tennis player or a distance-runner, that statue would look almost scrawny compared with the statues of the ancient Greeks. I commend this idea to the particular consideration of those who apparently think that the build of the tennis-player and distance-runner is the ideal build.
I find that there are many physical culturists who have the mistaken opinion that a "Strong Man" or a weight-lifter has muscles which stand out in knots and ridges even when they are relaxed. Such is not the case. Most of the lifters whom I know have muscles which are smooth and round when relaxed, but very prominent when flexed. Their muscles look equally well in either state, because their bodily proportions are so perfect. Look at Fig. 119, and you will see Anton Matysek standing at ease. Not one muscle is flexed, and consequently his body looks perfectly smooth. His proportions are so perfect that he does not have to flex his muscles in order to look impressive, but just the same the muscles are there. Look at Fig. 120, and you see him displaying his muscles. In this pose he has deliberately flexed as many muscles as possible. The two pictures were taken within ten minutes of each other. In this book there are pictures of several dozen bar-bell users, and it would be interesting to show two pictures of each man, one standing at ease, and the other one with his muscles flexed. You would want no better proof, that when the bar-bell user stands at ease his muscles are just as smooth as those of a boxer, although his bodily proportions are infinitely better. Matysek, whose pictures are shown, was much sought for as an artist's model, and has posed for many of the greatest sculptors.
It would be still more interesting to publish the pictures of the men before and after they had developed their bodies. I have many such pictures, but no room to publish them here. Unfortunately most men never think of having their pictures taken when they start to train, because they have no idea that they will be able to make any great change in their appearance. After they commence to get some development, they do have pictures taken. To give you an idea of what some of these men accomplish, I call your attention to Figs. 122 and 123, showing Mr. Woodrow before and after he used bar-bells; Figs. 124 and 125, showing Mr. Hedlund, and Figs. 126 and 127, showing Mr. Ruckstool. (The first picture of Ruckstool was taken after he had been training for five or six months, and had already made good gains. The second picture shows how he appeared a year after the first picture was taken.)
In my collection I have hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of pictures of finely developed men; a few of which are printed on the following pages. If you take the trouble to study these pictures, you will see that all these men show a certain similarity of figure, and that in some respects their development and proportions are quite different from the development and proportions of the average athlete. The same thing is noticeable about the old Greek statues. Ninety per cent of them show men of the same type; that is to say, the shoulders will be of a certain breadth in proportion to the height, the body will have a certain length in proportion to the legs; and the girth of the arms and the legs show a certain fixed proportion to the girth of the chest and hips. If you were to judge by the statues that still remain, it would be natural to assume that these Greeks represented the finest type of development to which the human race has yet attained. My own belief is that these statues represent only the very best men of their time; just as our own sculptors use only the best developed and shapely men as models. The "Greek type" of body has by no means vanished. There are plenty of athletes today who are just as well proportioned and just as beautifully developed as any Greek statue you or I have ever seen. On one occasion I showed a part of my collection to a noted sculptor, and after he had examined them thoroughly, he said, "This is the finest built lot of men I have ever seen. Apparently by your methods you can turn out men like the ancient Greek athletes. I am interested to know that such a thing is possible."
Unquestionably, the development a man can attain is dependent on the underlying bone structure; which makes it seem as though it were impossible for a small-boned man to acquire as big and powerfully developed body as is possible in the case of a man with bigger and heavier bones. The way it works out is that a man with unusually heavy bones when properly trained, will acquire the figure and development of a Hercules; that a man of average bones will get a development of a Treseus, Perseus, or Mars; and that a small-boned man, when his figure is fully developed, will show the proportions of an Apollo of a Mercury. Most men are "just average" to start with. Not more than five men out of one hundred have 6-inch wrists, and not more than two or three men out of one hundred will have 8-inch wrists. Sixty or seventy men out of one hundred will have wrists measuring somewhere between 6 3/4 inches and 7 1/4 inches. I have found that a 6 3/4-inch wrist is the average size for men who have sedentary occupations, while the laborers, the mechanics, or the outdoor men average a 7-inch wrist measurement.
Many of our greatest "Strong Men" have wrists measuring only 7 inches, and some of the shorter athletes have smaller wrists than that. Very small bones would seem to be a bar to pronounced muscular development, although I have seen men with very small wrists develop wonderful arms. For example, Robert Snyder, Fig. 128, whose wrist measures only 6 1/2 inches, has a 14 3/4-inch upper arm. As he stands only 5 feet 5 inches in height, his arm looks very large. I have seen taller men, with the same size wrist, get even bigger arms than Snyder's. Thomas Inch, of London, who stands 5 feet 10 inches, who has a small hand and a 7-inch wrist, actually succeeded in developing an 18 1/2-inch upper arm. As a middleweight, his arm measured only 16 1/2 inches, and his arm got to be 19 inches around when he put on 40 lbs. of weight, and moved into the heavy-weight class. There are lots of men with 7-inch wrists whose arms measure more than 16 inches in girth. Inch had to work harder to get his big arm than men like Hackenschmidt, and the Nordquests, whose wrists measured 18 inches, and whose arms are about the same size as Inch's.
In the last part of this book you will find pictures of thirty or forty beautifully proportioned and splendidly developed athletes, and in selecting these pictures I deliberately picked men who were average-sized, and who had average-sized bones when they started to train. In looking over these pictures, you will notice a marked similarity in the shape of the muscles. The 16-inch arms of one of these athletes will look almost exactly like the 16-inch arms of another athlete. In fact, the resemblance in development is so marked, that if you concealed the faces, it would be hard to tell some of the men apart. That is because they are the uniform product of a uniform system of training. The reason their bodies look alike is because their bodies are perfectly developed; and perfectly developed muscles almost assume a certain size, shape, and outline. Therefore, if you have average-sized bones, and take up the same system of training which these men used, you will acquire just the type of physique represented in these pictures. Some of these men, especially the professionals, like Saxon, and Hackenschmidt, were strong and above the average in build to start with; but the rest of the amateurs were no better when they started than you are now; or than nine out of ten men of your acquaintance. That is why I am so strongly impressed with the value of bar-bell exercise as a means of body-building.
You will have to admit that the men, whose pictures appear on these pages, are vastly superior in sheer bodily beauty to men developed by any other form of exercise or athletics. No group of oarsmen, football players, runners, wrestlers, or gymnasts could show proportions or development equal to that possessed by these bar-bell users. The only sport which produces a type of physique anything like this is ground-tumbling. A combination of tumbling and hand-balancing will yield a fine development. It is note-worthy that almost all bar-bell users do a certain amount of hand-balancing and tumbling. It seems that after a man has used bar-bells for a while he acquires such strength and agility that he can take up the other two sports, and by reason of his physical advantages, quickly become a star tumbler, or a star hand-balancer. On the other hand, men who have practiced nothing except tumbling and hand-balancing frequently take up bar-bell work in order to acquire the extra bodily strength which will make them better performers in their own line of work.
But go back to the pictures. In each one of these men you will see that he has a certain shoulder-breadth in proportion to his height; that his chest is not only wide from side to side, but deep from front to back. In the back-view pictures you will see a great display of muscles from one shoulder to another and, more important still, two great cables of muscle along either side of the spine in the lower part of the back. In the front-view pictures you will see that the abdominal muscles, which are never visible in the average man, are here clearly outlined. In some of these pictures you will be able to see the muscles at the sides of the waist. The legs are differently shaped form those of the average man. There is far more muscle on the outside of the thigh, while on the back of the thigh there is a swelling outward curve, which you will find only in strong-backed men like these. If the picture is taken from the side, you will see that the front of the thigh shows a pronounced curve starting right above the knee, and ending at the hip.
You can find pictures of gymnasts with equally big arms; you may find some pictures of outdoor athletes and tumblers who have legs almost as good, but you positively will not find any other class of athlete who can equal the bar-bell user in symmetrical development from head to heel. The development of the lower part of the trunk (that is, the waist, the loins, the hips), and the development of the thighs, which bar-bell users and weight-lifters possess, cannot be found in any other type of athlete; because this kind of development is not produced by any other form of physical activity. Nevertheless, it is just the kind of development and just the kind of outlines you see in the old Greek statues.
There are some authorities on the subject of muscular development who claim that a weight-lifter'' muscles are "short," and those people express their preference for what we call "long, elastic muscles." (This is a question which I have discussed a number of times in various magazine articles.) The length of a muscle is governed by the length of the nearby bones. For instance, the biceps muscle is fastened at its lower end to the bone of the forearm, and one of its upper ends to the bone of the upper arm, and the other end to the bone which forms the shoulder girdle. Therefore, if a man has attained his full growth, which means that the upper arm bone has stopped growing, it is impossible to either shorten or lengthen the biceps muscle. Naturally, muscle becomes shorter and thicker as it contracts, which explains why your biceps rise in a swelling curve when you bend the arm. Similarly, a muscle lengthens as it relaxes or is extended; but you cannot make your muscle longer no matter what you do, unless you make the bone of the upper arm longer. The bigger a muscle is the shorter it looks. A six-footer, with narrow shoulders and thin arms, appears to have very long arms, but if, by exercise, he increases the width of his shoulder by 3 or 4 inches, and adds as many inches to the girth of his arm then his arm will appear to be much shorter than it was before because it is thicker. Any man with undeveloped arms appears to have long arm muscles, and it is perfectly true than a man with a perfect development appears to have short arm muscles. In the undeveloped man the deltoid muscle on the point of the shoulder is so small in size that it fails to make itself apparent. In a well-developed man the deltoid muscles are thick and quite prominent. Look at the pictures of Charles Durner, Fig. 121. In his left arm you can see the deltoid muscle coming down to a point more than one-third down the upper arm. This muscle overlays part of the biceps and the triceps muscles of the upper arm. Therefore, Durner's arm muscles look short because their upper ends are concealed by the fully developed deltoid. Also, his forearms are powerfully developed, and in the left arm the forearm muscle runs up across the bottom of the biceps, and that helps to make the upper arm look shorter. His right arm is so powerfully developed that it looks short in proportion to its length, but if you will bear the foregoing statements in mind, you can see how the right deltoid overlaps the upper end of the biceps, and how the muscle on the inside of the right forearm cuts the line of the biceps at its lower end. If Durner's arms were think, his muscles would appear long, but really they are still just as long as before he got his development, and they are far more elastic than they were when he started to train.