Super Strength - Chapter 26 (Last Chapter) - Effects of Exercise

By Alan Calvert

Posted on on 16 July 2002

A man who possesses super-strength also commands a good deal of admiration. The general public worships physical strength. The announcement of a celebrated "Strong Man" to appear at a vaudeville theater insures that there will be "standing room only" during the term of his engagement. Most people rate great physical strength higher than speed or suppleness; although there are a certain number of folk who affect to sneer at what they call the "truck horse" type of development. The pictures on these pages should convince anyone that a man can become wonderfully strong without becoming overly heavy or clumsy in appearance.

It is true that some of the old-time "Strong Men" could justly have been called "truck horses." Louis Cyr, Horace Barre, and one or two of their contemporaries were men who had enormous frames, and those bodies were of the bulky type. Swaboda, of Vienna, is about the only modern "Strong Man" who comes in that class.

Now, I admire strength as much as anyone does, but I do not consider strength to be so important that one should sacrifice speed, agility, or suppleness in becoming strong. Happily, modern training methods seem to produce a combination of all the most desirable physical gifts. In support to this statement, I refer to the accompanying pictures. Outside of the three old-timers referred to above, you will not find a man here who is clumsy in appearance, or who looks as though he would be slow in his movements. Activity depends almost as much on bodily proportions as it does on the nervous organization. It has been claimed that a man of placid, sluggish temperament is never quick in movement. That may or may not be true, although it does seem to be a fact that many intensely nervous and highly strung individuals are very quick both in their mental processes and their bodily movement. There are athletic coaches who will tell you that all weightlifters are slow, and that the practice of weight lifting is bound to make one slow. My answer to this is that those particular gentlemen have never seen any first-class modern lifters. As a rule, the highly developed weight-lifter does not know the meaning of nerves. Such men are of an extremely finely balanced temperament, and a quiet disposition. If you see such a man in his street clothes, and watch him as he moves about, you might get the impression that he was very deliberate in everything he did, and that, in turn, might make you think that he was slow. So far as I can see, all first-class lifters move just that way; but theirs is a calculated deliberation. They are experts in what you might call "physical economy," and rarely make one unnecessary motion. Their constant training with bar-bells has given them an uncanny sense of timing, such as is possessed among other athletes only by high-grade boxers or jugglers. I have never seen a man more quietly deliberate than Arthur Saxon; in everything he did, whether off or on the stage, he was absolutely unhurried. He never made a false motion, but he never failed to accomplish any lift which required speed. Saxon was a big-boned man, but never grew heavy. He seemed to keep his average weight of 210 lbs. no matter how much or how little he ate and drank.

His younger brother, Herman, at right in Fig. 139, though somewhat lighter in build, was no quicker than Arthur, Fig. 140. Herman, who weighed about 168 lbs., was one of the most perfectly built men I have ever seen. I have sometimes thought that, although he was noticeably less strong than Arthur, he was much more admired as an athlete.

If you should take up bar-bell exercise with the avowed intention of becoming super-strong, you need not waste any time worrying about the danger of getting a build like Cyr's. He was always big, and always fleshy. I suppose that few of you would object to getting a build like that of Herman Saxon, of Sandow, of Adolph Nordquest, or Steinborn, of Carr, or Matysek. All those just named are big men; but they are big without being bulky; powerfully developed without being slow or clumsy, and withal, noticeably graceful in build. The back-view picture of Adolph Nordquest, Fig. 141, does not look like the portrait of a slow or clumsy man, and the appearance of lightness is due to his proportions. The man has a tremendous frame, and if he had a big waist (like Cyr's) he would look slow and clumsy, but the picture shows that his waist is obviously considerably smaller than his hips, and very much smaller than his chest. Few men are as strong as he. He can make a one-arm "press" with a 250-lb. bar-bell, and he can lift as much weight off the ground as any professional I have ever seen. He is one of the best in the world at the standing broad jump, and at the time this picture was taken could run 100 yards in ten seconds without training. He does not look to be extraordinarily big, because he is so perfectly proportioned, and yet his chest measures about 46 inches, his upper arm over 17 inches, and his thigh about 26 inches; but not one part of his seems to be overdeveloped. I defy you to look at that picture and pick out a weak spot in his anatomy. His build is so similar to Sandow's that for several years he worked under the name of "Young Sandow," and the resemblance between the two men was so startling that many people thought that Nordquest was Sandow's younger brother.

If your bones are the average in size; that is, if you have a 7 1/2-inch wrist, and 9 1/2-inch ankle, bar-bell work will give you a build something like Nordquest's, but there is no danger of giving you a build like Cyr's. I would not advise anyone to exercise with weights if I thought for one moment that such training was likely to produce a body which was bulky without being shapely, or which would create strength at the expense of speed and suppleness. It is true that Cyr's lifting records were better than Nordquest's, but not very much better. I, for one, would much prefer to have the shape and the combined strength and speed of an Adolph Nordquest to the mere bulk and power of a Cyr.

Steinborn is another very big man. He is probably an inch shorter than Adolph Nordquest, and five pounds heavier. His measurements are just as big, but his muscular development is not as pronounced. If anything, he is slightly quicker in his movements than even Nordquest; which may be due to the fact that Nordquest, in his training, specialized on what we call "slow presses" and "dead-weight lifting," whereas Steinborn has practiced almost exclusively at the "quick lifts." Although nearly 100 lbs. lighter than Cyr, Steinborn is capable of breaking most of Cyr's records. The best Cyr ever put up with one arm was 273 lbs., and he used a "slow press"; furthermore, the bell he put up was not as heavy as he was himself. I am positive that Steinborn could put up close to 300 lbs. in a one-arm "jerk," and that is about ten per cent more than any other athlete in history has put up by the same method. Steinborn is a refutation of the theory that the use of bar-bells and continued lifting produces short knotted muscles, and makes one slow. If you will look at Fig. 142, you get the impression of a man of immense power, but you will not see any knotted muscles. Steinborn's development is as smooth as that of a boxer. The man has a tremendous arm, although it does not look very big in this pose, on account of the great spread of the man's shoulders.

You might think that if a man is very heavy to start with, that the effect of the training would be to make him still heavier, or that if he started with a 48-inch chest and a 46-inch waist, his chest might increase to 52 inches and his waist get even bigger than it was before. Just the opposite happens. When a stout man starts to train, the first visible effect is that he becomes smaller instead of bigger. Any tailor will tell you that a 44-inch chest is extraordinarily big for a small-waisted man, but that some of his stout customers - the fellows with the big waists - have chests measuring nearly 50 inches. When your waist gets abnormally large, all the near-by parts are affected; the hips become bulky, the upper part of the thighs get so big that they "interfere"; the arms get fat close to where they join the shoulders, and big folds of flesh make their appearance on the upper part of the chest. If a man started with a 48-inch chest and 46-inch waist, it is probably that his chest measurement would decrease to about 43 inches, while his waist measurement was decreasing to 36 inches. As soon as he commenced to give vigorous work to the muscles of the upper body, the extra fat in those parts would disappear; and in the stout man, such as the one described, that extra fat is responsible for several inches of his chest measurement. After he had gotten rid of this fat, his chest would go back to 46 or maybe to 48 inches, as he increased the size of the rib-box, and the development, and consequent thickness, of the upper-body muscles. In some cases the chest does not grow smaller as the waist decreases. The muscles develop so rapidly that they fill up the space left by the disappearing fatty tissue.

Naturally, there are very few stout men who train for muscular development. With most of them the only idea is to become smaller. In the average fat man, a reduction of 10 inches in waist measurement is accompanied with a decrease in the size of the chest, the upper arms, and the upper part of the thighs. Men like Cyr and Barry were more or less abnormal, whereas men like Adolph Nordquest and Steinborn have an absolute normal development; that is, the shape and size of their muscles is exactly what it should be in proportion to the underlying bones. I have super-intended the training of many fat men, and I never saw one of them grow to be anything like Cyr in shape; although I have seen many first reduce themselves, and then develop a figure of the Nordquest-Steinborn type.

But that is all special work. Seven out of ten men have average sized bones, are of average height, and of average measurements; therefore, if ten men read this chapter, seven of them are concerned with what can be done for the average man. Every week I personally inspect measurement charts of at least one hundred men, and it is safe to say that in the last ten years I have studied over fifty thousand sets of charts. In doing this kind of work you absorb a great deal of information. I have gotten so that if you tell me a man's height and weight, I can come very close to telling you the measurements of his chest, arms, legs, and so on. If you tell me a man's measurements, and his height, I can tell you just about how much he weighs.

I do not know whether these figures would apply in accurate proportion to the male population, but I do know that the average measurements of thousands of physically cultured who start training with bar-bells, - are a 36-inch chest, 12 1/2-inch upper arm, 10 1/2-inch forearm, 6 7/8-inch wrist, 20-inch thigh, and so on. If you have such measurements you can say, "Well, I am as big as the average," and if you are satisfied with average development, that is as far as you go. I have always contended that that average man has much less development, and very much less strength than he should have, and evidently there is a certain proportion of the public that agrees with me. Otherwise, why should so many of these average men be so anxious to start at a training program to make themselves bigger, better developed, and stronger?

It is a mistake to confuse the words "average" and "normal." The "average development" is not necessarily the "normal development." My opinion is that instead of the average development being the normal development, and the development of the weight lifter being abnormal, the exact opposite is the case. The weight lifter's development is absolutely normal, and what every man should have, and can have; the average development is subnormal.

The brain power of a great scientist of a great mathematician is not abnormal in any way, although it is far greater than the brain power of a man whose education was confined to what he got in the elementary schools. The scientist, by reason of his work, is continually cultivating his brain power, because he is continually using his brain. If he goes on a vacation, or stops his work or study, he may forget some special bits of information, but he does not lose any of his reasoning power. If a man deliberately takes up a good training system to develop his muscles, and if he gets results (such as were gotten by the men whose pictures you see here), he does not become abnormal, but simply shows what is possible in the way of cultivated bodily improvements. If he has trained along the right lines, he retains his increased health, strength, and development long after he stops training.

It is generally accepted that Eugene Sandow, as a young man, was as beautifully proportioned and as finely developed as any man of recent times. When he first went to England, he was frequently interviewed by newspaper men. One reporter asked him how he got his development. In reply he said, "When I was a young man, I was a mere stripling, and thought to strengthen my frame by a little light exercise, like the working of a wooden wand, or a light iron bar. This loosened all my muscles and made them pliant, but no great amount of development came from the exercises. This set me thinking, and I gradually found out what exercises were the best to develop certain kinds of muscles. Using my knowledge with the weights I had at my command, I began to gradually increase my weights, and soon found out that I could easily put up a 100-lb. dumbbell." This interview was reprinted in a book which Sandow wrote in 1894. In the same book he said, "The dumbbell and the bar-bell have been my chief means of physical training." When he made those statements he was at the height of his power and development, and it should be specially noted that this was several years before the appearance of the so-called "grip dumbbell," which is so widely associated with his name. In another interview reprinted in his first book, he was asked whether he observed severe rules regarding diet. In reply he said, "I just eat and drink what I want, when I want, and in what quantities I want."

World-famous "Strong Men," like Saxon and Steinborn, ascribe all their strength to the use of bar-bells, and state in the most positive terms that they consider any other kind of exercises to be a mere waste of time. Their testimonials could be supported by equally enthusiastic testimonials from every man whose picture appears in this book. No one of them was anything remarkable to start with. Most of them were of the average size I have already described; - that is, they had 36-inch chests, 12 1/2-inch upper arms, and so on. Some few of them were a little above the average. The Nordquests, Steinborn, Massimo, and one or two others would come in that class; but men like Matysek, Carr, Tauscher, Tampke, Donald, Karasick, and all the others were no stronger and no bigger when they started than nine out of ten of the young men you will find on the floor of the Y.M.C.A. gymnasium. They all did the same kind of work, and they all got the same kind of results.

It is because I have seen so many average men improve themselves to the point where they had 44-inch chests, 16-inch upper arms, 24-inch thighs, a bodily weight of 175 lbs., and three times their former strength, that I have come to believe that such results are possible for practically every normal man of average size and average shape. If only one or two of them had increased their chest measurement from 36 to 44 inches, such a gain would have to be considered as exceptional; and possible only to certain favored individuals. The fact that so many dozens of them have made those gains seems to prove that the acquired size and strength is the normal result, and not the exceptional result. It is impossible to find any other training method which produces such uniform results, in such widely different cases, as does the scientific use of bar-bells.

I have corresponded with thousands of men and boys who are interested in bodily development, and I find that, as a rule, men are much more interested in getting perfect proportions and superb muscular development than in getting great strength. It seems to me that every man has a feeling that if he could only find the right method he could become perfectly developed, no matter how poor he might be to start with. The reason we all admire the ancient Greek statues is because we instinctively feel that here is the kind of body we should have; and which we might have if we only knew how to get it. I, myself, cannot draw a picture of a perfectly built man, but the minute I see a photograph I can tell you whether the subject is, or is not, perfectly built; and, in the second case, what he would have to do to get perfect proportions. Most of you possess the same ability. If you examine the picture of an athlete you will probably say, "I do not like that fellow's build. He is top heavy. His arms and shoulders are grand, but his legs are too thin." On the other hand, you may say, "If that man's arms and chest were only anywhere nearly as fine as his legs he would have a wonderful build." If some one handed you a pencil, and asked you to make a drawing of what you considered to be a perfect build, it is possible that you could not make an accurate sketch, any more than I can; but just the same you know what you like in the way of bodily development.

The easiest way to satisfy yourself is to test your reaction when you do examine a photograph. If you at once exclaim, "My, what a man!" or "My, how splendidly that chap is built!", then you can rest assured that the man is perfectly proportioned from head to foot. But if, when you first see the picture, you say, "What wonderful arms!" or "What wonderful legs!", it is the best possible sign that the subject of the picture is not perfectly proportioned, because you first noticed one part of his body to the exclusion of the other parts. In an absolutely perfectly proportioned body, no part is unduly prominent. If you examine parts in detail you will find that the arms are wonderful, and so on, but it is not until every part is equally wonderful that the build becomes so perfect that when seeing the picture you say, "What a wonderful body that man has!"

Now, that is the whole secret of the effect produced by the Greek statue. Every part of the statue is perfect in itself, but never unduly prominent. Some of the pictures in this book will stand comparison with any photographs of the old Greek statues. There are men whose pictures appear in this collection whose bodies seem to me to be without a flaw. At first inspection some of them may not seem to you to be quite as beautiful as the ancient works of art, and that is because the heads are slightly larger in proportion to their bodies. The old Greek sculptors had a trick of making their statues more impressive by making the heads slightly smaller than they actually were.

To go back to the possibilities of the average man I ask you to give a careful study to the various pictures of Anton Matysek, Owen Carr, Alexander Karasick, E.W. Goodman, Melvin Tampke, and Robert Dallas. All of these men have the so-called "statuesque figure." All of them have bones of average size. None of them was any bigger or better developed than the average man when he started to train. The present beauty of their figures is partly due to the readjustment of the bones which form the shoulder girdle and the rib-box, and the perfect development of each and every muscle in the body. Some of these pictures are especial favorites of mine. The picture of Matysek, which appears on the frontispiece, won prizes at several photographic exhibitions by reason of the beauty of the pose and the harmonious development of the athlete himself. The picture of Owen Carr, Fig. 136, is another one of which I am particularly fond. Carr has made no effort to flex his muscles, but he makes a great impression on account of the firm way in which he is standing, plus the beautiful proportions of his figure. I like Fig. 136 very much better than the accompanying picture, Fig. 144, in which Carr has all of his muscles flexed.

Such athletes as Sigmund Klein, Ignatius Neubauer, Robert Snyder, and Ali Kotier, Fig. 145, are men slightly below the average height, although you would never suspect that fact from looking at their photographs. They appear to be just as perfectly proportioned as are the taller men, like Carr and Tampke. Of course, their measurements are not quite as large, although the pictures prove that they are perfectly developed for their height.

I close this chapter with sincere regret. I would like to go ahead an analyze all these muscle-poses. I would like to tell you about each man; how long it took him to get his development, how much he can lift, how much he measures, and so on. Each one of these men is worthy of a chapter to himself. There are pictures here of men who I have not even had a chance to mention, although they are well worthy of special mention. I have hundreds of other pictures, many of which are as good as those which are published here. Every book has a limit in size, and I have reached the limit of this one. If it has interested you, and if you wish more knowledge on the subject, I suggest that you apply to the publishers of this book; who will gladly supply you with pamphlets and booklets containing various magazine articles and special essays which I have written on the subject of bodily development and muscular strength.