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Obsession With Charles Atlas
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Tony84

I was just lookin at some pictures online and i cannot figure out why some people are so obsessed with charles atlas. His physique is terrible compared to any bodybuilder.

I bet half the people on this forum have a better physique then he did. He has no definition, no vascularity and it looks like he never even worked his legs.And thats the worlds most perfectly developed man.
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medici

Spain

Tony84 wrote:
I was just lookin at some pictures online and i cannot figure out why some people are so obsessed with charles atlas. His physique is terrible compared to any bodybuilder.

I bet half the people on this forum have a better physique then he did. He has no definition, no vascularity and it looks like he never even worked his legs.And thats the worlds most perfectly developed man.


context is vital to understanding anything. Charles Atlas is a vestige of the past, and a very important one for more than one reason - some isomorphic to this very Geist.

Professor Terry Todd of the University of Texas, Austin and publisher of the wonderful Irongame Historical Quarterly (from the Todd-McLean Physical Culture Arhives, a 200,000+ item library) has written about the early hoaxes and deceptions of the irongame - and their rationales.

A century ago weights were already in use, but in those days transportation systems were very costly - railroads delivering to local cities with deliveries made by horses and buggies. Transportation costs outweight equipment costs.

Now, many a guy wished to develop manly muscles like a Sandow or Arco. New and inferior methods were quickly developed - Charles Atlas' dynamic tension, chest exander spring cables, etc. How to sell them as superior? Invent a myth. Claim that weights make you "muscle bound". Muscle bound means you loose agility, so bad that a big guy can't scratch the back of his own neck. It worked. Exercise scientists bought into it.

Until 1946 when John Grimek, John Davis (first man to C&J 400 lbs), and Bob Hoffman appeared at an assembly at Springfield College, one attended by the biggest scientific expert on exercise, Murray Karpovich. And he asked Grimek, 5'8", upwards of 240, to scratch his neck. Grimek did more than that, as did Davis - a back flip into a full split holding a pair of 50 lb dumbbells, while Davis did a double back flip landing solidly on his feet.

End of muscle bound myth, sort of - Ellington Darden and myself are the same generation, and we grew up with luddite coaches warning against weight training leading to muscle boundness.

The book Muscletown USA, a history of Bob Hoffman and his York Barbell Company/Club recounts complaints filed against Atlas resulting in a big court fued. Atlas claimed his physique, great for the times - no one did bench presses or flyes then, lat machines, incline benches and many other things we take for granted didn't exist - was the product of dynamic tension. Imagine holding your left wrist in your right hand, curling your left arm while resisting with your right arm. That's dynamic tension.

The complaint against Atlas (not his real name; he was the son of Italian immigrants), alledged weight training had built his physique. Evidence gathered indicated he went to a weight gym 3-5 times weekly. His defense claimed that his visits to the gym were simply to test and retest strength gains accrued from dynamic tension.

I don't know what got your pitchin a fit with a burr under your saddle about Atlas, but ensure you he's probably been dead longer than you've been alive! He's an honored moment in our history. And, no, there were no steroids in his day.
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Mr. Strong

Tony84 wrote:
I was just lookin at some pictures online and i cannot figure out why some people are so obsessed with charles atlas. His physique is terrible compared to any bodybuilder.

I bet half the people on this forum have a better physique then he did. He has no definition, no vascularity and it looks like he never even worked his legs.And thats the worlds most perfectly developed man.




Yeah I know what you mean, like Kayo said there were no steroids or fancy machines or free weight equipment. What stopped him doing Squats, this exercise has been around for thousands of years. Probably just another guy trying to make some money.
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waynegr

Switzerland

kayo wrote:
Tony84 wrote:
I was just lookin at some pictures online and i cannot figure out why some people are so obsessed with charles atlas. His physique is terrible compared to any bodybuilder.

I bet half the people on this forum have a better physique then he did. He has no definition, no vascularity and it looks like he never even worked his legs.And thats the worlds most perfectly developed man.

context is vital to understanding anything. Charles Atlas is a vestige of the past, and a very important one for more than one reason - some isomorphic to this very Geist.

How to sell as superior? Invent a myth.


Great write up.

But you must remember the people seeing Charles body in those days, never seen what we have seen, they had nothing to compear really, you have to put yourself in their situation, but as you have seen all from now, its very hard to do that.

Wayne

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kurtvf

I remember the ads in comic books when I was a kid. His company still exists and there is a website still selling courses (in multiple languages) and supplements. It is all probably useless but someone is still milking the past and probably making a living of his name.
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Mr. Strong

waynegr wrote:
kayo wrote:
Tony84 wrote:
I was just lookin at some pictures online and i cannot figure out why some people are so obsessed with charles atlas. His physique is terrible compared to any bodybuilder.

I bet half the people on this forum have a better physique then he did. He has no definition, no vascularity and it looks like he never even worked his legs.And thats the worlds most perfectly developed man.

context is vital to understanding anything. Charles Atlas is a vestige of the past, and a very important one for more than one reason - some isomorphic to this very Geist.

How to sell as superior? Invent a myth.

Great write up.

But you must remember the people seeing Charles body in those days, never seen what we have seen, they had nothing to compear really, you have to put yourself in their situation, but as you have seen all from now, its very hard to do that.

Wayne





Physiques far superior to his existed well before his own.
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medici

Spain

Mr. Intensity wrote:
Physiques far superior to his existed well before his own.


You're sure correct on that assessment. Growing up in the 50s, Atlas was the one everybody got exposure to due to his print media ads in comic books.

There are websites around with great photos of far superior guys, some going back to the late 19th century. Eugen Sandow and George "The Russian Lion" Hackenschmidt both come to mind. Even into the 1960s Sandow was an inspiring idol along with Steve Reeves and John Grimek.

I recall late November, 1963 at the annual Ironman competition (Mr Ironman combined powerlifting and bodybuilding posing), at a packed Berkeley Community Theatre, Bill Pearl doing his Sandow inspired strong man and posing routine - fake mustache, a complete costume like those of the early strong men. He brought the house down. Act included tearing one, then two, California license plates in half.
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medici

Spain

kurtvf wrote:
I remember the ads in comic books when I was a kid. His company still exists and there is a website still selling courses (in multiple languages) and supplements. It is all probably useless but someone is still milking the past and probably making a living of his name.


Atlas pretty much ruled print media, amassing a fortune. I've seen a book now in print purporting to be his entire course.

Now with infomercials on cable tv and courses teaching Internet market, we have marketing disguised as science and the age of self-declared "experts". At least in Atlas' time there was only one, now today there are more than you can shake a stick at.

In common, tho, they perpetuate huckster marketing. Just think of the tv "infomercials" for Chuck Norris's Total Gym, Bowflex (cost nautilus millions in wrongful injury suits and retrofits due to shodding design), P90X, etc. Moving on to the "experts" gets pretty disgusting.

Back when I was a kid I personally through Atlas looked fat and underdeveloped. Hell, Grimek - The Glow - was the icon for those times with Bill Pearl and Reg Park right behind him as the next generation.

Buyer Beware still rules!
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Mr. Strong

kayo wrote:
Mr. Intensity wrote:
Physiques far superior to his existed well before his own.

You're sure correct on that assessment. Growing up in the 50s, Atlas was the one everybody got exposure to due to his print media ads in comic books.

There are websites around with great photos of far superior guys, some going back to the late 19th century. Eugen Sandow and George "The Russian Lion" Hackenschmidt both come to mind. Even into the 1960s Sandow was an inspiring idol along with Steve Reeves and John Grimek.

I recall late November, 1963 at the annual Ironman competition (Mr Ironman combined powerlifting and bodybuilding posing), at a packed Berkeley Community Theatre, Bill Pearl doing his Sandow inspired strong man and posing routine - fake mustache, a complete costume like those of the early strong men. He brought the house down. Act included tearing one, then two, California license plates in half.



I was thinking further back, but your examples were good.
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waynegr

Switzerland

Mr. Intensity wrote:
waynegr wrote:
kayo wrote:
Tony84 wrote:
I was just lookin at some pictures online and i cannot figure out why some people are so obsessed with charles atlas. His physique is terrible compared to any bodybuilder.

I bet half the people on this forum have a better physique then he did. He has no definition, no vascularity and it looks like he never even worked his legs.And thats the worlds most perfectly developed man.

context is vital to understanding anything. Charles Atlas is a vestige of the past, and a very important one for more than one reason - some isomorphic to this very Geist.

How to sell as superior? Invent a myth.

Great write up.

But you must remember the people seeing Charles body in those days, never seen what we have seen, they had nothing to compear really, you have to put yourself in their situation, but as you have seen all from now, its very hard to do that.

Wayne





Physiques far superior to his existed well before his own.


Maybe I should have said there were not that many around, and not many had tele or things, to get the word around.

Wayne


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