Girl Weight Lifters (1954)

Today we pick up again after a brief summer hiatus, to begin a series of posts focusing on women’s weight training as it was practiced in the middle decades of the twentieth century.

We kick this series off with some vintage footage from British Pathé, posted on their Youtube channel.

This video highlights the benefits of weight training, at a time when it was thought by the general public that lifting weights would distort women’s figures and cause them to become overly masculine, in addition to various supposed ill effects on health.

Stay tuned in the upcoming weeks for more on this topic, with exclusive vintage magazine excerpts on women’s weight training!

Exercises of Champions — Dick Zimmerman (1940)

Today we feature some excerpts from an article which originally appeared in the August 1940 issue of Bob Hoffman’s Strength and Health. This article explained a group of exercises favored by York Barbell champion Anthony “Tony” Terlazzo, who was active in Olympic weightlifting in the 1930s. The article was the first in a series, and it introduced the concept of “compound exercises.” This term was decidedly not used in today’s sense of exercises that involve several muscle groups simultaneously, such as squats and deadlifts. Rather, Hoffman’s publication presented “compound exercises” as series of individual isolation exercises performed in succession.

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Tony Terlazzo demonstrating the arm and shoulder “compound exercise” series described in the article. Click photos to enlarge (will open in new window/tab)

Further reading on Tony Terlazzo’s weightlifting records: Continue reading

True ‘body building’ — F. Sanfilippo (1962)

So far, FOUNDATIONS OF IRON has primarily featured examples of historic physical culture from the US, and occasionally England. Now we take a step outside of the Anglosphere for a look at the physical culture of France, with a translation of an article from the January 1962 issue of La Culture Physique, a monthly fitness magazine that seems to have been in publication for several decades from the early to mid twentieth century.

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The cover masthead of La Culture Physique. Click to enlarge (will appear in new window/tab).

In the history of physical fitness, it has been common for certain individuals to enter the limelight and be lauded as teachers and gurus. French physical culture was no exception. La Culture Physique was the official publication of physical culturist Edmond Desbonnet. Even five years after Desbonnet passed away in 1957, praise for the “Desbonnet method” and for Desbonnet himself still appeared throughout this magazine, including the article below.

This article calls for a more holistic and healthful approach to physical culture, in the face of a rising trend of what the author considered to be bodybuilding purely for muscular development. Continue reading

Michael Pearman — Strongman Hairstylist (1959)

British Weightlifter Michael Pearman appears in this 1959 profile vignette, from the archives of the British Pathé Youtube channel. This somewhat whimsical profile shows how, at the time, Pearman was developing skills in two separate and unrelated fields: as an Olympic weightlifter, and as a ladies’ hairdresser. Yes, strength is for everybody!

After this, Pearman participated in a number of international weightlifting competitions, and he represented Great Britain as part of the weightlifting team at the Olympic Games in 1964, 1968, and 1972. He would go on to become a weightlifting coach, including as chief coach to the British weightlifters at the 2001 world championships in Antalya, Turkey, and as head coach to the English squads at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland. He currently coaches the weightlifting club at Brunel University London.

It is unknown whether Pearman has kept up his skills as a ladies’ hairstylist over the years.

This video also highlights changing attitudes toward weight training for athletes. Continue reading

Bodybuilders’ Notebook — Leon Burk’s Back Routine (1962)

Many recreational lifters focus on areas of the physique that seem the most visible, such as arms and chest. However, only doing exercises for these body parts means missing out on the benefits of training muscular groups such as the legs and the back. Below is a brief article from the May-June 1962 issue of Physical Power, featuring the back training routine of Leon Burks. Burks was a physique competitor in the early 1960s in southern California. Unfortunately, precious little information seems to be available on him today.

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Leon Burks displaying his back development in a photo which accompanied the article. Click to enlarge (will appear in new window/tab)

Brief further reading, a list of contests that Leon Burks placed in: http://musclememory.com/show.php?a=Burks,+Leon

Magazine Excerpt: Continue reading