The text below is from another weight training manual to come out of English physical culture, Michael Fallon and Jim Saunders’ Muscle Building for Beginners (1960). This pocket-sized paperback book is focused on training for physique development. The book is divided into two sections. Part I, by Michael Fallon, is an overview of the field of physique training, including tips on gaining and losing weight through nutritional changes. Part II, by Mr. Universe, Class II Jim Saunders, features more specific information on training muscle groupings such as arms, chest, back, etc.
The following text, Chapter III of Fallon’s Part I of the volume, describes what equipment will be needed to get started in physique development. As weight training was not as widespread and accepted as it is today, this information must have been quite helpful for those who wished to start out in weight training but did not live within reasonable distance of a gym or training facility of any kind, so by necessity had to set up some kind of personal exercise area at home instead. Contemporary readers accustomed to today’s standard training devices may be intrigued by the descriptions of chest expanders and strand-pulling. You may also notice the typical assumption of the era that this is an activity that only males participate in.
With free exercise you can achieve wonders with your health and appearance, with improved weights even more, but eventually the time will come when you will want to consider buying some equipment. What sort of equipment will you buy?
The magazines are filled with advertisements of what can perhaps best be described as ‘trick’ apparatus: various complicated spring mechanisms and unusual devices. These are no doubt all very good in their way, and each has something to offer that is peculiarly its own, but they are for the man who already has standard equipment and feels justified in investing in something to ‘tinker’ with.
The novice just starting in body-building cannot do better than obtain an ordinary disc-loading barbell, consisting of a steel bar one inch in diameter, and an ample supply of flat discs. Among these should be plenty of small discs of 1 1/4-lb. and 2 1/2-lb. variety, for it is these that make the progression of poundages easy.
Most barbell sets nowadays include a couple of short dumb-bell rods. If yours doesn’t, it is easy enough to convert it to a dumb-bell set at any time by buying a couple of rods, which can usually be obtained for a few dollars. Similarly, a dumb-bell set can be converted to a barbell set at any time, though this is usually a more expensive process as the quality of the steel bar used in a barbell set must be high, particularly with a heavy set.
If you have the room to use a barbell, I suggest this is what you buy, but you will need to be able to clear a space about eight feet square at a minimum. Follow the barbell courses as outlined, and occasionally spend a few weeks on one of the dumb-bell courses as a change and to break up the monotony of the routine. You are one of the lucky ones.
But if space is limited and there is no room to swing a barbell, there is still no need to despair. Dumb-bells are a wonderful way of building the physique. They get at the muscles from many different angles, and because of the necessity to balance them in the hands while performing the exercises, they are, in some ways, superior to the barbell.
Some men do not even have a bedroom to train in and, living in digs and perhaps always travelling from town to town, they get little chance to use heavy equipment. For such men cables are ideal.
Here again, don’t go in for ‘trick’ equipment, but concentrate on buying the best chest expander of a normal type that you can obtain.
There are three types of chest expander on the market:
1. The steel spring strand, which is excellent for most of the exercises, but has the disadvantage that it is heavy to carry about if you do much travelling. It is also inclined to be cold to the touch, and sometimes pinches the body rather painfully in some of the movements.
2. The solid rubber strand, which stretches further than any other type, but because it is exposed to the open air has a tendency to crack, particularly at the ends where they are bound to the metal fastenings. And, of course, once a crack develops in a rubber strand, its days of usefulness are numbered!
3. The rubber strand with a cotton sheath covering. This will not stretch as far as a strand made of bare rubber, but has the advantage that it is protected from the atmosphere and therefore has a longer life. It is the most popular, and in my opinion is the best one to buy.
Later you may want to buy other equipment and there are all sorts of items that can be useful.
If you are a strand-puller there is a strand-sculling exerciser, a wall exerciser and various all-purpose exercisers with combination foot stirrups and hand-grips. In addition there are various spring exercisers that call for pressure instead of pulling, usually called ‘crusher grips’ and similar names. All these are good for achieving that little extra once you have laid a solid foundation of muscle on which to build.
If you are a weight-lifter, you will be attracted by incline benches, squat stands, abdominal boards, calf machines, lat machines and the like. All these have their purpose, but if you are wise you will not bother about them just at the moment.
First concentrate on the standard exercises, stick to the courses set out in the following pages, and leave specialized apparatus to the man it is intended for—the advanced barbell trainer. You will not be ready for it for at least a year.