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!

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

Exercise of the month (Reg Park Journal, Oct. 1955)

Below is an example of a very brief feature of The Reg Park Journal in the mid-twentieth century, highlighting one particular exercise and describing the benefits. This was a practical and beneficial feature of Mr. Universe Reg Park’s physical culture publication.

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Illustration which accompanied the article. Click to enlarge (will appear in new window/tab)

Magazine Excerpt:

“Chins” behind head are an exercise which can be used as a basic body-building exercise or on your “off” training days “free style.” Continue reading

Vince Gironda posing (1950s?)

Today we feature footage of the late “Iron Guru” Vince Gironda doing a physique posing exhibition, from the “ironguru” Youtube channel. The footage has been paired with Vangelis’ “Chariots of Fire” theme, which was one of the preferred compositions of Gironda’s student Mohamed Makkawy.

Continue reading

How Roy Hilligenn Trains His Back – Ed Yarick (1952)

Today we feature an article on developing the back muscles, as originally appeared in the March 1952 issue of Hoffman’s Strength & Health. This was written by Ed Yarick, known for running the gym where Steve Reeves trained in Oakland, California, USA. The article describes the back training program of Roy Hilligenn, a life-long vegetarian athlete who won multiple physique contests in South Africa and the United States from the 1940s well into the 1970s, before running afoul of the law and spending time in prison; a regrettable fall from grace. Mr. Hilligenn passed away in 2008 at the age of 85 after complications resulting from a fall at a senior center.

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A photo of Roy Hilligenn which accompanied the article. Click to enlarge (will open in new window/tab)

Further reading:

A profile and remembrance of Roy Hilligenn: http://cbass.com/Hilligenn.htm

Magazine Excerpt:

Developing a strong, well shaped back is one of the most important parts of your program. On the average man that does not go in for weight training, the back is the weakest part of the body. Continue reading