No New Thing
Friday, February 08, 2013
Ecclesiastes 1:9, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”
Without getting into a long discourse about electronic innovations and so forth I will restrict my application of the quote to exercise programmes. It seems that almost daily someone produces a forum question on some “new” fitness routine which they have seen on an infomercial or some other form of advertisement. When the substance of the “new” programme is revealed and reviewed it is déjà vu all over again to quote Yogi Berra. It is something remixed, repurposed or resurrected from the annals of the ghosts of fitness programmes past. Let’s make a quick review of the current trends and “flavours of the month” in the fitness world.
No need to even consider the age of this form of fitness and strength training since even a superficial review of Greco-Roman frescos and other art will give it a date from at least that long past.
Any attempt to date when swinging weighted objects came into the fitness options is futile. There are sources which cite the warriors of Genghis Khan using metal buckets filled with rocks as a form of fitness training. Both the Scots and the Russians lay claim to being first uses of cannon balls with handles so choose your own favourite form of nationalism here. The book “The Development of Physical Strength with Kettlebells and without Kettlebells” was published in 1900 and reprinted three times (1902, 1909, and 1916) was written by Vladislav Krayevsky who also founded the St Petersburg Amateur Weightlifting Society (1885).
Rubber resistance bands were a first use of India rubber. They were developed to be use for physical rehabilitation in the mid 19th Century. Not unlike many other forms of physical rehabilitation, Pilates is an example, they worked their way into the general fitness realm. They went through a transition into the resistance being steel springs and became a sport in England referred to as Band Pulling complete with judged competitions based on weight classes. In the 1920’s several books were written on using band resistance for physical training. Many of that era’s strongmen used them to train. The 20th Century saw the return of rubber bands for the resistance probably because getting your chest hair caught in the springs on their retraction was not habit forming.
This training implement was “discovered” by the English when they colonized India. They had been used there and in neighboring countries for who knows how many years prior. They became a standard physical training modality in the British Army during that period and then spread worldwide. I have a digital book in my collection copyright in the United States in 1866 which has a thank you note from U. S. Grant acknowledging the book. Now there is a programme which gets you certified as an Indian club trainer. Whatever
“Early records of strength training date back to 3600 BC when Chinese emperors made their subjects exercise daily (Webster 1976). During the Chou Dynasty subjects were required to pass weight- lifting tests before entering the military.”
“During the 16th century in Europe books on weight training began to surface. Sir Thomas Elyot’s book on the topic was published in England in 1531. Joachim Camerius, a lecturer at Leipzig University, wrote several books in 1544 recommending that weight training should be a key activity offered in the model school. John Paugh published a book in 1728 titled A Physiological, Theoretic and Practical Treatise on the Utility of Muscular Exercise for Restoring the Power to the limbs, which pointed out the benefits offered by weight training for rehab purposes. In the 1860’s, Archibald Maclaren, devised the first formal system of physical training with dumbbells and barbells for the British Army.”
“The early strength pioneers developed numerous devices in regards to strength training including cable machines, kettlebells, barbells, dumbbells, odd-shaped bars, thick grip bars, weighted boots, isolation machines and various throwing devices. Yet 50 years later there are numerous people who claim to have invented this machinery. In today’s industry there are many systems and people promoting their new systems, which are not really new at all.”
Example: Both the Total Gym and Total Trainer are based on the Pilates Reformer which was created by Joseph Pilates in the early years of his programme.
The material in quotes was extracted from “History of Strength and Conditioning Science” by: Jamie Hale.
This is not an attempt to make an all inclusive comprehensive overview of all the current trends and their well seasoned predecessors it is just an attempt on my part to validate the manta, “what goes around comes