Gymnastics And Physical Development
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
The principal methods of developing the physical man now prescribed by trainers are exercise with dumbbells, the bar bell, and the chest weight. The rings and horizontal and parallel bars are also used, but not nearly to the extent that they formerly were. The movement has been all in the direction of the simplification of apparatus; in fact, one well known teacher of the Boston Gymnasium, when asked his opinion, said: "Four bare walls and a floor, with a well posted instructor, is all that is really required for a gymnasium."
Probably the most important as well as the simplest appliance for gymnasium work is the wooden dumbbell, which has displaced the ponderous iron bell of former days. Its weight is from three quarters of a pound to a pound and a half, and with one in each hand a variety of motions can be gone through, which are of immense benefit in building up or toning down every muscle, and all vital parts of the body.
The first object of an instructor in taking a beginner in hand is to increase the circulation. This is done by exercising the extremities, the first movement being one of the hands, after which come the wrists, then the arms, and next the head and feet. As the circulation is increased, the necessity for a larger supply of oxygen, technically called "oxygen-hunger," is created, which is only satisfied by breathing exercises, which develop the lungs. After the circulation is in a satisfactory condition, the dumbbell instructor turns his attention to exercising the great, muscles body is obtained, and then there are no sudden demands on the heart and lungs.
After the dumbbell comes exercise with the round or bar bell. This is like the dumbbell, with the exception that the bar connecting the balls is four or five feet, instead of a few inches, in length. Bar bells weigh from one to two pounds each, and are found most useful in building up the respiratory and digestive systems, their special province being the strengthening of the erector muscles and increasing the flexibility of the chest. Of all fixed apparatus in use, the pulley weight stands easily first in importance. These weights are available for a greater variety of objects than any other gymnastic appliance, and can be used either for general exercise or for strengthening such muscles as most require it. With them a greater localization is possible than with the dumbbell, and for this reason they are recommended as a kind of supplement to the latter. As chest developers and correctors of round shoulders, they are most effective. As the name implies, they are simply weights attached to ropes, which pass over pulleys, and are provided with handles. The common pulley is placed at about the height of the shoulder of an aver-age man, but recently those which can be adjusted to any desired height have been very generally introduced.
When more special localization is desired than can be obtained by means of the ordinary apparatus, what is known as the double-action chest weight is used. This differs from the ordinary kind in being provided with several pulleys, so that the strain may come at different angles. Double-action weights may be divided into three classes — high, low, and side pulleys— each with its particular use.
The highest of all, known as the giant pulleys, are made especially for developing the muscles of the back and chest, and by stretching or elongating movements to increase the interior capacity of the chest. If the front of the chest is full and the back or side chest deficient, the pupil is set to work on the giant pulley. To build up the side-walls, he stands with the back to the pulley box and the left heel resting against it; the handle is grasped in the right hand if the right side of the chest is lacking in development, and then drawn straight down by the side; a step for-ward with the right foot, as long as possible, is taken, the line brought as far to the front and near the floor as can be done, and then the arm, held stiff, allowed to be drawn slowly up by the weight. To exercise the left side the same process is gone through with, the handle grasped in the left hand. Another kind of giant pulley is that which allows the operator to stand directly under it, and is used for increasing the lateral diameter of the chest. The handles are drawn straight down by the sides, the arms are then spread and drawn back by the weights. Generally speaking, high pulleys are most used for correcting high, round shoulders; low pulleys for low, round shoulders; side pulleys for individual high or low shoulders, and giant pulleys for the development of the walls of the chest and to correct spinal curvature.
The traveling rings, a line of iron rings covered with rubber and attached to long ropes fastened to the ceiling some ten feet apart, are also valuable in developing the muscles of the back, arms, and sides. The first ring is grasped in one hand, and a spring taken from an elevated platform. The momentum carries the gymnast to the next ring, which is seized with the free hand, and so the entire length of the line is traversed. The parallel bars, low amid high, the flying rings, the horizontal bar, and the trapeze all have their uses, but of late years they have been relegated to a position of distinct inferiority to that now occupied by the dumbbells and pulley weights.