Special And Systematic Exercises
( Originally Published 1938 )
For those of us who are not fortunate enough to get our exercise out-of-doors in the form of play, there are many sets of exercises designed to call every muscle into activity which can be performed in the home, without the aid of apparatus. Such exercises have an advantage over games and sports which make them particularly beneficial for those who are generally weak or whose muscles are weak in certain regions, as in the abdomen, for example. They can be better regulated both in length of time and strenuousness than sports and, moreover, can be more definitely aimed at the development of special muscles. Indeed many persons who do indulge in sports find that they feel better and are in better general health if they perform a series of "setting up" exercises every day.
The time selected for such exercises is largely a personal matter. On the whole, however, most people find that if they exercise immediately after arising, they feel much better throughout the day. On the other hand, some find that exercise after working hours or in the evening suits their particular habits and constitutions better. Frequently, they claim, exercise at such time relaxes and refreshes them. Of course,if you exercise at such times, you must be careful not to do so too near meal time.
If you like music, you will find that your enjoyment is doubled if you exercise to the accompaniment of simple music. A phonograph or radio can be turned on at will, or better still, if you have a musician in your home, have him play some catchy tune for you in the tempo best suited to the several forms of exercises you are going through.
Arm and Finger Exercises.
a. Completely relax the muscles of the fingers and hands, letting the hands hang limply from the wrists. Then shake them up and down from side to side, as if cracking a whip. Next rotate them from the wrists. These movements should all be made with great rapidity, the hands being rendered as near Iifeless as possible.
b. Now, with the upper part of the arm held out at a right angle from the body, and the forearm hanging downward, completely relax the muscles of the elbow. Then shake and rotate the whole of the forearm in the same manner as described for the hands.
2. Neck Exercises. No explanation will be needed. The principal thing to be observed is to keep the body perfectly rigid and use the muscles of the neck only. It is a most valuable exercise and should be carefully and faithfully practiced, particularly by the fair sex, since it is a sure preventive of double chins and lumps of fat at the nape of the neck.
a. Assume the position indicated but keep all the muscles of the body (with the exception of the muscles of the hips) perfectly rigid. Now, without bending the knees, bend the body forward as far as you can several times, then backward several times, and finally to each side successively.Next bend once in each direction and repeat several times, being careful not to relax the muscles other than those of the hips. Conclude the exercise by rotating the hips 'round and 'round.
b. Another good hip exercise may be called the "pendulum" exercise. Relax the muscles of the right leg, keeping all the other muscles firmly tensed. Then swing the leg from the hip joint, like a pendulum, backward and forward. Try to do this without support, balanced on the one leg, as it materially assists in developing the muscles. Then repeat with the left leg. Next, relax the muscles of the leg from the knee downward, keeping the muscles of the thigh rigid, and swing the leg backward and forward from the knee only, and increase the number of movements each day, as the muscles gain strength and you gain experience.
c. An excellent leg exercises which bring into play certain muscles that usually receive but little exercise. Hence you will find them of great benefit in strengthening and therefore in beautifying your limbs. Remember, there is no real physical beauty without health. And remember, too, that many a woman's heart has sunk to its depths when she sees the spindly legs of her hero for the first time, and many a man's interest has vanished when he catches sight of the thin or heavy legs of the pretty-faced girl he has been flirting with at the next table.
4. Ankle and Foot Exercises. One of the most painful afflictions of civilized man is fallen arches. They are due in part to long hours of standing in poorly fitting shoes and in part to lack of muscle tone. Most cases of fallen arches can be prevented by regularly exercising the foot and ankle and, of course, wearing the proper shoes.
One of the simplest and yet one of the most beneficial exercises consists of standing upright, holding yourself firmly and stiffly and then raising yourself up and down on your toes.
5. Whole Body Exercises. You are probably surprised that we have seemingly described exercises for every part of the body except the all important abdomen and are now about to give some general exercises without any mention of the abdomen. We want to assure you that we are not neglecting this part of your anatomy in which you are rightfully most interested. No specific mention has been made of the abdomen simply because many of the exercises we described, while primarily intended for other parts, exercise the abdomen as well. This is also true of the exercises we are about to describe while they exercise the whole body, most of them exercise and therefore strengthen the muscles of the abdomen.
a. The wellknown bending exercise is one of them. Raise the arms above the head, alongside the ears, then bring them down with a steady sweep, without bending the knees, until the fingers touch the floor. Be sure to relax the muscles of your neck and allow your head to hang.
The reverse of this exercise is also beneficial to the abdomen as well as to the back and body in general. Place the hands upon the breast and drop the head backward, a little to one side. Then bend the body backward as far as possible.
b. Curve the right arm above the head, toward the left shoulder, and allow the weight of the body to rest on the left leg, the right foot being carried slightly outward. Allow the body to hang down as far as possible on the left side, without straining too much. Then reverse the movement.
c. Another good strengthener, but somewhat more strenuous, is one quite similar to the bending exercise. Lie flat on your back on the floor, with your arms raised above your head, alongside your ears. Keeping your legs stiff and your arms in the same position, raise your body slowly from the waist, bending at the waist until your hands touch your toes. You'll probably not be able to do it more than once or twice at first, but when you have mastered it to the extent of acquiring an easy swing to your movements, you'll find that it not only strengthens your muscles and melts away superfluous fat from your belly, but that it is very enjoyable and relaxing. Stretching. Stretching is quite a luxury and a most pleasurable one but few people know how to do it.
In the foregoing exercises, as we promised, we have carefully omitted all those requiring apparatus of any kind, selecting only such as can be practiced in the privacy of your own room, without assistance from an instructor or paraphernalia of any kind. Dumbbells, Indian clubs, and other aids are valuable after a certain degree of muscular improvement has been attained, but when that point is reached, we should advise you to join a gymnasium and practice further development under a competent instructor.
All the exercises we have described have been proven of great value in building up the system, and are designed as aids to the preservation of health and the upbuilding of weakly people not to develop trained athletes. These exercises bring into play a number of muscles that are not called in general use, and thus develop the whole body. We believe, too, that they will bring you pleasure, not only the pleasure of better health, but transitory enjoyment in the mere performing of them the same kind of enjoyment you get when eating your favorite dish or indulging in your favorite hobby whether it is collecting stamps or discussing the European situation.