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. There is large amount of evidence that indicates weight training was part of life in ancient Greece and India. In fact, the Greeks built numerous sculptures of people lifting stone weights.
Numerous systems of training have been proposed over the years. The accumulation of experience and different philosophies has led us to the current training methods utilized today. Keep in mind; many authorities have varied greatly from the original purpose of strength and conditioning. Hard work and dedication formed the foundation of earlier training methods. Today the opposite has occurred in numerous settings as easy work and quick fixes form the foundation of most people’s regimens.
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 showmen and strongman entertainers of the 19th Century heavily contributed to methods used today in the fitness and Sports Conditioning industry. From extensive research iron game historian David Webster credits Italian circus and fairground performer, Felice Napoli as the one who popularized strongman performances on an international scale. Disciples of Napoli include Professor Attila (Louis Durlacher) and Eugen Sandow (Frederick Muller). Attila became well known and he attracted some of the world’s most well known physical culturists and many rulers of Europe. His list of students included King George of Greece, King Edward of England, Crown Prince Frederick who became King Haakon of Norway, the six children of King Christian of Denmark, the Queen Mother Alexandra of England, Princess Dagmar (Empress of Russia and mother of Tsar Nicholas), and the Duchess of Cumberland.
At the time training the wealthy was a much respected occupation. We have what we call personal trainers today. The current protocols used by the majority of today’s trainers are a far cry from the original teachings and benefits provided by trainers. The fame and notoriety of trainers of those days was a result of the public displays of extraordinary physical feats. These events were often attended by royalty and were highly acclaimed for their promotion of physical well-being.
Eugen Sandow, born in Koningsberg in East Russia in 1867, was recruited for his teachings by presidents and rulers from around the world. Nine kings and queens and many princes of Europe, as well as US presidents William Taft and Woodrow Wilson endorsed Sandow’s book Life is Movement. Sandow was a successful strongman as well as a promoter of formal fitness and health management. He emphasized that physical education and sport should be an integral part of the school system. He also toured the world lecturing and promoting physical culture as a means of improving the quality of life.
Most authorities recognize Sandow, as one of the most important figures in the history of fitness, with the history of his work revealing that the modern phenomenon of science based fitness training is not a novel invention. Sandow promoted the importance of strength and skill as being the cornerstone of fitness. A half a century later Dr Kenneth Cooper proposed that being fit was primarily dependent on aerobic conditioning. Approximately 25 years later the important role of strength training has once again been recognized by the academia.
In Russia during the same period Vladislav Krayevsky founded the St Petersburg Amateur Weightlifting Society (1885). Many respected scientists, athletes; artists became his students, including famous strongman George Hackenschmidt, who credited Krayevsky for teaching him all he knew. Hackenschmidt mentioned in his book The Way To …