How to build chest the old fashioned way

As much importance casual weightlifters typically attach to the bench press, you might be surprised that the prototype movement wasn’t invented until 1898, and the weight bench wasn’t invented until the mid-1940s.

And yet: We’ve all seen enough pictures and images of old-time strongmen or bodybuilders to know that pretty much everyone had chiseled chests.

So, before the 1940s, how did they do it? And is it possible for you to borrow their 19th century secrets? Absolutely! But to build a bigger chest, you’ll need an open mind. Here’s your guide to old-time favorite equipment and exercises:

The bandaged push-up

Eugen Sandow, who is widely credited with popularizing bodybuilding and whose likeness is immortalized in the Sandow (the trophy presented to winners of the Mr. Olympia competition) was a big fan of the push-up. Sandow recommended the move in some of his early writing on muscle development.

She specifically advised followers of her workout routine to start with one set of three push-ups, then increase their output by one set of push-ups every three days. Additionally, Sandow encouraged the use of rubber resistance bands to increase the intensity of push-ups. This gave Sandow a replicable way to overcome the resistance provided by normal push-ups which amounts to about 64% of one’s body weight and amplify the tension.

The decrease in body weight

The bodyweight dip is essentially the more challenging variation of a push-up, forcing a trainee to lift closer to 95% of their own weight (negating only the weight extending from the fingers to the elbow joints).

The move is a derivation from early gymnastics, where apparatuses such as the high bar, rings, and parallel bar encouraged early waves of gym enthusiasts to adopt pull-ups, chin-ups, and dip-equivalent movements into their repertoires. Over time machines and other substitute equipment were invented, which captured the essence of these movements and made them easier.

Luckily for you, most commercial gyms now come with at least one bodyweight dip station. A makeshift dip stand could be erected in your home, between two parallel bars of equal height that are set quite far off the ground.

The first chest machines

To be clear, weight machines aren’t entirely new: 19th century engineers began producing machines that could increase muscle size when they realized how demanding body weight movements could be. The first iterations were a series of different pulley-based machines, very similar in concept and design to the cable stations in modern gymnasiums.

In an article dated May 7, 1889 by The Topeka State Newspaperthe writer describes the value of the strongest pulleys of all giant pulleys and their extreme utility in building chest muscles.

If the front of the chest is full and the back or sides lacking, the student is put to work on the giant pulley, said the writer. To build the side walls he stands with his back to the pulley and his left heel resting against it; the handle is held with the right hand if the right side of the chest lacks development. To exercise the left side the same process is done with the handle held in the left hand.

The illustration accompanying this description showed a man moving in and out of the machine holding a handle anchored to the same device. He appears to be completing what could generously be described as a single arm chest press before returning to the starting position.

Another device created for chest development was based on the reliable method of parallel bar dips, and was appropriately called sliding parallel bars. Machine users gripped a set of bars as if they were about to perform parallel bar dips, but instead of lifting off the ground, they instead pressed down against the resistance provided by a cable connected to weights. Nowadays, the machine would probably be considered a prototype for the seated dip machines available on most gyms.

The developers of classic home chests

In April 1895, The Pittsburgh Press actually recorded the occasion of Eugen Sandow’s fight with amateur bodybuilder ES Hulsman. Sandow was Enough taken with the man’s physique. Rather than citing any classic weightlifting or gymnastics training for upper body quality, Hulsman attributed his development to his use of Indian weighted mallets and a rubber exerciser of his own design, which he sought to patent. Suspiciously soon after this encounter, Sandow began advertising and selling thick, self-branded rubber bands as chest expanders.

Very quickly, the burgeoning home fitness market was flooded with chest expanders, chest exercises and chest developers created from steel springs or rubber bands. Despite their names and designs, nearly all chest-building devices required their users to anchor them to a door frame or some other fixed object. In this way, the handles could be pushed forward in a chest-pressing motion that captured resistance from behind the body and extended it to the front.

Among the most recognizable of these devices is the traditional chest expander, familiar as a set of three steel springs, connected at each end by a pair of wooden or metal handles. While the more basic movements prescribed for use with the chest expander have actually increased the size of the users shoulders (and behind) much more easily, it could be anchored at one end to objects such as doorknobs, so as to be pressed outward to maximize tension on the chest one side at a time.

Indeed, years before he began to tout his dynamic tension training as a development of his physique, famed strongman and bodybuilder Charles Atlas revealed to the press that it was actually his job to serve as a model for steel training springs ( a position that required him to stand in a display case and train with chest expanders all day) which helped him build muscle

If you’d like to take a modern take on this forerunner of bungee training for a whirl, you can still buy new iterations in a less expensive rubberized form to this day.

Pressing Next

Clearly, there’s no shortage of methods you can use to endow yourself with a body on par with some of the classic fitness greats. Even without the bench press as a training tool, these fitness legends all had pecs that would still double-test at the gym or the beach more than a century later.

If you don’t have access to a weight bench, or simply have no desire to hold hundreds of pounds precariously above your neck and chest and pray you can successfully reassemble it before a fatal accident ensues, you can still make your dream come true. of pec perfection without fighting the hordes of your gym mates, knowing there are other paths to pec perfection.

#build #chest #fashioned
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