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Physical Exercise

The principal methods of developing the physique 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 of the body, beginning with those of the
back, strengthening which holds the body erect, thus increasing the
chest capacity, invigorating the digestive organs, and, in fact, all the
vital functions. By the use of very light weights an equal and
symmetrical development of all parts of the 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 especial 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
average 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 forward 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 solely 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

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 and 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.

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