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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