Eugen Sandow – Real Strength Now Master Series


Since most of my interest in my later life in strength training has revolved around breathing and the breath and the benefits and the use of breathing in strength training, I have gone back over and over again to the source of my strength training, which is the old masters, George Hackenschmidt, Eugene Sandow, Pilates.

Today I'm going to talk about Sandow. Eugene Sandow was a Russian strongman. He was born in Prussia. Who toured England and he wrestled. He did strength feats. He broke chains. Mostly what people were interested in, was his posing routines because he as very muscular. So he's known as the father of modern bodybuilding.

You know when you see them on the platform, bodybuilders in the pose-downs, Eugene Sandow was the first to do those pose-downs. When I was, I think, 11 years old I ordered from Eugene Sandow his strand pulling kit. It's called a chest expander. He didn't invent it. It was invented in 1857 by a guy named Henry Cost, but Sandow had something to do with the invention of the elastic strands.

And I got that and I used to take it to my bedroom and use it every night and I would read his instructions. And recently I went back to those instructions and I thought, what did he have to say about breath. They all had something to say. Hackenschmidt said breath was the purest form of food for the body. What did Sandow say?

So I found the old strand pulling book, or the leaflet and I have this. It's only got one spring on it, which isn't too tough. This isn't the Sandow one. His was elastic but I still have this old one. And in my own book, "Real Strength Now: The Lost Art of Breathing", I have a quote from Eugene Sandow as to what he said. And this I read first when I was 11 years old.

I'm going to read it to you now. This is Sandow on the breath. "With all exercises designed for chest expansion, a slow inspiration through the nose until the chest is fully expanded is required as the exerciser is being expanded. When the chest appears fully expanded, an effort to inhale just a little bit more air with subsequent increase with the stretch obtained with the exerciser is necessary. The air should be retained in the lungs for a few seconds, then gradually expired as the exerciser is returned to it's starting position. With all other exercises slow, regular, deep breathing in harmony with the movement required by the exercise should be practiced."

Breath in movement. He was saying it then. This is a man who was born in, I think, 1867, and he was saying that then. So, breath in movement. What he was doing, if you can pardon the one spring. Through the nose. When you get here, you think the chest is fully expanded, it's that extra (breath) and then a hold and then a slow. That's vital capacity. That's the exercise for vital capacity.

When we expand and think that's all the air we can take in, it's that little bit more that tops up the lungs, that keeps the lungs elastic and healthy, keeps the ribcage open. And Sandow was saying it then. He may not have scientifically known why he said it. Even the slight pause, which is the signal on the way back for the parasympathetic or rest and digest nervous system. So it's, and then recovery from the contraction. So Sandow was on to this over a 100 years ago. And here I am, just figuring it out today.


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