old time strong men...why do they look different?

Discussion in 'Old StrongFirst Forum (Read-Only)' started by markymark, Jun 5, 2015.

  1. markymark

    markymark Double-Digit Post Count


    Looking at Sandow, Aston, Klein + many more heavy lifters from the late 1800's to early 1900's their physiques are spot on. They are very muscely but not overly so and seem much denser than modern BB'ers. Emphasis seemed on arms, shoulders, core and legs. Not on pecs and lats.

    Why is that? I have asked around quite  abit but the answers vary from silly to guessing. Anyone know why their physiques were how they were and why they are so different to bb'ers say before the 1950's?

    One guy said it was because natural test. levels were much higher in those days...but that makes no sense. If that was the case modern juiced up bb'ers would also look like that..but they don't.

    The only thing i can put it down to their training. They did massive weights but with few reps....is that it? More?


    One thing i have to say is they look way better than modern b.bers' They were strong and looked it. Not huge bloated gorrillars but lean, dense muscles. Something many modern b.bers will not accept.

  2. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Forum Administrator Senior Certified Instructor

    Mark, they were strong men, not body builders.  Different goals, and form follows function - they are examples of what strength looks like, which most modern bodybuilders are not.

    "Massive weights but with few reps ... is that it?" Yes, that's it.  Specifically, if you train heavy  weights, short sets, long rests, and low volume you get stronger without getting bigger.  PTTP and Easy Strength are two examples, GTG as featured in the Naked Warrior is another.

    And if you increase the volume, you are training like an old-time strongman and you will become more muscular as they did.

    The names you mention - none of them would win a bodybuilding contest today.

  3. markymark

    markymark Double-Digit Post Count

    ok..thanks. The fact they wouldn't win any bb contests today emphasises my point, they wouldn't even be interested in that.

    So generally lower reps, less sets heavier weights = denser look?

    Do you agree they look better than most modern B.B.ers'? Look at the physique of Edward Aston....why would anyone not want to look like that? (male of course)
    femme forte likes this.
  4. markymark

    markymark Double-Digit Post Count

    what does this stand for?

  5. TravisS

    TravisS More than 300 posts

    Grease the Groove
  6. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Forum Administrator Senior Certified Instructor

    GTG - Grease The Groove, a training plan explained by Pavel in his book on bodyweight exercise entitled, "The Naked Warrior."

    Pavel's "Power To The People!" contains a great explanation of why heavy weights + short sets + long rests.  Highly recommended reading for you.  If you haven't read that yet, it's where I'd start.

    "Easy Strength" is a book co-authored by Pavel and Dan John that's about several different things, including a program for strength training that also focuses on heavy weights and low reps.

  7. JZB

    JZB Triple-Digit Post Count

    I doubt peak Arnold would be able to win a bodybuilding competition these days looking how he did either. It's interesting to note that he got his start as a competitive power lifter and still used heavy compound lifts for most of his work with the single joint isolation work hitting certain areas.
  8. markymark

    markymark Double-Digit Post Count

    No he wouldn't. But that's the point. One time it looked good but as they got bigger and bigger it doesn't look so good any-more. They are pure mass monsters now.

    I still say people like Sanders/Aston had better physiques than Zane/Arnie....and they were better than today's BBer's.


    My point was Sanders/Aston were lifting heavier than 99% of BBers do..in fact it's probably more like 100% yet they weren't as bulky and that i.m.h.o. looked much better. I think Aston was only 75kg yet could bent press about 130kg.



  9. markymark

    markymark Double-Digit Post Count

    and that little Italian guy was the same..Franko....he could deadlift 4X his own bodyweight....:)
  10. markymark

    markymark Double-Digit Post Count

    i have Power to the People and love it. The only thing was when i tried to press and deadlift every day midweek i was knackered out by Thursday...it didn't feel right. I went back to 3 X week.
  11. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Forum Administrator Senior Certified Instructor

    PTTP is your explanation of sets, reps, and rest periods.

    I don’t know anything about your background to comment on why lifting 5x/week might be too much for you. Possibilities are that you lifted too heavy, or that your particular combination of life and lifting requires more recovery. The idea of PTTP is that you really can do it every day, and it’s also fine to call a PTTP cycle over once the weight starts to hamper your recovery, but some of the time, you should still push harder and some of the time you should attempt a max.

    Edit - let's add one more thing here, and this is important. PTTP is designed to be done 5x/week. If you're lifting 3x/week, the simplest modification to make is to add a third set of each exercise. Drop the weight one more time or keep the weight of the second set - your call.

  12. Brett Jones

    Brett Jones StrongFirst Director of Education Master Certified Instructor Beast Tamer

    Just a note on the PTTP 5 x week - if it is leaving you fatigued by Thursday then your weights are too heavy.

    Start a new cycle going much lighter.

    overall stress from work, sleep, nutrition, other training or activities all come out of the same "bank account" and it can be easy to overdraw
  13. Inuk

    Inuk Triple-Digit Post Count

    Hello Mark.


    Aston wrote a book called Modern Weightlifting and how to gain strength.


    Check it out.
  14. Marlon Leon

    Marlon Leon Triple-Digit Post Count

    As Steve wrote their goals were largely different thatbis strength over ascetics. That being said Saxon was kind of the first bodybuilder in history and even allowed women who came to his shows to touch his muscles afterwards.

    Back then a fairly popular lift called the bench press wasn't invented.  Hence the absence of pectoral muscle development.


    Which look one prefers is a matter of taste.
  15. Kevin W

    Kevin W Double-Digit Post Count

    I think another aspect is that back then people did hard physical labor all of their lives. Everything was heavier and had to be picked up and moved by hand. You heated your home by chopping wood or shoveling coal, even sweeping your house involved a fair bit of physical labor.

    People then were active all day long as opposed to ten+ hours per day sitting down as many people today do. In my youth I worked concrete as a finisher and laborer, I'd consume 4-6K calories per day without any weight gain and had a much harder physique then I ever had since, even though I never lifted back then.

    Heavy physical labor performed eight hours per day will produce a more classic physique than lifting weights in the gym for one hour per day four times a week while working at a desk.
    Abdul-Rasheed likes this.
  16. markymark

    markymark Double-Digit Post Count



    i doubt Sandow, Aston, etc were sweeping floors, chopping wood all day. I understand what you are getting at. Many were in the circus and wrestling so probably did a lot of extra work.

    But as for building that physique that is pure heavy lifting. No amount of yard work can build that kind of muscle density. I know a few people in physical work and they just look thin.


  17. markymark

    markymark Double-Digit Post Count

    That was Sandow....Saxon was a bit heavier and known for his eating and drinking. (50 bottles of beer  A DAY) Saxon looked a little heavier but could lift more than Sandow.
  18. Kevin W

    Kevin W Double-Digit Post Count

    I think it was George Hammerschmidt or something like that, that worked full time in a foundry and lifted weights after work. All of them had full time jobs, they were not professional athletes. What type of job would a strongman get? Probably something involving a lot of lifting, carrying and general hard work. Think of it as doing several hundred or thousand sets of sub-maximal intensity done over a period of hours every day.

    Also this is not yard work like raking leaves or mowing the lawn, back then everything got moved by hand. Wheel barrows, carrying bricks, shoveling, swinging a sledge, everything down by hand and down for eight to ten hours.. Today machines do so much that we don't even realize. Even going up and down stairs was harder then, now escalators and elevators are prevalent.

    Another point is nutrition. Back then everything was fresh and made from real food. now everything is processed and full of empty calories.

    If it was just pure heavy lifting then most powerlifters today would look like the old time strongmen, but they don't.
  19. leo

    leo Double-Digit Post Count

    I think it might also have to do with the inventions of the squat rack and the bench for pressing. Before that, strongmen had to hoist the weight off the ground if they wanted to get it across their shoulders. As for the bench press, I think Pavel wrote somewhere that it never would have occurred to the old time strongmen to test their strength while lying down.
  20. markymark

    markymark Double-Digit Post Count

    i think you'll find you are wrong. They were (ENDED UP) full time strength performers, gymnastics, wrestlers.

    They guy that said "heavy weight, low reps" answered it.



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