Strength training may seem like a modern concept but in fact dates back centuries. Back in the early days it was necessary for man to be strong and fast for the purpose of hunting. Nowadays though it is much less about survival and more about keeping fit and sculpting an aesthetically pleasing physique.
You may have heard of Milo of Croton, he was a wrestler who lived some 2,500 years ago. An incredibly successful athlete who was also known for his great strength. His way of building muscle and improving his strength was simple. He began by one day lifting and carrying a newborn calf. He did this each and every day for a period of around four years so in the end was lifting a 4 year old bull. To put this into perspective, a fully grown bull can weigh around 907kg!
Equipment used for weight lifting evolved throughout the years but remained fairly crude until the 1900’s. For example, early dumbbells were developed back in the 1700s by using a rod and two church bells.
The clapper within the bell was removed rendering it silent or ‘dumb’, hence the term dumbbell
As well as equipment being simplistic, exercises also remained less complex. The bent press was a strong man lift favoured by the likes of Arthur Saxon. This involved taking a weight from shoulder height to above the head using just one arm. Saxon bagged himself a world record by lifting an impressive 168kg doing the bent press.
Over time, the development of technology and knowledge has meant that methods have greatly improved and equipment offered being much more sophisticated.
Strength training became much more popular in the early 1900’s, partly due to the invention of the adjustable plate loaded barbell by the Milo Barbell Company. For the first time in weightlifting it was now possible to easily and quickly load the required amount of weight. Prior to this, a different barbell was needed for a different weight. During the 1940’s and 50’s a number of other plate loaded devices were created. The very first selectorised multi-station machines was developed in the late 1950’s by Universal Gym Company.
Throughout the 1970’s strength training continued to grow in popularity and more equipment was designed and pushed out to the market place to meet the demands of this growing industry.
Looking back, weight lifting and strength training was very basic with limited options on how an exercise could be done, look at Milo and the bull. These days new equipment, workouts and methods are changing all the time which goes to show just how popular strength training really is and how it’s popularity continues to grow.