One of the best books written on the subject of physical fitness was written well before anyone ever heard of Joe Weider or â€śArnold.â€ť Heck, the book, titled The Development of Physical Power, was written by legendary strongman Arthur Saxon in 1906 before either of these two were even born! This book is the fitness equivalent of an archeological dig.
Famous before the turn of the nineteenth century, German Arthur Saxon was considered to be the strongest man in the world. At 5â€™ 10â€ť and 204 pounds, Saxon personified the ideal of the strongman at the end of the 19th and into the early 20th century. Mustachioed, muscular, and lean, Saxon performed feats of strength that men heavier and more muscular couldnâ€™t come close to matching. The juiced-up, phony-muscled bodybuilders of today who weigh 250-300 pounds couldnâ€™t come close to performing the lifts, let alone lift the actual weights, that this mighty German could perform.
The pumped-up pretty boys who frequent body building competitions these days would buckle under the weights lifted by Saxon. Mr. Olympia and all the rest of the body building crowd should be embarrassed by what they have done to the concept of â€śphysical culture.â€ť Saxon was able to snatch 193 lbs, double-hand press/military press 252 lbs (with no jerk or leg movement, heels together and after holding the weight at the chin for four seconds before pressing) and one-hand slow press 370 lbs. Saxon also did something called the â€śdouble-handed anyhowâ€ť where he raised a 336 lb barbell overhead with his right hand and then bent over, picked up a ring weight weighing 112 lbs that he lifted to his shoulder and then overhead for a world record total of 448 lbs.
But back to the bookâ€¦Saxon wrote The Development of Physical Power in 1906 and the simplicity of his approach is beautiful and the beauty of his program is the simplicity. His observations regarding those who took an interest in â€śphysical cultureâ€ť and his philosophy, which is based purely on anecdotal evidence, are right on. As a matter of fact, without spending a dime on research and without wasting a moment conducting studies in the name of exercise science, Saxon was able to grasp the essence of proper training methods. All of the nonsense thatâ€™s been thrown around for the past 50 years should be forgotten, and more attention and credence should be given to the ways of Saxon and his contemporaries.