A: You’ve probably seen the comic book ads: a 98-pound kid trying to impress the ladies gets sand kicked in his face by a bully. Desperate to change his life, the kid stumbles into Charles Atlas’ body building program, works out, and after just a few panels the our now buff hero turns the tables on said bully.
But how much of this is for real? Well, a former self-described “scrawny weakling” himself, Charles Atlas did become the most perfect physical specimen of manhood in the mid-20th century—at least according to him. Angelo Siciliano immigrated to New York from Italy as a child, and after getting pounded on by Brooklyn bullies for a few years, he came up with the idea of muscle-against-muscle fitness training, now known as isometric exercise.
He soon grew to be a huge hulking mass of man-dom, got a job as a strongman in a Coney Island freak show, and changed his name to Charles Atlas. It wasn’t long before he’d started his mail-in sales fitness business in 1928, and it’s still around today (although admittedly, it’s not the commercial juggernaut it once was). Atlas himself, however, is not. He died at 79, shortly after his daily jog — which just confirms what 98-pound weaklings like us have always thought of jogging.