Rise of the Machines

  • 09 Jan ' 18:13

    By Bill Starr

    Rest Day/Theory

    January 09, 2015

    Bill Starr chronicles how Universal and

  • Nautilus changed the face of fitness and made black iron a memory in most gyms.

    The earliest pieces of equipment used by men wanting to get stronger and build more impressive physiques were kettlebells, dumbbells and barbells with rounded globes at each end. Then barbells advanced so plates of different weights could be added and removed. The next step in the evolution was to put ball bearings in the collars so the bars could rotate as they were lifted.

    The number of people who lifted weights as a form of exercise was meager, at best, so there wasn’t a call for any other equipment. Nor were there any fitness facilities as such, but YMCAs always provided some space for weight training. The spaces typically contained the equipment I mentioned, plus stall bars, medicine balls and Indian clubs. YMCAs became hubs of weight training and continued to serve that purpose for over half a century.

    In the ’20s, there was a flurry of interest in physical culture, led by such icons as Bernarr MacFadden, Alan Calvert, Charles Atlas and George Jowett. These men promoted their views on weight training and nutrition in the pages of two magazines: Calvert’s Strength, which was the publishing arm for his Milo Barbell Company, and MacFadden’s Physical Culture. These publications fueled the movement to make people stronger and healthier, which led to a few health clubs opening up in the larger metropolitan areas.

    In all these facilities, the emphasis was on health more so than strength. Most offered… 


    , where he completed the rest of… Continue Reading

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