Charles Atlas and Dynamic Tension
Do you know what it’s like to have a bully kick sand in your face? I don’t. But I do know what it’s like to walk around out of shape and ripe for abuse.
A sand-kicking incident in his childhood prompted Angelo Siciliano from Long Beach, New York to transform from a “scrawny weakling” into one of the most famous bodybuilders of the 20th century. You might know Siciliano better by his pseudonym, Charles Atlas.
If you’re not up-to-date on early 20thcentury bodybuilders, Atlas was the face of one of the most popular and long-lasting ad campaigns of all time. His company, Charles Atlas Ltd., sold fitness products featuring the bodybuilder’s trademarked routine. The company’s ads, which appeared in many 1940s comic books, featured a young guy getting sand kicked in his face by a bully, working out and returning to kick said bully’s ass. The campaign worked and Atlas became the world’s best-known bodybuilder, the Schwarzenegger of his day.
The whole Atlas phenomenon piques my interest not only from an advertising point of view (it’s pure genius), but also from a fitness perspective. The Atlas routine requires no weightlifting equipment of any kind. Atlas claimed to have developed his physique without using any equipment; he said they merely didn’t do anything for him. During a visit to the zoo, Atlas figured out that lions and tigers only become as strong as they do by pitting one muscle against another. Thus, the idea of Dynamic Tension was born.
An exercise method based on pitting muscle against muscle, Dynamic Tension is a great for anyone who wants to get in shape and has 15 minutes to spare. Dynamic Tension involves tensing the muscles of one body part and moving it against the tension, in essence accomplishing the same thing you would by lifting a weight. As you grow stronger, the exercise gets more intense, developing your body further. Calf raises, dips and bicycle crunches are a few of Atlas’ favored movements.
The folks over at The Art of Manliness have posted images and a few written examples of Atlas’ routine if you want to try it out.
I was never a “97-pound weakling.” I was, however, a 175-pound dough-boy. Had I been an impressionable young lad in the 50s I probably would have ordered Atlas’ fitness book. Heck, old school badasses like Rocky Marciano, Joe Louis and Joe DiMaggio were practitioners of Dynamic Tension.
Charles Atlas Ltd. is still going strong (pun intended). Its program is still the same, down to the old-school black-and-white imagery. P90X this is not. Visit the company’s <a href=”http://www.charlesatlas.com/”>official website<a> and see for yourself.
Last week I wrote about the effectiveness of push-ups. Atlas’ Dynamic Tension method is another great example of using your body weight to get in shape. You don’t need fancy equipment or gym memberships. Simply shelling out the cash isn’t going to get you anywhere. Give Dynamic Tension a shot. Unlike Atlas, however, you don’t need to wear a Speedo.
About John Brhel John Brhel is a freelance writer from upstate New York that enjoys picking apart life's idiosyncrasies and listening to Huey Lewis & the News.