The Decades-Old Fitness Advice That Still Rings True

Dec 12 / Build Muscle

When fitness guru and bodybuilding poster boy Charles Atlas promised men of the early 1900s that he’d turn them from weaklings into masses of muscle, they listened. And then they bought “Dynamic Tension”—Atlas’ bodybuilding program based on bodyweight and isometric exercises, considered one of the most successful, impactful programs in history.

If you look at his ads—they were in practically every sort of publication a guy could pick up back then—you’ll see why. The advertisements were usually accompanied by a cartoon figure and a story of motivation based off Atlas’ own life: Born as Angelo Siciliano, he was once that 97-pound weakling. And after being bullied at a young age because of his size, he found inspiration from—of all places—the zoo.

As the story goes, Atlas studied how a lion was trained—and noticed that the animals had no exercise equipment or gyms, they simply “pit one muscle against the other.” To an America that put little emphasis on fitness as we know it today, Atlas’ programs altered his own body, many others, and the way men approached exercise.

A lot has changed in 80 years' time. And achieving and maintaining a strong body and ripped core requires more than Atlas’ promised 7 days—and a helluva lot of work. To be fair, much of Atlas’ advice was—well—questionable, like the idea that rubbing olive oil on your muscles could avoid stiffness.

But many of his concepts about fitness are still inspiring—and still ring true. For one? No gym is no excuse. With circuits like our musclemorphosis.com, the musclemorphosis.com, or the musclemorphosis.com, keeping your fitness goals on track is easier than ever. In fact, simple swaps—like switching from pavement to sand can up your strength gains, and you can increase the intensity of your pushup by decreasing your angle.

And just like Atlas’ posters promised, 15 minutes could be enough time. Work out harder and you won’t need to work out longer. In a recent Canadian study, college students performed as many reps as possible of a single exercise—burpees, pushups, mountain climbers, or jumping jacks—for 20 seconds, then rested for 10 seconds, repeating this process eight times for a 4-minute session. After doing this 4 days a week for a month, students significantly increased aerobic capacity the same amount as a group who ran at a steady pace for 30 minutes each time. Need a place to start? Our musclemorphosis.com series will help you burn more calories and fat than guys who workout for a half hour.