By Link House Publications, 1947
“It is a shameful thing,” wrote Socrates, one of the wisest of the ancient Greeks,
to grow old in neglect without having realized to the utmost such strength and beauty as your body is capable of. Strength and beauty will not come of themselves. He who takes no care for them will never achieve them.
Health is the greatest prize in the world, for without it wealth avails nothing and love remains inadequately satisfied. Surely, therefore, the study and exercise of the body for a few minutes each day should be as much a duty and necessity as eating and sleeping. If health is lacking you cannot enjoy what you eat because you cannot properly assimilate and digest it, nor will sleep come naturally and easily so that you awake refreshed in mind and body.
Nature must be encouraged and assisted in her task of building the body. It must be compensated for the abuse of the body by neglect and wrong living. And the only means whereby you can build up strength, promote muscular development and repair the ravages made by wrong or inadequate usage is exercise, systematically and intelligently carried out.
But in your first burst of enthusiasm do not let eagerness get the better of common sense. The processes of Nature are gradual: they should not be hastened in the hope of securing a development beyond the physical powers or out of all proportion to the framework of the body. Your daily exercise must not run counter to the dictates of Nature by being violent or spasmodic. You must not undertake too much in the initial stages. Exercise must be systematically carried out. If these common sense rules are not observed lassitude and actual deterioration are quite likely to be the result instead of development you aim at.
Muscles Controlled by the Will
It is not, however, enough to exercise carefully and systematically. You must exercise intelligently as well and it is impossible to do this unless you know something about the muscles that are being brought to play. The study of the charts of the muscles and memorizing of the principal muscles should therefore be the physical culturist’s first task. We say the principal ones because there are some 400 muscles on each side of the body. These muscles are divided into three classes:
- Striated or Voluntary Muscles
- Non-striated or Involuntary Muscles (those, for instance, found in the skin and blood vessels)
- Heart muscles
The group that concerns us here are the voluntary muscles. These are, generally speaking, composed of bundles of fibers enclosed in a covering of protective tissue (which is called the perimysium), to which are affixed the tendons. The tendon is a kind of tough inelastic tissue which connects the muscle with some other part of the body. The muscle exerts force but the tendon transmits it.
One of the most important things to note about the Voluntary muscles is that they are under the control of the will. Now the will is a very powerful agent. Perhaps in the Millennium or the ultimate ideal state of mankind the Will will become all powerful, in which case we may be able to dispense with our bodies, as some advanced thinkers suggest. But we must let the dim and probably improbable future take care of itself. The aim of the physical culturist is to perfect his body by physical exercise and subjection to the will.
It is not generally realized that you can will your muscles to develop. By focusing your mind on them a stimulus is created in the nerve centre. An increased flow of blood follows and the muscle is thus strengthened and invigorated, rendering it capable of greater effort. This explains why those who do heavy outdoor manual work are not necessarily well-developed. They exercise their muscles mechanically, undirected by the will…