Muscles of Iron

Strength, Health, and Might

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Eugen Sandow lifting a dumbbell with a human-filled basket at each end.

Sebastian Miller – The Bavarian Hercules

“HE IS AS STRONG AS SANDOW” read a headline in the Los Angeles Herald, dated February 8, 1894. The reference was to Sebastian Miller, a wrestling champion and heavy–weight lifter. Miller was born in Bavaria in January, 1862, and he demonstrated exceptional strength even as a young lad. In fact, it was reported that at […]

A Hot-Blooded Workout

I was 15 years old when Foreigner’s Double Vision album was released. Hot Blooded immediately became my favorite track on the LP, and this song played a key role in many of my early “Heavy-Duty” workouts. With its distinctive guitar riff and provocative lyrics, this rocker never failed to heat things up in the gym […]

Larry Scott on Incline Bench Design

Larry Scott, the first Mr. Olympia winner, released a gem of a book some years ago entitled Loaded Guns. This is a pure bodybuilding book, and, in my opinion, one of the best ever written. Scott’s great work is filled with excellent and unique training tips, and his informative script also packs in a lot […]

A New Super Grip-Building Article from Peter Yates

I am very pleased to announce that Peter Yates, an established strength writer, martial arts expert, and fitness guru, has written a new killer article for MOI. Peter’s new work thoroughly explains how to build your grip and wrists by implementing six relatively forgotten exercises into your training routine. These six “lost” grip builders were […]

The Grimek Squat-Stands Apparatus

A while back I wrote a blog post entitled, A Power Rack from the 1940’s. This post features a drawing of an early-style and hand-built power rack that was used regularly by many of the strongest men in Louisville, Kentucky at the Downtown YMCA during the Golden Age of Physical Culture. I’ve seen actual photographs […]

Growing a Workshop for Building Strength Equipment

Almost nothing can make you more proud of your gym than adding a homemade piece of strength equipment to it. Whether you build a simple weight bench or a sophisticated power rack, pride and personal satisfaction will always be associated with your signature training apparatus. If you don’t understand what I’m talking about, then you […]

The Reeves Power Rack

Here’s another concept for a homemade power rack. I call this one the Reeves Power Rack, named after Steve Reeves, a former Mr. Universe and movie star. The original sketch for this power rack was made at the Chemical Engineering Laboratory at Youngstown State University while I was a student there. It was made using […]

The Muscle Builder

Here are a couple more drawings from my Youngstown State University archive folder. Both illustrations are versions of “The Muscle Builder,” and I only wish I would have built a variant of this apparatus when I was younger. Anyway, anybody with a bit of imagination can find endless ways to build strength, muscle, and power […]

The Squat Frame Apparatus

During a recent visit in England, strength writer Peter Yates met up with Kevin Fitzerald, a fellow lifter and author of Deafness of the Mind — The Forgotten Children of Boston Spa. After training together, Kevin kindly gave Peter a very special and personal gift — his homemade squat frame. Below, at left, is a […]

How Paul Anderson Was Outsmarted by a High School Student

I have very little time for writing a post today, so I’m going to tell you a short story – one about how the “The World’s Strongest Man” was once verbally out-dueled by a high-school student. First a little background…. Back in the 1950’s, when Paul Anderson was setting world records in weightlifting on a […]

Train as a Unit

When I first starting training, I believed almost everything I read in popular bodybuilding text of the day. Worse, I tried whatever I was told works. It wasn’t until I shed my short pants and started training in earnest for sports that logical methods to improve one’s strength and conditioning led the way to the […]

The Murray Weight Bench with Barbell Uprights

As I promised in my previous post, here are a couple conceptual drawings of the Murray Weight Bench with barbell uprights added. I think that this Olympic–style bench would look great in any gym. Well, that’s it for today; it’s time to head to the MOI Dungeon and do heavy one–arm presses — Doug Hepburn […]

Building a Heavy-Duty Weight Bench in Eight Easy Steps

The sequence of photos below depict one of dozens of weight bench designs that have found their way into my storage cabinet. I call it the Murray bench. It is named after Jim Murray, a former editor of Strength & Health magazine. Glance through his book Weight Lifting and Progressive Resistance Exercise, and you’ll likely […]

Harry Paschall’s Power Training Apparatus

Back in the day when some muscle magazines were actually worth reading, Harry Paschall penned a wonderful article for Iron Man entitled, “A Simple Apparatus for Power Training.” In this feature, Paschall described a very basic safety rack that he once constructed in his attic. It cost him just a few bucks to build (circa […]

The Weight Plate Holder

Although often overlooked in the strength community, I consider the plate holder to be an essential tool for any weight gym. Owning one or two holders can go a long way to keeping your weights well organized, accessible, and off of the gym floor when you are finished with them. Sure, you can pile your […]

A Terrific Hold-Out Exercise for Greater Strength and Stamina

Reading the recent post about hold–outs by Chris Bostick reminded me that they were for many years a part of my conditioning for martial arts. I also read that this was how Joe Greenstein, “The Mighty Atom,” started his strength training. For our application in the martial arts, we would put water in buckets and […]

Short Barbell Stands

Many lifters own a set of barbell stands, but more often than not they are too tall for barbell curls, shrugs, seated presses, benches, and other exercises where the “lift off” is relatively low from the ground. The solution is to build custom stands that can hit a lower range. Featured in the drawing below […]

Blast from the Past Pulley Machine

In today’s post, let’s check out the dual pulley machine designed by the famous Dr. Dudley Allen Sargent around 1880 (see below). Note that the weights are held in two boxes, each which is prevented from swaying sideways by guide rods (B). A Rubber pad is also placed under each weight box to soften the […]

Running for The Weight Man

I always ran as part of my training regimen for powerlifting and general fitness when I competed. I never felt comfortable jogging. Contradiction? Not really. Jogging over long distances resulted in back and knee discomfort where as 3/4 max-speed sprints had no ill effect at all and enhanced my lifting ability. Photo 1 Many lifters […]

Build a Strong Neck with this Four-Way-Tension Exercise

After the major compound portion of a weight routine is completed you see guys hit the abs or forearms at the end, but rarely the neck. Take a few minutes and perform the exercise illustrated above for 10 reps with resistance in each direction for your neck. As your arms and shoulder girdle increase in […]

Get Stronger with Static Holds

Very rarely do you run into a movement that can be used both to demonstrate and to build strength at the same time. One example of such a rarity is the static hold. You can use dumbbells, kettle bells, or buckets of sand like shown in the image above. The Marine Corps and martial artists […]

A Power Rack from the 1940s

Several years ago I came across an old picture of a rudimentary power rack that had been used in the weight room at the Downtown YMCA in Louisville, Kentucky during the 1940’s. The apparatus was made entirely of two-by-fours. Not impressive by today’s standards, perhaps, but dozens of bodybuilders and weightlifters back in the day […]

The World’s Smallest Lifting Gym Comes Alive

Here’s the short version of the story: A few months ago my wife asked me if I would be willing for us to sell our dream home in Fisherville, Kentucky and move closer to Louisville mainstream. I readily agreed to do so thinking that our house would not sell for at least two years. I […]

Beef Up Your Quads with the Hack Squat

A great leg movement that requires only a barbell and a three-foot chunk of a two-by-six is the Hack squat. I’m referring to the upright sissy squat hybrid, not the reverse deadlift type that’s popular in the odd-lift contests these days. The competitive version does little for development. A single set of Hack squats of […]

The Davis Power Rack

Here’s a drawing of a simple but rugged power rack I recently designed called the Davis Power Rack. It is named after John Davis, the former American Olympic weightlifting champion. Despite its sheer elegance, this baby is designed to handle a lot of weight and take plenty of abuse. Looks great too, don’t you think? […]

Hanging Out At the End of the Bar!

No, we are not after any cold ones yet! The “end of the bar single arm row” is one great movement for a big area of muscle real estate. Some guys plant the unloaded end of the row bar in the corner of the room. I prefer placing this end of the bar on a […]

In Memory of Roger Fillary

On Friday, March 17th [2014], I received an e-mail from Gil Waldron advising me of the sudden passing of his friend, Roger Fillary. Gil and Roger were co-founders and operators of the Physical Culture (PC) history sites, Maxalding, Sandow Plus, and The Golden Age of Iron Men. Roger was the technology wizard of the duo, […]

Inexpensive Weight Holders for Your Power Rack

Need extra weight holders for your 2″x2″ square tubing power rack? I saw a popular brand for sale on the net the other day for $50.00 per pair, but the figure below shows a much less costly option. Here, we see a set-up consisting of a 5–inch-long, one–inch-diameter hex head steel bolt with nut plus […]

Don’t Get the Shaft; Get Shaft Collars!

Some strength equipment companies are reselling shaft collars under the name Allan collars and marking them up three to four times the cost. The shaft collar is a steel ring collar loaded with an allen head screw with shallow splits in the radius causing the steel ring to constrict once the screw is tightened with […]