Written this month by JOHN DAVIS, the World’s Strongest Man.
I recall reading in a book of statistics that, aside from the many other crimes committed against the female body, the practice of wearing certain foundation garments for support held a place of its own. I am speaking of the girdle, the corset and the many other mediaeval contraptions which women wear to attain sylph-like proportions. According to this statistical source, the unadvised use of these undergarments over a period of years has brought about irreparable damage to the female physique. (I am speaking about American women as a whole.) It is estimated that the girdle, to some degree, has indirectly been responsible for ever-increasing difficulty in child-birth, and that the constant use of tight undergarments for support over a period of ten to fifteen years has caused a decrease of four inches of circumference of the female pelvic girdle, thus making childbirth more difficult and more painful.
In some cases the pelvic cavity was so small in women of average physical proportions that obstetricians were forced to resort to “Cesarean section” (removal of the foetus by way of the abdominal wall). Some may say that this was not due entirely to the wearing of corsets and girdles. I agree; but at the same time I say that in an overall view it contributed to the results. Also, some women may contend that this method of child-birth is superior to the natural way, but I am not debating the pros and cons of the various methods of child birth. ” The physical condition of the female anatomy and the benefits of exercise” is my topic, and I hope I can shed some light and understanding on the subject at this time.
According to Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, the human body comprises some 659 muscles. Of these, 327 are in pairs and 5 are single. These muscles are held in place and assisted in motivation by a complex system of tendons and ligaments. Primarily, the muscles are present to help us move, to get from here to there, to lift things—in general, to accomplish our daily routines.
The numerical sequence above and the subject that followed is nothing new. But I specifically mentioned it to impress young women that, regardless if one is male or female, the number and quality of muscles in the human body are the same. The only difference, muscularly speaking, between the male and female body is the subcutaneous fatty tissue, of which the female has a greater amount. This fatty tissue is almost impossible to discard, even with the most strenuous exercise and diets.
Women have many excuses for putting off exercise, and the excuse that rears its ugly head more often than any other is, ”I don’t want to have big bulging muscles like a man.” At this point I would like to say,”I’m sure men wouldn’t want you to have big bulging muscles.” Muscles, like those work-outs we hear so much about, will not work unless you do. On the other hand, work-outs will forever be present when you wish to make use of them, but muscles will atrophy, shrivel up and waste away if you fail to make use of them. You may lose weight or you may gain weight: in any event the muscles lose tone and shape, and leave you in a miserable state, mentally and physically.
A machine hundreds of times stronger than human muscles will give way with constant use, wear out and break down. Whether you use a machine scientifically or otherwise, some part always has to be renewed in order to maintain the working efficiency. But only one possible result can be the final outcome of muscle activity; the muscles get bigger, stronger and healthier. Or you can adjust that activity, through the medium of planned exercise, to make them just stronger and healthier, or any combination you choose. Even if you abuse your body, it can, to some extent, adjust itself to that also.
I have mentioned the primary duty of muscles. Another function is to hold our internal organs in place; that is, to act as supports. Some people you see with bulging stomachs arc not necessarily fat. Their internal organs may have descended and assumed a convexity due to loose and starved tissue, undertoned muscles and a lack of resiliency—all resulting from a lack of exercise and improper diet. Since one of the functions of the muscles is to hold us together, so to speak, it seems to me it would be a great deal more thrifty on the part of women to go ahead and exercise. To wear girdles, etc., does not solve any anatomical deficiency, nor does it help the situation where their “big moment”, the man in their life, is concerned. When he discovers that what he assumed was nature’s doing is the work of some department store harness, his reaction may be very cool, to say the least.
To further complicate matters: if your shapeless condition is due to excess rolls of fat, the support of a girdle does not help in the least. The longer you sit around and reason why you shouldn’t exercise, the larger, fatter and more shapeless you become; and the bigger you get, the bigger the next purchase will have to be.
Nature was not meant to be suppressed in any form, especially the beautiful contours of the female body. It is a very simple matter to eat sensibly, and to practice moderate exercise. Exercise tones up the muscles and strengthens the tendons, so that they will do their natural job of supporting your internal organs. A girdle is unnatural and restricts movements to a certain degree, as well as impairing blood circulation. This is true, regardless of what popular advertising may say to the contrary. Aside from the above, the wearing of a girdle for even a short while results in discomfort. Exercise makes you feel young and above all it makes you look young. You needn’t fear masculine-like development. The work and weights to be handled in order to acquire such excessive development would completely exhaust a woman before the work-out was half over. There are recommended exercises under the proper tutelage for women to be found at the Viking Barbell Club or other gymnasia of your choosing. Henry Atkin has helped many girls to acquire the type of body they desired. He can help you to get rid of that girdle and on the road to super health, and, who knows—maybe ” Miss Britain ” !
Fortunately, or unfortunately, as the case may be, America’s influence reaches into the farthest corners of the earth. The one hoax that has plagued the women of the world (I assume foreign women are as vain about their physical proportions as are American) is the Hollywood version of what a woman should look like. There was a time during the first half of the 1930’s when Hollywood used real women in their chorus-girl scenes. After 1935, there was a trend of streamlining everything, including women’s bodies, until to-day, in every place we go, we see thin, definitely undernourished women. You see them in fashion magazines, fashion shows, theatre musicals and the cinemas.
Hollywood says a woman must meet certain standard requirements to be a success in the entertainment world—13-in. calves, 19-in. thighs, 23-in. waist, etc., and girls attempt to match these measurements. Neither Hollywood nor the girl seems to take into consideration the bone structure, size, height of type classification.
Women arc more conscious of their bodies than are men (?), but know less about their bodies than men do. Most men are aware of the fact that they cannot attain the massive measurements of a Hercules if they are possessed of the light, bony structure of an Apollon or the medium bony structure of a Theseus. But how many women are aware of the four female anatomical types : Diana, Juno, Venus and the Amazon ? I would say very few, because women arc constantly trying to acquire the lines of one of these types, unaware that they arc another type. You cannot emulate Hollywood’s idea of female perfection if you are large-boned. Yet you will often find a woman who, some way or other, starves herself and gets these measurements, and everyone concerned agrees she has the body of a goddess.
Let me give you an example. I here are women in motion pictures who stand 5 ft. 7 in. to 5 ft. 9 in. high I know they all couldn’t possibly have the same size bone structure: yet they all weigh between 120-138 lbs. ” Beautiful,” say he experts. ”The lines of Venus.” ‘I he chances are that they are, anatomically, Junos or Amazons An outstanding example of this is a well-known and glamorous American motion picture star. She has received immense publicity lauding the beauty of her face and body. A popular American weekly publication devoted seven or eight profusely-illustrated pages to extolling her beauty of body, and comparing her with old Greek statues.
Those of you who think you would like to be built like her may rest assured that by no stretch of the imagination could she be compared favourably with those statues of ancient Greek art. First of all she is underweight to the extent that she looks under-nourished. Her hips and thighs are small and wasted. It is known to all who read the papers that she is anaemic – a ion that results from not eating sufficient, and not choosing the proper foods.
Yet this woman is worshipped by a horde of admiring women (as well as men), the world over, as having the ideal body. Here is a prime instance of a Venus type trying to be a Diana.
I am acquainted with a woman who was constantly dieting (but refused to exercise) in an effort to acquire the thin lines of a Diana. She was an Amazon type, knew nothing about anatomical types and cared even less. She was 5 ft. 9 in. tall and heavy-boned, as are most Amazon types. She succeeded in reducing, but found to her dismay that, although dieting had brought down her weight, the absence of exercise had left the skin and flesh hanging in loose folds over protruding bones. Her shoulders stuck out like a scarecrow, and her knees were quite knobbly. In fact, she decided: “I look worse now than when I was heavier.”
One more example: A young woman was picked up unconscious in a New York street. She was taken to a hospital and examined by a medical man. The doctor diagnosed her condition as chronic malnutrition. She was asked if she was employed, to which she replied “Yes.” ” Why, then, are you starving ? ” asked the doctor. ” Because I want a slender figure,” she said. He then asked her how long she had been starving herself, and she said “Three years!” This foolish young lady died shortly afterwards. The moral of this story is that diet and exercise are synonymous in significance, that one is useless without the other, and that there is no easy way known to science to acquire a beautiful body. Hard work and will-power is the only formula.
The principle underlying exercises for the female body is the same as for the male body builder. You will have to work hard, perhaps several months to a year, to get what you want in a physical way. But once you have reached your goal and your only desire is to maintain a certain physical standard, the hard work is finished. You have only to workout a few minutes a day or, if you like, a little more time on two to four days a week. Watch your diet, and be careful not to eat too heavily of fattening foods. If you wish to become “Miss Britain,” then it’s a different story — hard work and a constant vigil on food at all times is the order of the day.
A figure analysis is in order when you decide you want to get in shape—that is, find out what anatomical type you are. The Diana type is usually very feminine in appearance. A certain amount of fatty tissue is almost always present, bringing out smooth flowing lines. Small bone structure and short stature are apparent. Small to medium bust size is usually the case. This type is seldom found in athletics of any sort. Diana types also have narrow hips and straight, full, feminine legs.
Juno is more rugged in appearance, has larger bones and is definitely taller. This type has, in many instances, very-broad shoulders and fairly broad hips. When left to their own sins Junos become very fat in a short while, and find it extremely difficult to reduce. They have, as do the Diana types, small to medium busts. The legs range from medium length to long, and are slightly fatty to muscular in appearance. When exercised they become more muscular, but a certain amount of smoothness remains. This type is often found in athletics.
Venus types are tall, narrow-shouldered and have small busts for women of their size. They are very smooth with much fatty tissue, and must always be careful of their physical appearance. They are extremely broad in the hips, and have long, full legs. Women of this type are seldom seen in athletics, and when they do take up sports hardly ever get into what we call good, hard condition. They always seem to maintain smoothness.
The Amazon type is, of course, huge all around — large bones and large muscles. Amazons are sometimes squatty in stature, and range all the way to towering six-footers. They are usually-active, and very successful in athletics, and when in good, hard physical condition tend to be very muscular in appearance. However, this can be avoided by keeping a slight layer of fat over the entire body.
Although I have described the four female anatomical types, they may not be accurate to the point of supporting a debate. I have described them from memory as I noted them in a magazine some twelve years ago, and I can no longer locate the book for a more accurate description. But rest assured that you have anatomical types as well as men do, and should familiarise yourselves with your individual type. Try to develop the criteria in this type of figure and to maintain it. Don’t do like the little lady I described previously and try to be something you are not intended to be. Don’t wear a girdle or corset unless recommended to do so by a competent physician; diet only when given a suitable dietary schedule by a qualified medical man. Why? Because diets, as you have seen, can be fatal. More than anything else, a diet must be planned to meet individual needs and wants so as to be properly balanced. Its purpose is to serve your body with the necessary daily-minimum / maximum requirements of vitamins, minerals and calories. Here in America—and I am quoting what 1 have read, not what I know—we pride ourselves on being the best-fed nation on earth. Yet there are people roaming the streets hungry. As a nation we are vitamin-starved, and have no individual knowledge of foods in general. But (and this is a very odd state of affairs), millions of dollars arc spent annually in research to find the proper diets for race horses, farm stock, pet fish and other things of this sort. People eat a sandwich and drink a cup of coffee on the spur of the moment to keep them going. If they feel there is something missing from their diets they merely go to the corner drugstore and buy a box of vitamins to supplement their otherwise inefficient diet. A peculiar aspect shown by the general American public is the tendency to laugh at and ridicule the young women and young men who show an interest in their health. You may find this true in England also. People laugh at you when you say you train with weights and watch your diet. But at the same time they gaze with admiration and envy on the photographs of well-built men and women in the various health publications. Even then, forced by jealousy, some say they wouldn’t want to be built like those people. Only recently I was showing a group of young women some photographs in BODY CULTURE of Miss Sheila Gevay (Miss England, 1947) and Miss Betty Watson. Their comments were:”They couldn’t get that way through exercise. They were probably born that way,” and “I wouldn’t want to be built like her,” referring to Miss Gevay. I had no comeback, but I did comment that I myself would like to be built like Miss Gevay.
In closing, I would like to say, “Go to it right away. If you put off exercising now, you will put it off later also, until finally there will be little hope left.” Exercise and proper eating make life a great deal fuller and worth living. It was estimated a few years ago that married women in the U.S.A. gain an average of ten pounds a year during the first ten years of marriage. It’s no wonder there are so many divorces among those who place a great importance on physical attraction. There is no need to wear tight, uncomfortable under-garments any more than you need have fear of getting big, bulgy, masculine muscles. Women have the same number of muscles to perform the same job as do men. Like men, there arc only two conditions to be concerned with -cither you are fat and out of condition, or you are muscular and in condition. SO, GIRLS, GET IN CONDITION NOW!
Body Culture, Volume 1 Number 10, August 1950