bodybuilding and psychology

Articles about psychology and personal development for bodybuilders.

The Power Of Thought

by David Martin

Somewhere some time back I caught sight of someone accusing our Editor of having a “Positive Philosophy” — and I shuddered.

Why? Well, partly because I know that almost every time that a guy is positive about something, it ” ain’t so. Secondly, I have recently ploughed through the maze of verbiage that surrounds a fairly new philosophy called “Logical Positivism” and would hate to have Henry Atkin mixed up with that.

Of course, the reader never meant anything like that at all. What he really wanted to say was, “Henry Atkin is an optimist and believes in action plus thought, and not thought without action, and certainly not action without thought” However, the study of Logical Positivism has its discipline, and some very pungent remarks can be made against woolly thinkers in other fields.

ma;e vintage physique photography

Joe Rocca from Champ magazine

For instance, say the L.P. devotees, “Statements may be divided into two orders, those which are subjective opinions and those which are tautologies.” The psalms of David are bung full of tautologies such as “The meek will He guide in Judgement and the meek He will teach in his way.” The second half of that statement is a tautology used for the purpose of clarification. “All mathematical statements are tautologies” assert the L.P.s. “Two and two are four” is only saying by code “One-and-one and one-and-one are one-and-one-and-one-and one.” “Two and Four” are just short codes for something we already know.

The subjective statements are things like “that picture is beautiful,” for such a statement is only valid for the person who makes it, and other people may think the picture is ugly.

You now see how beautiful a maze civilisation and education and philosophy have built around truth — but of what is this maze constructed ? Words, words, words … as Hamlet has said with delightful sarcasm. Can words destroy this maze? Possibly. But the fact is that, as I pointed out in my first article for BODY CULTURE, Charlie Marx has already said, ” Philosophers have philosophised about the world long enough — our task is to change it.”

Armed with this weapon against thought, the Communist Party of Soviet Russia set out to change the world, using, as they thought, the logic of mathematics, and a fine mess they are getting into.

A long while ago I coined an aphorism that would perhaps solve their problem for them. I am so proud of this particular truism that I shall refer to it from time to time. If it is my only contribution to the maze of words around thought, I think that I have justified ray entry into the conclave of word-jugglers.

”The desire to be logical is an emotional desire.” I am going to repeat that again and again until it makes a hit somewhere, and stops a lot of cold, ”logical ” emotionalists from destroying beauty, hope and love from the face of the earth.

The pragmatists say in essence that if it works, it is true, and unfortunately this goads all sorts of people into making things work temporarily, even although they know they are not true. The whole army of capitalist political economists are devoted to making the lie that ”money has value and interest is a law of nature” a pragmatic truth, which, of course, is an abuse of the power of thought.

The power of thought is its ability to make things happen which otherwise would seem impossible. Heavier-than-air flight is an example of the power of thought being put into action and achieving the apparently miraculous. But thought cannot change the laws of nature. We only fly by the operation of these laws in our favour, by turning demonstrable facts into useful allies. Therefore, a man can add to his stature by taking thought (in spite of the Bible), but not in spite of the laws of physiology — only by applying them.

”You can if you think you can” is only partly true. It would be more accurate to say, ”You can, if you know the correct method and use it “; but it is also very likely that ” If you think you can’t you jolly well won’t.” So optimism, tempered by knowledge, plus action, guided by experience, is the correct attitude for the would-be successful.

vintag bodybuilder photo art

Jean-Charles St. Mars by Caruse from Demi-Gods magazine

It is my duty to help you with optimism and knowledge. In this magazine you get the sum total of experience and knowledge of all its writers — but the ACTION can only come from YOU.

It is amazing how many people talk themselves out of success because they have an emotional reflex against the road that they must take to obtain it. We have a lad in the club whose resistance to instruction is as automatic and as deadly to himself as the lemmings’ impulse to migrate.

He finds he can Press more by sagging, so he sags away happily until he is almost doing a wrestler’s bridge. Then he gets VERY annoyed because his poundages are static over long periods. Tell him anything like this and he says, ”Oh, but I’m different.” There is hope for him, however, for after we have been plugging any particular criticism for a long time he sneaks off and tries it out our way and naturally improves a little. The whole process comes, I believe, from the fact that he is a simple lad at heart, and must have been the victim of so many leg-pulls as a child that he believes nothing is true unless he finds it out for himself. Slowly . . . very slowly, however, he is finding that anything I tell him usually works, and so must be one day he may become a less intransigent pupil.

In some ways lie is pitifully afraid of being physically hurt or suffering defeat, therefore he is willing to challenge anyone smaller than he is to a wrestling match or test of strength. When he meets his equal or superior he usually excuses himself by saying, ”Oh, but you’re older (or younger !) than I am.”

In spite of all this he makes slow progress and can now (in the worst of styles) press twenty per cent, over body weight and hold a wobbly hand balance for sixty seconds. What really annoys one, however, is the fact that he is potentially the strongest boy in the club.

Can you see any little quirks in yourself that are holding you back like the youth to whom I refer? You can — if you don’t think you can’t. You can, if you are willing to exert yourself. You can, if you are prepared to make the effort, even though the effort brings a little discomfort, a little pain, and a little sacrifice.

One of the greatest incentives is competition, and politicians are wearing out their sub-standard brains trying to synchronise competition and co-operation in the productive and inventive fields. They must always fail, because they want to exploit the competitive spirit for their own personal gain, and the masses have been so often spurred to do their best and had the results filched from them by law and money-jugglery that they almost instinctively unite in cooperation against the re-introduction of competitive instincts, in which, like the gladiators of old, like fights like, for the benefit of a cynical spectator.

In sport and body-building the competitive spirit is only utilised by the participants for their mutual benefit, and no third party cashes in — that is, in amateur sport, anyway. Professional sport is not sport at all, but business. Mostly dirty business. We have evolved a system at our club in which the competitive spirit is used to make our members WORK. The powerful emotion of wanting to win has been allied to the powerful thought that one is helping another to get more benefit from his exercises.

We also economise in the use of the barbells, because in each case two men are using one barbell together. It is like this. Two men sit facing each other on a bench as close as their knees will let them, and between them is a barbell with a fairly good curling poundage. Very few people are exactly equal in curling Strength, so each decides how many curls he can get out of the weight at one set. The strongest starts with, say, ten curls and as soon as he has finished he hands the bar to his opponent, who tears off eight and hands it back. The competition is won bv the guy that gets the most sets out of the bar. If you want to fight to a standstill you can drop one repetition each set after the first two.

The same system can be applied to Pullovers, both bent arm and straight, by-two lifters lying head to head. The Press Behind Neck and Military Press can also be tried if you remember the transference of the bar is easier when it is at arms’ length.

Floor and parallel bar dips can be done on a straight repetition competitive method, as both trainees are using their own bodyweight. If you have plenty of bars in your club the whole thing can be speeded up by the exercisers working simultaneously, each trying to keep it up longer than the other.

Experience will show you that yon could have always obtained more repetitions than you thought possible from a certain poundage. By actual experiment you will have proved that the goad of competition in your mind has given your body more power. The limitations you have allowed your mind to put on your muscles have been removed by that same power.

Your opponent will be glad he had you to spur him on to obtaining a real work-out, and so will you. No third party gains from you, but you have both realised the truth that the great emperor and philosopher, Marcus Aurelius, was right when he said,”Life is more like wrestling than dancing. Our adversary is our helper.”

What, back to philosophy again? Yes. And also the power of words. One of my boyhood heroes was Mr. Earle Liederman. His strong jaw used to jut out from the advertisement sections of the old Black Mask magazine, and he used to blare at me, “That man inside YOU. What is he doing to make himself a REAL man ? What sort of a guy will you be next year ? Are you skinny and undeveloped or would you like to be the sorta guy folks are PROUD to know ? ”

Of course, Mr. Liederman was selling a muscle course, but I ignored that. Mr. Liederman was far, far away in America, but his words inspired me just the same. Well, go on . . . READ that advertisement of Mr. Liederman’s over again. Ask yourself its questions. Mr. Liederman isn’t dealing in postal courses any more. He is the editor of a magazine that, in spite of a certain bombast and blah, still carries that same message of punch and power that seems to exude even from Mr. Liederman’s photographs.

Over here in Britain we are a little more modest. We try and tell the truth, even when it is not so pleasant as an invention. BUT we do believe, «is Mr. Liederman believes, that optimism, if it results in action, is a better attitude of mind than pessimism. BUT it must take action.

While you have been reading this magazine you have been thinking. When you get along to the club let your thoughts result in ACTION. Don’t debate with everyone what is good practice or bad during exercise periods. If you want to debate, join a debating club — a weight-lifting club is a weight-lifting club.

That’s what you go for. Do it and the results are as certain as any thing on this earth. You will be stronger, healthier and happier . . . TRY IT!

From Body Culture, volume 2 № 1, December 1950

Practical Psychology

by Peter Carrick

YOU know, the people who bound through life in a natural, confident manner, those self-possessed, positive-thinking individuals, never fully realise how lucky they really are. In any endeavour, and especially in bodybuilding, they start out with a tremendous advantage over their more negative-minded friends. That doesn’t mean, however, that a retiring, negative individual should be content to sit back and use his inferiority as an excuse for his lack of progress.

If you happen to be one of those unfortunate people who, like myself, are naturally prone to worry and a negative attitude towards life, then you must learn what to do so that your way of life will be improved.

Bodybuilder Jack Thomas in 16 y.o. photo art

Jack Thomas is 16 year old High School boy of Oakland, California, and a pupil of Jack La Lanne. Photo by Warner.

Practical psychology is, without doubt, your saviour.

In my last article I told you that practical psychology, when properly applied, could help the negative-minded bodybuilder to derive more benefit from his training. This month I intend to explain how certain principles of practical psychology can best be applied by the body-builder for his own benefit.

Firstly, the essential ingredients for a more positive and therefore more successful life I define briefly as: (1) confidence; (2) enthusiasm; (3) concentration; (4) determination; (5) the elimination of all worry and anxiety; (6) the planning of your general life in accordance with your aims.

If the negative-minded person will only understand that all his actions and endeavours are governed by these six very important principles, a more successful life will certainly be assured. Let us see, then, how we can encourage these qualities so that we may become more successful.

Many body-builders who achieve only limited success from their training have solely their lack of confidence to thank for their unfortunate condition. You can see examples of this type of person almost everywhere. Sometimes they are called ” grasshoppers,’* for they flit from schedule to schedule with a regularity duplicated only by time itself. New exercises are discreetly tucked on to the end of their workout — just to give that little bit extra and all the new bodybuilding theories are thoroughly studied and religiously applied.

Unfortunately, these theories often prove to be very conflicting. Nevertheless, the poor negative body-builder persists in his attempts to determine which theory is correct, but, unable to do so, a state of unsettled ness results. Doubts regarding the efficiency of the adopted course of training creep into the poor human mind.

Is this exercise good for my body type? What of the energy output during workout? Mr. X in the current edition of ” Z ” magazine advocates only three exercises for my body type and here I am slogging myself by doing six. Little wonder I can’t gain. I think I d better change my schedule around a bit. So it progresses, with mental conflict increasing as each new theory is read, until finally the pupil either gives up in disgust, completely disillusioned, or at best achieving only a small percentage of the success which could surely be his. And all this because he has little or no confidence in his own methods.

However, though the brake on progress brought about by an extreme lack of confidence can be very severe, practical psychology and thought training can, in no small measure, help to overcome this undesirable condition.

The first thing to do is to scrap the course of training you are doing at present. This may seem rather drastic, but you obviously have no confidence in its effectiveness, so what’s the use in carrying on?

The next step is to take a rest for a week or so from all training. During this time define your immediate needs. Maybe it’s all-round development, possibly leg concentration, or upper body work might be your prime necessity. Take your time, think clearly and become quite certain about this. When you have finally decided, insist on having the best possible course available which will satisfy these needs.

This doesn’t necessarily entail a huge financial outlay, for the country’s best body-building authorities are always willing to advise you at the low cost of a stamped, addressed envelope. Practical psychology insists that you make conditions as favourable for progress as possible, so it is vital that you adopt a schedule of training which you believe in your own mind to be the best.

These seemingly unimportant points are nevertheless absolutely essential for success, for only by insisting on having what he believes to be the best possible instructor and instruction available can the negative-minded individual ever hope to have sufficient faith and confidence to make reasonable headway.

Once you have finally decided on your course, firmly resolve to believe in its efficiency. You’ve decided on the best instruction, therefore you simply must improve with it. Keep asserting to you are becoming bigger and more muscular—that this is the one and only course for you. Forget about all other so-called theories, and refuse to have anything whatever to do with any ‘ pet” exercises which certain stars may insist were the cause of their outstanding development. You have your course, the one made specially for you. Be confident of ihe final result. Stick to your training and let other people get on with theirs.

When this confidence is firmly established, insist that it will be sustained completely for as long as possible. Don’t expect results in a fortnight. No course will improve you in that time. You must give it a chance to work, therefore confidence must be kept up for at least a couple of months. This shouldn’t, in fact, prove to be very difficult, because you’ll find that if you continue to fill your mind with confident, positive thoughts, you’ll tend to become naturally more enthusiastic and confident. Remember, always, that confidence is essential to complete success.

Earlier we accepted that a more positive life has six essential qualities. We have dealt with the first, the ways of developing confidence: now we come to another important point, the problem of sufficient enthusiasm.

My dictionary defines the word enthusiasm thus: an ecstasy of mind; ardent zeal; elevation of fancy. Personally, I prefer to think about enthusiasm in a more modern sense, i.e., as keenness. Keenness is so closely connected with inspiration, particularly in body-building, that I feel we cannot conveniently speak of one without the other. In nearly all cases you’ll find additional enthusiasm to be a natural consequence of increased inspiration.

Vintage bodybuilder Bernard Pesco

Bernard Pesco of the Viking Barbell Club, runner-up "Mr. S.E. Britain, Jnr.," 1949, has made a qualifying total and will most likely compete, as a Featherweight, in the Maccabean Olympic Games in Palestine during October. Photo by Green, A.R.P.S.

To show interest in body-building at all shows that certain enthusiasm is there. Sometimes, generally when results seem hard to get, enthusiasm sinks to a low ebb, this action in turn tending to encourage the negative emotions of depression and frustration. Practical psychology, if it is to benefit the indifferent body-builder, must show means whereby a good proportion of enthusiasm can be kept up even when major obstacles are encountered, so that the life of the individual may be kept flowing in a more or less positive way.

You’ll notice I said only a proportion of the enthusiasm must be keet up. Why not all of it? It would, of course, be ideal if we could maintain maximum enthusiasm even when faced by great difficulties. I believe that only a few of the more naturally positive-thinking individuals can be at the peak of enthusiasm all the time. It’s my belief that a lack of enthusiasm, at such times when results shown (comparatively speaking) are far below normal, is quite a natural manifestation of the human mind.

Therefore we must realise from the start that enthusiasm will tend to dwindle at times. If we fail to grasp this important fact, we shall only impede our progress still further. Simply by showing concern at our lack of enthusiasm we will encourage still extra depression and therefore even less favourable results will come from our training. So first accept this fact; then concern yourself with the problem of stimulating your feelings, so that this depression period will be as short as possible.

Remember, I said earlier that enthusiasm is generally a natural consequence of increased inspiration. Here, then, lies our answer. In inspirational psychology we find the solution to our problem of inadequate enthusiasm. We’ve all experienced the additional feeling of well-being and increased keenness for training after reading a certain person’s success story or the fine articles written for BODY CULTURE by David Martin and Henry Atkin. After reading such articles we have gone to our barbell and trained, perhaps with more confidence, more happiness and more enthusiasm than for a long time. This, my friends, is because we have been inspired by what we have read.

The very fact that magazines like BODY CULTURE are so consistently enthusiastic in their whole make-up is one reason they are so very desirable. Each month BODY CULTURE, in addition to supplying the best possible technical advice, provides inspiration for thousands of body-builders simply because its instruction, articles, photographs and advice always appear to be so enthusiastic about the whole physical culture game. So when your enthusiasm is below par, turn to inspiration to rekindle that lost spark of keenness.

If you read a success story which particularly impresses you by its triumph over adversity, or even a short news item for that matter, cut it out and put it safely away in a drawer. Do this until you have a little collection, say, 10 or 12, and see they are kept clean, tidy and readable. Keep these stimulating episodes ready for when you arc a little depressed or dissatisfied with your progress. At such times read the inspirational stories over, slowly and deliberately. Continue reading them until your mind is able to completely realise the great difficulties which these successful people had to conquer in their journey to success.

If there is a personal friend whom you particularly admire for his courage and enthusiasm, he may provide you with the inspiration you are seeking. Go to this person and talk to him. Ask advice, and try and adopt a little of his philosophy of life. In these ways you’re certain to benefit. For further inspiration, read the life stories of the world’s famous men and women. You’ll be amazed to find that many of them achieved their greatness in spite of almost impossible odds.

Another good thing is not always to train on your own. I’m sure readers who were in the services during the last war will bear me out when I say that it was only because of the great comradeship which prevailed, and the fact that there was always someone apparently keen, enthusiastic, happy and optimistic, that the miserable, often appalling, war conditions were endured at all.

Certainly, enthusiasm can be very infectious; so if you happen to train alone and suffer from non-enthusiastic spells, try trotting down to the nearest club and chatting with other body-builders. Mix with confident people, people who also share your ideals; the feeling of being ”alone ” is often very real and depressing. Remember, above all, that the majority of your problems in bodybuilding can be helped by adopting a course of positive thought training.

Realise, then, that confidence and enthusiasm are two factors playing a vital part in body-building success—that confidence is increased by having faith in your schedule, and that enthusiasm can nearly always be increased by turning to inspiration.

In a future article I hope to say a little about the other four important points which make for a more positive and successful life. Meanwhile, I’m sure if all body-builders lacking in confidence and enthusiasm will study and apply the principles of positive thought, their perseverance ‘will be well rewarded.

Remember, you are what you are because of what you think. Resolve now to be a success and it will be so.

From Body Culture Volume 1 Number 10, August 1950

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