Anyhow, one of the keynote speakers and organizers of the conference was Dr. Dudley Allen Sargent, who was the director of what was undoubtedly the finest training facility in the world at the time: The Hemenway Gymnasium (on the Harvard Campus).
Amongst his peers, Sargent pointed out a manner of thinking about training which was valuable at the time and certainly still very much so a century later… Instead of making wild assumptions about training and what was possible (which was commonplace then and now), Sargent relied on what he had been observing throughout all his years in service.
Over time, Sargent noticed that certain patterns started to become very obvious — and it was from this information that he drew these conclusions (which I would whole-heartily agree with):
(2) There should be a weight or resistance to overcome in order to bring out the working force of the muscle. In using a weight the muscle gradually acquires the force with which it tries to contract.
(3) The exercise must be performed with sufficient vigor and rapidity to engage the energetic contraction of the muscles employed. When this is done, old tissue is broken down, and its place is supplied with new material in increased quantity, thus augmenting the size and strength of the muscles.
The brain gains the power and energy which the exercise requires it to put forth.
(4) Weak parts must first be strengthened, and then as many muscles as possible must be brought into action in order to secure a full-orbed and harmonious development of the whole body. One-sided development is usually attained by robbing some other part of its just share of the body’s nutriment.
Most persons in their daily occupations use the flexor muscles more than the extensors — thereby cramping the vital organs and interfering with their functions. To remedy this tendency the muscles should be made to act from the centre as far as possible in all forms of artificial exercise.
(5) A sufficient number of muscles should be called into action at one time to stimulate the action of the heart and lungs and increase the circulation and respiration. This is one of the most important considerations to bear in mind in regard to exercise.
To keep up this increased respiratory activity, and to aid the heart in removing the waste material and hastening forward the new, the limbs and walls of the chest must be absolutely free from any ligatures or constrictions.
The slightest interference with the action of the respiratory muscles at this time embarrasses the functions of the lungs and heart. This is the reason why loose clothing is always advised for exercise.
(6) As a latent period precedes the contraction of a muscle, so a momentary period of rest should as far as possible precede movement in exercise. This is best secured where there is an alternation in the movements, as in walking, running, rowing, etc. All tetanized movements, such as holding weights, attitudinizing, standing or sitting in a constrained position, etc., tend to impair the tone of the muscles by interfering with the nutrition of both muscles and nerves.
(7) The exercise of the young should be of such a composite nature as to bring about the co-operation and co-ordination of the muscles. This involves principally the training of the central nerve system. All gymnastic sports and athletic games that require skill, dexterity, coolness, courage, and presence of mind, are included in this list, and are exceedingly valuable to any system of physical training, as adjuncts in the development of character.
(8) All vital processes depend largely upon the maintenance of animal heat. But animal heat is now known to be generated in the blood while passing through the muscles, and not in the lungs, as was once supposed. The full contraction of the muscles greatly aids this function, and helps to force the warm blood through the tissues and back again to the heart.
(9) In order to realize the best results from physical exercise and keep up the general nutrition of the body, all muscular effort should be followed by a hot bath or massage.
(10) In every kind of physical exercise the qualities at first required are the qualities at length developed. Thus, if the exercise requires strength, strength will be the result; if courage is exacted, courage will be the outcome; if quickness, quickness; and so through the whole range of faculties exercised.
Interestingly, I would have come to many of the same conclusions in my comparatively brief physical training career. Of all these observations though, one that I would put particular emphasis on would be #10 – that sums up a lot of things in only a few words…
Last Tuesday afternoon, a number of Harvard students were given a great surprise by a sturdy little French athlete Pierre Gasnier, whose exhibitions of strength have been one of the features of the great Barnum & Bailey shows for the past six years. Gasnier was introduced to Professor Sargent. After Professor Sargent had made a thorough examination and taken the different measurements of the tremendous athlete. Gasnier, in the presence of over 150 of Harvard’s best athletes performed feats of strength which called forth unstinted applause from the students and caused Professor Sargent to step forward, shake the hand of Gasnier and exclaim “Gasnier, you are a physical marvel!”
Among the more difficult feats accomplished by the sturdy Frenchman were the breaking of a piece of chain which had been tested to sustain a weight of 750 pounds by expanding the chest… breaking a similar piece of chain with his biceps… stretching three strands of rubber out to arm’s length while the combined strengths of five students could only stretch then four inches… lifting and placing at arm’s length above the head, with one hand, a dumb-bell, the largest and heaviest in the gymnasium, weighing over 200 pounds… and many more feats of strength just as extraordinary. Considering the size and weight of the man, Professor Sargent says “all of his feats of strength are marvelous,”
Pierre Gasnier stands a little under 5 feet 3 inches in height and weighs 137 pounds yet his chest measurement is 47 inches.
– The Boston Post, Nov. 17, 1903.
One of Koehler’s major contributions was to secure funding for the building of a new gymnasium which, when completed in August of 1892, was superior to any in the world at the time. The rare shot shown above was how it looked in 1895. Look closely and you’ll see Indian clubs, wall pulleys, climbing ropes, tumbling mats, climbing ladders and many other pieces of classic gymnastic equipment.
Koehler was a member of the famed Frankford Squad.
Hewlett is pictured here with the tools of his craft: boxing gloves, Indian Clubs, Dumbbells, medicine balls and the wooden wand. It should also be known that this picture represents the very first time a medicine ball was photographed in the US (taken around 1860). Interestingly, at the time most physical culture figures generally recommended very light apparatus work but Hewlett appeared to favor much heavier clubs and dumbbells. Also of note are those pretty nifty “dumbbell clubs” on the left.
Two other items of interest about Mr. Molyneaux: His daughter, Virginia married Frederick Douglass. In 1900, his son, E.M. Hewlett, became the first African American lawyer to win a case before the Supreme Court of the United States (Carter vs. Texas).