How to Get Strong
How to get strong is probably a question that is not asked as often as it once was. Less than a hundred years ago building strength was important to SURVIVE – either to come back from one of the many childhood ailments prevalent among the poor, or in order to work in one of the many heavy industries. Nowadays the question is more likely to be: How to LOOK fit, or ripped, or toned. In reality, however, strength is every bit as important today as it has always been. With a little inspiration and a little alteration to your mindset, you too can be STRONG!
How to Get Strong
The picture above is a hero of mine – Oor Wullie (Scottish for ‘Our William’). A Scottish cartoon character, Oor Wullie was menacing way before Dennis. Wullie liked to play football (soccer), make go-carts, get into fights and generally have ‘adventures.’ In this picture, he has a picture of Strongo on the wall and a book open to the page how to be strong. In the heyday of the Oor Wullie newspaper strips (the 30s to the 50s) I’m betting Wullie would have been fitter and stronger than 90% of young people today. He ran, he swam, he played soldiers, cowboys and Indians, and went fishing. He hiked, camped, boxed, he played with a go-cart, he sledged and so on. Wullie knew how to get strong without even thinking about it! Yet he wanted bulging muscles!! He may not have been ‘Strongo’ – but I’ll bet Wullie could have taken me in a fight!
Heroes of Strength
Although Wullie is examining that picture of ‘Strongo’, the person that he and his friends always aspired to was this gentleman here:
Desperate Dan had a huge barrel chest (and was so tough needed to shave with a blowtorch) – just the role model for skinny kids everywhere. Hell, at around the same time Charles Atlas was making a career out of offering a programme to give you just such a chest! The question on many a young boys lips was how to get strong like Desperate Dan?? Even on this site I’ve reproduced a little booklet called: How to Develop a Powerful Abdomen and in that same series is another booklet entitled: How to Develop a Powerful Chest!
Everybody Needs Heroes
The kind of hero-worship we see here is interesting. Don’t think for a moment that is only teenage girls who have posters on their walls of people they would rather be (or want to be with!). Also don’t think for a moment that it should be.
Just as women go the hairdressers with a photo cut from a magazine (or a picture on their phone), in the early stage of fitness there is nothing wrong with having something to aspire to. The important thing, however, is to recognize the difference between what you are aspiring to and what is actually possible for you! The person in the magazine or on Instagram is on year four or five (or more) of training – you’re on day ONE!
Steve Reeves Bodybuilder
Here’s one for the old-timers; Steve Reeves. Long before general interest in bodybuilding, Steve got himself into THIS shape. It’s no wonder that by all accounts people at the beach just used to stop and LOOK at him. This physique probably inspired many of the next (and current) generation of bodybuilders, but look at what one of the most famous bodybuilders of them all had to say on the way Steve looked:
We were at Jack La Lanne’s 65th birthday party, and Schwarzenegger came up to me and said, ‘Steve, you’ve always been an idol of mine.’ I looked him straight in the eye, half-smiling, and said, ‘Don’t give me that crap, Arnold. I read your book, and Reg Park was your idol.’ He said, ‘Well… only because I knew I couldn’t look like you.’
(From a great interview here.)
Getting the Perfect Body
This reminded me of something I had read earlier somewhere else. In the excellent “Ultimate Fitness: The Quest for Truth About Exercise and Health.” Gina Kolata talks of how the idea of the perfect body has changed over time:
The perfect body in those years (the 1950’s) was not heavily muscled…the ideal body had no obvious musculature – a sort of Cary Grant look for men and an Audrey Hepburn look for women. By the 1960’s… The aesthetic promoted a Twiggy look for women and a George Harrison look for men.
Funnily enough, however, Cary Grant was a fitness fanatic and was extremely fit, but he managed to remain an everyman. Yet people wanting to BE Cary Grant and LOOK like Cary Grant would just assume he was a regular Joe who never did a push up in his life.
Don’t be Fooled by the Everyman
Take a look at 2 other ‘everyman’ actors who always played ‘tough’ but who still looked like the guys down the plant:
For a few of his later roles Kurt did bulk up a bit, but look at his big early roles – Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York etc, he just looks like a dude. Again, this is a funny one as Kurt Russell was actually a professional athlete (baseball), but he never looked musclebound and a lot of times he got hit, he fell down! You would imagine you could BE Kurt Russell…until you read about how he had to train for these roles!
Same with Bruce Willis – he got beat up, he bled, but HE GOT BACK UP. Then Bruce beat people up, and made them bleed. He was (kinda) believable. By all accounts, Bruce HATED being in the gym in prep for these action roles, so again, don’t be fooled into thinking the ‘everyman’ look is an easy one to achieve.
Get a Strong Style
At the time of writing we live in world of skinny jeans and counting calories – slim is the name of the game (1960s anyone?). Some people will be able to achieve this – some will not. This is where consultations with your doctor (or just a good dose of common sense) come in.
- Find out the ideal weight for your build/height – and work to that
- Find an exercise you enjoy – work to that
- Find an eating plan that includes the food you like to eat – work to that
- Find an actor/actress (or anyone in fact) that is a similar height/weight to you and that you think looks good – and COPY THEIR STYLE NOT THEIR WORKOUT.
In the end, I want you to be your OWN hero. And you CAN do it without spending the price of a small house on personal trainers! After all, here at Internal Force Fitness, it’s all about making fitness fun!
Walter Camp’s Daily Dozen program and the other programs I promote on this site will NOT turn you into Strongo, or Hugh Jackman, or Chris Hemsworth. They WILL, however, make you strong in areas you are currently not strong. They WILL make you move a little easier and carry yourself a little better.
There is a reason that Hugh and Chris don’t look like Wolverine and Thor ALL of the time – to sustain that look would be (literally) exhausting. A basic workout programme will not dramatically alter your life – just your outlook on it!
Strength for Show
I have known people who have worked out for YEARS and look no different to when they started – and they complain about it.
I’m lifting twice as much weight, but I don’t see any difference…it’s so frustrating…
Let’s just take a look at that sentence again: I’m lifting TWICE as much weight… What difference do you WANT to see?? As Arnold Schwarzenegger says in the Pumping Iron movie – bodybuilders are like sculptors except their body is the sculpture. They isolate muscles, they train for shape and size (many also do other things we don’t talk about). Don’t confuse BEING strong with LOOKING muscular.
This is where you need to re-program that mindset about how to GET strong, how to BE strong and how to be HAPPY with the strength you develop.
Put simply, to GET strong you need to exercise to BUILD your strength. To BE strong you need to keep that exercise up. To be happy…well you simply leave it at that!
Richie Neville | Director
Internal Force Fitness