Old-Time Strength: Eugen Sandow
(This is part of a series looking at old time strongmen and bodybuilders and the training methods and programs they followed. Note: The set, reps and weight used will be left out so you can tailor the program to fit your needs and strength levels.)
The most famous bodybuilder in the early days of the sport, indeed perhaps the first modern bodybuilder was Eugen Sandow. Born Friederich Wilhelm Mueller on April 2, 1867. Born in Prussia (now part of Germany), he began his career as a sideshow strongman.
Early in life, and with the help of showman Florenz Ziegfeld, Sandow decided it wasn’t enough to simply demonstrate his strength, but to actually display his muscular physique as though it were a work of art.
Sandow was quite strong, even for a man of today. In one of his acts, he would walk across the stage carrying a pony (about 350 lbs.) overhead with one arm (and supporting the rest of the animal on his neck and shoulders). He lifted 269 pounds on the bent press.
Sandow could also do a standing back somersault while holding a pair of 56 lb. dumbbells. His physique was what truly set him apart from other strongmen, of course. It was to see Sandow’s muscles in his “Muscle Display Performances” that made him one of the most famous men of his day.
Sandow passed away in 1925, but his prowess as the first great bodybuilder lives on.
Sandow was a big believer in gymnastics and bodyweight exercises as well. He would often combine his training, doing gymnastics and bodyweight mixed in with weight training. Below is an example of one of his methods of training. He would do the exercises with dumbbells, barbells and kettlebells, like most of the old-timers.
Notes: Train consistently 2-3 days per week and add weight to the bar whenever possible and get lots of rest, eat good food and drink plenty of water.
Understand that to be successful in any weight training program – hard work is a must! Half-hearted effort does nothing for you. If you’re new to weight training or grossly out of shape, consult a physician first. End of disclaimer.