The Two Charles Bronsons
byJohn e. Peterson
The Competitive Edge in Athletic Strength and Fitness
The Two Charles Bronsons
I thought you might like to read a small biography section from my upcoming book, Power Sculpt—A Man’s Guide to Ultimate Push-Ups for the Awesome Physique. I hope you enjoy it.
I have been a big fan of the late action movie star Charles Bronson ever since I was eight years old and saw him in the classic western The Magnificent Seven (he played the muscular one whom all the kids liked). All you had to do was to watch any of his many movies to realize what a superbly conditioned and perfectly built actor/athlete he truly was.
Bronson’s movie list includes The Great Escape, The Dirty Dozen, Red Sun, Rider on the Rain, Once Upon a Time in the West, Chato’s Land, Death Wish, The Mechanic, From Noon to Three, and many, many more. In my all-time favorite Bronson movie, Hard Times, Charlie played a bare-knuckle street fighter in 1930s Depression-era New Orleans. There are numerous scenes in Hard Times where Bronson’s physique and fitness are clearly displayed to the best possible advantage. Remarkably, Bronson was 56 years old when he made that film, and he was in far better shape than anyone else in that entire film. In fact, one character whom he fought was Robert Tessier, a beefy weight lifter/bodybuilder; even though Bronson was much smaller, it was totally believable when Bronson kicked his . . . well, you know.
So how was it that Charles Bronson developed and maintained such a superb musculature throughout his life until his death in 2003 at the age of 83? Tony Curtis, a close friend of Bronson, wrote in his autobiography that Bronson never lifted weights but was constantly doing Isometrics and, you guessed it, training Woody Strode style, with hundreds of push-ups each day. Which, by the way, Mr. Curtis practiced daily as well. In his autobiography, Curtis also tells a story of being on the set of Spartacus and having this conversation with Laurence Olivier: “‘Tony, where do you get arms like that?’ I said, ‘Come with me.’ We went behind the dressing rooms, and I said, ‘Let’s do push-ups.’ So we did push-ups, and from then on we did them every day before we went to work. I’d say, ‘Come on, Larry,’ and we would do our push-ups. He got into it, and one day he said, ‘I owe you one.’”
And that brings me to the other Charles Bronson, the Prisoner.
In 2005, a friend who had purchased my first book, Pushing Yourself to Power, sent me a copy of a book titled Solitary Fitness, which he thought I would find interesting because the methods outlined in Solitary Fitness and Pushing Yourself to Power were similar in many respects, though not identical by any stretch.
The first thing I noticed that set Solitary Fitness apart from every other strength and fitness book I’d ever read was that it was written by a man who had served more than 28 years of his life behind bars in more than 100 different penal institutions throughout Great Britain. Add to that the fact that more than 24 of those years were served in solitary confinement due to his erratic and often violent behavior toward other inmates, prison personnel, and prison officials, and you have a rather unique viewpoint of the world that is being openly and honestly expressed in the pages of his book. Hence the book’s more than appropriate title, Solitary Fitness.
The other distinction was the man’s name. Though his birth name was Michael Gordon Peterson (no relation to me), he wrote Solitary Fitness under what I initially thought was the pseudonym of “Charles Bronson”—supposedly because that was the name his manager came up with during his short-lived career as a professional bare-knuckle boxer while briefly on the outside of prison walls in the 1980s. Whatever the reason, Michael Peterson’s real name is now “officially” Charles Bronson, and in many ways he does the actor proud.
How so? First off, the man is in awesome shape and is the living proof of what he teaches. Let me also say that there is not a person alive who could possibly follow the information outlined in Solitary Fitness to the letter and not be in awesome and fantastic shape for life as a direct result. Everything it contains is accurate, reliable, and right on the money. (Okay, I admit that the special exercises for enlarging the male “solitary organ” are a little off the beaten path along with the photo of a Hindu sadhu lifting a boulder with his private appendage. But other than that, everything really is accurate and reliable.)
Not only that, but you may find yourself getting a big kick out of Bronson’s humor and writing style. (Bronson has won many prestigious awards for his art and poetry.) The man has a wicked sense of humor, but it’s obvious he knows what he is talking about. For instance, right out of the chute on page one he states, “I pick up a muscle mag, I start to laugh and I wipe my . . . with it, it’s a joke and a big con, and they call me a CRIMINAL! All this crap about high protein drinks, pills, diets. It’s just a load of bollocks and a multi-million pound racket. Steroids, who needs them, why, what purpose?”
Bronson then goes on to make it clear that he and his Solitary Fitness methods are legendary throughout the entire British penal system, which I’m certain is absolutely true and that he can more than back up. He also makes it clear that he has no respect for phonies and regards professional bodybuilders as all show, no go freaks and pansies. As he states, “I’ll tell you now, the Arnies of the world are really pumped up freaks! Sorry, Arnie, but basically that’s all you are, it’s not only unnatural, it’s bloody ridiculous.”
On page 2, Bronson asks three simple questions. “Did cavemen use weights? Did Hercules or Samson use a gym? Did they take steroids or swallow pills? Did they bollocks!” Obviously, Bronson is right on target.
So what exactly is the Solitary Fitness Method, and what kind of results does it produce? Bronson answers that question this way: “Some days I will push 3,000 to 6,000 press-ups [push-ups]. It sounds inhuman, amazing! Remember, I am 50 years of age (in 2003), and I am as fast now as I was at 30 years of age! I’m 5'10-1/2" tall and weigh 230 pounds of solid muscle; if I hit you, I’ll deform your looks. I can hit a man 20 times in four seconds! I can push 132 press-ups in 60 seconds. Can Arnie?” Obviously, Bronson’s strength and fitness is so far above and beyond any bodybuilder that there isn’t even a comparison to be made. Simply put, we’ve all heard about the proverbial character whom you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley, and it’s him!
So what’s the bottom line: It’s that Solitary Fitness offers no shortcuts to super strength and fitness. It’s comprised of many of the same basic power calisthenics found in every other super effective exercise program with top priority placed on the push-up as the foundation of all strength and fitness just as you find here. It also features a wide assortment of what appear to be Charles Atlas style self-resistance exercises that Bronson has his students perform Isometrically in fixed positions rather than dynamically as Charles Atlas taught and as I teach. As such, he has each repetition held for 10 seconds and performed 10 times in succession. All in all, it is one incredible, very time-consuming, and well balanced program. In fact, every attribute of true lifelong strength and fitness is maximized, including strength, flexibility, endurance, balance, coordination, speed, and aesthetics. And to top it off he also features special exercises for enhancing one’s “solitary organ.” (Something that I have never covered in any of my books.) Any drawbacks? The only one that I can think of is the amount of actual time that it requires. But, if you have all day to do the program (as he does), you will definitely be among the fittest and strongest of people walking the planet.
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