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Charles Atlas's Course Reassessed
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John Peterson John Peterson is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2008
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05-20-2020, 12:14 PM
Hello Everyone,

A guy writing a magazine article has contacted me about the Charles Atlas Course and asked me several questions about its effectiveness. One of his questions was about its means of progression and he seemed quite surprised when I told him that there really was not a clearly defined method outlined for progression of any kind.

I could tell that he wasn't really understanding what I was telling him. In his mind he thought for certain that there must be some kind of outline stating X number of reps and X number of sets BUT there really wasn't anything like that specified.

In fact, I read to him over the phone the exact wording from several parts of the original 1922 edition of the course. He was really quite shocked that there was no means of progression outlined other than just to complete more repetitions. He was also surprised that in a few of the exercise descriptions that it recommended to perform the exercises until the muscles really 'ached'. He was especially amazed that it recommended performing the exercises morning and evening on a daily basis. At one point he asked me, "How could he have kept people committed to following such nondescript information?" My response: You need to understand that back prior to the 1960s weight training was frowned upon by virtually all athletic coaches and trainers and so Charles Atlas's methods represented an alternative that was easily embraced. In addition, there was not a great deal of competition for him. Atlas also had several professional athletes that took and endorsed his course as a great way to get in shape. These included heavyweight champion Max Baer, and his brother Buddy, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, and professional baseball player Joe DiMaggio.

Now, as relates to the Atlas Course and concept, I think it would have been great if Atlas had written an advanced course that incorporated more detail and something like weight vest training into it in which one primarily made his own body heavier and performed the same exercises. Doing so would allow one to increase one's strength in direct relationship to one's own body when doing those exercises and it would also have been very beneficial if Mr. Atlas had more in-depth instruction relating to all the self-resistance exercises and explained what it was one was supposed to feel when performing them.

---John Peterson
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