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Charles Atlas's Course Reassessed
 
 
John Peterson John Peterson is offline
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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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05-20-2020, 06:00 PM
 
Hello Everyone,


Above, I neglected to say that one of the things that truly could have made Atlas's Course more effective is if he had used Dr. Lawrence MoreHouse's Protocols.

In other words,

He (Atlas) would have prescribed 3 separate 8-week cycles each devoted to developing a separate Strength/Fitness attribute as follows and then simply repeating the cycles as long as one desired.

Cycle #1 Building Mass) by adjusting the exercises so that you are reaching muscular fatigue using sets of 15 to 20 repetitions and only 2 sets at the beginning. Gradually after you have accomplished 2 X 20 without a great challenge you then add another (3rd) set and when that becomes relatively easy add another set (4th) and then another until you peak out at 5 X 20. Incidentally, Jack La Lanne had his own version of a Charles Atlas Corse that he created for his students that went off to fight WWII. What he did not expect was to receive letters from so many of them stating that they had achieved such fantastic results with the freehand and self-resistance exercises they were now following that included 20 exercises in total that the advanced students were to shoot for 5 sets of 20 of including the Jack La Lanne version of the Atlas Push-Up between chairs with the only difference being that La Lanne wanted his students to elevate their feet on a third chair so that it was identical to doing Push-Ups on the floor with the only real difference being that with the three chairs you could descend further for a complete stretch of the pectorals. Bottom line: La Lanne was using the same protocols as dr Morehouse for the purpose of increased muscle mass.

Cycle #2 Endurance/Stamina) for the next 8-weeks you would be doing sets of 40 to 50 repetitions. Obviously, most people would need to ease up a little bit in order to achieve 40 to 50 reps in each set and as you easily achieve 2 sets of 50 you would then consider adding additional sets if you wanted to or adjust the exercises so that it was difficult to achieve 40 reps and then re-work back up to sets of 50. by doing so you might never go beyond 2 sets of 50 but if you were doing more intense variations and keeping the stimulus where it needed to be it would not matter.

Cycle # 3 Building Great Strength) Dr. Morehouse told me that by far and away the most popular of his 8-week cycles was strength building in which each exercise was performed for just 2 sets of 3 to 5 reps at the beginning and gradually as the strength increased so did the intensity so that at the end of 8 weeks you never went beyond 5 sets of 5 repetitions. This is where I see using a weight vest as a major advantage as well as doing each of the self-resistance exercises with so much self-applied resistance that only 5 reps could be achieved in each set in order to maximize the stimulus so that you are limited to 5 X 5 maximum.

By implementing the above strategies with the Atlas Course I think one could achieve a great level of strength and development. Unfortunately, when I grew up the only thing I did or knew to do was very high volume and I achieved great results but I know that I could have achieved even better results with the strategy outlined above.

---John Peterson
 
 
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