PHYSICAL culture is on the top of the wave. But the movement is as yet in the talk stage. Millions praise the gymnasium; hundreds seek its blessings. Similar incongruities make up the story of human life. But in this case inconsistency is consistent.
Evidences of physical deterioration crowd upon us. Fathers and mothers regard their children with painful solicitude. Not even parental partiality can close the eye to decaying teeth, distorted forms, pallid faces, and the unseemly gait. The husband would gladly give his fortune to purchase roses for the cheeks of the loved one, while thousands dare not venture upon marriage, for they see in it only protracted invalidism. Brothers look into the languishing eyes of sisters with sad forebodings, and sisters tenderly watch for the return of brothers, once the strength and hope of the fatherless group, now waiting for death. The evil is immense. What can be done? Few questions have been repeated with such intense anxiety.
My object is to submit, for the consideration of the readers of the "Atlantic," a new system of physical training, adapted to both sexes, and to persons of all ages and degrees of strength. I have an ardent faith that in it many will find an answer to the important question.
The common remark, that parents are too much absorbed in the accomplishments of their daughters to give any attention to their health, is absurd. Mothers know that the happiness of their girls, as well as the character of their settlement in life, turns more upon health and exuberance of spirits than upon French and music. To suppose, that, while thousands are freely given for accomplishments, hundreds would be refused for bodily health and bloom, is to doubt the parents' sanity. If the father were fully satisfied that Miss Mary could exchange her stooping form, pale face, and lassitude for erectness, freshness, and elasticity, does anybody suppose he would hesitate? Fathers give their daughters Italian and drawing, not because they regard these as the best of the good things of life, but because they form a part of the established course of education. Only let the means for a complete physical development be organized, and announced as an integral part of our system of education, and parents would be filled with grateful satisfaction. The people are ready and waiting. No want is so universal, none so deeply felt. But how shall symmetry and vigor be reached ? What are the means? Where is the school? During the heat of the summer our city-girls go into the country, perhaps to the mountains: this is good. When in town, they skate or walk or visit the riding-school: all good. But still they are stooping and weak. The father, conscious that their bodies, like their winds, are susceptible of indefinite development, in his anxiety takes them to the gymnasium. They find a large room furnished with bars, ladders, and swings. They witness the wonderful performances of accomplished gymnasts and acrobates, admire the brilliant feats; but the girls see no opportunity for themselves. They are nearly right. The ordinary gymnasium offers little chance for girls, none for old people, but little for fat people of any age, and very little for small children of either sex.
Are not these the classes which most require artificial training? It is claimed that the common gymnasium is admirable for young men. I think there are other modes of training far more fascinating and profitable; but suppose it were true that for young men it is the best of all possible modes. These young men we need in the gymnasium where young women exercise. If young women are left by themselves, they will soon lose interest. A gymnasium with either sex alone is like a ball-room with one sex excluded. To earn a living, men and women will labor when separated; but in the department of recreation, if there be lack of social stimulus, they will soon fall off. No gymnasium, however well managed, with either sex excluded, has ever achieved a large and enduring success. I know some of them have long lists of subscribers; but the daily attendance is very small. Indeed, the only gymnasium which never lacks patronage is the ball-room. Dancing is undeniably one of the most fascinating exercises; but the places where even this is practised would soon be forsaken, were the sexes separated.
Some lady-reader suggests that ladies of delicate sensibilities would scarcely be willing to join gentlemen in climbing about on ladders. I presume not; but are such exercises the best, even for men?
I do not doubt that walking with the hands, on a ladder, or upon the floor, head down, is a good exercise; but I think the common prejudice in favor of the feet as a means of locomotion is well founded. Man's anatomy contemplates the use of the legs in supporting the weight of the body. His physical powers are most naturally and advantageously brought into play while using the feet as the point of support. It is around and from this centre of support that the upper part of the body achieves its free and vigorous performances.
The deformities of gymnasts, to which Dr. Dixon and many others have called attention, are produced in great part by substituting arms for legs. I need scarcely say that ring, dumb-bell, club, and many other similar exercises, with cane and sword practice, boxing, etc., are all infinitely superior to the ladder and bar performances. In the new system there is opportunity for all the strength, flexibility, and skill which the most advanced gymnasts possess, with the priceless advantage that the two sexes may mingle in the scene with equal pleasure and profit.
I can but regard the common gymnasium as an institution of organized selfishness. In its very structure it practically ignores woman. As I have intimated, it provides for young men alone, who of all classes least need a gymnasium. They have most out-door life; the active games and sports are theirs; the instinct for motion compels them to a great variety of active exercises, which no other class HYPERLINK http://enjoys.is enjoys. Is it not a strange mistake to provide a gymnasium for these alone?
But it is said, if you introduce women into the gymnasium, men will have no opportunity for those difficult, daring feats which constitute the charm of the place. If by this is meant that there can be no competition between the sexes in lifting heavy weights, or turning somersets, the objection holds good. But are not games of skill as attractive as lifting kegs of nails? Women need not fall behind men in those exercises which require grace, flexibility, and skill. In the Normal Institute for Physical Education, where we are preparing teachers of the new gymnastics, females succeed better than males. Although not so strong, they are more flexible. There are in my gymnasium at this time a good many ladies with whom the most ambitious young man need not be ashamed to compete, unless the shame come from his being defeated. Gentlemen will sacrifice nothing by joining their lady-friends in the gymnasium. But suppose it costs them something; I greatly mistake the meaning of their protestations of devotion, if they are not quite willing to make the sacrifice.
Before proceeding farther, I desire to answer a question which wise educators have asked:-- "Do children require special gymnastic training?" An eminent writer has recently declared his conviction that boys need no studied muscle-culture. “Give them," he says, "the unrestrained use of the grove, the field, the yard, the street, with the various sorts of apparatus for boys' games and sports, and they can well dispense with the scientific gynmasium."
With all our lectures, conversations, newspapers, and other similar means of mental culture, we are not willing to trust the intellect without scientific training. The poorest man in the State demands for his children the culture of the organized school; and he is right. An education left to chance and the street would be but a disjointed product. To insure strength, patience, and consistency, there must be methodical cultivation and symmetrical growth. But there is no need of argument on this point. In regard to mental training, there is, fortunately, among Americans, no difference of opinion. Discriminating, systematic, scientific culture is our demand. No man doubts that chess and the newspaper furnish exercise and growth; but we hold that exercise and growth without qualification are not our desire. We require that the growth shall be of a peculiar kind,what we call scientific and symmetrical. This is vital. The education of chance would prove unbalanced, morbid, profitless.
Is not this equally true of the body? Is the body one single organ, which, if exercised, is sure to grow in the right way? On the contrary, is it not an exceedingIy complicated machine, the symmetrical development of which requires discriminating, studied management? With the thoughtful mind, argument and illustration are scarcely necessary; but I may perhaps be excused by the intelligent reader for one simple illustration. A boy has round or stooping shoulders: hereby the organs of the chest and abdomen are all displaced. Give him the freedom of the yard and street,--give him marbles, a ball, the skates! Does anybody suppose he will become erect? Must he not, for this, and a hundred other defects, have special training?
Before our system of education can claim an approach to perfection, we must have attached to each school a professor who thoroughly comprehends the wants of the body, and knows practically the means by which it may be made symmetrical, flexible, vigorous, and enduring.
Since we have, unhappily, become a military people, the soldier's special training has been much considered as a means of general physical culture. Numberless schools, public and private, have already introduced the drill, and make it a part of each day's exercises.
But this mode of exercise can never furnish the muscle-culture which we Americans so much need. Nearly all our exercise is of the lower half of the body: we walk, we run up and down stairs, and thus cultivate hips and legs, which, as compared with the upper half of the body, are muscular. But our arms, shoulders, and chests are ill-formed and weak. Whatever artificial muscular training is employed should be specially adapted to the development of the upper half of the body.
Need I say that the military drill fails to bring into varied and vigorous play the chest and shoulders? Indeed, in almost the entire drill, are not these parts held immovably in one constrained position? In all but the cultivation of erectness, the military drill is singularly deficient in the requisites of a system of muscle-training adapted to a weak-chested people.
Dancing, to say nothing of its almost inevitably mischievous concomitants, brings into play chiefly that part of the body which is already in comparative vigor, and which, besides, has little to do directly with the size, position, and vigor of the vital organs.
Horseback exercise is admirable, and has many peculiar advantages which can be claimed for no other training; but may it not be much indulged while the chest and shoulders are left drooping and weak?
Skating is graceful and exhilarating; but, to say nothing of the injury which not unfrequently attends the sudden change from the stagnant heat of our furnaced dwellings to the bleak winds of the icy lake, is it not true that the chest-muscles are so little moved that the finest skating may be done with the arms folded?
I should be sorry to have any of these exercises abandoned. While some of them demand reform, they are all, on the whole, exceedingly useful.
What I would urge is this: As bodily symmetry is vital to the highest physiological conditions, and as departure from symmetry is the rule among all classes, but especially with Young America, we must, to secure this symmetry, introduce into our system of physical education a variety of special, studied means.
The new gymnastics are all adapted to music. A party may dance without music. I have seen it done. But the exercise is a little dull.
Exercises with the upper extremities are as much improved by music as those with the lower extremities. Indeed, with the former there is much more need of music, as the arms make no noise, such as might secure concert in exercises with the lower extremities.
A small drum, costing perhaps five dollars, which may be used as a bass-drum, with one beating-stick, with which any one may keep time, is, I suppose, the sort of music most classes in gymnas-tics will use at first. And it has advantages. While it is less pleasing than some other instruments, it secures more perfect concert than any other. The violin and piano are excellent, but on some accounts the hand-organ is the best of all.
Feeble and apathetic people, who have little courage to undertake gymnastic training, accomplish wonders under the inspiration of music. I believe three times as much muscle can be coaxed out, with this delightful stimulus, as without it.
I HAVE selected the dumb-bell as perhaps the happiest means by which to illustrate the mischievous consequences of "heavy weights." Thoughtful physiologists deeply regret the lifting mania. In every possible case, lifting is an inferior means of physical training, and for women and children, in short for nine-tenths of the people, it is positively mischievous. I introduce the dumb-bell exercises to illustrate and enforce this doctrine.
Heretofore dumb-bells have been made of metal. The weight in this country has usually been considerable. The general policy at present is to employ those as heavy as the health-seeker can "put up." In the great German gymnastic institutes dumb-bells were formerly employed weighing from fifty to one hundred pounds; but now Kloss and other distinguished authors condemn such weights, and advocate those weighing from two to five pounds. I think those weighing two pounds are heavy enough for any man; and as it is important that they be of considerable size, I introduced, some years ago, dumb-bells made of wood. Every year my faith grows stronger in their superiority.
Some years since, before I had seen the work of Professor Kloss on the Dumb-Bell, I published a paper upon the use of this piece of apparatus, in which I stated the best weight for men as from two to five pounds, and gave at length the reasons for the employment of such light weights, and the objections to heavy ones. 1 was filled, not with pride, but with profound satisfaction, while engaged in translating Kloss's work recently, to find, as fundamental with this great author, identically the same weights and reasons.
In my early experience as a teacher of gymnastics I advocated the use of heavy dumb-bells, prescribing those weighing one hundred pounds for persons who could put up that weight. As my success had always been with heavy weights, pride led me to continue their use long after I had begun to doubt the wisdom of such a course.
I know it will be said that dumb-bells of two pounds' weight will do for women and children, but cannot answer the requirements of strong men.
The weight of the dumb-bell is to be determined entirely by the manner in which it is used. If only lifted over the head, one or two pounds would be absurdly light; but if used as we employ them, then one weighing ten pounds is beyond the strength of the strongest. No man can enter one of my classes of little girls even, and go through the exercises with dumb-bells weighing ten pounds each.
We had a good opportunity to laugh at a class of young men, last year, who, upon entering the gymnasium, organized an insurrection against the wooden dumbbells, and through a committee asked me to procure iron ones; I ordered a quantity, weighing three pounds each; they used them part of one evening, and when asked the following evening which they would have, replied, "The wooden ones will do."
A just statement of the issue is this: If you only lift the dumb-bell from the floor, put it up, and then put it down again, of course it should be heavy, or there is no exercise; but if you would use it in a great variety of ways, assuming a hundred graceful attitudes, and bringing the muscles into exercise in every direction, requiring skill and followed by an harmonious development, the dumbbell must be light.
There need be no controversy between the light-weight and the heavy-weight party on this point. We of the lightweight party agree, that, if the dumb-bell is to be used as the heavy-weight party uses it, it must be heavy; but if as we use it, then it must be light. If they of the heavy-weight party think not, we ask them to try it.
The only remaining question is that which lies between all heavy and light gymnastics, namely, whether strength or flexibility is to be preferred. Without entering upon a discussion of the physiological principles underlying this subject, I will simply say that I prefer the latter. The Hanlon brothers and Heenan are, physiologically considered, greatly superior to heavy-lifters.
But here I ought to say that no man can be flexible without a good degree of strength. It is not, however, the kind of strength involved in heavy-lifting. Heenan is a very strong man, can strike a blow twice as hard as Windship, but cannot lift seven hundred pounds nor put up a ninety-pound dumb-bell. William Hanlon, who is probably the finest gymnast, with the exception of Blondin, ever seen on this contiflent, cannot lift six hundred pounds. Such men have a great fear of lifting. They know, almost by instinct, that it spoils the muscles.
One of the finest gymnasts in the country told me that in several attempts to lift five hundred pounds he failed, and that be should never try it again. This same gymnast owns a fine horse. Ask him to lend that horse to draw before a cart and he will refuse, because such labor would make the animal stiff, and unfit him for light, graceful movements before the carriage.
The same physiological law holds true of man: lifting great weights affects him as drawing heavy loads affects the horse. So far from man's body being an exception to this law, it bears with peculiar force upon him. Moving great weights through small spaces produces a slow, inelastic, inflexible man. No matter how flexible a young man may be, let him join a circus-company, and lift the cannon twice a day for two or three years, and he will become as inflexible as a cart-horse. No matter how elastic the colt is when first harnessed to the cart, he will soon become so inelastic as to be unfit to serve before the carriage.
If it be suspected that I have any personal feeling against Dr. Windship or other heavy-lifters, I will say that I regard all personal motives in a work of such magnitude and beneficence as simply contemptible. On the contrary, I am exceedingly grateful to this class of gymnasts for their noble illustration of the possibilities in one department of physical development.
Men, women, and children should be strong, but it should be the strength of grace, flexibility, agility, and endurance; it should not be the strength of a great lifter. I have alluded to the gymnastics of the circus. Let all who are curious in regard to the point I am discussing visit it. Permit me to call special attention to three perforrners,--to the man who lifts the cannon, to the India-rubber man, and to the general performer. The lifter and the India-rubber man constitute the two mischievous extremes. It is impossible that in either there should be the highest physiological conditions; but in the persons of the Hanlon brothers, who are general performers, are found the model gymnasts. They can neither lift great weights nor tie themselves into knots, but they occupy a position between these two extremes. They possess both strength and flexibility, and resemble fine, active, agile vigorous carriage horses, which stand intermediate between the slow carthorse and the long-legged, loose-jointed animal.
"Strength is health" has become a favorite phrase. But, like many common saws, it is an error. Visit the first half-dozen circuses that may come to town, and ask the managers whether the cannon-lifter or the general performer has the better health. You will find in every case it is the latter. Ask the doctors whether the cartmen, who are the strongest men in the city, have better health than other classes, who, like them, work in the open air, but with light and varied labor. You will not find that the measure of strength is the measure of health. Flexibility has far more to do with it.
Suppose we undertake the training of two persons, of average condition. They have equal strength,--can lift four hundred pounds. Each has the usual stiff shoulders, back, and limbs. One lifts heavy weights until he can raise eight hundred pounds. Inevitably he has become still more inflexible. The other engages in such exercises as will remove all stiffness from every part of the body, attaining not only the greatest flexibility, but the most complete activity. Does any intelligent physiologist doubt that the latter will have done most for the promotion of his health? that he will have secured the most equable and complete circulation of the fluids, which is essentially what we mean by health, and have added most to the beauty and effectiveness of his physical action?
With heavy dumb-bells the extent of motion is very limited, and of course the range and freedom of action will be correspondingly so. This is a point of great importance. The limbs, and indeed the entire body, should have the widest and freest range of motion. It is only thus that our performances in the business or pleasures of life become most effective.
A complete, equable circulation of the blood is thereby most perfectly secured. And this, I may remark, is in one aspect the physiological purpose of all exercise. The race-horse has a much more vigorous circulation than the cart-horse. It is a fact not unfamiliar to horsemen, that, when a horse is transferred from slow, heavy work to the carriage, the surface veins about the neck and legs begin at once to enlarge; when the change is made from the carriage to the cart, the reverse is the result.
And when we consider that the principal object of all physical training is an elastic, vigorous condition of the nervous system, the superiority of light gymnastics becomes still more obvious. The nervous system is the fundamental fact of our earthly life. All other parts of the organism exist and work for it. It controls all, and is the seat of pain and pleasure. The impressions upon the stomach, for example, resulting in a better or worse digestion, must be made through the nerves. This supreme control of the nervous system is forcibly illustrated in the change made by joyful or sad tidings. The overdue ship is believed to have gone down with her valuable, uninsured cargo. Her owner paces the wharf, sallow and wan,--appetite and digestion gone. She heaves insight! She lies at the wharf! The happy man goes aboard, hears all is safe, and, taking the officers to a hotel, devours with them a dozen monstrous compounds, with the keenest appetite, and without a subsequent pang.
I am confident that the loyal people of this country have eaten and digested, since Roanoke and Donelson, as they had not before since Sumter.
Could we have an unbroken succession of good news, we should all have good digestion without a gymnasium. But in a world of vexation and disappointment, we are driven to the necessity ot studied and unusual muscle-culture, and other hygienic expedients, to give the nervous system that support and vitality which our fitful surroundings deny.
If we would make our muscle-training contributive in the highest degree to the healthful elasticity of our nerves, the exercises must be such as will bring into varied combinations and play all our muscles and nerves. Those exercises which require great accuracy, skill, and dash are just those which secure this happy and complete intermarriage of nerve and muscle. If any one doubts that boxing and small-sword will do more to give elasticity and tone to the nervous systern than lifting kegs of nails, then I will give him over to the heavy-lifters.
Another point I take the liberty to urge. Without accuracy in the performance of the feats, the interest must be transient. This principle is strikingly exemplified in military training. Those who have studied our infantry drill have been struck with its simplicity, and have wondered that men could go through with its details every day for years without disgust. If the drill-master permit carelessness, then, authority alone can force the men through the evolutions; but if he insist on the greatest precision, they return to their task every morning, for twenty years, with fresh and increasing interest.
What precision, permit me to ask, is possible in "putting up" a heavy dumb-bell? But in the new dumb-bell exercises there is opportunity and necessity for all the accuracy and skill which are found in the most elaborate military drills.
I have had experience in boxing and fencing, and I say with confidence, that in neither nor both is there such a field for fine posturing, wide, graceful action, and studied accuracy, as is to be found in the new series of dumb-bell exercises
But, it is said, if you use dumb-bells weighing only two pounds, you must work an hour to obtain the exercise which the heavy ones would furnish in five minutes. I need not inform those who have practised the new series with the light dumb-bells that this objection is made in ignorance. If you simply "put up" the light implement, it is true; but if you use it as in the new system, it is not true. On the contrary, in less than five minutes, legs, hips, back, arms, shoulders, neck, lungs, and heart will each and all make the most emphatic remonstrance against even a quarter of an hour's practice of such feats.
At this point it may be urged that those exercises which quicken the action of the thoracic viscera, to any considerable degree, are simply exhaustive. This is another blunder of the "big-muscle" men. They seem to think you can determine every man's constitution and health by the tape-line; and that all exercises whose results are not determinable by measurement are worthless.
I need scarcely say, there are certain conditions of brain, muscle, and every tissue, far more important than size; but what I desire to urge more particularIy in this connection is the importance, the great physiological advantages, of just those exercises in which the lungs and heart are brought into active play. Those organs are no exceptions to the law that exercise is the principal condition of development. Their vigorous training adds more to the stock of vitality than that of other organs. A man may stand still and lift kegs of nails and heavy dumb-bells until his shoulders and arms are Samsonian, it will contribute far less to his health and longevity than a daily run of a mile or two.
Speaking in a general way, those exercises in which the lungs and heart are made to go at a vigorous pace are to be ranked among the most useful. The "double-quick" of the soldier contributes more in five minutes to his digestion and endurance than the ordinary drill in two hours.
I have said an elastic tone of the nervous system is the physiological purpose of all physical training. If one may be allowed such an analysis, I would add that we exercise our muscles to invigorate thoracic an abdominal viscera. These in their turn support and invigorate the nervous system. All exercises which operate more directly upon these internal organs—as, for example, laughing, deep breathing and running-contribute most effectively to the stamina of the brain and nerves. It is only the popular mania for monstrous arms and shoulders that could have misled the intelligent gymnast on this point.
But finally, it is said, you certainly cannot deny that rapid motions with great sweep exhaust more than slow motions through limited spaces. A great lifter said to me the other day,--
"Do you pretend to deny that a locomotive with a light train, flying at the rate of forty miles an hour, consumes more fuel than one with a heavy train, moving at the rate of five miles?"
I did not attempt to deny it.
"Well, then," he added, with an air of triumph, "what have you to say now about these great sweeping feats with your light dumb-bells, as compared with the slow putting up of heavy ones?"
1 replied by asking him another question.
"Do you pretend to deny, that, when you drive your horse ten miles within an hour, before a light carriage, he is more exhausted than by drawing a load two miles an hour?"
"That 's my doctrine exactly," he said.
Then I asked,--
"Why don't you always drive two miles an hour?"
"But my patients would all die," replied my friend.
I did not say aloud what was passing in my mind,--that the danger to his patients might be less than he imagined; but I suggested, that most men, as well as most horses, had duties in this life which involved the necessity of rapid and vigorous motions,--and that, were this slow movement generally adopted, every phase of human life would be stripped of progress, success, and glory.
As our artificial training is designed to fit us for the more successful performance of the duties of life, I suggest that the training should be, in character, somewhat assimilated to those duties. If you would train a horse for the carriage, you would not prepare him for this work by driving at a slow pace before a heavy load. If you did, the first fast drive would go hard with him. Just so with a man. If he is to lift hogsheads of sugar, or kegs of nails, as a business, he may be trained by heavy-lifting; but if his business requires the average activity and free motions of human occupations, then, upon the basis of his heavy, slow training, he will find himself in actual life in the condition of the dray-horse who is pushed before the light carriage at a high speed.
Perhaps it is not improper to add that all this talk about expenditure of vitality is full of sophistry. Lecturers and writers speak of our stock of vitality as if it were a vault of gold, upon which you cannot draw without lessening the quantity. Whereas, it is rather like the mind or heart, enlarging by action, gaining by expenditure.
When Daniel Boone was living alone in Kentucky, his intellectual exercises were doubtless of the quiet, slow, heavy character. Other white men joined him. Under the social stimulus, his thinking became more sprightly. Suppose that in time he had come to write vigorously, and to speak in the most eloquent, brilliant manner, does any one imagine that he would have lost in mental vigor by the process? Would not the brain, which had only slow exercise in his isolated life, become bold, brilliant, and dashing, by bold, brilliant, and dashing efforts?
A farm-boy has slow, heavy muscles. He has been accustomed to heavy exercises. He is transferred to the circus, and performs, after a few years' training, a hundred beautiful, splendid feats. He at length reaches the matchless Zampillaerostation of William Hanlon. Does any one think that his body has lost power in this brilliant education?
Is it true, either in intellectual or physical training, that great exertions, under proper conditions and limitations, exhaust the powers of life? On the contrary, is it not true that we find in vigorous, bold, dashing, brilliant efforts the only source of vigorous, bold, dashing, and brilliant powers?
In this discussion I have not considered the treatment of invalids. The principles presented are applicable to the training of children and adults of average vitality.
I will rest upon the general statement, that all persons, of both sexes, and of every age, who are possessed of average vitality, should, in the department of physical education, employ light apparatus, and execute a great variety of feats which require skill, accuracy, courage, presence of mind, quickness of eye and hand,-- in brief, which demand a vigorous and complete exercise of all the powers and faculties with which the Creator has endowed us; while deformed and diseased persons should be treated in consonance with the philosophy of the Swedish Movement-Cure, in which the movements are slow and limited.
It is but justice to the following series of exercises with dumb-bells to state that not only are they, with two or three exceptions, the writer's own invention, but the wisdom of the precise arrangement given, as well as the balance of exercise in all the muscles of the body and limbs, has been well proved by an extensive use during several years.
By way of illustrating the new system of dumb-bell exercises, I subjoin a few cuts. The entire series contains more than fifty exercises.
The pupil, assuming these five positions, in the order presented, twists the arms. In each twisting, the ends of the dumb-bells should, if possible, be exactly reversed. Great precision will sustain the interest through a thousand repetitions of this or any other exercise. The object in these twisting exercises is to break up all rigidity of the muscles and ligaments about the shoulder-joint. To remove this should be the primary object in gymnastic training. No one can have examined the muscles of the upper half of the body without being struck with the fact that nearly all of them diverge from the shoulder like a fan. Exercise of the muscles of the upper tart of the back and chest is dependent upon the shoulder. It is the centre from which their motions are derived. As every one not in full training has inflexibility of the parts about the shoulder-joint, this should be the first object of attack. These twistings are well calculated to effect the desired result. While practising them, the position should be a good one,-head, shoulders, and hips drawn far back.
In our attempts to correct stooping shoulders, one good series of exercises is found in thrusting the dumb-bells directly upwards. While performing this the positions must be varied. A few illustrations are offered.
As effective means by which to call into vigorous play neck, shoulders, back, hips, arms, and legs, I submit the following exercises.
THE GYMNASTIC CROWN.
BEARING burdens on the head results in an erect spine and well-balanced gait. Observing persons, who have visited Switzerland, Italy, or the Gulf States, have noticed a thousand verifications of this physiological law.
Cognizant of the value of this feature of gymnastic training, I have employed, within the last twelve years, various sorts of weights, but have recently invented an iron crown, which I think completely satisfactory. I have it made to weigh from five to thirty pounds. It is so padded within that it rests pleasantly on the head, and yet so arranged that it requires skill to balance it.
The skull-cap, which is fitted to the top of the head, must have an opening of two inches in diameter at the crown, so that that part of the head shall receive no pressure. If this be neglected, many persons will suffer headache. The skullcap should be made of strong cotton, and supported with a sliding cord about the centre. With such an arrangement, a feeble girl can easily carry a crown, weighing ten or fifteen pounds, sufficiently long, morning and evening, to secure an erect spine in a few months.
The crown which I employ is so constructed as to admit within itself two others, whereby it may be made to weigh nine, eighteen, or twenty-seven pounds, at the pleasure of the wearer. This is a profitable arrangement, as in the first use nine pounds might be as heavy as could be well borne, while twenty-seven pounds could be as easily borne after a few weeks.
The crown may be used at home. It has been introduced into schools with excellent results.
Instead of this iron crown, a simple board, with an oblong rim on one side so padded with hair that the crown of the head entirely escapes pressure, may prove a very good substitute. The upholsterer should so fill the pad that the wearer will have difficulty in balancing it. It may be loaded with bags of beans.
RULES FOR WEARING THE CROWN OR OTHER WEIGHT ON THE HEAD.
WEAR it five to fifteen minutes morning and evening. Hold the body erect, hips and shoulders thrown far back, and the crown rather on the front of the head.
Walk up and down stairs, keeping the body very erect. While walking through the hall or parlors, first turn the toes inward as far as possible; second, outward; third, walk on the tips of the toes; fourth, on the heels; fifth, on the right heel and left toe; sixth, on the left heel and right toe; seventh, walk without bending the knees; eighth, bend the knees, so that you are nearly sitting on the heels while walking; ninth, walk with the right leg bent at the knee, rising at each step on the straight left leg; tenth, walk with the left leg bent, rising at each step on the straight right leg.
With these ten different modes of walking, the various muscles of the back will receive the most invigorating exercise.
Wearing the crown is the most valuable of all exercises for young people. If perseveringly practised, it would make them quite erect, give them a noble carriage of the head, and save them from those maladies of the chest which so frequently take their rise in drooping shoulders.
EXERCISES WITH RINGS.
AFTER the exercises with the crown, those with the new gymnastic ring are the best ever devised. Physiologists and gymnasts have everywhere bestowed upon them the most unqualified commendation. Indeed, it is difficult to conceive any other series so complete in a physiological point of view, and so happily adapted to family, school, and general use.
If a man were as strong as Samson, he would find in the use of these rings, with another man of equal muscle, the fullest opportunity to exert his utmost strength; while the frailest child, engaged with one of equal strength, would never be injured.
There is not a muscle in the entire body which may not be brought into direct play through the medium of the rings. And if one particular muscle or set of muscles is especially deficient or weak, the exercise may be concentrated upon that muscle or set of muscles.
Wherever these rings are introduced, they will obtain favor and awaken enthusiasm.
The rings are made of three pieces of wood, glued together with the grain running in opposite directions. They are round, six inches in diameter with body one inch thick, and finished with a bard, smooth polish.
The first series with the rings consists of a number of twisting exercises with the arms. Not only are these valuable in producing freedom about the shoulder-joint, which, as has been explained, is a great desideratum, but twisting motions of the limbs contribute more to a rounded, symmetrical development than any other exercises. If the flexors and extensors are exercised in simple, direct lines, the muscular outlines will be too marked.
In twisting with the rings, the arms may be drawn into twenty positions, thus producing an almost infinite variety of action in the arm and shoulder.
Two of the positions assumed in this series are shown in the cuts.
In this exercise, the rings are made to touch the floor, as shown, in alternation with the highest point they can be made to reach, all without bending the knees or elbows.
The hands are thrust upward, outward, and downward with force.
The hands are thrust forward and drawn backward in alternation as far as the performers can reach. It will be understood than in none of these exercises are the performers to maintain the illustrated positions for a single moment. As in dancing, there is constant motion and change, while the music secures concert. When, by marks on the floor, the performers are kept in linear rank and file, the scene is most exhilarating to participants and spectators.
The above are specimens of the many charges with the rings. Shoulders, arms, back, and legs receive an incomparable training. In constant alternation with the charges, the pupils rise to the upright position; and when the company move simultaneously to the music, few scenes are so brilliant.
In most exercises there must be some resistance. How much better that this should be another human being, rather than a pole, ladder, or bar! It is social, and constantly changing.
EXERCISES WITH WANDS.
A STRAIGHT, smooth stick, four feet long, (three feet for children,) is known in the gymnasium as a wand. It is employed to cultivate flexibility, and is useful to persons of all ages and degrees of strength.
Of this series there are sixty-eight exercises in the new system, but I have space only for a few illustrations.
EXERCISES WITH BEAN-BAGS.
The use of small bags filled with beans, for gymnastic exercise, was suggested to my mind some years since, while attempting to devise a series of games with large rubber-balls. Throwing and catching objects in certain ways, requiring skill and presence of mind, not only affords good exercise of the muscles of the arms and upper half of the body, but cultivates a quickness of eye and coolness of nerve very desirable. Appreciating this, I employed large rubber-balls, but was constantly annoyed at the irregularities resulting from the difficulty of catching them. When the balls were but partially inflated, it was observed that the hand could better seize them. This at length suggested the bean-bags. Six years' use of these bags has resulted in the adoption of these weighing from two to five pounds, as the best for young people. The bags should be very strong, and filled three-quarters full with clean beans. The beans must be frequently removed and the bags washed, so that the hands and dress may not be soiled, nor the lungs troubled with dust.
Forty games have been devised. If managers of schools are unwilling to study these games, and organize their practice, it is hoped they will reject them altogether. If well managed, a school of young ladies will use the bags half an hour every day for years, and their interest keep pace with their skill; but mismanaged, as they generally have been, it is a marvel, if the interest continues through a single quarter.
The following cuts may serve to illustrate some of the bag-exercises. It will be observed that the players appear to be looking and throwing somewhat upward. Most of the exercises illustrated are performed by couples, - the bags being thrown to and fro. It has been found advantageous, where it is convenient, to suspend a series of hoops between the players, and require them to throw the bags through these hoops, which, being elevated several feet, compel the players to assume the positions seen in the figures.
With the bean-bags there are numberless possible games, requiring eye and hand so quick, nerves so cool, skill and endurance so great, that the most accomplished has ever before him difficulties to be surmounted.
In a country where pulmonary maladies figure so largely in the bills of mortality, a complete system of physical training must embrace special means for the development of the respiratory apparatus. The new system is particularly full and satisfactory in this department. Its spirometers and other kindred agencies leave nothing to be desired.
Physiologists and teachers believe that the new system of gymnastics is destined to establish a new era in physical education. It is ardently hoped that events may justify their confidence.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.