Bob Bestler

Why I won’t be breaking out the old Charles Atlas kit and flexing in bodybuilding event

It looks like hundreds of bodybuilders will be descending on Myrtle Beach next month to compete in a Johnny Stewart Bodybuilding Competition.

In a press release, Stewart even invited locals to test the magnificence of their bodies at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

I probably won’t be joining them. At my age, any muscles I once had have long ago turned to jello.

It’s sad because there was a time when I was so committed to building up my bony body that I actually responded to a Charles Atlas ad.

Some in my demographic may remember Charles Atlas; his ads appeared in dozens of comic books in my youth.

My favorite featured a 98-pound weakling sitting on a beach with his cute girlfriend when Mr. Muscle walks by and kicks sand in his face.

The weakling suddenly realizes he is a weakling and sends for a Charles Atlas body-building program. The next time Mr. Muscle walks by, he is roundly dealt with — to the oohs and aahs of the cute girlfriend.

I certainly didn’t want sand kicked in my face, so I answered one of the Charles Atlas ads, then eagerly awaited the promised miracle to arrive. Turns out, it was a series of instructions on something called isometrics, sold under the name Charles Atlas Dynamic Tension.

I’ll tell you about it in a minute, but first a word about Charles Atlas.

His real name was Angelo Sicilanio and at the World’s Fair in 1921 he won a body-building competition and was declared “the world’s most perfectly developed man.” Same thing happened in 1922, at which time the competition was canceled because no one could compete with Charles Atlas.

He soon became a household name and developed his Dynamic Tension Course. It was one of the first really successful mail-order businesses and made Charles Atlas a very rich man.

According to a fitness website, the course was used by Joe Lewis, Joe DiMaggio and Charles Bronson. Even Indian Prime Minister Mahatma Gandhi requested a copy.

So what was so great about the Dynamic Tension Course? Not much — as I realized the minute I opened the package.

Dynamic Tension was a series of isometric exercises, which can be best defined as a system of physical exercises in which muscles are trained to act against each other or against a fixed object — such as a floor or a chair for your basic pushups.

I was already doing pushups because a baseball hero, Ted Williams, once said he did 50 pushups a day — on his fingertips. I wanted to be like Ted and began doing pushups — on my fingertips — until I reached 50. Unfortunately, it didn’t help me it like Ted.

But I digress.

I regularly practiced a few Charles Atlas exercises, vigorously pushing my arms against each other to build up my chest and arms. And I think it helped.

I still wouldn’t take on Mr. Muscle and, yes, I’ll probably skip the Johnny Stewart Bodybuilding Competition. An age thing, you know.

Contact Bob Bestler at bestler6@tds.net.

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