Purposeful Resistance Training: A Historical Approach from Antiquity to Machine Age
Various forms of movement are meaningful to humans due to cultural performance and social practices (Struna, 1997). Therefore, it should not be surprising that strength and conditioning has likely been around for over millennia to aid individuals in performing movements with more grace, speed, endurance, or strength. However, the purpose of training, particularly resistance training, has changed over time. This review will examine how the purpose of resistance training, as well as important cultural implantations, has changed from antiquity to the Machine Age.
Why Knowing the History of Resistance Training is Important
A brief history of resistance training is important for kinesiologist to know since the cornerstones of strength development, such as progressive overload and use of external resistance, have been around for over a millennia (Ratamess, 2012) (Verkhoshansky & Siff, 2009) (Todd, 1995).
People of the ancient world recognized that intensive physical labor and lifting weights caused strength gains that simultaneously improved joint mobility and overall conditioning of the body which improved performance in work, war, health, and sport (Ratamess, 2012) (Todd, 1995) (Verkhoshansky & Siff, 2009). However, not all civilizations or time periods performed resistance training experienced improvements. Thus, a brief history of resistance training is beneficial in illustrating how the cornerstone principles of strength training were applied throughout the millennia and why different cultures were resistance training in the first place. One of the problems that have led to an incomplete history of resistance training was that weightlifti...
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...Milanovic, 2013) (Todd, 1995).
Figure 4: Stone halters (Cartwright, 2012).
While there are many historical and archaeological references of weight training from Ancient Greece, one of the earliest and most famous is that of Milo of Croton (Stojiljkovic, Ignjatovic, Savic, Markovic, & Milanovic, 2013). Milo was a professional wrestler who lived in the 6th century B.C. (Ratamess, 2012). Lore has it that this feat was the first use of progressive-resistance exercise (Ratamess, 2012) (Todd, 1995). Milo lifted and carried a baby calf daily. As the calf grew older, the calf’s weight increased (Figure 5) (Todd, 1995). It was reported that Milo eventually carried a four-year-old heifer, probably weighing about 900 or more pounds, the length of the Olympic stadium, approximately 200 meters (Stojiljkovic, Ignjatovic, Savic, Markovic, & Milanovic, 2013) (Ratamess, 2012).
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