Legends Of Bodybuilding – Part XV

Pioneering Exercise Records

It should come as no surprise that your gym has computerized gadgetry for exercise. Technology has been at the forefront of fitness since the dawn of the industrial age. Consider the phonograph, or record player, that started appearing in American homes during the early 1900s. You probably remember the Jazzercise, Aerobicize or even Mousercize (with Mickey as your instructor) records from the 1980s. Jack La Lanne's vinyl disks were hot wax during the 1950s. And why not? The popularity of exercise records can be traced to the early 1920s.

In 1924, a Yale University coach named Walter Camp promised that "You Can Become Gloriously Fit – In 10 Minutes' Fun A Day" with his 5-record set featuring a 'Daily Dozen' exercises with names like The Grind, The Grasp and The Roll explained with a full-sized wall chart. The noted calorie expenditure expert Dr. Harvey Kellogg of breakfast cereal fame also marketed a 5-record set of exercise disks called The Health Ladder that set his ideal of 'biologic living' to music. Kellogg's course was so thorough that it required an entire folder to illustrate the many exercises. So detailed were his instructions, that the 73 year old MD had to travel to the recording studio in New York to unravel them for confused record executives at Columbia. Despite the complexity, this course continued to sell successfully for 40 years.

The Wallace Institute of Chicago's 5-record Keep Fit To Music set was aimed at developing the female figure through a 20-minute program that was to be performed every other day. Wallace, as the last name only instructor was known, went so far as to send letters of encouragement to the customers who purchased his records. These inspirational notes encouraged them not to give up if the first week's results didn't meet their expectations. Wallace also cautioned against poor form in some of the more challenging exercises.

At 78 RPM, the pace of some tunes can get a little too intense for beginners. With this possibility in mind, the people who put together the Camp and Wallace packages recommended slowing down the phonograph platter to keep the exerciser from getting too far behind. Since all of these instructional courses were built around whole body cardio conditioning, they could be used as effectively today as they were 90 years ago. Of course, you'd have to find yourself a record player first.
Leave a Comment