Bodybuilding Legends Part XVI

Exercise Machines

Arthur Jones famously debuted his 'Blue Monster' prototype Nautilus machine at the 1970 AAU Mr. America competition. Onlookers were impressed if only by the floor space this monster occupied at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Culver City, California. Although Jones' equipment ushered in a fitness revolution that hit gyms across the country, you'd have to go back in time another 100 years to arrive at the dawn of the exercise machine era.

Before the industrial revolution, people didn't need to work out to keep themselves in top physical shape. They got plenty of exercise by laboring 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. It wasn't until the heavy lifting at farms and factories was mechanized that people needed to find another path to fitness. First came hand tools like Indian clubs and dumbbells. Then came manually operated machines including rowers that were built to help oarsmen practice their craft and keep muscles trained year-round.

Powered machines were unknown until devices like the Battle Creek Health Builder appeared at the sanitarium run by Dr. Kellogg during the 1920s. He's the same Kellogg who brought you popular breakfast cereals, and his motor-driven oscillating machine was supposed to stimulate the body in much the same way as those stand-up vibration machines with thick belts attached. They date to about the same period and the whole idea of vibration dropped off the fitness radar screen soon thereafter.

Whole-body vibration exercise made a resurgence in the 1970s when space station bound cosmonauts returned to Earth with significant losses in bone density and muscle tissue after spending long periods in zero gravity. Russian scientists discovered that vibrating exercise equipment helped increase bone density while strengthening muscles. The concept is gaining ground among mainstream gym goers today, with vibrating platforms becoming a common site at most well-appointed gyms. Kind of makes you long for the old days, when all that stood between you and a good workout was bars and plates.
Leave a Comment