Charles Atlas - The world's most perfectly developed movement.

It looks as though Charles Atlas was really into your colon. His "dynamic tension" exercise program could not only improve your outward physique, but could also build up your bowels to heroic proportions. "If You Had Only 10 Days to Live" reads the giant text, the assumed end to that sentence being that we should choose to spend them in the bathroom, blasting holes in the toilet with your cannon of a colon.
The basis of Atlas' (Atlases?) muscle-building program was something he called "dynamic tension", which eschewed weights and other equipment in favor of muscle-pulling-on-muscle types of exercise. Atlas directed you to use your own body weight and your own muscle to create the resistance that builds strength. One wonders how this exercise philosophy was applied to the problem of constipation.

This article says that the Federal Trade Commission ordered Atlas to stop making claims that his program cured skin diseases and constipation. However, there are no links or other citations to back this story up. There is evidence of some kind of trouble with the FTC back in 1932, but nothing the P.A.G. Research and Googling team unearthed mentioned the FTC and constipation in the same breath.

This is not to imply that nobody at the FTC ever had trouble getting the "train to leave the station", of course. We are talking about legal action taken by the FTC as a governing body, not the staff itself.

In this ad, he claims that he "helped relieve nine out of ten" of his clients, and that he helped "over 90,000 people". So, this should mean that he's failed to help 10,000 people. "Ten Thousand People Left Constipated By Charles Atlas! Atlas dumbfounded!". That would bring the money in.

The copy is careful to say that they can help you "if you have no organic ailment" causing your constipation. I have a feeling that organic ailments are the reason behind most cases of constipation.  I don't think people have trouble in this area due to lack of strength.

There don't seem to be any descriptions of how Atlas helped strengthen the dump muscles. That's a pity. I'd be interested to read about Atlas' method for applying resistance training to the walls of the intestine, which, I believe, are pretty much under involuntary control. How would you do that? Eat lots of beef and cheese? Drink plaster of Paris? By this logic, constipation itself should help develop the muscles "down south" into a veritable rocket launcher. If these muscles can be developed by resistance, shouldn't it be part of bodybuilding shows? "See last year's champion defend his title as the challenger passes a cue ball and a socket wrench." I'd watch that on ESPN.

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Anonymous said...

Yeah, few things bring more pleasure in life than a good dump! Funny that I never noticed this claim in the comic book ads... merely that dynamic tension would make you a big, strong beast of a man, able to raise your hands to keep the sand from your eyes.

Guess the PopSci target demographic was a bit older and their mommies were no longer feeding them diets high in fiber.

Anonymous said...

He sure looks like he had ulterior motives for making space in people's colons and strengthening their sphincters.

Fil said...

Hard to take a guy seriously when he is named after a book of maps. Shoulda went with something tuff... like... Chilton S. Manual. You reckon he is related to Encyclopedia Brown?

Crypto Hunt said...

Atlas did not write his own course. He went into business in 1922 with Fred Tilney, an English naturopathic physician, who wrote almost all the diet and health advice in the Atlas course, while the exercise regime was provided by Atlas. By 1928, the course was not selling well due to the rather hokey advertising dreamed up by both men. Atlas went to an advertising agency and they fobbed him off with a 26 year old newbie called Charles P. Roman. Tilney wanted to move the operation to Florida because of the better weather, but Atlas' wife, Margaret, wanted to stay in Brooklyn to be near her family. Roman bought out Tilney's half of the business for $500 and the Englishman went to Miami and opened a highly successful health good business. Roman dreamed up the now famous cartoon ads that many of us still remember, coined the phrase "Dynamic Tension" to describe Atlas' self resistance exercises, and changed the strongman's title from 'Americas Most perfectly Developed Man,' to 'The World's Most perfectly Developed Man.' The business took off and they both made millions, selling seven million courses at $30.00 a piece from 1928 to 1970. I have to say that the course works if you are willing to put in the effort. Can you put five inches on your chest and two inches on each bicep in three months with weights? I did it with Dynamic Tension - then moved on to weights. If anything, the Atlas program is an excellent course to get you into tip top condition for the rigors of training with weights. Atlas (real name Angelo Siciliano) was an inspiration to millions of men and boys, and even inspired many past physique champions to start working out. It was a pleasure to have been one of his students, and to have know his son, Charles Jr (now deceased). A true inspiration.

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