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Were Greeks That MASSIVE? – 3 Lessons From Ancient Training
Or were they using photoshop?
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Our beauty standards can be traced far back to Greece.
At least men’s beauty standards. Aphrodite looked like big foot in a gollum posture.
But considering men, the body of the statues were rocking a sixpack and had perfect symmetry.
Such as the world famous art of the discus thrower.
Look at that calm, stoic face – no signs of struggle, while the arm veins are popping.
Look at these androgenic shoulder muscles and ab symmetry.
Very similar to what you see on men’s health covers nowadays.
But where did artists get those body looks from ? Where people actually able to achieve such god-like body back then ? Or where greeks using photoshop? Here’s three lessons from the history of weight training.
Men’s beauty standards stayed mostly the same, because muscles have always been beneficial, in the face of evolution.
Men have more muscles and less body fat than women, and therefore compete on a physical level.
While the hardest form of competing is physical fighting, a less damaging form is basically showing off.
You see this in the animal kingdom and you basically see this in modern day primates.
Before a fight you make yourself big, you want to show dominance over your opponent without getting hurt.
If your male opponent is seeing you as a threat, aka you being able to inflict damage on his organism, he is less likely to go on a fight with you.
The psychological aspect is huge, in fighting.
Lesson 1: Muscles were beneficial in the face of evolution.
Yes, in my experience it was a huge plus for girls (although they don’t really like to tell you that) and men respect you more.
Due to sexual and natural selection, men were always interested in acquiring muscles.
The first documented case of progressive weight training was in Ancient Greece, where Milo of Croton lifted a calf every single day. until it was a bull.
Another Greek, the physician Galen, described strenght training exercises using the halters.
Were originally, people simply trained with stones, they then used halters, which where similar to dumbbells.
And here’s the biggest downside of ancient weight training, the halters, ancient dumbbells, where only weighing between 2 and 9 kilograms.
This makes long-term progression impossible, as you usually max out the 9 kilograms in the first year of progressive weight training.
If you don’t have progression over the first year it will impossible for you to build a greek god body.
As your body mainly builds muscles on a certain rep range, which is between 6-12.
Lesson 2: Repetitions can be changed now and then, but focus on increasing the weight and keeping the reps steady.
Now you may say : But QG, ancient men were much tougher than we are to this day.
Greek children started work when they were 3 years old.
The people that were rowing in the ships were expected to do that for 12 hours at a time – while eating a less than optimal diet.
And you’re right, times back then were tough.
But these cases are similar to an ultraendurance runner nowadays, look at them they’re not walking titans.
They’re sticks, as their body is optimized for cardiovascular feats, not for maximum strength.
Or look at children in Africa or Aborigines, they live a super tough live and they’re malnourished.
Are they freaking muscular ? No !
Because their body is adapted for survival as the greeks were, not for hypertrophy as you have to be when you want to have a greek god body.
It’s true that being tough and having muscles often go together, as training needs discipline, willpower and grit.
Lesson 3: Toughness and muscularity are two separate things.
I’m sure weight training made you feel great and gave you some sort of muscles, but for real muscle growth you need progression of the weights at a certain range of repetition, which happens to be roughly between 6-12.
For this progression you needed a great variety of dumbbells, which the gyms didn’t have, or you needed to load the bar with more plates, shots of lead or use exercise machines.
Which only really was possible in the last 100 to 200 years.
Greek sculptures are therefore ore idealistic, they give us an idea of how the perfect body would look like, but they’re never similar to reality.
They’re a product of the imagination of greek and roman sculptors.
What we do with photoshop or steroids nowadays, our ancestors have done with extra bronze or marble hundreds of years ago.
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