Gymnastic Exercise

Part II (Published 1904)

ExRx.net > Exercise Information > 1904 Menu > Articles

Principle of Gymnastics. -The great principle of gymnastic exercise is the development of the body by special movements or apparatus particularly adapted for the purpose.

Harmony of Development. -It is obvious that by a complete series of appliances all portions of the muscular system may be judiciously invigorated, the result being an harmonious development of the entire frame.

Gaining the Object. -In order to make sure of the above object, it would be well for each one to study his weak spots and constitutional tendencies, that the right methods may be brought into play, at the right time and in the right way. The person should pass through a medical ex- imitation, and a trainer should be secured whose experience will prevent mistakes.

Bodily Tests. -In devising any system of examination, whether of individuals or classes, the aim is to establish the capacity of each person by a series of measurements and tests of strength, taken in conjunction with his family history, showing his vigor and weakness.

Tendency to Over-Exercise. -It is the fault of those who need and indulge in gymnastics to indulge it too much, or, at least, to bring into play the parts which are already strong. Such persons need to be guided and schooled, for they are not only developing parts which do not need it, but are neglecting the very parts that do. There can be no harmonious development in such cases.

Machine Tests. -Tests of strength are made in gymnasium by certain machines. At the same time physical peculiarities are noted. After this the examiner can point out the man who is inclined to be pigeon-breasted, and prescribe the apparatus proper to be used. He can suggest to the man with weak lungs the use of the rowing machine. So he can instruct one with feeble heart to moderate work; can regulate the amount and kind of work for one of slow circulation and of a tendency to grow fat; can even point out the diet for rheumatic people, and the clothing for consumptives.

Anique Gripper MachineRepeated Examinations. These tests should be repeated from time to time and their results carefully noted, so that the degrees of development may be observed, and new courses of procedure prescribed, if necessary.

Gymnastic Machines. -Dr. Ford, of Philadelphia, has carried his gymnastic machines to great perfection. They are for the most part simple and can be readily constructed for home use by anyone with a little ingenuity. One of his machines is a lifting one and is so arranged as to adapt the lifting power of the individual to his need of development along the lines most benefited by the lifting process.

Improvement of the Flexors. -The adjoining figure shows a machine which may be constructed by anyone for home or school exercise. It is composed of a strong oak frame, from the upper part of which project two horizontal arms about breast high, united in front by a strong cross-bar. The inner side of each arm is grooved for a slicking frame connected behind by means of a rope over a pulley, with a box in which suitable weights are placed. The object of the machine is to exercise the flexor muscles of the forearm, and so improve the grip. In using it one or both hands are placed in the position indicated by the cut, and the weight lifted by the movement of shutting the fingers, as in clenching the fist.Antique Wrist Roller

The Windlass. - The left-hand figure is also an apparatus for strengthening the wrists and muscles of the forearm, and of the arm proper to the shoulder. It is a smooth, round wooden bar about an inch and a half in diameter, and so arranged as to, revolve rapidly. As it rotates it coils a rope around its thicker portion, which raises a box containing weights sufficient to produce a due amount of fatigue in the forearm muscles of the learner.

Antique Resistance MachineRight-Hand Figure. -The figure to the right is for the development of the upper arm, shoulder and chest muscles, and is especially valuable to those who have inherited a consumptive tendency. It is a stout frame, with sockets near the top for a metallic axle, operated by a cross- bar, so as to lift the weight supported by a rope passing over two pulleys. On account of the short arm of the lever the pupil's strength is taxed to rotate the cross-bar, and the muscles are correspondingly exercised. As practice goes on the poundage of the weights may be increased. Proper postures of the body should be carefully observed in this exercise.

Dr. Ford's Gymnasium. -Dr. W. A. Ford, of Philadelphia, has carried the variety and construction of gymnastic apparatus to great perfection in his gymnasium. His appliances are all based on perfect development of the body, part by part, and according to ascertained rules fitted to weak and strong bodies, and to various conditions of life.

Antique Leg Exercise MachineLower Extremities. -Among Dr. Ford's appliances is an ingenious machine for developing the lower extremities. It consists, as seen in the adjoining figure, of a chair in which the pupil seats himself, rests his arms upon its arms, and grasps the extremities firmly.

Vaulting by Back Lift. -In this the bar is grasped as before described, and then putting forth a vigorous effort with both hands and feet, simultaneously throw the body over the bar in a straight line vertically above the head, the arms bending during its ascent, the elbows held close by the sides, the head and shoulders inclined to the front, the column of the body and the lower limbs, with the toes pointing upward, making a vertical line when above the bar, as seen in the ad- joining figure.

The Vaulting Horse. - This is a higher order of machine than the bar. It plays an important part in the cavalry drill of soldiers. The body of the vaulting horse should be perfectly smooth, the top and sides covered with leather, the upper portion stuffed with hair. The pommels should be movable, and the legs provided with slides, so that the horse can be set firmly at any height between three and six feet. The exercise consists of three parts. In the first posture the body is erect, with the hands resting on the horse; in the second the body is raised by the strength of the arms; in the third the right leg has been thrown over the horse, the mount made, and the body thrown into proper position.

Parallel Bars. -Parallel bars are simply constructed and give a rise to a variety of movements, bringing into play chiefly the muscles of the trunk and arms. These movements may be divided into three series. The first consists of traveling along the bars with the hands, backward and forward. The second comprises movements of oscillation between the bars. The third is made by combinations of the other two.

Vaulting by Back Lift Vaulting Horse

The Trapese. -This simple gymnastic apparatus affords an immense variety of healthful exercises, increasing the capacity of the trunk and upper limbs. The adjoining figures show three favorite positions: First, grasp the bar firmly with the hands, at a distance apart sufficiently to let the body pass between them, the backs of the hands upward, and the fingers and thumb meeting; bend the legs forward, at the same time lowering the body until the arms are fully extended; second, lift the feet upward, the arms remaining straight, until the feet are as high as the bar; bend the arms and elevate the body until the waist is on a level with the bar; pass the lower limbs over bar, the body following; third, lower the body completing the circle, and slowly descend until the feet reach the ground.

Trapese Rings

The Rings. -Combined rings give a varied course of movements, similar to those brought about on the trapeze. The rings should be each five inches in diameter, and suspended some five or six feet from the floor, and about eighteen inches apart. The cut shows three favorite movements: First, the pupil, standing between the rings, grasp one in each hand, lowers his body till the arms are fully extended, extends his feet, and holds his legs in a horizontal position. Second, he then throws both feet upwards, turning a somersault between the rings, the arms and legs being held straight throughout. Third, a slow descent is then made to the ground, completing the circle and relinguishing the grasp.

The Horizontal Bar. -The exercises upon this gymnastic appliance are very valuable for the distinct reasons : first, on account of their own intrinsic merit, and, second, from the circumstance that they are capable of being executed by an entire class at the same time, all obeying the same word of command. Favorite movements are shown in the cut: First, the travel along the bar with the arms bent, the right hand leading; second, passage along the bar with the legs bent at the knees; third, springing from the ground and grasping the bar on its right and left sides with both hands, passing the left leg over the bar, and the right leg over the left; fourth, raising the body above the bar, and assuming a position with hands and left leg supporting the body on the bar.

Horizontal Bar Incline Ladder

The Inclined Ladder. -This useful gymnastic appliance not only improves muscles but begets a courage which may become useful in case of fire. As seen in the figure, one of the exercises is ascending with the right hand leading, and descending with the right foot leading. A second is ascending by means of the hands only. The illustration also shows a valuable exercise upon the rope, by ascending and descending.


Richardson JG, Ford WH, & Vanderbeck CC (1904). Physical Exercise And Culture And Their Bearings On Health And Strength (Book VII), Medicology Or Home Encyclopedia of Health, A Complete Family Guide., University Medical Society, pg 861-888.


Article Index | Main Menu | Sport and Exercise Science Titles