I’ve had a personal interest in fitness, and bodybuilding in particular, since I was a child. Besides the important parts related to practicing good nutrition and actually working out, I’ve also always been keen to read up on the subject. This reading not only involved learning about the science of working out and all that entails, but also its rich history. As part of that initiative, I’ve acquired a modest library of fitness magazines, books, and other literature over the years. Now, here on fullSTEAMahead365, I’d like to share the most interesting tidbits from some of these classic, historical works, starting with the March 1938 issue of Strength and Health from the legendary Bob Hoffman.
Before we dive into the contents in future blog posts, I thought it would be nice to see the front and back covers.
As you can see, the same teaser style featured here on the front cover of this magazine from the 1930s is still in vogue today (aka, clickbait).
According to the inside cover, the man on the cover is Jimmy “Muscles” Jackson of the Jamous (sic?) Jackson Trio. Unfortunately, I’m not familiar with him, but his physique is definitely impressive regardless of era, just with the somewhat lackluster legs that would be the standard into roughly the mid- to late-1960s.
As would be the standard practice for fitness publications even into the modern era, the magazine was a showcase for the publisher’s products, in this case, Hoffman’s York Barbell company products, which, like this magazine, was founded in 1932.
Hoffman always had a preference for weightlifting over pure bodybuilding, so that’s of course what’s often emphasized in the magazine and here in the ads, but, save for the iron boots, this ad and its products wouldn’t look too out of place today.
As related to my earlier statement about legs and the lack of relative development and emphasis at the time, the exercise demonstrated in the upper right appears to be a freestanding version of a leg extension. I suspect this setup would be even better for freestanding leg curls, however. Otherwise, it’s a very 1930s way to focus on leg development outside of the core weightlifting exercises in the upper- and lower-left photos.
Finally, note the use of the term “SUPERMEN,” along with other superlatives. Comic book hero Superman would make his debut on newsstands on April 18, 1938, which would be one month after the cover date of this magazine. Coincidence? Of course, but it goes to show that it was probably a common term at the time, so it’s only natural that a really strong guy in a comic would be called a Superman.
See you soon in Part 02, where we’ll dive into the interior of this fascinating historical magazine.