Arthur Saxon on Conditioning

Posted by Jason Ferruggia

Arthur Saxon was a big influence on me, as obvious by the Renegade logo at the top of this site. I’m obsessed with old time strongmen and old school methods of training. One of the things I like about the early days of Physical Culture is that everyone did everything.

Meaning that bodybuilders lifted heavy weights and competed in contests where they had to do more than pose. Lifters possessed impressive physiques and usually didn’t gain unnecessary fat to simply improve their leverages on an exercise and lift more weight.

Olympic lifts were not practiced only by Olympic lifters but were a part of everyone’s repertoire. And bodyweight training was a staple in the golden era of Physical Culture. Handstands , front levers and various gymnastics exercises that I incorporate into nearly all of my training programs were routinely used by everyone training for strength in those days.

One component of fitness that a lot of strength obsessed individuals forget about is conditioning. In order to be truly fit or to be a dominant athlete you need both strength AND conditioning. Strength without conditioning does very little for you unless you are a competitive lifter. And even then you need a certain level of conditioning, which is why you always hear Louie Simmons stressing the importance of it.

At first glance you might assume that strongman competitors have no conditioning to speak of but after you see some of the events they compete in it you realize that this is far from the truth.

This is why I am always stressing the importance of cutting down your rest periods where appropriate during your workouts and adding in a few weekly sessions of sprints, tempo runs, prowler pushes, or other high intensity conditioning methods. It’s healthy, it keeps you lean and makes you an overall better athlete….which is still important even if you don’t compete in anything. Because honestly, just being a big, fat strong guy who gets winded going up stairs isn’t really in anymore.

Here’s what Arthur Saxon had to say about the issue one hundred plus years ago:

“The usual idea about strength–I mean the idea of the averager eader of health magazines–is generally a wrong one. Although a weightlifter (and weightlifters are supposed to be very narrow-minded in their views on this subject), I hope that I, personally, am broad-minded enough to recognize that a man does not prove himself an all-round strong man just because he is able to lift a heavy weight, especially when the weight is lifted once only. The following is my diagnosis of real strength:

Genuine strength should include not only momentary strength, as proved by the ability to lift a heavy weight once, but also the far more valuable kind of strength known as strength for endurance.

This means the ability, if you are a cyclist, to jump on your machine and ride 100 miles at any time without undue fatigue; if a wrestler, to wrestle a hard bout for half an hour with a good man without a rest, yet without becoming exhausted and reaching the limit of your strength.

Apart from sports, enduring strength means that the business man shall stand, without a break-down, business cares and worries, that he shall be capable, when necessary, of working morning, afternoon and night with unflagging energy, holding tightly in his grasp the reins of business, retaining all the while a clear mind and untiring energy, both of body and brain.

The man who can miss a night’s rest or miss a meal or two without showing any ill effect or without losing any physical power, is better entitled to be considered a strong man than the man who is only apparently strong, being possessed of momentary strength, which is, after all, a muscle test pure and simple.”