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The Foundation of Physical Culture

The passing of Dan Lurie, bodybuilding pioneer and publisher of Muscle Training Illustrated, at the age of 90 on November 6, 2013, marked the end of an era—an era in which the foundation of physical culture started expanding after World War II. The explosive growth of the United States economy following the war plus the overwhelming number of injured men returning from battle created fertile ground for the study of resistance training and also for those who had the vision to bring the ideas to a wider audience.

Tomas L. DeLorme, M.D., was one who advanced the field, and his famous book Progressive Resistance Exercise: Technic and Medical Applications was filled with pragmatic information learned in the gyms of the era. According to Jan Todd, Ph.D., rehabilitation with resistance training became the norm in the latter years of World War II, and DeLorme experimented with those techniques.

DeLorme had used strength training to recover from a childhood illness and reasoned that such heavy exercise would prove beneficial for the injured servicemen. His “new” protocol consisted of multiple sets of resistance exercises in which patients lifted their 10-repetition maximum. By 1948 DeLorme had refined the system to include three progressively heavier sets of 10 repetitions, and he referred to the program as “Progressive Resistance Exercise.”

DeLorme found out what works by talking with the people who knew what works (like Joe Gold who recalled talking with him in the late ’40s), and then he applied his scientific background to implementing those ideas for rehab. His high-intensity program was markedly more successful than older protocols and was quickly adopted as the standard in military and civilian physical-therapy programs. In 1951 DeLorme published his book, which was widely read by other physicians and medical professionals. It, and DeLorme’s academic publications on progressive-resistance exercise, helped legitimize strength training and played a key role in the emergence of the science of resistance exercise.

I’m no historian, but it’s obvious that Jack LaLanne, Bob Hoffman, Joe and Ben Weider and Dan Lurie, along with Peary and Mabel Rader, the founders of this magazine, were essential in helping lay the foundation on which all of bodybuilding and fitness rests today. I have had the good fortune to know every one of them except Hoffman. Each was a very strong personality who had complete and utter belief in progressive-resistance training as a tool that everyone should use.

Dan Lurie will always be remembered as a pioneer. Very few of us have the opportunity to positively affect the lives of so many. Dan did.  IM


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