Turton 7th Dan : Head Self-Defence Federation
after all the pestering from you knowledge hungry bunch
at the SFUK, my poor fingers are back banging away at
of you have been so kind as to ask about Strands/Expanders
etc. More so from the 'Old Timer's' point of view and
their use in wrestling/grappling.
the penny has just dropped.. 'Old Timer!!. That's how
you all think of me
am mortified and sulking now)
having taken my medication, and left the Old Folks Home
for an hour,
thought rather than just submit a couple of short ones
regarding each subject, I would put the two together
and write about them both.
Expanders. Strands, Cables, call them what you will
... they are not as modern an idea as you may think.
actual origin (as far as my own research goes), are
from the Sumerians of about 3,000 BC (No that's NOT
are many records of their Archers using Bows to practise
pulls. They would use Bows of increasingly stronger
pulling power, as they became stronger themselves. Often
they would tie two or even three Bows together, simply
to increase the resistance in their training.
the 'Archers Pull', wasn't the only exercise they did,
which shows how much they understood physical training.
enough, they would use BOTH HANDS to do the pulls. Now
as an Archer, would always use the same hand to hold
the Bow and the other to draw with, using both hands
during training showed they were thinking beyond just
improving the Archer's Pull.
fact one inscription on an old Vase, mentioned that
it was advised that ALL Warriors should practise the
Bow for better performance.
for Centuries, Archery practise, and the use of the
Bow as a training aid was well recognised in most cultures.
But there was a natural limit as to the diversity of
exercises using just the Bow. We have to come well into
the 1800's before other apparatus; using some form of
expansion; was invented.
has been an argument amongst Physical Culture Historians
for many a year as to which came first.. Steel Springs
or Rubber Cables. The more I do my research, the more
I change my mind. In fact I don't think it matters that
much really, as the period for both are about the same..
the early 1800's.
Rubber was brought here in Elizabethan days, by guys
like Raleigh and Drake.. But it wasn't used much for
it's ELASTIC properties as it's erasing properties.
Rubber is called Rubber, because the Elizabethans used
it, just like modern school kids.. to RUB out pencil
Incas had made crude rubber bouncy balls for centuries,
but the Drake and Raleigh brigade didn't see much use
in that quality...
boom came in about 1850.. A company, set up using the
name of the guy who brought Rubber to Britain (Walter
Raleigh) made an exercise apparatus for the Medical
Company was the "Raleigh Recovery Apparatus Company",
and the product was called "The Ranaleigh Exerciser".
modern strands, this one was a loop, a bit like an Inner
tube (remember that, it will crop up again later)..
Patients just held the loop and did the exercises.
beauty of this piece of Physio-Equipment was that patients
could exercise whilst still in bed (I know a lot of
MMA guys who like to exercise in bed!!!)
this was the principle use of Rubber expanders for a
year or so.
Sandow (real name Fredrick Mueller), is credited with
inventing an expander devise, called it "Sandow's Developer"..
This became the most popular 'Home Training' devise
EVER sold up to that time, Sandow sold 1,000's of them.
he is given credit for inventing expanders, I have records,
drawings, photos etc, of Trainers using similar devices
long before Sandow was known.
he DID make them better and more popular, and also adapted
them to be able to be fixed to doors, etc thus increasing
the range of exercises possible...so fair play to him.
'Loop' idea was still prevelant at this time, you simply
opened the handles and slipped the loops on.. Still
a good way mind you.
the progression of the use of Springs in Industry etc,
Steel Spring Expanders came quickly on to the market
in about 1845 (that's NOT quarter to seven).. This meant
a slightly different way of getting the strands onto
the handles, so 'clips' were used, actually more of
just a hook. Then the type of 'spring clip' was invented,
and is still more or less the same and still in use.
Sandow, Albert Atilla, and Co were WRESTLERS as well
as Music Hall Strong Men, they naturally found out the
benefits of Strands for Wrestling training, as well
as for remedial medical work.. And, as just about every
known wrestler of that Era used strands regularly, this
showed the faith they had in that form of apparatus.
they hadn't got any results, they would have 'binned'
the idea.. but they were STILL being used in the Wrestling
Clubs I went in to in the 1970's.. So it can't have
been a bad method.
as in most things physical, some form of competition
as this isn't a concise history of strands etc, I will
simply say, that there were TWO Organisations involved
in the use of expanders in competition.
I.S.S.A (who promoted Steel Spring Strands), and the
B.S.P.A, (who were for the rubber ones).
ended up about 60 different 'Pulls' as they became called.
The rules became quite strict, and competition was based
on bodyweight classes, and you could enter as many 'Pulls'
as you wanted..They even devised adjustable handles
so that the arm lengths of the pullers didn't cause
any advantages etc.
like ...."One Arm Press" .. "One Arm Push" ..
"Dislocation" .. "Anyhows" .. "Rectangular Fix" .. "Back
Press" etc etc.
was a lot of benefit to be obtained from these many
'Pulls', and 'Pullers' developed decent physiques. So
much so that for a long time there were Body Building
type competitions (usually by post sending in photos)
for "Best Built Strandpuller", or similar titles.
became involved in remedial work for the British Army,
especially on soldiers returning from the Boer War,
and later the First World War.
demand on expanders became greater than supply, and
it is now we remember the 'inner tube' analogy.
fill in this deficit in supply, Sandow started using
Bicycle Inner Tubes to do the exercises with.They were
very successful, and Sandow gained great Kudos from
the Military because of this work.
the Music Hall was the entertainment of the day.. before
Televison or even Cinema.. So naturally the 'Strong
Men' of the stage started incorporating Expanders in
their Acts... Giant Expanders were made, with handles
capable of holding up to FIFTY Springs.. A couple of
Strong Men had expanders made with just ONE massive
spring, and of course these became known as "Challenge
Springs". The audience was invited to try and pull them
for a cash prize..
super strong specialists rarely had to pay out the money.
strong man (The Amazing Evans) went so far as to incorporate
a Model "T" Ford car tyre Inner Tube. He could pull
it no problem.. But VERY few managed it.
actually acquired a car tyre inner tube in about 1968,
and tried.. It took me a year's training before I could
pull it fully, and I don't think it was a big as the
Model "T" Ford one.. Definitely tough work.
up to the 1970's and early 80's, Stage Strong men still
used Expanders as part of their routine. I remember
"Tony Brutus", pulling one with 30 springs, and a man
hanging on each handle as well, then he spun round and
round like a carousel wheel.. A great strongman and
a very funny act.. A real Comedian.
like "Big Bad Barry Anderson" of Leeds became ISSA World
Champion Pullers, pulling enormous resistances.
could get medals for "Clubs", such as the "300 Pound
Club", the "400 pound Club" and so on.
meant you had fully stretched an expander of that resistance.
are catagorised by hooking one end of the strand, so
that the other end hangs down, and a weight of the required
resistance is hung on the other end.
the expander stretches the correct length, that then
is it's PULL.
a 20lb expander will have to able to slowly stretch
to it's required length with 20lbs hanging on it.
was how controlled competition could happen.. All poundages
were strictly checked before and after each attempt.
enough of all that, what about the use of Strands for
the GRAPPLERS etc.. They are great!
did most of the old time wrestlers use strands over
weights..... Well most, (in fact nearly ALL) I spoke
to, used other wrestlers for great deal of their strength
work.. Human resistance. But also preferred the expanders
because of the 'Live Feel' of them.
are 'dead'and can really only provide any form of gravity
resistance. That is just ONE way, DOWN.. Now I know
because of machines and pulleys etc, weights can be
made to provide resistance in all directions, this wasn't
so back in the 'glory days' of the top grapplers.
important aspect was the fact that unlike using weights,
you can move around with the strands, and a lot of exercises
did just that..
low into a "Lunge Split" whilst pulling the strands
across the front of your chest, was a popular exercise.
As was performing free squats whilst pulling the cables
in different ways.
just walking around the gym whilst performing the pulls
was popular. It is really only the exercises like one
arm curls, and upright rows/high pulls, etc, where the
cables have to be trapped under the feet, that couldn't
be done whilst moving in some way.
two main techniques used were "Fast Out Slow In"
(sounds a bit kinky that!!), where you pulled the
cables to extension with as much explosive power as
possible, then took 3-4 times as long s-l-o-w-l-y returning
the cables to relaxation. The other was to pull the
cables to full extension, then perform very short range
little pulls at the end of the extension.. Just an inch
or two, for 3 or 4 Reps before returning the cables
for the next Rep.. They called it 'Muscle Cramping'
or 'muscle spinning'.
weights, the cables could be taken 'on tour' in a suitcase,
to be used wherever the wrestlers happened to be.
full body workout could be achieved using Free Squats,
Press Ups, Sit Ups and Strands
Reps performed were usually quite high, often 20 - 30.
They would start with enough resistance so that, say
about 10 or 12 reps were possible, and continue over
the next few weeks, adding reps until 20 or 30 could
be achieved, then another strand was added.
strands were used on alternate days.. So you could get
in 4 or so sessions a week. Because the 'strain' on
the muscles was different, recovery rates were quicker.
other main advantage with strands, is that the resistance
is a constant increase throughout the exercise. This
means of course that at the END of the pull, there is
the greatest resistance on the muscles. This is sometime
the opposite with weights.
the Bench Press and the Curl as two examples.. If you
can bench, say 150 pounds for reps, you can certainly
hold at 'lock-out' 200 pounds, so the 150 isn't working
the supporting tendons and ligaments to their fullest.
The same with the Curl, the 'sticking point' in the
Curl is at the halfway stage. At the top of the Curl,
there is little resistance on the biceps and brachialis
so with the strands, at the end of the pull, the resistance
is at the greatest. Thus the work passed to the tendons,
ligaments, and joints is all that much efficient and
better for you.
underestimate the usefullness of strands, the work may
look easy, simply because the expanders themselves look
like nothing.With a bit of hard training and common
sense, you can get a superb upper body work-out with
a starter, just to get some basic benefits from the
strands, give the following routine a genuine good try
for about 12 weeks.
off with a small number of strands until your muscles
etc get used to the changing types of resistance.
an extra strand only when you have doubles the number
of reps you start with, say 15 to 30.
the following adage.. "Reps build strength ..
Singles test it!"
Back press with free squats.
the strands across the upper back, with your knuckles
slightly upwards, squat down as you expand the strands
until your arms are at full extension.
you come back up from the squat, slowly (don't snap)
let the strands come back to their original position.
for 15 reps, and 2 - 5 sets, as you get better. Finishing
with say 5 x 30, then add a strand.
Overhead Downward Pull.
upright, with expanders above your head at arms length.
Hold the expanders so that the handles lay on the backs
of your hands, knuckles facing forwards.
back slightly, as you pull the expanders wide open until
they are on your upper chest.. Return under control
and repeat as for ex No 1.
One Arm Push/Press
the expanders across the back diagonally, say the right
hand is at your right shoulder, the left hand on the
outside of your left thigh.
the expander with your right hand until at arms length..
Repeat for the required number of reps, then instantly
swap it to your left arm.
sets etc as previous.
High Pulls/Upright Rows.
one handle under say the right foot, then tip the toes
into the floor, this way the strands can't slide off
the foot and whack you in the mouth.
the other handle with both hands, knuckles out. Lift
the elbows High, so they are pointing UP, Pull the handle
until it is at chin level. Lower and repeat, as previous.
the strands similar to the end of the one arm press.
Lower the upper hand by bending the arm at the elbow,
and NO movement from any other part of your body. Repeat
using only the triceps muscle to move the strands.
One Arm Curls.
in the High Pulls, put one handle under one foot, and
simply curl the expander with the same hand as the foot
you are using, but at the end of the curl, lean back
a little, to increase the resistance.
will do for now, if you want any specifics etc, just
your training. ....... Dave Turton 7th Dan. Self Defence