New ROK Article: Maxick’s Muscle Control

In my new Return of Kings article, I review Max Sick’s 1901 book Muscle Control, and give a few exercises from that book. I found it to be useful as a supplement to regular style weightlifting, and perhaps you will as well.

…Like seemingly every other fabled strongman of the early modern era, Max Sick was born a sickly child in an archetypal Mitteleuropean setting (more specifically, Bregenz, Austria, later becoming a German citizen).

Suffering from dropsy and rickets as a young child, he was not expected to live beyond the age of 5.  “But somehow, one way or another, I began to cheat death, and at the age of 7 I was deemed healthy enough to go to school”. It is also here that he begins to develop the mindset to achieve his goals—namely, a mindset of resentment and shame: “And now for the first time I realized what a malady ill health is. I never knew how bad I was until I saw healthy boys, virile and exuberant. From wonder I passed on to envy of them, and with envy came mortification…I watched them at play and become possessed with a feverish desire to be like them.”

…Working with fellow strongman Monte Saldo, he comes up with a certain type of isometric exercise known as “Maxalding”, or “Muscle Control” as the book is titled. According to Maxick, his experience as a blacksmith’s apprentice made him notice that mere mechanical exercise could only develop muscular size and strength up to a certain point. Deliberate concentration and relaxation would have to be used to get beyond those plateaus.

What this refers to is the action of agonism and antagonism of muscles-when one flexes and contracts, an antagonist muscle must slacken and extend. “To allow the working muscles to flex maximally, to work, the antagonist muscle must be in the utmost relaxation”

What is meant by muscle control is: “to be able to, via willpower, contract certain muscles maximally while maximally relaxing the antagonist muscles”. To achieve this “muscular control” he advocated stretching to keep the muscles supple, as well as his specific routine of muscular control exercises. Bear in mind that he never explicitly disparages weight training: He outright states that you cannot use JUST muscle control to develop your muscles to the fullest, you need external resistance. “But I do claim that solely resistance cannot develop the limit of strength you can develop unless you have muscle control”. His own career as a champion weightlifter would seem to indicate his use of both methods.

Read the article here