Charles Atlas is a name that we all know very well and if you were born more than 50 years ago you will know him as the 97 pound weakling who built his body full of muscle. Charles was born as Angelo Siciliano in Acri, Calabria, which is in Italy, on October 30, 1892. The successful publication of Charles Atlas bodybuilding program is still known as the longest-lasting advertising campaign of all time.
His company that was founded in 1929 called Charles Atlas Ltd is still publishing fitness and bodybuilding guides designed to turn a "scrawny weakling" into a strong and fit muscle man. They still use the "97-pound weakling" advertising and have only adjusted the text to suit modern times.
Charles decided to change his name legally before he set up his company which was all motivated by a comment that he received from a friend. It was his friend who told him that he looks like a statue of Atlas that was on top of a hotel they would often see in Coney Island where he grew up having moved there with his family in 1905.
Although Charles became a leather worker he was always into exercise and continued to try everything using free weights or pulley-style resistance, as well as gymnastic-style calisthenics. After trying everything Charles still claimed that doing these movements did not build his body.
There is a story that has been marketed all over the world of how the skinny 97 pound weakling got sand kicked in his face at the beach one day and decided to get strong. It is apparently what happened to Charles on a beach in Coney Island, which made him obsessed with building muscle.
Charles immediately joined the local YMCA gym and started trying everything that would help him gain muscle. The story goes that one day when visiting the zoo and looking at the muscles in a lion that he decided the reason why a lion has such large muscles is that they strain the opposing muscles on every body-part.
Pitting muscles in your body against each was a unique idea in those days and using his self-developed theory of "Dynamic Tension" In 1921 he became known as "The World's Most Perfectly Developed Man" that happened in a contest that was held in Madison Square Garden. Shortly after that Charles joined a circus in Coney Island playing a strongman.
His new and innovative dynamic tension technique involved twelve very specific lessons. He published these lessons along with photos of himself demonstrating what needed to be done. He produced these in a booklet form encouraging anyone who purchased it to contact him with updates of their success.
To date these same booklets have sold millions and at the time it put Charles Atlas on the map as the face of fitness and strength. It was with endorsements from heroes like Rocky Marciano, and the then heavyweight boxing champion Max Baer that increased his success.
Before Charles Atlas died on December 23, 1972 and he openly admitted being inspired by strongman and bodybuilders like Eugen Sandow and Bernarr MacFadden who were both the major factors in starting the "Physical Culture" movement. His company Charles Atlas Ltd is now owned by Jeffrey C. Hogue.
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