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10 September 2012

It's Time To Stop Mocking Indians For Their Clubbells

As a student of history, I've come to the realization that I shouldn't be surprised by anything I find in historical annals. In spite of that knowledge, I still find myself continually surprised by shit I thought I had locked down, when I in fact didn't know the half of the story. Most recently, I had this realization about India, a place with which I generally only associate stupid wars with Muslims over glaciers no one really wants and "food" at which even the least discerning scat porn actors would turn up their noses. Certainly, when I think about India, about the last thing of which I think are robust physiques and weightlifters.  After doing a bit of research, I discovered that India has earned precisely one medal in Olympic Weightlifting, a bronze medal in the women's 69 kg class in the 2000 Olympics.  That seems about right to me, because the  Indians seem only capable at excelling  at badminton and perpetuating horrible diseases generally not found outside their country's borders than they do at strength sports.
Harlequin disease or progeria?  I honestly cannot decide which is worse, but they're both proof that if there are higher powers, they certainly hate the holy fuck out of India, and they are without question the biggest shitheads ever.  The kid on the left is apparently alive but their skin is a hard crust, and the poor fuck on the right is fifteen years old.  

But, you might argue, they also excel at driving taxis, owning convenience stores, and making godawful 5 hour movies filled with interminable and inexplicable dance numbers.  That's correct, but still fails to explain one thing- how is it possible that a nation of 1.2 billion could possibly produce fewer weightlifting medals in history than the tiny, poverty-stricken, land-locked nation of Moldova produced in the 2012 Olympics?  Moldova's economy, as I understand it, is based almost entirely on moving cars from stolen all over Europe.  If you think I'm joking, stolen car resale is so extensive in Moldova that the Moldovan Justice Minister was caught driving a stolen car in Austria (AP).    Thus, a couple million car thieves managed to produce more medals in weightlifting this year than more than a billion Indians have in their entire history. The craziest part?  Indians have a longer and more storied history in weightlifting than any group of people on Earth.  That is where this story gets interesting.
Rumba with 10 lb dumbbells?  Apparently Crossfit was bestowing elite fitness on ancient Romans, too.

Insofar as I know, most of us believe that ancient weightlifting pretty much began and ended with the Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans, and was pretty much a dead issue until the 17th Century when traveling strongmen resurrected it.  Strength historian David Willoughby chronicled some strongmen who performed in the interregnum, but there appears to have not been any widespread strength training or physical culture in the West until the 18th century, and it didn't really pop off fully until the 19th Century.  While that might have been the case in the West, it was not so in the East- Indians held strength training the fuck down the entire time, only quitting when some ill-tempered pasty-faced limeys robbed their country blind and left them so bereft of pride they make modern reality television stars seem downright noble in comparison.

As an aside, I realize it's unfair to paint India with such a broad brush, given the fact that they're so enthnolinguistically diverse they're essentially all of the Americas crammed into the state of Texas, but I like broad generalizations.  India's actually a pretty fucking crazy place, even after they chopped it into three countries in 1949.  When you think of India, you probably think of mocha-colored people speaking Hindi, rocking twig arms and legs and potbellies, always looking for a cow to worship.  You'd not be all that far off, but there's all kinds of crazy shit going on in the fringes, like the Toda people of South India, who live in thatched huts shaped like barrels, are ethnically related to Greek Cypriots and have a sacred Milkman; the people of Kashi, who brawl so fucking hard at Thai-style kickboxing that people in the stands kill each other in fistfights; the Meitei who live on the Burmese border and speak a Sino-Tibetan language, basically treat chicks like men (which is not the case in the rest of India), and whose script is comprised of letters that all correspond with parts of the human body (the first letter means "head", for instance); and the overarching Hindi culture, which has pretty much predominated since the Indo-Aryan invasions began out of Western Siberia around 2500 BC.  It's really that culture to which I'll be referring, since it's the one about which there is the most information.  Basically, I'll be treating India like most foreigners regard Americans- to them, we're all fat, white, barely literate xenophobes who buy everything from Walmart, are aggressively ignorant of other cultures, and drape ourselves in American flags while hating homos and supporting wars of foreign aggression with no logical reasoning.
Dude's never even seen a squat rack and has bigass legs.  U mad bro?

According to a number of sources I recently discovered, however, the Indians were the only group of people heavily into strength training in the Middle Ages.  Strength training manuals in India have been discovered that date as far back as the 1100s, and recommended that people basically do what you see going on in pictures of third world gyms today- they lifted stone weights and sacks of sand (Sandow).  By the 1500s, strength training was so widespread in India that it could be considered to have been what cricket is today- their national pastime.  Since then, North Indian wrestlers have been held aloft as some best-conditioned athletes ever, and some authors have made entire careers out of regurgitating ancient Indian strength training "secrets" for a generation of people who think that walking and occasionally jogging a 5k is an impressive physical feat.

My interest in Indian strength training grew out of an article I recently read about former Mr. Universe winner  Monohar Aich.  Swarthy little dwarf that he is, Aich won the 1952 Mr. Universe after pulling a full-on Charles Atlas transformation.  Aich contracted one of India's famously bizarre diseases, black fever, and dragged his own ass from death's door to peak physical condition by doing 100 rep sets of one-legged squats, pushups, crunches, pullups, and leg raises all day long.  Monohar got a bit of time off from wrecking shit in the Indian Air Force by getting invited to British prison for mouthing off to the Limeys for being thieving assholes, during which time he trained for twelve hours a day on bodyweight shit.  After his release, Aich went on to become the Indian version of the Mighty Atom, repping out 660 lb squats, tearing 1500 page books, in spite of the fact that he was only 4'11'' and didn't weigh more than 150 lbs (Tyrrell).  The craziest shit about his story is that although he grew up so poor that George Jefferson's humble beginnings would have been moving way the hell on up for Aich, the dude not only still trains 90 minutes a day, but is still jacked at 100 years old.  Not surprisingly, the Rigveda actually states that people should live to be over 100, and Aich isn't the only Indian bodybuilder to live into his triple digits.  In a country where our jacked guys' hearts explode at age 55 even with highly advanced medicine and great material wealth (come the fuck on Michael Clarke Duncan.  How the fuck do you die of a heart attack at 55?), Indians are pretty much making us look like their punk bitches.
Aich, making most people look like soggy dogshit at age 75.

Codified systems of exercise are actually about as old as what we think of India itself, as the Vedas made frequent allusions to systems of exercise, though they didn't detail them outright (Mujumdar 1).  For those of you who are unaware, the Vedas have basically been a combination of Wikipedia, the Bible, and the Farmer's Almanac for Indians for the last 200 years.  In the Rig Veda, it was suggested that one use digging, fist fighting, swimming, running, and archery to build physical strength (Mujumdar 2).  Interestingly, Mariusz Pudzianowski regularly includes the middle three in his training, and Steve Justa mentioned the value of digging in Rock, Iron, Steel.  Though digging gets short shrift in comparison to the wood chop so frequently detailed in Men's Health and frequently performed in big box gyms around America, it's a hell of a workout.  In the Vedas, the sage Agastya "desired to develop his strength by digging with a hoe (Vide Rigveda 1-179-6" and suggested others do the same (Ibid).  Justa mentions that doing shovel lifts, in which he essentially mimicked the movement of shovelling with one of his wacky homemade implements, increased all of his other lifts after skipping other lifts for weighted shovels for two weeks.  Frankly, any of you who's shoveled snow for a day know that shovelling kicks your ass inside out, and any of you who have seen an old image of a coal shoveler know they were ripped up in spite of the fact that their diets consisted of sausage and liquor.

In addition to the above, the Rigveda kicked shit off right, by recommending they take a variety of herbs to increase their strength, and to eat a diet heavy in fats.  As I've covered before, fat-rich diets improve your hormonal profiles significantly, which will in turn confer greater strength upon you over time.
Indians still take stone lifting seriously- "only men who have been practising and know they can manage, take part because in this age of technology news travels fast. 'There is the insult factor,' said Abbasi. 'If someone takes part in a Karachi competition, and fails, news of it will be discussed in his village [up north] for days.'"(Sultan)

The Ramanyana followed that with recommendations or stone lifting and throwing, which persists in the Karachi district in India as Gutti, was part of the ancient Greek Olympics, and is still popular in the Scottish Highland games and among the Basques, both of whom are renowned for their physical strength.  It also promoted jumping, which is still a popular exercise among East Indian wrestlers (who contributed heavily to modern catch wrestling/mma grappling) (Willoughby 200).  Additionally, "swinging" was promoted, which from the accounts I've found seems like a combination of Crossfit's pullup abortions mixed with random Olympic high-bar gymnastics done from tree branches.  As anyone with eyeballs and a television knows, gymnasts have always been, and always will be, jacked as fuck.  Finally, the last couple books in the Veda basically promote "games" that consisted of hopefully-not-fatal brawling with fists, maces, and any other blunt object they happened to find laying around. One look at the average mma fighter will give you an idea of what that does for the body- all good things.  Thus, all of their recommendations in ancient times are better than most of the nonsense you'll read online today- and that shit basically just came from their Bible.

Once they got out of the Biblical age, shit got real in India for weightlifting.  Up next- how Indians got to be some of the most jacked motherfuckers on Earth while Europeans were too busy burning each other at the stake and declaring the female orgasm to be the sole produce of sorcery.
Also, desi broads can bring the ruckus.

AP, Associated Press. Moldovan Justice Minister Comes to Austria in Stolen Car.  The Associated Press.  8 May 1996.  Web.  7 Sep 2012.

Mujumdar, DC (ed.).  Encyclopedia of Indian Physical Culture.  1950.

Sultan, Azhar.  Hazara traditions: Big men prove brawn and bravery with balls of stone.  Express Tribune.  28 Dec 2010.  Web.  10 Sep 2012.

Tyrrell, Ron. Monohar Aich- An Enduring and Endearing Ambassador for Physical Culture.  Sandowplus- Indian Physical Culture.  Web.  10 Sep 2012.


  1. This is a good read Mr Lewis, can't wait for the next installment!

    It made me laugh as a UK Indian while training in a LifeStyle gym in the States, the day a white guy talking to me said, "wow you're the biggest Indian I have ever seen". (I was around 200 lbs) LOL.

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  2. Monohar Aich, the original Convict Conditioning.

  3. I like your history themed posts.

    I just did my third day of your Intermediate Deadlift Spec, and I was cursing your name by the end of it haha.

    1. Hahaha. If you think taht's bad, check out the workout Lamar Gant did when he first started lifting. You're getting off easy as hell!

  4. The Harlequin pic freaks me out every time and I've eaten snickers bars at autopsies. Fuck.

    1. That is one horrifying and upsetting disease. Those two diseases make me consider conversion to Christianity just so I can curb stomp Jesus when I arrive in heaven.

  5. I don't know why but I've always found Indian women to have this absolute beauty about them. Something in their faces.

    Great read. This blog always entertains!

  6. Good stuff. India doesn't get enough credit, but they're actually pretty awesome.

  7. Michael Clarke Duncan apparently went vegetarian.

  8. This post and the next one have been a long time coming.

    1. Holy christ. Did you just pay me a compliment?

    2. Weight-loss is gay and powerlifting's pretty boring, I've been waiting for this article since December 2010.

  9. Interesting article, look here for pictures more about monohar aich here

    I read here that he had a mild stroke when he was 99, and the he quit heavy lifting, that dude is fantastic.

  10. That was very interesting. Nicely researched.

    Jamie, It´d be awesome to have a blog post about your training and nutritional strategies to move up to 198.
    Planning on writing about it?
    A version of APD focused on gaining lean mass? That´d be fucking gold.

  11. Jamie,

    As much as I read and you and lift-run-bang research on training, I was sitting here and a thought popped in my head. We focus on diet and types of training but what about breathing excercises. I don't want to get too far out with this but just wondered if you did a breathing excercise 3 times a day how much or if it would be of any benefit.

    1. From my perspective, it would neither help nor hurt. I'm happy to leave my spiritual muscles atrophied- they're to tiny to provide me with any real benefit. Also, I'm not prepared to spend the time necessary to find out if they'd have any effect on anything.

    2. from personal experience: some types of breathing work (restricted exhalation ala karate sanchin training) will help you manage intra-abdominal pressure and isn't much different from a "slow exhale version" of what you'd do in a heavy belt-less deadlift, and as such has some good carryover to it, whereas other types (relaxed breathing work ala tai chi and stuff) CAN be beneficial for lifting insofar as they let you recover your breath better in-between sets (simply because you breathe more efficiently), but are otherwise more beneficial to cardio type work because they make it harder to run out of breath in the first place (for the same reason), which won't apply to heavy lifting due to it being anaerobic and anathema to relaxation.

  12. I am from India and almost a neighbour of Mr. Aich. The deep sitting ignorance about his feats in Indians and especially Bengalis( Mr. Aich is a Bengali himself), is almost maddening for me. No body has any idea about the man's achievements, contributions or wisdom about physical culture. India is nothing but a whore house of the Multinational corporates at present and that fact certainly manifests itself in the opening of health clubs at a faster rate than the growth of our population!!!
    So, I definitely thank u Jamie for returning some of the pride back.

    1. No worries, man. You guys definitely have a lot of interesting culture floating underneath the surface of sexual repression and Western pandering :P.

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