At the dawning of the Iron Age of the barbell, the essence of bodybuilding and physical fitness flourished as one under a broad umbrella term known as Physical Culture. But what exactly is this faded and almost forgotten concept that seemed to take on much diversity through the 20th century? The following arbitrary analysis of Physical Culture is extracted from Volume I of “Muscle, Smoke & Mirrors”
This mid-19th century phrase is defined by The Oxford Dictionary as “The sum total of a society’s activities and attitudes connected with physical development and education.”
. . . We can assume from this that the aspects of Physical Culture would vary from culture to culture. Recognizing this tremendous potential for variance in definition due to ethnic influences, the effect of so much cultural integration, as demonstrated in North America, must be taken into consideration.
With awareness of such diversity, it would be conjectured that the development of one’s Physical Culture would come to derive more from individual persuasion over that of a single national influence. It is not our intent to examine extensively just what makes us who or what we are, but much of our very nature is often expressed through our own personal Physical Culture. Exercise, diet, hygiene, educational, and spiritual pursuits all play significant roles in shaping the impact of our individual presence. Obviously from these variables alone the philosophical permutations are tremendous in terms of governing one’s own Physical Culture.
For many, life may be as simple as a strong, banal focus on purely the physical, with little or no exploration of any other horizons. However, for some in the pursuit of a richer enlightenment, it’s a constant seeking of a symphonic balance between the conditioning of the body, the cultivation of the mind, and a continuous unfolding growth of the spirit, all the while maintaining a harmony with their natural environment. In actuality, everyone practices their own Physical Culture whether or not they’re even aware of its meaning. A number of our pioneers of bodybuilding referred to themselves as “Physical Culturists” with their own constituted framework of the term.