Gymnastics , (Gr. gymnastic art), a system of exercises which develop and invigorate the body, particularly the muscular system. If properly directed, gymnastics will enlarge and strengthen the various muscles of the trunk, neck, arms, and legs, will expand the chest so as to facilitate the play of the lungs, will render the joints supple, and will impart to the person grace, ease, and steadiness of carriage, combined with strength, elasticity, and quickness of movement; but an injudicious mode of exercise will frequently confirm and aggravate those physical imperfections for which a remedy is sought, by developing the muscular system unequally. Though athletic feats were at first performed by each individual according to his own notions, and were encouraged among the youth as combining amusement with exercise, they were at length reduced to a system, which in Greece formed a prominent feature in the state regulations for education; and as the nature of the warlike weapons rendered the development of physical force a subject of the highest military importance, athletic sports were continued during manhood. Public games were also consecrated to the gods, and were conducted with the greatest ceremony.
The earliest mention we can find of gymnastic sports is in Homer's Iliad, book ii., where the Greeks are described as contending at javelin throwing and quoits ; and again in book xxiii., when Achilles instituted games in honor of Patro-clus, and distributed prizes to the victors for boxing, wrestling, throwing the quoit, chariot racing, etc. Plato tells us that just before the time of Hippocrates gymnastics were made a part of medical study, as being suitable to counteract the effects of indolence and luxurious feeding, and that at length they became a state matter, reduced to a system and superintended by state officers. The first public gymnasia were built by the Lacedaemonians. These were imitated at Athens; where, in the walks belonging to one of them called the Academia, Plato instructed his pupils, and in another, named the Lyceum, Aristotle taught. At Athens a chief officer superintended the whole establishment; the
superintended only the most athletic exercises; medical officers were in attendance, whose duty it was to prescribe the kind and extent of the exercise; the assisted and instructed the pupils, who commenced with easy exercises, from which they were gradually advanced to the more violent, till they reached the highest degree of agility and strength. Baths were attached to the gymnasia ; the system most recommended was to take first a hot bath, and then to plunge immediately into cold water. Plato and Aristotle considered that no republic could be deemed perfect in which gymnasia, as part of the national establishments, were neglected. The Spartans were the most rigid in exacting for the youth a gymnastic training; even the girls were expected to be good gymnasts, and no young woman could be married till she had publicly exhibited her proficiency in various exercises. Honorable rewards and civic distinctions were publicly bestowed on the victors in the games; the rewards were styled wherefore those who contended for them were termed or athletes. The exercises for the pupils in the gymnasia consisted of a sort of tumbling, and war dances; running, much recommended for both sexes; leaping, and sometimes springing from the knees having weights attached to the body; retaining the equilibrium while jumping on slippery skins full of wine, the feet being naked; wrestling for the throw, or to keep the other undermost after the throw ; boxing, confined nearly exclusively to the military and athletes. The boxer either held the hands open, or he clenched brazen or stone spheres, or wore the coestus or leathern band studded with metal knobs bound round his hands and wrists; there was also a mixed practice of boxing and wrestling called The pitching of the quoit was much practised; a variation of the quoit was found in the not unlike a dumb-bell, which was thrown by one to another, who caught it and then pitched it to a third, and so on; it was also adopted in extension motions. and was held in the hand with the arm extended. Javelin throwing was practised by both sexes; also throwing the bar. Riding, driving, swimming, rowing, swinging, climbing ropes, standing erect for a long time in one position, holding the breath, shouting. shooting the arrow, etc, were also taught.- Modern gymnastics differ considerably from the exercises of the ancients. During the middle ages the knightly amusement of the tournament absorbed nearly every other sport, except the use of the quarterstaff, archery, foot racing, and wrestling, which were practised in a few places; so that gymnastics fell nearly into disuse till Basedow, in 1776, at his institution in Dessau, united bodily exercises with other instruction, which example was subsequently followed by Salzmann at his institute, and from this small commencement the practice gradually extended.
In the latter part of the 18th century gymnastics were extensively introduced into Prussian schools by Guts-Muths, who wrote several works on the subject; and about 1810 the system was still more widely spread by Jahn, who may be regarded as the founder of the present Turnvereine. Prussia being at that time impatient under Napoleonic rule, Jahn conceived the project of bringing together the young men for the practice of gymnastic exercises, and at the same time of indoctrinating them with patriotic sentiments which might be made available to expel the French from Germany. The Prussian government favored the plan, and in the spring of 1811 a public gymnastic school or Turnplatz was opened at Berlin, which was quickly imitated all over the country. On Feb. 3, 1813, the king of Prussia called the citizens to arms against the French, when all those old enough to enter the military service joined the national cause, and performed signal service. Jahn himself commanded a battalion of Lutzow's volunteers, and after the peace returned to his gymnastic schools. When, however, there was no longer any reason to dread French invasion, the government of Prussia, regarding the meeting of patriotic young men as a means of spreading liberal ideas, closed the gymnastic schools, and Jahn was imprisoned.
In some other countries, however, the system introduced by Jahn was eminently successful, especially in England, Switzerland, Portugal, and Denmark. It was first introduced into female education under the name of callisthenics, when systematic exercises were added to hoop trundling, skipping ropes, dumb-bells, etc, already usual among the girls, and to riding, archery, and other healthy outdoor exercises among the women. The masculine sports of cricket, football, quoits, boxing, wrestling, base ball, leapfrog, foot racing, etc, have been for centuries enjoyed by the boys of England, in the play grounds attached to the schools. In 1848 the political condition of Europe enabled the turn-vereins to be reorganized, and the German emigration to the United States has brought these institutions with it. The first society was formed in New York, but similar associations soon spread all over the United States. The organization, as first established, was confined to the practice of bodily exercises conducive to physical development; but it soon assumed a higher scope, without neglecting its original object; libraries were collected, schools were established, a newspaper (Turnzeitung) was founded, and various arrangements were made for the diffusion of useful knowledge and for mental culture.
Thus the turnvereins of the United States tread closely in the track of the academy of Athens; and when we consider the intimate connection between mind and body - how the suffering and the well-being of the one are affected by the condition of the other - too much attention can scarcely be paid to the combination of physical with mental improvement. The several local organizations of the turnverein hold annually a general meeting, by means of delegates, for the consideration of matters of common interest; they also have an annual festival, attended by representatives of the several organizations, wherein are exhibited feats of strength and agility, swimming, military manoeuvres, rifle shooting, sword exercise, etc. There are, moreover, several local festivals every year in the respective districts. - There are many forms of exercise which require no special skill or practice, and which consequently may be employed with advantage by all. Excluding various games, such as base ball, cricket, and racket, and certain special exercises, as rowing, boxing, and fencing, the most available ordinary exercises are walking and horseback riding. Unless one walks at a rapid rate, little benefit is to be derived from this as an exercise.
Two or three miles of walking, at the rate of four miles or more an hour, are more beneficial than a much longer walk when the movements are slow and indolent. In the former instance, the method of walking is necessarily more natural and more in accordance with the rules laid down by athletes, and the respiratory function is brought into more vigorous action. Horseback exercise, particularly the trot, is also beneficial, gives a free use of the arms and legs, strengthens the back and loins, and is generally exhilarating. Outdoor sports, such as leaping, the long and high jump, leaping with the pole, " putting the stone," throwing the hammer, running, fast and long walking, etc., are much cultivated in England and Scotland. The Caledonian games are exhilarating, produce fine and uniform muscular development, and experts in these exercises are almost always models of health and vigor. There are also many valuable methods of exercise that may be profitably employed at home, without necessarily having recourse to a regularly organized gymnasium. The best of these are the following. Swinging Indian clubs is an exercise in which there are many different movements, most of which are described in books on gymnastics.
This exercise is a good one for the joints, especially the wrists, but does not produce great muscular development, or much improvement of the " wind." Exercise with light dumb-bells, five pounds or even less, making a great variety of movements, will develop and harden the muscles of the arms and shoulders Sometimes to an extraordinary degree, particularly when combined with more severe gymnastics. This exercise may be continued with advantage almost uninterruptedly for an hour, or even longer. A great variety of movements may be performed with an arrangement of elastic bands with handles, made to imitate the pulley weights of a gymnasium. Most of the other exercises of the arms, legs, and body, called the free exercises, come under the head of callisthenics. Some of the more simple forms of gymnastic apparatus may with advantage be erected in the open air, and constitute a useful recreation for school boys. Exercises on the single or horizontal bar, and the high jump, standing or running, come under this head. A well organized gymnasium is provided with a great variety of apparatus, by which nearly every muscle in the body may be brought into play.
In a complete gymnasium, an instructor is necessary at first, particularly for the young, who might otherwise, by carelessness or ignorance, produce injuries which would defeat the objects of the exercise. For the adult, exercise within proper limits in a gymnasium, particularly when taken in classes, not only develops the whole system and regulates the most important functions of the organism, but the feeling of emulation excites interest, and the exercise is valuable as a relief from mental strain. This is particularly useful for those of sedentary pursuits. The most simple gymnastic exercises are the following: the upright bars, or chest bars, which render the shoulder joints supple and expand the chest; the leg weights, pushing weights with the feet while in a sitting posture; the pulley weights, which strengthen the arms and shoulders; the rowing weights, an apparatus intended to imitate the movements in rowing; light dumb-bells, and club swinging. The more severe exercises are : the horizontal bar, upon which a great variety of feats of strength and dexterity may be performed, many of which require address that can only be acquired by long practice; horizontal and inclined ladders, which are climbed with the hands; climbing the rope; climbing the peg pole, an exercise requiring great strength in the arms, in which those with light bodies are usually most pro-ficient; drawing the body up with one or both hands; holding the body, suspended by the hands, horizontally, with the face up or down, called the front and back horizontals, requiring great strength in nearly all the muscles; one-arm horizontals, requiring even greater strength; and holding the body extended horizontally from a perpendicular bar, the "flag," requiring considerable strength and practice.
The various free exercises known as tumbling, human pyramids, etc, demand much strength, practice, agility, and confidence. The most common of these are front hand springs, "flip-flaps" or back hand springs, turning, twisting, etc, on the ground, springing from a lying posture on the ground to the erect position, back and front somersaults from feet to feet, battoute leaping from an inclined plane, and many other feats, even more difficult, that are performed chiefly by professional gymnasts. Vaulting is a very useful and a simple exercise, which gives agility and develops strength in the arms as well as in the legs. Balancing the body upon the hands, walking on the hands, etc, give command of equilibrium. The Japanese gymnasts particularly excel in these feats. A good "hand balance" is considered very difficult to acquire, and its practice is usually begun at an early age by professional gymnasts. Some of the most useful exercises for an expert gymnast are performed in great variety upon the parallel bars. The parallel bars constitute perhaps the most useful apparatus in the gymnasium for developing the muscles of the shoulders, the chest, and the back. The single and the double trapeze are now much in vogue with gymnastic experts.
The flying trapeze is not much used by amateurs, as this exercise is by no means devoid of danger, and almost all professionals acquire their skill in this at the expense of many severe falls. A great variety of difficult feats may be performed with the swinging rings. These are not so dangerous as the feats on the flying trapeze; they develop strength in the muscles of the arms, shoulders, and body, and the grip, | and are entertaining and agreeable exercises. Among what are called the heavy exercises are prominent the "putting up" of heavy dumb-bells, with one or both hands, and the lifting of heavy weights with the hands or in a harness. Putting up two 100-pound dumb-bells,' one in either hand, is justly considered a great feat of strength; it requires enormous power in the arms and shoulders, and particularly in the back. Putting up a single dumbbell of 100 lbs. or more requires great strength and practice. In putting up heavy dumbbells with one hand, the weight is carried to the shoulder with both hands, and is then raised from the shoulder with one hand until the arm and the body are straight. A single dumb-bell weighing 200 lbs. has been put up in this way with one hand, which is a Herculean feat.
In exercises of this kind, the muscles should be trained gradually and carefully, otherwise severe strains are likely to occur; but heavy dumb-bells develop the muscles of the back, loins, thighs, and legs, as well as those of the arms and shoulders. Holding out weights horizontally at arm's length is a favorite heavy exercise, particularly with those who have very short and muscular arms. Lifting heavy weights with the hands, or with a harness of straps and a yoke over the shoulders, is an exercise now very much in use. In lifting with the hands alone, the lifter stands upon a platform beneath which the weight is suspended; connected with the weight are two handles of convenient shape, at a proper height; the handles are grasped, the legs are slightly bent, the back is hollowed, the arms are straight, the shoulders are in a line with the feet, and when the lift is made the whole body is straightened. With a heavy weight, an instantaneous lift even of an inch is sufficient. The first effort is usually aided by a strong spring, which is compressed by the weight; but the lift must be made to clear the spring completely. Between 1,300 and 1,400 lbs. have been thus lifted.
A heavy lift of this kind brings nearly every muscle of the body into action, but it strains particularly the grip, the muscles of the neck and the top of the shoulders, the thighs, and the small of the back. Heavy lifts are liable to produce severe strains, unless the lifting position be perfect. Lifters should proceed gradually from light to heavy weights, and should not attempt heavy lifts except under competent instruction. The so-called lift cures are undoubtedly useful, as they condense a great amount of muscular exercise into a very short time. Lifting is sometimes done with a bar between the legs, grasped with both hands; but this position is not so favorable as that with handles by the sides. In lifting with harness, the great strain is taken from the hands and transferred to the shoulders; 3,000 lbs. have been lifted in this way. Expert lifters usually lift every day a weight that they can raise with comparative ease, and make a maximum lift only once in two or three weeks. Besides the above, which comprise most of the exercises of the modern gymnasium, a number of others are sometimes practised, as evolutions on the wooden horse, exercises with wands, etc. - Callisthenics (Gr. beauty, and strength) constitute a system of exercises requiring less violence of muscular action than the ordinary gymnastics. This system is considered to be better adapted to the more delicate organization of females, and is generally confined in its application to that sex. Its purpose is to give equal development to all the muscles, and thus produce that harmony of action on which depends not only health, but regularity of proportion and grace of movement. Callisthenics may be practised mediately or immediately, with or without apparatus. All the apparatus required, when used, is a strong chair, a short roller fixed in sockets near the top of an open doorway, a light wooden staff, about 4 1/2 ft. in length and half an inch in diameter, a pair of light dumb-bells, a hair mattress, a pair of square weights, and two parallel bars. The exercises with these are simple, and can be readily learned in a lesson or two from a teacher, or from any of the numerous manuals published on the subject. In the chair exercise, the pupil plants the feet at a certain distance from the chair, and then leans forward on tiptoe, and rests the hands upon the back of the chair.
The exercise consists in moving the body slowly backward and forward between the two fixed points of the toes on the floor and the hands on the back of the chair. This simple manoeuvre is admirably adapted for the expansion of the chest and the development of all the muscles of the body. In the roller exercise, the pupil is suspended by the hands a few inches above the floor, and swings in this position, or moves the grasp alternately from side to side. A great number of graceful and strengthening movements may be made with the staff. One of the best is to hold it in both hands, and pass it successively over the head to the right and left, bringing it down each time below the middle of the person, in front or behind. The dumb-bells, being grasped by the hands, are to be moved forward and backward horizontally from the chest, or, with the arms below the hips, to be moved circularly about the body, until they meet before and behind. The exercise on the mattress consists merely in raising the person from a horizontal to a sitting posture, with the arms and legs extended and not used to aid in the movement. The square weights may be used in most cases like the dumb-bells. They have, however, the peculiar advantage of a form which allows of their being placed upon the head.
This is one of the best possible means of giving uprightness to the figure, as in thus balancing a weight the spine is necessarily brought by the muscles of the back into a straight position. The negro women of the south, who are in the habit of carrying heavy burdens on their head, are remarkable for erectness of the body. The parallel bars are two poles fastened by their ends to the floor and the ceiling, at a proper distance apart, and of a thickness to be readily grasped by the hands of the pupil, which being done, the body is moved backward and forward between them. Every necessary exercise, however, can be practised without the use of apparatus of any kind, and the system of callisthenics founded on this basis is probably best for general adoption, as it is less liable to abuse from the intemperate zeal of the pupil, and more calculated to preserve the beautiful, which few women will be persuaded to exchange for any acquisition of strength. When apparatus is used, the effort is more violent, and the muscles may become so prominently developed as to cause the absorption of the soft cellular tissue which cushions the human frame, and which, by its abundance in the female, gives roundness and fulness to the form.
The constant handling of the hard material of the apparatus, also, is apt to produce a disproportionate enlargement of the hand and harden its texture. The callisthenic exercises without apparatus consist in regular and systematic movements of the entire body. The head and the trunk arc moved up and down, forward and backward, to the right and left; the arms and legs, and hands and feet, are also exercised so that every voluntary muscle is brought into action. The object being to give an equal muscular development to the whole frame, the exercises are so arranged that all parts of the body are successively brought into action. None of the movements are complicated, and they are in fact no more than those usual in the ordinary exercise of the limbs. Callisthenics, however, by reducing these to a sys-tem, insures an equal and regular action of the muscles, while the occupations or amusements of females are apt to effect the reverse. It is essential that all these exercises should be practised, if indoors, in well ventilated halls or apartments. The practical utility of all gymnastics is frequently diminished by monotony, the pupil becoming wearied with the uniformity of the movements. Without the discipline of a teacher, it is difficult to secure a long persistence in their use.
It is well therefore to vary them, or to associate with them as much as possible the idea of amusement. In fact, there is no better callisthenic apparatus than many of the ordinary playthings, such as the battledore and shuttlecock, the cup and ball, and the "graces." In modern callisthenics, regulating the movements to the time of music is much employed, and is useful, as it relieves their monotony. Ling, the Swedish writer on gymnastics and callisthenics, has written enthusiastically upon the advantage of systematic muscular exercise in the cure of disease. Numerous ailments to which females are peculiarly liable are due to the neglect of proper physical training, and may doubtless be relieved in many instances by the proper application of callisthenics. Most of these female disorders may be justly attributed to the weakness of the abdominal muscles, and a proper strengthening of these by exercise would no doubt remove the cause. It is evident that callisthenics, so called, are almost identical with the lighter forms of regular gymnastic exercise, and are adapted to the male as well as to the female.
Exhibitions of large classes, the movements being simultaneous and performed to the time of appropriate music, are often quite graceful and entertaining. - Systematic gymnastic or callisthenic exercises are rarely if ever useful before the age of 12 or 14 years. Professional gymnasts, many of whom begin their training at a very early age, are seldom well formed men, frequently presenting extraordinary development of certain muscles at the expense of others, which amounts almost to deformity. Before the age of 12 the games and pastimes of childhood generally afford sufficient exercise; at that age, however, the lighter gymnastics or callisthenics, under competent instruction, may be the first step in the full development of a muscular system, which moderate exercise will preserve in a robust condition throughout adult life. After the age of 35 even practised gymnasts should be careful in making extraordinary muscular efforts. At that time the ligaments are comparatively stiff, and strains of the joints are apt to become troublesome and persistent. By persons of sedentary habits, gymnastic exercise is to be employed to secure health, and it is not desirable to carry training to the extent of reducing the adipose tissue to the minimum.
A fair development of fat is normal in the adult, and the system is apt to become exhausted if kept too long at a high standard of muscular development. Persons who have an unusual tendency to fat should combine with other ex-ercise running, jumping on the spring-board, and movements which shake the body. These favor the absorption of unnecessary adipose tissue, especially in the covering of the abdominal organs, allow the diaphragm to play more freely, and give respiratory power or "wind." It is a good plan for the adult to use moderate exercise, which develops the muscular system generally, and to make one vigorous effort each day, such as lifting a heavy weight or raising a large dumb-bell. This gives nervous power, and enables one to easily put forth nearly all his strength in a single powerful effort, when this is required. It is not necessary for an adult, exercising simply for health, to cultivate excessive hardness of muscle; and indeed the greatest strength is often found in muscles that are comparatively soft. One hour's honest exercise, followed by ablution, will usually suffice for the brain-worker; and this should produce prompt reaction, without a sense of exhaustion.
Persons who take this amount of judicious exercise are often more powerful and have more endurance than the hard-worked laborer. '1 here is no doubt that judicious and habitual exercise favors the elimination of effete matters from the organism, particularly by the lungs, skin, and kidneys, increases the activity of the nutrition of the muscular system, rendering the food more relishing, more easily digested, ! and better assimilated, and develops what is known as nerve power. When it is remembered that the muscles constitute the great bulk of the organism, it is evident that perfect health can only exist when they are properly developed. Active nutrition of the muscles, also, is unfavorable to the deposition of morbid matters, such as are found in tuberculous, cancerous, or scrofulous constitutions; and when exercise is combined with amusement and mental relaxation, the system is in the best condition to derive its full benefit. - Ancient gymnastics are treated of in a few works: Plato, "Politics," book iii., and "Laws," book viii.; Galen, "On Preserving Health;" and Hieronymus Mercurialis, De Arte Gymnastica, book vi. (Venice, 1587). On modern gymnastics there are numerous trea-tises. Many German physicians have labored to raise gymnastics to the importance of a science, especially Dr. Schreber of Leipsic; see his Kinesiatrik (Leipsic, 1852) and Aerzt-liche Zimmergymnastik (5th ed., 1858). The more recent works published in the Uni-ted States and England are the following : Arthur and Charles Nahl, "Instructions in Gymnastics" (San Francisco, 1st;:',); Watson, "Callisthenics and Gymnastics" (New York and Philadelphia, 1804); William Wood, "Manual of Physical Exercises" (New York. 1807); Ravenstein and Hulley, "Gymnastics and Athletics" (London, 1867).