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15 minutes
January 24, 2011 12:23 PM   Subscribe

Müller Exercise System - A 15-minute No-Equipment Workout. 'Watch and learn the favorite exercise routine of early 20th century Europeans.''The exercise guide, which promised that just "15 minutes a day" of prescribed* exercise would make "weaklings" into strong men (and women), was ultimately translated into 25 languages, reprinted dozens of times, and sold briskly well into the 20th century.'

'Müller took great pride in his system's popularity. In My System for Ladies, he notes that his first book sold "over a million copies" (later estimates pegged it at 2 million), and devotees included Crown Princess Sophia of Greece. Eventually he settled in London, dropped his umlaut, and opened the Muller Institute at 45 Dover Street, where he welcomed guests like the Prince of Wales. British soldiers were told to practice his exercises in the trenches of World War I. He gave hundreds of lectures on hygiene and exercise throughout the 1910s and early 1920s across Europe. A radio program, helmed by a devotee, broadcast his system from the mid-1920s until the mid-1950s.'

Free Download of the book.
posted by VikingSword (32 comments total) 63 users marked this as a favorite

 
Things really don't change that much.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:34 PM on January 24, 2011


Are all books on archive.org this poor of quality? I'd rather rub sand in my eyes than try to read the PDF!
posted by floam at 12:37 PM on January 24, 2011


15 minutes of that wouldn't burn half of the Nacho Cheese Chalupa the average American just had for second-lunch.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:43 PM on January 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


Pale and sickly because they never exercise? Smelly because they never bathe? I was born 150 years too late.
posted by muddgirl at 12:45 PM on January 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


You can get a pretty good workout just by repeatedly dropping your umlaut and then picking it back up.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:49 PM on January 24, 2011 [19 favorites]


You can get a pretty good workout just by repeatedly dropping your umlaut and then picking it back up.

That's 'cause they're made out of heavy metal. \m/
posted by bondcliff at 12:56 PM on January 24, 2011 [42 favorites]


It's linked in the Slate article, but this link (with clickable table of contents!) is better than archive.org if you want to actually read the book and get down to some hup-ho mustache style flexins.
posted by theodolite at 1:03 PM on January 24, 2011


These must be the original of P.G. Wodehouse's "Larsen Exercises", described in "Something Fresh", which is the first of the Blandings Castle stories: the hero is working out in the street (rather unusual in 1915, when the book was published). He is depressed, because of his lousy job, and trying to shake it off:

Skipping brought no balm. He threw down his rope and took up the Indian clubs.

Indian clubs left him still unsatisfied. The thought came to him that it was a long time since he had done his Larsen Exercises. Perhaps they would heal him.

The Larsen Exercises, invented by a certain Lieutenant Larsen, of the Swedish Army, have almost every sort of merit. They make a man strong, supple, and slender. But they are not dignified. Indeed, to one seeing them suddenly and without warning for the first time, they are markedly humorous. The only reason why King Henry of England, whose son sank with the White Ship, never smiled again, was because Lieutenant Larsen had not then invented his admirable exercises.


The heroine laughs at him, and introduces herself when she comes to apologize.

Something Fresh
posted by jrochest at 1:12 PM on January 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


i took a quick spin through the slate article's comments and found someone's google docs summary of the muller workout as well. slate's article is also interesting because of mentioning how muller broke with the zeitgeist by making fitness apolitical, rather than wrapping it up in the nationalism/fascism/anti-Semitism of the time.
posted by asymptotic at 1:17 PM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


A PDF of the book is all well and good, but is there a video somewhere that shows you how to do it? This looks like a routine I would actually stick with.
posted by Hey Dean Yeager! at 1:21 PM on January 24, 2011


I remember learning about this in a Joyce class (Mueller's system makes guest appearances in Ulysses). Reading over this is still pretty fascinating, though--particularly the fact that he wanted women to take off their corsets and exercise their muscles instead. What a feminist!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:30 PM on January 24, 2011


I had a little trouble with the first paragraph.

People often comment on my father's physique. Toned doesn't quite capture it: He looks carved. Unusually muscular. He is also, by any measure, ridiculously strong.

This just below a video of her father in which he looks like a stick figure. Maybe she was talking about him in his youth or something, but it seems pretty goofy. I'd like to know just how "ridiculously strong" this guy got from this system. Any measure would do.

Muller sounds neat, but I'll take Sandow. Although I do like the idea of "muscle Jews." That might be the name of my next band.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 1:39 PM on January 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm on about number 5, first degree. Its quite fun. The 15 minutes is a bit optimistic though, especially as you're supposed to take a bath between numbers 8 and 9. I'm pretty psyched about an exercise routine that has a bath in the middle of it though. Apparently exercises 9 through 18 are 'rubbing' exercises best done after a bath.

Page 57 of the PDF: "When a pupil is thoroughly conversant with the 'system' however, the whole series can easily be performed in 20 minutes, with bath included"
posted by memebake at 1:42 PM on January 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


PhoBWanKenobi: I remember learning about this in a Joyce class (Mueller's system makes guest appearances in Ulysses).

You're probably thinking of Eugen Sandow. From Bloom's library in "Ithaca":

Physical Strength and How to Obtain It by Eugen Sandow (red cloth).
posted by cobra libre at 1:58 PM on January 24, 2011


Anatoli: The guy did say that he's been doing it for around 60 years, so he's in his mid- to late-60's. Sure, he doesn't look like a bodybuilder, but he's got low body fat, and looks to be in great shape for somebody his age. Of course, there are different body types, and he's probably an ecto-mesomorph, so the workout most likely has less to do with it than the author would lead us to believe.
posted by KGMoney at 1:58 PM on January 24, 2011


MetaFilter: You're supposed to take a bath between numbers 8 and 9.
posted by jbickers at 2:03 PM on January 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Muller sounds neat, but I'll take Sandow.

Note that I gave a link in the FPP, which was inspired by Sandow "The Golden Age of Iron Men", which provides a lot of detail on Sandow, as well as a number of other notable exponents of physical fitness, including the subject of this FPP, J.P. Muller.
posted by VikingSword at 2:12 PM on January 24, 2011


I'm sure it's just an artifact of the general time in which such things were printed, but there is an awful lot about this book which echoes the Vitalogy packaging book from the Pearl Jam album. Typeface, wording used, general philosophical approach....
posted by hippybear at 2:22 PM on January 24, 2011


D'oh, you're right, that was Sandow.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:27 PM on January 24, 2011


KGMoney, I get that the guy's old, I'm just saying the description doesn't fit at all, so I think it kind of poisons the well at the start of the article. "Biggest Loser" notwithstanding, fitness is not just about being lightweight, and I seriously doubt the man in the video is very strong.

I've been reading through a bunch of the articles in the Slate fitness issue, and it's a pretty mixed bag. They don't do very much to penetrate the BS-heavy culture of exercise products. I thought the article about CrossFit and P90x was really terrible, although I do think it's kind of funny, in a schadenfreude kind of way, to see CrossFit called a "cousin" of P90x, and to read the author's description of "holding two large Italian-style tomato cans and vigorously swinging my arms in forward and backward circles," which, she says, is CrossFit. WTF.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 2:39 PM on January 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm just saying the description doesn't fit at all, so I think it kind of poisons the well at the start of the article. "Biggest Loser" notwithstanding, fitness is not just about being lightweight, and I seriously doubt the man in the video is very strong.

He looks pretty carved to me. I mean, pretty much the definition of six-pack abs and you can see every muscle in his legs and arms. Sure, he's lean, but there's no reason to think he's not fit.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:50 PM on January 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seems like a good place to mention how much my Mon used to enjoy Jack Lallane's exercise program. He just passed away of pneumonia at age 96, and he was still looking pretty great.
posted by misha at 3:12 PM on January 24, 2011


He looks pretty carved to me. I mean, pretty much the definition of six-pack abs and you can see every muscle in his legs and arms. Sure, he's lean, but there's no reason to think he's not fit.

Look, I'm not trying to beat up on an old guy for looking like an old guy, but he's a far cry from "unusually muscular." He looks like a bag of bones, like a lot of older guys do, and I doubt that he got "ridiculously strong" on account of doing some daily stretching. I like seeing older athletes performing impressive physical feats, but the video in the article doesn't really give me anything to go on.

I was looking for an awesome video I once saw of a 60-ish (Russian, I think) gymnast/weightlifter doing all kinds of badass stuff with bodyweight and kettlebells, but I couldn't find it, so instead here's Mark Rippetoe doing 18 chinups and squatting 335x11 at (I believe) 53 years old.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 3:33 PM on January 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Aha! Here we go: Johann Martin - 50 years of struggle with the iron.
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 3:55 PM on January 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


I read through some of it, and it seems pretty solid.

Sunshine, baths, sprinting (he berates bicyclists for wasting an opportunity to run to work!). He believed that focusing on particular areas (mostly arms) was folly. It seems like he really focused more on aerobic fitness than strength or tone. He mentions 5 basic body types, and his favorite seems to be "plump." He even recommends running on the balls of your feet!~

there's some things we wouldn't hold with that are probably artifacts of the time-- some catty remarks about how women spend their time, distrust of [patent] medicines, advising against headgear (I assume most people nowadays buy hats that fit and aren't subject to the headaches he mentions)

But yeah, not bad, I don't think. I think my dad would get a kick out of it, anyway.
posted by rubah at 9:16 PM on January 24, 2011


Something Fresh
posted by rxrfrx at 5:36 AM on January 25, 2011


He looks like a bag of bones, like a lot of older guys do, and I doubt that he got "ridiculously strong" on account of doing some daily stretching.

You should probably broaden your idea of "fit" instead of trying force everyone else into your perception of what fit is.
15 minutes of calisthenics every day is probably a hell of a lot healthier to do in the long run than a lot gung-ho fanatical workouts people take up.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:52 PM on January 25, 2011


You should probably broaden your idea of "fit" instead of trying force everyone else into your perception of what fit is.

Yeah, mea culpa, I shouldn't have gone to that guy's house and forced him eat cheeseburgers and lift weights, that was wrong.

Maybe he runs a mean 5k. Maybe he's able to rescue people after earthquakes by fitting into narrow crevices. I'm just saying he's not "unusually muscular" and I doubt he's "ridiculously strong, by any measure."
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 4:29 PM on January 25, 2011


Bruce Lee was a buck forty five at 5'7. Most people think he was fit, stong, capable, and quite muscular. So I'm not sure where you're drawing the line on "strong" and "muscular", but maybe you should rethink them.
Look, I don't want to go back and forth on this with you (again), and everybody has an ideal but it would probably be instructive for you if you at least tried to broaden your ideas around the subject.
posted by P.o.B. at 6:28 PM on January 25, 2011


Bruce who? Never heard of him. Thanks for broadening my ideas!
posted by Anatoly Pisarenko at 6:36 PM on January 25, 2011


Cheers, glad I could help! It's better than sounding like a fucked up Charles Atlas ad from the 50's.
posted by P.o.B. at 9:56 AM on January 26, 2011


Wait, is that Comic Sans on the cover of that book?
posted by memebake at 5:52 AM on February 3, 2011


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