Bernarr Macfadden, From Sickly Orphan to Muscleman Millionaire


“Weakness is a crime. Don’t be a criminal.”

-Bernarr Macfadden

Born Bernard Adolphus McFadden in Mill Spring, Missouri August 16, 1868, sickly and into a poor, dysfunctional family, none would have suspected someday he would become Bernarr Macfadden a muscleman multi-millionaire.

His father was an abusive drunk who died in 1874 from delirium tremens.. Bernard’s mother suffered from depression and died of tuberculosis. Both parents passed away before Bernard was 11. His mother destitute and unable to care for Bernard, put him in an orphanage prior to tuberculosis ending her life. He spent a year there before being shuffled from one relative to another.

He overheard one relative say he was so sickly he would die soon like his mother. That comment sparked a desire in him to become strong and healthy. At age 11, relatives gave him to a farmer who needed someone to do his farm work. The outdoor labor became a pivotal point in his health. After 2 years of farm labor, which he thrived on, he grew into a robust child.

In his early teens, he worked in an office. His farm boy strength benefits fading, he bought a set of dumbbells to exercise with and began walking 3-6 miles a day. Walking became his favorite exercise, one he did all his life along with calisthenics and working out with light weights. He joined a gymnasium and became highly proficient in gymnastics. A couple of years later, he trained under a champion wrestler and matured into an excellent wrestler.

After his office job, he worked at various odd jobs, one in a print shop that gave him experience he later used to build a publishing empire. In a library, he studied fitness related subjects, fasting, whole foods, drug free treatments and so forth.

In 1887 he opened a health center with the title “Bernard Mcfadden – Kinestherapist – Teacher of Higher Physical Culture.” That beginning of his work in fitness and health led to many remarkable accomplishments in the years that followed.

Some Of Bernarr Macfadden Many Accomplishments

In 1889, he realized his scant education and his poor spelling and grammar held him back from the kind of recognition and success he hungered for. In exchange for tuition, he worked as a football and wrestling coach at a military academy in Bunker Hill, Illinois. He won many awards for his coaching and became a popular figure at the academy.

While at the academy, he wrote an 80,000 word novel. The Athlete’s Conquest. He also promoted boxing and wrestling matches between his coaching duties, his studies and his writing.

In 1894, at age 26, he moved to New York with $50. He set up a studio for personal training and physical therapy, advertised his services all over New York and soon gained a clientele. He changed his name from Bernard to Bernarr because it sounded more masculine and reminded him of a lion’s roar. He changed his last name to Macfadden believing it was more distinctive.

He designed and sold an exercise device with rubber strands, weights and a wall pulley.

Along with running his fitness business, he fought as a professional wrestler and taught wrestling classes. He published pamphlets and books on his exercise methods and philosophies.

He toured England from 1897 to 1898 giving lectures and posing demonstrations in various classical poses of his muscled and defined physique. One of his astounding demonstrations was to recline on the stage floor and have his wife jump off a 7 foot ladder and bounce off his stomach like bounding off a trampoline.

He returned to New York in 1899, did a lecture tour across America, and established Physical Culture Centers in various cities.

From 1899 to 1905 he wrote 14 books and published a monthly fitness magazine Physical Culture that lasted 50 years and sold millions of copies. He also published a fitness magazine for women Beauty & Health.

He founded the Coney Island Polar Bear Club in 1893 where participants still gather and take dips and swim in freezing winter water.

In 1904 he organized bodybuilding contests for men and women. One of the notable winners was Macfadden’s “Most Perfectly Developed Man” title holder. None other than Charles Atlas the inventor of the Atlas Dynamic Tension course.

He bought property in a remote area of new Jersey in 1905 and started a city devoted to physical culture, Physical Culture City.

In the same year, he established a Health Institute whose graduates found work in coaching and health fields.

In 1910 he opened 20 health food restaurants called Penny Restaurants where people could buy health food meals at low prices.

Macfadden published his greatest work in 1911, the 3,000 page Macfadden’s Encyclopedia of Physical Culture.

In 1919 he expanded his publishing empire to include a new magazine True Story consisting of true stories by readers about their trials and tribulations. It found instant fame and sold 2 million copies by 1926. He published other magazines after that: True Romances, Dream World, True Ghost Stories, Midnight, Dance, True Detective, Photoplay, and many more and became the most successful magazine publisher in American publishing history.

He published several newspapers. One, The New York Evening Graphic, a forerunner of tabloids, featured stories of sex and sensationalism. Critics called it The Evening Pornographic.

In 1928 he bought Castle Heights Military Academy in Lebanon, Tennessee and included many of his health and fitness teachings and character development into the school’s curriculum.

Macfadden purchased a sanatorium in 1929 and refurbished it into a resort hotel with high class accommodations that attracted the rich and famous.

In 1930 he established a charitable foundation that funded many causes.

Unfortunately, despite his many accomplishments and the millions of dollars he made, near the end of his life he was beset with financial and legal problems that began to diminish his money and erode his fame. He died in 1955 at age 87 from a urinary tract infection that he refused medical help with. He had a lifelong distrust of doctors after one nearly killed him with a botched vaccination in his youth.

Macfadden lived a long, rags to riches life influencing millions of people on two continents to exercise and enjoy better health. Not bad for a sickly kid born into poverty and unhappiness.

“Winston Churchill has said that all the famous men of his acquaintance were the products of an unhappy childhood. Macfadden cannot remember having had even a moderately cheerful day before he was twenty.”

- Robert Lewis Taylor, New Yorker, October 14, 1950

Additional Information About Macfadden:

1. The photo you see at the top of this post is not one of his best. He looks bigger and more muscular in other photos. It was the only photo I could find that I was sure was in the public domain and free to us.

2. Macfadden, though obscenely rich, always wore old clothes.

3. He was super dynamic often working 16 hour days on many projects.

4. Though he had his failings and some failed businesses, his sole ambition was to educate people everywhere on the value of living wholesome, healthy lives. To that end, he devoted his life with incomparable zeal.

5. Supposedly, he often walked barefoot and cut holes in his shoes to gain sex power from his feet having contact with the earth. It might have worked. He was a ravenous, lady’s man.

6. He married 4 times and had 8 children. 6 of the children had names beginning with the letter “B”.

7. Everyday he did 25 exercises and stood on his head.

8. Macfadden always ate raw egg mixed with cottage cheese, carrots, vegetable and lemon juice for breakfast.

9. He walked barefoot 5 or 6 miles everyday to his office in Central Park New York hauling a 40 pound sandbag on his back.

10. He sang while he worked out.

11. Macfadden was an an advocate of Fasting and fasted throughout his life.

12. He wrote over 100 books.

13. When people met his they were surprised he was shorter than they expected. He was only 5’6″ tall, weighing around 145 pounds, but he built a powerful, well-defined, muscular body and had boundless energy as well as a magnetic personality.

14. He never slept in a bed, preferring a hard floor and believing it more healthy for the spine.

15. Macfadden was friends or acquaintances with many celebrities of his era: Shirley Temple, Clark Gable, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Will Rogers, and Rudolph Valentino ….

16. At age 80, he parachuted out of a plane and continued that practice each succeeding birthday.

17. After he passed away, his fourth wife claimed he had buried millions of dollars in steel cartridge boxes at secret locations in different parts of America. Though many who knew him scoffed at that claim, in 1960, $89,000 was found in a steel cartridge box on property once owned by Macfadden in Long Island.

For a more detailed account of his life with many photos and fascinating memorabilia, see Bernarr Macfadden (1868 – 1955), the “Father of Physical Culture”.

Image credit: Wikipedia


“Bernarr Macfadden.” Wikipedia. (accessed April 23, 2014)

“Bernarr Macfadden (1868 – 1955), the ‘Father of Physical Culture’.” (accessed April 23, 2014)

“Bernarr McFadden.” A History of Self-Resistance Exercise. (accessed April 23, 2014)

“Mr. America.” The Wall Street Journal. (accessed April 23, 2014)

“Mr. America.” Harper Collins Publishers. (accessed April 23, 2014)

“Screwball Macfadden Died (holes in his hat) Died A Millionaire.” (accessed April 23, 2014)

Ted Gambordella’s TV Show Live2B100 No resistance exercises

Who is 61-year-old Ted Gambordella?

Grand Master Ted Gambordella. Author of 49 books, 114 DVD’s.
9th Degree Black Belt
47 Years teaching experience
World Martial Arts Hall of Fame 1998
Grandmaster Instructor of the Year 2000
International Weapons Master Instructor of Year 2001
Martial Arts Weapons Hall of Fame 2001
World Head of Family Sokeship Council 1999
Martial Art Legends Hall of Fame 2001
Martial Arts Masters Hall of Fame 2002
World Black Belt Hall of Fame 2003
3 Times US Karate Sparring Champion
2 Times US Karate Weapons Champion
Personal Trainer Hall of Fame 2012

“Dr.” Ted Gambordella (born February 22, 1948) is an American Jiu Jitsu (a Japanese martial art) teacher who is often referred to as “the Father of Modern American Jiu Jitsu”, because of his efforts in the evolution of Jiu Jitsu in USA.[1] He has made contributions to martial arts, fitness, and health in America starting in 1972 and continuing now in 2011. He is also recognized in the list of five most influential American Jiu Jitsu teachers ever.

Early career

Almost 47 years ago, Dr. Ted Gambordella began his martial arts training in Alexandria, Louisiana. After winning several Jiu Jitsu championships and receiving black belt in Juki Ryu Jitsu, he went on to be trained personally by Soke Rod Scharnoski, the world famous head of family and developer of “combat Ki”, who was trained by Soke Albert Church. Gambordella was also trained directly by Soke Church who promoted him to black belt in Aiki Jitsu and Weapons that made him the first Weapons Black Belt in the South America. In 1972, Gambordella started his professional career as a jiu jitsu teacher. Then he moved to Texas in 1977 and opened a Karate School in Wichita Falls.[2] It was during those years when he started his career as an author and wrote his book “The End of Injury”, which is an effective program for preventing injuries.

Career work

Living a huge career of above 45 years in Jiu Jitsu, Mr.Gambordella has contributed a lot to the American Society by innovating a new way to prevent injuries in sports and games. He has trained a lot of students and professional players to increase their performance and to counter their physical fatigue. Moreover, he has owned many health clubs to provide basic health programs to every citizen of the States.


Dr. Ted has received numerous awards and acclaims. A few of his accomplishments are listed below:

1st Jiu Jitsu Black Belt in Texas
1st Karate-Collegiate Championship Tournament Champion in 1971
1st author to write a book on Hard KI (chi), Injury Protection
1st author of martial arts weapons manual “The Complete Book of Karate Weapons” in 1976, one of best selling martial arts manual, still printing after 35 years
1st American Jiu Jitsu author to produce and sell martial arts book digitally. The Ultimate Martial Arts Collection CD
Voted “The Most Perfect Body in America 1980″
1st web site for martial arts and jiu jitsu registered in 1996
Inventor of two Patented products, Logo Glove and Vpower Glove
3 Times US Karate Sparring Champion & 2 Times US Karate Weapons Champion
9th Degree Black Belt Grandmaster


Due to writing and publishing a total of 42 books on the subjects of training programs, Dr. Ted is considered one of the most published author in the history of marshal arts and jiu jitsu. His works include:

End of Injury
Secrets of the Martial Arts Masters
100 Deadliest Karate Moves
The Gambretta (the ultimate legal carry weapon)
Time Out for Bullies


Dr. Gambordella has produced 34 DVD’s of his own, in which he demonstrates all of his jiu jitsu moves and skills. Following mentioned are some of his DVD’s:

Basics of Jiu-Jitsu
End of Injury Training
Master the Knife
Secrets of the Martial Arts Masters
Women’s Self Defense Clinic

iPhone/iPad Applications

There are a number of applications/e-books available on iTunes and Apple App Store in which Dr. Ted Gambordella has been credited as an author, mentioning a few of them below:

Seven Second Self Defense
Complete Wrist Locks
Secrets of Kickboxing
The Secrets of Flexibility and Stretching


His book, “End of Injury” was being taught in 25 high schools, 5 sheriff departments, many professional sports teams and a number of universities due to which Dr. Ted had received endorsements from:

Louisiana State University
Oklahoma University
University of Texas
Rice University
Oklahoma State University
Oral Roberts University
Houston Rockets NBA
New Orleans Jazz NBA


Dr. Ted has always been an active person in his life with a lot of media attention, he has been featured in many newspapers and magazines. He was the first martial arts black belt with a weekly TV show in America for two consecutive years on channel 11 DFW.

In 2009, he performed in a television show “LIVE2B100″ with an American actress Melanie Deanne Moore.

Newspaper/magazine articles

Following newspapers and magazines have featured Dr. Ted:

Dallas Morning News
Shreveport Times
Gallery magazine
Times-Picayune New Orleans, Louisiana
Wichita Falls Record
The Wichitan
Playboy magazine
Television/radio appearances

Mr. Gambordella has also appeared on several media channels including Fox News, Dallas CBS, Dallas ABC, Dallas NBC, Inside Edition, Real People NBC, Current Affair, CBS radio Dallas, Air America, Mike Gallager radio Dallas and Playboy Channel.

Source: Wiki folks

Working on a longer than usual post about an historical fitness figure & some thoughts on self resistance and Maxalding

While researching self-resistance exercise systems, I came across an historical fitness figure I’d never heard of. I decided to do a post on him today, but the material and his accomplishments were so vast I couldn’t finish the post in a day. You may have never heard of this man who was huge in his era, the early and mid 1900s. I plan to finish the post by tomorrow.

I’ve become fascinated by self-resistance or dynamic tension exercises. I like that you can build yourself up with no equipment. I believe everybody who works out should have knowledge of self-resistance methods. Having that knowledge would add more tools to your workout tool box and the day could come when you might need that knowledge. It might, for example, be useful in recuperating from a medical condition without excessive strain or draining demands upon the central nervous system.

I have started doing a couple of chest self-resistance exercises, the 3rd and 4th ones in the video below this post. I’m increasing the bulk in my pecs from doing those exercises 2 or more times a day along with the chest exercises in my 4 day split resistance band workout. In regard to that 4 day split resistance band workout, I am making better progress with it than I have in decades of exercising.

Perhaps with resistance bands, a little more is better. My chest, for example, gets worked directly twice a week and indirectly 2 more times when I do exercises like triceps press downs, some shoulder exercises, and even with some leg work. I am seeing results like when I was a kid starting to work out with weights. Maybe better since I know more about what I’m doing now.

Some of my thoughts on self-resistance exercises:

1. I don’t think most people can build a body with self-resistance exercises equivalent to what they can do with weights or resistance bands. I attribute this to the fact it’s much harder to do self-resistance exercises for maximum benefit. Unlike with lifting weights where you can do the exercises without much mind control, you have to focus with all your mental might to do a self-resistance exercise justice. You can’t just halfheartedly go through the motions and get results.

I find it harder to do self-resistance exercises because of that fact. You have to literally put your heart and soul into each second of every exercise or you will not increase your strength or improve your physique. At least, that’s my take on it.

2. Some people, particularly those with ideal genetics for building muscle, might be able to build physiques as good or better than Charles Atlas did. But, they would have to apply laser-like concentration, extraordinary will power and unflagging discipline to the task. Others with lesser genetics for muscle building but with the same drive and determination could build strong, athletic physiques that would stand out among their peers.

3. When I nosed around the Charles Atlas forum, I discovered the Atlas exercises are done once or, better, twice daily. I was surprised to see no days off for recovery. I learned that as with many sports activities the dynamic tension exercises do not take much of a toll on the central nervous system. Thus, you can do them daily like many people do push ups everyday.

I think that daily blitzing of the muscles will yield decent results for someone who masters the art of total concentration on the exercises. And it feels great to exercise everyday as long as you are not over-training. Perhaps that and the near zero risk of injuries, are why some of the forum members who worked out with weights for years eventually returned to the Atlas system.

4. It’s kind of cool that with self-resistance methods your body is the gym and the exercise machines. Anywhere you go you have your workout gear with you. No worries about dropping heavy plates on yourself, getting pinned beneath heavy weight on a barbell during a failed bench press, and no resistance bands to break and snap you in the head or the eyes.

5. After I looked at some of the before and afters on the Atlas site, to me they didn’t look as good as men who pumped iron or pulled resistance bands for the same length of time. They didn’t look bad. They certainly made commendable progress attesting to the effectiveness of the Charles Atlas method. Maybe with more time and enhanced concentration power, they would look closer to the weight lifting and strand pulling men.

I think it takes longer to really get in your grove with self-resistance methods. I think mastery of it is a long-term, challenging quest. I think it’s a worthwhile quest, and maybe the Atlas men are healthier than the weight lifters and the strand pullers. Hard to say. At the forum, members speak in glowing terms about how the Atlas exercises enhanced their health and their lives. Some who tried many exercise devices and methods said it’s the best exercise system of all.

A Little About Maxalding:

I’m still tying to wrap my mind around Maxalding. I think the methods can produce astonishing results like the “uncanny strength” Maxick described in his book. I believe it takes a Herculean mind effort and inexhaustible patience to produce anything near that phenomenal result with Maxalding muscle control. It just looks too damn hard to do it well enough to achieve that advanced benefit.

I’m working on motivating myself to start working with Maxalding because I feel it would supercharge my workouts and my progress even at my age. And I like the idea of mind over matter or using the mind to bend and shape your body into a finished product beyond your dreams. Of course, I’m probably dreaming even thinking that way.

But, on that point my head is not completely in the clouds. I’ve seen some photos of Maxalding students. They were uber impressive. One had traps that stood out like those steroids-enhanced bodybuilders have, and he had a mind-blowing muscularity. I believe his muscle control exercises enhanced his natural genetics for building muscle. I believe anyone could do that, within the limits of their genetics, if they could gain sufficient mastery over Muscle Control.

I think Maxalding Muscle Control fell out of popularity because it’s so hard to do well enough to get the great results. But, right or wrong, delusional or rational, I think I can do it.

P.S. If you are a student of the Charles Atlas System or of Maxalding, feel free to correct me on any of my thoughts about these systems, if you feel or know I erred in my assessments.

Demonstrating the Charles Atlas Dynamic Tension Technique

These are only a handful of the many exercises in the Atlas Dynamic Tension Course. These self-resistance exercises might be some of the best in the course for working the chest and arms. I say might be because I’ve never taken the course, but have seem some of the other exercises.

Tired Of Those Snake Oil Cures That Don’t Cure Your Ills? Try A Python Massage!

carpet_python,_head_and_patternAt a zoo in the Philippines, Scottish ex-pat Ian Maclean lies on a bamboo mat, a pillow beneath his head, with the hope of a healing for a nagging, old arm injury. Snake handlers cover his body with 4 huge, Burmese pythons at a combined weight of 550 pounds. They slither around him, their tongues flickering upon his quivering flesh. Under the crushing weight of the terrifying serpents, Ian is unable to move. His mind seized with fear, he tries to relax. He prays. He asks forgiveness for his sins. He fights the natural urge to panic. But, the panic is a good thing. The adrenaline rush from the fear is the healing component of this unique massage treatment.

When the massage was finished, Ian didn’t reveal if this reptilian treatment cured his arm injury. He did say it de-stresses you and the snakes slithering upon his body was pleasant, but their tongues against his skin felt uncomfortable.

This has me wondering about the fear driven adrenaline rush. What if the anti were upped with more fearsome, venomous snakes, vipers, cobras or black mambas. Surely snakes that could consign you to a coffin with a single, double fang bite would inspire more fear and pump more adrenaline though your body. Surely this high octane horror would more effectively encourage a miracle healing. Of course, I’m kidding around, but I can see how an adrenaline boost might have some benefits. Perhaps not, but it’s a compelling theory.

Speaking of adrenaline boosts, I’ve often wondered why no one appears to have found a way to tap into adrenaline surges at will instead of during a crisis like those stories where a frail woman lifts a 4,000 pound car to save a loved one trapped beneath the vehicle.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons


“A snake-oil cure if ever there was one: Scottish expat agrees to be covered in four Burmese PYTHONS to try and heal an old arm injury.” MailOnLine. (accessed April 22, 2014)