These Vintage Work-Out Photos Will Make You Thankful For Modern Gyms

Exercising has been around since the dawn of man. Although in the beginning, early humans may not have purposefully ‘exercised’ like we do today, it was still imperative to keep their bodies in healthy shape in order to survive. Now, with so many technological advancements, exercising has become a way to stay healthy and fit when it’s no longer as vitally important as it used to be. In only a matter of decades, exercising has evolved in some crazy ways. From finger lifts to electric horses, see what people used to do to stay in shape and how they differ from today’s workout techniques.

Did you know that boxing kangaroos was a real workout?

Looks Very Effective


We’re not entirely sure what this machine or exercise this is, but we’re certain that you probably won’t find this device in your town’s 24-Hour Fitness. It looks like it could possibly be some sort of resistance machine for leg strengthening. Both of the devices rely on electricity, which pulls the bands to create resistance against the user, forcing them to keep their feet planted. Today, these are most likely not allowed in gyms for fear of people falling on their face and dusting their teeth on some free weights.

Finger Lifts


Photo Credits: Molding A Mighty Grip

Back during the turn of the 20th century, with the popularity of the ‘professional strongman,’ exercises were developed to increase strength in all areas of the body. One of these moves was called finger lifts. These could be done using books varied in weight in order to strengthen one’s fingers to grab weights better. Although this may seem like common sense, you won’t see people doing exercises like this at the gym or even in their own homes. Today, people want visible results, and nobody is picking up girls at the gym by doing finger lifts… or are they?

Next: we bet you didn’t know that brooms were useful for so much more than sweeping the floor.

Forearm Broom Extension


Photo Credits: Molding A Mighty Grip

Yet another exercise that you might not see very often today is the forearm broom extension workout. The exercise is meant to help develop the muscles in your wrist and is a test of overall wrist strength. It helps to point out all of the weak areas in your hand, wrist, and forearm, and you can move up and down the broom handle to either make it easier or harder for yourself. You can also add weight to the end of it, like the brick which is featured above, if you have particularly strong forearm, hand, and wrist muscles. Today, most people rely on weights and stretches to work out their wrists, if they work on them at all.

The Ol’ Rowing Machine


Photo Credits: Hulton Archive/Getty

As it turns out, people have figured that the action of rowing — or at least pretending do it — is a pretty decent workout. In modern gyms, it’s not unusual to see lines at the rowing machines for people who are looking to work out their back, arms, legs, and core all at once. Although these machines may be a little bit more advanced than the one pictured above, the goal is the same. But we’ll stick with our modern machines with their comfortable seats and personal fans to help keep us cool. We hope that whoever invented this machine got a patent for it!

The Reverse Massage


Photo Credits: Bettmann/Corbis

Here, we have a man singing as his belly is being mechanically massaged by what we’re sure was a high-tech gadget at the time. Now, we’ve all heard of back massages to relieve stress and promote relaxation. But apparently, back in the day, people assumed that if you massaged the front of your body, the stimulation would help to eliminate fat and strengthen the body. Today, there aren’t too many similar methods with people relying mostly on situps and core machines to strengthen their core.

Kangaroo Boxing


Photo Credits: Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone/Getty

This is a picture of a kangaroo boxer in Paris, France from 1932. Kangaroo boxing first came into popularity in 1891 in both Australia and the United States at the same time. The sport came about due to kangaroos’ natural posture of already looking like boxers. Over the years, it became a trend that was featured at carnivals, theatres, and exhibitions in Australia, the U.S., England, Germany, and France. Eventually, the trend died out as it was dangerous to humans and cruel to the animals. For obvious reasons, kangaroo boxing is no longer a trendy way to exercise and since most people hit a punching bag or another person, and not a kangaroo.

Don’t forget that babies need exercise too!

It Takes Two To Tango


Photo Credits: Bettmann/Corbis

This is an image of a two-person exercise with a medicine ball. Although this could also be performed using a wall as a partner, it makes it more interesting if two people partake. The exercise is said to work wonders for the waist and posture and was greatly popular among women. However, people discovered that there were better (and safer) ways to work out your waist and improve your posture, and this exercise declined in popularity. Maybe you should be the one to bring it back next time you go to the gym. We dare you.

Chest Expanders


Photo Credits: Fox Photos/Getty Images

Pictured is a 15-year-old boy named Billie Barton training in the hopes of appearing in a film. He’s using what is called a chest expander. With this device, you can either add springs or take them off to increase or decrease resistance. This was a popular exercise at one point because they were mobile, easy to use, and somewhat effective. However, today the only chance of seeing one is most likely in your dad’s garage from when he used to work out at home in the 1980s. They are a little dangerous, with the springs potentially breaking easily, and you won’t see them at a gym anymore.

Babies Need Exercise Too


Photo Credits: Hulton-Deutsch/Corbis

Apparently, back in the day, it was important that babies got exercise too… no matter how dangerous or harmful it may have been to them. This is a picture of Lauri Alwyn swinging her nine-month-old son for his daily exercise session in 1937. Considering that during the 1930s, babies were kept in cages dangling from the windows, dangling them by their feet in the air doesn’t seem like such a big deal. Nowadays, people are overly concerned with the safety of their children, so the likelihood of parents ‘exercising’ them in this manner is essentially zero.

Getting A Pump At Work


Photo Credits: Corbis

Here is a picture of Vice-President Calvin Coolidge and Speaker of the House Fredrick Gillett exercising in the congressional gym in 1923. It looks like Frederick Gillette is working out using a machine that has little to no actual use, while Calvin Coolidge holds bowling pins up in the air. Today, people take working out a little bit more seriously and certainly wouldn’t be caught dead working out in their business suits. Instead, they spend hundreds of dollars on workout attire so they can look stylish while at the gym. Cooldige and Gillette didn’t have time for such nonsense. They were too busy running the country.

Ever played golf in a full suit of armor?

A Relaxing Day Out On The Links


Photo Credits: Bettmann/Corbis

Nothing sounds more relaxing than spending a day out on the golf course wearing a full suit of armor. This picture was taken at a masquerade golf tournament at the Parkridge Country Club near Los Angeles, California. If this guy is trying to work on his endurance, this is one way to go about it… but probably not the smartest. People today would never wear a suit of armor while playing golf, even as a joke, because it might end up hurting their game or themselves physically. Apparently, people weren’t as concerned as they are today and put having fun over winning.

Working Out On A Plane


Photo Credits: Bettmann/Corbis

This is a photograph of Joseph (Jumpin’ Joe) Savoldi in his personal gymnasium-equipped airplane in 1933. Originally, he was the football star of Notre Dame University, and eventually became a challenger for the Heavyweight Wrestling Championship. By the looks of it, he had some interesting workout devices to use while traveling that probably aren’t around today. Considering that this also looks incredibly unsafe, it’s unlikely for too many people to be working out while their flying, but you never know when somebody has their own private jet.

Kill Two Birds With One Stone


Photo Credits: Hulton Archive/Getty

Here are two men demonstrating how to perform a useful exercise that can be done while doing chores such as making the bed. These kinds of exercises were widely popular at the time because they helped women to stay in shape while also staying at home with the kids or performing everyday activities. However, most of these exercises have fallen off in popularity with women staying home no longer being the norm. Most women now go to the gym or find other hobbies for exercising that don’t include making the bed.

Stationary Cycling Has Been A Favorite For A Long Time


Photo Credits: Camerique Archive/Getty Images

Clearly, riding a stationary cycle has been a workout favorite for almost 100 years! This is a photo of a group of women riding stationary bikes and using resistance equipment. The giant clock in front of the bikes is a distance meter used to see how far they have ridden as well as how to keep time. Although the concept hasn’t changed much over the decades, the technology sure has! That clock is bigger than the machine, and now we have wrist devices such as Fitbits that can track our every step and even sleep patterns!

Coming up: We’re happy that some big changes have been made to gym class.

Gym Class


Photo Credits: FPG/Getty Images

If you thought that you hated gym class in high school, count your blessings that you weren’t a part of this class in Germany in 1930. The boys are exercising by bending over in a line and funneling the ball back and forth. Although this surely requires energy, we don’t think that this is exactly the correct way to exercise. In school today, most gym teachers are required to have some form of kinesiology degree and an actual knowledge of the subject matter instead of just making kids do pointless exercises that are more likely to hurt them than help them.

Muscle Developer or Torture Device?


Photo Credits: J A Hampton/Getty Images

This is a photograph of professional English football player Alex Jones, who played for Arsenal FC 261 times between 1929-1937. Here he is testing out the new muscle developer at the gym in Highbury. It’s photos like this that makes you really appreciate how far exercising has come in terms of safety and effectiveness. At a glance, this looks a lot more like a Medieval torture device rather than a muscle developer. it’s also hard to tell what this machine even does except rock your body back and forth. There’s probably a good reason why these aren’t in use anymore.

Just A Tad Dangerous


Photo Credits: Fox Photos/Getty Images

No, this isn’t an acrobatic show being demonstrated at a school. This is what’s known as an exercise wheel that high school girls were using at Crouch End High School in 1931. Although this may be something you see today at a circus show in Las Vegas, back then it was a way to exercise. We’re not entirely sure how it works, but we’re glad we were never forced to use that contraption during school. We’re definitely content with walking into the gym and hopping on the treadmill for a little bit. There’s less of a chance of breaking your neck.

The Mechanical Bull


Photo Credits: FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

For most of us, riding a mechanical is something that you do after too many drinks at a country bar. It definitely gets you tired but we wouldn’t exactly consider it a proper exercise. Yet, in 1925, it was used as a form of exercise and was called an exercise horse. The electric horse would shake and vibrate which was supposed to imitate a horse trotting and help to strengthen your core and posture. However, it looks like we figured out that the electric horse isn’t as effective as we once thought, but it would be entertaining to see someone riding one at the gym.

Giant Jungle Gym


Photo Credits: Harrison/Getty Images)

This picture is the definition of what a jungle gym is. This class of girls is “working out” on this crazy structure during school. We’re not sure of any actual exercises are actually required, or if they’re supposed to just climb around until they tire themselves out. This is definitely different from gym class today because no school would allow kids to climb on such a high and dangerous structure for fear of being sued if somebody were to fall off. This sure does look like a lot more fun than running the mile, though.

Group Workouts


Photo Credits: Getty Images

This group of women is working out on what are known as reducing tables, utilizing pulleys in order to perform a series of exercises. Although the machines may have changed, the idea of group workouts is still very prevalent today. From spin classes to yoga to pilates, people like working out with others as a way to motivate one another, as well as to make exercising a social event. However, workout attire certainly has changed, and it’s not likely to find women wearing skirts, flats, and sweaters at the gym anymore.