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Weird Exercise Machines and Workout Methods from the Past

The concept of fitness as we know it today may seem to be relatively novel, but physical activity has a much older history. The world’s first gym was opened in 1892 in Stockholm. It was built for patients and had several exercise machines. Throughout the early 20th century, people used elaborate contraptions, painful machines, strange devices, and strange poses to attain their ideal bodies.

Vibrating exercise belts were invented in the 1800s, but they didn’t gain popularity until the 1930s and the 1950s. The idea was to vibrate the fat fast enough to loosen it, then burn it off. Another interesting machine was the Slendo Massager. It consisted of coiled springs that rolled over your stomach, hips, and thighs to rid your body of fat. Fitness guru Jack LaLanne developed several pieces of equipment in the 1950s that have been widely used. LaLanne invented the first cable-pulley machine, the Smith machine, and the first leg extension machine. Many gyms around the world use equipment based on the same mechanical principles. Dick Hartzell first used resistance bands, which are essentially strips of elastic that create resistance as they are stretched, for functional training in 1980. Manufacturers have modified resistance bands by adding handles and anchors, allowing them to mimic almost any exercise that can be done with free weights in the gym but without the bulk, making them much more portable than free weights.

The treadmill was introduced in 1875, but it was not used for exercise. It was used for manufacturing. Dr. Robert A. Bruce began using treadmills for stress tests in 1952 at the University of Washington in Seattle. Businessmen saw this opportunity and turned the treadmill into a treadmill that allows people to jog or run naturally while staying seated. Treadmills became common in homes and gyms by the 1960s. The first elliptical machines were released in the mid-1990s and have rivaled treadmills in popularity ever since. Elliptical machines are similar to treadmills but place less stress on the lower body.

Here are some weird exercise machines and bizarre methods of exercise that people used in the past.

#1 Rowing machine in 1925.

Rowing machine in 1925.

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#2 Vibrating belt in 1929.

Vibrating belt in 1929.

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#3 Slendo Machine in 1940.

Slendo Machine in 1940.

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#4 Leg rollers in 1940s.

Leg rollers in 1940s.

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#5 portable sauna, known as the Reduc-o-matic, became popular in the 1940s. It was believed to melt fat.

portable sauna, known as the Reduc-o-matic, became popular in the 1940s. It was believed to melt fat.

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#6 Man in sauna tub in 1955.

Man in sauna tub in 1955.

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#7 Zander’s Horse-Simulation Machine. The machine was a huge hit because you didn’t really have to do anything but sit in a chair and “burn” the fat away.

Zander’s Horse-Simulation Machine. The machine was a huge hit because you didn’t really have to do anything but sit in a chair and “burn” the fat away.

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#8 The Molby Revolving Hammock.

The Molby Revolving Hammock.

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#9 The Twist ‘N Tone. Itclaimed to ‘provide the same simulating exercise as expensive equipment used in health clubs’.

The Twist ‘N Tone. Itclaimed to ‘provide the same simulating exercise as expensive equipment used in health clubs’.

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#10 Portable sauna in 1969.

Portable sauna in 1969.

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#11 Electrical currents were also used in small baths to stimulate blood circulation.

Electrical currents were also used in small baths to stimulate blood circulation.

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#12 Human hamster wheel in 1936.

Human hamster wheel in 1936.

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#13 Nautical treadmill in 1953.

Nautical treadmill in 1953.

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#14 Mechanical bull in 1928.

Mechanical bull in 1928.

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#15 The Reducing Belt, advertised to only wear for an hour a day and to lose 4-6 inches.

The Reducing Belt, advertised to only wear for an hour a day and to lose 4-6 inches.

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#16 The Vita Master with variable speed control.

The Vita Master with variable speed control.

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#17 Air Shorts: These inflatable shorts are great for back support and shedding weight too

Air Shorts: These inflatable shorts are great for back support and shedding weight too

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#18 A vintage exercising machine.

A vintage exercising machine.

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#19 The Las Picas is an exercise apparatus that became popular in the late ’60s. It allowed users to contort every which way.

The Las Picas is an exercise apparatus that became popular in the late ’60s. It allowed users to contort every which way.

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#20 Exercise device in 1950.

Exercise device in 1950.

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#21 Running machine in 1928.

Running machine in 1928.

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#22 Chin Reducer and Beautifier.

Chin Reducer and Beautifier.

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#23 Electric Mask to rejuvenate the face.

Electric Mask to rejuvenate the face.

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#24 Glide-A-Matic exerciser: A lawnmower-style treadmill.

Glide-A-Matic exerciser: A lawnmower-style treadmill.

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#25 Exercise center workout equipment from 1970s.

Exercise center workout equipment from 1970s.

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#26 Retro-style roller massager.

Retro-style roller massager.

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#27 Obese Woman Exercising in Swimming Pool

Obese Woman Exercising in Swimming Pool

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#28 Demonstration of one of the difficult training practices indulged in by French women school teachers, at a Government Physical Training Institute just outside Paris.

Demonstration of one of the difficult training practices indulged in by French women school teachers, at a Government Physical Training Institute just outside Paris.

They will impart this to their youthful students upon their return to scholastic duties, 1930s

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#29 Three Women in Stretch-Pose in Gymnasium

Three Women in Stretch-Pose in Gymnasium

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#30 Mothers learn exercises to promote their children’s motor skills, 1918

Mothers learn exercises to promote their children's motor skills, 1918

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#31 Man Runningon Treadmill, as he runs on a treadmill while his capacity to use oxygen is being measured.

Man Runningon Treadmill, as he runs on a treadmill while his capacity to use oxygen is being measured.

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#32 Nautical treadmill, 1953

Nautical treadmill, 1953

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#33 A man, wearing a helmet, is training on a tapis roulant.

A man, wearing a helmet, is training on a tapis roulant.

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#34 American Soldiers Strengthening Legs at a Hospital

American Soldiers Strengthening Legs at a Hospital

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#35 Actress Terry Walker Exercising

Actress Terry Walker Exercising

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#36 Gym class at the university, 1939.

Gym class at the university, 1939.

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#37 Rosemary Andree, a classical dancer and body culture expert demonstrating exercises using a treadmill.

Rosemary Andree, a classical dancer and body culture expert demonstrating exercises using a treadmill.

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#38 Maureen O’Sullivan using a rowing machine at home on September 21, 1932.

Maureen O'Sullivan using a rowing machine at home on September 21, 1932.

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#39 Woman Standing on Exercise Machine.

Woman Standing on Exercise Machine.

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#40 Fitness of the ship duilio, 1930.

Fitness of the ship duilio, 1930.

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#41 Two members of the ‘Foster-Girls’ on treadmills, 1930

Two members of the 'Foster-Girls' on treadmills, 1930

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#42 Business and professional men of Chicago have adopted a mechanical machine similar to that used by President Coolidge in daily exercise.

Business and professional men of Chicago have adopted a mechanical machine similar to that used by President Coolidge in daily exercise.

These vibrating machines have a belt attached to them which works horizontally and seems to give immediate relief for sore and stiff joints as well as a good reducer.

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#43 Helene Chadwick, whose cherry smile and screen ability have endeared her to millions, works hard to keep in perfect trim.

Helene Chadwick, whose cherry smile and screen ability have endeared her to millions, works hard to keep in perfect trim.

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#44 Obese Man Singing while Belly is Massaged.

Obese Man Singing while Belly is Massaged.

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#45 Comedian Chester Conklin pulling on a muscle building machine.

Comedian Chester Conklin pulling on a muscle building machine.

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#46 A competition between a runner and a cyclist at Luna Park in Berlin.

A competition between a runner and a cyclist at Luna Park in Berlin.

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#47 A German strong man in training in the 1930s

A German strong man in training in the 1930s

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Written by Benjamin Grayson

Former Bouquet seller now making a go with blogging and graphic designing. I love creating & composing history articles and lists.

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