Have you ever considered how the equipment in modern gyms compares to earlier versions? This past week, we had the privilege of visiting the Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina. Among the gorgeous rooms in the palatial estate once owned by George Vanderbilt was a functional fitness gym. What struck me was how many of the stations in that told fitness center are still around today.
First, let’s take a look at the space.
In the late 1800s, rowing was a popular sport, and Vanderbilt certainly had a rowing machine in his gym. Rowing is a low-impact, total body workout, and is an integral part of boutique programs like Orange Theory. To be honest, the 1890s version doesn’t look much different than it’s modern counterpart.
I’m sure I’m still traumatized by the rope climb in elementary school, but climbing apparatus have been around for a very long time. Vanderbilt’s fitness center didn’t have an actual rope, but it did have a dangling ladder, which would yield similar benefits. Climbing helps increase agility and endurance, as well as builds strength in the biceps, shoulders, core, and back.
I was surprised to see that the concept of TRX has been around for quite some time. The straps have gotten more enhanced through the years, but the idea of using resistance, body weight, and gravity to create a solid workout is nothing new.
On the back wall of Vanderbilt’s gym, you can see a selection of hand weights in varying sizes. Dumbbells are an integral part of so many different strength moves, and it’s no surprise to see them hanging in the Biltmore.
On the left side of my photo, you’ll see some wooden bowling pin-esque items hanging on the wall. Believe it or not, these were an early form of today’s kettle bells, and they certainly had a place in 1890s fitness. Even back then, people looking to stay fit found use in their version of kettle bells, using them to build power and strength.
What are you most surprised to see in the 1890s version of a gym?
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