A couple of years ago I stumbled across a book called Endurance that was written in 1926 by a strongman and physical culture enthusiast named Earle Liederman, who argues that every man should be physically fit enough to save his own life in an emergency.
In his book, Liederman lays out 5 fitness benchmarks that indicate whether or not a person is up to the task. Surprisingly, none of them have anything to do with your max bench press, or a 6-pack of abs.
“He should be able to swim far enough, run fast and long enough to save his life in case of emergency and necessity. He also should be able to chin himself a reasonable number of times, as well as to dip a number of times, and he should be able to jump a reasonable height and distance. If he is of the fat, porpoise type, naturally he cannot do all, if any, of these things; and he has nobody to blame but himself, and his way of living that has brought his body into its condition of obesity. Suppose—and it has happened many times—there should be a fire at sea or on lake or river; should one be half a mile or more from the shore, he would be mighty thankful to realize that he could swim that distance and reach the shore in safety. Suppose one were in a burning building and he had to lower himself hand under hand down a rope or down an improvised rope of bedclothing tied together to reach the ground in safety; he again would be thankful that he possessed the strength and endurance in his arms and coordinate muscles that would enable him to save himself. Such things never may happen, and let us hope they do not; but what has happened is always possible to occur again—and, in fact, always is happening to some one.”
Well, this is 2015, and I strongly believe that a woman can and should also be able to do the same thing.
Times have obviously changed a lot since the 1920s; Technology has advanced to the point where many people in our American society give no value to physical fitness anymore. Especially here in the Midwest, the ability to WALK a HALF MILE is of no importance to the majority of the population. I’m appalled when I see someone start the car or jump in a golfcart merely to move a couple hundred yards.
I could go on for days about the health benefits of exercise and building/maintaining your strength, and how much money you could save by maintaining your health and fitness, but that’s been done a thousand times over.
I don’t consider myself to be a paranoid individual, and I’m far from a “doomsday prepper,” but I believe that we all have a duty to maintain the strength and fitness necessary to support our own life in the event that our modern conveniences were to break down.
I'm only 32 years old, but in my short lifetime I have found myself in several situations where society and technology temporarily failed and I needed to be strong and fit to escape injury (there was a time in my mid-20s when I would not have been able to do it).
I’ve put a lot of work and thought into Liederman’s 5 fitness benchmarks; they’re listed below. But I’ve also taken it a step further. My first goal is to maintain a fitness level to save my own ass, but then I ask: could I save someone else’s if need be?
Save myself (Liederman's benchmarks in 1926)
Could you swim at least a half mile?
Run at top speed for at least 200 yards?
Jump over an obstacle the height of your waist?
Pull your body upward by the strength of your arms until your chin touches your hands, at least 10 times?
Dip between parallel bars or between two chairs at least 15 times?
Save another (My "next level" challenge)
Could you swim a half mile pulling another person to safety?
Carry another person at least 200 yards? (Fireman carry, piggyback, etc…)
Deadlift at least 1.75 x Body Weight from the floor 5 times using a barbell?
Climb a 15-foot rope without using your legs?
Dip between hanging gymnastics rings at least 20 times
This is a perfect example of GPP (General Physical Preparedness) that we talk about with CrossFit Training...and it was proposed almost a century before the development of CrossFit as an official training model. Not such a crazy idea after all, huh?
I believe that this blend of strength, speed, stamina, bodyweight control, and some basic skill is a great place to start you’re looking for a fitness goal.
How would you fare on the benchmark test? Do you think the bicep curls and stability ball crunches are contributing to any real-world ability? Do you think there is anything different that should be included in this Benchmark Challenge? Click here to discuss on our Facebook Page.