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I Tried a Vintage Mail Order Bodybuilding Course

The small ads in the back of magazines used to make all kinds of outlandish promises. In the 1950s, Body-Tone offered the “World’s Fastest Strength and Muscle Building System.” The image hinted that you could become a real muscleman with a course that took just four weeks. It cost $20, or $25 if you paid in installments. The materials you received are available on the internet now, so Beth Skwarecki decided to try it out to see what the folks who bought it actually got.

After you wrote to this address, you’d get an envelope in the mail with three things. (Somebody saved theirs and it’s available with original envelope on Etsy; God bless you Etsy.) First, there is a letter from Tom Buckley himself, who appears on his own letterhead, smiling and beefy. Then, nine pages of questions and answers on orange paper, slyly selling you the system. Finally, an enrollment form. You are to take fifteen body measurements, write an essay on your current exercise routine and health status, and decide whether you want to pay all at once or in installments. Translated into 2017 dollars, the program cost $169 all at once, or $42 in five installments for a total of $211.

For that kind of money, you got encouragement, a recipe for a protein shake, and a detailed course on isometric exercises in which you contracted muscles for a mere six seconds a day each. But did it work? You can follow Skwarecki's experience with the course at Lifehacker. -via Digg


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