One of the oldest and least used exercises nowadays is the weightless deep knee bend. Yet, conscientious and regular use of this exercise can bring excellent results. There are several examples of famous athletes who have used this exercise almost exclusively for their fine leg development. The great Indian wrestler, Gama, “The toughest man in the ring” would do up to 4000 “baithak” or free hand squats a
day. And he had 30 inch thighs to prove they worked! Dr. Frederick Tilney, former associate and business partner of Charles Atlas, wrote to me saying how Atlas would sometimes do 600 squats a day. Sailor Art Thomas, the wrestler, does 300 free hand squats a day in sets of 50 to keep his 30 inch thighs in shape. Another wrestler and bodybuilder who used weightless squats was Henry Lenz, winner of the Mr.
Texas title in 1950 and the Mr. Muscle Beach award in 1952. Lenz never regularly did squats with weights but would do 500 to 1000 free hand squats a day in sets of 50. George Jowett, former weightlifting, gymnastic, and wrestling champion, never advocated heavy squats but recommended the free hand variety. The free hand squat was also a part of the famous Earle Liederman physical culture course.

In doing the free hand squat the chance of injuring yourself, which might exist if you are using heavy weights, is almost non-existent. What are some of the benefits of free hand other squats? First of all, to be effective, you must do enough repetitions, and when you do this your
heart and lungs receive a workout very similar to running. And you won’t have to run through the neighborhood to do these. After you’ve done several sets of 50 reps of this, you will see how effective it is. What kind of a schedule should you follow? First of
all, omit all thigh work from your workouts. Do the free hand squats 6 days a week. Start out slowly with about 30 reps. Even
though you may now be using heavy weights in your squats, the chances are that your thighs do
not have the endurance they need so it would be very foolish to go too fast. Try to add about 5 reps each day until you reach 50, then
after a short rest try to do another set of about 30. Keep adding reps daily to the second set until you reach 50. Then add a third set
and keep with this procedure until you’re doing 4, 5, or even 6 sets of 50 reps.

By clasping your hands behind the neck with elbows out to the side, and breathing in deeply as you squat down, you’ll build size in your rib box. Keep the feet a comfortable distance apart. They can be done flat-footed, if you like, or you can rise on your toes if you want to work your calves also. (When rising up to the standing position, make an effort and tense the thighs.) When you tire of these, there are several variations you can use. One is to place the feet wider apart and keep the knees together as you squat. This is a little awkward but places a
lot of stress on the lower thigh.

In the event that you might consider weightless or free squats as sissy stuff, take a look at the great Gama, one of the greatest wrestlers who ever lived, a man who threw Zbyzsko, himself a champion, in just a few seconds. Gama developed enormous thighs of 30 inches and performed thousands of weightless squats. Not really weightless, perhaps, because he weighed 270 or over at 5’7″. These Indian wrestlers will perform squats for hours which, as we say, run into the thousands of repetitions. Charles Atlas gives credit for much of his leg development and shape to free squats. Art Thomas, at right, keeps his thighs in shape for wrestling with free squats and has 30 inch thighs at 270 bodyweight and at 6’4″.

  • Paul R. Niemi, Iron Man, 1970



A simple, time tested “youth-restoring calisthenics” routine of ancient Indian and Chinese martial arts masters. ⁣

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