Friday, January 27, 2012

J.P. Müller’s “My System”

my-systemAbout a year ago (actually, as I look at the article, a year ago to the week) Slate ran an article on an exercise routine published in 1904 by J. P. Müller.  Müller’s regiment promised that just "15 minutes a day" of prescribed exercise would transform "weaklings" into strong men.

Sounds like the kind of thing they used to print in the back of comic books back in the 50’s, huh?  But this guy was Danish, and as everyone knows, Danes are awesome and never lie (not to mention they make fantastic furniture!).  [Full disclosure: I am of Danish descent.]

The idea sounded great to me.  Only fifteen minutes?  Perfect!  I wasn’t looking to turn into Lou Ferrigno, just wanted to be healthier, maybe cut a little bit so I could take off my shirt without looking around at my audience first.

But then I started leafing through the booklet, and just sifting through everything to find the actual EXERCISES seemed like more work than the whole physical aspect of the system.  The point (in my mind at least), was that this would be some efficient exercises I could easily do in my office, without special equipment, to keep in shape.  However, in order to figure out what the exercises were, you had to read a whole freaking book!  Not very “easy.”

Thus, I gave up (the ultimate end to most geeks’ good intentions involving exercise, right?). [blush]

I did a little digging to see if I could find just a list of the exercises, but came up short.  I posted as much in a forum somewhere, and someone just recently responded with a link to a list of only the exercises.

Hurray!  Now we’ll see if I can actually peel my ass out of this Aeron chair and make my body move for fifteen minutes a day.

Point of note: evidently Franz Kafka used to do the regiment twice a day… naked… in his window for all passers by to see. Hmmm.

p.s.  After looking over this again, I still think someone needs to go through and make this easier to understand, maybe that’ll have to be me.  I’m pretty sure the exercising itself is super simple, but the way it’s explained seems much more complicated than it needs to be.  Even just the last line of the Quick Reference: “Do exercises in numerical order from 1-18, moving each exercise into the next degree or level of complexity (or add the rubbing).”  What the hell does this mean?!  In the quick reference, each exercise has multiple numbers for different weeks.  I guess these are the varying degrees of difficulty?  At the very least, the pamphlet should come with a bottle of Ritalin.

Here’s a start.  This is the list of the basic exercises (there seems to be lots of this “rubbing” nonsense).  Also, the capitalization and hyphenation is all copied verbatim (and weird).

  1. Slow Trunk Circling

  2. Quick Leg Swinging

  3. Sit-ups

  4. Slow Trunk-Twisting with Sideways Bending

  5. Quick Arm Circling

  6. Slow Leg Circling

  7. Slow Trunk Twisting with “Forward” Leaning

  8. Push-ups

  9. Rubbing of the Feet, Top of Back, and Round the Neck

  10. Rubbing of Arms and Round shoulders, with Full Knee-Bending

  11. Full Slow Forward and Backward Bending (with Rubbing)

  12. Slow Trunk-Bending Sideways with half Knee-Bending (with Rubbing)

  13. Slow Trunk-Twisting to Alternate Sides (with Rubbing)

  14. Slow raising of Stretched leg in three directions (with Rubbing)

  15. Knee-Raising (with Rubbing)

  16. Quick Sideways bending of Trunk (with Rubbing)

  17. Quick Trunk-twisting (with Rubbing)

  18. Quick Backward-Forward Leaning of Trunk (with Rubbing)


Anonymous said...

OK, this is great. Your story sounds EXACTLY like my story. How I found out about this system, how I got the book and never bothered to read it, how I have been looking for some videos or whatever.

One point you don't mention is that the overcomplicated descriptions of the exercises in the book can easily mislead you and you could do wrong exercises and run into trouble.

Anyway, just knowing there is two of us gives me more hope that someone somewhere might do a video or whatever.

I will be checking your blog for updates, and look forward to finding something (information or even just motivation) to make me start the program.

It will be more difficult, because this year I managed to get a beer-belly I didn't have last year ^^


Anonymous said...

I lived in Poland. One day as a 16- year old,I went into a dark attic in my grandparents house, and found a book called "My System", with a greek athlete on the cover, in Polish translation. I removed the dust from it and started reading with a great interest, especially, that it was written during times, when physical fitness was looked upon as a low class activity. Although I had exercised and swam before, this amazing book tought me the importance of coordination of movement with breathing, precision exercise, form. In this country I was always a member of a gym, but even doing the exercises on modern machines made me remember the breathing. No exercise routines except yoga teaches that. Also dr Muller stresses overall health, not just sporadic muscles. I am not some olympic athlete, but because of dr. Muller, who was a precursor of exercise, hygiene, fitness, even for women, I am in a reasonable shape for my age (which I will not disclose). Every time I am in a gym, I think of dr. Muller and his fantastic, timeless method. And, indeed, from a weekling, I became a woman who doesn't get sick. Today, I googled "My System" and was so happy to find it (in English translation). So you gentlemen, be patient, pull the book out, and step by step, breath by breath, with a precision, learn one exercise at a time. You will be happy you did.

The Invisible said...

Thanks so much for sharing your story. I will do the breathing... just because you said to. [smile] Thanks again for posting.

Anonymous said...

The breathing is special, because once you learn that, you can apply it in any type of exercise and improve the benefit. By the way, Hatha Yoga uses breathing in and out through the nose only.

S.Tehlirian said...

I have been doing this system every day for a year. It is amazing. It is complicated at first to figure out, but this was part of the fun.
I went from lumpy to smooth and solid in about 8 months and while no one would mistake me for an Olympic swimmer, I did go down 4 pants sizes and am in terrific shape (now) for someone who is 44 years old. I just wish I had found this earlier!
Stick with it, you will not be sorry.

The Invisible said...

Kudos, S.Tehlirian for figuring it out and sticking to it! It's still on my "to do" list, but hopefully I'll be able to revisit the system soon. Currently just being INCREDIBLY busy building sets, performing, and shooting film is keeping me relatively skinny! [smile]

Amanda said...

Thank you very much for this list. Saves me tons of time!

Anonymous said...

I have been doing these exercises now for several months, and have noticed a strong change for the better in muscle tone, especially in the muscles of the legs and "trunk". The exercises seem to me to be very well balanced, and are actually quite exhausting if done at the pace he suggests (15 minutes is too fast to do them at first).
Also because of the structure of the routine, you can always 'go back a week' and take it easier (for example if you catch a cold in the meantime as I did but don't want to stop the daily routine) or maybe if you just want to take a step down in intensity for a while.

The rubbing exercises are mysterious. I was initially skeptical, but because most of the advice in the book seemed to be very sound, I decided to just do what he said and see what happened. I have noticed that my skin has actually smoothed and toughened quite considerably. HOWEVER, be careful about going to town too quickly with the rubbings, as rubbing too hard too soon is really quite uncomfortable on the skin (especially if you are hairy!) and could lead to abrasion.

As for Kafka.....the only completely satisfying way to do these exercises is in the nude, so I can understand that to some extent. But he could have closed the curtain or something.

but this book should be treated as more than just a set of exercises, it is a whole physical culture that Muller developed, and if you take the small amount of time needed to read the text (which isn't really that long), then are many interesting ideas to be found.

Anonymous said...

My family has done Müller's system since my great grand father learned it from Müller himself.
So I grew up with it and hence never thought of it as complicated.
In the original Danish book the deep breaths are a kind of intermezzo between the physical excercises. I have seen somewhere that someone thought they were to be incorporated into the excercises.
The only thing I have changed is the bath although I still have my great grand fathers "viktoria tub". I guess the hygiene has changed since the 1910's.

Anonymous said...

Just found a copy of J.P. Muller's book titled, " MY SYSTEM FOR LADIES-15 MINUTES' EXERCISE A DAY FOR HEALTH'S SAKE" at a flea market today. Just a paperback reprint but noticed he had other related titles, I.e. My system for children, my breathing system, the daily 5 minutes etc under the patronage of the prince of Wales, Mr. Muller had impressive credentials.

As a 55 year old woman, who is in fair shape, I'm thinking these exercises are more up my alley than Zumba and pole dancing and since you had several
testimonies the system still works in modern times, it's worth a shot. I live in a 1910 craftsman bungalow that I've tried to return to period style,wear clothing from the same period the exercise may be synchronicity .....