The Elusive Rheo Blair Calf Stretcher

Elusive in that relatively few were ever made or sold, and until now there have been no known photographs of them that I have seen. In his advertisements for the calf stretcher course and apparatus there was no image of the apparatus itself. (If you have a Rheo Blair Calf Stretcher and would like to send me a clear photo of it I would be glad to post it) People remember Rheo for his nutritional innovations but forget that RHB was an exercise innovator, too. He modified or invented out-right several exercises. Most believe Rheo Blair to have been anti-exercise, but this was not true. He was anti-excessive exercise, anti-wrong form exercise, and anti-heavy poundage exercise, and he was against the squat altogether. In fact he felt the squat had a negative effect on the functioning -- chemistry and balance -- of the endocrine glands – and that getting the chemistry of these glands right was the true secret of bodybuilding.
But for those who insisted on doing the squat, (and yes, there were plenty; old habits died hard) he taught that it was vital to develop the calves in order to do the squat properly, meaning in this case to keep the heels flat on the floor when coming into a correct squatting position. The inability to keep the heels flat on the floor resulted from muscular restrictions, i.e. under-developed calves. This resulted in body builders bending the body forward when cleaning the weight, placing most of the strain in the vital back regions, which broke down the sacrolliliac and lumbar regions. Unfortunately, the calf just didn't seem to respond to efforts to develop it. So...

The calf stretcher was one of Rheo’s little gems. He offered them with a calf development course in Chicago in the 1950s for $14.95, then in the mid-‘60s for $25. Rheo believed the calves were under-developed in most men and resulted, as we have seen above, in an inability to properly "clean" a weight -- squats and other exercises. He also believed that when the calves were developed they were in fact one of the most attractive parts of the male form. So there was this aesthetic side to the calves, too. He said that, while they were extremely difficult muscles to develop, with his course and apparatus "you can easily and quickly develop your calves to their maximum size...with only a few minutes of exercising daily."

RHB sent his calf stretcher to Peary Rader who in turn wrote the following comments in Iron Man: Received a new calf stretcher from Rheo Blair the other day. It is a deluxe rig made of white Formica, thick padding and white plastic corrugated top. This box-like rig has one side rounded where you place the ball of the foot. Actually it is used for calf raises but the primary advice is on stretching the calf muscle which Blair states is more important for size and shape than the exercise of contraction. It sure does this. Some fellows use this about an hour a day while doing something else, with reported good results. They are not to be advertised for sale but he says he will sell a few for $25.00. [Vol 27, no. 5, p. 40]

I happened across the grainy little picture you see at the top of this post quite by accident. I was playing with the zoom function in Picasa using a photo of the interior of RHB's Hollywood home, and suddenly noticed the calf stretcher sitting there in the doorway between his dining room and living room. How many times have I glanced at this photo and never noticed the calf stretcher sitting there??!! Click here to see another view of the calf stretcher.

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Information found on Rheo H. Blair: The Book is meant for educational and informational purposes only, and to motivate you to make your own health care and dietary decisions based upon your own research and in partnership with your health care provider. It should not be relied upon to determine dietary changes, a medical diagnosis or courses of treatment.