A Nice Find- More on Heavyhands Pioneer Dr. Len Schwartz


I recently discovered a book I highly recommend: Strength Endurance: Reflections on the Legacy of Dr. Leonard Schwartz  by Chuck Huckaby, on Amazon.

Like me, Chuck is a long time fan of the late Dr. Schwartz’s work and the “heavyhands” approach of simultaneously exercising the upper and lower body with hand weights (which I described here). We both agree that it is a shame his body of work on exercise is not more well known. Heavyhands became quite popular in the ’80s when aerobic dance classes were all the rage, and fell by the wayside after that. This is unfortunate because in my opinion the most important contribution of Dr. Schwartz was heavyhands walking, or swinging hand weights with your arms while walking. To this day you’ll still see many people carrying hand weights while walking, but that misses the point that it is the vigorous arm swinging that makes this a good cardiovascular workout.

Unlike me, Chuck was able to interview people that knew Dr. Schwartz and get some fascinating background information. He also chased down the details of Dr. Schwartz’s various exercise patents.

Dr. Schwartz’s main emphasis was on whole body cardio workouts, especially the concept that adding upper body movements to something like walking makes it a better challenge to the cardiovascular system. Most of his fans equate this with Heavyhands, but it turns out later in his life he came up with other approaches too, He came up with an interesting apparatus he called the “Pan-x” machine shown in the figure which can be used for various whole body exercises described in the book:

He also pioneered a variation on isometrics he called “isotonometrics” which bears similarities to Charles Atlas’s “dynamic tension” method described in my previous post. But Dr. Schwartz’s version is intended as an upper body enhancement to cardio that requires no equipment.

I think what I enjoyed reading the most was about Dr. Schwartz’s own athletic abilities. I already knew he had gone from a sedentary overweight smoker in his mid 50s to elite athlete status using heavyhands. But some specific stats in the book were almost mindboggling. For example, one of the most vigorous movements you can do with heavyhands is mimicking the double-poling motion of cross country skiing, but with hand weights instead of poles. I do that move, with 6 lb weights in each hand. I do several intervals 30 seconds long. It really gets my heart going. Dr. Schwartz could do this with 23 lb weights in each hand, continuously for an hour.

Dr. Len Schwartz

This book is an interesting look at various exercise concepts for any reader. But for fans of Dr. Schwartz and heavyhands, it is a treasure.