Ch. 6 – “Training for the Mirror”

Kunitz explores the dissonance between aesthetics and performance in chapter 6, establishing in the first few pages that looking fit does not always translate to being fit. He explores the advent of the Dudley Allen Sargent’s variable-resistance pulley-weight machine which revolutionized the way people worked out. This invention welcomed industrialization into the gym as users believed they were exercising more efficiently by targeting specific muscle groups while still exerting less work. Sargent measured his students’ muscles before and after using his machines, suggesting a quantifiable ideal. Inherent in Sargent’s experiment is a priority on cosmetics rather than performance which would permeate society at this time, ultimately creating a culture-wide understanding of the “perfect physique” which would manifest in the rise of bodybuilding. This attitude of working out for a physical ideal, Kunitz argues, made the body and “looking good” a marketable product, and thus allowed exercise to be sold as a weight-loss trick rather than a requirement of good health.