Edmond Desbonnet was a French physical culturist, photographer and academic born in 1867. Due to his poor health, he was forced to perform gymnastic exercises from the age of seven. Five years later, Edmond discovered photo of a strongman which he soon started collecting on a regular basis.
Professor Desbonnet opened his first physical culture center in Lille in 1885. That same year Edmond made the first rules for the sport of weightlifting. A couple of things he introduced include adding press, snatch and jerk into competitive lifts, setting up table of records and introducing referees.
In 1887 he opened his gym where he was visited by Eugen Sandow who shared his understanding of weightlifting training at that time. Apart from being fitness pioneer, the Frenchman also was the first to photograph and write about all things related to exercises and the beauty of the human body. Inspired by Greek models, Desbonnet photographed students who trained in his gym.
Soon enough, Desbonnet created a specialized training program which he advertised to “fix problems, correct deviations, build muscle and transform your body in just 3 months”. His training program offered a variety of exercises at different levels of difficulty, with emphasis on a recovery period – as proposed by Louis Cyr. Desbonnet always advocated harmonious development of the body in order to achieve muscle balance. He insisted on regular stretching for the development of a balanced body.
Even though his training program was expensive at that time and practically reserved for wealthy class of French society, after World War I the middle working class gained access to more than 200 physical culture centers which were using his training program.
Edmond Desbonnet wrote many books and below are listed some of the most influential ones.
- 1901 – The Physical Strength (Le force physique);
- 1908 – The Creation of Pure Human Blood
- 1909 – How to Make an Athlete
- 1910 – The Kings of Strength
- 1911 – To Become Beautiful…and Remain So; Women Physical Culture Manual
- 1911 – The Kings of Wrestling
- 1913 – A Warning Before Dying
Edmond Desbonnet died in 1953 at the age of 86.