Mar 18, 2016

A Teenager Doing Pushups on TV

Today you can go online and see 100,000,000 pictures and videos of naked bodybuilders and athletes flexing for selfies, and every actor with even minimal musculature takes off his shirt at the drop of a script.

When I was a kid in the 1960s, there was virtually nothing.  An occasional Tarzan movie, an occasional teen idol with an open shirt in a Tiger Beat centerfold.  And that was it.

Seeing a man or boy on tv with his shirt off was so rare -- vanishingly rare -- that every instance is indelibly imprinted in my brain, as unforgettable as my first airplane trip or my first date with a guy.

Greg strips down to go surfing on The Brady Bunch .
Stephen Parr shows off his washboard abs on Mystery Island.
Steve Elliot shaves while wearing only pajama bottoms on Petticoat Junction.

And, sometime in the 1960s, I'm guessing around 1968, a Public Service Announcement for the President's Council on Physical Fitness shows a teenage boy doing pushups.


Hard delts, thick biceps, beautiful interplay of muscles as he rises and falls, rises and falls.  His face becomes red.  He is smiling.

The narrator tells us that with every pushup, he's "a little bit stronger, a little bit healthier, a little bit happier than before."


I can't find the original PSA, but it was an iconic moment, a moment when I recognized the beauty of the male physique, in spite of the adult insistence that only women liked to look at men.

By the way, pushups are still widely recognized as a good way to maintain core strength.  The recommended number in a minute differs by age and sex.  50-60 year olds are supposed to be able to do at least 25.  I can do 50, which makes me "excellent" for my age group but only "above average" for a 20-year old.