After writing my little blurbs on my exercise program, I stumbled upon a treasure at Amazon.com.
They were offering for sale (used, of course) one of the books Lotte Berk wrote about her exercise plan. It was published in the late 70's under the name
Lotte Berk's Method of Exercise by Lotte Berk and Jean Prince
Berk wrote only two books on her method. The first in the 60's which had photo illustrations of both herself and her daughter demonstrating exercises. I wasn't able to find a copy of that book. But the last book, features one of Berk's students, who she trained as an instructor, demonstrating her method. Berk also released an LP album with voice instructions to her exercise plan and also one VHS tape (around 1980). There are two teasers of the video on Youtube HERE and HERE. Unfortunately all of these wonderful resources have gone out of print. I've read around the internet that Berk was unable to expand her business due to signing her copyright over to Lydia Bach. I'm not sure of the details but Berk's daughter goes further into the particulars in her biography of her mother.
Anyway I was excited to receive my used copy of "Method of Exercise" and was able, for the first time, to see Berk's method in the raw. I was even able to complete two exercise sessions using the book's instructions.
The book I received was a softcover paperback which included a short introduction about Berk written by Jean Prince. The book's style both in writing and photos were soooooo 70's. Not that I minded, it gave a nice nostalgia trip back to my babyhood. The photos of the model show Lotte Berk's exercises both in time lapse motion capture photos and in a series of photos detailing each exercise position. Both types of photos were in high contrast, artfully grainy photographs. Like I said 70's LOVE.
The instructions to each exercise are clear and to the point. Berk's original plan is as follows : Warm up stretches, Thighs, Stomach and Thighs, Seat, Back and Cool down stretches. I was amazed at how hard core the original plan was compared to the various off shoots in recent years. Out of all the variations, it is Pinckney's Callanetics and Physique 57 that come closest to the original Lotte Berk method in practice. Lydia Bach's variation has more attention to starting with more basic movements before going to the actual Berk exercises.
Lotte Berk's original exercises are tough. I mean extremely tough. I've been practicing the various methods built on her plan for the past 3 months now but Lotte Berk's plan had me crying mercy. While reading the instructions I laughed at repetition instructions that started at 3 and working up to more reps. What good could 3 repetitions possibly do me? I soon found out that Berk's exercises cause immediate muscle burn. There is no working up to the burn ala P57. There are no stretch breaks ala Bach's variation. Berk just pushes her followers onto even more muscle burners. This is where Callanetics matched Berk's method. Pinckey's variations also burn out the muscle but it takes a gentler approach. Needless to say I was sweating buckets in no time completing Berk's original method.
The one area that differs from the more recent variations is that Berk did not include upper body work in her method. This may be a setback for many exercise fans but not to me. I'm not a fan of the muscular look in the arms, shoulders and back. As I've stated previously I tend to build muscle quickly and my body type shows this new muscle as bulk. In the Physique 57 format, there is a deep concentration on arm and back muscles. This leads to many women developing the upper back muscles which gives them that distinctive swimmer's V. The V tricks the eyes into reading the waist as small. Many women like this look and since most women don't bulk up, it doesn't look odd on them. On me, it looks mannish and I hate it. This is the reason why I don't do the P57 tapes as much as I would like. The Lotte Berk original plan is perfect for me in that it gives the burn of P57 but doesn't include exercises that make me look like a little bulldog.
I haven't included photos of the actual exercises because the book is still under copyright even if it is out of print. But I highly recommend getting a used copy of it, especially if you are a fan of Lotte Berk's work. I have also recently purchased a digital copy of Lydia Bach's book from the 70's/80's regarding Berk's plan. But that is a review for another time and after I have tried it out.
Labels: books, exercise, fitness, Lotte Berk