The Amazing Franz Kafka Workout!: Discover the 15-Minute Exercise Routine That Swept the World in 1904

Does your spare tire show no signs of deflat­ing as biki­ni sea­son looms?

Is the fear of bul­lies kick­ing sand in your face begin­ning to out­strip the hor­ror of trans­form­ing into a giant bug overnight?

Do you long to expe­ri­ence last­ing health ben­e­fits along with an impres­sive­ly fit appear­ance?

Friends, we make you this promise: The Amaz­ing Franz Kaf­ka Work­out will trans­form your life along with your physique in just 15 min­utes a day.

That’s right, just 15 min­utes of dai­ly cal­is­then­ics (and some com­mon sense prac­tices with regard to diet, sleep, and hygiene) is all it takes. Even pen­cil-necked authors walk­ing around with their backs bowed, their shoul­ders droop­ing, their hands and arms all over the place, afraid of mir­rors because they show an inescapable ugli­ness, can dis­cov­er the con­fi­dence that eludes them, through improved pos­ture, breath­ing, and mus­cle tone.

(Note: the Amaz­ing Franz Kaf­ka Work­out will not pro­tect you from the per­ni­cious, even­tu­al­ly fatal effects of tuber­cu­lo­sis.)

The Amaz­ing Franz Kaf­ka Work­out is more cor­rect­ly attrib­uted to fit­ness guru Jør­gen Peter Müller, above, the author of sev­er­al exer­cise reg­i­men pam­phlets, includ­ing the best­selling My Sys­tem: 15 Min­utes’ Exer­cise a Day for Health’s Sake, which was pub­lished in 1904 and then trans­lat­ed into 25 lan­guages.

Kaf­ka was def­i­nite­ly the best known of Müller’s devo­tees, scrupu­lous­ly run­ning through the pre­scribed exer­cis­es morn­ing and evening, wear­ing noth­ing more than the skin he was born in—another prac­tice Müller hearti­ly endorsed.

The chis­eled Mr. Müller was a pro­po­nent of reg­u­lar den­tal check ups, sen­si­ble footwear, and vig­or­ous  tow­el­ing (or “rub­bing”), and an ene­my of con­stric­tive woolen under­wear, closed win­dows, and seden­tary lifestyles. My Sys­tem includes some obser­va­tions that wouldn’t sound out of place in a Kaf­ka nov­el:

The town office type is often a sad phe­nom­e­non pre­ma­ture­ly bent, with shoul­ders and hips awry from his dis­lo­cat­ing posi­tion on the office stool, pale, with pim­ply face and poma­tumed head, thin neck pro­trud­ing from a col­lar that an ordi­nary man could use as a cuff, and swag­ger­ing dress in the lat­est fash­ion flap­ping round the sticks that take the place of arms and legs! At a more advanced age the spec­ta­cle is still more pitiable… the eyes are dull, and the gen­er­al appear­ance is either still more sunken and shriv­eled or else fat, flab­by, and pal­lid, and enveloped in an odour of old paper, putri­fied skin grease, and bad breath.

In an essay on Slate, Sarah Wild­man, the descen­dent of two lean Müller fans, delves into the Müller System’s pop­u­lar­i­ty, par­tic­u­lar­ly amongst 20th-cen­tu­ry Euro­pean Jews.

Just as best-sell­ing fit­ness experts do today, Müller beefed up his fran­chise with relat­ed titles: My Sys­tem for Ladies, My Sys­tem for Chil­dren, and My Sun­bathing and Fresh Air Sys­tem.

The orig­i­nal book is in the pub­lic domain and can be down­loaded for free from the Inter­net Archive, where one com­menter who has been fol­low­ing the sys­tem for near­ly sev­en­ty years gives it a hearty thumbs-up for its sta­mi­na restor­ing pow­ers.

Oth­ers seek­ing to make a buck by charg­ing for Kin­dle down­loads have the decen­cy to offer free instruc­tions for each of the indi­vid­ual exer­cis­es, includ­ing Quick Side­ways Bend­ing of Trunk (with Rub­bing) and the plank‑y Bend­ing and Stretch­ing of the Arms, part­ly Loaded with the Weight of the Body.

Even those unlike­ly to per­form so much as a sin­gle deep knee bend should get a bang out of the orig­i­nal pho­to illus­tra­tions, which, back in 1904, were as ripe for erot­ic dou­ble duty as the whole­some men’s physique mags of the 50s and 60s.

Insert spec­u­la­tion as to Kafka’s sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion here, if you must.

via Men­tal Floss

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Walt Whitman’s Unearthed Health Man­u­al, “Man­ly Health & Train­ing,” Urges Read­ers to Stand (Don’t Sit!) and Eat Plen­ty of Meat (1858)

77 Exer­cis­es: A Work­out Video For Fans of the Talk­ing Heads

What’s a Sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly-Proven Way to Improve Your Abil­i­ty to Learn? Get Out and Exer­cise

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her in New York City tonight, March 11, for the next install­ment of her ongo­ing book-based vari­ety show, Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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