Zurkhaneh

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‘The House of Strength’
Before western influence, ancient Iranians participated in numerous sporting events, much like the Greeks and their Olympics. Iranians though prided themselves in a type of wrestling called “Koshti Pahlavani” or “Heroic Wrestling”, where they would do graceful but powerful moves to pin their opponents. In order to train for events such as this, they developed a place to go to gain the strength, power, and endurance necessary to master their event. This place was known as the “Zurkhaneh” or “House of Strength”. The Zurkhaneh was originally a place to train and get closer to God, through weight training, because strength was seen as something godly. The Zurkhaneh housed the one true Iranian way of weight training, “Varzesh-e-Pahlavni” or “The Workout of Heroes”. This workout was a 60-90 minute routine of different lifts and exercises all in alignment to the beat of drums and bells. Now although there are many technical parts to the Zurkhaneh, like who leads it and different levels and rankings (much like those of Karate and Tae Kwon Do), I am going to focus specifically on the weight training aspect of the Varzesh. These exercises include the warm-ups, “Takhteh-Shena”, “Narmesh” (aka Calisthenics), “Meel” exercises, “Charkhidan”, “Pazadan”, “Kabbadeh Keshidan”, “Sang” exercises, and “Shelang-Takhteh”. Each part of the full exercise fully works different parts of the person’s body.

In the 90 minute period, the people in the Zurkhaneh start by warming up. They do callisthenic exercises like jumping on one foot and slow walking to achieve a dynamic stretch. They use the dynamic stretch as a way to prepare for the rigorous exercise they have ahead of them. Right after this warm-up, the people start doing pushups with the “Takhteh-Shena”. The “Takhteh-Shena” is a wooden plank that elevates you a little bit so that you do incline push-ups instead of flat push-ups. There are a few types of push-ups that they do including a regular...
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