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Angelo Siciliano aka Charles atlas was born in Acri, Calabria, Italy, in 1892. At 12 years of age, Angelino, as he was also called, moved with his family to Brooklyn, New York and eventually became a leather worker. He tried many forms of exercise initially, using weights, pulley-style resistance, and gymnastic-style calisthenics but claimed that they weren’t effective for building his body. Angelino was inspired by Eugen Sandow and Bernarr MacFadden (a major proponent of “Physical Culture”). Sandow was a German pioneering bodybuilder known as the “father of modern bodybuilding”. McFadden was an influential American proponent of physical culture, a health and strength training movement that originated during the 19th century in Germany, England, and the United States which and was a combination of bodybuilding with nutritional and health theories.
Siciliano was too poor to join the local YMCA, so he watched how exercises were performed, then performed them at home. He attended the strongman shows at Coney Island, and would question the strongmen about their diets and exercise regimens after the show. He would read Physical Culture magazine for further information on health, strength, and physical development, and finally developed his own system of exercises which was later called ‘Dynamic Tension,’ a phrase coined by Charles Roman.
In 1922, 30-year-old Siciliano officially changed his name to Charles Atlas to sound more American. He met Dr. Frederick Tilney, a British homeopathic physician and course writer who was employed as publisher Bernarr MacFadden’s “ideas man.” Atlas and Tilney met through MacFadden, who was using Atlas as a model for a short movie entitled “The Road to Health.” Atlas wrote a fitness course and then asked Tilney to edit it. Tilney agreed and Atlas went into business in 1922. Tilney himself had an extensive background in weight training.