Stefan Siatkowski - The Man of Iron

Stefan Siatkowski - The Man of Iron

Stefan Siatkowski a.k.a Samson a.k.a "The Man of Iron" was a Polish Strongman who excelled in bar bending, nail bending, steel scrolling and anything else that involved bending metal. He was active as late as the 1960's.

The Hammer Man's Hammers

The Hammer Man's Hammers

Took this shot a few years back at a special dinner honoring Slim the Hammer Man. That's Slim's Challenge Ax on the left followed by his two sledge hammers with their distinctive markings on the handles and chromed weights. They are sitting on Slim's special oak carrying case. If those hammers could talk I bet they could tell some stories...

Eugene "Tiny" Walsh

Eugene "Tiny" Walsh

Here's something you don't see every day ~ a REAL squat! Here, Eugene "Tiny" Walsh goes all the way to the floor and back with 550 pounds wearing a "super suit" consisting of a t-shirt, shorts and penny loafers. It was reported that Tiny also made 600 pounds in this style. Also of note is the Jackson weight set.

Tags: Squat

The Weaver Stick

The Weaver Stick

The great strength author George Weaver came up with a unique strength challenge which now bears his name: The Weaver Stick.

You can easily make your own with a broom stick. An "official" weaver stick is exactly 42 inches long with the challenge being to grasp the end of it, no closer than 5-1/2 inches from the opposite end, and lift a weight from the floor or a platform, all the while keeping the stick perfectly level.

A lift of 5-7 pounds in this manner is exceptional. The great weight lifting champion John Davis for example, could lift 8 pounds, while John Grimek set the modern record with 11 pounds.

Primo Carnera and His Globe Barbell

You may know that "The Preem" Primo Carnera was the Heavyweight boxing Champion of the world from 1933-1934 but you probably didn't know that he was also a performing strongman as well. He achieved a one-hand snatch of 220 pounds and could clean and jerk over 300 ~ pretty good for someone who was 6'6".

Chuck Sipes Lifts His Truck

Chuck Sipes won the 1959 IFBB Mr. America, 1960 IFBB Mr. Universe and the 1968 Mr. World Bodybuilding titles, but unlike most physique stars, Chuck's muscles weren't just for show, he could also perform many incredible feats of strength as well.

As Chuck was training to accomplish a 600 pound(!) bench press, he used to train using a variety of techniques involving heavy supports and negatives -- he even had a special handle welded to the underside of his pickup truck which he used to lift and support the whole affair.

As he is shown doing here, Sipes would first lift the pickup truck as high as he could with his arms then wedge his legs underneath. In the top position, Chuck estimated that he was supporting 1600 pounds.

Tom Tyler

Tom Tyler, late of Hollywood, California, was the 1928 AAU Heavyweight lifting champion and first American to clean & jerk 300 pounds in an AAU competition. Here's a rare shot of Tyler at the 1928 Olympic weightlifting tryouts. Believe it or not, this is that Tom Tyler, western movie star and Captain Marvel fame.

The Viking Barbell Company

Here's a nifty advertisement for the Viking Barbell Company, circa 1947. Viking barbells were the official outfitters of the British Amateur Weight-Lifters Association (BAWLA) for many years and you'd always see them in the action shots in Vigour and Health and Strength magazines.

We've never had the pleasure of seeing any Viking weights in person, but they certainly always looked good in the magazines. Look closely at this ad, besides the barbells, you'll find two dumbbells, a swingbell and a pair of iron boots.

The Japanese Handstand

The Japanese Handstand, also aptly called the wide-arm handstand is an intermediate handbalancing skill that you should be able to accomplish without too much trouble. With the arms positioned out wide, and the fingers oriented differently, achieving the Japanese handstand will require more strength than a typical handstand to achieve. If you really want to impress people you can start out in a normal handstand, slide your hands out wide and hold and slide back again. Above, Mike White, of Southwest Miami high School performs a Japanese handstand during the free exercise event of the 1967 Gold Coast High School Gymnastic Championships.

Tags: 1967

Tokyo Police Force Training

In 1956, 19-year old Kazuhiko Nakadaiji won the Mr. Japan title in a nationwide contest. Greatly impressed with his development, Tokyo police Chief Katsuki Takayanagi hired Nakadaiji to help train his officers and help to build strength for judo. Barbells were limited but calisthenics and bodyweight movements offered a way to allow a large group of people to train at once. Elevated pushups are also, of course,  just as effective today as they are back then and a fine addition to any program.

Russian Glute Ham Machine

Glute Ham Machines can be found in most gyms these days but this wasn't always the case. This movement was pioneered by the great soviet weightlifters who placed a gymnastic pommel horse near a set of Swedish Bars into which they they hooked their feet. That's the great Alexeev shown here demonstrating the movement. This exercise didn't make it to US shores until well into the 1980's.

Nail Driving

One of the all-time best strongman feats is to drive a nail through a thick board with your bare hand. There are two different techniques for doing so, the "slap" technique and the "punch" technique shown here demonstrated by The Amazing Samson, Alexander Zass. You'll probably be better at one more than the other but it pays to practice both of them.

Dandurand's 16-inch Forearm

Arthur Dandurand was yet another great Canadian Strongman.

It was said that he had a 16-inch forearm at a bodyweight of only 185 pounds and it certainly looks that way in this classic shot.

Dandurand was often called the "Canadian Sandow" and some of his best lifts were as follows:

* One Arm Press: 115 Pounds
* Two Arm Press: 220 Pounds
* One Hand Deadlift: 550 Pounds
* Reverse Curl: 177 Pounds
* Kennedy Lift: 1100 Pounds

In addition to these feats, Dandurand was very good at juggling and bent-pressing human weights. He also could shoulder a 406 Pound truck engine and at a contest in 1908, Dandurand pushed a wheelbarrow loaded to 4300 Pounds for a distance of 23 feet.

Pete George, Fyodor Bogdanovsky and Ermanno Pignatti

Pete George of the USA, Fyodor Bogdanovsky of the USSR and Ermanno Pignatti of Italy compare hardware at the conclusion of the middle-weight class weightlifting at the 1956 Melbourne, Australia Olympic games. Taking place on November 24, 1956, Bogdanovsky totaled 420 kg, (a world record) for the gold, George totaled 412 kg for the silver and Pignatti totaled 382.5 kg for the bronze.

Masahiko Kimura

You've heard of the martial art submission hold known as the "Kimura?" ... well meet Mr. Kimura, as in Masahiko Kimura, widely thought of as the greatest judoka of all time. A google search will give you many more details of his amazing martial art success including his legendary defeat of Helio Gracie in 1949.

With the context of our blog, it is notable that his workouts consisted of 1000 pushups a day and plenty of head stands and bridging for neck development -- two important areas of development for any martial artist and both of which certainly stand out in the above photo which was taken sometime in the late 1930's

Jean-Louis Jean's Handstand

Jean-Louis Jean was a French bodybuilder who was also quite adept at acrobatics. At the 1958 European bodybuilding championships, held on July 26th of that year at the Casino de Trouville, Jean hit a spectacular handstand to show off his athletic prowess.  As you can see, the regular practice of handbalancing can certainly build a fine physique.

Louis Cyr and Horace Barre ~ John Robinson's $25,000 Challenge Feature

During the 1898 Circus Season, Canadian Strongman Louis Cyr and his assstant/protege' Horace Barre performed their unique feats of strength all around the country in the John Robinson Circus. As Cyr and Barre criss-crossed the map, John Robinson put up $25,000 for any person who could duplicate any ONE of their feats. Their performance included the back lift, Cyr's Barrel Lifting Feat, supporting feats, and lifting other heavy dumbbells or blockweights of various sizes and shapes. Adjusting for inflation, that would be nearly $600,000 today, and, ironically enough, their money would still be safe...

Franz 'Cyclops' Bienkowski

Franz Bienkowski, known professionally as 'Cyclops' , was the first lifter to introduce the bent press to Britain. His best performance in this lift was 250 pounds. Cyclops was a partner of Charles A. Sampson and rival to Sandow. His favorite feats though were breaking chains wrapped around his arms (shown here) as well as bending or breaking coins.

Sergo Ambartsumyan

Sergo Ambartsumyan was a great lifter of Armenian descent who was the Russian super-heavyweight champion from 1933 to 1935. In those days, competitive weightlifting consisted of five lifts: press, snatch, one-arm snatch, one-arm clean and jerk, clean and jerk. The above is a rare shot of Ambartsumyan's winning one-arm snatch at the 1933 Minsk championships.

Sargent's Head Lifting Machine

The Head Lifting Machine

When Dudley Allen Sargent became the physical director of Harvard University's famed Hemenway Gymnasium, he wanted to make sure the student body was as well-rounded as possible in their development.

Henceforth, Sargent devised several unique "machines" which could be used to fill in the gaps in areas that the conventional equipment of the day could not address (equally true today and the very same rational justification for any device which solves a problem or provides an advantage.)

One of the more interesting examples can be seen at the right, this "head lifting" machine offered a method for strengthening the neck and upper- back in a progressive and systematic manner.  This was the first dedicated machine to building neck strength ever created, clearly it was under stood that this was an important area.

Neck training is, of course, down- played or ignored in many modern programs which is a real shame since it is certainly no less important today than it was back then.

Warren Lincoln Travis ~ The Human Link!

Here's a classic and rare shot of Warren Lincoln Travis performing the classic strength feat "The Human Link." Although out of the frame, Travis actually has a PAIR of horses looped over each elbow, and it's all he can do to stop from being torn limb from limb!

1906 Geneva Weightlifting Club

A look at the Geneva (Switzerland) weightlifting club, circa 1906 and some of their excellent training equipment. This was also a walking club -- which is still a winning combination for health a century later.

Jenkins Hudson

Who exactly is Jenkins Hudson, you ask? Only one of the most amazing stories in all of strength history. Hudson was four years into a stint in the Maryland Penitentiary in Baltimore, when a local gym owner Jack Lipsky volunteered to start teaching a weightlifting class to some of the inmates.  Hudson took part on a whim, and found he had the knack... With special permission of the Warden, Hudson was able to use all of his recreation periods for his weight training and six months later, won the New South Atlantic Weightlifing Championship with a 955 lb. total... also breaking two meet records in the process.

But the story doesn't end there:

In 1963, the U. S. National Prison Postal Weightlifting Championships took place, where 26 institutions from coast to coast took part on October 4th and 5th. Bob Hoffman and a large contingent from York, PA made the trip to the Maryland Penitentiary and Bill March also participated as a guest lifter. Jenkins Hudson achieved a 1015 pound  total, with lifts of a 340 lb. press, 300 lb. snatch and 375 lb. clean and jerk. On that day, Hudson bested March who was a 5-time National champion and his performance was not only the highest of the meet, it was also second highest total ever made in this weight class by an American at the time.

David The Gladiator

Here's a look at Dave Draper in his "David The Gladiator" garb on the cover of the December, 1964 issue of Young Mr. America magazine. The Bomber never acted in a sword and sandal picture but in the early 1960's, he did act as the tv host of the big Sword and Sandal movie feature every Saturday night on Channel 9 in Los Angeles. Did you catch it? A lot of people were introduced to the movies of Reg Park, Steve Reeves and the like thanks to The Bomber.

Tags: Dave Draper

Heinrich Schneidereit

Heinrich Schneidereit the German Strongman, finished second to Francois Lancoud at the 1903 World Championships in Paris, France. He came back to win it all, however, in 1906 in Lille, France. At a bodyweight of only 176 lbs., his winning lifts were: a one-hand snatch of 176-1/2 lbs, Crucifix of 71-1/2 lbs (each hand), overhead press of 231 lbs, and a barbell clean & jerk of 275-1/2 lbs. Schneidereit also competed in the 1906 Intercalated Olympic Games in Athens, Greece. He finished third in both the one hand and two hand lifting events but did end up with a Gold Medal though as a member of the German Tug of War team.

The McKeever Twins

A look at The McKeever Twins on the cover of the September/October 1960 issue of Walt Marcyan's Physical Power Magazine. At the University of Southern California, The McKeever twins, Mike and Marlin were the first twins to achieve All-American status (Mike as a guard and Marlin as a linebacker.) The McKeever twins were notably some of the earliest great football players who also also were outspokenly involved in weight training, a rarity at the time since it was usually frowned upon by many coaches. Consequently, they were also featured regularly in Ironman, Strength and Health and obviously Physical Power magazines. (Did you also notice they are wearing 68 and 86? How awesome is that?)

Revas The Strongman

A look at Revas, the strongman - we unfortunately don't know much about him other than he liked to break chains by flexing his arm and had a truly excellent mustache. His forearm is also pretty impressive, and looks almost as big as his flexed bicep - this is indicative of most lifters from the 1890's due to their training with non-rotating barbells, so we can at least narrow down a time frame somewhat.

Jack "The Comet" Henderson

I though this guy had an impressive chest expander but someone else came along and upped the ante and put him to shame. Jack "The Comet" Henderson was a Dutch strongman who performed on the Vaudeville circuit in the 1920's.

Paul Anderson The Boxer

After retiring from weightlifting, the great Paul Anderson took up professional boxing. The above shot was from his April, 1960 debut bout against Italian boxer Atillio Tondo. Anderson was able to floor his opponent three times but didn't have the wind to go the distance and the fight was stopped in the third round. Anderson's boxing career only lasted a few more fights, and his with overall record ending up 2 wins (both by KO) and 2 losses.

Gittleson Boards

Any University of Michigan football player from the last fifteen years will break down and cry at the sight of this picture. Needless to say, physical conditioning is a big part of the game of football and one of the 'top secret' conditioning tools that we used to use can be seen here. Think of it as a portable, one-man version of the traditional wooden sled.

We called 'em "Boards" and they were one of Mike Gittleson's evil creations. We used to push these boards up and down the field 2 minutes on/1 minute off for about 45 minutes or so (although that was only about half the workout.) The friction of the field turf or grass made this "extra fun" and one hell of a conditioning workout.

George Challard, The Man With The Iron Neck

We have featured many unusual feats of neck strength in our blog and here is another very impressive one to add to the mix: George Challard was a laborer from the Woolwich borough of London who possessed an unusual level of neck strength, as you can see shown here, letting a friend bend a stout piece of iron 'round his throat. Don't try this one at home, folks.

Strength & Health Magazine, July, 1958

A look at the cover of the July, 1958 issue of Strength & Health magazine featuring Chuck Vinci on the cover. If you didn't kno9w any better, you might think Chuck was a bodybuilder. He probably would have placed pretty high in just about any physique contest he entered but Chuck was actually one of America's greatest Olympic weightlifters and was at his peak right at this time. Chuck had just won the gold medal in the bantamweight class at the 1956 Olympics and a few years later would go on to have another gold medal winning performance at the 1960 Rome Olympics. Chuck is a pretty good example of how just focusing on multi-joint lifts and whole-body strength will certainly "do a body good."

The Baranoff Gladiators

The Baranoff Gladiators were a group of German acrobats who headlined several circuses in the 1920's and 30's. Above you'll see a rare photo of their most amazing feat taken in Berlin around 1927. A conservative estimate of the amount of weight supported on the neck of bridging bottom man would be 500 lbs. Having done both bridging feats and handbalancing, I can tell you that this one is as impressive as they come.

Charles G. Jefferson

You've hear dof the Jefferson Lift? Well meet Mr. Jefferson. Charles G. Jefferson once partially deadlifted 1571-1/2 pounds with this special apparatus. Needless to say, all that heavy partial deadlifting did wonders for his grip strength. At a bodyweight of 170 pounds, Jefferson could also lift a 176 lb. anvil by the horn.

Charles Poire

The great French strongman Charles Poire was most famous for his heavy presses, jerks and curling ability. His upper arm development was also second to none. In the late 19th century Poire was said to have the best arms in France.  Poire also only tipped the scales at around 200 lbs, providing yet another example that one can be very impressive without a tremendous bodyweight.

The Human Vise vs. The Impossible Phonebook


[This is from a few years back, but certainly no less impressive, I mean WOW, just look at that thing! Special thanks to our good friend Pat "The Human Vise" Povilaitis for sending this our way. ~ JW]

"About a year ago, I began getting into tearing phonebooks in a big way. During a visit to Iron Sport Gym (In Glenolden, PA) around that time [Iron Sport Gym Owner] Steve Pulcinella showed me a phone book that he kept in the lobby of his gym which he believed was impossible for a human being to tear. It was easily the thickest phonebook I had ever seen (in terms of pages) and it was also in the small format, slightly less than 8" wide x slightly less than 10" long, making it an incredibly difficult tear.

Tough? Yeah. Impossible, Hmmm, I filed that one in the back of my mind. It just so happens that the day before Christmas I took a trip down to The Iron Sport Gym with some good friends of mine.

After basically destroying myself for about two and a half hours bending, tearing, lifting etc, all of us were hanging out at the front counter shootin' the breeze. I suddenly remembered about that monster phonebook and asked Steve if he still had it around. With a smile on his face, he opened the cabinet and pulled it out. As he slammed it down on the front desk he said "it just can't be done, no human can tear this."

Although I was definitely feeling the last few hours of training, I was confident I could do some damage. Before I took a crack at it, I told Steve that I would make the tear nice and neat in case he wanted to keep it as a souvenir and so there would be no question that this was a legitimate tear.

I told Steve to let me have a shot...

The look on everyone's faces was priceless when I handed Steve the two pieces of the now-torn-in-half book.

Steve said it was one of the most impressive things he had ever seen and he had seen plenty of amazing feats as a gym owner and World's Strongest Man Contestant. He really doubted it could be done by a "normal" human being -- and he was right about that.

This feat was especially gratifying because I really didn't feel like I had any strength left after training, and I did it in the lobby of Iron Sport, in front of a good crowd of people who know a thing or two about strength."

Pat Povilaitis
The Human Vise

John B. Bailey

John B. Bailey was a freed slave who eventually ran his own gym in the Baltimore area. He also made frequent vistis to Boston and Philadelphia for exhibitions. "Professor" Bailey taught sparring, gymnastics and pistol shooting. Of note are the large indian clubs in the background... equally useful for sparring AND gymnastics. Though not overly muscular, you can tell this fellow certainly knows his way around the ring.

York Aristocrat Dumbbell Set

A look at a York Aristocrat Dumbbell Set from 1955 or so. These were patterned after George Jowett's dumbbells from a generation before. There is something to be said for a "personal" dumbbell set. You can get a surprisingly good workout with only what is pictured here ~ and many people certainly did!

Gaston Heon

There has been a long tradition of Canadian Strongmen, one that you probably haven't heard of is Gaston Heon of Quebec. Heon performed standard feats such as phone book tearing, the human link and having a large rock broken on his chest with a sledge hammer... but he also performed several unusual -- and somewhat dangerous -- feats, such as allowing himself to be run over by a car traveling 40 miles per hour(!) and this backlift/support of a 3000 pound automobile.

Mac Batchelor: Barrel Lifting

When you run a tavern, like Mac Batchelor once did, you had better be pretty good at lifting barrels. The Barrel Press, as Mac demonstrates here, is a great upper-body developer that you can bring into your own training, especially if the barrel is only partially filled (with water, or beer, as it were.)

Benoit Cote

Benoit Cote was another great Canadian strongman from Quebec and the rival of fellow countryman Doug Hepburn.

The two met head to head in 1961 at a four-lift contest consisting of the Press, Bench Press, Squat and Deadlift. While Hepburn bested Cote in the bench press and overhead press, Cote beat Hepburn in the squat and deadlifted 752-1/2 pounds (shown above) to win.

Small Inch Dumbbells

Thomas Inch is famous for his Challenge Dumbbell which weighs 172 pounds... What most people do not know, however, is that there where actually three other Inch Dumbbells which were smaller and which allowed him to progressively gain strength in order to lift the biggest one. The smaller "Inch" bells weighed 75, 140 and 153 pounds respectively.

Since the original Inch Challenge Dumbbell is now sitting in my living room in Cincinnati, I recently, decided to commission a series of smaller bells which would not only keep that tradition alive but also better help in bridging the gap while training with the 172-pound Inch bell.

These dumbbells were cast in a far off land and brought to the U.S. at great personal expense. They are currently the only bells of this sort on U.S. soil. The two larger ones weigh 53 kg (116.6 pounds) and the two smaller bells in the back weight 40 kg (88 pounds). I wanted to get a pair of each size for farmer's walk training.

You'll be seeing more of these bells soon...

Edward C. Stickley, The American Apollo

Edward C. Stickley is the strongest man you've never heard of. Born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on May 22, 1860, Stickley had a frail childhood and on the advice of his family physician, took up farming to build his constitution. At his own amusement, he commenced dumbbell exercise shortly after, and at the end of the first year, had experienced a dramatic increase bodily strength and muscle. This improvement was so dramatic, that in 1880, he turned professional.

Stickley held records for lifting heavy and light weights, among them: on May 30th, 1885, he "put up" a four pound dumbbell 6000 times in 57 minutes in Lynn, Massachusetts... on August 2nd, 1891, in White Mountains, New Hampshire, he lifted a 250 pound dumbbell and held it aloft for 42 seconds. Stickney was also famous for breaking horse shoes with his bare hands.

Hans Luber

If you're an athlete, it pays to engage in an "all around" training program, no matter what sport you might play. Hans Luber, shown here having a go at a "German Crusher" device, looks like he might be a weightlifter, but he was actually a diver, and a very good one at that. Luber took the Silver medal in the 3-meter spring board event at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics and followed it up later with two Gold Medals at the World Championships in 1926 and 1927 in the 3-meter spring board event and platform diving. Look closely at the background and you'll also see a row of Indian Clubs in this fine gym.

1959 Senior National Weightlifting Championships Program

A look at the program/ score card for the 1959 US. Senior National Weightlifting Championships. Cover man Tommy Kono, unsurprisingly, won the 165-1/4 pound class with a 905 lb. total. Other winners included Chuck Vinci, Isaac Berger, Paul Goldberg, Jim George,Clyde Emrich and Dave Ashman.

Tags: 1959

1948 Olympic Heavyweights

A look at the medal stand for teh heavyweight class at the 1948 London Olympic Games: John Davis of the USA took the Gold Medal with a 452.5 kg. total while his team mate, Norb Schemansky won the Silver medal with a 425 kg. total. The Bronze Medal winner was Abraham Charité of the Netherlands, who totaled 412.5 kg.

Pudgy Stockton's Handstand

You can count Pudgy Stockton among the many strength stars who were also excellent handbalancers. Holding a handstand is a more impressive feat than you may realize at first glance, since the sand does not allow the fingers the same stability as a solid surface would. If you'd like to get started in handbalancing, we recommend checking out THIS and THIS.

The Good Dumbbell

What is now known as "The Good Dumbbell" was designed many years ago for Warren Lincoln Travis. in 1929, the dumbbell was purchased from Travis, along with other strong man equipment by the Good Brothers. The dumbbell weighs inj at 2150 pounds but this shot may not give you an idea it's enormity, in which case you will want to check out this action shot with a young Bill Good.

Sandow Trained on Machines

Many people still love arguing which is better, free weights... or machines. The "point" of using any strength machine is to gain an advantage that couldn't not otherwise be had. Eugen Sandow himself trained on machines, in fact, he invented the one shown here to allow one to add resistance to regular pushups, among other things. This was way back in 1893, and even well over a century later, this idea sounds pretty darn useful.

MILO Chocolate Energy Drink

Here's a phone card (remember those?) from Japan which advertises a chocolate flavored energy drink called "MILO." This drink was originally developed in Australia in 1934 by Thomas Mayne and named for the famous strength athlete of antiquity Milo of Crotona.  The iconic green labeled tin usually features sporting activities. Made by Nestle, MILO is popular in Asia and other countries but not available in the US... not sure why though, it would probably do pretty well.

Lurich's Bridge

A look at the great Estonian strongman/wrestler Georg Lurich giving a few friends "a lift" in the wrestler's bridge, sometime around 1910. As someone who has a little experience with bridging with additional (human) weight, I can tell you that this feat is as impressive as they come.

On a Paris Sidewalk...

Performing strongmen used to be a common sight in many big cities.  Here's a rare shot from a Paris sidewalk of a strongman having a few onlookers lift a globe barbell to his shoulders so he can walk with it, circa 1950.  Look closely and you'll notice there's four additional french block weights tied to the bar.  His other oustanding equipment: a few globe dumbbells, a few globe barbells, more blockweights and even a baltass all sit in the foreground.

Art Livingston

Art Livingston was a strongman who performed in the New England area in the 1930's. He did a lot of promotion work with small businesses. For a nominal fee, Livingston could come to your place and do something like what is pictured here: a pretty unique shoulder-stand atop two chairs while lifting a heavy tire by the teeth. I'd certainly pop by just to see that.

1904 German Lifting Team

Here's a rare look at a German weightlifting team circa 1904, and below, a closer look at their outstanding equipment. As was standard for the time period, the kettlebells had large, open handles as they were frequently used for juggling.

Leroy Colbert

Leroy Colbert, shown here on the cover of the May, 1960 issue of Mr. America magazine, was the first man to build 21 inch arms. Yeah, he did a lot of curls. Colbert won the Mr. New York City contest in 1952 and Mr. Eastern America in 1953 but a serious accident prevented him from what would surely have been tremendous success in some of the bigger contests.

Dennis Rogers' Card Notching

Tearing a deck of playing cards is one of the all-time classic feats of strength... there have always been whispers that some strongmen had such fearsome fingers that they could "notch" a quarter-sized hole out of a deck... in fact, many people said it was impossible. Dennis Rogers, however, came along and silenced all the doubters by accomplishing the feat. ... and not only that, he makes it look easy.

If you'd like to learn how to train for card tearing, your first stop should be right here.

Reg Park's Stone Lifting

I don't know if Reg Park ever lifted stones to build his muscles, but he sure did in the movies! Here's Reg as the titular Samson in this still from his 1964 flick "Samson in King Solomon's Mines." Reg, of course, does not disappoint in this mythical role.

Tags: Reg Park

Swingin' With Saxon

"The Swing" is mentioned in several modern courses, but it was a performed in a much different manner back in Arthur Saxon's day. Here are his instructions for performing the lift:

"The muscles called into play are practically the same here as in the one-handed snatch, but the bell must be placed on end between the feet as shown in illustration. Keep the head down, then, with a perfectly straight arm, pull up, using a combination of muscular efforts and concentration as described in the snatch lift. Lean back and watch the dumb-bell with your eyes, and when it is at suitable height suddenly dip beneath same and twist your wrist violently, so that you may place a straight arm beneath the bell."

-from The Development of Physical Power,
Chapter 15 (written in 1906)

Bill Pettis: 23-1/4-inch Arms!

23-1/4-inch Arms!... I don't know if his arms stretched the tape measure quite that far, but Bill Pettis of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, DID have a pretty impressive set of guns. As far as training, Bill liked to do 100 sets of arm work... and they would stay pumped for days afterwards.

Stan Stanczyk's Other Hobby

After winning six Senior National titles, an Olympic gold medal and setting eight Word records, Stan Stanczyk retired from weightlfting and  moved to Miami where he opened a bowling alley. Stanczyk was as meticulous with his bowling as he was with his weightlifting and kept track of every game he ever bowled (he had a lifetime average of 190!)

George H. Benedict

George H. Benedict, of Chicago Illinois, was an early amateur boxing champion and the U.S. National club-swinging champion of 1885. He quite literally wrote the book on Manly sports, covering the aforementioned topics along with wrestling, dumbbell training, gymnastics, swimming and fencing. This rare engraving shows him in fine form while swinging a pair of nifty Spaulding exhibition clubs AND... we'd like to point out  that he is also wearing a pair of roller skates.

Jaroslav Skobla at the 1928 Olympics

A look at the great Czechoslovakian weightlifter Jaroslav Skobla during a reflective moment at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics.  Hhe took Bronze...and doesn't look happy about it. Over the next four years, Skobla added 22.5 kg to his total and took the Heavyweight gold medal at the 1932 Los Angeles games. 

Muscle Builder Magazine #1

In August of 1953, Joe Weider began "Muscle Builder" magazine, featuring 1949 AAU Mr. America Jack Delinger on the cover. If you wanted to know how the great muscle champs of the day trained, this was the place to go, check out the roll call of contributors: Clancy Ross (Mr. America, Mr. USA), Floyd Page (Professional Mr. America), Steve Reeves (Mr. World, Mr. America), Alan Stephan (Mr. America), Leo Robert (America's Most Muscular Man), Ed Theriault (Mr. America, Mr. Canada, World's Best Developed Man) Juan Ferraro (Mr. Universe, Mr. Europe), Abe Goldberg (Mr. North America) ~ and many others!

Apollon vs. The Piano

Talk about "Odd Object Lifting!" The great Apollon's grand finale at the Reichshallen Theater in Berlin during the 1897 season was to walk across the stage carrying a piano (AND it's player!) on his mighty shoulder.

The Brothers Baillargeon

The Brothers Baillargeon are another entry in the long line of great strongmen from Quebec. From left to right: Charles, Paul, Adrien, Lionel, Jean and Antonio. They traveled the continent performing tremendous strength feats and all eventually became famous professional wrestlers.

Note the family crest on their uniforms: It featured the number "6" (representing all six brothers) a beaver, their name and a maple leaf logo.

The Amazing Samson's Harness Lift

"The Amazing Samson," Alexander Zass was a master of many different types of lifts. Here's the man making a harness lift of over a ton without even breaking a sweat. Harness lifting was always very popular with performing strongmen since they could be done with very heavy weights, and could use audience members as ballast.  Aside from the performance benefits, our research indicates that heavy supporting lifts may be a great contributor to greater overall body strength.

Tarzan, The Iron King

Tarzan, "The Iron Man" was a German strongman during the 1930's, and he had BY FAR the best outfit that we have seen yet.

Rodolfo Valentino

Rodolfo Valentino was was of the first movie heart throbs. As shown in this rare shot, his physique was certainly not developed by accident.

Thomas Inch Dumbbell REPLICAS

In the late 90's, the Staver Foundry of Virginia, Minnesota produced replicas of the famous Thomas Inch challenge dumbbell. These solid globe dumbbells weighed 172 pounds but the handle is slightly thicker (2.47" vs. 2-3/8" on the original.) 172 Pounds may not seem like much of a challenge to lift but the thick handle makes it nearly impossible.

Thousands of athletes have tried to lift the Inch Dumbbell but only a few have succeeded. You'll need a very strong grip if you want to add your name to the list. There IS a secret to lifting the Inch Dumbbells, something that we'll cover on another occasion...

(NOTE: we do not have Inch Dumbbell replicas for sale.)

Lou Thesz & Expander Training

Expander work has always been popular with wrestlers since they offer a workout that is both portable and effective. Here is the great champion Lou Thesz, the man who held the NWA Championship belt longer than anyone else is history, doing a couple curls with what looks like one of Roy Noe's Graduated Xercisors. This is a really fantastic exercise and the tension can be adjusted based on foot placement.

Ferdinand Le Bouche and Le Sadi Aperitif

Strongmen have long been featured in alcohol advertisements and posters, generally they are able to do things which makes a dramatic and memorable point which would certainly be the case here. In case you aren't a wine fan, an apéritif is an alcoholic beverage usually served before a meal to stimulate the appetite. Our man above, the famous french physical culturalist Ferdinand Le Bouche is shown here lifting a barrel full of 250 livres worth (about 270 pounds) of Le Sadi brand with his teeth. I'm sold.

Grimek's Support

You can add John Grimek's name to the list of strength stars who had included heavy supports in their training. Even with an extremely reasonable estimate of the bodyweight of the four "hangers on" and you are still looking at well over 700 pounds on his back -- no small feat.

1896 Olympic Rope Climbing

Rope Climbing was a contested event at several Olympic games. Here's a rare shot of the event the 1896 Athens games which was a 10 meter climb for time, held on April 26, 1906. Georgios Aliprantis of Greece took the Gold with a climb of 11.4 seconds. Béla Erődi of Hungary and Konstantinos Kozanitas of Greece both had identical climbs of 13.8 seconds but the Silver was awarded to Erődi since Kozanitas accidentally touched the pole from which the rope hung. Notice that these guys were playing for keeps, don't see any padding underneath. With two countrymen finishing on the medal stand, the rope climbing event was very popular with the Athenian crowd.

No Longer a Secret ~ Every Man Can Have It!

Some of the finest copy writing ever put down on paper was done for the strength mail order business. This advertisement for Siegmund Breitbart's Course is from 1924 ...much like the training, the lessons in promotion and marketing are just as effective today. If you are in the strength business, it will behoove you to pay attention on both counts.

Mann's Reactionary Lifter

We always have a good laugh hearing people say that barbells and dumbbells are so "oldschool" since the fact of the matter is that commercially available strength machines pre-date that type of equipment by several decades. Here's a look at one of them: Mann's Reactionary Lifter - one of several lifting machines to appear during the latter part of the 19th century when "The Lifting Cure" was en vogue. Mann's machine was known as a "side lifter" since there were two perpendicularly positioned handles rather than a central bar... meaning that women could use the machine without requiring a separate set of clothes. The machine was pretty ingenious, using a series of levers to allow the user to lift a percentage of their own bodyweight.

Muscle Training Illustrated, March, 1973

A look at the March, 1973 issue of Muscle Training Illustrated featuring Ellington Darden on the cover. Just a few months before, Ell won the 1972 AAU Collegiate Mr. America title ~ and he is still going strong today!

Charles Charlemont

Joseph Charlemont essentially invented the french martial art of Savate. His son, Charles, shown above, continued his work, and codified this combat style into the form that is practiced today. Unsurprisingly, heavy club swinging and dumbbell training are just as effective today for combat training as they were around 1880, when the above picture was taken.

Ogden's Cigarettes 1901 Sandow Card

Early cigarette manufacturers included a rigid piece of card stock in with their packs to keep the cigarettes from getting bent. They were just blank at first, but eventually, the American tobacco company Allen and Ginter started printing pictures on them in 1875. Other companies soon followed suit and "trading cards" were born. These cards featured many different subjects but sporting stars were a popular one. Above, you'll see Eugen Sandow from Ogden's Cigarettes 1901 set.

Montana's "Black Lion" Gives Full Credit to STRONGFORTISM for His Marvelous Strength

Another fantastic "oldtime muscle course" advertisement: in 1927, Fred Van Norstran gambled the price of a stamp, and sent away for the famed Lionel Strongfort "Strongfortism" course... a short time later he ended up as Montana's strongest man. Not only that, but his daughter, Pearl, who watched her father engage in these physical training lessons, eventually followed suit and learned to perform amazing feats of strength in her own right.

"If you seek great muscular strength or just plain good health, STRONGFORTISM will show you the way!"

P.A. Linebarger

Hang on to your hat because what follows is strongman tale like no other: Above you'll see Mr. P.A. Linebarger, late of San Francisco, California, bending a steel bar in his teeth. Such a feat is, of course, not an uncommon site amongst strongmen, especially the Vaudeville-type, which Linebarger was... but this image was not actually intended to showcase muscular strength, but instead the fact that Linebarger could now continue to perform this feat thanks to the nifty new set of false teeth fashioned for him by the highly unusual dentist "Painless" Parker! Also, check out the forearms, pretty impressive.

Fred Lony and his 22 Chairs

One of the featured attractions at Tom Arnold's London Circus during the 1950's was Fred Lony, of Latvia, and his 22 chairs.  As shown in the rather amazing image above, Mr. Lony could balance all 22 chairs in his mouth at once ~ a pretty awesome feat in more ways than one. FYI: each chair weighed nine pounds.

Freddy Ortiz

Freddy Ortiz is proof that someone doesn't have to be a giant to be physically impressive.  He was was just over five feet tall but sported one of the best upper bodies in the business, maybe even ever. Freddy, seen above on the cover of the November, 1965 cover of Mr. America magazine finished in the top three of every content he ever entered, taking first in the short class of the 1962 IFBB Mr. Universe and the 1963 and 1964 IFBB Mr. America and 1966 IFBB Mr. Eastern America bodybuilding contests. Freddy often trained at Vince's Gym.

Incidently, in this issue, you'll find the article "Secrets of Arm Wrestling" by Mac Batchelor.

Ricardo Nelson, Acclaimed "The World's Strongest Man" Postcard

Ricardo "The Swedish Lion" makes his second appearance in our blog, on this occasion, we have an extremely rare postcard showcasing a few of his unique feats of strength: bending a horseshoe in his teeth, scrolling a long steel bar around his leg and breaking a thick rope with leg power alone.

The Human Vise's Engine Block

Many Oldtime Strongmen were famous for their Challenge Weights which bared their names and were representative of their greatest feats of strength. Pat "The Human Vise" Povilaitis has several unique pieces of equipment which he uses in his strength performance among them this customised engine block, which he may, for example, lift with his head while also bending a nail or horseshoe. This sweet piece o' kit weighs in at 275 pounds.

Harold Ansorge

Harold Ansorge, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, was a master of many different strength feats, among them, tearing a quarter-sized hole from a deck of cards. unsurprisingly, Ansorge was big a proponent of grip and forearm training.

Armand Tanny's Favorite Exercise

Armand Tanny (brother of Vic Tanny) was a very successful bodybuilder in the late 40's and 50's, and a regular at the original Santa Monica Muscle Beach scene. Tanny competed in many major bodybuilding contests and won the Pro-Mr. America in 1950. His favorite exercise was: the one-arm barbell clean. Armand lifted 250 lbs. in the rare shot above, and reported doing 280 lbs. in practice. The one-arm barbell clean is a rugged lift that will definitely build plenty of back strength, especially when done "heavy." 

Jack Walsh

Jack Walsh from Trenton, New Jersey, is the strongest man you've never heard of. Over his career he performed all kinds of crazy strength feats, including lifting elephants, towing trains and letting trucks run over his body. At a bodyweight of 190 pounds, he even broke Louis Cyr's backlift record. Anyhow, here's Jack Walsh jerking a 230-pound dumbbell overhead -- That's damn strong! Do you know anybody that can jerk more than bodyweight overhead with one arm?

Isaac "Ike" Berger

Ike Berger is one of America's most successful Olympic Weightlifters -- he was the first featherweight in history to lift more than 800 pounds and the first to press double body weight.

Over Ike's career he was the owner of 23 world weightlifting records, a 12-time United States national titleholder, 2-time World Champion and Olympic Gold Medalist at the 1956 Games in Melbourne Australia (along with two more Silver medals at the next two Olympic Games.)

At the 1964 Tokyo Olympic games, he estabilished a record of 152.5 kg (336-1/2 lbs.) in the jerk, at a bodyweight of only 130 pounds (59 kg). This lift bettered the world record by 11 lbs., and made Ike pound-for-pound the strongest man in the world, a record that stood for nine years.

Ike Berger was elected to the United States Weightlifter's Hall of Fame in 1965.

Michael Mayer

The strongmen of old worked on their overhead press much like modern trainees work on their benchpress. One such example is Michael Mayer, who, at a height of 5'6" and weight of 245 pounds, was one of the first men to press 300 pounds overhead. Unsurprisingly, Mayer was also exceptional at other feats of shoulder strength, he pressed a 150 lb. dumbbell with one arm while lashed to a post (just to keep it super strict) and could muscle out 112 lbs., which is still a record today.

Bert Elliott's Bent Press

When Bert Elliott shipped out with the Army during the Korean War, barbells were few and far between. What did Bert do? ...The next best thing, he grabbed some heavy rocks and kept right on training. Elliott was a terrific bent-presser, and practicing the lift with a boulder offered a whole new challenge, the center of balance had to be secured, only a fraction of an inch in either direction and the lift could not be completed.

Tags: bent-press

The Weider 'Double Tension' Krusher

Didn't everyone have one of these (or something like it) as a kid? According to the ad:

"This exerciser is SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED to quickly develop the powerful crushing muscles of the arms, chest, shoulders, back, grip and legs which ordinary apparatus does not reach. The secret is 'short range' action, an amazing muscle building principle which concentrates exercise tension in short movements, forcing new growth, power and muscularity into the body. Results are so dramatic that they can be seen in a few days. The patented 'variable tension' feature allows you to interchange springs and to set the exercise resistance at a strength which suits you best."

Better start saving your allowances and paper route money now...
Tags: Joe Weider

Saxon's Support

...Bone and sinew strength count for much in weight-lifting, and all the above points cannot be taken into consideration in considering a man's muscular measurements on paper, nor in studying photographs..."

          ~ Arthur Saxon, The Development of Physical Power

As we have been examining in our daily training tips, it would appear that heavy supporting movements may contribute in interesting ways to the development of muscular power.  It would apprear that Arthur Saxon would agree, here he is supporting a globe barbell and his two brothers with his arms and a plank-load of nine men with his legs.

Bernarr MacFadden: "Why Strength Spells Success"

Bernarr Macfadden: The Father of Physical Culture

Why Strength Spells Success

"You Must have strength of body.

You cannot have too much strength. The more you feel like a strong man the more you can achieve in the desired direction.

All successful men are, and have been, men of treme -ndous energy. Their achievements have been simply the expression of the vitality and nerve force which can no more be repressed than the power of an engine when it has once been liberated.

The average individual goes through life without living. In other words, he scarcely exists.

A vital man is at all times thoroughly alive. The forces of life seems to imbue every party of his organism with energy, activity and all characteristics opposed to things inanimate.

A vital man is naturally enthusiastic. He can hardly avoid being ambitious. And consequently Success, with all its splendid rewards, comes to such a man in abundance. Life to such a man should be resplendent with worthy achievements.

In other words, it is our first duty to be men, strong and splendid, health and perfect, if we are desirous of securing lifes most gratifying prizes.

Why not be alive, vital, vivacious? Why not be alert, keen, energetic, enthusiastic, ambitious, bubbling over with fiery ardor.

The possession of these vibratory forces proves ones physical development has closely app- roached perfection. To such vital individuals life opens up opportunities that are almost countless.

Do not be satisfied with existence. If life is worth anything, it is worth living in every sense of the word."

~ Bernarr Macfadden's Muscle Builder Magazine, October 1925

Extreme Neck Strength II

Don't try this one at home: Rudolpho Gulliano, the Italian Strongman, showcased his neck strength development by allowing a heavy produce cart to run back and forth across his adams's apple ~ doesn't look like it phased him a bit. 

Louis Martin

Louis Martin was an excellent British weightlifter who competed in the 1960 Rome and 1964 Tokyo olympic games, winning Bronze and Silver respectively. Martin won the 90kg Middle-Heavyweight class at the 1959 World Weightlifting Championships held in Warsaw, Poland. Above you'll see his winning Press of 303 lbs.

Jack Shanks Lifts The Dinnie Stones

In 1972, Jack Shanks, a Belfast poilceman, became the first man to lift the Dinnie Stones since Donald Dinnie himself, over a century before. Two important things should be noted about this historic lift: 1) Shanks weighed all of 180 lbs. and 2) he lifted the stones without the aid of straps.

The Jackson Trio

... Easily one of the most amazing photographs ever taken. Jarley Smith, Jewell Waddek, and Jimmy "Muscles" Jackson were known professionally as the "Jackson Trio" as they traveled the country performing on the Vaudeville circuit.

On August 21st, 1934, with the newsreel cameras rolling, the Jackson Trio balanced precariously on a ledge of the Paramount building overlooking Times Square while this famous picture was taken. When in New York, the trio always trained at Sig Klein's Gym!

Bert Goodrich, The First Mr. America, Trained With Kettlebells

Among the many strength athletes who have trained with kettlebells is the very first AAU Mr. America winner (1939) Bert Goodrich. Each of these interesting kettlebells weighed 56 pounds, and he used them primarily for shoulder work.

The Famous Rolandow Dumbbell

The Rolandow Dumbbell has a very interesting history. It was originally cast by the McLoughlin Iron Foundry in Brooklyn, New York in 1896 at the request of Warren Lincoln Travis who wanted to use it in his act.

The dumbbell was supposed to be 200 lbs. but came out of the mold just over it at 209 lbs.

A few years went by and fellow strongman G.W. Rolandow offered to purchase it from Travis, on the condition that Travis deliver the bell himself.

Travis grabbed the bell, hopped on the nearest street car, transfered twice and carried the bell two city blocks and up two flights of steps to Rolandow's office.

Rolandow then stated that unless he could lift the dumbbell, there would be no sale. And with that, we walked over to it, hefted it to his shoulder and commenced to bent-press it no less than seven times!

After several decades, Rolandow closed his gym and his famous dumbbell eventually became acquired by Sig Klein who featured it as a challenge weight in his own facility.

If someone could succeed in bent-pressing the Rolandow Dumbbell, Klein put their name on an Honor Roll, here's how it looked:

(1) G.W. Rolandow
(2) John Grimek
(3) Bob Hoffman
(4) Wally Zagurski
(5) John Davis
(6) Jack Kent
(7) Frank Bates
(8) Bob Harley
(9) Siegmund Klein
(10) Aurele Velleux
(11) George Hobby
(12) Elwood Holbrook

1900
1934
1936
1936
1936
1937
1937
1937
1939
1939
1940
1941

The current whereabouts of the Rolandow Dumbbell are unknown.

Mac Batchelor

"I was in L.A. about ten years ago. I went into one of the gyms and asked about a man named Mac Batchelor. They told me how to find the tavern where he worked and that night I drove over to see him.

The tavern was full of thirsty customers, but there was no doubt who was Batchelor. He weighed about 330 and most of it was muscle. I climbed up on a bar stool and introduced myself.

"Tell me Mac, "I said, "You still the world's best arm wrestler?"

He laughed. "I think so." He propped an arm like an elephant's leg up on the bar.

"Wanta try?"

I looked at the arm. "No Thanks."

He looked surprised. "No? How come?"

Mac, I'll tell ya, I said. "You might break my arm and I don't think my insurance would cover it."

He smiled broadly. "You know," he said, "you're one of the very few people who ever walked in here and didn't think they could beat me.

"Good grief," I said," I ain't too bright, but I'm not crazy. I tell you what I would like, though. I'd like to see some of those strength feats of yours I've heard about."

"Sure," he said. "Here." He reached under the bar and brought out four bottle caps. He jammed one between each finger on his right hand and held his hand out. "Watch." He squeezed lightly and the four caps crumpled like Kleenex..."

- from "Grip and Forearm Development" in The Complete Keys to Progress by John McCallum

Three Swingbell Exercises

The Swingbell is a bit like the combination of a barbell and a medicine ball. Here's three different swingbell exercises with some interesting possibilities: Left to right: Ex. No. 1, Rotating upper body while holding the swingbell overhead ... Ex. No. 2, Forward Raise ... Ex. No. 3, Swinging Exercise from side to side.

Tags: Swingbell

Arthur Dandurand

To say that the French Canadian Strongman Arthur Dandurand was gifted in the forearm department would be an understatement. He not only was able to deadlift over 550 pounds with one arm but also achieved a rectangular fix with 177½ pounds - an all-time record! Keep in mind that Dandurand only weighed about 180 pounds.

The Osman Trio

Three great strongmen formed the act known as the Osman Trio. From left to right: Wilhelm Turck was a butcher by trade who became the World's Weightlifting Champion in 1898. He could perform a two-hands anyhow dumbbell lift of 279 1/4 pounds: a 140 lb. dumbbell in the right hand, and a 139 1/4 lb. dumbbell in the left. Georges Jagendorfer was a very popular strongman who performed with Cooke's Circus.  Franz Stahr was one of the first strongmen to lift 200 pounds overhead with one hand. The trio often used elaborate stage weights and costumes in their performances around Europe.There were several different iterations of the Osman Trio over the years.

Grimek The Handbalancer

You can count John Grimek among the many great strength stars who were also expert handbalancers. There were periods of time in his life when Grimek didn't have access to barbells and dumbbells and regular handbalancing practice allowed him to still get in a great workout just about anywhere.

Handbalancing is certainly a worthwhile skill to practice for every strength athlete. The increased shoulder stability helps build pressing power. You sure won't find a handbalancer who isn't impressive in either strength or muscular development.

Monotosh Roy

Monotosh Roy was a highly respected strongman, bodybuilder and physical culture practitioner in his native India. He was famed for his tremendous muscularity and won his class in the 1951 Mr. Universe Contest, the first Asian to do so which made him a local celebrity. As a strongman, he was particularly good at traditional strength feats such as bending steel.

"Starke" Arvid Andersson

Arvid Andersson was a Champion Swedish strongman who put up some very impressive numbers at the turn of the century. He got his start lifting horses in the circusm and once he moves on to more conventional weights, quickly set the world record in the Clean & Jerk with a lift of 328 lbs on November 7th, 1906.

Professor Desbonnet, was the judge, and was highly impressed with the lift. Andersson's nickname soon became "Starke Arvid" or Strong Arvid. Like many strongmen of the time he was also a wrestler, and held the Swedish Heavyweight Championship for many years. After he retired from wrestling and lifting contests, "Starke Arvid" moved back to Stockholm and opened a café.

Head-Standing For Perfect Health By Professor Anthony Barker

There are many rare courses out there and you never know what you might find on a trip back through the history of physical culture. Here's an unusual one from Professor Anthony Barker: "Head-Standing For Perfect Health." Written in 1922, it may seem a little counter-intuitive, but standing on your head does indeed have many health benefits. Maintaining an upside-down position increases blood flow to the brain, which is always a good thing, and it also allows the spine to decompress. Give it a try.

"The American Hercules" Edwin F. Morrison

Edwin F. Morrison was a talented strongman whose exploits were nearly lost to the sands of time. He is shown here on the cover of the January, 1905 issue of the early French magazine La Vie Au Grand Air which often had features on strongmen, weight lifting and wrestling. Morrison's relative obscurity is likely due to the fact that he performed mostly in Europe, with engagements at Rotterdam, Amsterdam, The Hague and the Royal Aquarium in London, England during the late 1800's and early 1900's.

Morrison's specialty was breaking chains by flexing his arm, by chest expansion or a powerful blow of the first. He could bend pennies and shillings with his fingers and easily ripped multiple decks of cards at once. (As seen above, his card tearing prowess will haunt your dreams at night.)

Morrison also could walk across a stage supporting a platform loaded with sixteen people and could bent-press 336 pounds, a fact which was loudly accounced in public to be 18 pounds greater than Sandow's record. Morrison challenged the great Sandow to a match seventeen times but Sandow never took him up on his offer.

Edward Kunath

Edward Kunath, of Jersey City, New Jersey was the AAU National Rope Climbing Champion of 1899-1903, 1907 and 1909. He set many records over the course of his career, one of which was in 1901 when he climbed 25 feet in 6.8 seconds. When you do the math, that is over 44 inches per second! A few years later, Kunath invented and patented the spacer for manual typewriters, making him millions.

Shake Hands With Uncle Sam Grip Tester

If you feel like taking a road trip, I know they they have one of these machines right here in Michigan at Marvelous Marvin's place. These Uncle Sam machines were first made in 1908 as grip testers. Once you dropped your penny in the slot, you squeezed Uncle Sam's out-stretched hand as hard as you could and the arrow on the dial told how strong your grip was. If you scored 300, a bell rang so you can impress all your friends. The modern versions cost a quarter and tell you the strength of your "personality."

Either way, bonus points if you noticed one of these machines at the "Double Deuce" in Roadhouse.

Tags: Grip Tester

Muscular Development April, 1964: Larry Scott Cover

A look at the cover of the April, 1964 issue of Muscular Development Magazine (making it the fourth issue ever) featuring Larry Scott hitting a classic pose. Larry had just won the IFBB Mr. Universe crown and was just about the win the first (and second) Mr. Olympia contests in the coming years.

Tags: Larry Scott

STRENGTH ~ INCH CANNOT FAIL!

Another great advertisement from Thomas Inch. This one is from 1910:

STRENGTH

TO THOSE READERS

Who are physically fit and enjoy good health but to whom the word "strength" holds out charms, I would point out that practically all the world's records of weight-lifting are held up to 11st. 7lb., by pupils of my ADVANCED SYSTEM.

The following is a list of successes up-to-date:

J. Holliday, 8st. World's Champion Lifter.
J. Holliday, 8st. 7lb. World's Champion Lifter.
W.L. Carquest, 9st. World's Champion Lifter.
W.L. Carquest, 9st. 7lb. World's Champion Lifter.
E. Aston, Middle-Weight Champion of Britain.

Whilst I am the Ex-Middle Weight Champion of the World.

At the Health and Strength Display, Agricultural Hall, last year, every weight-lifting competition was won by one of my pupils, and it would require many copies of HEALTH & STRENGTH to contain one-tenth of the extraordinary testimonials that I have received about this remarkable system.

INCH CANNOT FAIL

A Valuable Disc Bar-Bell is presented gratis with the course, and I will undertake under guarantee to improve your strength and physical development out of all knowledge. Write at once for my book "A Quick Route to Strength - Do it NOW.

Thomas Inch
Physical Culture Expert

Handbalancing Feat #1

Months of handbalancing practice will make you pretty confident, in fact, after enough time passes, you'll eventually reach a point where you only underbalance (falling back toward your feet) coming out of your handstand and rarely, if-at-all overbalance (fall forward overhead,)  Practicing your handbalancing on a stationary object or set of handles is also a useful tactic since it will train your skills in a much different manner than holding a "free" handstand.

In either case, this feat, accomplished by amateur handbalancer Miles Hayes, of Mansfield, Ohio, is still quite impressive (and definitely don't try this one at home folks.)

Lower Body Training & Possing Tips by Carl Richford

Carl Richford wrote several interesting training courses and they were advertised in Peary Rader's Ironman Magazine for years. These courses have become incredibly rare in recent years buts perhaps we will see their like again some day...

1966 Weightlifting Stamps

These commemorative stamps were created to honor the 1966 Weightlifting World Championships which were held in East Berlin, East Germany, from October 15 to October 21st of that year. As a side note, the world championships that year were dominated by the Soviet Union Sports Machine, taking gold in five out of the seven weight classes.

Tags: 1966

The Sandow Trophy

Just over a century ago, Eugen Sandow held the very first physique contest ever, which was known simply as "The Great Competition." The first place prize for this contest was a magnificent gold statue of Sandow himself, holding a globe dumbbell. Second and third place were the same statues, only comprised of Silver and Bronze respectively. The bronze Sandow statue would later become the first place prize in the 1950 NABBA Mr. Universe contest, eventually won by Steve Reeves.

Several decades later, Joe Weider and the promoters of the Mr. Olympia contest decided to honor Sandow and Bodybuilding's past by resurrecting a version of this statue for their first place trophy. The first Mr. Olympia winner to take home a Sandow statue was Frank Zane in 1977.

Tags: Eugen Sandow

Hoffman's Chest Expansion

Whether or not the ribcage can be enlarged or expanded through specific training is a topic that continues to elicit a lot of dialogue. The theory is that vigorous leg work combined with unavoidable deep breathing deepens the chest, creating a larger "frame" while also increasing oxygen uptake, both of which set the stage for increased muscle growth. Is chest expansion "for real?" Here's Bob Hoffman, about sixty years of age, sporting some pretty impressive ribcage development that simply wasn't there when he was a younger man which makes for some interesting food for thought on the matter.

Tags: Bob Hoffman

Adrian, Michigan YMCA, 1905

A look at the interior of the Adrian, Michigan YMCA, circa 1905. The equipment selection was not numerous, but the results obtained from training with a running track, some flying rings, a climbing rope and a set of parallel bars will likely beat the pants off what can be done at most modern gyms with far more to choose from.

What is Dinosaur Training?

A short video clip (with sound) of several of the people, places and training topics that you'll find in the pages of "Dinosaur Training" by Brooks Kubik.

The German Gymnasium, St. Pancras Road, London

Here's a rare look into The German Gymnasium, located at 26 St. Pancras Road, London, England, circa 1866. This facility was originally constructed by the German Gymnastic Society (hence the name) and used as the venue for some of the first organized athletic contests which later on led to the formation of the Olympic games. The German Gymnasium was designed by Edward A Gruning and built by the firm of Piper and Wheeler. Even better: unlike most buildings of the era, this magnificent structure is still standing and in great shape (although not a gym).

Ron Lacy

Originally from Hazard, Kentucky, Ron Lacy was the winner of the 1957 AAU Mr. America Contest and is shown here gracing the cover of the September, 1958 issue of Muscle Builder magazine.

He also won the 1955 Mr. Kentucky Contest and finished first in the medium class in the NABBA Mr. Universe contest. Ron was also well known for his leg development and once squatted 300 pounds for 50 consecutive reps.

Tags: Ron Lacy

Hector Decarie

Hector Decarie first started raiising eyebrows in 1904 when he Bent -ressed 317 pounds. A few years later he met Louis Cyr in a famous challenge match. Despite the fact that they tied in the contest, Cyr passed on his title of "World's Strongest Man" to his young challenger. It was a fitting mantle since Decarie ended up surpassing several of Cyr's feats. Interestingly, Decarie is not as big as you would think based on the pictures of him. He stood 5'7" and weighed only around 191 lbs.

Lee Roy Saba

Shown here is bodybuilder Lee Roy Saba on the cover of the November, 1960 issue of Strength and Health Magazine. Saba finished second to eventual winner Red Lerille in the 'Most Muscular' sub-division at the 1960 AAU Mr. America contest (and 11th overall.)

Saba was uncharacteristically strong for a bodybuilder, with a a 500 lb. squat, 325 lb. bench press, 455 lb. deadlift and 240 lb. press to his credit (at a bodyweight of only 165 lbs.)

Forrest Smithson

Here's one that's a little different than our usual fare, but certainly interesting enough to warrant a mention: At the 1908 London Olympics, Forrest Smithson, a theology student from Oregon State University, won the gold medal AND set a new world record in the 110 meter hurdle event. Record setting performances are certainly not unusual in the Olympic games, but Smithson has the distinction of having done so while also holding a bible in his left hand as he ran ~ you sure won't see something like this again any time soon.

Tags: 1908, Running, Track

Sig Klein's Seated Press Challenge

Here's another interesting challenge from Sig Klein: Ol' Sig could -- whilst seated in a sturdy chair -- clean and press a 100 lb. barbell  for ten repetitions, oh, did I mention there is a time limit of 30 seconds? This one will definitely put some shoulders on you. 

Richard Rieder

Richard Rieder was a Swiss weightlifter who competed in the 60kg class at the 1948 London Olympic games where he totaled 255 kg.

Jim Taylor Barbell Plates

You can count Pro-Football Hall of famer Jim Taylor among the relatively few individuals who had their own "signature" weight sets. These weights were available mostly through Gimbel's department stores at various locations around the state of Wisconsin in the 1960's and if you were lucky, some afternoon you might have even found Jimmy Taylor himself on-hand to demonstrate. The Jim Taylor weights were most likely cast at the Plymouth Foundry and Machine Co. in Plymouth, Wisconsin.

Also of note is that in 1961, Jim Taylor authored and released one of the first (if not the first) books ever written on weight training for football, Weightlifting for Athletics wherein he listed his training program.



Hermann Goerner ~ The Human Bridge!

A look at the great Hermann Goerner, as "The Human Bridge" supporting around 4000 pounds on his shoulders! If you have received some of our recent emails on "developing bone strength," feats like this one may explain just why it was that strongmen like Goerner possessed such a level of unusual strength...

Tony Terlazzo

Tony Terlazzo

Tony Terlazzo, pictured here as the cover man on the November, 1933 issue of Strength and Health, was one of America's greatest Olympic weight lifters.

While lifting for the York Barbell Club, Terlazzo was a Gold medal winner in the 60 kg class at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, set seven world records, won two World Championships and achieved an unprecedented 13 Senior National weightlifting titles. His best clean and jerk was 144.5 kg in the lightweight class.

Karl Swoboda Medal

Karl Swoboda Medal

An Austrian by birth, Karl Swoboda was one of the early strength "Giants" -- literally -- as he eventually reached a bodyweight of over 400 lbs. Swoboda later owned his own restaurant and did plenty of lifting back in the "bier garden." His best year was 1911 when he won two world titles. You can read more about Karl Swoboda in Physical Training Simplified by Mark Berry and The Truth Abut Weight Lifting by Alan Calvert.

Muscle Training Illustrated, Issue #1 - November, 1965

Muscle Training Illustrated, Issue #1 - November, 1965

Space-Age techniques do indeed build bigger muscles faster...Not many people remember it today but Dan Lurie's "Muscle Training Illustrated" magazine was a top sources of training information and bodybuilding news. Here's a look at the very first issue: November, 1965 which features the great Reg Park on the cover. MTI ended up running for nearly 200 issues from 1965 through 1993, which is no small feat in itself. 

Keller The Handbalancer

Keller

Johan Keller was the handbalancing star attraction of a German circus in the early 1900's. We have long said that the regular practice of handbalancing will build unusual strength and development in the forearms and this example is certainly case in point. Supporting the entire bodyweight on the wrists and using the fingertips to maintain balance trains the lower arm musculature in ways that no other method can match.

Keep in mind, Mr. Keller only weighed 170 pounds, has there ever been a more impressive display of the development of that muscle group? (even a hundred years later?)

Humberto Selvetti

The great Olympic Weightlifter Humberto Selvetti shows his stuff in his home land of Argentina. It was Selvetti who Paul Anderson defeated to win the Gold Medal at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. Selvetti and Anderson both totaled 500 kg but Anderson beat him on lighter bodyweight)

Selvetti also competed at the at the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki (where he took Bronze with a 432.5 kg total) and at the 1964 Tokyo games, (where he finished 17th with a 445 kg total ).

As a side note, I find two other items of interest in this phone, #1, that's a pretty hefty weight to put overhead while going uphill, and #2, the barbell set in this picture is especially unique, I have never seen anything like it before or since.

Dave Draper and The Samson "007" Twister

Here, Dave Draper and the Samson "007" Twister make their second appearance on our blog! How many people saved up their paper route money for one of these? 'Muscle Up and Make Out' indeed. Gotta love these vintage muscle-building ads.

Tags: Dave Draper

Bruno Sammartino

Talk about "built for strength," this rare image of the great Bruno Sammartino highlights his incredible bone structure. No wonder he toyed with 550+ lb bench presses and wiped the mat with pretty much everyone he ever faced in the ring... I sure wouldn't want to be at the other end of THAT fist.

Championnat Halterophile

Here's something you sure won't see again: a weightlifting contest sponsored by a tobacco company. As you can see noted, this particular contest took place on Saturday, January 25, 1964 in Liege. Belgium.  ... and unsurprisingly, Richmond Louis Doize are a Belgian brand of cigarettes.

Fred W. Mines

Who the heck is Fred W. Mines? Nobody you have probably ever heard of. He was a small-time strongman who performed at county fairs and carnivals in the Florida and Georgia areas in the late 1930's. Don't let his amateur status fool you though, this feat is a lot more more impressive than it might seem, balancing this unique barbell (made of an automobile drive shaft and two reinforced concrete globes) in his teeth.

A Wild Man Once Lived In The Forest...

Earle E. Liederman had some of the all-time best advertisements for his books and courses. Here is a great one from 1926, and the message is certainly just as important today as it was back then:
A WILD MAN
once lived in the forest. He had no fear of man or beast.He had no fear of man or beast.  He carried a mighty club with which he fought his enemies of the jungle.  His rough and active life in the open have him the strength of the beasts themselves.  He was a superman in health and strength.  But Who wants to be a wild man?
The Modern Man
There are men in our midst today enjoying the same abundance of health and strength. They are not of the wild man-type however. They are men of intellect, who have become leaders of industry. They realize that brains are essential, but of little value placed in a weak body with sluggish blood circulations or troubled with various disorders of the vital organs.
The Miracle Man
The wild man took years of active out-door life ro attain his strength. How then can a business man acquire the same strength when his days are spent in the office?

One year ago, a famous musician traveled from Toronto, Canada to see Earle E. Liederman. This musician was most popular throughout Canada. People came from miles to hear him play. He was weakly and was unhappy. He asked Mr. Liederman to help him. Mr. Liederman asked him to give him twenty minutes each day for three months in his own home. The musician went back with Mr. Liederman's famous apparatus and one week later, the first lesson in "Progressive Muscular Development" followed him. Today he is a champion weight lifter in his country and his earning capacity has almost doubled.
What Kind of Man Are You?
Do you arise in the morning full of ambition for the day before you? Do you feel the thrill of life pulsing through your veins? Can you finish a hard day's work still feeling full of pep and vitality? Do you have a deep, full chest and the brawny arms of an athlete? If not, you are not the man you were meant to be.

How would you like to increase your arms one full inch in just 30 days and your chest two full inches in the same length of time? But that's only the foundation. From then on you'll build up an armor plate of muscle both inside and out that will fire you with ambition, giving the spring in your step and the flash in your eye that only an athlete can know. This is what I promise to do for you. Come on then and make me prove it...

Norb Schemansky

A look at the great Norb Schemansky on the cover of the August, 1957 issue of the somewhat obscure "Amateur Athlete" magazine. Just a few months before, Norb took first place in the 225 lb. class at the Senior Nationals with a 990 lb. total.

Jack Kanner

Jack Kanner

Jack Kanner was a boxing and wrestling promoter in the Denver, Colorado area from the 1920's through the 1960's. Ol' Jack didn't just sit in the stands and eat popcorn either: to stay in shape, he often liked to climb the poles of the playground structures at the park around the corner from his house. Here's Jack in the middle of a workout on March 13, 1959. Jack was 61 years of age at the time and clearly a great example to us all.

Tossing The Unspunnen Stone

In Fribourg, Switzerland, during the annual Alpine Games, they conduct a traditional event: tossing the famous Unspunnen Stone, The stone, which weighs 176 pounds, is shown here being heaved by Ernest Hulman, who won the 1959 edition of the stone tossing contest with a throw of 8½ feet.

The One Hand Chin Course

You never know what you might find in a dusty, forgotten corner of an old used bookstore... Here's a nifty course -- that most strength historians don't even know exists --  which contains some pretty interesting and unusual training ideas.

1928 Milo Barbell Advertisement, Featuring Al Manger

1928 Milo Barbell Advertisement, Featuring Al Manger

Here's an interesting one: this 1928 Milo Barbell advertisement features Mr. Al Manger, who built himself up from "a bag of bones" into a weightlifting champion with the power of sensible physical training and a Milo weight set. At the age of 21, Manger weighed only 97 pounds, and within a year of barbell training, had added 26 pounds of solid muscle.

Manger kept at it, and went on to win three national lifting championships, one in the 181 lb. class in 1929 and two light-heavyweight crowns in 1930 and 1932. Manger finished fifth with a 315 kg. total at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic games. Manger also won regional championships in the shot put and weight throwing.

...Pretty good for a skinny kid from Baltimore.

If you would like to learn about the specific types of training that helped Manger build his strength, you'll find it in The Alan Calvert Collection.

Sears & Roebuck Ted Williams Weights

Sears & Roebuck Ted Williams Weights

QUICK: who sold more weight sets than anyone? It wasn't Milo, York or any other barbell company that probably immediately springs to mind, it was Ted Williams, by way of Sears & Roebuck stores. This is not surprising when you think about it, these weights had nationwide distribution through Sears stores, something which no other barbell company ever had.

Millions of young trainees with dreams of becoming Mr. America, found a 110 pound Ted Williams weight set under the tree on Christmas morning... and, more often than not, they were gathering dust by Groundhog day. 

Indian Club Benefits

Indian Club Training at West PointIndian Club Swinging in at the West Point Gymnasium, circa 1901

"... besides the great recommendation of simplicity, the Indian Club practice possesses the essential practice of expanding the chest and exercising every muscle in the body concurrently."

~ Indian Club Exercises, by Edward B. Warman (1921)

*   *   *   *   *  *  *  *  *  *  *

"The effect of these exercises, when performed with light clubs, is chiefly a neural one, hence they are primary factors in the development of grace, coordination and rhythm. As they tend to supple the muscles and articulation of the shoulders and to the upper and fore arms and wrist, they are indicated in cases where there is a tendency toward what is ordinarily known as "muscle bound."

~ The United States Army Manual of Physical Training (1914)

*   *   *   *   *  *  *  *  *  *  *

"[Indian Clubs] cultivate patience and endurance, and operate most happily upon the longitudinal muscle of the back and shoulders, thus tending to correct the habit of stooping."

~ The New Gymnastics for Men, Women and Children by Dio Lewis (1867)

*   *   *   *   *  *  *  *  *  *  *

"The club exercise will do much to develop the proper outlines of the shoulders back and waist. The man who uses the clubs diligently will never need to have his coats "built out" on the shoulder or padded on the front and rear."

~ Indian Clubs by C.R. Treat (1869)

*   *   *   *   *  *  *  *  *  *  *

"Indian club exercises have of late years become one of the most universal methods of developing the muscular anatomy of the human body. Schools, colleges and even theological seminaries have adopted their use in their respective institutions with the most beneficial results. For keeping the body in a healthy and vigorous condition there has as yet been nothing invented, which for its simplicity and gracefulness can be favorably compared with the Indian Club exercise."

~ Indian Clubs and Other Exercises by Morris Bornstein (1889)

H-ERO Barbell Plates

H-ERO Barbell Plates

Some of the all-time rarest barbell plates are the H-ERO brand, made in Crystal Lake, Illinois in the 1950's and 60's. The number of hardcore vintage iron collectors who have even seen one of these plates is small. We're incredibly lucky to have several H-ERO plates in our gym.

The W. & H. Grip Machine

Grip training has always been a very good idea. Back in 1901, if you wanted to train your grip, one of your options was the W & H Grip machine, which is claimed to cure insomnia, writer's cramp, nervous trembling and all manner of other physical ills. Be that as it may, the fellow pictured above does certainly have a rather stout forearm.

The 1932 Olympic Weightlifting Lightweight Class

A look at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic games weightlifting Lightweight Class. From right to left (also in order of final standings): Raymond Suvigny of France (287.5 kg. total, also an Olympic record), Hans Wolpert of Germany (282.5 kg. total), Tony Terlazzo of the United States (280 kg. total), Helmut Schafer of Germany (267.5 kg total), Attilia Bescape of Italy (262.5 kg. total) and Richard Bachtell of the United States (252.5 kg. total).

Extreme Neck Strength

When you build a little strength, sometimes you want to show off a bit... and that is exactly what's going on here. Up top you'll see my good friend Pat "The Human Vise" Povilaitis, bending a spike in his hands while John Wood provides the platform in the form of a nose-to-mat bridge. You won't find many people that can hold a full bridge, even without a 180 pound man standing on top of him.  If you aren't practicing your "nose-to-mat" bridge, or at least working up to it, in our experience, you aren't getting as much out of the exercise as you could...

Charles A. Sampson, The Chain Breaker

Charles A. Sampson

We've covered Charles A. Sampson before but here is another look at one of his signature feats: breaking a chain by striking a blow with his fists. Sampson claimed he developed his great strength after being struck by lightning as a young man, whether true or not, his development was still impressive. Sampson WAS a pioneer as far as performing strongmen are concerned, and quite literally set the stage for many who followed him.

Ron Walker

Ron Walker

Shown here is the great British weightlifter Ron Walker, who lifted in the heavyweight class although he never weighed much more than 195 pounds. Over the course of his career, Walker set  21 British lifting records, many of which still stand!

A few of these records include:

  • Right Hand Snatch: 91kg, set August 6, 1933
  • Left Hand Snatch: 92kg , set August 24, 1937
  • Right Hand Dumbbell Swing: 86½kg,  set January  25, 1937
  • Left Hand Dumbbbell Swing: 77½kg, set September 13, 1934

The University of Pennsylvania Gymnastic Team, 1895

A look at The University of Pennsylvania Gymnastic Team -- circa 1895 -- when Indian clubs were clearly still a part of the program. The Captain, G. Howard Perkins, sits in the middle of the first row. Instructor W.B. Noble is the man in the suit in the back row.

Dio Lewis' Iron Crown

You'll find some pretty interesting ideas when you venture into the "forgotten lore" of physical training. Here's a good example from the great physical culture pioneer Dio Lewis, introduced way back in 1864:

THE IRON CROWN

"Bearing burdens on the head, results in an erect spine and an elastic gait. Observing persons, who have visited Switzerland, Italy, or the Gulf States, have observed a thousand verifications of this physiological law.

Cognizant of the value of this feature of gymnastic training, I have employed, for this purpose, within the last twelve years, various sorts of weights, but have recently invented an iron crown, which I think completely satisfactory. The accompanying cut gives a good idea of its general form. I have crowns made to weigh from three to one hundred pounds.

The crown is so padded within, it rests pleasantly on the entire top of the head, and yet so arranged that it requires skill to balance it. It is beautifully painted, and otherwise ornamented.

The Following Suggestions are deemed important in wearing the crown: Wear it five to fifteen minutes morning and evening. Hold the body erect, hips and shoulders thrown far back, and the crown rather on the front of the head, as shown in the cut.

Walking up and down stairs while wearing the crown, is good, if the lower extremities are not too much fatigued by it. When walking through the hall or parlors, turn the toes, first, inward as far as possible; second, outward; third, walk on the tips of the toes; fourth, on the heels; fifth, on the right heel and left toe; sixth, on the left heel and right toe; seventh, walk without bending the knees; eighth, bend the knees, so that you are nearly sitting on the heels while walking, ninth, walk with the right leg bent at the knee, rising at each step on the straight left leg; tenth, walk with the left leg bent, rising at each step on the straight right leg.

With these ten different modes of walking, the various muscles of the back will receive the most invigorating exercise.

All persons of both sexes, and of every age, who have round shoulders or weak backs, are rapidly improved by the regular use of the Iron Crown."

Irving K. Pond

Irving K. Pond

Who the heck is Irving K. Pond you may ask? Well, pull up a chair and let me tell you: He was the man who scored the first touchdown EVER in the history of the University of the Michigan football program, something which he accomplished in May of 1879. Later on, he also became a famous architect, designing, among other buildings, the Michigan Union and the Michigan League (where I got married) ~ so I have several reason to shake the man's hand if I ever happen to meet him in the afterlife. Beyond his architectural pursuits, Pond was a lifelong devotee of physical training and, as shown here, could still perform a back flip and jump over his cane at 77 years of age ~ pretty impressive.

Competitive Strandpulling

Competitive Strandpulling

A look at the setup used for competitive Strand Pulling which made its way from across the pond many moons ago. Unlike competitions involving a barbell, in strand pulling contests, the strands were adjusted for each lifter's dimensions. For example, if one lifter had a 2-inch longer "wingspan" than the strands would be adjusted to be 2" longer. More info on the 20 official "pulls" can be found HERE.

Strength and Health Magazine, March 1948: Abbye Stockton Cover

Abbys Pudgy Stockton

A look at the cover of the March, 1948 issue of Strength and Health magazine featuring the lovely Abbye "Pudgy" Stockton lifting an awesome old Milo dumbbell overhead. This photo was  provided to Strength and Health magazine by our good friend Alton Eliason.  "Pudgy" was anything but, and serves as an fantastic example of what regular physical training can do for women. 

The Gymnasium of the Central New York Turn Verein

The Gymnasium of the Central New York Turn Verein

A look at the typical afternoon session at the central New York Turn Verein, circa 1890. Look closely and you'll see an impressive rack of Indian clubs and dumbbells, climbing ladders, trapeze swinging and all manner of fitness building activities. Located at 211 East 67th street, in addition to the excellent gymnasium shown above, the central Turn Verein also had rooms for swimming, shooting, fencing and bowling. It also featured the largest ball room in the city of New York at the time.

The Gittleson Dumbbell

The Gittleson Dumbbell

The 'Gittleson Dumbbell' is so named because it sat on my college strength coach Mike Gittleson's desk for all the years that I was at Michigan, and likely at least a decade before that. (Mike was the University of Michigan's football strength coach for 30 years and produced more All-Americans and NFL Draft picks than any other college strength coach in history.)

As you can see this unforgiving chunk of iron weighs 120 pounds. I've bent pressed it, snatched it but not yet strictly overhead pressed it ~ something I am on track to do soon...

Novak's World Record Press

A look at the great soviet weightlifter Grigori Novak's World Record standing press of 315 pounds (at 5'3" and a bodyweight of only 181 pounds!) This would have been in 1949 in a meet in Moscow. Novak's career was marred by an elbow injury which necessitated an operation - you can tell his left arm is a bit "off" here.

Art Levan

Art Levan

Besides being a a great Olympic lifter (10x National Champion in the 126 lb. class) Art Levan, of Reading, Pennsylvania, was also a master of several unusual feats of strength as well. Here's Art hanging by his teeth with a 70-pound kettlebell in each hand.

Weight Lifting For Health ~ 1907 Thomas Inch Advertisement

Weight Lifting For Health Thomas Inch Advertisement

Thomas Inch had some of the all time best advertisements in the history of strength training. The one above is a fantastic example from 1907.

The 1936 U.S. Olympic Weightlifting Team

The 1936 US Olympic Weightlifting Team

A look at the U.S. weightlifting team, taken in the Olympic village in Berlin, Germany during the 1936 Olympics. From left to right: Mark Berry, Dave Mayor, Bill Good, John Grimek, Stan Kratkowski, Joe Miller, John Terpak, Walter Good, Bob Mitchell, Tony Terlazzo, John Terry and Dietrich Wortmann. Terlazzo won the Featherweight class with a 312.5 kg total, which was also America's first ever weightlifting gold medal.

Donald Dinnie: "The Nineteenth Century's Greatest Athlete"

Donald Dinnie

Donald Dinnie, the Scottish strongman, wrestler and Highland Games athlete has been widely recognized as as "The Nineteenth Century's Greatest Athlete." It's not hard to understand why, Dinnie excelled in nearly every sporting event he took part in whether running, hurdles, the long jump, hammer throwing, putting the stone, caber tossing and wrestling (just to name a few.) Over his career, Dinnie took part in over 11,000 different competitions, among them, the Scottish Highland Games Championships, of which he won every year from 1856 through 1876.


Henry Laft ~ "The Human Skeleton"

Henry Laft ~ "The Human Skeleton"

The German physique artist Henry Laft was so adept at MUSCLE CONTROL that he was called "The Human Skeleton." As you can see in this highly unusual pectoral control, Laft could not just control certain muscle groups, but individual muscle insertion points as well!


Abner Brady's Washington Gymnasium

Abner Brady's Washington Gymnasium

One of the very first gyms in the United States was opened by Abner Brady in 1865: "The Washington Gymnasium" in Washington D.C. (right on Louisiana Avenue and within sight of the U.S. Capitol) boasted all manner of physical training pursuits as this rare engraving shows.  The exercising room was 40 feet by 108 feet and featured all manner of manly pursuits: look closely and you'll see dumbbell lifting, rope climbing, gymnastics, calisthenics, pulley weights, fencing, wrestling and boxing (among others.) 

According to Brady's advertising: "[This Gymnasium is especially adapted and designed] to the persons of sedentary habits, and those whose occupation and pursuits confine them to the office, or deprive them of proper physical exercise."


George Barker Windship

George Barker Windship was one of the very first proponents of "Physical Culture" and unlike many of his contemporaries, promoted hard work and heavy lifting for super strength. Here's a bit of his philosophy:

"The body should be made as strong as possible, with no weak points. It should be balanced and symmetrical with the muscles full and round and strong, like those of the "Farnesian" Hercules. Heavy weights and short workouts are the secret to health and longevity. Training should be systematic, with the intensity of the exercise gradually increasing over time. Workout sessions should never last more than an hour and that proper rest must be obtained before the next day's training."

- George Barker Windship, February, 1861

(Couldn't have said it better myself. -- JW)



Waterman Gymnasium

In keeping with the saying Mens sana in corpore sano (A healthy mind in a healthy body) the University of Michigan built some of the finest gymnasia the world had ever seen in the late nineteenth century. The Waterman Gymnasium (pictured right and named for Joshua W. Waterman, a notable Detroit attorney who donated most of the funds) was completed in 1894.  The Barbour Gymnasium for women (on left, named for Regent Levi L. Barbour), followed in 1896. The physical director of these facilities was George A. May and the above picture was how both grand buildings looked from the diag, circa 1927.

Strength & Bulk Training for Weight Lifters & Body Builders by Reg Park

A look at an original circa 1960 copy of Strength & Bulk Training for Weight Lifters & Body Builders by Reg Park. You'd have better luck winning the lottery AND getting struck by lightning on the same day than getting your hands on an original copy like this one. Thanks to Bill Hinbern, you CAN get a modern reprint copy though and Reg's training advice is worth every penny.

Spike Howard

Spike Howard

Edward "Spike" Howard, from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, (unsurprisingly) earned his nickname thanks to his ability to bend and break spikes. A former Vaudeville strongman for many years, Howard is shown above breaking a chain with chest expansion. Performing feats of strength was actually not his only specialty: Howard also donated blood well over 1000 times which is thought to be some kind of record.

Sim D. Kehoe

Sim D. Kehoe

Simon "Sim" D. Kehoe was a manufacturer of gymnastic equipment who was introduced to club swinging during his travels abroad. He observed clubs of various sized being swung by British soldiers who, in turn, had learned club swinging from their counterparts in India. ...police, soldiers, wrestlers and "anyone else whose caste renders them liable to emergencies where great strength of muscle is desirable."

Once Kehoe tried the clubs for himself he instantly understood their value. Upon his return to the U.S. in 1862, he set up shop to manufacture Indian clubs and introduce club swinging to the American public on a wider scale. His efforts certainly worked, swinging Indian clubs of various sizes became wildly popular in many circles. (no pun intended) More on Sim Kehoe and his clubs at a later date...

Henry "Milo" Steinborn

Henry "Milo" Steinborn

Henry "Milo" Steinborn was a German strongman and wrestler who came the the U.S. in 1921 and immediately caused a big splash in the world of physical training. At a bodyweight of 210 pounds, he could snatch 220 pounds with one hand, military press 265 pounds and clean and jerk 347-1/2.

Milo was most well-known for introducing hard and heavy squatting to this side of the world. Milo could tip a barbell loaded to 550 pounds up and onto his back unassisted and then perform five deep reps with it -- a feat yet to be duplicated.

"Little Samson"

Little Samson

Pete Reynolds performed for many years on the Vaudeville and night club circuit as Little Samson - The World's Strongest Small Man.  Standing only five feet tall and weighing 107 pounds, he certainly fit the bill, among other feats, he ripped phone books in half... then quarters... then eighths! You won't find many heavy weights who could accomplish such a feat. Samson attributed his great strength to his healthy diet, and after he retired from the road, opened a health food store in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Syd Devis

Syd Devis

A look at the great Syd Devis, of the famous Camberwell Weight-Lifting Club, student of W.A. Pullum and 10-stone Amateur Champion of Great Britain, 1916-17. It is also worth noting that Syd's forearms appear as big (if not bigger than) as his upper arms...

Hooverball

"Once the day's work begins, there is little chance
to walk, to ride or to take part in a game."

That's the problem that Herbert Hoover faced when he took the presidency back in 1928. Sure, running the country is hard work, but you still have to keep in shape.

Fortunately, this problem was solved ingeniously by White House physician Admiral Joel T. Boone. Boone created a game for the President and his staff which required very little equipment, and very little skill but which provided the perfect amount of daily physical activity.

The game was simple - it was a combination of volley ball and tennis, yet played with a medicine ball. Team members simply hurled the medicine ball back and forth over an eight foot high net. Points were scored when a ball hit the ground on the opposing teams side.

As Hoover wrote in his Memoirs:

"It required less skill than tennis, was faster and more vigorous, and therefore gave more exercise in a short time,"

And Will Irvin, a friend of the president, remarked:

"It is more strenuous than either boxing, wrestling or football. It has the virtue of getting at nearly every muscle in the body."

Early each morning from four to 18 VIPs would show up for the games on the south lawn of the White House and at 7:00 sharp they choose partners and begin. They played until 7:30 when a factory down by the Potomac blew a loud whistle.

They played every morning of the week and paid little attention to the weather, whether it was cold, windy, rainy or snowing, they played almost always without fail, with the exception of an unusually drenching downpour where they retreated to the White House basement for their games.

Only once during his presidency did Hoover ever miss a game.



Reg Park Kettlebell Handles

You can count Reg Park among the many strength athletes who trained with kettlebells, in fact, Reg sold his own set of plate-loaded kettlebell handles through his equipment company. The above advertisement is from 1956.

It should be noted though that Reg et al, performed bodybuilding movements with kettlebells, (usually shoulder and arm work) and did not train with them in the kettlebell methods that are widely promoted today.

The Hammer Strength Iso-Lateral Low Row

The Hammer Strength Iso-Lateral Low Row

A look at the Hammer Strength Iso-Lateral Low Row machine, demonstrated by Cincinnati Bengal offensive tackle (and future Pro Football Hall of Famer) Anthony Munoz, circa 1990. The Hammer Low Row is still a great machine, if you can find one.

Rheo H. Blair's Instant Protein

Longtime reader's of Iron Man Magazine will no doubt recognize these two fellows and this familiar color scheme. On the right is Irvin Johnson, otherwise known as Rheo H. Blair. (He changed his name after a numerologist said it would make him more successful -- it worked!)

Blair's secret formula was fashioned after enzymes found in mother's milk. As a result, "Blair's Protein" became THE protein powder of choice of all the top pros and likely the best-known supplement of all time. Vince Gironda, the Iron Guru, was a big fan and supporter of Blair's Protein and since many Hollywood movie stars trained at Vince's Gym, the popularity of Blair's Protein sky-rocketed.

On the left is classic bodybuilder Don Howorth, one of Blair's top students and winner of many west coast bodybuilding contests, including the 1967 IFBB Mr. America.

Moore's Squat Bar

Here, 1959 AAU Mr. America winner Harry Johnson demonstrates Moore's Squat Bar, a unique piece of equipment from the Atlanta Barbell Co., which was often advertised in the old Iron Man magazine and which eliminates much of the discomfort of squatting due to the "yoke" design. Look familar? The rights were eventually purchased by multiple-time Mr. Olympia winner Frank Zane, and re-released as the Frank Zane Leg Blaster (which is still available today.)  We have an original Moore Squat bar still very much in use in our private collection.

Spenby Exerciser

The Spenby brand, based in Lancashire, England, introduced many a lad to the world of physical culture. This 5-spring expander set, with some truly excellent box art, dates to the 1960's.

The Narragansett Machine Company Adjustable Barbell Set

A look at an adjustable barbell Set from the Narragansett Machine Company, of Providence, Rhode Island, circa 1910 or so. Each plate weighs 5 pounds and the bar weighed ten pounds so when fully loaded, this set weighed 120 pounds in total which makes it just about perfect for home use. This set also featured something that I have never seen before or since: latches on the inner plates to keep the barbell plates in place.

Also of note is that fact that barbell plates and equipment from just about every other equipment company, including those who were older, are fairly "common" in comparison to this set. I know of no one who has even seen a single Naragansett Barbell or plate in the flesh, let alone owned one. If you should come across any, please let us know.

Young Bill Good and The Good Dumbbell

A look at the great American weightlifter Bill Good in the midst of harness lifting the equally famous Good Dumbbell. circa 1934. Good, a Reamstown, Pennsylvania, native was a seven-time National weightlifting Champion (1930-1935, 1937) and competed in the 1932 and 1936 Olympic Games. Good liked to celebrate his birthday each year by harness lifting the 2150 lb. Good Dumbbell for as many repetitions as the number of years of his age, a feat he kept up until he was 90.

Alexeev's Unusual Training

The Russian Champion Vasily Alexeev is one of the greatest weightlifters who ever lived. One of Alexeyeev's most unusual training techniques was to practice his cleans in waist-deep water. This famous shot was taken of Alexeev as he trained in the Don River in Mother Russia. Unconventional... but certainly effective: Alexeev set the first of his 80 world records in 1970 and was undefeated for the remainder of his career which also included two Olympic Gold medal winning performances (1972, Munich and 1976, Montreal).

Dave Ashman at Muscle Beach

Dave Ashman

The great lifter Dave Ashman is shown here getting in a few squats with 565 lbs. at a training session at Muscle Beach about 1960. At the time, Ashman also clean and jerked 444 pounds (and did 460 unofficially). Like many successful lifters, Ashman credited much of his full body power to a heavy squatting. When you can squat 500+ and make it look easy(in sunglasses, no less), you know you're really doing something.

The Treubund Sport-Club, 1903

The Treubund Sport-Club, 1903

A look at the members of the Treubund (Lüneburg, Germany) Sport-club, circa 1903, and their fantastic equipment.

Saxon Brown

Saxon Brown

In 1924, at seventeen years of age, Saxon Brown was Britain's strongest youth. As a professional, he performed many traditional feats of strength such as Nail Driving, Nail Bending, Card Tearing, The Human Chain and Steel Scrolling.

Brown could also lift a car from the side and would let a motorcycle drive over his neck as a part of his act...he is thought to be the first man to pull a bus with his teeth. Brown was also clearly a big fan of chest expanders.

Neck Training

Rick Redman Neck Training

To say a larger, stronger neck is important in playing the game of football would be an understatement...so it's curious why neck training is often left out of many modern programs.  At least a few people "get it" though.  Here's College Football Hall of Famer Rick Redman working on his neck development back in 1963 while playing for the University of Washington.

Louis Vasseur

Louis Vasseur, Of Roubaix, was the first man to one-hand snatch 100kg (220 lbs.), a feat which he accomplished in 1911.  Vasseur was also a great track and field athlete who excelled in the throwing events, especially the discus, in which he set a French professional record with a throw of 41.6 meters in 1912.

Joe Weider

The man who would become known as "The Master Blaster," Joe Weider himself graced the cover of the November, 1947 issue of Your Physique magazine. Lookin' good Joe!

The Swingbell

The Swingbell is essentially a dumbbell with the weights loaded in the middle instead of either end. This configuration has a great feel for exercises such as curls, wrist curls, abdominal work and, as the name implies, swings.

Anton Gietl

Anton Gietl was a German weightlifter who won the Gold in the 1937 German championships and, later that year, the Bronze medal at the World Weightlifting Championship in the light heavyweight class. Gietl placed in the top five of the German weightlifting championships eight times in 1929 through 1949 ~ a pretty impressive feat in itself. Gietl's specialty was the one-arm snatch, setting a world mark with 90 kg in 1933 (notably with his left arm.)

The Mighty Atom Escapes!

Back in the Summer of 1939, "The Mighty Atom" Joseph Greenstein attempted an amazing (and quite dangerous) feat. He would be chained to a chair with a car traveling at 40 miles per hour spaced out far enough to give him two minutes of lead time. If the Atom couldn't break free of the chains in time the speeding automobile would run right over him. A news magazine was on hand with a photo crew to document the action, and, as you can see, the Atom made it ...barely.

Health & Strength, November, 1960

A look at the cover of the November, 1960 issue of Heath & Strength magazine.  The tall fellow in back, David Prowse, went on to famously play Darth Vader in the Star Wars movies. The shorter fellow, George Cox, was fresh off a 3rd place finish in the NABBA Mr. Britain contest.

Ellington Darden's Neck

Like many young trainees, Ellington Darden wanted to build size and strength, but unlike many of his peers, he wanted a bigger neck to go with a bigger pair of big arms. Throughout junior high and high school, he focused specifically on his neck work, primarily using the wrestler's bridge and a Neck Helmet.

He continued this neck program in college, which was especially important while playing football. It paid off... When he graduated from Baylor University in 1966, at a body weight of 215 pounds, Ell sported a genuine 18-inch neck.

Unsurprisingly, neck training was always a part of Darden's training books and courses. You'll find many good neck training training ideas in this book, which was especially written with football preparation in mind.

Valeriy Brumel

Valeriy Brumel

Yes, that is a man jump-kicking a regulation basketball hoop, a simply unbelievable feat. In this case, that man is Valeriy Brumel, the great Soviet high jumper who is just doing a bit of showing off. Brumel won the Silver Medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics and took the Gold medal in Tokyo at the 1964 games.

Brumel broke the world record for high jump 6 times from 1961 to 1963. His personal best was 2.28 meters (about 7 feet 6 inches) In 1965 he was in a motorcycle accident which ruined his leg. After 29 operations he made a comeback in 1970 and was able to high jump 2.06 meters (about 6 feet 9 inches.) He was a true super human.

The Blue Monster

The Blue Monster

The Nautilus phenomenon essentially began in Culver City, California at the 1970 Mr. America Contest where Arthur Jones unveiled "The Blue Monster" -- the prototype of what would eventually become his Nautilus exercise machines.

"The Blue Monster" was a series of torso machines focusing on training the "pulling" muscles without the disadvantage of having to depend on grip strength to hold the bar, thus being able to develop that musculature far beyond what was capable with that limitation.

This simple observation led to advancements in physical training that had never before even been dreamt of...

To find out more about Arthur Jones and his system of training you will want to pick up a copy of Ellington Darden's newest book The New Bodybuilding for Old-School Results

Double Your Strength Almost Overnight!

One of the most interesting (and, in my opinion, most fun) aspects of strength histiory is the old advertisements. There is much to be learned by those in the same business today who might take the time to study them.  Here's a classic ad circa 1928 from Professor Henry W. Titus, one of the early mail order muscle pioneers.  You can see why someone would want to save up their paper route money to send away for this course. You even get a nifty medal to pin to your jacket when you completed it!

Courses like this one are simple and might even be considered crude by today's standards but often the "after" results beat much of what we see in today's gyms, even with infinitely more equipment and access to information.

Ike Berger's Press

October 27, 1956 was the date, and the Civic Auditorium in San Jose, California was the place for the final Olympic tryouts, and the excellent lift shown above by Ike Berger. This was his second attempt, a press with 230 lbs.  Ike was a featherweight but this lift would be impressive for a heavyweight these days, especially in that style. 

A month later, Ike went on to win the gold medal at the 1956 Olympic games in Melbourne, Australia.   The Olympic finals were sponsored by Ray Van Cleef's Gateway to Health gym, and a good time was had by all.

Aleksandr Bukharov

Aleksandr Bukharov

The Soviet Union has a long history of weightlifting champions and one of the men at the very beginning was Aleksandr Bukharov, shown above snatching a globe barbell.  Bukharov was a 7-time Russian lifting champion from 1918-1926, setting 24 USSR records in the process in the featherweight class.  Bukharov was the very first weightlifting "Master of Sport" and the 15th Master of Sport ever awarded.

The fellow to the right was also a noted lifter Jan Sparre, the 11-time USSR champion between the years of 1918-1934.

Muscle Builder, July, 1964, featuring Dave Draper

Muscle Builder, July, 1964, featuring Dave DraperMuscle Builder Magazine, July, 1964, featuring Dave Draper

A look at the July, 1964 issue of Joe Weider's Muscle Builder magazine featuring a young but very massive Dave Draper.  Other articles include: "How I Use The Top Muscle-Building Technique to Build My 19" Arms," by Freddy Ortiz, "Here's The Top Muscle-Building Technique That Made Me a Champion" by Reg Park, "The Muscle-Building Wisdom of Bill Pearl," and "Harold Poole's Mr. Universe Powerhouse Diet Secrets Revealed."

Anton Riha

Back in 1890, Anton Riha, of Bohemia, set an unusual record for weight supporting. Using a specially designed harness rig, he was able to support and/or hang 1400 lbs. of globe barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells, ring weights and other miscellaneous weights on his body in a standing position. This record was broken shortly afterwards though by a strongman from Vienna who upped the ante to over 2000 lbs.

Nautilus Plate-Loaded Spider-Cam Bicep/Tricep Machine

An obvious characteristic of the early Nautilus machines is what are appropriately called "spider cams," which you can see on this bicep/tricep. You would be hard-pressed to find a better arm workout... but only if this machine is used correctly.

Karl Abs at The Winter Circus

Karl Abs at The Winter Circus

Here's an extremely rare poster from the late 1880's, when Karl Abs was the featured attraction at the Cirque d' Hiver (Winter Circus) exhibition hall in Paris, France. Each night, Abs harness-lifted a horse and challenged all comers in the wrestling ring, (among other feats.) It's pretty awesome that the Cirque d' Hiver, which opened in 1852, is actually still going strong to this day.

The Iron Sheik's Persian Club Challenge

he Iron Sheik's Persian Club Challenge

Many oldschool Pro-Wrestlers had their own strength challenge to confound their opponents and sometimes members of the crowd. The Iron Sheik had "The Persian Club" challenge where he offered $2000 to all comers if they swung a pair of "75 pound" traditional meels for as many reps as he could.

To my knowledge The Sheik was never beaten, and what's more, Sheik used the Persian Club Challenge to injure then-champion Bob Backlund before their title match back in '83 (it wasn't the first time he used the clubs to get the upper hand against his opponents either, see below.)

He's a crafty one, that Sheik.

Also of note is the Takhteh Shena (traditional Zurkhaneh pushup board) at his feet.  Before his pro-wrestling gig, the Sheik was a bona fide stud on the amateur mat and competed for the Iranian Greco-Roman team in the 1968 Olympics.

The West Point Gymnasium, 1895

West Point Old Gym

In the early 1800's, the physical education program of the The United States Military Academy was sporadic, and lagged behind other institutions of higher education such as Harvard and Yale.  To address this discrepency, in 1885 West Point hired its first professional physical education instructor, Herman J. Koehler, who revitalized the program and made it one of the finest in the country. 

One of Koehler's major contributions was to secure funding for the building of a new gymnasium which, when completed in August of 1892, was superior to any in the world at the time. The rare shot shown above was how it looked in 1895. Look closely and you'll see Indian clubs, wall pulleys, climbing ropes, tumbling mats, climbing ladders and many other pieces of classic gymnastic equipment.

Primo Carnera

Heavyweight champ Primo Carnera was a "strong man" as well as a strongman. Here's "The Preem" doing a 'Muscle Out' of a pretty good size kid. I'd say that's a hundred pounds at least. Strong shoulders obviously come in pretty handy in the ring.

Doug Hepburn The Pro-Wrestler

Doug Hepburn The Pro-Wrestler

Most people don't know that Doug Hepburn had a short professional wrestling career in Canada once his weight lifting career came to an end. Shown above, he even got his own Parkhurst trading card in the 1955-56 set. Doug often performed feats of strength before his matches.

Doug's finishing move was an inverted bear-hug, using his great strength to squeeze the life out of his opponents until they had no choice but to submit.

"The Brooklyn Strongboy" Charles Phelan

"The Brooklyn Strongboy" Charles Phelan was the American Professional Lightweight Champion and also performed a strongman act for many years at Coney Island and around the New York area. Notice the oustanding show weights: the unusually large kettlebell and the thick-handled globe dumbbell.

Charles Phelan was a protoge of Warren Lincoln Travis and eventually taught much of what he knew to Vic Boff. Phelan told jokes between feats of strength, also billing himself (quite uniquely, I might add) as "The World's Most Entertaining Strongman."  Phelan only weighed 140 lbs, but could backlift 2500 lbs.

Bob Jones at the York Picnic

Bob Jones Does His Thing at the York Picnic

Bob Jones (who else?) does a one-arm handstand on a (tipped) rocker at the York Barbell picnic some time in the late 1930's (probably 1937).  The early York picnics were held right behind Bob Hoffman's house on Lightner's Hill in North York, Pennsylvania. Hoffman can be seen bent-pressing the large globe barbell in the background in another picture taken the same day here.

They say that the York picnics were so popular that cars were parked three quarters of a mile in every direction. Hoffman's house is still there and you can see it if you know where to look.

Gus Hill and his Indian Clubs

Gus Hill, Club-Swinger
Gus Hill and his Indian Clubs

Another look at the great Indian Club swinger, Gus Hill and some of his fabulous clubs. I can't say much for his outfit but the shoulder development and wiry physique from regular club work should be evident.

1960 AAU Mr. America Contest Results


The 1960 AAU Mr. America contest took place in Cleveland, Ohio, on June 11, 1960, and was won by Lloyd "Red" Lerille of Harvey, Louisiana, who is shown here on the cover of the August, 1960 issue of Ironman Magazine.

The full lineup and final placings were as follows:

1. Red Lerille
2. Ray Routledge
3. Joe Lazzaro
4. William Stathes
5. Joe Abbenda
6. Bill Golumbick
7. Frank Quinn
8. Elmo Santiago
9. Mike Ferraro
10. John Gourgott
11. Leroy Saba
12. Don Van Fleteren
13. Kenny Hall
14. Pete Ganios
15. Steve Sakoulos
16. Bill March
17. Buddy Basil
18. Harold Poole
19. Paul Mintal
20. James Piesrante
21. Raymond Huecke
22. Bill Galewood
23. Michael Majoris
24. Henry Efland
25. Nick Spano

Most Muscular Subdivision:

1. Red Lerille
2. Leroy Saba
3. Kenny Hall

 

Weightlifting at the 1906 Olympics

A rare look at the "two arm lift" event at the 1906 Olympics. Silver medal winner Josef Steinbach of Austria is shown here lifting while the eventual winner Demetrious Tofalos of Greece, looks on. Steinbach took gold in the single-arm lifting event later on.

Spalding Ebonite Indian Clubs

 

Spalding Ebonite Indian Clubs


"In introducing our new Trade-marked Indian Clubs, we sould call special attention to the perfect shape, beautiful finish, and correct weight of each club. We select the very choicest timber for these clubs, turn them by hand, and work each club down to the exact troy weight, and this care in making, together with the beautiful ebony finish, highly polished, and banded in gold, with nickel-plated heads, makes them the most beautiful and desirable Indian Clubs ever placed upon the market, We purposely keep these clubs up to the very highest grade, and to protect ourselves and customers against cheap imitations, our trade mark will be stamped on each club, as represented in the above cut."

Spalding produced a number of interesting Indian Clubs and here is a perfect example from way back in  1886. These clubs were made of ebony, a particularly sturdy dark wood which is also quite heavy. Given the look, style and makeup, these clubs must have been a lot of fun to train with. We hold ourselves to the same standards over a hundred and twenty years later.



Mustafa Toosi

Mustafa Toosi, the great Iranian wrestling champion, won the modern Pahlevani competition, in 1944-45, 1945-46 and 1946-47. Here Toosi holds a pair of traditional heavy clubs known as Meels.  Each of these Meels are about 4 feet long and weigh around 60 pounds (27 kg). It's an impressive feat just to be able to hold them in this position, let alone swing them.

Tromp Van Diggelen's Lift

Tromp Van Diggelen's Lift

Tromp Van Diggelen bent-presses a sack of mealies (a type of coarse corn flour) weighing 203 pounds (which was 20 pounds more than his body weight at the time.) Tromp was 53 years of age when this picture was taken, which makes the approximate date of this picture 1938.  Of course, a 200+ pound bent-press would be an impressive lift at any age.

Joe Weider Creates the STRONG ARM Method!

Joe Weider Creates the STRONG ARM Method!

 

Here's a classic Joe Weider ad featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger, circa 1971. The copy is pretty interesting:

NEW: "HELL-BENT FOR LEATHER N' LEAD" BRACELETS..... THEY TURN YOUR ARM POWER ON!

ARE YOU MAN ENOUGH TO WEAR THEM?  Slip on these electrifying New "Hell-Bent for Leather N' Lead" Strong Arm bracelets-and instantly, in a second, your arms start oozing 100% more power! Your body takes on the appearance of ferocious strength--striking fear and terror into anyone who even thinks of attacking you!

Your manhood and virility "comes alive" and across swiftly to women--they instantly sense your sexual power and want to be in your arms! And because of expert craftsmanship, these genuine leather and gold-toned lead weights-with the word P-O-W-E-R spelled out on each of them--are the latest in "MOD" fashions. They go well with all your clothes, turning them into vigorous looking styles! You "come alive" with muscle and sex appeal!

NO EXERCISE--NO SWEAT TO CREATE ARM POWER! Just wear them anywhere--anytime--and they turn every arm movement into an instant arm builder! They build ferocious, rugged power for any sport--yes, including KARATE! Go ahead, try them, Tiger! If you don't turn on the power fast, return them for a full refund. Fair? START NOW TO BECOME MORE OF A MAN IN SECONDS!

Joe Weider is listed as "Trainer of Terror Fighters." Manly bracelets indeed...

Note:
We do NOT Have these for sale.



Strength and Health, July 1947: Clancy Ross Cover

The great Clancy Ross graces the cover of the July, 1947 issue of Strength and Health (Ross was the S&H photo contest that month). A short time later, Ross would go on to beat Steve Reeves in the 1948 Mr. USA contest.

Also found in this issue: "Secrets of Strength (part III) by Bob Hoffman, "The Super-Duper Body Building Program by Gord Venables, "Barbelles" by Pudgy Stockton, "If you Want Big Muscles and Greater Strength," also by Hoffman, and a feature on the Screwball Gym, by Harv Easton.

Arthur Lancaster: The Man With The Grip of Iron

Arthur Lancaster, of Brixton, England, desired to do something that had never been accomplished before, and on July, 4th, 1908, he accomplished his goal.  It was on that date, at the Crystal Palance (London), that he swung an eight pound blacksmith's hammer for twelve straight hours. It was supposed to be a contest of endurance against a Frenchman, but the latter did not keep his engagement, so the Englishman began his task alone (albeit, still in front of two judges.)

Lancaster swung the hammer with one hand during meal breaks and resumed two-handed swinging once finished. It was estimated that Lancaster "lifted" over 350 tons over the cours of his hammer-swinging session.  Unsurpsisingly, Lancaster reported that his performance was as much a triumph mentally as physically.  Thereafter, he was known as: "The Man With The Grip of Iron."

George Roth

George Roth

George Roth, from east Hollywood, California, (and eventual USC grad, class of '42) managed to accomplish a feat which will never again be equaled: at the 1932 Los Angeles games, he won an Olympic gold medal in the sport of Indian club swinging.  Club swinging, which was part of the gymnastics program at the time, has not appeared in the Olympic games since then.

Also in the probably-won't-see-this-again department, Roth, after accepting his gold medal in front of 60,000 people, hitchhiked home.

Philip Erenberg and William Kuhlemeier, also both of the USA, finished with the Silver and Bronze medals respectively. Francisco José Álvarez, of Mexico, finished fourth.

Luigi Monticelli Obizzi

Luigi Monticelli Obizzi

Luigi Monticelli Obizzi, an Italian Marquis, led a very active childhood involved in gymnastics, swimming, fencing and rowing, but did not take up weightlifting until 20 years old.

He found that he was quite adept at it, so much so that in 1890, Obizzi founded the Milan Athletic Club and was instrumental in spreading weightlifting and physical training throughout Europe. At the Italian Weightlifting Championship, he finished 3rd, in 1897, 3rd in 1900 and 2nd in 1901 and 1902. Working closely with Professor Desbonnet, Obizzi, helped establish the first Weightlifting Championiship of France in 1901 (which he also helped judge.) It was under Obizzi's suggestion that weightlifting contests adopted weight classes, a feature that continues to this day.

Obizzi weighed only 160 pounds but was quite strong, one of his best lifts was a military press of 200 pounds AND he also had a truly excellent mustache.

The Stone Carrier

The Stone CarrierMany ethnic sporting events are often celebrated on postage stamps. This example, Le porteur de pierre (The stone carrier) was created by the Polynesian government in 1988.  Stone lifting contests have been a part of the culture of the polynesian islands for thousands of years and still take place during their cultural festivals. The image is by the noted artist. Kay Quattrocchi

Indian Club History: Endurance Club Swinging

Indian Clubs~ Lawson's Endurance Club-Swinging Record ~

In the early 20th century, the unlikely hotspot for the even more unlikely sport of "Endurance Club Swinging" was Australia.  The gentleman in the middle is the American champion, Henry Lawson, flanking him are his his manager G. J. Jones (at the right), and Carrie Jones (his manager's daughter) at the left. Lawson's two training partners Bill Stanley and George Simmons are behind. 

This picture was taken in 1910, and it was worth the very long trip by steamship to Rockhampton,Queensland, Australia where Lawson set a (then) endurance club swinging world record of 73 hours, 8 minutes with a pair of 3lb. 3 oz. clubs.

One of the reasons that Lawson traveled such a long way was to challenge the great  Tom Burrows to a match...

Unknown Strongman #5

Unknown Strongman #5

Unfortunately this gents name is lost, but I have to say I have certainly never seen this one before. The Human Anvil feat always goes over well with an audience but I'd say the stakes have been raised with this version: on a bed on nails, with an assistant chopping away at a large log with an ax!

UPDATE: the fellow chopping wood is 17-time world champion axeman Leo Appo.

Dan Lurie

Dan Lurie

As a bodybuilder, Brooklyn-born Dan Lurie won the "Most Muscular" subdivision and finished second in the AAU Mr. America contest in 1942, 1943 and 1944.

As a strongman, Dan performed 1655 push ups in 90 minutes, a bent press of 285 pounds (at a bodyweight of 168 pounds) and backlifted 1810 pounds.

Lurie  went on to become a very successful gym owner, magazine publisher and TV strongman. He also established the Dan Lurie Barbell Company which produced barbells and plates primarily on the east coast. Bonus points if you knew that the dumbbell that Dan is holding in this photo is from Professor Athony Barker's Strength Maker Bar-Bell System.

The Olympic Club Gymnasium

The Olympic Club Gymnasium

The Olympic Club in San Francisco, California is the oldest athletic club in the United States (established in 1860). The original location didn't survive the great earthquake of 1906 but they relocated to a new location on Post Street in 1912.  This is what their gymnasium looked like, circa 1915. 

With plenty of natural lighting, an indoor track, climbing ropes, Indian clubs, balance beams, medicine balls, wall pulleys, climbing ladders and an awesome selection of globe barbells and dumbbells, I'd say this facility is just about all I could ever ask for in a gym.

Precary Amiable, Card Tearing Champion of The World

Precary Amiable, Card Tearing Champion

Precary Amiable, the French strongman, won the 1913 card tearing championship of the world by ripping an astounding 210 cards at once. That's over four decks!   Also, it looks like card tearing certainly "does a body good," ~ our man is sporting a set of arms that are still very impressive a century later (at a body weight of only 150 lbs.) 

Spike Bending with "Bull" Bonvicin

Spike Bending with "Bull" Bonvincin

Dave "Bull" Bonvicin, from Oakland, California, was a performing strongman with many different talents. Among them was spike bending-he didn't just bend these spikes in half but liked to make various designs and shapes out of them. "Bull" also had some pretty sweet equipment. (Is that a kettlebell I see in the background?)

Bert Assirati's One Arm Handstand

Bert Assirati's One Arm Handstand Bert Assirati's One Arm Handstand

Many hand balancing experts are generally of the smaller, "gymnastic-type" physique,but  there were actually several larger strength athletes who could perform hand balancing feats with ease.

At well over 300 pounds, the great Canadian Champion Doug Hepburn was a great hand balancer, as was the famous British strongman and Professional wrestler Bert Assirati, (shown here.)

At a young age, Bert was taught how to do all manner of hand balancing feats by an ex-circus performer. You can certainly tell by this picture that he has power to spare. No doubt Assirati's one arm handstand training contributed to his one arm dumbbell press of 160 lbs.

Sig Klein's Leg Press Machine

Sig Klein's Leg Press MachineSig Klein came up with this device, what could be called an early leg press machine.  Though interesting, it was not practical since the resistance lessened by leverage as the legs straightened. 

Lurich, The Human Link!

Lurich The Human Link!

Of the thousands of posts that I have put up on this site, I have to say that this one is one of my absolute favorites: a rare picture of the Estonian strongman Georg Lurich performing the Human Link with a pair of ill-tempered camels!

Goerner's Deadlift

Goerner's Deadlift
Hermann Goerner was a big fan of deadlifting and he picked weights up off the ground in every concerivable way. Goerner deadlifted with two fingers of each hand... he deadlifted with only his middle fingers... he deadlifted with offset weights... and he deadlifted with one hand. Shown here is Goerner's one-arm lift of a stone block of 660 German pfunds - the standard measurement at the time. (That's 727 pounds!)

Goerner's feat was featured on an advertising poster for the Greco-Roman wrestling championships held in Dresden, Germany from September 8th to the 12th back in 1920.

The Columbia Gymnasium

Columbia Gymnasium
A look at the Columbia University (then college) gymnasium circa 1905. The wall pulleys were made by The Narragansett Machine Company and were state of the art back then. The intended training was gymnastic oriented as was common during this time frame, but one could certainly still achieve very good results with this equipment selection  With so much open space and natural light, this would have been a fun place to train.

Unknown Strongman #4

UNknown Strongman #4Here's another unknown strongman whose identity is unfortunately lost to history. I believe he was German, and whoever he was, clearly has a strong set of choppers on him. That's a pretty nifty globe barbell too!

Press - Pull - Squat

Strength author John McCallum is shown here following some of his best training advice: PRESS - PULL - SQUAT. If you focused on only those three exercises you'll end up pretty damn strong.

If you're wondering the reason behind McCallum's somewhat unusual attire, this was a series of pictures illustrating his training article on 'Weight Training for the Scuba Diver which can be found (although sans pictures) in the appendix section of The Complete Keys to Progress.

The Spalding Special Friction Wrestling Machine

Here's an interesting one from days-gone-by: The Spalding Special Friction Wrestling Machine, or, in other words, two long handles attached to a friction brake.   For combat training purposes one would bend or pull this way and that, with restance of course, focusing a great deal on the muscles of the waist and trunk (what they evidently call the "core" these days.)  This might even fall under the "functional" training designation today. Regardless, I'd say this design has many interesting possibilities.   By the way, the $12 price tag would equal over $300 in today's money when adjusted for inflation. 

Edward W. Brown

Edward W. Brown swung a pair of INDIAN CLUBS, each weighing 8 lbs. 1-1/2 oz. continuously for 6 hours, 20 minutes in Bath, Maine on February 18, 1886 to set the (then) World endurance club swinging record. 



El Increible Profesor Zovek

"El Profesor" Zovek is the greatest strength athlete you've never heard of. In the late 1960's Zovek became a national hero in his native Mexico when he performed a number of incredible strength feats and escapes on television to raise money for charity.

Among them: Zovek performed 17,800 situps without stopping (!) in an eight hour span... he skipped rope for nine consecutive hours... smashed through wooden boards with his fists and even held back a team of motorcycles with his teeth. Zovek went on to star in a few Mexican wrestling movies with the likes of Blue Demon.

The World's Baddest Barbell ~ Beginnings: Part II



(Here's a link to Part I in case you missed it.)

Great equipment always has an interesting story behind it. Our good friend Jim Sutherland has been kind enough to write down a few of his his many experiences in his 50+ years in strength training and the equipment business for us.   Here's a little more background behind "The World's Baddest Barbell."

"In the spring of 1988, I was working in the R & D Department at Universal Gym Equipment, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. One morning, my phone rang and on the other end was someone from the sales department who said he was just about to bring a major university strength coach in to see me. The strength coach in question had spent the last few hours examining the product line that was then offered, and came to the conclusion that Universal’s Chrome line wouldn’t fit his needs.

This particular strength and conditioning coach was Dave Pasanella from Georgia Tech University.

As it was lunchtime, I invited Dave to take a ride with me to a sports-bar restaurant on the west side of town and before we even made it to the truck, we began a serious discussion that was to last for the next seven hours.

As I recall, Dave was wearing a white dress shirt and slacks, (which never look right on guys built that thick.) Well-spoken and low-key, Dave began to tell me what he was looking for and being very sure of exactly what he wanted, he went through his wish list with me.

When he finished an hour later and had eaten enough to feed an army, I said, “We don’t currently have anything like that, but I can certainly draw it up and build it for you.”

After we requested some materials, the waitress provided us with paper, pens, pencils, (and I think a few crayons.)

We sat at the table all afternoon and evening, drawing sketches of his concepts on the back of menus and napkins and compiling lists. As Dave was a world-class power lifter, we shared the same ideas about heavy-duty equipment for big, strong athletes.

Describing the utility squat rack and the electric rack platform I had done back in Michigan, Dave was convinced he wanted to add those two products to his weight room.

These were the days before cell phones and nobody seemed to miss us, so we went back to the factory around seven o’clock, after our second meal at the west side. From my office I phoned my immediate boss Jay Guut and proposed I put together a small team of guys to work after normal hours and custom build this list of equipment for Georgia Tech University. Jay made some phone calls and Dave and I met with Gus Klinge (CEO), Wes Merryman  (head of production), and the director of sales.

After much discussion, we put an estimated value on the job at $182,000. Rather surprisingly, the management trusted my ability to do it, and after Dave returned to Atlanta, our sales department took the order. Not realizing that this was the start of a totally new welded and powder-coated product line, our band of volunteers began three months of hard labor. Working evenings and Saturdays, we finished the list with great cooperation from the second-shift chrome-plating and powder-coating departments. All 180 production people on three shifts were rooting for us, but had their own main-line products to produce.

When it was finished and everything was installed, Bobby Ross, at that time the head football coach at Georgia Tech, called it “a world-class facility” ~ and it was.

Additionally, the Peach Bowl was held in Atlanta each year and the visiting football teams would use the Georgia Tech facility for a week before the game. As a result, the college football world became aware of this new custom-made painted equipment, including two Olympic-size platforms with electric racks for squatting and bench pressing. Dave used them for record-breaking lifts by the players and to train on himself.

Thus was born the Heavy Metal line of custom equipment marketed by Universal Gym. Special model shop space was allocated, with the best machinists and welders working two shifts for the next several years.

Incidentally, Wes Merryman came into my office a month after the installation and informed me that after counting all the beans, the company had lost $5,000. Not meaning to laugh at this, I reminded him that Universal now had fifty-four new products, plus the best promotion possible from all the people at
Georgia Tech. Dave wrote a great letter to Universal’s CEO, praising the quality of the product, the fair price, and the timely delivery. That letter is in my possession and will go in the casket with me.

A short time later, Dave wanted to talk to me about something that he had just begun training for...

To be continued.




Sig Klein's Greatest Handbalancing Feat

Sig Klein's Greatest Handbalancing FeatWe've covered Sig Klein's handbalancing feats before.  Above you'll find what ol' Sig thought of as the ultimate handbalancing feat, or at least the one that he was most proud of.  Not only could Sig hold a handstand on a freestanding globe barbell, he could roll the whole affair across the floor while doing so ~ That's pretty awesome! 

Kettlebell Juggling

Kettlebell Juggling

Another look at a German Kettlebell Juggling team in action. If you know your kettlebell history, you already know that German Kettlebells had specially designed handles which were more conducive to flipping and catching.

Charles Vansittart: The Man With The Iron Grip

Vansittart: The Man With The Iron Grip

Given his penchant for ripping tennis balls in half and bending railroad spikes, it is not hard to see why Vansittart was known as the man with the "Iron Grip."

Though this photo is well over a hundred years old, you can still plainly see that Vansittart had the genetics to be a strength champion. You can read about some of Vansittart's favorite exercises HERE.

Tug O' War at the 1906 Olympic Games

Here's a rare look at the Tug O' War event at the 1906 Olympic Games held in Athens Greece. It looks like the Gold Medal-winning German team is on the right - notable because several of its members were also champion weightlifters, namely Heinrich Rondi and Heinrich Schneidereit. The Greek team took Silver while Sweden took Bronze. Josef Steinbach was also a member of the Austrian team which finished fourth.

Victor DeLamarre

Victor DeLamarre was another great name in the long line of Canadian Strongmen. He was one of thirteen children and built the foundation for his great strength at a young age by farming and working as a lumberjack. When he was 14 years old, DeLamarre studied the exploits of Louis Cyr and declared that he would one day break Cyr's records - a rather bold statement for someone who weighed all of 110 pounds at the time. Amazingly, this would come to pass on April 2nd 1914, when, at age 25, DeLamarre bent-pressed 309-1/2 lbs at the Arcade theater of Montreal.

Spalding's Athletic Library: Indian Club Exercises by Edward B. Warman

A look at a vintage Indian Club training course, put out by Spalding about a hundred years ago. The Spalding Company put out dozens of similar booklets highlighting tips and techniques for the many types of equipment they featured in their catalog - Indian Clubs obviously being among them.

Simon Javierto

Simon Javierto

Simon Javierto of the Phillipines was one of Earle E. Liederman's top students and learned strength training entirely through Liederman's mail order courses. I would also say that Javierto also possessed one of the most impressive physiques of all time, especially when you consider that he only weighed around 145 lbs.

Strongman Beer Stein

Strongman Beer Stein

Much of weightlifting's history can be traced back to taverns and beer halls so it was only natural that some "strength" themed steins were created way back when. The only "supplements" that many of the real oldtimers enjoyed were barley and hops. This one is pretty nifty because of the ringweight lid. It would also appear that it would be quite a workout drinking from this one when it was full of ale. 

One can imagine the lifters in old, Old, OLD Vienna clinking a few of these together with a hearty "Kraft Heil!" (Hail to strength!) On the lid you'll also find the 4-K motto: Kühn, Kernig, Kraftvoll, Kunstvoll (Daring, Robust, Powerful, Skillful).

Sig Klein was a big fan of steins like these, and his collection was housed on shelves around his gym. This one may have actually belonged to Sig at one point.

Tags: Sig Klein

Jean Francois LeBreton

Jean Francois LeBreton was the lightweight lifting champion of France in the early 1900's. One of his greatest lifts was a one-arm dumbbell swing of 200 pounds which was made at a bodyweight of 200 pounds. -- An achievement which puts him among the strongest of all time in this lift.

Giovanni Battista Belzoni: The Strongman Egyptologist

There has certainly never been a strongman like Giovanni Battista Belzoni. In the early 1800's, he joined a traveling circus and performed throughout Europe as the "keystone" man in a human pyramid, supporting and carrying 11-12 men on his back across a stage, a weight of close to a ton.

But things get even more interesting after his strongman exploits... Belzoni went on to become a famous explorer and Egyptologist, concentrating his efforts on the Valley of Kings. Some of his finds are still on display at the British Museum.

Chuck Ahrens

Chuck Ahrens was never interested in showing off so no one really knew what he was capable of. Feats like this had a lot of people wondering just exactly what his limits were. I count twelve 10-pound plates and 2 smaller ones, likely 7-1/2 pounders, for each dumbbell -- that's approximately 135 pounds per hand - and Chuck reportedly pressed them with ridiculous ease. Even when dressed in a baggy, flannel shirt, you can tell Chuck Ahrens was built for some serious horse power.

John Davis at Muscle Beach

John Davis was among the many famous visitors to Muscle Beach during its heyday. This picture was probably taken during the period of time when Davis spent some time out on the West Coast training at Yarick's Gym. Looks like around 300 pounds on the bar.  Notice there aren't any collars on the bar~ you can't miss a lift if you're a world champ.  Davis is also still wearing his wrist watch, you sure won't see THAT today.

Oscar Wahlund, The Strongest Man in Sweden

Who IS the strongest man in Sweden? Hard to say these days but a hundred years ago it was Oscar Wahlund. He is credited with a harness lift of well over 4600 pounds and could clean and jerk 225 pounds for 10 repetitions.

Joe Kinney's Can Bustin'

THE Man when it comes to grip strength is Mr. Joe Kinney from Bean Station, Tennessee. In 1998, he became the first man to close the Ironmind #4 Gripper and did so in a manner that has never been duplicated before or since; it looked easier than a Trainer as he slammed the handles shut. Pictured above is how Joe likes to "open a beer"- by squeezing the can until explodes!

Abe Boshes

To provide additional proof that one can be impressive without being "huge" here is the famous Brooklyn strongman Abe Boshes. Boshes stood 5'3" at a bodyweight of around 150 pounds and was very well-known for his shoulder development (which was obviously a big contributor to his stature.) Boshes did quite a bit of training with chest expanders.

Boshes could bent-press around 220 lbs for a single and a 100 lb. dumbbell 18 times in succession. In the early 1900's, he won a contest put on by Bernarr MacFadden and the fame from doing so allowed him to travel the country on the Vaudeville circuit. Like many strongmen of the time he also did some wrestling.

Joe Lambert

Joe Lambert, a strongman from Boston, ran off to join Louis Cyr's circus when he was 16 years old. He traveled the country and the world performing feats of strength first with Cyr's circus, and later with Barnum & Bailey's, The Ringling Brothers, the Vaudeville circuit and even in South America with the Pablione Circus. He was good friends with Clevio Massimo and Adolph Nordquest.

Henry Wittenberg

New Jersey born Henry Wittenberg was one of the greatest wrestlers who ever lived. Unbelievably, he never even wrestled until he got to college but by his junior year, he was doing very well in many prestigious tournaments.

After college, he entered eight AAU tournaments - and won all of them. In an era where many people inflate their numbers, Wittenberg legitimately won over 300 straight matches. He won a Gold medal at the 1948 London Olympics and came back to win Silver in 1952 at Helsinki. He doesn't have any World Championships to his credit because his employer, The New York Police Department, would not allow him the time off.

One of the notable things about Wittenberg is that he was one of the few athletes at the time who actively lifted weights. His coaches at the time forbade him to do so, but Wittenberg understood how important it was and would not hear of it. They gave in and allowed him to keep lifting weights so as long as he didn't let it be known.

Later on, he wrote this book on Isometrics which has gone through five printings.

Professor James Harrison and his War Clubs

Professor James Harrison

"... We learn that Mr. Harrison first began to use the clubs three years ago, at which time his muscular development was not regarded as being very great, his measurements being: round the chest 37-1/2 inches, round the upper arm 13-7-8ths inches, and round the forearm 13-1/4 inches.

The clubs with which Mr. Harrison commenced weighed about seven pounds each; he has advanced progressively until he can now wield with perfect ease two clubs. each weighing 37 pounds, and his heaviest weighing 47 pounds. The effects of this exercise on the wielder's measurements are as follows: round the chest 42-1/2 inches, the upper arm 15 inches, and the forearm 14 inches.

At the same time, his shoulders have increased immensely, and the muscles of his mid-section which were weak when he first used the clubs, are now well-developed and powerful. In short, all the muscles of the trunk have been improved by this exercise."

Professor James Harrison
Featured in The Illustrated London News August 14th, 1852

Professor Harrison of London was a well-known gymnastics and physical culture teacher who was honored by Queen Victoria for his physical prowess. It was watching Professor Harrison expertly swing his heavy "war clubs" which inspired Sim Kehoe to bring club swinging back to America and promote it on a wide scale.

John Garan

John Garan

John Garan began serious physical training after meeting the famous New York strongman Abe Boshes and went on to build one of the most incredible physique of all time. At a height of 5'5" and bodyweight of only 155 pounds Garan could easily squat with over 300 and was also an excellent wrestler. He regularly trained at Sig Klein's Gym and was featured in "Klein's Bell."  Garan is a perfect example of very impressive results, developed without supplements or growth drugs. 

Sig Klein on Kettlebells

Sig Klein on Kettlebells

I have always found the kettlebell to be one of the most useful and fascinating pieces of weight training apparatus. It can be handled in so many diverse manners that its application in the field of body -building exercises is almost without limit. You will have to hunt for a long time to find a more versatile piece of training equipment. - Sig Klein


Doug Hepburn's Dumbbell Press

You know a guy is really strong when he can lift heavy dumbbells in the basic lifts.  Here's the great Doug Hepburn pressing a pair of 160 (!) pound dumbbells (which were handed to him at the shoulders) at Ed Yarick's Big Show.  

Having to clean the dumbbells first is an altogether different lift although While training at Yarick's Gym, Doug had previously strictly cleaned and pressed a pair of 142 pound dumbbells.

Unsurprisingly, Doug also set a new world record in the press that year with a 366-1/4 pound lift.


Doug Hepburn's Dumbbell Press

Handbalancing Feat


How about this handbalancing feat from the Russian circus, circa 1967?  I'd say the neck strength of the two "bottom" men may be even more impressive.

Tullio Camillotti

Tullio Camillotti

Tullio Camillotti was an early Italian, weightlifter, strongman and wrestler who won Italy's first Olympic medal in weightlifting. At the 1906 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, Camillotti took home the Silver medal in the "One-Hand Lifting" contest. (Heinrich Schneidereit won Bronze while Josef Grafl won Gold.)

Anvil Lifting

"It would be very beneficial for any competitive athlete to obtain an anvil... Lifting it in various positions will greatly add to one's upper and lower body strength."

-- Dr. Ken Leistner, THE STEEL TIP, Vol 1, No 12, December 1985

Alex Aberg


An extremely rare picture of the great Estonian wrestler Alexander Aberg who was also Georg Lurich's brother-in-law. On his way to the World Wrestling Championship in 1915, Aberg defeated the likes of Dr. Benjamin Roller (of America), Wladek Zbyszko (of Poland), Pierre La Colosse (of France), Harry De Nys (of Belgium) Leo Pardell (of Italy), Sulo Hevonpaa (of Finland) and Johan Tigane (of Mongolia).

Wally Zagurski Lifts The Cyr Dumbbell

Wally Zagurski Lifts The Cyr Dumbbell

Wally Zagurski, an original member of the York Barbell Club by way of St. Charles, Missouri, was one of the few men who could bent press the famous 202 lb.Louis Cyr Dumbbell - and many certainly tried. Zagurski was also a great weightlifter and competed in the 1932 Olympics. The Cyr Bell can still be seen at the York Barbell Hall of Fame.

Milo Steinborn "The Human Bridge"

Milo's Human Bridge

One of Henry "Milo" Steinborn's greatest strength feats was to act as a "human bridge" supporting a heavy frame while a automobile drove over it.   It is estimated that between the frame and the car, Milo was supporting a combined weight of over 5000 pounds ~ talk about ligament strength!

Edward Aston's Gripper

Aston GripperWhen you go through old training courses, sometimes you find something that even the most knowledgeable historians have never seen before. Here's a bit of rare grip history from deep in some forgotten lore: The Edward Aston Spring Grip Machine.  As you can see, it is essentially a combination of two gripper springs and two handles ~ a pretty unique design indeed.


Hackenschmidt's Kettlebell

Hackenschmidt's KettlebellHere's a look at George Hackenschmidt's kettlebell -- or one of them anyway.  You'll find this one, along with many of his other training weights in a sports museum in Eastern Europe.

 

The Mighty Atom's Hair

The Mighty Atom's Hair"Strongmen" are so named based on the strength of their muscles, or at least that's how it is in most cases.  The Mighty Atom Joseph Greenstein was certainly quite strong from a muscular standpoint but he also had unusually strong hair.   With the aid of a strong comb, The Mighty Atom could pull vehicles with his hair, and, as shown above, even use it to bend steel bars.

The Russian Strongman Vsevolod Kherts

Vsevolod KhertsThe Royal Moscow Circus has performed on American shores for many years.  If you caught their show from 1956 through 1967, you also probably got a chance to see Vsevolod Kherts lift some pretty amazing weights in entertaining ways.  This pullover and press from a bridge with a 300 lb. thick-handled globe barbell is pretty outstanding on several levels.

Globe Barbells

No idea idea who these guys are, their names are unfortunately lost, but one thing we DO know is that they had an awesome collection of globe barbells and dumbbells. Bravo!

Alan Stephan, Mr. America!

Alan Stephan, Mr. America!
Surprisingly, few Mr. America title winners had their own training courses. Alan Stephan, the winner of the 1946 AAU Mr. America title was one who did.  The '46 Mr. America contest was actually the first contest he entered. 

Stephan could lay claim to being "Mr. America" more-so that anyone else, since he ws the only man to win the title in the AAU as well as the IFBB (which he accomplished in 1948).

George Hackenschmidt in 1902

George Hackenschmidt1902 was a pretty good year for "The Russian Lion," George Hackenschmidt.  That year he won the European Greco-Roman wrestling championship and took 3rd place in World weight lifting championships in Vienna, Austria.  This rare picture was taken in January, 1902 and Hachenschmidt certainly looks ready to compete for just about anything.

Strongman Wrist Straps

Strongman Wrist StrapsIf you are going to run off to the circs and be a strongman, you also have to look the part.  In addition to barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells you could also get these nifty wrist straps from The Milo Barbell Company. Of course, these wrist straps also came free with a subscription to STRENGTH magazine, which sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

Doug Hepburn's Handbalancing

Doug Hepburn's Handbalancing

Many of the Olympic-style weightlifting champions of years past were also very good handbalancers. They felt--with very good reason--that handbalancing would build shoulder strength and stability to help their overhead pressing power and in holding heavy weights in the overhead position. 

Showing that a heavy bodyweight isn't an obstacle, the great Doug Hepburn could easy perform handstand pushups at the drop of a hat at 305 pounds.   Handbalancing is still very much a discipline that will benefit every strength athlete.

Stone Throwing

Competitive stone throwing has been a part of athletic festivals for a long time, including this poster for a Swiss Turnfest, circa July 9th, 1905.   Stone throwing has actually been recorded in the Basel-Stadt area of Switzerland as far back as the 13th century.

Before & After

Before & After

The "before and after" shot has been a staple in strength training advertising for a long, long time.  Above, you'll see the very first one, circa 1881.  D.L. Dowd, subject of the above photos, was a New York professor who was simply tired of being skinny.  At first he attemped gymnastics, but with trial and error, and little knowledge of the human body, he gained all of two pounds over the course of a year.  Most people would have given up with such pitiful results, but Dowd perserved. 

He reasoned that a greater knowledge of anatomy as well as a systematic approach should lead to much better results, which they clearly did.  The picture on the right is the result of three years of training with "Dowd's Health Exerciser" a doorway gym of his own design which allowed him to train each muscle group progressively. Dowd's "after" picture is certainly still impressive 130+ years later.

Physical Culture, March, 1904

Al Treloar, Physical Culture 1904
A look at the great Al Treloar on the cover of the March, 1904 issue of Bernarr MacFadden's Physical Culture Magazine.  As indicated, Treloar had just won the world's first international bodybuilding contest. When adjusted for inflation, the $1,000 prize would equal over $25,000 in today's money. 

As impressive as he was, Treloar wasn't all show, he could tear three decks of playing cards at once.

Club Swinging at the Royal Navy Training School

Indian clubs have a long history in the military, and with very good reason, regular club swing sessions will certainly keep one in fighting trim.  This photo, dated November 4th, 1937, shows a club swinging workout at the Royal Navy Training School, Dartmouth, Devon, England.  The Royal Navy smartly still includes club swinging in their training exercises today,

Hargitay's Health Glow

Hargitay's Health GlowPlenty of Iron Game fans know that Mickey Hargitay won the 1955 Mr. Universe contest and married Jayne Mansfield but almost nobody (including yours truly) knows that Mr. Hargitay had his own name brand set of weights.

There aren't many of these around although after quite a bit of digging, we were able to find out that these weights were actually cast in nearby Jackson, Michigan, which solved the mystery of how they ended up in a sporting good store just a few miles down the road. 

In a stroke of luck, we managed to find near a complete set--when is the last time you saw a 15 lb. barbell plate?  The "hockey puck" shape of these plates is pretty distinctive so some thought definitely went into their design.

John Gordon of the Detroit Lions

 

John Gordon of the Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions were one of the very first NFL teams to get a set of Nautilus Machines.  Here's Defensive Tackle John Gordon (who was born in Detroit but played his college ball in Hawaii) getting in a quick workout on an excellent  pullover/torso arm.  This would be somewhere around 1973.  Look closely and you'll notice two features that indicates that these are some very early machines: a.) the open "spider" cams nd the fact that there are cables instead of chains.

Apollon

Apollon, The French Strongman

It was said that the famous French strongman Louis "Apollon" Uni ran off and joined the circus at 14 and started performing as a strongman a year later. Even at a relatively young age, Apollon's potential for great strength is evident by his thick bone structure. Strength ran in the family, he was descended from Pompelius Unicus, an undefeated Roman Gladiator.  As was the custom at the time, Apollon was fond of lifting thick-handles weights -- which certainly contributed to his incredible forearm development.  The French blockweights at his feet are still a nice touch though. 

Russian Strongman Circus Poster

Russian Strongman Circus PosterA Russian Strongman Circus Poster from 1899 - heavy one arm supports... horse lifting... stone breaking (by sledge hammer AND fist)... kettlebell juggling... where do I get my tickets?

Phil Caira

Phil Caira was one of Scotland's greatest weightlifters.  Here he is with a 265 lb snatch at the 1958 Commonwealth Games, where he took first in the light-heavyweight class, coincidentally. Caira was know for his extremely "low" style.  Caira also won the light-heavy class at the 1962 Commonwealth Games as well.

Wilbur Miller

Wilbur MillerA look at the great Wilbur Miller, deadlifting 605 and making it look easy, circa 1963.  Miller reported that the back strength developed through deadlifting helped his Olympic lifting totals considerably ~ which is a pretty radical concept these days.  It should also be noted that Miller totaled over 1000 plounds in the three Olympic lifts in only his seventh meet so there just may be something to it.

Professor Desbonnet

Professor Edmond Desbonnet is often called "The Father of Modern Weightlifting" -- and for good reason, there are a lot of "firsts" associated with his name. A few good examples: he was the first to compile a records table of great performances, the first to introduce referees into a weightlifting competition and the first to codify the press, snatch and jerk into competitive lifts.

Desbonnet opened several schools of physical training (including in 1900, the Halterophile Club de France) and wrote a number of incredible books and courses dealing with strength training and early physical culture. All of his books are detailed and extremely rare. His two most famous titles are Les Rois de la Lutte (The Kings of Wrestling) and Les Rois de la Force (The Kings of Strength).

1967 Weider Catalogue

Whether you love Joe Weider or hate him, his contributions are still a part of strength history. Here's a 1967 Weider "catalogue" featuring "The Blond Bomber" Dave Draper on the cover.


Fred Bryce

Fred BryceHere we find Mr. Fred Bryce, of Amsterdam, New York, with the 320 pound clean and jerk that won him the 1952 New York State 198-pound weightlifting championship.  Bryce also had the unusual ability to clean 250 pounds from a kneeling position.  Also, look closely and you'll notice that he is using a Jackson barbell set.

"Old Joe" Taylor

"Old Joe" Taylor of Hamilton, Ontario does a bit of Neck Training. He was the only man in the whole city able to perform the feat shown here: lifting a 250-pound block of stone with his neck in this manner. "Old Joe" was 70 years old at the time, stood 5'6" and weighed only 118 pounds. We'll cover a few of Joe's other amazing strength feats at a later date. Also: note the Grimek picture on the wall of old Joe's Gym.

John Grimek's Wrist Roller Training

John Grimek trained in every way imaginable and he sure didn't neglect his grip. One of his favorite pieces of training equipment for building grip and forearm strength was the simple wrist roller - and it's still great choice.

Wrist rolling can be done as shown, or holding the arms downward with a heavier weight.

Connie Gilhead

In 1929, Connie Gilhead, a 20-year old London stenographer, began training to break the women's record for swimming the English Channel.  How did she like to warm up for her workouts? Plenty of Indian club swinging, of course.

She tried several times but never did make it, owing to unfavorable wind and choppy seas during her attempts.

The Great Saadi

The Great Saadi
Who was The Great Saadi? Only the greatest equilibrist in the Russian circus in the late 19th and early 20th century. Saadi was born into a large family of Russian acrobats, and with each member trying to out do the others... well, you can see how such an amazing level of talent might develop.

Saddi's signature feat was to perform an incredibly difficult balance on a somewhat darkened stage, much like the one shown above, whilst ALSO balancing a lamp precariously on his head. At the apex of the feat, the lamp would turn on at full brioghtness, putting an exclamation point on an already amazing feat.

It should also be obvious that a steady diet of handbalancing can develop a pretty impressive physique.

Henry Victor Chest Expanders


An advertisement for the Hencry Victor Chest Expanders, circa 1924 or so.  Expanders are a fantastic choice today for the same reasons they were back then: they are portable, effective  and offer a tremendous range of exercises, many of which can't be done with any other type of equipment.

 

Norb Schemansky

The great Norb Schmansky is shown here in the act of winning gold with this world record snatch of 333-1/3 pounds at the 1955 Pan-Am games held in Mexico City Mexico.  One of the secrets of Norb's success was his amazing level of flexibility,  a rarity in the super heavyweight class.

Weird Barbell Plates

I've been around the strength biz a long time, and every time I figured I've "seen it all," something crazy comes along and blows everything away. Case in point: here's a weird set of barbell plates, 45 lbs, yet in the approximate diameter of a 25 lb. plate as you can see in the lower right pic for comparison.

As you might expect, these unusual plates are quite a bit thicker than normal  At first I thought they were simply two 25 lb. plates welded together, but that is not the case, they are, in fact, cast that way as is the "45" on the front,     They have no other markings other than what is shown.  I've never -- and I do mean never -- seen anything like these plates in any of the books, magazines, catalogs or price lists that I've come across.

Ivan Shemyakin

Ivan Shemyakin

Born in a small village near Moscow iIvan Shemyakin ran off to join the circus when he was fifteen years of age to become a strongman and wrestler. He was quite skilled in both areas, winning the kettlebell lifting championship of Russia in 1899 and a World Championship in wrestling in 1913.

Grimek's Sandbag Training

Grimek's Sandbag Training

The York Barbell Company sold more iron than anyone, so why is John Grimek pictured here throwinga canvas sandbag around?

Well... a couple of reasons: This picture was taken during World War II when Iron and Steel were being used for the war effort. Hence if you wanted to lift anything, you had to make arrangements other than barbells and dumbbells. Lifting sandbags offered a very effective alternative.

Secondly, Grimek loved all different kinds of training and a sandbag offered a new challenge, something altogether different than regular barbells and dumbbells would provide. Not to mention that the sandbag provides more of a "grip" challenge than a barbell ever could and building extra forearm strength is always a good idea.

January, 1940 Strength and Health, John Grimek Cover


The great John Grimek on the cover of the January, 1940 issue of Strength and Health Magazine.  A few months later, Grimek went on to with the first AAU Mr. America contest.  Grimek won it again the next year, prompting a rule change that someone could only win the contest once, figuring that Grimek would likely otherwise just keep winning indefinitely.  This line of thinking wasn't a stretch either as Grimek was certainly ahead of his time.

Paul Anderson's Deadlift

Paul Anderson's DeadliftThe deadlift was not a competitive lift while Paul Anderson was in his heyday, so he only trained it to have a little fun. Even with that being the case, he could still toy with 800+ pounds. Makes you wonder what Big Paul could have done if he really put his mind to it...

The Mighty Atom ~ The World's Strongest Haired Man

The World's Strongest Haired ManAmong The Mighty Atom's many strength specialties was the ability to pull vehicles with his hair. He had previously pulled cars and trucks but the Atom upped the ante in 1934 at the Newark, New Jersey airport when he towed this United Air Lines passenger plane by a clip in his shaggy mane. 

1900 Russian Weightlifting Medal

1900 Russian Weightlifting MedalA Look at a pretty nifty russian weightlifting medal from 1900 or so roughly double actual size.   Many of the old postcards of russian strongmen and wrestlers show them proudly displaying medals such as this one on their chests ~ and rightly so.

Jack Lewis

Jack Lewis

One of the lesser-known strength authors was Jack Lewis, of London, England. Lewis did most of his training with chest expanders and built a pretty impressive physique. We may reprint one of Lewis' courses in the near future. 

Basque Stone Lifting

Basque Stone Lifting

Stone lifting is the official sport of the Basque People, an ethnic minority who live in the Pyrenees mountains between Spain and France.

In their stone lifting contests, they lift four different kinds of stones: spheres, cubes, cylinders and irregular shapes. Depending on the type of contest they may lift for a single heavy maximum or for reps in a given period of time.

Their records are mind-boggling. The lifter above is mid-way through what is called a "Basque Necktie" where a stone sphere is shouldered, then rolled around the neck as many times as possible ~ talk about core strength.

Henry Holtgrewe: The Cincinnati Strongman

Henry Holtgrewe: The Cincinnati Strongman

Henry Holtgrewe was born in Hanover, Germany in 1872 but came to live in the United States at an early age. He settled in Cincinnati, where he ran a saloon in the Over-The-Rhine area of the city, near down town.

In his spare time, he delighted in performing feats of strength, especially lifting barbells and dumbbells with thick handles -- which not only confounded smaller-handed competition, but also allowed Henry Holtgrewe to build a tremendous 15-1/2 inch forearm in the process.

Holtgrewe also out "pressed" the great Louis Cyr with a single-arm lift of 287 pounds. It was said that each time Eugen Sandow performed in Cincinnati Holtgrewe challenged to a lifting contest -- and each time Sandow refused.

In 1904, Holtgrewe backlifted two opposing baseball teams at Redlands Field in Cincinnati. The combined weight was estimated at 4103 pounds easily placing him among the strongest backlifters of all time.

Dr. Ken and Darth Raider

Dr. Ken and Lyle AlzadoIt's a little known fact that Dr. Ken and Lyle Alzado were good friends back in the old days, having grown up in the same neighborhood.  Here's the good Doc and Lyle on the cover of the May, 1984 issue of Powerlifting USA magazine, decked out, of course, in purple shirts.

Reg Park: Standing Dumbbell Press

Reg Park: Standing Dumbbell Press
It's a pretty awesome feat to be able to press bodyweight with a barbell but doing so with dumbbells is an entirely different level of strength.  Here's Reg Park locking out a standing press with a pair of dumbbells, 235-pounds total, in outstanding form. I certainly can't think of anyone more fitting to play "Hercules" in the movies...

Stan Stanczyk

Stan Stanczyk

The great Olympic weightlifter Stan Stanczyk was the first man to win three successive World titles in three different weight classes. Lifting for the York Barbell Club, he won five in all. He also won six Senior National titles, a Gold Medal at the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, England, a Gold at the 1951 Pan-American Games and a Silver Medal at the 1952 Helsinki Games.

Stanczyk set eight word records during his lifting career. He was also a fairly good bodybuilder, placing very respectably in the few contests he entered.

John Davis: Pinch Gripping

John Davis Pinch GripJohn Davis: Pinch Gripping

One of the classic tests of grip strength is to pinch two heavy weight plates together - something that legendary weightlifter John Davis could do with ease with these York Deep-Dish 35-pound platess.  Davis could perform three one-arm chins as well as lift the famed Apollon wheels which also had a very thick handle -- needless to say, if you want to be a strongman, it pays to have strong hands...

The Great Mighty Atom ~ The Modern Samson

The Great Mighty Atom ~ The Modern Samson
A look at a rare show bill for the Mighty Atom's August 12, 1934 appearance at the Saratoga Springs Convention Hall.    Sharing the bill was the Atom's 10 kids, one of whom, Mike Greenstein, is still performing feats of strength today into his 90's!

Gustave Empain

Gustave Empain

Gustave Empain the Belgian weightlifter, finished third at the 1903 World Weightlifting Championships, behind Francois Lancoud and Heinrich Schneidereit. Empain was a master of the traditional strength feat known as a "muscle out" i.e. holding a weight at arms length.  Above, he muscles out a 66 pound blockweight.  His best was 83 pounds which he did in front of Professor Desbonnet at the Weightlifting Club of France.

After retiring from competition, Empain opened a bar in his hometown of Charleroi, Belgium.

Kettlebells in Japan

 

Kettlebells in Japan
Japanese amateur wrestler Kitahata Kanetaka is shown here doing a few neck bridges with a 32kg kettlebell in each hand, circa 1937.  Kitahata was taught kettlebell lifting by the Estonian strongman/wrestler/boxer Jan Kentel who introduced kettlebell training to Japan in the early 1930's.

Dallas Cooper of Akron, Ohio

Dallas Cooper of Akron, Ohio
When someone offers Dallas Cooper of Akron, Ohio a bet, he bites. Above he is practicing with
"only" 200 pounds.  Cooper, who was 46 at the time of this shot, had been lifting since he was 15 years old, and his best was 350 pounds.  Cooper has won countless bets with this ability ~ and, surprisingly, has never broken a tooth. 

Cal Gibson Barbell Plates

Cal Gibson Barbell Plate
In all my years, I've never seen anything like these barbell plates.  No idea who "Cal Gibson" was, and never found any trace of him in any old magazines.  And 50 lbs? Not common at all.  I do, however, dig his style; that thunderbolt design looks SHARP!

Slim The Hammer Man

Slim The Hammer Man

Slim The Hammer Man doing his thing on the streets of New York, circa the early 1970s. During a visit to Slim's place I had a chance to try these same hammers without any weight and couldn't budge them an inch - Slim was (and is) the real deal.

There's more to "Strength" than just sets and reps. As a protege of The Mighty Atom Slim learned how to channel his mental energy into physical strength~ a pretty unique skill to have.  No one else has even come close to The Hammer Man's records so it's safe to say this is a skill that few people are in possession of...

The Victor Master Grip

 

Grip developers have always been popular and the "Victor Master Grip" is a good one from way back, about 1926 or so.  It's got progressive resistance through a full range of motion and you can adjust resistance by the number of springs.  You'll still see this design around today.

Athleta

Athleta Strongwoman
There weren't many performing "strongwomen" ...but there were a few, one of the greatest of whom was Athleta Van Huffelen, of Belgium.   In the late 1800's, her solo act at the Eden Alhambra Theater in Brussels caused quite a stir in the strength world as she performed feats that, at the time, were thought all but impossible for a woman. 

Athleta lifted barrels, bent horseshoes and spikes, and, as shown above, danced a waltz while supporting three men and a loaded barbell on her shoulders.  The French strength historian Professor Desbonnet had never seen anything like it, so much so that he listed Athleta among the great strength athletes in his classic book "The Kings of Strength."

 

Bailey's Rubber Exerciser

Yes, they knew all about "functional" training way back in 1906.  There's nothing more "functional" than sawing wood (the best exercise known to man, indeed).  Chopping a couple cords before dinner will put some hair on your chest but when you can't always make it out to the wood pile grab one of "Bailey's Rubber Exercisers" instead. Now you can go to town in the comfort of your own living room.  Perhaps we can see about coming up with something similar?

John Grunn Marx

A look at John Grunn Marx about to break a chain with the arm that broke three horseshoes in two minutes and 15 seconds.  Marx did a lot of training with thick-handled barbells and dumbbells which gave him a grip of steel, in fact, that was the title of a grip course that he wrote: "The Grip of Steel. The Complete Science of Hand and Forearm Training."  

"Pudgy" Stockton

If there ever were a "bar belle" it was Abbye "Pudgy" Stockton. (She aquired the nickname "Pudgy" as a child and it stuck.) "Pudgy" was anything but, she weighed 115 pounds at a height of 5'2" and, as you can see, was quite the physical specimen -- especially impressive at a time when weightlifting for either gender was frowned upon.

She and husband Les Stockton were well known at the first "Muscle Beach" at Santa Monica, California where they primarily worked on acrobatics and gymnastic feats for the crowds.

Aside from being a frequent contributor to Strength and Health Magazine, Pudgy also helped organize the very first weight lifting contect for women through the AAU. In that contest, Stockton pressed 100 pounds, snatched 105 pounds, and clean and jerked 135 pounds.

An Unusual Handbalancing Feat

Here's an unusual handbalancing feat from an old postcard.  Unfortunately the names of these gentlemen is lost to the sands of time, but this is a truly excellent feat, one I have actually never seen before.  The coordination and intense focus required to pull this one off is tremendous.

Swoboda Stamp

In 1912, the Austrian government issued a 4 Heller stamp honoring the great strength champion Karl Swoboda who had just won the world weightlifting championship the year before.   It's not hard to see why one of the lifts that won him the title was a right arm military press of 154-1/2 pounds. 

Gustav Wain

 

Gustav Wain
Gustav Wain was a German strongman who performed in several circuses in the early 1900's.  As you can see by this rare poster, one of the signature portions of his act involved juggling kettlebells whilst blindfolded. 

Barrel Rolling

Barrel RollingHere's a sport you don't see these days, at least not around these parts: Barrel Rolling.  Many competitive events started off as "work" and this is a perfect example. Long before mechanical machinery, heavy lifting had to be done by hand and in the vineyards of France, the quickest way to move a wine barrel from was to roll it on its edge here to there.  Well, as these things go, one fine day, one gentleman said that he could roll a barrel farther and faster than all his friends and soon it turned into a full-fledged contest.  It became very popular, so much so that the different areas of France had their own tournaments culminating with the championship held in Paris.

It takes strength as well as dexterity to keep a rolling barrel under control and moving in a straight line.  The champions of this sport could keep their barrel moving while at a full sprint.  Some places in France still have these contests.

The Great Antonio

The Great AntonioOne of the more colorful Canadian Strongmen was "The Great Antonio" who lived most of his life in Montreal. Antonio was known to pull several city buses at once, sometimes with his hair and could lift a truck. The photo above is unfortunately cropped, otherwise you'd be able to see the other dozen or so people that Antonio is supporting haning on the telephone pole on his shoulder.

Antonio also certainly lived up to his "Grand" nickname, usually tipping the scales somewhere between four and five hundred pounds at a height of 6' 6". He also toured Japan as a professional wrestler.

Pete George's Press

Pete George's PressHow outstanding is this picture?  Shown here is Pete George's final press of 122.5 kg at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic games... enough to put him in the lead, at least temporarily. George had to settle for silver though as a few minutes later he was overtaken by Fyodor Bogdanovsky of the Soviet Union who eventually took the gold with a 420 kg total (75kg weight class.) If you look very closely, you can see Bob Hoffman in the crowd.

The Kiruna Atletklubb

 

The Kiruna Atletklubb
The Kiruna (Sweden) Atletklubb, circa 1902, and their truly epic selection of kettlebells and globe barbells.

Monsieur Grenier's Bet

Monsieur Allard Grenier
Sometime in early 1920, Monsieur Alard Grenier bet his friends 5000 francs that he could carry his 1000-pound automobile a distance of 100 feet balanced on his head.  He is shown above just crossing the finish line as his friends rush to relieve him of the car. The man certainly earned his payment. Talk about neck strength!

Leverage Bar Training

Edward Aston Leverage Bar Training

The Leverage Bar is one of the truly underrated methods of training.  It's convenient and you don't need much weight, as the great Edward Aston demonstrates above.  There's maybe ten pounds on the bar but with the leverage--or lack thereof--it probably feels like at least ten times that much, if not more.  Plus the keeping the bar level gives an entirely different feel than "normal" weightlifting.  Hermann Goerner also did some interesting things with different leverages in his training. 

Manfred Rieger

Manfred RiegerGerman weightlifter Manfred Rieger, competed in three consecutive Summer Olympics, as heavyweight in 1964 and 1968 and super heavyweight in 1972.  Rieger never finished higher than fourth at the Olympics, but he did win seven German weightlifting championships,  Above is a snap from the 1967 championship where Rieger set a new German record with a 520 kg total (which surpassed his previous best by 15 kilograms.)

The York Calflex

The York Calflex

One interesting training 'gizmo' from strength training yesteryear is the York Barbell Calflex. According to the ads, the York Calflex "allowed the tension to be increased in both directions for complete calf development." Nice.

Charles Highfield: The Boy Samson

Charles Highfield: The Boy Samson

Charles Highfield, of Coventry, was billed as "The Boy Samson" - the strongest boy in Britain. This picture, taken on taken on February 13, 1932 on Binley Road, by the swimming pool, shows the young strength athlete putting a 100 lb. globe barbell overhead with one hand. while his proud father Bill, looks on.

Magnus Bech-Olsen

Magnus Bech-Olsen

Denmark-born Magnus Bech-Olsen won the wrestling world championship in 1892 and held the title until 1903. During his competitive years, Bech-Olsen had many memorable battles with the likes of Karl Abs, Stanislaus Zbyszko, Alex Aberg, Antonie Pierri, Paul Pons, "Ursus" Jankowski, Paul Belling, Ernst Roeber, Constant Le Marin and even Frank Gotch.  A few years after retiring, Bech Olsen established his own traveling circus.

Norb Schemansky

Norb Schemansky
A very happy birthday to one of the all-time great lifters: Mr. Norb Schemansky celebrates #88 on this day.   Norb was the first weightlifter to earn four Olympic medals, taking Silver in the 1948 London Games, Gold in 1952 in Helsinki and Bronze in 1960 in Rome and Tokyo in 1964.  Notice that ne missed the 1956 games in Melbourne, making this accomplishment that much more impressive.

Young Thomas Inch

Young Thomas Inch Tearing a Deck of CardsHere's a rare look at a cabinet card featuring a young Thomas Inch, demonstrating his card tearing ability.  Inch won the title of "Britain's Strongest Youth, at sixteen years of age, so this cabinet card from 1899 would make him around eighteen.  Of course, Inch also went on to hold the title of "Britain's Strongest Man"  and it's certainly not hard to see why.   

How to Get Strong

How to Get StrongGoing through our archives is always an interesting experience.  There are the well known names, books, courses etc of course, but we often run into other items which are rather mysterious.  This 1909 advertisement would certainly fit that bill.  Can't say that I've ever come across Dr. S.C. Hall's name elsewhere.  Build strength by lifting weights?  Pfftt-that's for the birds.  Dr. Hall's Electo-Vigor machine will "send glowing, electic fire coursing through your nerves and vitals." Where do I sign up?

Joe Price, The Gloucester Blacksmith

Joe Price, The Gloucester BlacksmithJoe Price, the Gloucester Blacksmith, did a lot of leverage work with sledge hammers and even wrote his fantastic (and aptly named) "Vulcan" course about these special exercises.  Though this image is not of the greatest quality, you can still clearly see that Price's forearm development is quite impressive.

Butty Sugrue

Butty Sugrue: Barrel LiftingIreland's Strongest Man, Michael "Butty" Sugrue, used to celebrate St. Patrick's Day by performing feats of strength in his pub in Kilburn.  One of  them was to lift a two-hundredweight barrel of beer overhead.  Sugrue was a colorful character and led a pretty interesting life, among other accomplishments, he promoted the Muhammad Ali versus Al "Blue" Lewis fight in Croke Park in Dublin in July, 1972.

Iron Man Lifting News

Iron Man Lifting News October 1968
Peary Rader's Iron Man magazine covered many different lifting topics but focused primarily on bodybuilding.  For those who were more interested in heavy lifting of other types, in June of 1954, Iron Man started "Lifting News" which covered competitive Olympic weightlifting and what would eventually become the sport of Powerlifting.  Lifting News ran 142 issues. 

Above, you'll find the cover of the October, 1968 issue featuring Mel Hennessey, lifting in the 242 lb. class (at a body weight of 217 pounds!), bench pressing 560 pounds at the Northwest Invitational Power Meet held June 22nd of that year in St. Paul Minnesota.

The Composition Barbell Company

The Composition Barbell Company
What do we know about the Composition Barbell Company?  Pretty much nothing other than this advertisement from a 1914 Physical Culture magazine.  In fact, I've never seen or heard of this company or their equipment otherwise.  Also, before getting in a tizzy about the 6 cents per pound price tag on their weights, it should be understood that this equals $1.38 in today's dollars when adjusting for inflation.  I'm not at all surprised to hear this, given the time and effort that goes into producing quality equipment. 

Rocket Richard Hand Gripper

Rocket Richard Hand GripperMaurice "Rocket" Richard was one of the all time great hockey players.  With the Montreal Canadiens, he was the first to score 50 goals in 50 games, the first to score 500 goals in a career and likely the first hockey player with a signature hand gripper.  Whether this gripper helped his hockey prowess is anyone's guess, but there's no doubt that extra hand and grip strength certainly does help out on the ice. 

Arthur Saxon Envelope

Arthur Saxon EnvelopeStrength legends are generally treated differently in other countries than they are here.  Case in point, here's a nifty commemorative envelope from Germany, circa 1991, celebrating the great Arthur Saxon.  Note that the stamps are also related to lifting.

Fritz Brust

Fritz Brust
Here's a new take on the "human anvil" feat from the German strongman Fritz Brust, circa 1928.  Usually an anvil or large rock is placed on the chest of the "hitee" which helps absorbthe force of the sledge hammer blows.  In Fritz's case, he does have a rock on his chest, but is also suspended in midair between two cars while assistants pound away with hammers ~ now THAT is tough!   

Steve Reeves: Kettlebell Training

Steve Reeves: Kettlebell TrainingShown here: Steve Reeves performing a "full" lateral raise with a pair of Milo kettlebells... a highly underrated movement for shoulder development made that much more enjoyable with classic iron. The rotating handles of the Milo kettlebells allow for certain exercises that are difficult to do with cast-iron kettlebells. (As a side note, Steve Reeves was well-known for his broad shoulders which were measured by Armand Tanny at an unbelievable 23-1/2 inches.)

1903 German Sport Club

1903 German Sport Club

A look at a German Sport club, circa 1903.  As for their equipment, as was the custom with German-style kettlebells, the handles were large and open to enable juggling... the barbells also appear to have thick handles, which encourage grip and forearm development.

Indian Wrestler Sandbag Training

Indian Wrestler Sandbag Training

Chances are, you were probably introduced to sandbag training in Dinosaur Training by Brooks Kubik but sandbag training goes back a lot farther than that.

Here's a rare shot from a turn of the century training course of an Indian wrestler getting ready for a sandbag workout.   Elsewhere in the course, he is pictured lifting, throwing and carrying the sandbag. As a combat athlete, lifting or carrying heavy, awkward and sometimes off-centered objects can be much more useful than simply "lifting weights."  I sure wouldn't want to mess with this guy.

Doug Hepburn Benchpresses 460 Lbs.

Doug Hepburn's Bench PressDoug Hepburn was arguably the first bench press superstar.  Throughout the early 1950's, he became the the first man to officially bench press 400, 450 and then 500 pounds.   Above, he toys with 460 lbs at an exhibition.

The bench press has become a much different lft these days.  Note that Doug bench pressed in a singlet, without arch and the bench above didn't even have uprights.  Doug's training focused purely on strength development and his results speak volumes even many decades later. 

Sig Klein's Hand Balancing

Sig Klein's Hand Balancing

The fact that Sig Klein has been mentioned so many times throughout this blog should tell you that he was a jack of all trades -- and he most certainly was. Name a classic training discipline and ol' Sig was a master: muscle control... kettlebell and barbell juggling... heavy weight lifting... posing ...the list goes on and on.

One of Sig's absolute favorite types of training was hand balancing, and he mentioned it often as the way he trained in the days before he got his weight set. Sig felt that hand balancing was not just for show but was a fantastic way to build size and strength -- a viewpoint that we certainly agree with.  Sig also believed that regular hand balancing was a great way to improve the press and the results speak for themselves. 

Arthur Santell

Arthur Santell was just a kid from Los Angeles with an interest in physical training who talented enough to be featured the newspaper every once in a while. What we do know of Arthur Santell is that he could drive a 20 penny nail through two 1-inch boards with his fist, break chains with his bare hands  and scroll a 1-1/2" x 1/4" steel band around his arm. This picture was taken on May 6th, 1930. Santell was 18 at the time.

The Strong Man of the Police School

The Strong Man of the Police School
In 1906, the writer A.B. De Guerville wrote a travelogue of Egypt.  At one point during his adventures, De Guerville had a chance to observe the members of the Egyptian police academy go through their exercises which involved gymnastics,, shooting, riding and heavy weightlifting.    

De Guerville noted that the development that was obtained by new recruits in only a matter of weeks was striking.  This gentleman, unfortunately not named in the text, was listed as the strongest man in the school.

The Amazing Samson's Chain Breaking

The Amazing Samson Chain Breaking"The Amazing Samson" Alexander Zass was a master of many different strength feats, among them chain breaking of various sorts.  This is a shot of one of his more original efforts, snapping a chain secured underfoot and wrapped around his neck.

1938 Senior Nationals Program

1938 Sr. Nationals Weightlifting Program

A look at an extremely rare program from the 1938 Senior National Weightlifting contest.  If you had been in attendence, you would have seen quite a show: Firpo Lemma, out of the Bates Barbell Club of Patterson, New Jersey set two records in the 112 lb. class: a press of 205 lb. (which was a World record) and a Clean and jerk of 210 lbs. (An American record).

Anthony Terlazzo set a World record in the 148 lb. class with a Clean and Jerk of 320 lb., John Terpak set an American record in the snatch with a lift of 250 lb.   In the 181 lb. class, Stanley Kratkowski set an American record in the Clean and Jerk with 330 and John Grimek set an American record in the press with 250 lb.

In the heavyweights, Bill Good set an American record in the Clean and Jerk with a lift of 340 lb. but Steve Stanko came along and broke it a few minutes later with a lift of 345 lb.   It should also be noted that Weldon Bullock, then only 17 years old, shook up the weightlifting world with a Clean and Jerk of 330 lb.

Alfred Decottignies

Alfred DecottigniesAlfred Decottignies, shown here 'muscling out'a block weight whilst simultaneously pressing a heavy globe barbell overhead, established the Comines Weightlifting Club in northern France in 1892.   The club is still going strong today making it the oldest ongoing weightlifting club in existance.   Alfred's son, Edmond Decottignies went on to win the gold medal in the lightweight class in the 1924 Paris Olympic games.

Warren Moon on the Double Shoulder

Warren Moon trains on a Nautilus DOuble Shoulder machine

Warren Moon, circa 1976, then a junior at the University of Washington, getting in a workout on a Nautilus double shoulder machine.  Despite training on machines, Moon somehow still went on to become one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

Whipper Watson Barbell Plates

Whipper Watson Barbell PlatesThe list of athletes who had their own line of barbells is a pretty short one, but one surprising example is the great Canadian professional wrestler "Whipper" Billy Watson.  Like many "signature" plates, these were mostly available in sporting goods store ~ although they are very tough to come by these days.  Watson had many side ventures, one of which was evidently the barbell business.  Perhaps the idea came from Doug Hepburn, who used to wrestle and perform feats of strength at shows promoted by Watson.

Sig Klein's Press

Sig Klein's Press

A Look at Sig Klein's record military press: 229-1/4 lbs. at a bodyweight of 152 lbs. Keep in mind this was a true "press;" back straight, heels together, knees locked -- not the "standing bench press" of later years. You won't find many heavyweights these days who could duplicate such a weight in this style, so for a man of Sig's size, this is a truly phenomenal feat.

Handbalancing Made Easy by E.M. Orlick

Professor E.M. Orlick was an outstanding strongman, physical culturist and gymnast who came from a long line of circus performers.
 
Over the years Orlick wrote hundreds of training articles on a variety of topics and was also the editor or "Mr. America" magazine for a number of years as well as the assistant editor of a Boxing/Wrestling magazine.

While Orlick was certainly proficient at a number of strength feats,, handbalancing was his forte, and he wrote several training courses on the subject, one of which was "Handbalancing Made Easy."

Orlick's other handbalancing training courses include: "Walking and Jumping on Your Hands," "How To Do The One-Hand Handstand" ~ all of which we'll be reprinting at some point.
Handbalancing Made Easy by E.M. Orlick

The Smith Machine

Rudy Smith and the Smith Machine
You've heard of the Smith Machine?  Well here's 'Smith' as in Rudy Smith who came up with his machine in the early 1950's as a manager at Vic Tanny's Gym in Los Angeles, California.  Today a Smith machine can be found in just about every gym in the land.  In the picture above, Rudy is sitting on the very first Smith machine ever.  

Mr. John

Mr. John. Vaudeville

Now THAT'S a chest expander!  "Mr. John" was a vaudeville performer in the teens who worked feats of strength into a slapstick comedy routine.  As you might guess, many of these feats involved prodigious strand pulling feats.

Physical Culture Magazine: April, 1906

Physical Culture Magazine, April, 1906A look at the cover of Bernarr MacFadden's Physical Culture Magazine from April of 1906.  Macfadden's arm graces the cover and while his methods were unconventional (even by today's standards) they were certainly effective.

Jackson Barbell Company Plates

Jackson Barbell Plates

You are more likely to win the lottery than come across any equipment from the The Jackson Barbell Company. We are incredibly fortunate to have several full sets in our facility. This equipment is a true joy to train with as Andy Jackson's immense attention to detail is evident over every square inch.

Anchor Lifting

Don't have a weight set?

No worries, grab anything with some reasonable heft and you should be in business, as this gent demonstrates in lifting a very cool "Popeye" anchor while on holiday at the beach.

Barbells and dumbbells were made to be lifted so they are perfectly balanced, but at times it pays to lift awkward, unbalanced objects and I'd say this anchor certainly fits the bill nicely.
Anchor Lifting

Siegmund Breitbart Newspaper Clipping

Siegmund Breitbart Newspaper Clipping
Siegmund Breitbart


The great strongman Siegmund Breitbart toured the United States in the 1920's, performing feats of strength AND amazing crowds wherever he went.

Here's a clipping from the Chicago News, October 22nd, 1923, showing Breitbart demonstrating his nail driving ability -- pounding a nail through a one-inch thick oak board with nothing but his bare hand.

Nail Driving is one of the classical strongman feats, one that not only wows 'em
every time but also one that builds tremendous strength in the shoulder and upper body.   Several "oldtime" boxers actually practiced nail driving in order to build striking power.

Luigi "Milo" Brinn

Luigi 'Milo' Brinn
Milo Brinn (born Luigi Borra) performed feats of strength and took on all comers as a wrestler at the famous Folies Berger in Paris.  Brinn's act at the Folies consisted of tumbling and gymnastics, hand balancing, figure display, heavy juggling and feats of supporting and carrying weights.  He could perform a crucifix with 66lb. in each hand and could do a one-leg squat holding 60 kg.

As a wrestler, Brinn won the amateur world's title  in 1887 and supposedly once defeated Sandow in a match.

You Can Banish Weakness...

Lionel Strongfort Advertisement
Lionel Strongfort (aka Max Unger) was one of the first mail order muscle kings and this is one of his advertisements from 1928. 

His "Strongfortism" system, which involved mostly body weight movements and light dumbbells, was incredibly popular in the early 20th century.  Strongfort was originally a pupil of Professor Attila.

The Gymnasium of the Romania College of Physical Education

The Gymnasium of the Romania College of Physical EducationHere's a quick look at The Gymnasium of the College of Physical Education in Bucharest, Romania. Their most well-known graduate is the famed gymnastic coach Bela Karolyi.

Sandow and Goliath

Goliath and Sandow
In the autumn of 1890, Sandow appeared at the Royal Music Hall, London, with the Giant Goliath (who had previously been working as a stone quarryman.)  Goliath was aptly named as he stood 6 feet 2-1/2 inches tall, and weighed 370 pounds, with hands big enough to fit pillow cases and chest, arms and head of phenomenal proportions.  

In the act, Sandow played the proverbial "David" initially assailed by the massive Goliath but triumphing in the end and actually lifting his foe and a large cannon from the stage with one finger. Their act concluded with Sandow supporting on a board, on his chest and knees, a total weight of 2400 pounds.



Rene Duverger

Rene Duverger - French Olympic Weightlifting ChampionThe French weightlifter Rene Duverger won the Gold in the lightweight class (67.5kg) at the 1932 Olympic games in Los Angeles, California. Duverger's total was 325kg on the day and comprised of a 97.5 kg press, a 102.5 kg snatch and a 125 kg clean and jerk.

Thomas Inch and The Evolution of A Biceps

Thomas Inch: Evolution of a Biceps AdvertisementI believe that advertisements tell as much about strength history as the books and courses, hence the reason I reproduce many of them here -- (and you sure won't find them anywhere else!)  Here's a fantastic ad from deep in the archives: Thomas Inch's "Evolution of a Biceps." 

The Billard Golden Triumph Barbell Training Manual

The Billard Golden Triumph Barbell Training Manual

The Billard Barbell Company, out of Reading, Pennsylvania, hit the scene in the early 1960's and featured their equipment primarily in department and sporting goods stores.  If you got one of their weight sets, you also received this nifty training manual featuring Bruce Randall., the 1959 Mr. Universe winner.  Randall made appearances at sporting good stores promoting and demonstrating Billard equipment.

Billard was actually the third barbell company based in Reading, PA (after the Good Barbell Company and the Reading Barbell Company.)  In addition to weights, the Billard Barbell Company also boasted a national championship calibre softball team. 

Tonitoff The Strongman

Tonitoff the Strongman
The great French strongman Tonitoff was the talk of the town when he performed in the Grand Circus Lenka during the 1896 season.    He was billed as "The World's Strongest Man" and easily supported several thousand pounds on his shoulders as he walked around the arena.

1956 Olympic Weightlifting: The Bantamweights

1956 Olympics BatamweightsA look at the medal platform for the 1956 Olympic Weightlifting Bantamweight class: American lifter Chuck Vinci took gold (with a 342.5 kg total ~ an Olympic record), Vladimir Stogov from the Soviet Union took the silver medal (with a 337.5 kg total) and Mahmoud Namdjou of Iran, took the bronze (with a 332.5 kg total).

Bavarian Stone Lifting

Bavarian Stone Lifting Contest

Munich, Germany, March, 27th, 1954: Adolf Grenzebach, given moral support by members of a Bavarian Brass Band, lifts a 508 pound stone during a contest for the strongest man of the Bavarian capital. In the competition traditionally held during the "strong beer" season in the Spring, the one who lifts the stone the highest is declared the winner. Adolph won with an 11-inch lift. Mr. Grenzebach's talents also weren't limited to stone lifting, he was also an egg eating champion, downing 26 in 30 minutes.

Paris ~ The Boat Man

Paris The Boat Man

Paris, the great French strongman was known as "The Boat Man." Why? Because in his act he lifted boats! Paris often performed at the famous Folies Bergeres, and backlifted a boatload (literally!) of men, a total weight said to be over 1000 kg.

William H. Thwaites

Willaim H. Thwaites, from Plumstead, Kent, shows off  a 150 lb. one-arm snatch and his outstanding training equipment, about 1901.

Kevin Tolbert

Kevin Tolbert
What does the result of high intensity training look like? Check out Kevin Tolbert above. Kevin was certainly blessed on one level, but also keep in mind that he never bothered with "secret" exercises, just basic workouts, plenty of effort and no excuses. Kevin's exact training programs are outlined in The Steel Tip Collection.

Kevin is currently the strength coach of the San Francisco 49ers.

John Davis

John Davis
Ironically, Anerican weightlfting champions often got more recognition from the international media than they did back home.  Here''s John Davis, pictured on the cover of a French Sporting magazine in 1950 on his way to winning the heavyweight class the 1950 World Championship in Paris, France. By the weight on the bar, this appears to be Davis' winning snatch lift of 147.5 kg. 

Lift 150-lb. Weights With Ease!

Milo Barbell AdvertisementWe pride ourselves on providing content that even the most grizzled Iron Game vets probably hasn't seen.  Case in point, this truly excellent Milo Barbell Company advertisement from the mid-1920s.   The man shown doing the "get up" lift is F. P. Jones from Philadelphia.  What was the secret? ...The same thing responsible for all training results: Progressive Resistance Training.

Thomas Topham's Barrel Lift

Thomas Topham: Barrel Lifting

Thomas Topham is known as the greatest strongman of the 18th century. Among his many incredible feats, on May 28th 1741, by use of a harness, Topham lifted three barrels filled with water weighing 1386 lbs.

The Strongmen of the Thule Athletic Club

The Strongmen of the Thule Athletic Club

A look at a few of the strongmen from the Thule Athletic Club, Trelleborg, Sweden, circa 1899. Obviously they were big kettlebell fans. Look closely and you'll also notice that the globe barbell in the foreground has a thicker than average handle -- which, given the forearm development displayed by these athletes, comes as no great surprise.  ~ Now THAT is some oustanding training gear.

Ell Darden ~ Muscular Development Magazine, January, 1973

Ell Darden on the COver of Muscular Development, Januarly 1973

Ell Darden on the cover of the January, 1973 issue of Muscular Development magazine. Ell made a point to focus on chest expansion techniques and it certainly showed. You can read more about Ell Darden's training right here.

Professor Anthony Barker's Strength-Maker Bar-Bell System

Ptofessor Barker's Strength Maker Var-Bell System

A look at a vintage advertisement for Professor Anthony Barker's Strength -Maker Bar-Bell System.  The set was rather ingenious, the handles could be unscrewed from the globes which could then be filled with shot to adjust the weight. From just a few pieces of equipment, one could train with a barbell, a dumbbell or a pair of kettlebells.

It should also be noted that The $15.00 price tag equates to over $400 in today's money.

The Mighty Atom: Steel Bending

The Mighty Atom: Steel Bending

Leave it up to The Mighty Atom to figure out how to bend steel in unusual ways.  This style is not seen very often mostly because it is not particularly comfortable, but steel bending is all about making the mind stronger than the muscle, and when that is the case, the steel will bend.  The Atom was not a large man, but the forearm development shown in this rare shot is pretty impressive. 

The Man in The Gymnasium

The Man in The Gymnasium
The Man in The Gymnasium... unfortunately his name is lost to the sands of time.  We do know two things though: he had excellent taste in equipment AND was a snappy dresser.  This picture was taken around 1900.

Ike Berger

A classic shot of Ike Berger cleaning and jerking 325 pounds to set the world record and win the Gold Medal in the featherweight class at the 1958 Senior World Weightlifting Championships (held in Stockholm, Sweden.) Berger was known for his flawless technique in all three lifts.

Chiezel: The Man Who Walks On His Head

Chiezel - The Man Who Walks On His Head

Adrian Chiezel, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin developed the unusual talent of being able to "hop" long distances on his head. He then did what anyone with such an unusual talent would do; he ran off and joined the circus. In his act, "Chiezel: The Man Who Walks On His Head" hopped up and down this platform as shown, which seems like a pretty amazing show of neck strength (and balance) if you ask me.

Risa Bey, The Turkish Strongman


Risa Bey, The Turkish Strongman

Now THAT is a show that I'd like to see! The Turkish strongman/wrestler Risa Bey incorporated all manner of exciting elements into his act, including teeth-lifting, knife throwing, rock breaking and firing off a live cannon cradled in his arms.

Zander Machines

 

Zander Machines

Gustav Zander was a Swedish physician who created over 70 different exercises "machines" at the turn of the century.  Zander's machines were very meticulously designed with a very intricate system of pulleys, pendulums and counter-balances which accounted for the leverages of the human body.

Each machine developed a particular area of the body. The machine shown above was for training forearm extension.

Also, despite their obvious similarities in appearance, Arthur Jones had no prior knowledge of Gustav Zander or his machines when he designed the Nautilus Machines. (Which actually function quite a bit differently.)

Andy Jackson and The Jackson Barbell Company

Andy Jackson hard at work making barbells in his basementSome of the finest strength equipment that the world has ever known was made in the basement of an unassuming three-story house located at 17 Bryant Avenue in Springfield, New Jersey.  This was the home of Andy Jackson and the Jackson International Barbell Company.

Jackson did all the work himself in the machine shop in his basement (shown above.)  Other companies certainly sold quality equipment but it was Jackson's incredible attention to detail which set him apart.  Each barbell was hand- crafted by Andy Jackson himself.  In order to make sure his barbell plates were accurate, he weighed each one and if need be, he adjusted the weight accordingly until the weight was true. 

Sandow's Grip Dumb-Bells

Back in 1899, the hottest thing going was Eugen Sandow's Grip Dumb-Bells which consisted of two dumbbell "halves" joined together by a series of springs.

While they were not the first piece of mail order strength equipment, Sandow's Grip Dumb-Bells were very close -- and they were certainly one of the most well known.

As one followed the suggested workout movements, they could build their forearm strength by keeping the two halves "crushed" together as they trained the rest of their body through various other movements.

Also, according to several of the advertisements, regular training with these dumbbells also improved will power and concentration.

Sandow's Grip Dumb-Bells came in a variety of styles and types -- ranging from "Basic Black" to nickel-plated models with leather handles.  There were also different resistence levels for "Gents" men, women, youths and children.

The ad at the right is from 1907.

Sandow's Grip Dumb-Bells

Karl Hipfinger

Karl Hipfinger

Karl Hipfinger, the Austrian weightlifter and bronze medalist in the Middleweight class at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic Games, is shown here completing what is probably a 1-arm snatch with around 145 pounds.  Not bad considering that is almost bodyweight.  

Charles Rigoulot

Charles Rigoulot

Another look at the great French champion Charles Rigoulot.  In October, of 1928, at the famed Voltaire Gymnasium, shown here, Rigoulot set two world records: a clean and jerk of 360 pounds and a snatch of 282 pounds.  Rigoulot preferred shot loaded "globe" equipment long after they were out of fashion. 

The large globes shown here pointedly maintained the same bar distance from the floor as the newly established barbell plate standard, so Rigoulot's lifts were recognized as official records. 

1915 German Weightlifting Club

1915 German Weightlifting Club

A look at a German weightlifting club, circa 1915 and a rather large selection of their truly excellent training equipment.   This club was clearly a big fan of kettlebell training.   The large, squared handles would indicate that they did a lot of kettlebell juggling.  Look close and you'll see at least one, possibly two rotating barbell sets - a rarity for the time.

Jaroslav Skobla

Jaroslav Skolba

Jaroslav Skobla, the great Czechoslovakian weightlifter, won the Gold Medal in the heavyweight class at the 1932 Olympic Summer Games in Los Angeles where his total was 380 kg:   Skobla won Bronze at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics with a 357.5 kg total. 

U.S. Naval Academy Gymnasium, circa 1899

U.S. Naval Acadey Gymnasium 1899

A look at the U.S. Naval Academy Gymnasium, circa 1899 ...Climbing ropes ...Rowing machines ...Pommel Horses ...Climbing Ladders ...Flying Rings ...Tumbling Mats ...Look closely and you'll notice that the entire back wall is covered with racks of Indian Clubs.

Ben Darwin: The Man With Iron Teeth


Ben Darwin, of Houston Texas was billed as  "The Man With Iron Teeth" due to his unique ability to bite through chains.  Mr. Darwin once helped a ship's engineer out of a difficult situation by chewing through a chain that had become tangled.  A career in Vaudeviller followed shortly.  "Iron Teeth" were not his only talent, Mr. Darwin also had unusually strong hair, and was a world speed bag punching champion.

The Human Vise: Bat Break Over Head

The Human Vise!Yes, that's a genuine Louisville Slugger. Do NOT try this one at home! Pat "The Human Vise" Povilaitis is a trained professional, plus he is a little crazy which helps with feats like this.  Needless to say, extreme levels of neck strength are also a must.

1932 Olympic Weightlifting Event Ticket Stub

Here's a true piece of Olympic Weightlifting History: a ticket stub from the lifting finals of the 1932 Summer Games held in Los Angeles Califirnia.

If you had one of these in your back pocket on July, 31st, 1932 you would have gotten to see Raymond Suvigny of France set the Olympic record in the Featherweight class with a 287.5 kg total, the great German lifter Rudolf Ismayr take the Gold in the middleweight class with a 345.0 kg total (also an Olympic record) and Jaroslav Skobla, the Czechoslovakian champion take the Gold in the heavyweights with a 380.0 kg total
.

The Springfied College Gymnasium


What's notable about this particular old gym?  Look close and you'll see a rack of Indian clubs, some light barbells and some other vintage gymnastic  equipment which makes it pretty nifty insofar as oldtime training gear goes but there is another reason that this gym stands out...

It was at this gym, at the School for Christian Workers at Springfield College. in December of 1891, where the first game of organized basketball took place.  James Naismith, under orders from Springfield's physical education director Dr. Luther Halsey Gulick, was to develop a vigorous indoor game which could keep the students in shape during the winter months.  The baskets -- actual peach baskets -- were nailed to the lower rail of the balcony, which happened to be exactly 10 feet from the floor... and the rest is history.

This picture was taken around 1887, so a few years before all the hubbub started.

 

Professor Attila's Studio of Physical Culture

Professor Attila's Studio of Physical Culture
In 1893, professor Louis Attilla opened the doors to the finest gym ever established before or since.  Behold "Professor Attila's Physical Culture Studio."  The above shot was actually the second location, Attila moved his gym in 1898 to a location on 37th street in midtown Manhattan.  Needless to say, whenever any professional strongmen performed in New York, they made a point to stop by Attila's place.  

C.V. Wheeler

 

C.V. Wheeler
C.V. Wheeler was the winner of the "Daily Express" Challenge Cup in 1919 and Heavy-weight Amateur British Weightlifting Champion of 1920.  Wheeler was a student of W.A. Pullum and a member of the famed Camberwell Weightlifting Club.  Wheeler's exact training program is listed in How to Use a Barbell by W.A. Pullum.

1924 Olympic Globe Barbells

1924 Olympic Globe BarbellsIn the early Olympic games, the athletes had the choice of using plate-loaded barbells or shot-loaded globe barbells  Shown here is the selection of weights for the 1924 Olympic games in Paris, France, the last time that this choice was available.  The great French champion Charles Rigoulot won the Gold medal in the heavyweight class, and, interestingly, was the only lifter who chose to compete with the shot loaded globe barbells.

 

 

Tommy Kono ~ Strength and Health Magazine, August, 1955

 

Strength and Health Magazine, August, 1955 - Tommy Kono Cover
Tommy Kono graces the cover of the August, 1955 issue of Strength and Health magazine.  Just a few months later, in October of 1955, Tommy would go on to take the Gold medal in the light-heavyweight (82.5 kg) class at the World Championships held in in Munich, West Germany.   His winning total was 435 kg, and consisted of a 142.5 kg press, a 127.5 kg snatch and a 165 kg clean and jerk.


Maurice Deriaz

Marice Deriaz, Globe Barbell Lift
Maurice Deriaz, the great Swiss strongman, is shown here setting a record in the one arm clean and jerk with a lift of 211 French Livres (about 228 pounds.)  Maurice was one of several brothers who were all celebrated strength athletes (the others being Emile, Adrian, and Ulysses.)  Maurice was also a good wrestler, once beating fourty-four opponents to win a Greco-Roman tournament.