1938 World Weightlifting Championships - Heavyweight Winners

A rare shot of the lineup of heavyweight winners at the 1938 World Weightlifting Championships held in Vienna (Which was then a part of Germany.) From left to right Josef Manger of Germany (410 kg. total), Steve Stanko of the United States (397.5 kg. total) and Arnold Luhaar of Estonia (390 kg. total).

Signor Cronos

Here's the Italian strongman Signor Cronos performing a harness lift of an automobile, circa 1925. Other than clearly not skipping leg day, unfortunately we don't know anything else about him.

Hercules Curls

Steve Reeves getting in a little arm work during the filming of one of his Hercules movies. Italian beauty, Sylva Koscina, looks on in amusement. She was Reeeves' co-star in both Hercules (1958) and Hercules Unchained (1960).

The Expander Overhead Downward Pull

John Grimek demonstrates the overhead downward pull with a set of York chest expanders. This movement is STILL one of the very best back developers and can't be done with a barbell or dumbbell. If you are lucky enough to have access to a good set of expanders, this move should be in your program. Grimek also may have done a few squats in his day...

Universal Bodybuilding Course - POWER

Another great vintage ad for the Universal Bodybuilding Course ~ The most fantastic muscle-building system known to man! The Universal Bodybuilding Course is available HERE on Kindle or also in The Iron League.

George F. Jowett on Anvil Lifting

"...Talking about feats with an anvil reminds me of a particular feat that I performed impromptu which takes a great amount of confidence as well as strength. It happened at one of the times that I picked up an anvil by the horn in a smithy shop, and after that stunt I pressed the anvil to arm's length by lying it on its broadside upon the flat of my hand, which is not as easy as it sounds. After I had done this I put the anvil on the floor on its base.

We began to talk about various anvil feats being so difficult because of its awkward unbalanced construction. One man remarked that it would be some stunt to balance the anvil on the hand upside down. That meant the face would rest on the hand and the heavy wide base on top. Somehow I conceived the notion I could do it, and accordingly I took hold of the face with my right hand, and with the help of the left arm got the weight to the shoulder.

Despite the wide base and the bad balance caused by same and the horn, I not only succeeded in balancing the anvil by its face, but pressed it to arm's length, to the amazement of all. I have done it many times since, and for this volume I performed the same feat, thinking it might interest my readers. The anvil weighed one hundred sixty-eight pounds..."

George Jowett
The Key to Might and Muscle, Chapter 9
Written in 1926

Joe Ragusa

Strongman Joe Ragusa does a... actually I don't know what you call this one.. a neck lift? ... either way it looks pretty extreme. The bar is loaded to 655 pounds and it sure doesn't look very comfortable. Ragusa was originally from the Bronx but came out to Hollywood and like many strongman-types, got bit parts as a "heavy" in a few movies. As far as strength feats, he was deceptively strong: Joe could do a two-finger deadlift with 515 pounds and backlift an Elephant. This picture was snapped at Muscle Beach (Zabo Koszewski, always looking cool in his dark glasses, peers on at the upper left.)

Elwood Holbrook

A look at strength star Ellwood Holbrook right around the time when he placed second in the light-heavyweight class at the 1944 Sr. Nationals with a 720 lb. total. Just a few years before, Holbrook rightly took home the 'Best Arms' sub-category and placed fourth overall at the 1941 AAU Mr. America Contest. Holbrook weighed only 165 pounds or so and routinely bent-pressed well over his bodyweight -- his best was around 270 lbs. while he never weighed over 170 lbs. Hollbrook didn't do any special training other than his focus on the bent-press. After a long day of construction work he trained in his garage with nothing more than an Olympic set.

Selig "Ajax" Whitman

Selig Whitman is another perfect example of an individual who is small of stature but extra large in strength. Whitman stood five feet 8 1/2 inches tall and weighed but 162 pounds... His most famous feats include lifting a 1,030 lb. dumbbell with his teeth ...pushing a 27,000 freight car up an incline for 50 feet (at St. John's Park) ...tearing two packs of cards at once ...and turning a forward somersault with a 25 lb. dumbbell in each hand. In the early 1890's, Selig toured the country as "Ajax The Strongman" and actually appeared at times on the same bill as John L. Sullivan, Like many performers, Whitman eventually got tired of the traveling life and went to New York City where he joined the police force. Of course, his impressive list of strength feats only grew from there: on one particularly busy day, he arrested a drunk, but the patrol wagon was nowhere to be found, so he carried the 250-lb. man back to the station on his back...

As if that weren't enough work for the day, a short while later a horse had fallen in front of the street carrier and neither horse nor carrier could be budged, Whitman put his shoulder to the car and as onlookers later reported "lifted it as a boy would pick up a baby."

Whitman was the guy they sent in first whenever any "trouble" started -- he once captured four would-be rioters single-handedly. In his 26 years on the force, Whitman made over 2000 arrests.

Paby Salas

The Cricifix Lift is a great Oldtime lift and a tremendous test of shoulder strength. Here Paby Salas of Monterrey, Mexico performs what he claims was a world record at the time: 55-1/4 pounds in the left hand and 55-1/2 pounds in the right at a bodyweight of 161 pounds. Paby is 50 years of age in this picture.

The Human Anvil 2

One of the few known images of Prof. Frank Dufrane, The Human Anvil. This one was taken by the famed Swords Bros. Photographers in York, PA likely in the mid-1890's. We've covered Prof. Dufrane before, but since then have unearthed a few more details about him, namely, that he performed many traditional strongman feats: he drove nails through one and two inch boards with his bare hands...bent metal bars across his teeth and neck and, of course, held a 1,000 pound rock on his chest whilst a member of the audience slugged away at it with a 17 lb. sledge hammer -- which could not have been comfortable any way you slice it. Dufrane was billed as "The strongest man of his weight on Earth" - which was likely true -- he weighed only 145 lbs.!

Elmo Santiago

Elmo Santiago on the cover of the December, 1959 issue of Strength and Health -- He won the AAU Junior Mr. America contest that year.

The popular (and quite prolific) New York bodybuilder also won the AAU Mr. New York Metropolitan contest in 1953, Mr. New York City in 1954, Mr. Eastern America in 1958, Mr. North America in 1960, and the 1965 NABBA Mr. Universe title.

Kurt Saxon

Among the members of the Saxon Trio it was Arthur who got most of the spotlight but the other members were quite strong in their own right. Kurt Saxon for example, could bent-press over 300 pounds at a bodyweight of only 170. His exceptional muscularity is evident even in this old photo.

Three Wrestlers

A Trio of early wrestlers, from left to right: Paul Pons, Raoul "Le Boucher" (The Butcher) Musson and Ivan Shemyakin. This rare shot was most likely taken at "Le tournoi annue de lutta de la Ceinture d'or" held at the Folies-Bergere in 1904.

Pierre Bonnes, 1903

Pierre Bonnes was a great French strongman and weightlifter who was at his best in the late 1800s and early 1900s. In 1898, he set the "official" world record in the One Arm Snatch with a lift of 85.5 kilos. He bested this lift on several other occasions albeit under unofficial conditions. Here's how Bonnes looked after winning the "World Strength Championship" in 1903. (Bonnes won again in 1905.)

Jack Hayes

Jack Hayes, of the famed Camberwell Weight-Lifting Club, was one of W.A. Pullum's top students. Hayes was the 8-stone Amateur Champion of Great Britain from 1914 through 1920, and again in 1925.

Extreme Neck Strength III

Here's another one for the "don't try this at home" file" Strongman Saxon Brown lets a motorcycle and rider drive across his throat! This was in 1934 when Saxon was trying to drum up a little interest for his Winter Tour. Does this qualify as a feat of strength? I don't know, but I'd definitely want to see his show so it had the intended result.

Gustave Empain

Gustave Empain the Belgian weightlifter, finished third at the 1903 World Weightlifting Championships, behind Francois Lancoud and Heinrich Schneidereit. Empain's greatest feat, however, was a Muscle Out of 76 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.

Young Louis Cyr

A look at a young Louis Cyr taking a huge Globe Dumbbell for a ride. Cyr was 18 years of age at the time. This rare engraving is from a Quebec newspaper from the late 1800s. Cyr had just defeated David Michaud, the Canadian champion. It was with this very dumbbell that Cyr set many of his strongman records. 

Physical Training in Ancient Turkey

The gymnastic exercises of the students of Mekteb-i Sultani, taken in Istanbul, Turkey, circa 1879. Note the use of large globe dumbbells, ring weights, kettlebells and the high bar for gymnastics.


The stage name of the Italian Strongman Cosimo Molino was "Romulus," of course, he had a partner "Remus," their names a call back to the mythical founders of Rome. Romulus stood 5'3" and weighed only 167 pounds and it was said that he has a 25 inch thigh. At ne time, he was easily one of the strongest men of all time, not pound-for-pound, but all time as in 1892, he performed a single-arm push of a 109 lb. dumbbell for 22 repetitions! He performed many other impressive feats with heavy dumbbells. Romulus was a student of professor Attila.

Ewald Redam - The Golden Man from Dresden

Check out one of the few known images of Ewald Redam, known as "The Golden Man from Dresden" whose physique was ahead of its time. The above image was taken, around 1920... his leg development was unheralded, and this was about three decades before the squat rack was ever common place. For a while, Redam traveled and performed with a troupe of other strength athletes but this was cut short by WWI. Redam was the model for several famous statues.

Ditka's Neck Training

It is important for football players to increase their neck strength in order to be better prepared to play the game. This was a fact not lot on "Da Bears" as shown by this rare training camp shot. Check out the guys bridging in the background, and yes, that's Mike Ditka himself doing a headstand. Look closely and you'll see that his whistle has fallen down around his face. If you have no other equipment available, a simple headstand like this can be an excellent method for building neck strength.

Ted Williams Barbell and Dumbbells Exercise Course

If you bought a 110 pound Ted Williams Weight Set from a Sears department store, this is the instructional booklet that you received along with it. Unsurprisingly, the exercises and programs are as basic as can be, but it would not be a stretch to say that a lot of people would benefit a whole lot more by following Ted's program than most "modern" training programs found these days.

Clarence Ross

Clarence Ross on the cover of the July, 1948 issue of 'Muscle Power' magazine. Clarence has just won the Mr. USA title (beating Steve Reeves!) Clarence was listed as the Associate editor of this publication and contributed several articles. Also of note is that Earle E. Liederman, now a real oldtimer, was the editor in chief.

Wellesley College Gymnasium, 1905

A look at the Wellesley College Gymnasium, circa 1905. This awesome facility was outfitted by A.G. Spalding & Bros. and consisted of 6 Counterbalanced Booms 42 Stall Bars and Benches, 35 Italian Hemp Climbing Ropes, 12 Rope Ladders, 3 Vaulting Boxes, 3 Vertical Window Ladders, and 12 Balance Beams.

Joe Zimmerman

Joe Zimmerman and his brother Dick were Bob Hoffman's neighbors in York, Pennsylvania and they hung around the York Barbell Company office doing crazy feats of strength. Here's Joe performing a handstand on some boxes -- which is tough enough by itself -- but he is also lifting the 202-pound Louis Cyr Dumbbell in his teeth at the same time!

Dave Mayor

Dave Mayor, or Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was a member of the U.S. Weightlifting team at the 1936 Berlin Olympics where he finished in 12th place with a 352.5 kg (775.5 lbs) total (Press: 100 kg, Snatch: 107.5 kg, Clean & Jerk: 145 kg.) Mayor made a 755.5 total at the 1936 Sr. National Weightlifting contest which was good enough for second behind John Grimek. Mayor won the heavyweight class the next year with an 835 lb total, an improvement of 80 pounds.

Klein's Bell

A look at the September, 1932 issue of "Klein's Bell" featuring John Garan on the cover. Garan was called by Klein a "Muscular Marvel" and it would be hard to disagree with what is shown here. Garan's results would be quite impressive even today. Of particular note is Garan's thigh development-- he was listed as having 23-inch thighs at a bodyweight of 155 pounds. Keep in mind, squat racks were an innovation still a decade or two yet to come.

This issue of Klein's Bell is posted in its entirety in The Iron League.

Nelson of Rutgers

Alfred Arthur "A.A." Nelson, of South Amboy, New Jersey was the collegiate club-swinging champion in 1910 and 1911 representing his alma mater (what was then called) Rutgers College. Rutgers had a long tradition club swinging success in the early 20th century, from 1904 through 1914, the collegiate club swinging championship was won by a Rutgers man seven times.

Slim's New Hammer

Several years ago, I found a huge old hammer. It needed a little work but overall was in decent shape. I had plans to refurbish it but never got around to it and since it was just gathering dust at my place, I decided to send it to someone who I knew would appreciate it: Slim The Hammer Man. I didn't tell the old boy that it was coming either so getting a giant circus hammer in the mail made Slim's day. Slim set to work, polishing it up and making it "show ready." As you can see, he dug it -- and I am honored that something of mine is worthy enough for a place in Slim's training area.

The Great Gama in Training

A look at The Great Gama in training in his akhara in Patiala, Northern India, circa 1928. It was said that Gama performed 3000 dands (pushups) each day. So much for the theory that "bodyweight-only" training can't build muscle mass... Gama clearly didn'thave any trouble doing so.


Charles Estienne, or or, as he was more commonly known "Batta" was an oldtime strongman famous for his incredible grip strength. Standing at 5'10" and a bodyweight of around 190 popunds, Batta was the only man who duplicated one of the Apollon's greatest feats: the lifting of four 44-pound blockweights overhead -- each tied to a finger of one hand. It was also written that Batta cleaned (but did not jerk) Apollon's famous railroad wheels - an incredible feat in its own right, but even more so due to his light bodyweight.

Larry Scott and Betty Weider

Larry Scott and Betty Weider on the cover of the French magazine "Atout Muscles" (Muscle Strength). This was the January, 1970 issue and I believe the premier issue -- only a handful of issues were published so this title is a hard one to find. If you happen to have a copy, you'll be lucky enough to read training articles on Franco Columbu's arms, Frank Zane's back and Arnold Schwarzenegger's chest.

The Mike Marvel DYNAFLEX Course!

Straight from the back of nearly every single comic book ever printed from the early 50's to the mid 70's comes the World Famous Mike Marvel DYNAFLEX Course! No telling how many youngsters saved up their paper route money to send away for this one but it was undoubtedly quite a few. The course itself has an interesting "take" on working out and if nothing more, was an important stepping stone for a lot of folks into other aspects of physical training.

Staff Sgt. Moss

Staff Sgt. Alfred Moss was an early bodybuilder, circa 1900. Believe it or not, Moss' tattoos often disqualified him from several contests despite his obvious muscularity. Sergeant Moss was considered the Strongest man in the British Army, once jerking a 56-pound blockweight 100 times in 2 minutes 52 seconds.

Moss went on to write several training courses covering the parallel bar, vaulting horse, indian clubs, rings, tumbling and other gymnastic subjects.

Grimek on Iron Man

John Grimek appeared on the cover of Iron Man magazine ten times. The January, 1954 issue shown above was the final occasion. Grimek was 44 years of age at the time and clearly hadn't missed many workouts.

Rope Climbing for Grip Strength

Sig Klein was always outspoken as far as the importance of grip strength... One of Sig's favorite exercises was to hang by one hand from a thick climbing rope. It's still a good one.

Ab Training: Shaolin Style

How do Shaolin Monks train their abs? Here's one way: this fellow is hanging upside down with his legs over a tree branch. He fills a small cup with water from the jar below him, sits up, and dumps it into a bucket which hangs above. No sets and reps needed, the workout ends when the bucket is filled.

Lee "Strongman" Jones

Lee "Strongman" Jones does his thing back in the mid-1950's. We don't know anything about the man other than he obviously has a pretty strong set of choppers.

Ironman Magazine April, 1952: Cover Man Zabo Zoszewski

Irvin 'Zabo' Koszewski on the cover of the April, 1952 issue of Ironman Magazine. He finished 5th at the 1952 Mr. America Contest although to no ones's surprise, took home the 'Best Abs' subdivision.

Zabo was a safe bet for an Abs trophy, in fact he won "Best Abs" in every bodybuilding contest he ever entered, including four times in the AAU Mr. America contest and three times in the Junior Mr. America Contest.

Mr. America '68, Jim Haislop

Jim Haislop, the popular bodybuilder from Tampa, Florida, shows the foundation of his development: squats. Haislop had quite a career, winning Mr. Florida in 1965, Mr. North America in 1966, Mr. Northern States and Mr. USA in 1967, Mr. America and Junior Mr. America in 1968 and took first in his class at the 1969 NABBA Mr. Universe.

The Michigan State Normal School Gymnasium, Ypsilanti, Michigan, 1894

A look at The Michigan State Normal School Gymnasium in Ypsilanti, Michigan, circa 1894, the year it was built. This impressive red brick building was located across the street from the Water Tower in Ypsilanti (and if you have been to Ypsi, you know exactly where this is).

This gymnasium was divided completely in half, the North half reserved for women and the South half for men. The Michigan State Normal School eventually became Eastern Michigan University, and unfortunately, this particular building was demolished in the mid-1960's.

Dennis Rogers' Steel Scrolling

A few years back Dennis Rogers performed in Detroit and gave me the piece of steel he bent during the show. If you look closely you can see that it is dated 11/06/2005 and signed by Dennis.

Milo Lifts an Elephant

In August of 1950, Milo Steinborn attended the Chicago fair and the AAU Mid-States Weightlifting championships which was going on as a featured attraction during the Chicago fair. During a break in the action, they held an impromptu elephant lifting contest. None of the other lifters could budge "Tommy" an 800 pound baby elephant but Milo, 57 years old and still wearing his Sunday best, stepped in and gave him a little ride. (Tommy doesn't seem to happy about it.)

FYI, Norb Schemansky won the Mid-States heavyweight lifting title with a 910 lb. total and Jim Park won the Mr. Central U.S.A bodybuilding contest, also held that day.

Arthur Saxon's Incredible Plank Feat

As if you needed further proof that Arthur Saxon was one of the strongest men who ever lived, behold the following: Arthur and the other members of the Saxon Trio used to perform several supporting feats in their act and for these feats, they employed a large, heavy wooden plank.

Unbeknownst to many, the trio of strongmen also used this plank as a training tool to develop grip strength, each taking turns lifting it in various ways between their shows. While the other brothers did their best to deadlift it, Arthur Saxon could actually snatch the plank overhead with ease, something no one else could duplicate and a feat which humbled noted Strongman Siegmund Breitbart who visited the Trio at the Bush Circus in Berlin, Germany in 1922.

Kurt Saxon considered this to be Arthur Saxon's greatest strength feat... pretty impressive condsidering some of Arthur's other record achievements.

"The Brooklyn Strongboy" In Action

A look at "The Brooklyn Strongboy" Charles Phelan in action in mid-two-hands-anyhow with an excellent globe barbell and kettlebell. Phelan held five world records in his day: a one-finger lift of 506 pounds, a 700 pound lift with two fingers, a hand and thigh lift of 1125 pounds, a hip lift of 1600 pounds and a backlift of 2500 pounds. Phelan learned the strongman arts from none other than Warren Lincoln Travis.

George Levasseur

George Levasseur was the strongman for the Ringling Bros. Circus in the early 20th century. Here he is bending a horse shoe, circa 1905.

The Farmer Burns School of Wrestling and Physical Culture

It had to be quite an experience to train at the Farmer Burns School of Wrestling and Physical Culture. Farmer Burns believed that every athlete should train like a wrestler - and I agree.

The bulk of the training was, I'm sure wrestling -- holds, take-downs, blocks, breaks and plenty of sparring. Of course, the "Old Farmer" knew that wrestling was only "part" of what made a good wrestler -- physical training was important too. He had his students throw the medicine ball around, hit the speed bag, jump rope, use light dumbbells, develop their chests with breathing exercises, use traveling rings, swing indian clubs, climb ropes, and do enough calisthenics in order to make them stronger, tougher and more conditioned than any man willing to step in the ring with them. The advertisement above is from 1920.

Edward Aston

From 1911 to 1934, Edward Aston held the title of 'Britain's Strongest Man' and judging by this picture, it's not hard to see why. One of Aston's "Secrets" was to pay particular attention to strengthening the grip and forearm. He employed a number of different exercises to build his hand strength but one of his favorites was to do one-arm timed hangs from a climbing rope.

Gotch vs. Hackenschmidt

The greatest pro wrestling match ever held is undoubtedly on April 3rd, 1908 when the Frank Gotch and George "The Russian Lion" Hackenschmidt stepped in the ring to face each other after years of build-up. The undefeated Hackenschmidt was favored to win but after two hours of grappling, he finally submitted to an ankle lock by the American Champion Gotch. The match took place at Chicago's Dexter Park Pavilion. The referee (middle, above) was Ed Smith.

Gotch and Hacenschmidt would face each other once again on September 4, 1911, this time at Comiskey Park stadium in front of 30,000 fans. Gotch won the rematch in two straight falls and would go on to hold the heavyweight title until he retired in 1913.

The 13th National Japan Athletic Meet

Each year, Japan holds a country-wide Sport festival which takes place in three stages: skating and hockey taking place in January, skiing in February and the main tournament taking place in September/October. The above was a commemorative envelope for the weightlifting event created for the 13th edition of the National Sport Festival which began on October 19, 1958. The location of the event changes each year and the 1958 edition took place in the Toyama prefectures. Unfortunately this lifter's name was not listed but it may be Shigeo Kogure.

Sergio's Other Job

Sergio Oliva's "real" job was a Chicago police officer, a position he held for 27 years. With a 60 inch chest and 20 inch arms, unsurprisingly, his uniforms had to be custom made. You'd probably think twice about littering with this guy walking toward you.

David P. Willoughby

Strength author and historian David Willoughby gracing the cover of the January, 1936 edition of the British physical culture magazine "Superman." Willoughby was the AAU Southern California AAU weightlifting champion from 1923-1926 and eventually went on to author countless books, articles and training courses. He also owned a successful gym in the Los Angeles area -- the same gym where Bert Goodrich got his start.

Joseph Barton Kohen "The American Hercules"

Joseph Barton Kohen "The American Hercules" (also sometimes known as "The Allegheny Hercules" based on his hometown of Allegheny, PA), was a well known feature in Bernarr MacFadden's early Physical Culture Magazines. In fact, he was one of the very first strongmen to ever appear on a magazine cover. Kohen also secured himself one of the first endoresement deals ever, he appeared in many ads promoting VIGORAL, the delicious beefy drink from Armour & Company in Chicago. Check out that sweet training gear (and his hair was perfect.)

Rolandow The Jumper

The great strongman G.W. Rolandow was very well known for his traditional feats of strength and the oldtime equipment that bears his name but he also excelled at feats of jumping prowess.

Here, Rolandow jumps over a 36-inch high, 25-inch wide table with a 65 lb. dumbbell in each hand. His best jump was with a pair of 75's - try that some time and you'll appreciate this feat a heck of a lot more.

Fyodor Bogdanovsky

The great soviet Fyodor Bogdanovsky graces the cover of the November, 6, 1957 issue of Health and Strength Magazine above. At the time of this publication, the 1957 World Weightlifting Championships were just about to commence in Tehran, Iran. The above shot is actually from the 1955 World Championships held in Munich, Germany where Bogdanovsky finished with the Silver medal behind the America, Pete George in the middle weight class. In Tehran, Bogdanovsky again finished second, this time behind Tommy Kono (it was an epic battle: both lifters finished with an identical 420 kg total with Kono ultimately taking the Gold on bodyweight.)

Nino The Carousel

The Italian strongman "Nino" figured out very early on that making a lift impressive went far beyond mere poundage, "what" was lifted was a big part of it too, and he had a flair for making his feats remarkable productions. Here's a perfect example: Nino as the fulcrum in a carousel consisting of two motor cars. This was the early 1900's so those cars had to weigh a few thousand pounds apiece, and to boot each was also filled with an additional four people. -- I'd certainly pay to see that.

Carl Hempe

Carl Hempe, of Easton, Pennsylvania, won the Medium class of the 1939 "America's Finest Physique" contest. A year later he competed (but did not place) in the 1940 AAU Mr. America contest. This led to a lifelong interest in physical training, here's Carl training in his back yard with a most excellent "log barbell."

Sig Klein's Gym (Exterior)

I've shown plenty of shots of the inside of Sig Klein's Gym but here's a rare shot of the exterior. Klein's Gym was located at 717 Seventh Avenue in New York City and was hard to miss with the huge picture of Sig out front. The building is still there, if you know where to look.

Pierre Gasnier: The French Hercules

Pierre Gasnier was the quintessential Oldtime Strongman: BIlled as the "French Hercules," He performed feats of strength for the Barnum and Bailey circus in the late 1890's: tearing decks of cards, bending horseshoes, breaking chains, and lifting his special "challenge weight" globe dumbbell shown here.

The dumbbell had a handle of 2" in diameter and weighs 236 French Livres (which equals 260 pounds) Gasnier weighed only 138 pounds at a height of 5'3" yet was able to lift the weight with ease, a feat that such other noted strongmen such as Sebastian Miller, Hans Beck, and Franz "Cyclops" Bienkowski could not duplicate.

Victory Goes Over The Bridge!

"Victory Goes Over The Bridge!" - That was a favorite saying of the great wrestler Karl Gotch and the above picture shows why. Mr. Gotch has just caught his opponent in his finishing move, "The German Suplex" which is both devastating and near unstoppable, and the only way you can add this move to your repertoire would be to learn to bridge properly: nose to mat.

And even if you don't have any interest in stepping in the right, a steady diet of bridge work is still a very good idea to build strength in the upper body and neck areas.

How to Use Bar Bells...

Here's an advertisement for "Professor Anthony Barker's Strength Maker" course featuring Warren Lincoln Travis, circa 1910. ...And does anyone else find it ironic that the headline touts the intelligent use of a barbell though the accompanying picture shows one of the least intelligent ways to do so?

Jacques Montane ~ Amateur Card Tearing Champion of France

Here's a fellow whose name and exploits seems to have slipped through the cracks of Iron History: Jacques Montane was the Amateur Card Tearing Champion of France in the early 1900's. His bests were 90 cards torn in half, 52 torn in quarters, 40 in eighths and 32 cards in sixteenths.

Hepburn The Handbalancer

A shot of a young Doug Hepburn performing what amounts to a "muscle out" with a friend performing a handstand on his outstretched arms. This picture was taken around 1950, then, and for a few years prior, Doug was a lifeguard at Vancouver's famous Kitsilano beach. Doug took take a weight set with him and trained right on the sand -- this was one of the most productive periods of his life.

Sergio Oliva ~ The Ultimate Physique

...But, regardless of their measurement, Sergio's arms are so big that they literally must be seen to be appreciated – and some people, upon first seeing them, are almost unable to believe their eyes; in a recent full-length picture of Sergio, the width of the flexed upper arms exceeded the height of Sergio's head – his arms were literally larger than his head, a size ratio never before approached by anybody else.

Is that, then the "ultimate physique?" For most people, it is far beyond the limits imposed by individual potential; but it is almost certain that somebody will eventually exceed even Sergio's present size and proportions. I recently measured the "cold" upper arm of a 19 year old boy in New York at 19 1/2 inches, and with continued training this boy can almost certainly exceed Sergio's measurements – but he is at least six inches taller than Sergio, so even with Sergio's measurements he would not have Sergio's almost unbelievable proportions, would not give the "impression of size" that Sergio does.

I am reasonably certain that Sergio could attain even more size with continued training – while maintaining or improving his present degree of muscularity (muscular definition), and if so, then his proportions would be almost unreal. But in the meantime, until he does get larger, or until somebody at least matches his present proportions, Sergio certainly does represent the "ultimate physique."

Arthur Jones,
Nautilus Bulletin #2

Robert B. Snyder

There have been more than a few great strongmen who are not giants. A perfect example is Robert B. Snyder of Hagerstown, Maryland. As a boy he was inspired by the strongman from the Forepaugh & Sells circus and began training by lifting barrels and stones. He also taught himself hand balancing - something which he would become exceptionally good at.

At the age of 14 (weighing 116 pounds) Snyder lifted his first barbell -- a MILO barbell owned by a local strongman. Shortly afterward, Snyder began following MILO barbell course #1 and showed tremendous improvement... so much so that he was featured in Bernarr MacFadden's Physical Culture Magazine as well as Alan Calvert's STRENGTH Magazine.

At his heaviest, Snyder weighed only 139 pounds yet was incredibly strong easily performing multiple one-arm chins with each hand as well as lifting poundages well above bodyweight. Above, Snyder performs the one-arm get up lift with a human weight.

Stone Lifting in Ancient Greece

Every ancient culture has evidence of stone lifting as a method of physical preparation. The Ancient Greeks, for example, often portrayed stone lifting and other athletic events on their pottery.

This image adorned a vase and dates to about 450BC and shows a young man lifting a smaller stone in either hand. It is said that this image shows the "weightlifting" event at the very first Olympic games, stones weighing as much as 300 lbs. were said to have been used in the contest.

Bruce White - Rafter Pinch Grip Chin Ups

It would be impressive to be able to hold your bodyweight off the ground by pinch gripping rafters but far beyond that is doing an actual pullup with that kind of grip. Here Australian Grip Master Bruce White does just that -- and this was just a warmup -- White could perform same with additional weight tied to his waist!

John Y. Smith

John Y. Smith was a great strongman in the New England area in the early 1900's. Among his many impressive feats were a right hand bent-press of 275-1/2 pounds (which broke Louis Cyr's mark) and a left hand bent-press of 248 pounds (Which stood as an American record for many years.) It was said that Smith's hands resembled "Iron Claws" due to his extensive training with Thick Bars.

Warren Lincoln Travis' Challenge

If you wanted to win the Richard K. Fox Heavyweight Strongman Champiionship Belt you had to beat Warren Lincoln Travis at his own game in a challenge match.

Here's the list of Travis' ten strength challenges:
1. 100 lb.barbell brought from the floor with both hands, pressed overhead with both hands, while seated(thirty seconds).

2. Pair of ninety pound weights brought from side of body to shoulders, then slowly pressing to arm's lengh over the head.

3. Teeth Lift from floor, hands behind back, 350 lbs.

4. 350 lbs. from floor with one finger, eight times in five seconds.

5. One finger lift from floor, 560 lbs. once.

6. Two-hand grip lift, straddling the weight from floor, 700 lbs. twenty times in ten seconds.

7. Hand and knee lift from floor, 1600 lbs. once.

8. Back lift, 3660 lbs. once.

9. Harness lift, 3580 lbs. once.

10. 2000 lb. back lift, 250 times, seven minutes.
(Did I mention all these lifts must be accomplished in 30 minutes or less if you want to win the belt?)

Roy Hilligenn - 1951 Mr. America

South African Roy Hilligenn, seen above on the cover of the September/October 1951 issue of Iron Man magazine was the AAU Mr. America that same year. Hilligen was a tremendous all-around "iron athlete" -- As a bodybuilder, he won the Mr. South Africa title in 1943, 1944, 1946 and 1976 as well as Mr. Northern California (1949), Mr. Pacific Coast (1949), and The World’s Most Muscular Man (1952). Hilligenn was the shortest man to ever win the AAU Mr. Anerica title (at 5'6").

As an Olympic lifter, Hilligenn was the first South African to Clean and Jerk double body weight.

His lifts in 1946 were Press: 245 pounds, Snatch: 255 Pounds and Clean & Jerk: 321 pounds. In the early 1950's, and weighing just 173 pounds, Hilligen unofficially equaled the world record in the Clean & Jerk with a lift of 375 pounds. He actually finished second in the 1951 National championships to Norbert Schemansky.

Hilligen eventually Clean & Jerked 405 at a slightly heavier body weight, which was an unofficial world record at the time. It was voted as one of the greatest "lifts" of all time. Hilligenn also "cleaned" a pair of 142-pound dumbbells (but did not press them) at Ed Yarick's Gym in Oakland, California in the 50's.

Interestingly, Roy Hilligenn was also a life-long vegetarian and claimed to have never eaten meat ever.

The Iron Cross

Much of the origins of strength training and physical culture come from gymnastics. The Iron Cross as performed on gymnastic rings, is one of the most impressive gymnastic feats. It takes a great deal of strength and plenty of skill to perform The Iron Cross properly.

The fellow above, Albert Azaryan was a Armenian gymnast who competed internationally for the Soviet Union. Azaryan is the 1956 and 1960 Olympic Champion on the still rings and the first ever gymnast to become an Olympic Champion in Rings twice. Azaryan actually originated a variation of the Iron Cross which was eventually named for him, which incorporates a very difficult quarter turn to the side, a simply mind boggling display of shoulder strength

1953 NABBA Mr. Universe Contest

It's common knowledge that Bill Pearl handily won the 1953 NABBA (National Amateur Body-Builders' Association) Mr. Universe contest but what most people don't realize is that also competing in the contest was a young fellow from Scotland by the name of Sean Connery -- yes THAT Sean Connery! James Bond himself is fourth from the left in the above picture in the white trunks. FYI, he did not place in the top five in the tall class.

Marvin Eder's Bench Press

Here's Marvin Eder bench pressing what looks like every plate in the gym -- 430 lbs. if you add 'em all up. This was back in 1952 and Eder was just 19 years of age at the time. Eder eventually went on to bench press 515 lbs.

Muscle Builder, April 1954

A look at the April, 1954 issue of Muscle Builder magazine with Jack Delinger on the cover. Notice that this was the "Giant He-Man issue." Delinger (who was once a skinny weakling) was only a few years away from winning the Mr. Universe title.

1913 Milo Bar-Bell Ad

Check out this ad for the Milo Bar-Bell Company from the December, 1913 issue of Physical Culture Magazine. Back then, strength training was not as popular or understood as it is today, hence advertisements like this one had to be informative as well as compelling. By the way, the demonstrater in the ad is well-known strongman and strength author Ottley Coulter.
A Bar-Bell is simply a long-handled dumbbell; it can be used for either lifting or developing exercises. In the above picture, the athlete is "up-ending" a Bar-Bell, while at his feet lie a Dumb-bell and Kettle-bells.

WHY IS IT that a man who has been trained with heavy bells can perform feats of strength beyond the combined power of two or three ordinary men? Not alone, because his arms are twice as strong--because his back, hips and legs are FOUR OR FIVE TIMES AS STRONG as the average athlete's.

There is only one was to develop this phenomenal back and leg strength: and that is, by the use of a Bar-Bell. You cannot do it by practicing one-arm lifts with a short Dumbbell; you cannot do it by going through the old 5-lb. Dumbbell drill with a pair of 25 or 30-lb. Dumbbells: nor can you do it with a pair of Kettle-bells. Kettle-bells are primarily arm and deltoid developers.

In a combination outfit, the Dumbbell and the Kettle-Bell are subsidiary parts--the Bar-Bell is the great developing instrument. It is because they use Bar-Bells that OUR pupils can develop 45" chests. 16" biceps, 24" thighs, etc.

The back and leg muscles are infinitely bigger, stronger and more important that the arm muscles. After training thousands of cases, it is our conviction that the average man needs a Bar-Bell which can be adjusted up to 100 lbs. if he wants proper ALL-ROUND development.

We will be glad to assist and advise anyone in the selection of a combination bell of proper weight.
We believe we have the greatest course of training in the world--the BEST system. We have described it in some of our recent advertisements; but we want to say here that no system--however perfect--will suit any and everyone. If YOU buy and outfit and enroll as a pupil with use, we have to adopt our system to your PARTICULAR INDIVIDUAL needs.

We can tell you a lot of interesting and instructive facts about body building and strength making; and we can also give you information about the finest line of adjustable combination bells in the world.

Write for our booklets.
1011 Chestnut Street

Ray Van Cleef

Many Iron Game fans will recall the name Ray Van Cleef from the pages of Strength and Health magazine. He was an Associate Editor and his column "Strong Men The World Over" appeared for many years. Before all that though, Van Cleef was a great strongman in his own right. Here's a rare shot that most people haven't seen before of Van Cleef performing a heavy one-arm snatch of a wagon wheel axle.

The article where this came from was authored by Van Cleef and the inclusion of this picture was to illustrate how one might be able to still train, or otherwise perform novel feats, without having a barbell on hand -- a notion that we are definitely on board with.

It's probably also worth a mention that Ray was a vegetarian.

Josef Grafl

Josef Grafl, the great strongman from Vienna, Austria, was the man to beat in the weightlifting world in the early 20th century... He won championships in 1908, 1909, twice in 1910, 1911 and his last in 1913.

As you might guess by the image above, Grafl possessed immense pressing power. In Vienna, circa 1912, Grafl pressed 220.5 lbs for 18 repetitions. This was not "military" style but even more strict: with his heels together. It was later estimated by strength historian David P. Willoughby that this was equivalent to a maximum single of 344 lbs.

Hans Kavan: The Austrian Hercules

In March of 1925, Hans Kavan "The Austrian Hercules" noted wrestler and sometimes strongman performed this "human link" feat to win a wager. Kavan was thankfully not torn asunder with two horses on each arm, pulling in opposite directions. Kavan had a brother named Franz who was also a decent wrestler. (That's right, Hans and Franz from Austria was a real thing!)

Light Indian Club Swinging

Swinging the light clubs is a training methods that has been practiced for thousands of years in other cultures but has only been going on in the U.S. relatively recently. Traditionally this method has been used to build upper body strength and promote shoulder stability -- and they work just as well today for the very same reasons. This sequence is from The Encyclopedia of Indian Physical Culture.

The Medart Upper-Body Conditioner

The Fred Medart Manufacturing Company of St. Louis, Missouri, prodused a number of interesting pieces of training equipment. Something that was ahead of its time was this upper-body conditioner, which was originally manufactured around 1920, which strongly resembles the modern upper-body ergometers that you might find today in many gyms.

Oscar Marineau

Oscar Marineau, the great Canadian Strongman is shown here with a unique exhibition feat: that's 850 pounds supported on his back which he took out for a stroll. The two engines weighed 346 pounds each and his son weighed over 150 pounds. In order to get the weights in position in the first place, Marineau had to perform a partial squat. Marineau weighed only 142 pounds himself.

The Vindobona Athletic Club

A look a the Vindobona Athletic club (Vienna) and some of their excellent training equipment, circa 1900. Their most famous member, the great strongman and wrestler Stanislaus Zbyszko, sits front and center.

The Mighty Atom's Performances

We actually know several individuals who saw The Mighty Atom perform back in the day. Here's a few bits of memorabilia from when you could still catch his live show.

The Collins Dynamometer

Many of the oldtime strongmen and physical culture pioneers were big on measurement (or Anthropometry, as it was known) for the sake of better understanding their training techniques as well as measuring their improvement over time. The Collins Dynamometer shown here was used for measuring grip strength.

Robert Conrad

The TV actor Robert Conrad, who was best known as Tom Lopaka in "Hawaiian Eye" in the early 1960's, and Jim West in The Wild Wild West" in the mid and late 1960's, was also avidly into weightlifting, physical fitness, and as evident by this shot, rope climbing.

This was long before strength training was en vogue in Hollywood or elsewhere although he did it more for his roles since he also did all his own stunts. Conrad even graced the cover of the October, 1962 issue of Strength and Health Magazine.

Alan Calvert

A very rare picture of Milo Barbell Company founder and noted strength author Alan Calvert. Calvert established the Milo Barbell company in 1902, one of the very first training publications "Strength" Magazine in 1914, wrote several training books and courses and helped pave the way for thousands of trainees to develop size and strength.

Gotta love those classic 'bells!

Barrel Lifting at "The Pit"

No matter how you slice it, barrel lifting is a great workout, as shown on this classic cover of Hardgainer Magazine (issue #30, May-June 1994 ). In this shot, Bob Farris from Dick Conner's place "The Pit" Barbell Club in Evansville, Indiana presses a 150-pound water-filled barrel for 13 reps. If you've ever trained with barrels, you know this is STRONG!

Tullus Wright: The American Sampson

Tullus Wright, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, traveled the country in the late 1800's, performing in fairs and carnivals as "The American Sampson." Here's a look at a few of his great stage weights. Note the thick handles on Wright's equipment. He was good friends with George Zottman.

Paul Von Boeckmann: Chest Expansion Specialist

Paul Von Boeckmann was a strongman from New York City toward the end of the 19th century. Over time, he developed a unique system of chest expansion methods which allowed him to build "the largest and most powerful lungs in the world" according to his advertisements.

Above, the strap around his chest is the same length in both pictures. He was able to inflate and deflate his chest to an incredible degree: an 11-1/2 inch difference. His lung capacity was listed at an astounding 410 cubic inches.

The 1946 U.S. World Weightlifting Team

A look at most of the 1946 U.S. World Weightlifting Team left to right: John Davis, Emerick Ishikawa, Frank Spellman, John Terpak, Stan Stanczyk, and coach Bob Hoffman. (not pictured: Frank Kay)

This was the first team to lift against the Russians. Davis and Stanczyk both won Gold, Terpak and Kay took Silver and Spellman took Bronze. The Russians entered ten lifters to only six from the US but the US came back with the team championship.

Reg Park in a Suit...

Three-time Mr. Universe Reg Park in a suit... still looking as big as life.

Jack LaLanne

Jack LaLanne once did 1033 pushups in one hour, swam from Alcatraz Island to Fisherman's Wharf while handcuffed and towing a fleet of boats, and starred in the longest running fitness show in the history of television. Here's Jack as a young man working on his one-arm chins.

Baillargeon's Backlift

Here's a rare shot of Adrian Baillargeon (of the great Baillargeon Brothers) performing a backlift of well over 3000 pounds.

The Hip Lift

One of the most interesting training techniques of the Oldtime Strongmen is to use short-range movements with very heavy weights. This not only gives a super workout for the muscles, but strengthens the tendons, ligaments and bones and also gives the psychological boost of being able to lift far above what you would normally be able to.

Here's John Grimek, training his legs by performing a Hip Lift with what looks like 600 lbs. or so. To find out more about how Grimek trained, you'll want to pick up a copy of the Mark Berry Bar Bell Courses (which features this famous picture on the cover).

Archie Vanderpool in Action

Here, the mysterious Archie Vanderpool performs a pretty unusual feat of supporting strength... With his back against a stone wall, Archie braced his legs against a car driven at full throttle for 52 seconds. -- The tires were worn to ribbons!

John Y. Smith and His Unique Barbell

Gotta love some of the unique and usual weights that many of the strongmen found to lift. Here's a rare shot of the great Oldtime strongman John Y. Smith as he shoulders an unusual barbell, in his later years.

Smith was a very good bent-presser (with a lift of 275 lbs. at a bodyweight of just 160 lbs.) so that is probably what he is getting ready to do.

Power Vol.1 No.1

POWER magazine, was noted bodybuilder Barton Horvath's foray into magazine publishing. Above is Volume 1, Number 1 featuring Ray Moldonado on the cover -- (it was one only issue ever put out.)

Syd Strachan Lifts The Dinnie Stones

Syd Strachan, of Aberdeenshire, is among the few strength athletes to successfully lift The Dinnie Stones. Syd was six feet tall and weighed just under 200 lbs. when he lifted the stones which weighed just over 700 pounds combined. Syd actually successfully lifted the stones on two different occasions, once in 1971, and later in 1973

Traditional Indian Club Training

The swinging of "jori and gada" (heavy Indian clubs and maces) holds a special place in the ancient art of Kushti - (Traditional Indian Wrestling and Physical Culture Training.)

In the akharas (wrestling gyms) these traditional implements are decorated in many unique ways. Some are painted with lively decorative patterns, others, used only by the most skilled masters, are studded with nails. Some of these decorative Indian clubs weigh as much as 35kg (about pounds.)

Milo of Crotona

Milo of Crotona, who lived during the 6th century B.C., was the greatest of the ancient Greek Athletes.

He was a six-time wrestling Champion in the ancient Olympic Games and his strength was legendary.

Milo built his strength with an unusual method: Each day he would carry a new-born calf and, as the calf grew larger, so did Milo's strength.

Eventually Milo was able to carry a full-grown bull the length The stamp above features Milo holding apart a split tree and was created in honor of the 1924 Olympic Games, held in Paris, France (where Charles Rigoulot won the heavyweight-class gold medal.)

Charles Rigoulot

Charles Rigoulot was one of France's greatest weightlifters and easily one of the strongest men of all time. He won a Gold medal at the 1924 Olympic Games, Cleaned and Jerked the famous Apollon Wheels and could snatch 255 pounds with one arm. After his weightlifting career, Rigoulot became a professional wrestler and race car driver.

At 24 years of age, his measurements were as follows:

Weight: 230 pounds
Height: 5'7-3/4"
Chest: 49"
Waist: 37"
Thighs: 27-1/2"
Calf: 17-1/2"
Neck: 18-1/2"
Biceps: 17-1/2"
Forearm: 14-1/2"

Milo Kettlebells

While kettlebells do certainly have a history in Russia and many other Eastern European countries, what many people don't realize is that kettlebells also have a long tradition in the United States as well.

Back in 1902, Alan Calvert founded the Milo Barbell Company -- the very first commercial strength equipment company in America. Along with barbells and dumbbells, Calvert also manufactured kettlebells, one version of which is shown on the right.

The Milo Kettlebell consisted of an outer "shell," with the inner plates sectioned to allow for easy progression. The lathed free-rotating wood handle made the kettlebell especially useful for presses and kettlebell swings as evident by the instruction shown in Milo Barbell training courses which Calvert distributed to his clients.

371 Pounds Overhead with One Hand!

Arthur Saxon has a legitimate claim for the greatest strength feat of all time with his bent-press of 371 pounds (he was said to have unofficially done 385 pounds.) Either way, it's a tremendous feat, to lift more weight overhead with one hand than most people can squat with!

Here's a little bit from the man himself on how he did it:
"I have often been asked what it feels like to press 350 lbs. with one hand, and perhaps to my readers the different sensations experienced will be interesting.

In the first place, immediately I start to press the weight away from the shoulder I become perfectly oblivious to everything except the weight that I am lifting.

The spectators are obliterated from my mind by the effort of intense concentration which is necessary to enable me to press the weight. I immediately engage myself in a terrific struggle in which the weight and I are competitor, and only one can win, either the weight must be lifted or else I fail.

This concentration is, of course, one of the secrets of success in lifting, as I have explained in another part of my book. It enables me to bring forward the last ounce of pushing power, and for the time being to exert strength beyond that normally possessed.

As the weight steadily rises aloft perhaps half way it wavers, the balance alters, and I have immediately, yet very carefully and quietly, to adjust my position to the altered balance of the bell.

Then I must proceed with the press, my body gradually falling lower toward the left knee, my eyes fixed all the time upon the ponderous weight balanced over my head, ready to fall at a moment's notice should I weaken or place myself in a false position, and should at this moment anyone shout out, it might startle me, make me waver, and cause the weight to fall.

Therefore, if I am attempting a world's record in this position, I generally ask for complete silence until I have either failed or succeeded, and I might mention here that to think of failure is to fail, and I always tell myself all the time that I am certain to succeed even though I am attempting a weight more than I have hitherto lifted.

Eventually, my arm is straight, and before coming to an upright position I engage in another tussle with the enormous barbell, in which I have to exert all my will power to hold together the flagging powers of tired muscles, which have been strained by the tremendous pressure which 350 lbs. brings on to them in the effort of pressing aloft.

By supreme effort of the will I fix the bell in a good position and then stand upright. Often the bar will roll on to the fingers instead of being directly over the wrist, in which case severe pain is inflicted and I have to persevere with the lift under doubly hard conditions, or drop the weight and try again."
For more information about Arthur Saxon and his training methods, pick up copies of his two great training books: The Development of Physical Power (1906) and The Textbook of Weight-Lifting (1910)

Stone Lifting in Tibet

Every culture has it's own "meaning" for strength. Here are a few interesting pictures from a stone lifting contest held at the 7th National Ethnic Games in Yinchuan, Northwest China's Ningxia Province which took place in 2003.

At the games, which are held every four years like the Olympics, over 3,700 ethnic athletes from 34 delegations competed.

The rules of the stone lifting contest are a bit unlike most stone lifting contests you probably have ever heard of... these Tibetan giants lift the stones any way they can, usually to hold in their arms, placed on shoulders or put up on their backs.

From there, they walk along in a circular path and the one who walks the most circles wins.

The stone pictured was said to weigh 160 kg (352 lbs.).

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

Among the many strength athletes who have trained with kettlebells is the very first Mr. America Bert Goodrich. In the article which accompanied this photograph, Goodrich mentioned that each of these 'bells weighed 56 pounds, and he used them primarily for shoulder work.

Grimek Training With The Automatic Exerciser

John Grimek loved to train with just about everything. Here's the man getting in a quick set of deadlifts with one of Professor Schmidt's Automatic Exerciser machines from way, way, way back in the day. Schmidt machines were a pretty nifty idea even back then, someone should see about bringing them back...
Tags: John Grimek

The Half-Moon Bench

To the oldtime bodybuilders and strength athletes "Chest Development" used to mean stretching and enlarging the rib cage, not working the pecs (which is what it has become today.) The theory behind this was simple, the deep breathing from intense leg work (i.e. squats combined with light pullovers did so very effectively. Enlarging the rib box meant wider shoulders and a much greater potential for upper-body growth.

To make the technique more effective, a half-moon bench was often used. These unusual pieces of equipment used to be commonplace in many gyms although you're more likely to win the lottery than find one these days.

To find out more about leg work, pullovers and chest expansion techniques, you'll want to check out: Super Squats by Randall J. Strossen, The Complete Keys to Progress by John McCallum and The New Bodybuilding for Oldschool Results by Ellington Darden.

Archie Vanderpool

If you want to practice heavy partial deadlifts or hand-and-thigh lifts, you'll want a setup like Archie Vanderpool here. The strongman (and proud member of the York Barbell Club) from Woodbine, Iowa, specialized on a number of unusual -- and very heavy -- lifts. For example, his record in the lift shown was 1840 pounds. He also liked to do things like shouldering a 1100 pound railroad rail and then going for a walk.

He also reported carrying a barbell loaded to 400 pounds for a distance of 80 feet. If this looks and sounds familiar, it's because Archie was good friends with Steve Justa's father.

"Ya Gotta Use Your Head!"

Steve Jeck is fond of saying that "if you want to be a great stone lifter then ya gotta use your head." Here, he shows what he means -- at least in one sense. I don't know the weight of that particular stone but it sure doesn't look light.
Tags: Steve Jeck

Val De Genaro

The York Lifters all used to practice the bent press because the lift built incredible core strength. This, in turn, helped in increasing the Olympic Lifting total. One of the most talented of the bent pressers was Val De Genaro who could lift 215 pounds. Bob Hoffman said that De Genaro had the most perfect bent press technique that he had ever seen. Perhaps due in great part to his bent pressing ability, as a 148 pound lifter, De Genaro could Jerk 290 pounds.

He was also an excellent hand balancer who could walk the length of a football field on his hands.

Classic Polish Globe Weights

Great equipment practically begs to be used and I would say that would definitely be the case here. These classic Globe Barbells, Dumbbells, Kettlebells and Blockweights from a century ago can be found in a Polish Museum.

Unknown Indian Club Swinger

We unfortunately don't know much about this club swingin' gent but this picture was probably taken in the late 1800's. He does have some snappy duds and an excellent mustache though.

Renald and Rudy

"Renald and Rudy" were one of the premier handbalancing acts of the vaudeville age. For almost three decades, they traveled all over the country and later appeared on several television shows performing their incredible handbalancing skills. Here they are showing off a bit at the original Muscle Beach in Santa Monica, CA in the early 1950's.

The Reg Park Muscle Builder

The Reg Park Muscle Builder! You got a 10-strand cable outfit ... a wall pulley attachment ... a headstrap ... foot stirrups ... two hand grips ... a mighty chest exercises ... a rowing machine ... and some free courses which gave instructions on how to uses it all. All in all, a pretty sweet deal. Who knows how many youngsters got started on the road to health and strength with this setup? Quite a few, I bet.

Sandow's Health & Strength Cocoa

These days, a lot of folks recommend a big glass of chocolate milk as the best post-workout drink for muscle growth. Perhaps ol' Sandow was on to something a hundred years ago when he came out with his own Health and Strength Cocoa.

Barus' Spike

Here's a spike bent into a loop by the great strongman Milo Barus. Is there anyone today who could do this?

Josef Strassberger

As a super-heavyweight, the great German Weightlifter Josef Strassberger won the Gold Medal at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympc Games. He came back four years later to beat his winning total although by the 1932 Los Angeles Games it was only good enough for Bronze. Strassberger set six World Records during his career including his best press of 300 pounds which he accomplished in 1935.

Paul Trappen

The German strongman and weightlifter Paul Trappen's name isn't mentioned very often but it certainly should be. At the 1913 German weightlifting Championships, Trappen defeated both Karl Moerke and Hermann Goerner to win the heavyweight title. Some of Trappen's best lifts were a 320 pound Clean and Jerk, 215 pounds in the one hand clean and jerk and 183 pounds in the one arm press.

All impressive marks but the lift which he should be remembered best for is his harness lift of a pair of oxen totaling 5225 pounds - that would make his performance the greatest ever recorded in that particular lift.

Trappen also performed for the Barnum and Bailey Circus and did some wrestling in addition to feats of strength.
Tags: Paul Trappen

Albert Maes' Strong Neck

Albert Maes, Belgian weightlifter and strongman shows his stuff with this VERY impressive feat: a combionation of handbalancing and platform lifting. Considering that's got to be close to half a ton, being supported, that's a pretty strong neck.

Paul Anderson's Bench Press Machine

Paul Anderson was ahead of his time in several branches of training. Case in point: in order to specialize on the bench press, he devised this unique machine. Note the many levels of adjustability and the fact that it did not require a spotter, all excellent "reasons" for the machine to exist in the first place.

Kimon Voyages: Strength and Health Magazine June, 1945

Kimon Voyages on the cover if the June, 1945 issue of Strength and Health Magazine. Kimon once squatted 200 pounds for 100 reps straight - and it certainly shows here. He had won the Jr. Mr. America title just a few years before, in 1942.

Alyce Yarick's Squatting Feat

Here's a strength feat you probably didn't know about: Alyce Yarick, wife of Ed Yarick (of Yarick's Gym fame) once performed 105 consecutive squats with 115 pounds -- not many people can do that! This feat occured at one of her husband's variety shows.

You Can Bench Press 400 lbs. by "Big" Bill Anton

Readers of the classic Iron Man Magazine will no doubt remember this ad, it ran there for years. After years of searching, we finally located a copy of "Big" Bill's bench press course and most likely post it in The Iron League. The 13th man in the world to bench press over 400 pounds can't be wrong!

Breitbart's Muscle Builder

In addition to his training courses and strength performances, Siegmund Breitbart also created some of his own training equipment. To work on his steel scrolling he devised this "muscle builder" apparatus, a series of flexible pieces of steel with a handle on either end. This setup allowed for a number of unique training movements similar to traditional steel bending as well as the ability to adjust resistance by adding or subtracting bands.

Mike Dayton Holds Back a Hot Rod

"Think of the outcome you want and
firmly believe in your ability to achieve it."
Strongman/Bodybuilder Mike Dayton holds back a Hot Rod for the "That's Incredible!" TV show. He could also break a regulation pair of handcuffs, broke baseball bats over his leg, bent coins and performed The Hangman's Drop. Dayton was big on the power of the mind and attributed this training to his ability to perform all of these amazing feats. He even put out a course on the subject back in the 1970's entitled "Chi Mind Control" (which is all but impossible to find.)

Wrestling for Boxers

How do you train when you want to be in the meanest possible shape? The answer is invariably "Like a wrestler" which is exactly what boxing champ Jim Jeffries used to do in his training camps. There's nothing better for buiding strength of mind AND strength of body. Jeffries' wrestling coach? None other than Farmer Burns.

1941 AAU Mr. America Results

Final Placing:

1. John Grimek
2. Jules Bacon
3. Frank Leight
4. Elwood Holbrook
5. Ludwig Schusterich
6. Terry Robinson
- Paul Como
- Johnny Davis
- Roland Essmaker
- Melvin Kahn
- Constantine Kosiras
- Tommy O'Hare
- Joseph Peters
- Steve Stern
- Kimon Voyages
- Elmer Witmer
- Harold Woomer

Most Muscular:
Ludwig Schusterich

Best Chest:
Frank Leight

Best Back:
Johnny Davis

Best Abdominals:
Melvin Kahn

Best Arms:
Elwood Holbrook

The 1941 AAU Mr. America contest is notable since it was the second time it was won by John Grimek - the first and last time any man won it twice. The next year they changed the rule so that someone could only win it once -- figuring (probably rightly so) that Grimek would keep winning the contest indefinitely.

The contest was held at the Arena Sports Palace in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 24, 1941 in conjunction with the AAU Senior National Weight Lifting Championship (which several of the Mr. America competitors also competed in as well.)

Above: John Grimek on the cover of the August, 1941 issue of Strength and Health.

Paramount Barbells

York was always the standard as far as quality Olympic barbell sets... but Muscletown was a long way for some folks to travel. Out on the West coast, a lot of people got their start with Paramount barbells and plates.

Levering The Gama Club

To my knowledge, I am the only man in the world to accomplish this feat: a picture perfect to-the-nose-and-back lever of the Gama Club. The "Gama Club" is a modern representation of the trophy from traditional Indian wrestling called a Gurz, which can be seen here. No idea about the original, but the 'Gama Club' pictured above weighs 32 pounds with a 1-1/2 inch thick handle.

It's a little shorter than a regulation sledge hammer but a lot heavier. Like I said, a lot of strong people have attempted to do this but no one so far has been able to... I think the Hammer Man would be proud.

The Mighty Atom's Shoes

... Speaking of shoes, here's a pair which used to belong to The Mighty Atom. These currently reside in Slim the Hammerman's Dungeon Gym. -- If you're lucky and know a few people who know a few people you may actually get to see them in person someday... Otherwise, if you show up uninvited at the Hammerman's place you can expect a size-16 boot print on your forehead.

The 12th Man to lift "The Water Barrel" at Zuver's Hall of Fame Gym

It was on July 1st, 1968 that Dr. Ken Leisner became the 12th man to lift the Zuver's Gym "challenge" water barrel overhead. Nobody knows exactly how much the barrel weighed but it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 200-250 lbs. And, if you have done any barrel lifting, you know that it's a whole different deal than a barbell. If you ever get to talk to Dr. Ken, get him to tell you the story on how this came about.

Henry Wittenberg

New Jersey born Henry Wittenberg, who passed away in 2010 at the age of 91, 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. Hi coaches eventually gave in and allowed him to keep lifting weights so as long as he didn't let it be known.

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

The Nautilus Compound Leg Machine

The 'point' of any tool is to give yourself an advantage that could not otherwise be had... in this case, a machine which will allow a for the performance of a very specialized (and VERY effective) training technique: pre-exhaust.

The Nautilus compound Leg Machine combined a leg extension with a leg press, allowing a trainee to move from one exercise to the next in the quickest possible time -- and creating one of the most intense leg workouts ever devised.

Mighty Joe Young vs. 10 Strongmen

The 1949 film 'Mighty Joe Young' features a number of familiar faces. In a memorable scene, Mr. Joseph Young of Africa plays tug of war with 10 strongmen in a nightclub. The strongmen in question are played by Mac Batchelor and Primo Carnera and famous wrestlers 'Killer' Karl Davis, William 'Wee Willie' Davis, Henry Kulky, "Slammin" Sammy Menacker, Man Mountain Dean, Ivan Rasputin, Sammy Stein and 'The Swedish Angel' Phil Olafsson. (The strongmen never had a chance, Mighty Joe easily prevails, pulling them one by one into a pool of water.)

Charles Rigoulot's One-Arm Snatch

The great French Strongman Charles Rigoulot snatches 242 pounds with one arm in old, Old, OLD Vienna, circa 1929. Note the continued use of globed barbells and dumbbells long after they went out of style.

Just a few years earlier at the 1924 Olympic Games, the athletes still had a choice of either using a solid, revolving, plate-loaded barbell like you would see these days, or the archaic shot-loaded globe barbells of year's past. All the members of the French weightlifting team, including Rigoulot, chose to lift with the oldtime globe barbells instead of the modern plate-loaded ones... Interestingly, Rigoulot won the gold medal in the light-heavyweight class while his teammate Edmond Decottignies also took home the gold in the light-weight Class.

John Y. Smith

John Y. Smith, shown above bent pressing a 185 lb. dumbbell, was another great strongman who was small in stature but large in strength. He was 5'7" and weighed around 165 lbs. in his prime yet could perform feats such as a right hand one-arm deadlift of 450 pounds (435 lbs. with the left), a hand and thigh lift of 1640 pounds and a press with a pair of dumbbells totaling 225 pounds. Smith was also a lifelong lifter, and quite impressively won the New England's Strongest Man Contest at 60 years of age.

Russian Olympic Set

One of the interesting things that you would find in the old strength magazines was Olympic sets from some of the different countries - and they did a fine job. pictured here is a famous Russian Olympic set brought in by Leo Stern for use in his gym. Oh yeah, that's also Pat Casey 'unofficially' bench pressing 525 pounds.

German Weightlifter

Berg-Hantell barbells and plates were the inspiration for all modern Olympic sets. Here's one in use by the German lifter A. Wiedmer who shows how it's done in winning this early weightlifting contest sometime in the 1920's.

Strength From The Highlands: Scottish Hammer Throwing

The Scottish Hammer is an event in traditional Highland Games Heavy Athletics. The 'Hammer' itself is a length of rattan or wood with a weighted spherical head. There are actually two different types of Scottish Hammer records kept: heavy and light. For Men, the heavy hammer weighs 22 pounds and the light hammer weighs in at 16 pounds.) For Women, the heavy hammer is 16 pounds and the light hammer is 12 pounds.

The Hammer is wound around the body and thrown from a standing position. An interesting modern development is that athletes now wear boots with long spikes in them to anchor themselves to the ground which allows them to generate more force.

The current World records are as follows:

Men's Heavy Hammer: Daniel McKim: 132' 2.75"
Men's Light Hammer: Daniel McKim: 157' 7.25"

Women's Heavy Hammer: Valerie Adams 99' 1"
Women's Light Hammer: Shannon Hartnett 120' 1"

Strength From The Highlands: Caber Tossing

Caber tossing is one of the most famous events at the Scottish Highland Games. A caber is a log, usually made of pine or larch, which the competitor stands upright and then hoists end over end. Scoring is not based on height or distance thrown but how closely their throws approximate the ideal 12 o'clock toss on an imaginary clock. If successful, the athlete is said to have "turned" the caber.

If no one can 'turn' a particular caber, it can be cut down a bit to give a better opportunity to so but a caber that has been successfully turned remains intact from that point forward. Since cabers are made from natural wood, each one differs in length, weight, taper, and balance.

The Mighty Atom's Nail Driving

Another classic shot of The Mighty Atom driving a nail through a wooden board and a few pieces of sheet metal with nothing more than his bare hand - a feat he did until well into his 70's.

Goerner's Barrel Lifting Support Lift

As we have been covering, heavy support lifts were a stable of many oldtime strongmen, and in all likelihood helped contribute a lot more to their great strength than most people realize... Here's a look at Hermann Gorner, carrying four men on a unique "barrel barbell"a total weight of over 1000 pounds. This feat was performed during Goerner's 1935 tour of South Africa.

Slim "The Hammer Man" Farman

In the year 1975, Slim "The Hammer Man" Farman stood alone before the crowd of 21,000 screaming fans at Madison Square Garden.

Just a few moments later he would attempt a world record: to lever a pair of twenty eight pound hammers -- 56 pounds on 31 inch handles, with 1736-inch pounds of pressure on his wrists.

For a second, Slim's mind flashed back to his job for the previous three decades -- swinging a 16 pound sledge hammer for 9 hours a day, breaking tons of stone.

He thought of the day back in 1955 when he met his mentor The Mighty Atom, who taught him how to break chains, and bend steel as well as how to focus all his energy for one intense moment...

Slim Farman moved toward his hammers, a hush fell over the crowd... and Slim stepped into the record books.

Galen Gough - "The World's Miracle Strongman"

Billed as "The World's Miracle Strongman," Galen Gough from Howard''s Grove, Kentucky certainly lived up to his title. Gough was injured while serving in World War I, but built himself back to health and strength through physical training methods. His results were so dramatic that a career as a performing strongman soon followed.

Gough performed feats of strength in carnivals, fairs and vaudeville houses all over the country. In addition to "traditional" strongman feats such as The Human Link, Nail Driving, and bar bending, Gough came up with many of his own including dangling from a rope tied to an airplane by his teeth, with a 50 pound weight in each hand, biting keys in half, and juggling a 300-pound anvil!

One of his many adventures was to perform feats of strength as publicity stunts for the Louisville, Kentucky- based Oertel Brewing Company which is the origin of the 'Barrel' barbell pictured above.
Tags: Galen Gough

The Spalding Grip Machine

What is lost upon many people is that "machines" have as much of a history with strength training as barbells and dumbbells do. Shown here is an interesting piece, The Spalding Grip Machine, circa 1914. This looks like a very well designed machine, one that would be just as effective (and important) nearly a century later.

Early Bodybuilder Bobby Pandour

Bobby Pandour was an early physique superstar and Vaudeville performer during the 1900's. Surprisingly, Pandour never trained with heavy weights but built his incredible physique with gymnastics, muscle control work, hand balancing and high-rep training with a pair of 10-pound dumbbells.

At his peak, Pandour weighed only 160 pounds at a height of 5'6". It was reported that he had a 42-inch chest, 23-inch thighs and 17-inch arms. As you can see, his development is quite impressive even a century later.

Frank Gotch's Step Over Toe Hold

Frank Gotch's step over toe hold was the most feared submission move probably of all time. It could be applied quickly and efficently from almost any angle and few people knew how to defend it -- his opponents never knew what him 'em.

He used it to dispatch the likes of George Hackenschmidt, Benjamin Roller and Stanislaus Zbyszko.

Gotch, as masterfully trained by Farmer Burns, had two main weapons: a precise execution of his moves and holds, and an almost superhuman level of conditioning -- and it should also be noted that neither of which require innate talent.

Keg Training With Kevin Tolbert

Here's Kevin Tolbert having a little "fun" with a loaded keg, outside Dr. Ken's place, sometime in the 1980's. Kevin is now the head Strength and Conditioning coach for The University of Michigan Wolverines football team -- clearly they are in good hands.

Russian Kettlebell Lifting Contest, 1965

Here's something you don't see every day, an actual Russian Kettlebell contest. This one was held in Moscow, circa 1965. In these types of contests the object is to get the kettlebell (or bells, when a pair is used - look closely, there's a pair on the platform here.) overhead as many times as possible in a 10:00 time period. Usually the one-arm snatch or two arm jerk is contested and, as you can see there is certainly no lack of willing participants.

Ironmind Silver Crush Grippers

Many, many years ago, when Ironmind first started producing hand grippers, they were known as "Silver Crush" grippers and I'm sure you can see why -- chromed springs and brilliant silver handles. These grippers did not have the numbers engraved into the bottom of the handles, nor the distinctive band, and there were only three strengths available: #1, #2, and #3.

Iron Palm Training

Another interesting martal art training method is to build up hand strength and conditioning by driving them into sand... then rice... then gravel... then iron shot. As the size and density of the striking material increases, the hands follow suit. Keep in mind that this is simply another form of progression, the principle behind all successful physical training.

Unknown Strongman #7

There are a lot of well-known "names" throughout strength history. Just spend a few minutes on this site and you'll get a good idea of most of them. But there are also hundreds, if not thousands of strongmen out there whose names and feats have been lost to the sands of time.

Take this gentleman, for example: All we know is that he was active in the Holyoke, Massachusetts area at the turn of the century... and he had good taste in equipment. That's a fine looking dumbbell by his feet. Only time will tell if we ever learn anything more about him.

Yousef Housane

Yousef Housane was a great early wrestler and one of Earle E. Liederman's top students. Housane was well-known for his incredible Bicep Development which was quite impressive, especially considering the time period (he could use some work on his forearms though).

Marian Zieliński

Marian Zieliński, the Polish weightlifter who took part in four Olympic games, is shown here in mid-press. Zieliński was the first Polish athlete to win an Olympic weightlifting medal when he took Bronze as a featherweight at the 1956 Games in Melbourne, Australia. At the 1960 Games in Rome he tried moving up to the lightweight class and finished fourth.

As a lightweight, he won two more Bronze medals, in Tokyo, 1964 and Mexico City, in 1968. Zieliński was also a three-time European champion and seven-time Polish Champion.

Bill Pearl Strongman Bodybuilder

Bill Pearl is one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time, having won many different bodybuilding titles over his colorful career.

Something you may not realize though is that Bill also began performing traditional feats of strength such as license plate ripping (pictured), chain breaking, spike bending, card tearing and even Nail Driving because he "felt that he should BE as strong as he looked." I don't think we'll see his ilk again any time soon.

Muscle Control - "The Rope"

The art of muscle control is about training voluntary control of involuntary muscles. Here, the great muscle control master Otto Arco demonstrates one of the most difficult and impressive muscle control feats: "The Rope."

You'll notice the abdominal muscles are tensed while holding an abdominal vacuum, a very striking effect. This feat is much more difficult (and much more impressive) with the arms overhead like this, indicating that Otto Arco was truly in a class by himself.

Thomas Inch and Hints on The Art of Expander Pulling

It took me four years but I finally tracked down a copy of the rare course "The Art of Expander Pulling" by Thomas INch -- and it was worth the wait. There's no date on it but I would guess it was printed in the 1920's and as far as rare training courses, this one is simply impossible to find.

Thomas Inch, who is probably most famous for his incredible grip strength and his "unliftable" dumbbell was actually a very well rounded strongmen who excelled in many different types of feats - and some of his favorites were with chest expanders.

In his strongman act he used to do a standard press out with a 56 lb. kettlebell hanging on each thumb, and the expander generally had 30 strands on it.

Not bad at all...

Here's a few hints from the master:
"The first thing to do is to make sure your expander is of the detachable kind."

"The Secret to great strength is gradual progression, and as there is no doubt whatever that a large majority of physical culturists only use expanders so that they may become stronger than their fellows, it behoves them to practice themselves in a position to practice on the right lines and this means using handles which will take several strands."

"When starting out, enter the number of strands you find comfortable and easy to exercise with, going right through your movements without a pause, if possible, thus developing endurance as well as mere muscle."

"Start with, say, only five or six repetitions each hand of each exercise, and gradually work up to ten each hand. Keep at ten for a week or two, then return to five or six repetitions, and add another strand."

"The weight lifter will be advised to use a strong pull in every day work, and each day, or every other day, try himself out on strength tests I have previously quoted with a view to increasing pushing power for different lifts."
All good info, and all very useful if you happen to be paying attention.

Just goes to show you that sound training info never gets old. Chest Expanders, of course, make a great addition to any training program. We've actually reprinted this course and include it with "All About Strand Pulling" by Syd Devis if you would like to check out you own copy.

Earle E. Liederman - "Why Anyone Can Become Strong"

"...So I say that a man can become strong no matter how much nature has handicapped him by giving him a lack of inches, or a small frame. Even those in ill-health can be made strong, because exercise promotes health. In turn muscle can be made to grow on the healthy body, and with muscle will come strength.

Some of the strongest men I know are little fellows; that is, little so far as height goes, for in every other way they are miniature giants. And most of them are strong today because they got tired of being snubbed and imposed on for their lack of inches and their dearth of strength.

Almost anyone who earnestly desires to, can make himself strong; not just ordinarily strong, but very much stronger than the average man, little or big. And to become strong -- to add size and strength to your body, or in other words to develop it -- takes much less time than to cultivate the mind."

Arthur Jones & Friends

Arthur Jones and a few of his "friends" are shown here during one of Arthur's many trips to Africa. Arthur had a keen understanding of animal behavior and the natural world which allowed him to come to a better understanding of the factors that make strength training "work".
Tags: Arthur Jones

The Whitely Giant Power Grip!

My friend Sarah found this cool old-time hand gripper in an antique shop somewhere in Michigan and snapped it up for a few bucks. – What a steal! There's no date on this gripper but I’ve seen the design before in a lot of old magazines going back at least as far as the 1920's. The one above is in mint condition (including the box) and still a pretty good challenge with all six springs. The Whitely Giant Power Grip was made by Moosehead-Whitely, Inc., in Hackensack, New Jersey.

Steve Jeck - The Stonelifter

"There is strength and permanence to stone. And because stones last, the stories of the men who lift them as well. When one embraces an ancient testing stone, he also embraces the history of that stone. He must exert that same Herculean effort and his body will suffer the same toll as all those hearty lads who dared to hoist the same load. He will also know, if victorious, the same exhilaration and pride felt by his worthy predecessors."

Here's One Guy With GUTS!

Here's one guy with GUTS! Cannonball Richards sets himself to stand the combined power of nine men who rammed this wooden beam into his mid-section a moment after this photo was taken. Cannonball took the blow with ease (of course!)

Ed Yarick

In addition to running one of the most popular gyms in the land, the 6'4" Yarick won the tall class in the "Mr. Pacific Coast" bodybuilding contest and was also the coach of the 1952 National Jr. Weightlifting Team.

Yarick's Gym was located at 3355 Foothill Blvd. in Oakland, California and was one of the centers of the strength world on the West coast. It was also where Steve reeves got his start and the training headquarters at various times of Roy Hilligenn, John Davis, Clancy Ross, Jack Delinger, Tommy Kono and Doug Hepburn (among others).

Bybon's Stone

Nearly every ancient culture has evidence of stone lifting as a form of physical training for athletes and warriors. The large block of red sandstone pictured above dates to the 6th century B.C., weighs 315 lbs. and the inscription on it says: "Bybon, son of Pholos, threw this over his head with one hand." For some strange reason many people refer to this stone as an early kettlebell but I would disagree. At any rate, Bybon's stone current resides at the Archaeological Museum of Olympia in Greece.


If you are truly interested in size and strength, you need to train your legs. -- and one of the best leg exercises is the barbell squat. In fact, heavy squats have built the foundation of some of the greatest strength athletes in history.

Here's a look at the great John Davis squatting at Ed Yarick's Gym in Oakland, California in the 50's -- and that's how you should be squatting: full and deep.

No monkey business there, just pure power development.

I'm not a fan of squatting with a board under the heels but it seems to work for John Davis, who was Twice Olympic Weightlifting Champion (1948 and 1952) and Six Time Senior World Weightlifting Champion (1938, 1946, 1947, 1949, 1950, 1951).

Kim Wood's Gym

No, it's not Professor Desbonnet's Paris Gym or Professor Attila's Health Studio but the private gym of Kim Wood. Look closely and you'll see a barbell that once belonged to Warren Lincoln Travis, a Dumbbell lifted by the great Apollon, a Jackson 1-A Barbell Set, an oak climbing ladder from the Narragansett Machine company and more than one Milo Kettlebell. There's no finer gym in the land...

The Trap Bar and Hardgainer Magazine

It's kind of amazing that something like The Gerard Trap Bar did not appear until the mid-1980's. When the Trap Bar did finally come along though it answered some very important questions about intnse leg training and was hailed as a godsend by thousands upon thousands of trainees because of the advantages that it brings to the table. In fact, the Trap Bar was thought of as such a "must have" training tool that it was given a place of honor: its own cover of the July-August 1993 of Hardgainer Magazine.

Madame Yucca - The Female Hercules

A rare poster featuring Madame Yucca as performing in the Forepaugh and Sells Brother Circus. The Female Hercules was shown lifting various globe weights overhead, harness lifting several animals including an elephant and even lifting an anvil with her teeth. Note the use of kettlebells for one and two arm lifts. The poster dates from 1898.

The York Hand Balancing Course

It took a couple years but I finally tracked down an extremely rare copy of the York Hand Balancing Course. It was well worth the wait, you wouldn't believe what's in there. No author is listed but I believe that it was written by Bob Jones. We may actually reprint the York Hand Balancing Course at some point in the near future.

Al Tauscher's Kettlebell Press

Did the oldtime strongmen understand some things about training that we don't today? I would say so, otherwise, we would see more feats like this one. Al Tauscher was one of America's greatest lifters and strength athletes at the start of the 20th century. He was one of the first lifters of any bodyweight to lift 300 lbs. to the shoulders and jerk it overhead. At a bodyweight of 165 lbs, here's Al in mid-lift of a "bottom up press" with a 122 lb kettlebell - now that's strong!

George Hackenschmidt: "Govern Your Thoughts"

"This rule is absolutely necessary in all stages of life if you wish to succeed, for without concentration of thought, you are courting failure.

How many people are there who are, so to speak, the shuttlecock of their thoughts! Every moment hundreds of ideas and thoughts rush through their brain, causing an expenditure of energy without adequate return in results.

Just fancy a man at the Bisley rifle range taking aim and shooting at the same moment as he thinks of something quite different. Do you think he will carry off the King's prize, or indeed, any prize? No, he will not even hit the target.

If, therefore, you wish to become healthy and strong, you must give your thoughts to the full and without restriction in this direction, even to the most insignificant performances of your daily life. Concentrate your mind upon the idea of acquiring health and strength!"

~ George Hackenschmidt
The Way to Live, Chapter 4

Henry "Milo" Steinborn

This poster shows the mighty Milo Steinborn making records while performing different feats at Herrmann's Gym in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania back in October of 1921. His one-arm snatch and the one-hand clean & jerk were amazing lifts at the time. He also squatted with over 500 pounds which he "rocked" onto his shoulders unassisted - a much tougher way to do squats!

The 25 Pound Sledge Hammer

Ever seen a 25 pound sledge hammer? Now you can say 'yes' if someone else asks you that question. Note the thicker reinforced handle on this beast -- needless to say, you can get a lot of force behind it. This hammer is used for levering and not for clobberin' stuff -- and it's a good one. This hammer had to actually be imported from a foreign country.You won't find one of these at a local hardware store, this hammer is not exactly "street legal."


"...Of all boxers it seems to have been Rocky Marciano who trained with the most monastic devotion; his training methods have become legendary. Marciano was willing to seclude himself from the world, including his wife and family, for as long as three months before a fight.

Apart from the grueling physical ordeal of this period and the obsessive preoccupation with diet and weight and muscle tone, Marciano concentrated on one thing; the upcoming fight.

Every minute of his life was defined in terms of the opening second of the fight. In his training camp the opponent’s name was never mentioned in Marciano’s hearing, nor was boxing as a subject discussed. In the final month, Marciano would not write a letter since a letter related to the outside world. During the last ten days before a fight he would see no mail, take no telephone calls, meet no new acquaintances.

During the week before the fight he would not shake hands. Or go for a ride in a car, however brief. No new foods! No dreaming of the morning after the fight! For all that was not the fight had to be excluded from consciousness.

When Marciano worked out with a punching bag he saw his opponent before him, when he jogged he saw his opponent close beside him, no doubt when he slept he 'saw' his opponent constantly—as the cloistered monk or nun chooses by an act of fanatical will to 'see' only God. "Madness? -- or merely discipline? -- this absolute subordination of the self. In any case, for Marciano, it worked."

Joyce Carol Oates
"On Boxing"

Joe Bonomo ~ Perils of The Wild

A look at a rare still of the great Joe Bonomo in action in "Perils of The Wild" which was a serialized version of The Swiss Family Robinson (1925). Directors loved Bonomo because his great strength allowed him to perform stunts and do all kinds of things that looked impressive on film (like lift a whole crew of pirates!) Joe played the Father Frederick Robinson and actually broke his leg during filming. Hard to say if this still was actually in the movie or just messing around since the film is unfortunately lost.

Stone Lifting in India

While every culture has its own unique definition of STRENGTH, the interesting thing is that in every culture you will find some form of Stone Lifting.

Here's a shot from a recent stone lifting contest in India, a country which is certainly no stranger to traditional physical training. Lifting stone spheres like this one is also very popular among the Basque people of Spain.

The Nautilus Rotary Neck Machine

The Nautilus Rotary Neck Machine contains no weight stack, no built in source of resistance of any kind ... instead, the resistance is provided by the user through the use of hand levers that enable you to exactly control the resistance during both the positive and negative parts of the exercise. There aren't many Rotary Neck Machines around but we happen to have one in our private gym and when used correctly, it is excellent. We may do a feature on it at some point.

The York Crusher in Action

"Mr. Nebraska" winner Andy Kush demonstrates the York Adjustable Crusher, a piece of equipment that is incredibly rare these days. Seems like everyone always saw the ads for them in Strength and Health but only a few saved up their paper route money to actually get one. If you are lucky enough to find one of these crushers, you'll never get a better chest workout. The York Crusher is a favorite of Slim The Hammer Man.

Dr. Ken's Steel Suitcases

The farmers walk is a great exercise and has always been one of my favorites -- just grab a weight in each hand and start walking. How far you go is up to you, but one thing is always for sure: you can go a lot farther than you think you can since your mind will give out before your body does. Needless to say, this is a great exercise for building hand strength AND mental toughness.

As far as the weights you can use, a pair of dumbbells is a good choice, as are sandbags, or even some specially made handles which some folks like to use.

If you got a chance to check out some of Brooks Kubik's old Dinosaur Training videos, you saw Brooks performing the Farmers walk with some highly unusual implements: a pair of 180-pound iron suitcases made by Dr. Ken. Imagine two pieces of metal each shaped like an "I" with handles welded on top and that's what we are dealing with.

Brooks, the madman that he is, decided to take these little monsters for a walk around the city block in his Bags, Barrels, and Beyond video and if you've seen it, you know it is in-tense.

Strength and Health Magazine, November, 1969

How's this for a groovy cover? The November, 1969 issue of Strength and Health magazine featured this somewhat psychedelic mixed media illustration by Frank Hummel. Front and center is 1963 Mr. America Vern Weaver doing an overhead pulldown with a chest expander. The lovely Vera Christensen is at the left squatting. This issue also has a feature on the newly crowned Teenage Mr. America Bob Gallucci. Hummel had several other Strength and Health magazine covers around the same time period (although none as flashy as this one.)

"Big Steve" Marjanian's 460 lb. Incline Press

"Big Steve" Marjanian's 460 lb. Incline Press

One of the kings at the old Muscle Beach scene was "Big Steve" Marjanian. Here's one reason why they called him "Big Steve" ... an incline press with 460 pounds (which he made look easy.) Steve's best incline press was 495 which has to be a record.

Mr. America Magazine: Volume 7, Number 8 Featuring Larry Scott

A look at the cover of Mr America Magazine: Volume 7, Number 8, featuring Larry Scott which came out in August of 1965. Larry won the IFBB Mr. America in 1962 and about a month after this issue hit the news stand, became the very first Mr. Olympia. He certainly looks in fine form here.

Indian Clubs in China

I knew that many other cultures regularly trained with Indian Clubs but was not aware that China was one of them, at least until now. Club swinging has always been popular with young students as it is a very good way to stay physically fit as well as build upper body strength before studies begin. A short morning training session in a school setting will go a long way in improving the educational process.

The 1891 Bowdoin College Tug Of War Team

This hardy looking bunch is the 1891 Bowdoin College Tug of War Team: Top row, left to right: John Roberts Horne Jr. '91 (Anchor); J. P. Cilley, Jr., '91; G. C. Mahoney, '91; and G. B. Sears, '90. (The manager H.H. Hastings; ('90) was not pictured.) They were undefeated that season, beating Colby College (at Waterville) by four inches and Bates College (at Bowdoin) by sixeen inches.

John Lemm

Another look at a very rare picture of wrestler John Lemm, who was also known at "The Swiss Hercules". With a set of wheels like that, it's not hard to see why he was one of the first men in history to squat with 500 pounds ~ although it is plain to see that Lemm was pretty impressive all around.

Lemm won a famous 1908 wrestling tournament in London billed as "The Battle of Giants" where he defeated, amongst others, the then title-holder Russian Ivan Poddubny and the great French wrestler/strongman Apollon.

Richard J. Cox ~ Clubswinging Champion of The World

Richard J. Cox developed lung problems when he was 12 years of age, and was labeled a "hopeless" case by his doctors. In a last ditch effort to regain his health, Cox took up Indian club swinging at the urging of his father.  Within a few months of regular practice, the young Cox had not only rid himself of his lung troubles but also gave his first club-swinging performance. Swinging the clubs became a lifelong pursuit for Cox and he won many medals and trophies for doing so. The above photo was taken in 1909, the day he won his first contest. (Looks like club swinging DOES build a little muscle, eh?) Cox eventually succeeded Gus Hill as "Club Swinging Champion of The World."

John Terry

John Terry was America's best featherweight lifter during the 1930's. Lifting for the York Barbell Club, he was a four-time Senior National Champion (1938 through 1941) and a two-time Olympian (1936, 1940 (he qualified but the 1940 games were unfortunately cancelled). At a bodyweight of just 132 pounds he could deadlift over 600.

Hjalmar Lundin

A look at the great Hjalmar Lundin, who was a tremendous strongman as well as wrestler. Lundin was the heavyweight champion in his native land of Sweden and eventually made his way to American shores by performing as a strongman in the Ringling Brother's Circus. Lundin's signature feat was The Tomb of Hercules" with 20 men see-sawing on his chest.

On the wrestling mat, Lundin tussled with the best of them: George Bothner, George Hackenschmidt, Frank Gotch, Tom Jenkins, "Yankee" Joe Rogers, Stanislaus Zbyzko and Youssof "The Terrible Turk" Ismael. It was Lundin who gave George Hackenschmidt his first wrestling lessons and actually defeated Frank Gotch (albeit in a Graeco-Roman-style bout.)

Cold Weather Tempering

One interesting method that many of the old physical culture practitioners recommended was plenty of cold weather tempering. Not only was this a way to strengthen the power of the mind, it allowed for an individual to become "one" with nature, instead of existing in opposition to it. This practice had some rather interesting effects on overall health.

One such individual was P. Ivanov (shown above) who eventually became so at ease in the harsh Russian winter that he could spend any amount of time in the out of doors barefoot and wearing nothing but a pair of shorts! This concept deserves greater study.

Chuck Davis

Here's one you don't see every day: the man under the barbell is Chuck Davis, doing an impressive neck bridge lift of 350 lbs. This feat happened at a show in March of 1959 and was featured in the Knoxville News Sentinel. This clipping was sent in by Chuck's good friend Bob Simpson (spotting on the right above.) Bob tells us that Chuck rarely did this lift, perhaps only a dozen times but accomplished 400 lbs. at 200lbs bodyweight. Having done a little of this kind of training, I can tell you that this is IMPRESSIVE. Chuck was also featured in Strength and Health.

Gary Cleveland

Gary Cleveland, 2-time Senior National Champion weightlifter, York Man, strength author an all-around nice guy is shown here placing 5th in the 82.5 kg class at the 1964 Olympic games held in Tokyo, Japan. Cleveland was a very good presser.

He went on to write a number of training articles for several different publications and also self-published a successful newsletter called The Avian Movement Advocate which was devoted to many different facets of strength training, philosophy and physical culture.

Log Training ~ Marine Style

Log Drills like this one have been used by the military for well over a century to build strength, endurance and teamwork. And they are still used today. Although if you have memories of training with a log just like this one, I'm sure they aren't fond ones... because they don't make it very enjoyable! (Which is an understatement.)

This picture was taken at the Corporals Course at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina on Febuary 1st, 2006. Photo courtesy of Cpl. Serena DeFilippis.

Louis Cyr's Backlift

A rare woodcut of the great Louis Cyr's famous backlift. Cyr astonished the world with a lift of 4337 pounds!

Enrico Tomas

Enrico Tomas, from New York City, is shown here on the January, 1955 issue of Strength and Health magazine. Enrico only competed in a few bodybuilding contests but never finished lower than third and in 1954, he took first both in the AAU Mr. New York State and the NABBA Mr. Universe.

Louis Abele

Louis Abele, lifting out of the Lighthouse Boy's Club in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was a three-time Sr. National Silver medalist and briefly held the American Record in the press. He would also have lifted at the 1940 Olympic games although unfortunately they were canceled. Had he been born a few years earlier Abele would probably be a lot more well-known since he was in his prime right around the same time as Steve Stanko and later John Davis.

Abele was adamant about the incredible strength benefits of heavy, high-rep squatting (something which is pretty evident in the picture.) His best marks were: 400 lbs. x 18, 450 lbs. x 10, 475 lbs. x 7 and 500 lbs. x 3.

How to Bent Press by Sig Klein

If there ever were someone qualified to teach the bent press it was Sig Klein. He wrote this nifty little training guide in the 30's. Original copies are pretty hard to come by but our good friend Bill Hinbern has done a modern reprint edition which is available here.


Kate "Vulcana" Williams, was a Welsh Strongwoman who toured music halls in Britain, Europe and Australia in the early 1900's. Among her many other feats were a bent press of 125 pounds and an overhead lift (i.e. press) with a 56 pound weight in each hand. She was quite popular in France where Professor Desbonnet verified her feats and was very impressed with her level of strength. As you can see, she sported a pretty strong looking set of arms.

John C. Heenan's Exercise Clubs and Boots

April 17, 1860 is a famous date in pugilistic lore, it was on that date that American John C. Heenan was to face the Brit Tom Sayers in a bare-knuckle bout to decide the World's first international Boxing champion. Like all big fights, this one captured the public's imagination and topics which would normally be ignored were highlighted in great detail.

The newspapers of the day followed Heenan's training regimen with great interest and among his preparations for the fight,Heenan swung Indian clubs to condition his shoulders (a gift from Sim Kehoe himself!) Despite giving up forty pounds and five inches in height, Heenan was in fine fettle come fight time. Above is a rare engraving showing Heenan's clubs and exercise shoes. As for the fight, the action lasted forty-two rounds spread out over two hours. you can read more about the outcome HERE.

Dr. Rich's Institute For Physical Education

John B. Rich was an orthodontist who spent the early part of his training in Paris where he could not help but notice the exemplary fitness level of its citizens. Rich noted that those with heathier bodies tended to also have healthier teeth which makes quite a bit of sense. He brought these teachings back to the United States and established his Institute For Physical Education at 159 Crosby St. (near Bleeker) in New York City.  The above lithograph was an advertisement for this establishment, circa 1850, making it one of the earliest commercial gym on record.

Another Look At H.E. Mann

Here's another look at H.E. Mann who we have featured on this blog previously Mann continued to lift this bull daily until he could support a weight of well over 800 pounds on his shoulders..
Tags: H.E. Mann

John Pesch

John Pesch of San Francisco was a strongman whose claim to fame was that, to win a wager, he allowed an automobile loaded with three additional passengers run over his chest. The weight was calculated to be 2750 pounds in all. This was in 1921. Whether this counts as a strength feat I don't know but it was impressive none the less.

An "Ice Cold" Strength Feat

Joe Mongelli, a former pupil of Sig Klein, was an iceman by trade. He could carry a 325 pound block of ice on his back, then, using ice tongs, could pick up a 120 pound block of ice with his right hand and a 60 pound block with his left. Joe could walk the length of a city block carrying the entire 505 pound load!

What Do You Press?

"What Do You Press?" means something much different today than it did several decades back. It's a shame, the overhead press is a much better exercise for building upper-body strength than the much more popular bench press.

Are there any bodybuilders today even half as strong as John Grimek? What's more, does anyone lift in wingtips anymore? Here's John Grimek performing a continental & press with 285 pounds.

Schemansky Stalks The Bar...

From the late 1940s to mid-1960s, Norb Schemansky was America's most successful Olympic Weightlifter and the first weightlifter to medal in four Olympic Games, (despite missing the 1956 games.)

Do you think he means business in the shot above? That's from the 1964 Olympic tryouts. Here's a look at Norb Schemansky's achievements over the course of his amazing career:

  • Olympic Champion - 1952 Olympic Games, Helsinki
  • Silver Medal - 1948 Olympic Games, London
  • Bronze Medal - 1960, Rome, 1964, Tokyo
  • World Champion (1951, 1953, and 1954)
  • 1955 Pan American Games Heavyweight Champion
  • Silver Medal - Senior World Championships (1947, 1962, 1963)
  • Bronze Medal - Senior World Championships (1964)
And best career marks:

  • Press - 415 lbs.
  • Snatch - 363 3/4 lbs.
  • Clean and Jerk - 445 lbs.
  • Total - 1200 lbs. (400-335-445)
In addition to his weightlifting exploits, Norb also famously cleaned, then thrice jerked the Apollon Wheels.

Iron Man Lifting News - Vol.4, No. 4 - December, 1959

Iron Man Magazine was mostly oriented towards bodybuilding so Peary Rader started up another side-publication oriented towards heavy weight lifting and what would eventually become Powerlifting. "Iron Man Lifting News" started out in 1954 at brochure size and eventually grew to a full fledged magazine. Issues are pretty rare as they were only available by subscription and never appeared on the newsstand. As a result, a number of incredible training articles flew under the radar. To give you a great example, this issue -- Vol. 4, No 4. from December, 1959 -- was devoted specifically to how to clean and jerk maximum poundages. As you can see, the techniques of several great champions, Schemansky, Kono, Louis Martin, and others were analyzed in great detail.

Copies are extremely hard to come by but in case you are interested, this issue of Lifting News is posted in its entirety in THE IRON LEAGUE.

Latvian Sport Club, 1970

The view from a Latvian Sport Club, circa 1970. Not that it's any great revelation but kettlebells were (and are), very popular in eastern Europe countries.

Bob Hoffman's Protein From The Sea

Bob Hoffman's Protein From The Sea!

Straight from the pages of early 1960's Strength and Health magazine comes Bob Hoffman's Protein From The Sea! You remember the ads and if you ever tried it you sure never forgot it. Here's some of the copy:
Fish are considered to be the best fed animals in the world, consuming nutritious, organically-rich vegetation and other fish, which in turn have eaten the organically-rich foods so abundant in the depths of the sea. The fish protein used in HOFFMAN'S PROTEIN FROM THE SEA is richer than organic meats and many other high protein products in the essential amino acids. It digests well, is almost 100% assimilated and supplies your body with elements it needs for building, maintenance and repair.

TAKE ONLY 1 TEASPOON AT LUNCH AND DINNER. Here is real economy! You take only 1 teaspoonful at lunch and dinner for the low, low cost of 15 cents per day. This gives you more protein than found in many full course meals! Best of all, 2 teaspoonfulls of HOFFMAN'S PROTEIN FROM THE SEA provides 18 grams of pure protein and helps complete and assimilate 180 grams of incomplete protein found in cereals and vegetables--an amazing burst of nutritive power! Available in handy powder and convenient tablets.

Bruce Randall Barbell & Dumbbell Exercises

The Billard Barbell Company tapped 1959 Mr. America Bruce Randall as their spokesman and he often promoted weight sets at Sears and Montgomery Ward stores all over the country. Who knows how many trainees got their start with one of these sets?

Armwrestling's First Super Match

Starting in the 1930's, the man to beat in the armwrestling (sometimes called "wrist wrestling") world was California strength athlete and tavern owner Mac Batchelor. People came from far and wide to have a go with Mac but none succeeded, Batchelor undefeated in an estimated 4000 matches.

It just so happened, in the mid-40's a new challenge showed up in town in the form of Earle Audet, a two-time national champion shotputter and professional football player for the Los Angeles Dons. Audet was also similarly undefeated as an armwrestler ...someone had the grand idea to pit these two titans head to head and the first "Supermatch" was born.

December, 16th, 1946 was the date and they met up in the famed Embassy auditorium for a 2 out of 3 falls bout.  Audet tipped the scales at 250 lbs., which was certainly large for the time but Batchelor was closer to 300 lbs. Outweighed and out-experienced, it was Batchelor who eventually came out the winner and declared the World's champion. It should also be noted that the table used was designed by George F. Jowett.

Oldtime Leg Press

The need for intense leg training should be obvious -- But don't try this one at home! Just because you "can" do a certain exercise doesn't necessarily mean you should...

For one of the very best ways to build leg and back strength that is both safe and productive, try a Gerard Trap Bar instead.
Tags: Leg Press

Rocky Marciano Stone Lifting at Greenwood Lake

One of the famous boxing training "camps" could be found in Greenwood Lake, New York. The list of of great champions trained there for their biggest fights is long and impressive: Joe Louis, Billy Conn, Archie Moore, Sugar Ray Robinson, Floyd Patterson and Rocky Marciano (shown here, lifting stones in preparation for his bout with Harry Matthews on July, 28, 1952.)

Greenwood Lake is a nine-mile finger of water that extends right into New Jersey and offers spartan living and a way to get away from civilization. There were plenty of roads, footpaths and other natural amenities that boxers could take advantage of for their preparation efforts (as you can see above.)

... and, in addition, thanks to the wonder of modern technology, we can  show you the Marciano v. Matthews fight as well:

Radwan's Steel Bending

Here's a closer look at Stanley Radwan's hand in action, bending some steel.

Axle Öfverstén

Axle Öfverstén was a Swedish strongman who performed with the Carl Busch and Mosebacke Circuses. His signature feat was to lift a horse, and as you can see, he also had excellent taste in equipment. Öfverstén's protégé, Oscar Wahlund also went on to become a famous strongman.

Reg Park and The Swing Bell

Here's a very determined looking Reg Park training with a swingbell. You don't see swingbell training much these days but it is a shame because it is both simple and effective... in other words, swingbell training offers a different way to hit the same muscle groups which is always useful.

Neil Lewis Arm Wrestling Trainer Advertisement Featuring Chuck Sipes

Here's a real blast from the past: an advertisement for the famous Neil Lewis Arm Wrestling Trainer featuring Chuck Sipes. You'd often find the Neil Lewis trainer in the pages of Iron Man magazine. They must have sold THOUSANDS of them...

The Reg Park Muscle Builder Ad

You used to be able to find ads for 'The Reg Park Muscle Builder Set' on the back of Reg's magazine "The Reg Park Journal." If you saved up your allowance for one of these sets, you got quite a haul: a 10-strand cable exerciser, a wall pulley attachment, a head strap, foot stirrups, two hand grips (for a mighty, he-man grip) a cable exercise and rowing machine and, of course, several free courses to show you how to use it all.

Just Another Workout at Dr. Ken's Place

Despite what you may have read, heard or believe, REAL training is about effort -- but the best part is, if you do it right, you'll get out of it exactly what you put into it, maybe even more. As you can see, when Dr. Ken trains, he gives it his all... and so should you.

Casey Viator and The Colorado Experiment

In the early 1970's, Arthur Jones wrote a series of articles for Iron Man magazine outlining some of his unique training ideas...

These training articles were like nothing anyone had ever seen before... Arthur simply gave a name to some ideas about training that had always been "true" -- and while they were simple, and involved common sense and self-evident truth they rocked the strength world to its knees.

He had, in the previous years, put his ideas into practice and the results were tremendous, but what he needed was close supervision and justification for his ideas in a controlled setting where the results could be monitored and recorded.

In 1973, Arthur got his wish and "The Colorado Experiment" began at the Department of Physical Education, Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado and supervised by Dr. Elliott Plese, Director of Exercise Physiology Lab.

Over the course of one month, with himself and Casey Viator as the subjects, training ideas would be put into practice and studied extensively.

For an article in the September 1973, Volume 32 Number 6 of Ironman Magazine, Arthur wrote up his thoughts:

PURPOSE of the EXPERIMENT . . . it is the author's contention that the growth of human muscular tissue is related to the intensity of exercise; increases in strength and muscle-mass are rapidly produced by very brief and infrequent training ... if the intensity of exercise is high enough.

It is the author's second contention that increasing the amount of training is neither necessary nor desirable . . . on the contrary, a large amount of high intensity training will actually reduce the production of strength and muscle mass increases.

It is the author's third contention that "negative work" (eccentric contraction) is one of the most important factors involved in exercise performed for the purpose of increasing strength and muscle-mass.

It is the author's fourth contention that nothing in the way of a special diet is required . . . so long as a reasonably well-balanced diet is provided.

It is the author's fifth contention that the use of the so-called "growth drugs" (steroids) is neither necessary nor desirable ... on the contrary, repeated tests with animals and double-blind tests with human subjects have clearly demonstrated that the use of such drugs is strongly contraindicated.

It is the author's sixth contention that maximum-possible increases in strength and muscle-mass can be produced only by the use of full range, rotary form, automatically variable, direct resistance.

And the results:

First subject (Casey Viator), 28 days
Increase in bodyweight........45.28 pounds
Loss of bodyfat..............17.93 pounds
Muscular gain.................63.21 pounds

Paul Anderson: All in a Day's Work...

Paul Anderson takes a breather after a tough workout. All in a day's work... Note that looks like a standard 1-inch barbell loaded up with 500+ pounds, you sure don't see that much these days.

The Farmer's Walk

Grab a pair of dumbbells, some sandbags, some kettlebells or some Iron Suitcases like former New York Giant (and Dr. Ken trainee) Frank Ferarra above and go for a stroll. That's all there is to "The Farmer's Walk" exercise, and you would be hard pressed to find a better exercise for building grip strength and mental toughness. The Farmer's Walk is one of Brooks Kubik's favorite training methods - and for good reason.

Yuri Vlasov's Bench Press

How does a World Champion Olympic weight lifter build upper-body strength? The great Russian lifter Yuri Vlasov used the bench press (among other exercises) in his program back in the 50's and 60's. Of course, by the looks of things he sure didn't mess around like the gym lifters of today.

"Getting stronger" and plenty of technique work were part of the game back then. It seems to have worked quite well for Mr. Vlasov, who set 34 Weightlifting World Records during his career... That's 190kg above, over 400 lbs.... Maybe the bench press isn't so bad of a lift after all?

Tags: Yuri Vlasov

Frank Zane on a Pogo Stick

Ladies and Gentlemen, "Mr. Universe" Frank Zane on a pogo stick! - This was taken at Sunken Gardens botanical garden in St. Petersburg, Florida on January, 17th, 1969. On that day, Zane set an unofficial record of sorts by seeing the entire attraction by way of this bouncing mode of transportation.

Bill Good With a Globe Barbell

A rare shot of a Bill Good with a great globe barbell.

Albert Maes

Albert Maes was a Belgian weightlifter who competed in the featherweight class in both the 1924 Paris and 1928 Amsterdam Olympic games (finishing 13th and tied for 17th, respectively.) Interestingly, the 1924 games were the last to have five competitive lifts, so the one-hand snatch and one-hand clean and jerk are listed among his totals. Once his competitive weightlifting career came to an end, Maes "ran out and joined the circus" and became a performing strongmen where his specialty was bending and scrolling steel bars into interesting shapes.
Tags: Albert Maes

The Wrestler's Bridge

THIS is why wrestlers practice bridging ~ a strong neck may just be the only thing keeping the shoulders off the mat. This outstanding example of bridging occurred at the 1936 Berlin Olympics Greco-Roman wrestling event. The fellow doing the bridging is Germany's Kurt Hornfischer (who won the Bronze medal) while Estonia's Kristjan Palusalu is up top going for the pin. (Palusalu quite impressively took the Heavyweight gold in both the freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling events in Berlin.)

Tom Burrows' First Club Swinging Record

On March 20th, 1895, Australian club swinging champion Tom Burrows set out to break his own record of 24 hours on continuous club swinging. In order to do so, he set forth the following conditions:

1. The clubs were to be 2 pounds each and to be 24 inches long.
2. To Swing 50 complete circles each minute.
3. No rest or stop allowed during the 25 hours.
4. No aid of any sort allowed.
5. To swing no fewer than 70,000 complete circles for the record.
6. There would be two judges present at all times to watch the swinging.

Burrows commenced swinging his clubs at 9:18 pm on Wednesday evening. At 10:18 pm the next day, he officially met his mark of 25 continuous hours of club swinging but he didn't stop there. At 11:33 pm, he finally put down his clubs having established the mark of 26 hours and 15 minutes of continuous swinging. The above photograph is from that evening (I'm quite curious about the axes.)

SEAL Log Training

"First-phase Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL students feel the pain of log physical training in this 1975 picture taken on the Silver Strand in Coronado, California. The team is in unison, and though all experience the struggle, they learn that teamwork, and not brute strength alone, helps accomplish the task."

The Mighty Atom Bends Steel

Here's a look at "The Mighty Atom" Joe Greenstein bending a steel beam over the bridge of his nose with a little help from his friends. This extremely rare shot was taken in the ring at Madison Square Garden in 1974, the night Slim The Hammer Man set the record for his amazing hammer lift.

Titus Built This Arm!

Titus Built This Arm! - how awesome is this advertisement from Professor Henry W. Titus, circa 1927? I'll take panther muscles over clumsy beef any day.

Stanley Radwan: The King of Iron and Steel

Stanley Radwan "The King of Iron and Steel" lives up to his nickname with a bit of scroll work. This rare shot is from a performance on October 10, 1950.

Antonovich Fon-Freindorfer

Meet Antonovich Fon-Freindorfer who is as "oldtime strongman-looking" as they come. Unfortunately, we don't know anything else about him as his exploits have been lost to the sands of time. He was probably a wrestler, or strongman, (likely both)... The postcard bearing his image was Russian and written in old Cyrillic (so it likely dates to pre-revolution (before-1917)) although his last name indicates that he was either German or of German origins.

Frank "Cannonball" Richards - From Another Angle

We've featured "Cannonball" Richards before. His iconic image has appeared on the cover of the Van Halen "III" album, been spoofed on an episode of the Simpsons and showed up in dozens of other pop culture references. Here's a rare wide-angle shot of Cannonball's feat that you probably haven't seen though.

Paul Holloway's One Arm Chin-Up

It is estimated that not more than one person in a hundred thousand can perform a chin-up with one hand. Here, Paul Holloway, one of the lesser-known members of the York Weightlifting team, shows the three stages of the feat. Notice he is chinning himself with only two fingers — he was actually able to chin himself using only one finger with ease, but had to use two for this series in order to hold himself still long enough to obtain the pictures.

In the October, 1937 Issue of Strength and Health Magazine Holloway outlines his exact training in detail: a series of progressive chin-up exercises until he was able to reach his goal, a training approach that should really come as no surprise...

Indian Clubs for Baseball

Indian Clubs for Baseball

We have long been saying that adding Indian Clubs into your workout would be a smart choice for every athlete and here's yet another example of why: The March, 15, 1934 edition of the Ludington (MI) Daily News contains an interesting feature on the pre-season regimen of the Western State Teachers College Baseball team. Their coach at the time, Judson Hyames, had his players engage in extensive Indian club training before their began their heavy throwing. According to the article, Hyames believed that Indian club work help build wrist suppleness, strength and flexibility.

Hyames certainly knew what he was talking about since the Western State team was undefeated for two years prior (and would go on to finish 14-1 that season.) Hyames was 166-62-2 as a head coach and the baseball field at what is now known as Western Michigan University is named in his honor. If you are looking for an edge on the diamond, it would certainly be a good idea to add some Indian club swinging into the mix.

Tags: Indian Clubs

Wheelbarrow Lifting

Wheel Barrow LiftingWheel Barrow Lifting

How's this for an "odd" object lift? Stan Rothwell, the great British All-Arounder trains with a wheelbarrow in the late 1940's. His point for doing so was to show that you can still get in a great workout even if you don't have a weight set -- an important thing to still keep in mind today.

Alfred Danks: "The Chest Expander as a Strength Builder"

Alfred Danks

"A well-known strongman, world's record holder and ex-world's champion weight lifter has put it on record on several occasions that he never trains for a record lift without a strong chest expander.

He has given full credit to this type of chest expander, and I am quoting him here in order to endorse what I am about to say from my own experience...

"With but little training I have made records on the "dumbbell swing," the "single handed press," the "Crucifix" and on some special feats of my own. I wish to make it quite clear that not only my muscular development but my great strength as a weightlifter and strongman was obtained solely by the use of the chest expander."

Tags: Alfred Danks

Ferdinand Renier

Ferdinand Renier was a Belgian weightlifter who competed in the featherweight class at the 1928 Amsterdam Summer Olympic Games. He Clean and Jerked 105kg, Snatched 77.5 kg. and Military Pressed 72.5 kg. for a 255 kg. total (good for a tie for 12th place.)

Steve Reeves' Hack Squat Machine

Steve Reeves trained in York, Pennsylvania for the 1950 Mr. Universe contest. While there, they devised this unique "hack squat" machine for Reeves to train on (this was actually an old hip lift /platform lifting apparatus used in decades before at the Milo Barbell Company.) Reeves used this exercise exclusively to work his legs that time (and went on to win the 1950 Mr. Universe contest and beat Reg Park!) (Also note the Strength and Health covers on the wall.)

Irvin "Zabo" Koszewski

Here's Irvin "Zabo" Koszewski (and his famous abs) on the cover of the March, 1966 issue of Mr. America Magazine. Zabo started competing in bodybuilding contests in 1948 and was still going strong when this magazine came out, in fact, he went on to finish second (to Frank Zane) in the Medium class at the 1967 IFBB Mr. America.

The Nautilus Infi-Metric Bench Press

The Infi-Metric was an interesting training concept which was pioneered by Arthur Jones. It involved pitting the strength of two body parts against each other. In the case of the Infi-Metric Bench Press machine shown here, as trainee pressed up one handle, the opposite handle lowered. This allowed one to train in a negative fashion in a very safe and productive manner. Because of the angles involved, it was also possible to get a stronger contraction in the chest muscles. Those who used this style of training correctly got great results, eventually becoming so strong that they bent the steel of the movement arm!

John Grimek's Bodybuilding Contest History

Here's John Grimek showing his winning form and hardware after taking first in the 1948 Mr. Universe contest (defeating Steve Reeves in the process!) Most bodybuilders are lucky to win one contest in their careers but Grimek finished first in EVERY contest he ever entered. Here's a look at the full list:

1939 - York Perfect Man
1940 - AAU Mr. America
1941 - AAU Mr. America
1946 - Most Muscular Man in America
1948 - NABBA - Mr. Universe
1949 - Mr. USA

After winning the AAU Mr. America contest for the second year in a row, they passed a rule that one could not enter it again once they won - the powers that be figured that if they didn't take this step, Grimek would just keep on winning them.

Josef Manger

Josef Manger was a great German heavyweight lifter during the 1930's He burst on the scene with a Silver medal at the 1934 European championships following that up with a Gold medal in that contest a year later. From there, he also won gold at the 1936 Olympic games held in Berlin, Germany and the 1937 and 1938 World Championships. Manger was a six-time lifting champion of Germany and set 20 World records over the course of his career (although only 11 were recognized as official.) At the 1936 Olympics, Manger totalled an Olympic Record 410 kg. (132.5 kg pres, 122.5 kg snatch and 155 kg C&J)

Bert Elliott's Classic Strongman Equipment

Bert Elliott was a bodybuilding champ in the 1950's and 60's who had an interest in real oldtime strength training. He even shaved his head and dressed like a turn of the century strongman to complete the effect. Here's Burt standing in front of some pieces of his famous collection of oldtime equipment: chest expanders, globe barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells and Indian Clubs. (Note the very old Hand Grippers on the wall.)

Tags: Bert Elliott

Nautilus Leverage Machines

When most people think of Nautilus Machines they picture cams and weight stacks, which were certainly the case... But later on, Nautilus came out with a series of leverage pieces with the look of machines yet the feel of free weights. Pictured here is Cincinnati Bengals All-Pro Linebacker Reggie Williams demonstrating the shrug/row combo piece. This photograph was taken in the world famous "Kong Room" and if you were ever there, you sure never forgot it.

Vansittart's Spike

They used to call Charles Vansittart "The Man With The Iron Grip" for good reason -- he could bend an Old English penny, rip a tennis ball in half and bend a spike like the one pictured above.

Bending bars, spikes and nails has always been a traditional Oldtime Strongman feat, not only do many people find it incredibly impressive but merely doing it will build tremedous strength throughout the entire body.

You can tell that rectangular stock (like the spike above) was actually hand bent by the shape. If a piece of steel was truly hand bent, it will bend on the angle, not the flat edge.

Jowett On Finger Strength

A bit on finger lifting from George F. Jowett, circa, 1924:

"So far as lifting weights with the fingers goes, I believe that Warren Lincoln Travis is the best man in the world. He certainly is the best that I ever met, in raising weights off the floor with the aid of his fingers. I have seen him make several big lifts with two fingers, but the best he ever did was the time he celebrated his fiftieth birthday, when he raised the terrific weight of eight hundred and eighty-one and one-half pounds, using just one finger of each hand. I was the referee on that occasion, and was proud to see Travis raise the world's record so high.

On the one finger lift, he has done around five hundred and sixty pounds, while John Pagano has also raised over five hundred pounds with one finger. The lift is not made with the bare finger, as you are no doubt aware. The finger could not grasp the object to lift it. The middle finger is used, and on it the lifter fits an iron eye that has a hook attached, which grabs the object to be lifted. It is necessary that the eye should fit tightly upon the finger up at the first joint, as close to the knuckle of the hand as possible, as the finger is crooked, the eye locks thereon. Just the same it has to be raised off the floor, and that takes power. The ligament of that finger becomes very thick. In some cases, I have seen it become so thick that it made the finger crooked. A few years ago I met an old Swedish lifter who had quit the profession, but in his day was claimed to be a great finger lifter. I remember quite well that the middle finger of his right hand was almost twice as large as any of his other fingers, just from practicing that lift."

Unfortunately we don't know the gent pictured above but he has a pretty sweet setup, and that barrel, if filled completely, must weigh somewhere between 300-400lbs. which makes a very worthy feat.

Cyclops and Sampson: The Strongest Men on Earth

A rare poster advertising the strongman duo of Franz "Cyclops" Bienkowski and Charles A. Sampson. Sampson's Harness Lift is highlighted.

Eugene Waddell

Eugen Waddell was a member of the famed "Jackson Trio" and the only man we know of who could replicate Bob Jones' signature feat of standing atop a series of Indian Clubs and flicking them away one-by-one until left balancing only on his thumbs.

The Double Backlift!

Here's a strength feat that we've never seen before: The Double Backlift! This was performed by Erik Petterson and Arvid Anderson who were both great Swedish strongmen in the 1920s. I count 23 people, so a conservative estimate of this lift would be around 3500 lbs. ~ which ain't bad at all. 

Cadine's Leverage Bells (?)

Now here's a curious one: We have several rare shots of the great French weightlifter Ernest Cadine with these interesting pieces of equipment. You could make the case that they have the trappings of kettlebells but they appear to be used more like dumbbells with an unusual twist. The counterweight can be adjusted along the handle to increase or decrease the resistance but the resulting torque of holding them in place must be tremendous which means even curls, presses or other basic movements would be terrific grip developers. Cadine was certainly no slouch in the forearm department. We've never seen these advertised so they must have been for his own personal use.

Sandow Cigars

To promote his first tour of America in 1894, Sandow lent his image to his own brand of cigars. Sandow knew what he was doing and this tactic clearly worked as his shows were all well attended. This was one of the first, if not THE first "celebrity endorsement" which are commonplace today with athletes, film stars and the like.

The King Brothers - Herculean Comedy Athletes!

Edward Traver and Robert Shank were two lads from Schenectady, New York who ran off and joined the Vaudeville circuit as "The King Brothers - Herculean Comedy Athletes!"

The duo performed hand-balancing feats and were featured in Ripley's Believe It or Not. They were at their peak in the teens and 20's and once even  shared the stage with Will Rogers in Atlanta. Unfortunately we're not sure which of the King brothers is featured in the rare postcard above but all that hand-balancing work has certainly built an impressive pair of arms for this fellow.

Gasnier Visits Harvard

  A Surprise to Harvard  

Last Tuesday afternoon, a number of Harvard students were given a great surprise by a sturdy little French athlete Pierre Gasnier, whose exhibitions of strength have been one of the features of the great Barnum & Baily shows for the past six years. Gasnier was introduced to Professor Sargent. After Professor Sargent had made a thorough examination and taken the different measurements of the tremendous athlete. Gasnier, in the presence of over 150 of Harvard's best athletes performed feats of strength which called forth unstinted applause from the students and caused Professor Sarent to step forward, shake the hand of Gasnier and exclaim "Gasnier, you are a physical marvel!"

Among the more difficult feats accomplished by the sturdy Frenchman were the breaking of a piece of chain which had been tested to sustain a weight of 750 pounds by expanding the chest... breaking a similar piece of chain with his biceps... stretching three strands of rubber out to arm's length while the combined strengths of five students could only stretch then four inches... lifting and placing at arm's length above the head, with one hand, a dumb-bell, the largest and heaviest in the gymnasium, weighing over 200 pounds... and many more feats of strength just as extraordinary. Considering the size and weight of the man, Professor Sargent says "all of his feats of strength are marvelous,"

Pierre Gasnier stands a little under 5 feet 3 inches in height and weighs 137 pounds yet his chest measurement is 47 inches.
                                       - The Boston Post, Nov. 17, 1903.

The Mighty Atom Supports 14 People

Here's Joseph "The Mighty Atom" Greenstein supporting what looks like 14 people on his chest while lying on a bed of nails.  Doesn't look like The Atom is even breaking a sweat.

Grimek's Handstand

For a period of a few years, John Grimek didn't touch a weight of any kind... no barbells, no dumbbells, no nothing BUT he still continued to maintain and even enhance his impressive physique by focusing intently on his hand-balancing skills. The great thing about hand-balancing is that it's a lot like riding a bike, once you learn how to do it, you never forget. This classic shot of Grimek looks like it was probably taken in Bob Hoffman's back yard in North York, PA.

Santell's Feat

Here's another strength feat by young Arthur Santell, 19 years old at the time, performing "The Tomb of Hercules" with eight lovely ladies. This picture was taken on April, 28th, 1931 in his hometown of Los Angeles, California and ran in newspapers all over the country.

Attila: The World's Greatest Physical Culture and Athletic Instructor

Here's a rare and pretty nifty advertisement for Professor Attila's Studio of Physical Culture from 1903.  Not many people have seen this one.

Early York Barbell Co. Advertisement - "We Build Mighty Men"

Here's an ad for the York Barbell Company from 1934 making it a very early one. Notice Bob Hoffman -- with hair! -- and the famous picture of Wally Zagursky and Tony Terlazzo getting in a quick workout with York equipment in BoHo's backyard on Lightner's Hill in north York.

Alexandre' Maspoli

The great French lifter Alexandre' Maspoli was born in Lyons in 1875 and was an amateur champion an astounding 19 years in a row (1901 to 1920). He won a Bronze Medal at the 1906 Olympic Games. He also competed in the long jump in the 1906 games but did not place. Maspoli's greatest lifts include a right hand snatch of 207-1/2 pounds, a two-dumbbell clean and press of 231-3/4 pounds, and a two-dumbbell jerk of 298 pounds. Maspoli was also a successful sculptor - a true Renaissance man.

Iron Teardrops

People often say there's nothing new under the sun but I would disagree. Case in point, here's a unique training idea from a muscle magazine from about 20 years ago that I have never seen before or since. These "Iron Teardrops" slipped on your barbell just like plates and moved around while you lifted, adding a whole new dimension to standard lifts.

A few years back, I called the number listed on the ad just to see what would happen. A woman answered the phone and told me that yes, it was her brother which came up with the idea for the Iron Tear Drops but he was not home at the moment. She took down my address and said she would send some info but I never did hear from them. Anyone out there ever get to train with these?

Joe Weider, Lifting a Globe Barbell

Here's Joe Weider, The 'Master Blaster' himself lifting a pretty awesome globe barbell at a weightlifter gathering in Montreal sometime in the 1930's. The only weight stated was "over 200 pounds."

Nikola Petroff

Here's a rare shot of the great Bulgarian wrestling champion, Nikola Petroff and, like most wrestlers of the day, Petroff was impressive from a physique standpoint as well. Petroff became the World Greco-Roman champion in 1900 by defeating Paul Pons. Over his 25 year career, Petroff only suffered defeat once, and it was at the hands of Marijan Matijevic.

Mr. America Magazine, September, 1965, Don Howorth Coverman

A look at the September, 1965 issue of Mr. America magazine with the great Don Howorth on the cover. Howorth was well known for having some of the broadest shoulders in the business and has an article on shoulder training is this very issue. Fittingly, a couple years later, Howorth won the 1967 IFBB Mr. America contest

Bruce White's Inch Dumbbell

One of the most famous grip feats of all time is to deadlift the Thomas Inch Challenge Dumbbell. Replicas were not available until the mid-1990's so if you wanted to lift it, you had to either travel to the original, or have your own Inch dumbbell cast, and that is exactly what the great Australian grip master Bruce White did. It took him five years of training to finally accomplish lifting his 172-pound dumbbell. Keep in mind that Bruce White was only 148 pounds at the time, the lightest man to ever do so - a simply phenomenal feat of grip strength.

Humberto Selvetti on 'El Grafico'

Here's a rare look at the great Argentinian weightlifter Humberto Selvetti on the cover of the February, 1952 issue of 'El Grafico' magazine (also published in Argentina.). A few months later, Selvetti would win the Super-heavyweight bronze medal at the Helsinki Olympics with a 432.5kg total.

Yet Another Way to Lift a Horse

George Jagendorfer demonstrates one of the many ways that he lifted a horse while performing for Hengler's Circus in the 1890's. You have to have a pretty strong set of choppers for this one.

Dimotrios Tofalos 1906

A look at Dimotrios Tofalos lifting an excellent globe barbell... this is thought to be taken sometime in 1906 when Tofalos was training for what would later become known as the 'Intercalated Games.' Tofalos won the "two arm lifting event" with a successful effort with 142.5 KG on his third attempt.

Mr. America Magazine, January, 1959, Larry Cianchetta Coverman

Larry Cianchetta (later known as Larry Powers) from Staten Island, New York graced the cover of the January, 1959 issue of Mr. America Magazine. He went on to win a number of bodybuilding titles including, appropriately enough, the IFBB Mr. America in 1960. Also, the article 'Rope-Chinning for Blade Sharp Definition,' by E.M. Orlick is available at The Iron League.

The Arm of Apollon

In case you might be wondering why the great Apollon was known as a true 'King of Strength' and could eaily lift weights that others couldn't even budge, here's a pretty clear illustration. On the left, the forearm of an early professional wrestler named Wolff which measured 16-3/8ths inches in circumference. Apollon's arm, on the right, measured over twenty inches around but even more impressive was his massive forearm which appears even bigger than Mr. Wolff's upper arm.

Billie Miske

Here's a classic shot of boxer Billie Miskie training with a medicine ball, circa 1920. Miskie was deep in training to face the great Jack Dempsey for the World's Heavyweight title in Benton Harbor, Michigan on September, 6th of that year (a fight Miskle lost by Knockout in the 3rd round, the only time he got knocked out in his entire career.) For you trivia buffs, this was the very first heavyweight title match that was ever broadcast on radio.  Medicine ball training was always very popular with the oldtime boxers, and for very good reason.

Bruce Lee's grip Machine

Bruce Lee was described by many as a "forearm fanatic" which makes perfect sense when one is devoted to the martial science - stronger wrists and forearms translate to harder punches and better grappling. This style of gripper is a simple design and has been around for decades, well before Bruce Lee came along, yet many people still know and refer to it as "The Bruce Lee Grip Machine"

This particular piece was made for Bruce by his friend George Lee (no relation) and he used it often. We have our own version of this type of grip machine available from time to time. This device actually brings quite a bit to the table, most importantly in our opinion, is to be able to train the crushing movement in different ranges of motion. much like one could use a power rack to improve various exercises

Kettlebells in Iran, circa 1897

Kettlebells are thought by many people to be uniquely Russian. While there is no question that they have very strong roots there, kettlebells have a long tradition in other areas of the world as well. This rare picture was taken in Iran, circa 1897, showing these practitioners of 'Varzesh-e Pahlavani' (Iranian Martial Arts) who obviously use them as a part of their training. The text offers no explanation as to why they are fastened together by ropes.

Also of note are the Kaebade (i.e. Iron Bows) at their feet. That unique training tool is swung from one shoulder to the other, building upper-body strength.

1901 Sandow Grip Dumbbell Poster

Sandow's Grip Dumbbells were one of the earliest pieces of commercial training equipment, and the most popular as well. Here we have a nifty advertising poster for them from 1901 that not many folks have seen before.

Rekordnaia Stanga

How about this thing of beauty? Known as Rekordnaia Stanga or 'World Record Barbell," these Russian sets were imported by Chester O. Teegarden's STRONG Barbell Company of Sacramento, California back in the 1960's and advertised for sale in Iron Man or Lifting News. They were steel with nickel plating and as you might guess, they were not cheap to bring over. Hard to say how many of these sets were ever sold but we know of at least one, Pat Casey did a lot of lifting and set many records on one of these beautiful sets.

Giuseppe Lamberti

A look at Giuseppe Lamberti, circa 1905. Unfortunately not much is known about this gent, but in the only resource we have for him he is listed at a wrestling champion. We have not been able to find any more details. Regardless, like most wrestlers of those days, his physical development was impressive, any modern bodybuilder would be happy to have a set of arms like his.

John Davis and BAWLA Plates

Here's a rare look at the great John Davis. Hard to tell were this shot is from though. This image was actually from a German tobacco card from 1952. If you take a close look, those are BAWLA (British Amateur Weight Lifting Association) Plates so it may be from the 1948 Olympics, held in London, where Davis took home the gold medal.  Problem is, it doesn't match up to any other shots we have seen from that time period.  Either way, another look at JD in action is always a good thing.

The Amazing Samson, Also a "Human Jack"

If you ever get a flat tire, you won't need a jack if "The Amazing Samson" Alexander Zass is on your friend list. This picture was taken around 1920. Cars were pretty heavy back then and there isn't much leverage to be had from this position, this is no small feat.

The Wrestler's Bridge

The wrestler's bridge is a fantastic exercise for building neck size and strength and here's a good look at why it is so named and practiced by grapplers. In a match, the neck can act as an extra 'limb' which, if strong enough, can keep the shoulders off the mat. Shown here is a Greco-Roman featherweight class match from the 1912 Stockholm Summer Olympics with Swedish wrestler Ewald Persson (bridging) vs. Norwegian champion Ragnvald Gullaksen. This match ended in a decision after 59 minutes, with Gullaksen taking the win.

Siegmund Breitbart Circus Poster

Here's one that no one has seen for a long time: a rare poster of Siegmund Breitbart from the Paris stop of his European Tour.  Breitbart is shown supporting a woman playing the piano, two horses and a crowd of people all on his chest.

Dimitrios N. Zeus

Unfortunately Dimitrios N. Zeus' story has been lost to the sands of time. The old postcard bearing his name says that he was the World's Strongest Man AND a film star. By his large, strong hands, looks like he also bent more than a bit of steel in his day.

Iron Samson's Wrist Roller

Here's an interesting one, courtesy of an extremely rare course by 'The Iron Samson' Alexander Zass. Many people like to do their wrist roller training standing straight up, which is certainly good, but using the wrist roller from a crouched position is a good one to try for a change of pace.

Miss Bliss

Here's a look at Miss Bliss, a French Strong woman from 1901. Don't know much else about her other than she has a strong set of choppers. It would be easy to think that this photo was faked but if you look closely, you'll see that her neck development would indicate that she has trained for and is actually performing this rather amazing feat. It's also worth noting that she has a larger and likely stronger neck than several football players I know.

Saul Hallap

Saul Hallap was a great Estonian weight lifter who set four world records and seven European records during his career. Hallup also competed in the 1924 Olympic games in Paris where he one-arm snatched 75kg, one-arm clean & jerked 95kg, pressed 90kg, two-hand snatched 90kgand two-hand clean & jerked 115kg, which was good for a 465kg total and a 9th place finish. After his weight lifting career, Hallap became a circus acrobat.

Heinrich Schneidereit in 1912

How about this shot of the great German lifter Heinrich Schneidereit and this awesome globe barbell? We believe this shot is from the 1912 German weightlifting championships where Schneidereit finished seconds to Heinrich Rondi. Karl Moerke finished third.

Vsevolod Kherts ~ Another Angle

[Join The Iron League! ] Another look at the great Russian Circus strongman Vsevolod Kherts and his incredible 300+ lb. neck bridging, this time, from another angle. And check out that nifty globe barbell rack in the background.

Cadine's Arms

[http://www.ironleague.com] Another look at the great Ernest Cadine, circa 1915, and I'd say further proof that impressive physical development is certainly possible without drugs. Cadine never downed a single protein shake yet you won't find a better set of arms, even a hundred years later.

Unknown Strongman #6

[http://www.ironleague.com] - Unfortunately this fellow's name is lost, which is unfortunate since this is one of the more impressive feats of strength that we have ever highlighted (and that is really saying something!) Even if we are pretty conservative with the bodyweights, that's got to be close to 900 pounds. Supporting feats always go over well because very heavy weights can be used but doing so in a full backbend is utterly ridiculous.

James J. Corbett's Indian Clubs

Indian Clubs used to be very popular with turn-of-the-century boxers because they will build strong and well-conditioned shoulders. This pair of indian clubs once belonged to the great Heavyweight Boxing Champion James J. Corbett who used them in his training circa 1895 (he held the championship belt from 1892 to 1897.) You can make out his name written in black ink on the left-most club. Corbett certainly looks like he trained. These clubs are 17 inches long which means they weigh around a pound each. They also once were on display in "The Ring" Boxing Museum.

Paul Anderson's Bike

When you're strong, all the world is your gym. Here Paul Anderson does a one arm press with his bicycle. Big Paul enjoyed bike riding, problem was, most bikes of the day were built for "normal" sized people, and at a bodyweight of 350 pounds, bikes crumbled like tissue paper with regular use. This picture is from the Summer of 1961, when Paul embarked on a 1500 mile bike trip to raise awareness for his youth home. After his other bikes broke down, East Ridge (TN) Bicycle Shop owner Joe Dyer made "The World's Strongest Bike" for the World's Strongest man.

Grigori Novak Circus Poster

We've covered Grigori Novak's weightlifting career previously. Novak got a handful of Olympic medals and set over a hundred lifting records but once his competitive career came to an end, he did what any great strength athlete would do: he ran off to the circus! For the next 25 years, Novak was a genuine performing strongman, lifting barbells, juggling kettlebells, supporting heavy weights and the like. Eventually his sons Roman and Arkady even joined the act. Above, you'll see a rare poster of Novak's circus days.

Gaston de Paris

Unfortunately we haven't found much in our files on Gaston de Paris but muscling out a 20 kg blockweight, as he is doing here, is no small feat. Based on that accomplishment, he would have to have been fairly proficient. He clearly has excellent taste in equipment otherwise.

Max 'The Strongman' Rosenstock

Max "The Strongman" Rosenstock holds a pair of airplanes back as in the human link stunt at the Culver City Airport, circa 1928. Max also bent steel, ripper phone books in half and did supporting feats.

Arkady Vorobyev

Arkady Vorobyev took an interest in weightlifting while serving in the Russian Navy during WWII and it led to a hall of fame career. Vorobyev was one of the most dominant lifters of the 1950's, taking gold in two Olympic Games (1956, Melbourne, 1960, Rome) five World Championships (1953-1955, 1957-58) and five European championships (1950, 1953-1955, 1958). Vorobyev set 16 World records over the course of his career. He went on to become a noted strength researcher and his "Textbook on Weightlifting," written in 1978, is thought of as a modern classic in the field.

Ali Kotier

Syrian athlete Ali Kotier is shown here lifting a few famous stage weights. Kotier was featured frequently in Alan Calvert's Milo Barbell literature as a fantastic example of how one could build incredible strength without being huge in stature: Kotier weighed less than 140 pounds but could put well over 300 lbs. overhead.

A. V. Verge

Arthur Verge, of the famous Camberwell Weight-Lifting Club, was the winner of the Open London Handicap Tournament of 1915 and holder of 10, 11, and 12-stone and Heavyweight Amateur Records. He was a pupil of W.A. Pullum.


"Special" foods are not a new thing, case in point "Bovril" a salty meat extract which first appeared in 1889. Thomas Inch swore by it, and went on record saying that it was BOVRIL that helped him break all those strength records. This ad is from 1916.

When you buy a set of YORK DUMBBELLS you also get SWINGBELLS!

When you buy a set of YORK DUMBBELLS you also get SWINGBELLS! ~ and everyone loves swingbells. Swingbells are still an interesting concept today and, of course, dumbbells are always tough to beat.

John Grimek vs. The Cyr Dumbbell

Also, the Cyr dumbell we had was always a bone of contention. Men from all parts of the country came to see if they might get it overhead. It weighed “only” 202 pounds empty but it could be loaded with lead shot to over 270. We never loaded it over 269½ pounds, and even then it defied most men who tried it.

One time, Milo Steinborn and four or five other wrestlers stopped by on their way to Baltimore. Milo had Primo Carnera with him – truly an impressive individual. When Carnera shook hands you could feel your whole hand being swallowed by something that felt like an octopus. Because all the men were wrestling that evening none of them cared to train that afternoon, but most of the lifters kept on training. In the center of the gym was the awkward Cyr dumbell that seemed to be in the way of everyone. Without thinking I picked it up off the floor and tossed it aside so it wouldn’t be in the way. I remembered the huge hands Carnera had when he shook my hand, and knew if anyone could handle this weight it was him. I called out to him to try it. He smiled as if to say, “that’s easy,” and no one would doubt him. he came over, very casually gripped the stubby handle and made a half-hearted attempt to lift it. A look of surprise came over his face as the weight slipped from his grip. I offered him some chalk to absorb the moisture of his hand. With some disdain, instead, he grabbed the handle and though he lifted it a little you could see that the weight was a great surprise to him.

I tried to explain that there was a slight technique to handle this weight. He just kept looking at me and the awkward hunk of iron mass that was defying him. I chalked up, especially the heel of my hand, gripped the weight and tossed it a few feet to one side. Carnera only growled. However, I feel sure that with his banana-like fingers he could have done things with that Cyr dumbell that no one else could do. Others felt much the same way about this big man.

I must point out that many men who tried to lift the small clumsy dumbell failed. This awkward hunk of iron required lots of practice before one learned the little details needed to be successful at lifting it. No one played around with this weight more than I did; and eventually I was the only one who lifted it off the floor to an overhead position using one and only when it weighed 254 pounds. Stanko was the first man who picked it up off the floor in one sweeping movement. Unfortunately, I do not remember how much it was loaded to at the time. The weight of that dumbell was always being changed. It always looked formidable and defying. Those who tried it remember that only too well.

Sledge Hammer Levering

Dave 'Bull' Bonvicin levers a heavy sledge hammer back in the late 50's. Note the perfect form. -- It was impressive then, and probably even more impressive now.

The Magic Square

You've heard of the Magic Circle... but have you heard of the Magic Square? It was another experiment to make intense leg work more "comfortable." However, like the Magic Circle, it also changed the lifter's center of gravity which was somewhat problematic. Still, the Magic Square was GREAT for Hise Shrugs and calf work. Jerry Liekam demonstrates in the old Iron Man gym.

Louis Cyr Poster

Louis Cyr traveled to Europe in the early 1890's with the idea of a 'feats of strength' challenge match against the great Sandow. This is a rare poster from those times. The match never materialized as Sandow preferred to stick to his posing.

Chas. Buckett, Heavy Club Swinging Champion of New Zealand

On February, 20, 1913, Chas. Buckett, of Christchurch set the New Zealand record for heavy Indian club swinging. He swung for 48 consecutive hours (breaking the previous record of 47 hours set by Tom Burrows.) Buckett proudly wore his Health and Strength League badge upon his singlet during his record swing. In this context, "heavy clubs" weighed 4 lbs. each.


A look at the great Russian lifter Yuri Vlasov. This photograph was taken on December 22, 1961 at the Russian championships held in Dnepropetrovsk. Vlasove had a pretty good day, breaking Schemansky's record in the snatch on a fourth attempt and setting records in the clean and jerk (210 KG) and total (550KG). As a point of interest, eleven Russian lifters totaled over 1000 pounds in that contest.

Siegmind Breitbart's Steel Scrolling

Check out this previously unpblished image of the great Siegmund Breitbart scrolling a piece of steel around his forearm

KAL-LI-THEN-OS Force Clubs

The idea of loadable/adjustable Indian clubs may seem like a modern one, but actually it has been around for a long time. This Ad for the KAL-LI-THEN-OS Force Clubs appeared in the June, 1901 issue of Bernarr MacFadden's Physical Culture magazine. Ever seen one? These clubs were a work of art, polished steel with nickel handles.

Muscular Development November, 1972: Larry Scott

A look at the cover of the November, 1972 issue of Muscular Development magazine featuring Larry Scott on the cover. They sure don't make 'em like this any more, (neither the magazine or the man.)

Jack Lewis British Steel Expanders

A rare look at an advert for the Jack Lewis British Steel Expander sets from the 1930's. We've covered Jack Lewis before. At some point, we will feature the entire Jack Lewis Expander Course over on THE IRON LEAGUE.

The Geisel Exerciser

Here's one for the "betcha-didn't-know-this-one" pile: Here we have a vintage advertisement for "The Geisel Exerciser" which appeared in the December, 1907 issue of Bernarr McFadden's 'Physical Culture' magazine. This device was actually patented in 1906 and is composed of a rod, encased by a heavy spring with a pair of handles. One uses it by grasping the handles and pushing or pulling them together in various positions. And this Geisel fellow from Springfield, Mass. who invented it? It doesnt appear that he made a tremendous splash in the physical training field but his son would go on to be Dr. Seuss of children's book fame.

The Iron Shoe Exerciser

The Iron Shoe exerciser was a great oldtime piece of training equipment which has roots going back pretty far into strength history. As you may notice by the design, it is "horse shoe" shaped -- which is meant to mimic an actual horse shoe, the bending of which was a great oldtime feat and a mark of great strength. The "iron Shoe" provided a method of progressive resistance in some of the positions needed for horseshoe bending and trained the body, especially the grip and forearms in a very unique manner.  This particular shoe was sold by George F. Jowett.

Arteondo The Stone Lifter

Even with all the impressive weight lifting numbers that we come across on a daily basis, Basque stone lifting feats are a continual source of amazement. Case in point, here we have Bittor Zabala, also known in stone lifting circles as Arteondo, lifting a stone into his lap of well over 400 pounds. This was taken in 1924. Arteondo's stone lifting career lasted from 1910 through 1945 and he was instrumental in standardizing the weights and shapes of the stones and making stone lifting into more of a competitive sport.

Louis Chiarelli's Record

Louis Chiarelli, of New York City, is pictured here setting an all-time record by pressing 308 pounds while in the wrestler's bridge. Chirelli was 5'2" and 152 pounds at the time but this would certainly be an impressive feat at any bodyweight. Chiarelli sported a 48-inch chest and 17-inch arms.

The Superior Finger Exerciser

This nifty device never appeared in any strength magazine, it was actually marketed to musicians at the turn of the last century. I believe this is an idea with some interesting possibilities...

Angled Rope Climbing

"From a single climbing and descending of a 30 foot rope each day (which took about two minutes) William Bankier "The Scottish Hercules" obtained infinitely better results as far as arm development than did an acquaintance who devoted a half hour each day to exercises especially for the biceps."

Atlas and Vulcana

William Hedley Roberts, "Atlas" and Miriam Kate Williams "Vulcana" traveled the musical halls of Britain, Europe and Australia performing amazing feats of strength. Atlas weighed only 124 pounds and claimed to have beaten one of Louis Cyr's Records although the veracity of this claim is doubtful. Vulcana was the more impressive of the two, legitimately and officially performing a bent-press of 124½ pounds and an overhead lift with a 56 pound blockweight in each hand in front of Professor Desbonnet. The Professor was so impressed that he gave Vulcana a medal for her efforts. The Vulcana Women's Circus, still active today in Australia, is named in her honor.

The 1906 Rutgers University Gymnastics Team

A rare look at the 1906 Rutgers University Gymnastics Team. Captain and horizontal bar and flying rings expert Thomas Devan (class of '06) is sitting front and center. On the lower left and right sits club swinging experts Frank Morrison (class of '09) and Charles Thompson (class of '08). Morrison won the collegiate club-swinging championship in 1908.

Desbonnet's Expander

You can add Professor Desbonnet's name to the long list of strength champions who have used chest expanders to build size and strength. Expader training has always been popular, this pictures dates to 1891. This particular exercise, performing a 1-arm curl with one end of the expander underfoot, is one of the all-time best methods for building arm strength and why you'll find it in just about every expander course ever written.

The York Adjustable Crusher

"The York Adjustable Crusher Body Developer is a new York feature and one that will provide novelty and diversion in your training. Being adjustable, its resistance can be increased or decreased to match the strength of any enthusiast. Muscles respond readily to this form of training because it is concentrated action. Employ as many springs as your strength will permit to complete the specified number of repetitions. In movements where one arm is exercised, be sure to repeat an equal number of repetitions with the opposite arm."

35 lb. Reading Barbell Plate

A closer look at a 35 lb.Reading Barbell Company plate. You don't see these around much any more and if you find any, you'd be pretty lucky. The Reading Barbell Company was led by Walter good of the famed Good Brothers and, according to old literature was once located at the intersection of First Avenue and Franklyn Street in West Reading, PA.

If a Snake Had Brains...

If a Snake Had Brains... he would still be a snake. Another great ad by Earl E. Liederman, circa 1924.

The Power Lockout Machine

In the early days, what we today call a power rack was referred to as a "Power Lockout Machine." All semantics aside, it was an apt name since it was used --you guessed it-- for strengthening lockouts and heavy partial portions of specific lifts. This idea has a great deal of merit, and few people use it today to the extent that they could especially given that racks are much more common and available. Above, Harvey McCune, middle-heavyweight lifting champion of El Paso, Texas works on improving his arm lock for the jerk. This idea was pioneered by Bob Peoples and also used a great deal by his friend Paul Anderson.

George Eiferman - Chest Development

Back in the old days, "chest development" meant chest and ribcage expansion, not just bigger pecs.

Here's a look at George Eiferman, a classic bodybuilder, who was famous for his chest development, on the cover of the February, 1948 Strength and Health Magazine.

Eiferman won the AAU Mr. America, AAU Mr. California and IFBB Mr. Universe titles.

In this picture Eiferman weighed around 190 pounds. You can tell that ribcage and chest expansion contributes greatly to the "look" of strength and power.

Steve Reeves: On Top Of The World

Steve Reeves is known as THE classic physique of all time. His Herculean good looks led to a number of movie roles and dozens of magazine covers. Steve Reeves won the following bodybuilding titles over his career:

1946 - Mr. Pacific Coast
1947 - Mr. Western America
1947 - Mr. America
1948 - Mr. World
1950 - Mr. Universe

After his competitive bodybuilding career came to an end, Reeves went to Hollywood to find fame and fortune in the movie business. Here's his filmography:

Athena (1954)
Jail Bait (1954)
Hercules (1957)
Hercules Unchained (1959)
The Giant of Marathon (1959)
The Last Days of Pompeii
The White Warrior (1959)
Morgan, the Pirate (1960)
The Thief of Baghdad (1960)
The Trojan Horse (1961)
Duel of the Titans (1961)
The Avenger (1962)
Sandokan the Great (1963)
Pirates of Malaysia (1963)
A Long Ride from Hell (1967)

Dennis Rogers

At 5'6" and 168 pounds, Dennis Rogers does not fit the mold of the typical strongman but he can perform feats that have to be seen to be believed. Here he shows a steel bar that he has just bent into a pretzel shape. Dennis has many unique training methods and has agreed to share many of them with us.  Stay tuned...

Strongfort's "Human Bridge" Act

Strongfort's "Human Bridge" Act

An Amazing Feat of Strength

"The bridge, touring car and half-dozen passengers aggregate a weight of 7,000 pounds, or 3-1/2 tons. As the car crosses the bridge the latter "see-saws" Strongfort being compelled not only to support the weight, but also to resist the swaying tendency of the bridge. Finally, when the car has passed just beyond the center, tipping the balance the other way, the further end of the bridge pitches down to the final landing with a jar and crash which sends a shudder through the 6,000 or more spectators at the NEW YORK HIPPODROME. The momentum of this pitching downward is equal to more than twice the dead weight of the bridge and car, and the shock is beyond all human comprehension."

- The New York Times, February 12, 1910.

Bob Jones

Another look at the inimitable Bob Jones, hopping into his signature 'thumb-stand' at a moment's notice. I can't find my notes but I believe this was shot at a tv show. I don't believe anyone has ever duplicated this feat, If I'm wrong,  it sure couldn't have been many folks.

Tags: Bob Jones

John McWilliams - "Mr. Arms"

Some of the most impressive arms of all time belonged to Mr. John McWilliams. He happened to have a pretty good head start in the arms department thanks to Mother Nature, but what also helped McWilliams stretch the tape was a focus on basic exercises. That, and because he drank plenty of water... since muscle tissue is composed of mostly water, he believed that glugging down that H20 went directly to his arms! While this belief is a little simplistic, drinking enough water IS a good idea (most people don't get enough and no doubt actually DID contribute to his impressive results.

Gus Hill and His Famous Performing Indian Clubs

Another look at Gus Hill and his famous performing Indian Clubs. Hill's clubs were always large and impressive due to the theatrical natrure of his swinging.  While they were most certainly not as heavy as they looked, Hill's prowess with the clubs and range of different combinations was still quite impressive.

Professor Gilman Low - The World's Champion Endurance Back Lifter

In 1907, Professor Gilman Low established the phenomenal record of one million-six-thousand (1,006,000) pounds in thirty five minutes and four seconds -- interestingly, this was after a period of training on one meal a day and less. Low's record was accomplished by backlifting 1000 pounds 1,006 times in thirty five minutes and thirty four seconds. Immediately following, Low set an additional record by lifting 2000 lbs. forty four times in four minutes. As far as we know, these records still stand.

Frank E. Miller

Frank E. Miller was the physical director of the Young Men's Christian Association of Dallas, Texas in the late ninteeth and early twentieth century. In 1900, MIller wrote an excellent training guide for indian club swinging entitled "Indian Club-Swinging: One, Two, and Three Club Juggling." Due to his club work, Miller was unsurprisingly also an expert fencer and golfer.

Terlazzo's Inverted Press

One of the exercises that the great Tony Terlazzo used to improve his standing press was what he called "the inverted press" - essentially a handstand press on top of two boxes to increase the range of motion. Terlazzo was a 13-time Weightlifting national Champion, something to think about if you're working on your press too.

Dave's Gym - South Bend, Indiana

Dave Bjoraas, (pictured far right) the legendary "Dave" of Dave's Gym and Dave's Barbell Club of South Bend, Indiana... for many years the center of strength activity in the Mid-Western United States. Dave's Gym in South Bend, Indiana produced many Iron Game champions: 1956 Mr. America Ray Schaefer trained there. So did Junior. Mr. America Doug Lindzy (pro-wrestling's original "Doug Gilbert"). Dave's Barbell Club Weight-lifting team produced champions like Winston Binney and Mike Burgener. And, most importantly, many of the top football players on Notre Dame's great Irish teams trained with Dave. Dave's Gym... one of the top gyms ever... Dave Bjoraas, a fine man and a giant in the world of weights.

Karl Moerke Lifts a Firetruck

A look at the great German strongman Karl Moerke lifting a firetruck said to weigh four thousand pounds. As we have been exploring, there is a great deal more to heavy supporting lifts than many have thought...

Bill Hunt

Bill Hunt was an excellent British weightlifter and handbalancer and this was his most daring feat: Bill first balanced precariously atop a six foot ladder which was also sitting on a table top. With a sudden flick of his arms, he knocked the ladder to the side and landed on the table while still maintaining the handstand! ~ THAT'S pretty amazing.

MacFadden's Headstands

Here's Bernarr MacFadden standing on his head around eighty years of age. MacDadden followed a daily exercise routine his entire life and headstands were always included - he believed that being in an inverted position helped his brainpower! Macfadden was a bit of a nut on many topics but he may be on to something there...

William Needham

Health and Strength League member William Needham was the Tasmanian Club Swinging Champion of 1911. Needham swung a pair of 4lb. Indian clubs for 24 continuous hours to set the Tasmanian record in April of that year. At times, he did 300 circles per minute but his average was about 150 per minute. Eyewitness accounts reported that Needham looked surprisingly fresh at the conclusion of his record swing.

A few years later, in 1913, Needham swung a pair of 3 lb. 3oz clubs for 100 hours and 4 minutes to establish a new record. Not only that, during one of his memorable endurance swinging performances, Needham allowed his barber to give him a shave, while continuing to swing, of course!  Needham engaged in several memorable Endurance Club swinging matches against Harry J. Lawson.

Wilfred Briton

Wilfred Briton, from Yorkshire, was the toast of the variety show circuit in the 1930's and 40's. "The Amazing Briton" performed a multitude of traditional strongman feats such as breaking clay pipes in his clenched fists, bending iron bars, supporting a piano player in the "Tomb of Hercules,"  pulling heavy strands while supporting two other people, and, as shown here, ripping decks of cards in half (always a popular one.) Briton was the feature of several newsreel shorts highlighting his strength feats.

Cadine's Leverage Feat

Here's an interesting feat achieved by the great French weightlifting champion Ernest Cadine in 1934: lifting a dozen pool cues by their tips. You can try this one at home.

The Tomb of Hercules

Supporting heavy weights on the knees and shoulders as shown here was known as "The Tomb of Hercules" feat and it was invented by Professor Attila. Practitioners, like Sandow pictured above, increased the drama by acting as the pivot point in a "human bridge." In Sandow's era, they used horses but a few decades later, many strongmen upped the ante by having heavy motor cars drive over the "bridge." Because the weight is supported rather than lifted a tremendous poundage can be used, but that certainly does not mean that this feat is easy.

Harry Good

Like many strongmen, Harry Good was very talented at feats of grip and forearm strength. Here he lifts a set of heavy farm equipment gears weighing over 300 pounds with one finger. His best performance in this lift was with over 450 pounds.

Paul Anderson's Upside Down Training

Paul Anderson was not a handbalancer per se, but he did discover some interesting reasons to introduce upside-down training into repertoire. Here's something that Big Paul wrote in 1970:

"...As I did more thinking on the subject, I made a great discovery. This discovery was that the reason the thighs were responding so rapidly to weight training was that they had such a free flow of blood, and the upper body and even Lower back did not have this rapid access to the blood supply.

Even with the heart pumping vigorously our blood still seems to respond to the pull of gravity. One can see this by holding one of their hands over head and the other down to the side.

After a few seconds, they can be compared and the hand which was held overhead will be much whiter, which is naturally caused by the lack of blood.

Knowing the reason for the quick response in the legs, and the same response in the upper body, I set out to do something about it.

... I knew there must be a way to get more blood Into the upper body and the only logical explanation was to invert the body allowing the blood to rush to the upper parts.

My first effort in the was to go into a handstand position with my feet against the wall and stay there as long as possible. While there I did some hand stand presses, sliding my feet up and down against the wall.

Immediately after returning to a normal position, I went to the bar for bench presses and found that I could press about twenty percent more with this great quantity of blood in my upper body..."

That's some pretty interesting food for thought...

The Great Orlando

The Great Orlando was another excellent steel bending strongman from Florence, Italy. Unsurprisingly, a steady diet of long bar steel scrolling led to some big strong hands and a knotty pair of forearms. 

John Terpak

John Terpak joined the York Barbell company in 1935 and from there did pretty much everything there was to do in the world of weight lifting. Terpak won eleven Senior National Weightlifting Titles (1936-1945 & 1947) and over his career he lifted in three different weight classes (148, 165 and 181.) His best performance occurred in winning the 1947 Worlds as a light-heavyweight:

Press: 253-1/2 pounds
Snatch: 264-1/2 pounds
Clean & Jerk: 336-1/4 pounds
Total: 854-1/2 pounds

Terpak also one-hand snatched 154 pounds and one-hand jerked 170-1/2 pounds in some early weightlifting contests when those lifts were still contested.

He was a three-time Olympic Team Member (1936, 1940, & 1948), a part of nine total Olympic teams and sixty consecutive National Championships as a lifter, judge or coach. He eventually served as an executive for the York Barbell Company.

Also you can also tell this was an early shot by that style of barbell plate. There is only one known set of these 30's-era "deep dish/larger letter" York barbell plates still in existence.

Muscular Development October, 1964, featuring Steve Reeves

Here we have the October, 1964 issue of Muscular Development magazine (making this one the tenth issue ever) which features a painting of the great Steve Reeves on the cover. The first unofficial Powerlifting championships was to be held in York, Pennsylvania shortly after this issue hit the news stands so the issue focused on quite a bit of powerlifting related news and training including an excellent and quite interesting article on rack work by eventual champion Terry Todd.Sig Klein also contributed a dynamite article on the heavy deep knee bend ~ otherwise known as the squat.  With Steve Reeves on the cover, there was also a several page spread on his movie career and other accomplishments.

Apollon Poster

Here's a rare poster from Apollon 1897 tour of Germany. Unsurprisingly, heavy supporting lifts were the norm as they allowed rather impressive weights (and types of weights) to be used. It was probably Sandow who began this practice, lifting a horse with one arm and walking across the stage.  As far as lifting bicycles and their riders, this feat made appearances for many years to come, (check out this and this.)

Basil Korolev

Basil Korolev

Basil Korolev was Russian by birth but left his native land in 1919 at the start of the revolution. He settled in Japan were he was undefeated in Judo and boxing contests and held the heavyweight title in both sports until his retirement in 1936. Here is Basil at a strength demonstration curling a pair of 80-pound kettlebells with only his little fingers.

Frank Leight - Mr. America 1942

Frank Leight - Mr. America 1942

Frank Leight, AAU Mr. America 1942, is shown here with some classic globe barbells and kettlebells on the cover of the July, 1942 issue of Strength and Health Magazine. Frank Leight finished 2nd in 1940 (losing to John Grimek and 3rd in 1941 (again behind Grimek, and Jules Bacon)before finally winning the Mr. America contest himself in 1942.

Andre Reverdy

Andre Reverdy

Andre Reverdy the "vest pocket strongman" from  was a Massachusetts was active during the 1920's. He weighed but  113 pounds but could bent press 168 pounds, tear cards, bend steel and, as shown above, pull a car with his teeth. He was coached in these classic strongman feats by Professor Attila. The above photo was taken at one of Bernarr Macfadden's Physical Culture shows held at Madison Square Garden. Reverdy pulled this car full of passengers -- with his teeth -- the entire length of the arena.

Jean Louis Auger

Canada has long been a hotbed of impressive strength athletes. You can add this stout fellow to the list: Weider-trained man Jean Louis Auger, who could reporrtedly harness deadlift 2500 pounds! Auger tipped the scales at 380 lbs.

Cortese' One-Arm Deadlift

The one-arm deadlift has always been a fantastic lift for building an iron grip as well as all-over body strength. Here's Pete Cortese of the Boston Young Men's Christian Union Weightlifting Club making a record 330 lb. one-arm deadlift. This would be an impressive lift all by itself but Pete weighed all of 117 lbs. at the time.

Bar Bending Gust Lessis

Gust Lessis

Greek Strongman/Wrestler/Boxer Gust Lessis liked to psyche out his opponents by performing feats of strength. Here's Gust bending an impressively thick steel bar in his mouth.

Leverage Bar Training

Elverage Bar Training - John Grimek

Leverage bar training, demonstrated here by John Grimek, will make an excellent addition to any program, especially if the goal is knotty forearms. You can use a sledge hammer, a broom, or, as shown here, a dumbbell handle loaded at one end. Supination and pronation,  ulnar and radial deviation and pretty much any movement will build tremendous strength is the small muscles of the forearms that don't always get enough attention...

Aston's One Arm Lift

"This photograph shoes the very latest positions for the "one hand clean" pull in. Mr. Aston is undoubtedly the greatest exponent of this position. He has pulled in 250 lbs. in this style. Note the distance from the ground to the bar, it is very short indeed. Fifteen per cent more weight can be lifted in this position than in the old style of putting the elbow on the hip."

Tags: Edward Aston

Joan Rhodes

There weren't many woman strength acts but there were a few and the most notable was London-born Joan Rhodes. For decades, "The Iron Lady" bent steel bars and ripped phone books with the best of them ~ all even more impressively while wearing high heels!

Jaan Talts

Jaan Talts was an Estonian weightlifter who competed for the Soviet Union in the late 60's and early 1970's. Talts won Olympic Gold (Munich, 1972) and Silver (Mexico City, 1968) and set 43 world records in his career. Hard to tell but this may be his winning clean and jerk at the 1972 USSR Championships. Dig that awesome Russian weight set!

The Iron Neck of Charles Highfield

We have featured young Charles Highfield before but here he is one more time with an even more remarkable feat: here the Coventry lad, only 14 years old at the time, is supporting the full weight of his father on his throat! ~ I'm certainly impressed.

Hackenschmidt's Bridge

A look at George Hackenschmidt demonstrating perfect form in the wrestler's bridge around 1910. This exercise has obvious merit for wrestlers but can be an awesome method for developing neck and upper-back strength. Bridging will also strengthen the spine and may even make you slightly taller so it's a good one to have in your bag of tricks. 

John Davis Squatting at Yarick's Gym

Here's a look at the great John Davis squatting at Ed Yarick's Gym in Oakland, California in the 50's. That's 400 lbs. and he makes it look easy. No monkey business there, just pure power development. You sure don't see squatting like this much these days.

The Rasso Trio

A look at one of the later iterations of "The Rasso Trio" consisting of Heinrich Herzog, Godefroy Nordmann and Jacob Bauer. (Nordmann was an original member). They were active in the mid to late 1890's as indicated by their quite impressive forearm development.

Fred Rollon

Many old timers built powerful bodies with Chest Expanders, and of them, Fred Rollon was the greatest. While many strongmen frowned upon Chest Expanders as a means of testing strength, prefering weights instead, Rollon was never beaten at cable pulling. For sheer muscular separation in the upper body, no one has yet surpassed Rollon. In fact, he was often called "The Human Anatomy Chart." A look at this photo has started many bodybuilders and young trainees into more vigorous training with Chest Expanders and other strength cables.

MacFadden's Muscle Builder, July, 1926

Here's one NOT to try at home: Daredevil Kurizo hangs precariously by his fingertips off a building ledge in New York City (looks like about twenty stories up.) This was the cover of the July, 1926 issue of Bernarr MacFadden's Muscle Builder magazine (also the very last issue.)

Mickey Hargitay and Jayne Mansfield

One bodybuilder who "made good" was Mickey Hargitay, who married the famous blonde bombshell Jayne Mansfield in 1958. Hargitay rose through the ranks in the AAU Mr. America contests in the early fifties before winning the NABBA Mr. Universe title in 1955. He trained at Bob Higgins' Gym in Indianapolis, Indiana and in York, PA on occasion. Hargitay appeared on the cover of a number of strength magazines throughout his career and at some point and unbeknownst to just about everyone, he had his own signature line of weights. Mickey and Jayne's daughter Mariska became a big star on the show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and you'll see her on TV just about every night of the week.

You Can Build 20" Arms by Gene Mozee

For about fifty years, you couldn't open up a muscle magazine and not find Gene Mozee's name. He got his start as Editor-in-Chief of the Walt Marcyan's Physical Power Magazine. Mozee noticed that better pictures would do a more effective job of illustrating training articles and so he began to study photography. It wasn't long before he was one of the premier bodybuilding photographers in the country.

Mozee also authored thousands of training articles and courses including this one You Can Build 20" Arms which came out in the early 70's. If you are lucky enough to have a copy, Mozee's 10 minute arm routine is a great quick mass builder. It might even put an inch on your arm in one month!

Professor Dufrane, The Human Anvil

Unfortunately, not much is known about Professor Dufrane, otherwise known as "The Human Anvil." From what we can piece together he performed in circuses and carnivals in the 1890's in the New York area. At least part of his act involved supporting a large rock on his chest while an assistant hit it with a hammer, a classic feat of strength and an apt choice given his moniker. Look closely at his feet and you'll see a bent horseshoe. Prof Dufrane appears to be in fine shape. Other than that, his getup certainly looks pretty interesting.

Carl Linich - Man of Iron!

Longtime reader Carl Linich has been hitting the iron for a long time, and, as you can see by his choice of equipment, has been doing so in style.

Carl is quite the strongman in his own right, check out some of his best lifts:

  • Standing Press - 270 lbs.
  • Bench Press - 402 lbs.
  • Behind Neck Press - 245 lbs.
  • Jerk from the Rack - 310 lbs.
  • One Hand Clean and Press - 150 lbs.
  • One hand side press - 175 lbs.
  • One Hand Bent Press - 215 lbs.
  • One Hand DB Bent Press - 205 lbs.
Carl was also a very good wrestler, winning the New York State Y.M.C.A Heavyweight wrestling championship twice and eventually turned pro in 1956.(Much thanks to Carl for sending in the picture.)

Louis Vasseur's Human Pillar Feat

Louis Vasseur was one of France's greatest amateur weightlifters and set many records. Once he became a professional, the game changed and his feats needed to be just as entertaining as they were heavy. Here's a look at an extremely rare item: a show bill for one of Vasseur's performances from the early 20th century where he took the place of a pillar and supported on his head and shoulders a spinning merry-go-round, complete with a half dozen riders. That must have been a sight to see!

A Congress of Japan's Famous Strong Men

Here's a pretty interesting item, a poster from the Barnum and Bailey Circus advertising "A Congress of Japan's Famous Strong Men." Based on the attire, I would expect to see sumo wrestling and/or grappling such as is pictured in the top half of the poster.

The bottom illustrations are intriguing though: Sumo wrestlers engaging in stone lifting, steel scrolling, live animal wrestling, horseshoe bending, chain breaking... and of particular interest is the gent in the bottom right holding a kettlebell in each hand. This poster is from the 1921 Circus season.

Georges Carpentier

Georges Carpentier was a talented French boxer who held several championship belts in various weight classes during a career that spanned 109 fights during the years of 1911 through 1926. One of the methods that Carpentier used to get himself into fighting shape was to go out into the forest, chop wood and then carry the logs. Sounds to me like a workout worth doing when preparing to fight for the world championship... one that certainly still stands up just as well today.

Marijan Matijevic

Marijan Matijevic was a great Croatian strongman and Greco-Roman wrestler who was popular during the turn of the century. Nicknamed the 'Lika Samson' after the town where he was born Matijevic won his first medals for strength feats and wrestling when he was only 21 years old and collected many more as the years passed. He had a standing offer that anyone who could defeat him in feats of strength could have the entire collection of medals that he had accumulated. He was adept at bending steel bars, barrel lifting, teeth lifting, stone breaking and lifting thick-handled globe barbells. Interestingly, in 1912 he was examined by doctors in Chicago while traveling and performing in america and it was found that he had double the amount of bone tissue as a normal human being, The doctors belived this was one of the sources for his great strength.

Sandow's Clubs

Interest in club swinging of various types is at an all time high, a few folks have even gone "deep catalog" and dug out some rare pictures of Sandow with clubs of all sorts. Did Sandow swing clubs to build his strength and physique? Doubtful. Like the one pictured here, clubs were used mostly as props to highlight his "Herculean" motif. Be that as it may, club swinging certainly can add many benefits into any training program. 

Tags: Eugen Sandow

Kevin Tolbert's Anvil Curls

Kevin Tolbert is Dr. Ken Leistner's adopted son - and easily one of the strongest men who ever lived. If you've read any of Dr. Ken's writings, especially The Steel Tip Newsletter, you know Kevin's name pretty well.

Kevin went on to play running back at the U.S. Naval Academy. At 5'9" and 220 pounds, Kevin could run a legit 4.5 forty yard dash. As for his marks in the weightroom, here's a few:

23 reps with 375 lbs. and 15 x 405 lbs. in the bench press at a bodyweight of 230 lbs.

510 lbs. max-Bench Press in a legal, competitive style

Squat: 30 x 600 lbs. at a bodyweight of 248 lbs.

Those aren't misprints...

Here's Kevin doing a couple anvil curls while finishing up a workout in Dr. Ken's basement in the mid-1980's. I was fortunate to have Kevin as a strength coach at the University of Michigan for a few years amd it looks like he may be back for another stint...

Nino's Lift

Nino, the Italian strongman favored heavy and impressive supporting feats in his act. In the lift pictured above, Nino supported 500kg in the crooks of his arms consisting of a "human dumbbell" filled with six people.


"[In traditional Indian physical culture], nals are roughly equivalent to Western free weights and are lifted to develop arm, shoulder and back strength. Nals are large, cylindrically-carved stones which are hollowed out. A shaft of stone is left in the center of the nal's hollow core and used as a handle. Nals usually weigh about thirty kilograms but come in all sizes and weights. There does not apprar to be any set way in which nals are lifted but the general idea is to usually lift the weight with one or both hands from the ground to above the head in one smooth motion."

~ The Wrestler's Body: by Joseph Alter

This rare photograph dates to the late 1800's and the nal lifted here in what might be called a shoulder bridge is listed to have weighed over 900 lbs.

George Jagendorfer

Austrian strength athlete George Jagendorfer, shown here circa 1898 during the period where he performed with the Ringling Bros. Circus, was a very popular strongman and one third of the Osman Trio. Even if you weren't sure what year this shot was taken you could easily date it due to Jagendorfer's impressive forearms. This was a characteristic that most strongmen who were active before 1900 all had in common thanks to heavy cleans and other dynamic pulling movements performed with thick, non-rotating barbells.

Gathering of The Greats I

Gathering of The Greats: From Left to Right: Norb Grueber, owner of The Bodybuilder's Sport Shop, (located at 1925 West Division street in Chicago) as well as publisher of The Chicago Bodybuilder Magazine, Sam Greller, Athletic Director of the Chicago Fair, Clarence Johnson, Chairman of Michigan AAU lifting committee, Milo Steinborn, Norb Schemansky, Tony Matic, physical director of Illinois A.C. and former heavyweight boxing champ, Primo Carnera.

The One-Arm Expander Press

Earle E. Liederman was a big fan of chest expander training, and featured chest expanders prominently in his courses. This was certainly with good reason. You won't find a better movement for building shoulder mass and strength than the one-arm expander press shown here.

Universal Bodybuilding Program Ad

A look at an advertisement for Morris Mitchell's Universal Bodybuilding Course circa, 1975. Who knows how many youngesters saved up their allowance and sent away for this program? Whatever the exact number was, it was high, and anyone who used the course always reported great results. Unforunately this 12-lesson course is all but out of print and copies are extremely hard to come by.  Also of note, their base of operations was Dearborn, Michigan, not too far from here.

Hepburn Backlifts The Canucks

December 30th, 1958 was the date when Doug Hepburn backlifted six members of the Vancouver Canucks hockey team just for kicks. The weight was estimated at 1500 pounds which makes this a pretty easy one as far as backlifts go.

Tags: Doug Hepburn

Farmer Burns on the Wrestler's Bridge

"I wish to impress upon all my students the great value of physical training connected with the bridge exercise. I want you to practice bridging every day, for you can find nothing that will develop the neck and back muscles to such an extent as bridging will do.

You already realize the importance of a very strong neck and it is entirely up to you to have a wonderful neck or not, depending entirely on the amount of study, and time of practice that you give the subject. A strong, well-developed neck is not only valuable to health and your personal athletic appearance, but important in wrestling as well."

~ Farmer Burns, 1912

The Apollon Wheels Arrive

It is fairly common knowledge that on March 3, 1930 Charles Rigoulot attempted, (and of course, subsequently lifted) the famed rail car wheels of Apollon. You probably haven't seen this one though: on the morning of the attempt, the wheels were delivered to the Voltaire Gymnasium from the museum where it normally resided. Here's a rare shot of the crew of workmen getting the wheels off the truck and they sure don't look too thrilled about it... Look closely and you'll see that they delivered more than the wheels that day.

The La Seyne-sur-Mer Athletic Club

A look at the few, but hardy, members of the La Seyne-sur-Mer athletic club, circa 1906. La Seyne-sur-Mer is a port town located in south eastern France, and like most all French strongmen, they have an excellent array of training equipment: globe dumbbells, barbells and ring weights.

Jackie Coogan's Club Swinging

Jackie Coogan was one of the first kid movie stars. He appeared in several movies with Charlie Chaplin and many more throughout the 20's.  This rare shot, taken in 1924 when he was around ten years old, shows young Mr. Coogan was also a fan of Indian club swinging, which is an ideal method of physical training for youngsters. Believe it or not, this young man with the Prince Valiant haircut grew up to be Uncle Fester on the Addam's family a couple decades later.

Tags: Indian Clubs

Roy Smith's Hip Lift

Roy Smith Jr., from New York City, was an ardent Milo Barbell system pupil and "barbell man." His favorite movement was the Jefferson lift, and steady practice of this lift gave him tremendous lower body strength. Here, Mr. Smith is just about to perform a "hip-lift" of 2250 pounds with this train car axle, a weight he succeeded in lifting a full inch off the ground. You can read more about Mr. Smith in Super Strength by Alan Calvert.

Walter Imahara

Walter Imahara started training in the Army and turned into one of America's finest Olympic weightlifters. He won six National championships in the featherweight class (1962-63, 1965-68). Imahara  made the fantastic 210 pound low squat snatch shown above on his way to winning the featherweight class at 1959 Jr. Nationals held in Cleveland, Ohio, May 2nd and 3rd of that year.

Members of the New York Turn Verein

Members of the New York Turn Verein, circa 1902 and a selection of their dumbbells, barbells and Indian clubs. At the time, the New York chapter was one of the largest in the country with over 2200 members.

Joel Schumanov Bends a Horseshoe

Strongman Joel Schumanov bends a horseshoe circa 1925. While impressive as a performance feat, steel bending is also a tremendous workout especially for the forearms and upper body.

Pat Casey's Squat

Pat Casey Squats

Much of what has been written about Pat Casey focuses on his bench pressing... Pat was the first man to surpass the 600 pound mark bench press but he was an equally impressive all-around lifter. Above you'll see Pat Casey's 774½ lb. squat at the San Diego Invitational Power Lifting Contest which took place on May, 21, 1966. This was the contest where Pat became the first man to officially surpass the 2000 pound total. His other lifts were a 592 lb. bench press and a 635 lb. deadlift for a 2001½ lb. total.

Charles Heap & Co.

Where did Sandow get all his great stage weights? Charles Heap and Co., of course. This was back in the 1890's mind you. Sure would be great to have a place to get weights like these now-a-days...

Miss Carrie Davenport

Miss Carrie Davenport was a vaudeville performer during the late 1800's. She was an expert at Indian club swinging as well as a champion clog dancer, so she was never out of work.

Milo Triplex Kettlebells

Many people think kettlebells are uniquely Russian, but while they certainly have a long history in Russia, kettlebells also have a long tradition in America as well. In 1902, Alan Calvert established the Milo Barbell Company and kettlebells were among his first products. He went through several different designs, the patent shown above is for the Milo "Triplex" Kettlebell which was patented on September 23, 1919. The Milo Triplex shown did not have a shot-loaded compartment but instead had globed plate "slices" inside the outer shell. The rotating handle is also of note.

Levasseur's Stage Weights

George Levasseur was the resident performing Strongman at the Ringling Brothers Circus during the early part of the 20th century. Levasseur was famous for his backlifting ability but he performed all manner of classical strongman feats, including lifting and/or juggling several of the unusual stage" weights pictured here: globe barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells. Levasseur's forearms definitely reflect training with the especially thick-handled globe barbells.

Tug-o-War Practice Inside Hemenway Gymnasium

High quality pictures from the interior of Hemenway Gymnasium are exceedingly rare. This one shows the Harvard Tug-o-War team getting in a some practice time around 1896 or so. Note the Wall Pulleys and Gymnastic Rings in the background. Looks like a great place to train.

Andre LaFeuille, The Piano Man

Over half a century before Billy Joel's hit tune, the original "Piano Man" was Andre LaFeuille of Paris, France. He was a dock worker who became the toast of the town because of his unique ability to...(wait for it)...lift pianos. On August 27th, 1920, LaFeuille (back)lifted four of them, totaling over 3000 pounds, a record at the time.

Elliot's Swing

Heavy supporting feats were popular with many oldtime strongmen and here's an interesting one performed by British strength athlete Launceston Elliot, around 1908: acting as the support post of a pair or furiously peddling bicycle riders.

Francois Lancoud

The Swiss Weightlifter and Strongman Francois Lancoud became the second World Weightlifting Champion on October 5th, 1903, at an event held at the Moulin Rouge in Paris, France. Among his winning lifts were a snatch of 231-1/2 lbs. and a clean & jerk of 292 lbs. The German strongman Heinrich Schneidereit finished second and the Belgian lifter Gustave Empain finishing third.

Kettlebells for 'Different' Development by Sig Klein

I've seen it written that kettlebells were completely unknown in the US until the late 90's but that's not exactly true... I wouldn't say that they were tremendously popular, but people have certainly known about kettlebells on these shores and trained with them for many years prior. Sig Klein was always big fan of kettlebells and discussed them often in his articles and courses. To give you one example, this article, "Kettlebells for 'Different' Development" appeared in Strength and Health magazine in the late 1950's.

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 of 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. Cyclops' 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.

John McWilliams

The man with some of the biggest arms around was John McWilliams from Kenton, Ohio. While many bodybuilders used to inflate their measurements, he had an open challenge to anyone who could measure his arm at less than 19-1/2 inches... and the money was always safe. In case you are wondering about the "secrets" to his arm development, they were hard training, correct nutrition and proper recovery ~ along with more than a little bit of help from mother nature, of course.

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 know 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.

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.

Steve Reeves - THE Classic Physique

It's not hard to see why Steve Reeves was known as THE Classic Physique - just take a look. During his career Reeves won nearly every contest he entered, including: the 1947 AAU Mr. America, Mr. Pacific Coast and Mr. Western American Contests, the 1948 Mr. World contest, and the 1950 NABBA Mr. Universe contest. Reeves was well-known for his broad shoulders which were measured by Armand Tanny at an unbelievable 23-1/2 inches!

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. Jimmy "Muscles" Jackson (Frank Kirigin), Gene "Jewell" Waddell, and Charley "Jarley" Jackson were known professionally as the "Jackson Trio" as they traveled the country performing on the Vaudeville circuit. (At times, they were also known as "The Three Jacksons," "The Jackson Brothers" or  "The Three Zeckos".)

On August 21st, 1934, with the news reel cameras rolling, the Jackson Trio balanced precariously on a ledge of the 86th floor of the Empire State Building while this famous picture was taken. The Jackson Trio got their start opening for Houdini on the vaudeville circuit and 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


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


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



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.


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 & Posing 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 but 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 raising eyebrows in 1904 when he Bent -pressed 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 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


Jules Keller "The Upside Down Man" was a handbalancing star attraction  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 150 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:
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)

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"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)

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"[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)

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"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)

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"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