Tony Terlazzo

Tony Terlazzo

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

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

Karl Swoboda Medal

Karl Swoboda Medal

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

Muscle Training Illustrated, Issue #1 - November, 1965

Muscle Training Illustrated, Issue #1 - November, 1965

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

Keller The Handbalancer

Keller

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

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

Humberto Selvetti

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

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

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

Dave Draper and The Samson "007" Twister

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

Tags: Dave Draper

Bruno Sammartino

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

Championnat Halterophile

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

Fred W. Mines

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

A Wild Man Once Lived In The Forest...

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

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

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

Norb Schemansky

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

Jack Kanner

Jack Kanner

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

Tossing The Unspunnen Stone

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

The One Hand Chin Course

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

1928 Milo Barbell Advertisement, Featuring Al Manger

1928 Milo Barbell Advertisement, Featuring Al Manger

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

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

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

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

Sears & Roebuck Ted Williams Weights

Sears & Roebuck Ted Williams Weights

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

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

Indian Club Benefits

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

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

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

*   *   *   *   *  *  *  *  *  *  *

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

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

*   *   *   *   *  *  *  *  *  *  *

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

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

*   *   *   *   *  *  *  *  *  *  *

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

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

*   *   *   *   *  *  *  *  *  *  *

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

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

H-ERO Barbell Plates

H-ERO Barbell Plates

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

The W. & H. Grip Machine

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

The 1932 Olympic Weightlifting Lightweight Class

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

Extreme Neck Strength

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

Charles A. Sampson, The Chain Breaker

Charles A. Sampson

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

Ron Walker

Ron Walker

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

A few of these records include:

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

The University of Pennsylvania Gymnastic Team, 1895

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

Dio Lewis' Iron Crown

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

THE IRON CROWN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Irving K. Pond

Irving K. Pond

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

Competitive Strandpulling

Competitive Strandpulling

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

Strength and Health Magazine, March 1948: Abbye Stockton Cover

Abbys Pudgy Stockton

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

The Gymnasium of the Central New York Turn Verein

The Gymnasium of the Central New York Turn Verein

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

The Gittleson Dumbbell

The Gittleson Dumbbell

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

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

Novak's World Record Press

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

Art Levan

Art Levan

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

Weight Lifting For Health ~ 1907 Thomas Inch Advertisement

Weight Lifting For Health Thomas Inch Advertisement

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

The 1936 U.S. Olympic Weightlifting Team

The 1936 US Olympic Weightlifting Team

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

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

Donald Dinnie

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


Henry Laft ~ "The Human Skeleton"

Henry Laft ~ "The Human Skeleton"

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


Abner Brady's Washington Gymnasium

Abner Brady's Washington Gymnasium

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

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


George Barker Windship

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

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

- George Barker Windship, February, 1861

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



Waterman Gymnasium

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

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

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

Spike Howard

Spike Howard

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

Sim D. Kehoe

Sim D. Kehoe

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

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

Henry "Milo" Steinborn

Henry "Milo" Steinborn

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

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

"Little Samson"

Little Samson

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

Syd Devis

Syd Devis

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

Hooverball

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

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

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

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

As Hoover wrote in his Memoirs:

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

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

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

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

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

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



Reg Park Kettlebell Handles

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

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

The Hammer Strength Iso-Lateral Low Row

The Hammer Strength Iso-Lateral Low Row

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

Rheo H. Blair's Instant Protein

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

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

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

Moore's Squat Bar

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

Spenby Exerciser

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

The Narragansett Machine Company Adjustable Barbell Set

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

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

Young Bill Good and The Good Dumbbell

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

Alexeev's Unusual Training

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

Dave Ashman at Muscle Beach

Dave Ashman

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

The Treubund Sport-Club, 1903

The Treubund Sport-Club, 1903

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

Saxon Brown

Saxon Brown

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

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

Neck Training

Rick Redman Neck Training

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

Louis Vasseur

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

Joe Weider

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

The Swingbell

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

Anton Gietl

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

The Mighty Atom Escapes!

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

Health & Strength, November, 1960

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

Ellington Darden's Neck

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

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

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

Valeriy Brumel

Valeriy Brumel

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

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

The Blue Monster

The Blue Monster

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

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

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

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

Double Your Strength Almost Overnight!

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

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

Ike Berger's Press

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

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

Aleksandr Bukharov

Aleksandr Bukharov

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

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

Muscle Builder, July, 1964, featuring Dave Draper

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

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

Anton Riha

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

Nautilus Plate-Loaded Spider-Cam Bicep/Tricep Machine

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

Karl Abs at The Winter Circus

Karl Abs at The Winter Circus

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

The Iron Sheik's Persian Club Challenge

he Iron Sheik's Persian Club Challenge

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

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

He's a crafty one, that Sheik.

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

The West Point Gymnasium, 1895

West Point Old Gym

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

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

Primo Carnera

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

Doug Hepburn The Pro-Wrestler

Doug Hepburn The Pro-Wrestler

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

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

"The Brooklyn Strongboy" Charles Phelan

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

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

Bob Jones at the York Picnic

Bob Jones Does His Thing at the York Picnic

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

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

Gus Hill and his Indian Clubs

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

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

1960 AAU Mr. America Contest Results


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

The full lineup and final placings were as follows:

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

Most Muscular Subdivision:

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

 

Weightlifting at the 1906 Olympics

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

Spalding Ebonite Indian Clubs

 

Spalding Ebonite Indian Clubs


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

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



Mustafa Toosi

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

Tromp Van Diggelen's Lift

Tromp Van Diggelen's Lift

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

Joe Weider Creates the STRONG ARM Method!

Joe Weider Creates the STRONG ARM Method!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Note:
We do NOT Have these for sale.



Strength and Health, July 1947: Clancy Ross Cover

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

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

Arthur Lancaster: The Man With The Grip of Iron

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

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

George Roth

George Roth

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

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

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

Luigi Monticelli Obizzi

Luigi Monticelli Obizzi

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

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

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

The Stone Carrier

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

Indian Club History: Endurance Club Swinging

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

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

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

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

Unknown Strongman #5

Unknown Strongman #5

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

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

Dan Lurie

Dan Lurie

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

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

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

The Olympic Club Gymnasium

The Olympic Club Gymnasium

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

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

Precary Amiable, Card Tearing Champion of The World

Precary Amiable, Card Tearing Champion

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

Spike Bending with "Bull" Bonvicin

Spike Bending with "Bull" Bonvincin

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

Bert Assirati's One Arm Handstand

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

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

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

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

Sig Klein's Leg Press Machine

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

Lurich, The Human Link!

Lurich The Human Link!

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

Goerner's Deadlift

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

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

The Columbia Gymnasium

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

Unknown Strongman #4

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

Press - Pull - Squat

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

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

The Spalding Special Friction Wrestling Machine

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

Edward W. Brown

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



El Increible Profesor Zovek

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

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

The World's Baddest Barbell ~ Beginnings: Part II



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued.




Sig Klein's Greatest Handbalancing Feat

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

Kettlebell Juggling

Kettlebell Juggling

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

Charles Vansittart: The Man With The Iron Grip

Vansittart: The Man With The Iron Grip

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

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

Tug O' War at the 1906 Olympic Games

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

Victor DeLamarre

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

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

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

Simon Javierto

Simon Javierto

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

Strongman Beer Stein

Strongman Beer Stein

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

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

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

Tags: Sig Klein

Jean Francois LeBreton

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

Giovanni Battista Belzoni: The Strongman Egyptologist

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

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

Chuck Ahrens

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

John Davis at Muscle Beach

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

Oscar Wahlund, The Strongest Man in Sweden

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

Joe Kinney's Can Bustin'

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

Abe Boshes

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

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

Joe Lambert

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

Henry Wittenberg

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

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

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

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

Professor James Harrison and his War Clubs

Professor James Harrison

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

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

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

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

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

John Garan

John Garan

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

Sig Klein on Kettlebells

Sig Klein on Kettlebells

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


Doug Hepburn's Dumbbell Press

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

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

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


Doug Hepburn's Dumbbell Press

Handbalancing Feat


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

Tullio Camillotti

Tullio Camillotti

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

Anvil Lifting

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

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

Alex Aberg


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

Wally Zagurski Lifts The Cyr Dumbbell

Wally Zagurski Lifts The Cyr Dumbbell

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

Milo Steinborn "The Human Bridge"

Milo's Human Bridge

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

Edward Aston's Gripper

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


Hackenschmidt's Kettlebell

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

 

The Mighty Atom's Hair

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

The Russian Strongman Vsevolod Kherts

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

Globe Barbells

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

Alan Stephan, Mr. America!

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

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

George Hackenschmidt in 1902

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

Strongman Wrist Straps

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

Doug Hepburn's Handbalancing

Doug Hepburn's Handbalancing

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

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

Stone Throwing

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

Before & After

Before & After

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

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

Physical Culture, March, 1904

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

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

Club Swinging at the Royal Navy Training School

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

Hargitay's Health Glow

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

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

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

John Gordon of the Detroit Lions

 

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

Apollon

Apollon, The French Strongman

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

Russian Strongman Circus Poster

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

Phil Caira

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

Wilbur Miller

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

Professor Desbonnet

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

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

1967 Weider Catalogue

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


Fred Bryce

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

"Old Joe" Taylor

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

John Grimek's Wrist Roller Training

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

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

Connie Gilhead

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

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

The Great Saadi

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

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

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

Henry Victor Chest Expanders


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

 

Norb Schemansky

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

Weird Barbell Plates

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

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

Ivan Shemyakin

Ivan Shemyakin

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

Grimek's Sandbag Training

Grimek's Sandbag Training

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

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

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

January, 1940 Strength and Health, John Grimek Cover


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

Paul Anderson's Deadlift

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

The Mighty Atom ~ The World's Strongest Haired Man

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

1900 Russian Weightlifting Medal

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

Jack Lewis

Jack Lewis

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

Basque Stone Lifting

Basque Stone Lifting

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

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

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

Henry Holtgrewe: The Cincinnati Strongman

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

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

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

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

Dr. Ken and Darth Raider

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

Reg Park: Standing Dumbbell Press

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

Stan Stanczyk

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

Stanczyk set eight word records during his lifting career. He was also a fairly good bodybuilder, placing very respectably in the few contests he entered. Once his competitive weightlifting career ended Stanczyk moved to Miami and opened a bowling alley. He was as meticulous with his bowling as he was with his lifting, he kept track of every game he ever bowled (lifetime average of 190!)

John Davis: Pinch Gripping

John Davis Pinch GripJohn Davis: Pinch Gripping

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

The Great Mighty Atom ~ The Modern Samson

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

Gustave Empain

Gustave Empain

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

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

Kettlebells in Japan

 

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

Dallas Cooper of Akron, Ohio

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

Cal Gibson Barbell Plates

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

Slim The Hammer Man

Slim The Hammer Man

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

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

The Victor Master Grip

 

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

Athleta

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

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

 

Bailey's Rubber Exerciser

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

John Grunn Marx

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

"Pudgy" Stockton

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

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

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

An Unusual Handbalancing Feat

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

Swoboda Stamp

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

Gustav Wain

 

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

Barrel Rolling

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

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

The Great Antonio

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

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

Pete George's Press

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

The Kiruna Atletklubb

 

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

Monsieur Grenier's Bet

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

Leverage Bar Training

Edward Aston Leverage Bar Training

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

Manfred Rieger

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

The York Calflex

The York Calflex

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

Charles Highfield: The Boy Samson

Charles Highfield: The Boy Samson

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

Magnus Bech-Olsen

Magnus Bech-Olsen

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

Norb Schemansky

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

Young Thomas Inch

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

How to Get Strong

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

Joe Price, The Gloucester Blacksmith

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

Butty Sugrue

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

Iron Man Lifting News

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

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

The Composition Barbell Company

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

Rocket Richard Hand Gripper

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

Arthur Saxon Envelope

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

Fritz Brust

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

Steve Reeves: Kettlebell Training

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

1903 German Sport Club

1903 German Sport Club

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

Indian Wrestler Sandbag Training

Indian Wrestler Sandbag Training

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

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

Doug Hepburn Benchpresses 460 Lbs.

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

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

Sig Klein's Hand Balancing

Sig Klein's Hand Balancing

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

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

Arthur Santell

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

The Strong Man of the Police School

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

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

The Amazing Samson's Chain Breaking

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

1938 Senior Nationals Program

1938 Sr. Nationals Weightlifting Program

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

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

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

Alfred Decottignies

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

Warren Moon on the Double Shoulder

Warren Moon trains on a Nautilus DOuble Shoulder machine

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

Whipper Watson Barbell Plates

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

Sig Klein's Press

Sig Klein's Press

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

Handbalancing Made Easy by E.M. Orlick

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

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

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

The Smith Machine

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

Mr. John

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


Physical Culture Magazine: April, 1906

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

Jackson Barbell Company Plates

Jackson Barbell Plates

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

Anchor Lifting

Don't have a weight set?

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

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

Siegmund Breitbart Newspaper Clipping

Siegmund Breitbart Newspaper Clipping
Siegmund Breitbart


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

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

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

Luigi "Milo" Brinn

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

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

You Can Banish Weakness...

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

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

The Gymnasium of the Romania College of Physical Education

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

Sandow and Goliath

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

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



Rene Duverger

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

Thomas Inch and The Evolution of A Biceps

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

The Billard Golden Triumph Barbell Training Manual

The Billard Golden Triumph Barbell Training Manual

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

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

Tonitoff The Strongman

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

1956 Olympic Weightlifting: The Bantamweights

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

Bavarian Stone Lifting

Bavarian Stone Lifting Contest

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

Paris ~ The Boat Man

Paris The Boat Man

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

William H. Thwaites

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

Kevin Tolbert

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

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

John Davis

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

Lift 150-lb. Weights With Ease!

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

Thomas Topham's Barrel Lift

Thomas Topham: Barrel Lifting

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

The Strongmen of the Thule Athletic Club

The Strongmen of the Thule Athletic Club

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

Ell Darden ~ Muscular Development Magazine, January, 1973

Ell Darden on the COver of Muscular Development, Januarly 1973

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

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

Ptofessor Barker's Strength Maker Var-Bell System

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

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

The Mighty Atom: Steel Bending

The Mighty Atom: Steel Bending

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

The Man in The Gymnasium

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

Ike Berger

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

Chiezel: The Man Who Walks On His Head

Chiezel - The Man Who Walks On His Head

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

Risa Bey, The Turkish Strongman


Risa Bey, The Turkish Strongman

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

Zander Machines

 

Zander Machines

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

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

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

Andy Jackson and The Jackson Barbell Company

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

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

Sandow's Grip Dumb-Bells

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

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

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

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

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

The ad at the right is from 1907.

Sandow's Grip Dumb-Bells

Karl Hipfinger

Karl Hipfinger

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

Charles Rigoulot

Charles Rigoulot

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

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

1915 German Weightlifting Club

1915 German Weightlifting Club

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

Jaroslav Skobla

Jaroslav Skolba


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

U.S. Naval Academy Gymnasium, circa 1899

U.S. Naval Acadey Gymnasium 1899

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

Ben Darwin: The Man With Iron Teeth


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

The Human Vise: Bat Break Over Head

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

1932 Olympic Weightlifting Event Ticket Stub

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

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

The Springfied College Gymnasium


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

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

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

 

Professor Attila's Studio of Physical Culture

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

C.V. Wheeler

 

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

1924 Olympic Globe Barbells

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

 

 

Tommy Kono ~ Strength and Health Magazine, August, 1955

 

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


Maurice Deriaz

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

Dr. Rouhet's Weights

Dr. Georges Rouhet, French Physical Culture

Shown is the famous French physical culturalist Dr. Georges Rouhet and some of his fantastic training equipment. Having been at this for a while now, our conclusion is that the French Strongmen had the best equipment available to train with.  Also of note are the French blockweights in the foreground.

Clancy Ross

Clarence "Clancy" Ross, from Oakland, California, started weight training at 17 years of age (weighing all of 135 pounds) and built himself up into one of the greatest bodybuilders who ever lived. Ross won the 1945 AAU Mr. America title (plus the "Most Muscular" award.) He took the Pro Mr. America title the next year and Mr. USA the year after that.

Rather than focus on "pumping" exercises which was often the suggested method at the time, Ross was not afraid to lift heavy on the basic multi-joint movements such as bent-over rows, squats, deadlifts etc -- and it showed.  Ross appeared on the cover of over forty different bodybuilding magazines over his career.

The Dumbbell Pullover

Dumbbell Pullover, Paul Wynter
If there's one exercise that rarely gets its due it is the dumbbell pullover, demonstrated here by 1960 and '66 Mr. Universe winner Paul Wynter.  When done correctly, it can add a great deal of muscle to the upper body, especially when combined with high-rep breathing squats.

Stranley Radwan ~ The Iron Man

Stanley Radwan ~ The Iron ManStanley Radwan was a catch-wrestler and strongman who performed during the 40's and 50's in the Cleveland, Ohio area.   This event poster from 1949 advertises Radwan pulling cars with his teeth, biting through steel, breaking chains, bending horseshoes, bend nails and spikes, nail driving by hand, tearing decks of cards, and performing the human chain feat.  It was said Radwan could also bend coins with his hands.

As a side note, St. Josaphat's Hall is still around, it was converted to an art gallery a few years ago.

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

"Big Steve" Marjanian's 460 lb. Incline PressOne 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 was 495 which has to be a record.

The Amazing Samson ~ Girder Lifting

The Amazing Samson Girder Lift!Here's a "Human Chain" feat of a whole different sort.  That's "The Amazing Samson" Alexander Zass suspended in mid-air while also lifting a 500-pound iron girder in his teeth.  That's a pretty awesome feat no matter how you slice it, one that we have never seen equaled before or since.

Hercule Elsener ~ Chain Breaking Champion of the World

Hercule Elsener ~ Chain Breaking Champion of the WorldFrancois 'Hercule' Elsener, of Roubaix, France was the Chain Breaking World Champion in 1903.  Elsener could break chains with ease in every conceivable manner but his pecialty was to break them around his chest and bicep.

Karl Norberg ~ The Mighty Norseman

Karl Norberg ~ The Mighty Norseman

Here's one you can try at home: do a front hold out with an Olympic barbell, then, by wrist power alone twist it from horizontal to vertical and back again. At 70 years of age, "The Mighty Norseman," Karl Norberg could do this with ease.

Vintage Milo Barbell Company Advertisement

Vintage Milo Barbell Company Advertisement

Here's a look at a vintage ad for the Milo Barbell Company circa 1920. Read the words carefully. Interestingly enough, the messages of proper training and necessity for good equipment have not changed one bit over the last hundred years.

Secrets of the Squat Snatch by Larry Barnholth

Secrets of the Squat Snatch by Larry BarnholthWeightlifting was changed forever in a two-car garage gym in Akron, Ohio.  It was there, at the American College of Modern Weight Lifting (ACMWL) that Lawrence "Larry" Barnholth essentially invented the "squat" style of snatching - a technique which became the standard, and which has gone on to help lifters who used it to set hundreds of National and World Records since then.

In 1950, Barnholth, along with his top student Pete George, put together this nifty course "Secrets of the Squat Snatch" which outlined the necessary training for learning the method.

The Ohio State Armory

Ohio State Armory - 1898
I've had this picture of this fantastic old gym in my collection for years and it has always been a mystery as to exactly where it was.  Recently, thanks to the wonder of the internet, we have found out that it this is the interior view of the gymnasium of the Ohio State Armory, in Columbus, Ohio. 


This was a pretty typical gym at the time: plenty of wide open space and a variety of available gymnastic training equipment such as traveling rings, medicine balls, tumbling mats,  pommel horses and climbing ropes etc.  Like most gyms of the period, the training options were basic, but more than enough to obtain good results.  The large and very impressive cemi-circular beamed roof was specifically designed to allow in plenty of natural light.

The armory was quite a facility,  It was built in 1897 and resembled a Medieval castle, turrets and all, as you can see in the exterior shot below. 

The Swedish Bars

The Swedish Bars

You have no doubt seen these along the walls in Classic Gyms but didn't know what they were - so now you do. The Swedish Bars (also called Stall Bars or Gymnastic Bars) were created by the Swedish physical training pioneer Pehr Henrik Ling back in the 1800s (a derivation of the climbing ladder).

They soon became a standard piece of gymnastic training equipment in physical culture gymnasiums, YMCAs and especially in the military. The Swedish Bars are used to build flexibility as well as to perform a variety of exercises, most notablly abdominal work.

Pat Casey's 210 Pound Dumbbell Incline Press

Pat Casey 210 Pound Dumbbell Incline Press

On March 25th, 1967 Pat Casey became the first man to break the 600 pound barrier in the bench press with an official lift of 615 --- Keep in mind that was without a bench shirt, elbow wraps or other nonsense that typically goes on these days.

Casey was no one-lift specialist either, as he was also the first man to squat over 800 pounds and total over 2000 pounds in an official contest.


For his workouts, Casey used to grab a pair of 210 pound dumbbells, haul them over to the incline bench, get the dumbbells into position, perform his reps, then return the dumbbells to the rack -- all unassisted -- quite a feat of strength in its own right.

Muscle Up and Make Out!

Muscle Up and Make Out!Muscle Up and Make Out! - Straight outta the back of a thousand comic books comes Dave Draper and the World Famous Samson "007" Twister! One twist is all it took to start adding inches of muscle. The chicks clearly dug it and it certainly worked for Dave Draper, who won the IFBB Mr. America in 1965, Mr. Universe in 1967 and Mr. World in 1970.

Professor Anthony Barker's Strength Maker Kettlebell

Professor Anthony Barker Strength Maker KettlebellKettlebells? They have a longer history in America than you might think... Case in point,  this "Strength Maker" kettlebell, was produced by Professor Anthony Barker around 1910 or so.  The "Strength Maker" was a set which consister of two hollow globes and various handles.  Depending on what you wanted to train with, you could screw in a short handle to make a dumbbell, a long handle to  make a barbell, or the handle shown above to make a nifty pair of kettlebells.  The globes were hollow and weight could be adjusted with shot as needed .

A Presidential Workout

Calvin Coolidge, Indian Club Workout

Running the country is hard work which is why a regular training schedule is a good idea. Here's Calvin Coolidge getting in a quick Indian Clubs workout in the White House, circa 1923. House Speaker Frederick H. Gillett looks on while training with the wall pulley.

It's not hard to understand where Coolidge's interest from physical training stemmed from, he attended Amherst College (class of 1895) which had an extensive school-wide physical eduction program led by the physical culture pioneer Edward "Old Doc" Hitchcock.

The Mighty Atlas

The Mighty Atlas - Anvil Neck Strength

You've probably seen the old feat of strength where a strongman puts an anvil or a large stone slab on his chest and lets someone hit it with a sledge hammer... but I guarantee you haven't seen this feat before though, -- "The Mighty Atlas," Morris Shapiro, a professional wrestler from Brooklyn, New York, teeth-lifting an anvil while someone else whacks said anvil with a sledge hammer.

Now that's impressive!

The Mighty Atlas often demonstrated feats of strength before his matches, bending iron bars, snapping chains, ripping phone books etc.  He learned the secrets of strength from his father who was a strongman in the Russian Circus in Minsk.


Grip Dynamometer

Grip Dynamometer

The early physical training pioneers were very interested the study of Anthropometry, or the measurement of various aspects of the human body.  The device above, a grip dynamometer, which was designed and used by Dudley Allen Sargent at the Hemenway Gymnasium, was used to measure the strength of the hand and forearm musculature.  Squeezing the two handles together compressed the springs which caused a small dial to turn and register the applied amount of force thus giving the amount of grip strength (or lack thereof) possessed by the user.

Sandow's Somersault

Sandow's Somersault Here's one you probably haven't seen before:

Behold, one of the few images of Eugen Sandow doing something athletic: performing a back somersault.  A back somersault was often the exclamation point to finish his act, showing the audience that his muscles weren't just for show.  In fact, many people are more impressed by a back somersualt than lifting a heavy weight.

Sandow could perform a back somersault with a 56 pound dumbbell in each hand.

Like many early strongmen, Sandow's early training consisted of basic gymnastics movements, calisthenics and hand balancing -- all of which continued to serve him well throughout his career.

The One-Arm Deadlift

The One-Arm DeadliftThere's no question that if you want to be truly strong you've got to have a strong grip.  Many people thnk you need a laundry list of exercises to accomplish this goal but the truth is that focusing on a few simple exercises is all it takes.  One of the very best exercises for doing so is the basic one-arm barbell deadlift, a lift that can be done in any gym in the land.

Above is Mr. L.A. Chappell, the World's Amateur Heavyweight lifting champion lifting 448-1/2 pounds.    A short while later, he improved this lift to 502 pounds!  Chappell was a studen of J.C. Tolson, The Young Mighty Apollon.

Note the unusual cambered bar used for the lift.  Though it may make the lift a little easier because it does not rotate like a normal Olympic barbell, notice that this bar is also a little thicker.  We may possibly have a bar like this available at some point. 

If you are interested in learning more about the Ole-Arm Deadlift, or possibly adding it to your workout, there is a fantastic article about it in The Dellinger Files, Volume I.

Paul Von Boeckmann's Breathing Gymnastics

Paul Von Boeckmann, Breathing Gymnastics

Many people think "Strength" only comes down to the muscles - it doesn't. One Oldtime Strongman who understood this concept very well was Paul Von Boeckmann from New Braunfels, Texas whose "Breathing Gymnastics" course focused on building lung power along with great strength and development.

Von Boeckmann was certainly on to something as he won many championships in both wrestling and weightlifting. He could bent-press of 201 pounds, do a "hand and thigh" lift with 1652 pounds and has an immense "challenge" Indian club that no one could shoulder.

1947 World's Weight Lifting Championships Official Program

1947 World's Weight Lifting Championships Program, Philadelphia, PA
A look at the Official Program for the 1947 World's Weight Lifting Championships held at the Municipal Auditorium in Philadelphia, PA.  Pictured are members of the 1946 US team consisting of Stanley Stanczyk, Frank Spellman, John Terpak, Emerick Ishikawa, Bob Hoffman and Frank Kay (Not pictured: John Davis).

At the Championships, which were held on September 26 and 27th, 1947, the US team ran the table, taking the Gold Medal in every single weight class and winning 10 medals overall.

French Weightlifting Club, circa 1906

FRench Weightlifting Club, 1906

A rare look at a French weightlifting club, and their awesome training equipment, circa 1906.  One thing is for sure about the French lifters: they certainly had plenty of style.  Their equipment is basic: globe barbells, globe dumbbells, block weights, chest expanders etc, but undoubtedly more than enough to get it done.  Note the Sandow poster on the back wall. The president, Msr. Gustave Dechelpretre sits in the center.

Sailor Jim White - Champion Strongman of the Navy

Sailor Jim White - Champion Strongman of the NavySailor Jim White "The Champion Strongman of the Navy" pulls a loaded bus down the streets of Washington D.C. with his teeth on October 6th, 1921.  White accomplished this prodigeous feat to generate awareness and money for unemployed servicemen and it was not the first time he did so for a cuase.  He also used his great strength to sell war bonds, raise money for the Red Cross and recruit for the Navy as well.

White became the Navy's official strongman while serving aboard the battleship U.S.S. Texas in 1917.  His repertoire was not limited to stunts of jaw and neck strength, "Sailor" also was a champion nail bender and was featured in "Ripley's Believe it or Not" many times over.

Hammer Strength/Tim Krumrie

Tim Krumrie, Hammer Strength and a classic Globe Dumbbell

Tim Krumrie, the Cincinnati Bengals All-Pro nose tackle is shown here with a classic globe dumbbell in this early advertisement for Hammer Strength equipment. The dumbbell shown (yes, it was a dumbbell) once belonged to the great French strongman Apollon.

Krumrie was well-known for his incredible hand strength, which should be an essential part of training programs for the game of football. Krumrie's specific grip routine can be found in The New Bodybuilding for Old-School Results by Ellington Darden.

Tony Terlazzo's Winning Lift

Tony Terlazzo's winning lift at the 1936 Olympics
Anthony "Tony" Terlazzo brought home the Gold Medal in the featherweight (60kg) class at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany.    In the process he set a new Olympic record in total with 312.5 kg (687.5 lbs)  Above Tony is shown with 97.5 kg (214.5) overhead making this the shot of his winning lift in the snatch (also a new Olympic record in his weight class.)   

Tom Burrows Makes The Record

Tom Burrows Makes The Record

On April 18th, 1913, the Australian All-Around Athlete and Club Swinging champion Tom Burrows accomplished an incredible feat: he swung a pair of Indian Clubs for 100 hours straight without a rest. He averaged 80 repetitions a minute through the entire affair, a mind-boggling feat of muscular endurance and toughness. That's a record you won't see challenged any time soon.

The Killer Karate Krusher!

Chuck Sipes Demosntrates 'The Killer Karate Krusher!'
We have long been making the case that grip strength is a valuable commodity to all athletes, case in point: The Killer Karate Krusher!  If you have ever wanted 'A Bone-Crushing Grip", "Fingers as Tough as Steel", and "A Fist as Tough as a Sledge Hammer" then the 'Killer Karate Krusher' is one to check out.  The Killer Karate Krusher is the only exercise which permit full "finger bombing" for an extra-powerful grip -- or at least that's what is said in the ad.  Who knows how many of these were ordered from outta the back of comic books? 

Demonstrating is IFBB Mr. America, Mr. Universe and Mr. World, Chuck Sipes, who was clearly no stranger to forearm work. 

Strongman Nino and his 500kg Globe Barbell

Strongman Nino and his 500kg Globe Barbell
The Italian strongman "Nino" had a flair for equipment that few others have ever matched.  His specialty was heavy supporting feats but in his act he preferred to use much more dramatic weights than many of his fellow strongmen.  Here's a look at Nino's 500kg (1100 lb.) globe barbell - it doesn't get more "Oldtime" than that! Nino himself is at the far left.

Mark Berry and John Grimek

MArk Berry and John GrimekMark Berry (left) and John Grimek (right.) at the time when Berry was the weightlifting coach for the 1936 Olympic games, held in Berlin, Germany.  The Mark Berry Bar Bell Courses, which featured Grimek demonstrating a number of exercises, appeared shortly afterwards.  As they had a lot of time on their hands, it's conceivable that Berry and Grimek discussed the details of said courses on the boat trip over to Germany.

Berry was also the weightlifting coach during the 1932 Olympics, held in Los Angeles, California.

Lauceston Elliot, The First British Olympic Champion

Launceston Elliot - The First British Champion

Already a strength star in his teens when he won the British national Championships, in 1896, Launceston Elliott traveled to Athens, Greece to represent England at the very first modern Olympic Games. Elliot had been trained by Eugen Sandow and bared quite a resemblance to his mentor.  Things were a bit different back then in weightlifting: they contested two events: the "one-hand lift" and the "two-hands lift" (i.e. the "clean and jerk.")

In the first contest, the "two hand lift" Launceston tied with Viggo Jensen of Denmark when each lifted 111 kg (244-1/2 pounds). The Gold medal, however, was awarded to the Dane because the judges thought he lifted the weight "in much better form" than his English competitor.  In the one-hand event, Elliot lifted 71 kg to the Dane's 57 and thus Britain's first Olympic Gold medal winner was crowned!

At the 1896 games, Elliott also competed in the 100m dash, wrestling, and rope climbing events.  Elliot performed credibly well in each even but did not match his weightlifting success. After his Olympic achievements, Elliot returned home to England, won the first major physique contest ever held and toured the country as a performing strongman.

Joe Nordquest, The Ashtabula Strongman

Joe Norquest, the strongman from Ashtabula, Ohio, lifts a heavy globe barbell overhead.

One of the true unsung strongman is undoubtedly Joe Nordquest from Ashtabula, Ohio. His name is rarely mentioned at the top of the list of all-time greats yet his strength feats would certainly rank him among them.

Joe Nordquest could jump from a table to the floor while maintaining a handstand position, curl 180 pounds and bent press 277-1/2 pounds. He could military press 124-1/4 pounds with one hand, an American record at the time and did a "bridge press" with 388 pounds (breaking Arthur Saxon's record.) Keep in mind that he did all this and more on only one leg, having lost a limb in an accident as a boy.  Joe's brother Adolph was also an excellent strongman.

The William J. Herrmann Institute of Physical Culture

Herrmann's Gym

William J. Herrmann was a very knowledgeable physical culturist who taugh and heavily influenced Alan Calvert (in fact, Calvert's classic book "Super Strength" is dedicated to him.)

Herrmann's gym, once located at 1325 Chestnut Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was one of the popular hangouts for many of the strength stars of the early 20th century, most notably Sig Klein and Milo Steinborn, who performed a number of strength feats there. Sandow trained at Herrmann's place whenever he visited the US.  At Hermann's, classes were taught in boxing, wrestling, fencing, body-building, calisthenics, Indian Clubs, gymnastics and acrobatics.

This  picture was taken in 1931 and shows Milo Steinborn getting in a quick workout on the newly added open air section of the gym (used for hand ball and training in the fresh air and sun shine, among other pursuits.)  Herrmann's son (also named William) won the bronze medal in tumbling at the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

The 23rd Street Y.M.C.A.

The 23rd Street Y.M.C.A.A look at the interior of the famed 23rd street Y.M.C.A. in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City, sometime around 1900.  Though the available equipment was spartan by some standards, it was certainly all that was (and is) required to build a high level of strength and vitality. 

This facility is actually famous for several other reasons: It was one of the first centers of widespread basketball interest and activity in the US... in fact, the team that practiced in this gym, headed by Alfred "The Kid" Abadie and his brother Bob, won the very first national AAU tounament championship in 1898.  
Charles Merrill and Edmund Lynch (of Merrill Lynch)are said to have met in the swimming pool sometime in 1913 and, as the story goes, many decades later, it was this location that inspired the Villiage People song "Y.M.C.A."

Around a decade ago, the building was sold and this area was turned into luxury apartments.

Joseph Greenstein ~ The Mighty Atom

Joseph Greenstein ~ The Mighty AtomHis real name was Joseph Greenstein but he was better known as "The Mighty Atom" ...and he became one of the greatest known "Strongmen" of all time despite the fact that he stood only 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighed in at 140 pounds.  As a young boy in Poland, young Joseph Greenstein was befriended by a Russian champion named Volanko, who taught him the secrets of strengthing his mind. as well as his body.

The Mighty Atom bent horseshoes, broke chains chest expansion, bite nails in two, held back airplanes and even once stopped a bullet... The Atom's student Slim "The Hammer Man" Farman also went on to perform strength amazing feats of strength, many of which will never be duplicated. 

Dennis Rogers' Death Defying Airplane Human Chain Feat

Dennis Rogers' Death Defying Airplane Human Chain Feat

The strength feat that put modern-day Oldtime Strongman Dennis Rogers on the map was when he successfully prevented a pair of Airforce T-34 airplanes from taking off in The Human Chain feat.

That's 285 horsepower on each arm!  -- and one wrong move meant they would have to scrap Dennis off the runway. This amazing feat earned the Association of Oldtime Barbell and Strongman's (AOBS) highest award from founder Vic Boff.

Paul Anderson, The Nail Driver

Paul Anderson The Nail Driver

Paul Anderson accomplished many things in his life including an Olympic Gold Medal and World Records in just about every lift he tried... but I bet you didn't know he was also an expert nail driver too. When he traveled around for speaking engagements, Big Paul figured the quickest way to get an audience's attention was to perform an unusual feat of strength -- and a man driving a nail through a wooden board with his bare hand sure fits the bill!  Other great nail driving strongmen include Alexander 'Amazing Samson' Zass, Siegmund Breitbart, Dennis Rogers, and The Mighty Atom.

Harry Shafran's Gym

Harry Shafran's Gym
Think you could get a pretty good workout here?  ...A unique look at some of the equipment once belonging to Harry Shafran and housed in his great gym. Much of what is shown here was previously owned by Warren Lincoln Travis. Some of this equipment has a very interesting story since the time this picture was taken... part of which will be covered in The Dellinger Files Volume II.

Ricardo 'Hardtack' Nelson, The Swedish Lion

Ricardo Nelson, The Swedish Lion

Bending a horse shoe isn't exactly the easiest thing in the world to do, but Ricardo 'Hardtack' Nelson bent on every morning, in his teeth, no less.

Nelson a national hero in his home country where he was known as "The Swedish Lion" but not as well known in the U.S. Nelson was famous for his steel bending feats: scrolling, spike bending, bending steel in his teeth, he was said to even be able to bend a coin with his fingers.

Milo Barus

Milo BarusMilo Barus was Germany's greatest strongman in the time period between the World Wars.  Barus performed a number of spectacular strength feats in his act: Nail Driving, The Human Chain, Steel Bending, Harness Lifting, The "Leg Press", Horse Lifting etc.  Here, he has a crowd of ten people bend a heavy steel bar over his head (which sure doesn't look comfortable.)

In 1983, a movie was made about his life.  Today, a strength competition in his honor takes place in front of his old house at Mühltal Eisenberge and the winner receives the "Milo Barus Cup."  Press clipping list Barus at 7 feet tall, though it's hard to tell by the photos if that is the case.

Berg-Hantel Weights

German Weightlifting

Berg-Hantel barbells and plates were the inspiration for all modern Olympic sets.  Here, A. Wiedmer, the Lightweight National Champion of Germany in 1924 and 1925, shows how it's done in winning this early contest.

John Mallo

John Mallo - weightlifter
John Mallo, from Akron, Ohio, was the Heavyweight Sr. National Weightlifting Champion in 1933. The Nationals were held at the Chicago Word's Fair that year.  He totalled 760-1/2 lb. and his press of 231-1/2 pounds broke the previous record which had stood for six years, by five pounds.  This was even more impressive given the fact that Mallo had only been training for three years.  Mallo was a student of Larry Barnholth at the American College of Modern Weightlifting.  

George Brosius and The Frankfurt Squad

George Brosius and his Frankfurt Squad

George Brosius (far right) is shown here with his famous "Frankfurt Squad." This seven member team was composed of the most talented individuals from the Milwaukee Turnverein of which Brosius was the long time teacher.

Against thousands of the best athletes that Europe had to offer, Brosius' team shocked the world in 1880 by winning five out of twenty-two prizes at the international gymnastic competition held at Frankfurt, Germany. They also took first place in a separate German wrestling competition.

From left to right: Hermann J. Koehler (2nd prize, also Brosius' nephew, fyi) , Anton Schaefer (4th prize), Friedrich Kasten, Carl Paul (21st prize), Wilhelm Lachenmaier, Otto Wagner (3rd prize), Carl Mueller (5th prize), George Brosius (director)

Also of note is the bust of Friedrich Ludwig Jahn looking down from above.

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

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

23-1/4-inch Arms!... I don't know about that one, but Bill Pettis DID have some pretty impressive guns. He even wrote a course on how he built them which is one of the few training courses that I have not seen.  Bill had a brother named Bob who was also impressive.

Louis Cyr's Barrel Lifting Feat

Louis Cyr Barrel Lifting

On May 8th, 1896, the great Canadian strongman Louis Cyr performed several amazing feats of strength, among them lifting and shouldering a 433 lb. barrel with one hand. The barrel was filled with a mixture of water and sand and the feat took place at Saint-Louis Hall in Chicago, Illinois.

The Nautilus Upright Squat Machine

Casey Viator, using the Nautilus Upright Squat Machine during the Colorado Experiment

During the "Colorado Experiment" Casey Viator famously gained 63 pounds of muscle mass in 28 days.  The workouts were brief and intense and while not an "experiment" in a truest sense of the word, it did show that dramatic results were quite possible under a certain set of circumstances.  Interestingly, much of the equipment used was in fact, experimental, and never actually made commercially available.

The Nautilus Upright Squat Machine, shown here, is a good example of this.  This machine was designed to provide all the benefits of the barbell squat, while reducing or eliminating the drawbacks.  This was the only leg machine that Casey used in every workout for the duration of the Colorado Experiment.  While it was effective, the potential for the user to be catapulted right out of it was deemed far too great, so this was the only one ever manufactured.

The Hack Squat

Walter Donald Demonstrates the Hack Squat

The Hack Squat, (or Hack Lift, as it is sometimes called) is a behind-the-back deadlift, as demonstrated by famous oldtime physique star Walter Donald in the pages of Super Strength by Alan Calvert. This movement is not actually named after George Hackenschmidt but gets its name from "Hacke" the German word for ankle, which is roughly where the bar touches before the commencement of the lift. Several lifters have been able to perform this movement with nearly 800 pounds.

Dimitrios Tofalos



Demetrius Tofalos was a Greek weightlifter who survived a serious childhood injury and went on to defeat the great Austrian lifter Josef Steinbach to win the Gold Medal at the 1906 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece. The winning effort for Tofalos in the "two-hand barbell lift" (i.e. clean and jerk) was 142.4 Kilograms.

It really was a "clean" and jerk, according to the rules of the time, lifters were penalized if the barbell touched any other part of the body as they brought it to their chest.  Tofalos' record stood for the next eight years.

Tofalos was also a very successful professional wrestler although a defeat by American Champion Frank Gotch forced his retirement. Tofalos eventually went on to manage "The Golden Greek" Jim Londos.

Today, a sports arena is named in Tofalos' honor in his hometown of Patras, Greece.
Dimitrios Tofalos, Greek Weightlifting Champion

Nail Driving With The Amazing Samson

Alexander Zass "The Amazing Samson" shows his stuff with a little nail driving action. Looks like those "Oldtime" training methods seem to have been working pretty well... I doubt "Samson" ever did a concentration curl in his life, but any bodybuilder would kill for that kind of arm development.

Archbold Gymnasium, Syracuse University

Archbold Gymnasium, Syracuse University

Keeping very much in line with the motto "A strong mind in a sound body", in 1908, Archbold Gymnasium on the campus of Syracuse University opened its doors... It was the finest physical training facility in the world at the time, and featured an elevated track, climbing ropes, gymnastic equipment as far as the eye could see, a swimming pool and even several bowling alleys. They actually used to hold entire indoor track meets there. Also of note is the large glass-domed roof which let in plenty of natural light.

An unusual feature that could be found in the basement was an indoor rowing tank, installed so that the crew team could get in some much needed practice in the early spring before the ice melted.

This fabulous gymnasium was named for the oil magnate John D. Archbold, who gave the university the funds to complete the building. Look closely at the top image and you'll also see the top few rows of Archbold Stadium, once one of the largest open air football stadiums in the country and the current site of the Carrier dome.

Harry F. Griffin, The Strongman of Engine Company 13


There are many examples of strongmen who were famous in some parts of the country but virtually unknown elsewhere.  One great example is Harry F. Griffin, "The Strongman of Engine Company 13" who was a local legend in Los Angeles and throughout the west coast.  When he wasn't fighting fires,  Griffin performed many traditional strongman feats, twisting horseshoes, nail driving, chain breaking, bending spikes etc.   His specialty, however, was jaw strength, as you can see in this rare picture from 1913.  Griffin was said to have the strongest jaw of any man alive.

German Kettlebell Club, 1903

German Kettlebell CLub, 1903
A look at a German kettlebell club from the turn of the last century and a selection of their awesome equipment.  German strength athletes were particularly fond of juggling their kettlebells, hence "German" kettlebells had much larger and more pronounced handles.  Also of note is the fact that most of the barbells have thick handles.

Pulling a Fire Truck, Mighty Atom Style

The Mighty Atom Pulls a Fire Truck with his hair.The Mighty Atom Joe Greensten had unusually strong hair and frequently demonstrated this fact by using it to lift or pull very heavy objects.  Shown here, The Atom pulls a fire truck loaded with people down the street sometime in the late 1920s.  In case you are keeping score at home, the fire truck was an Ahrens-Fox (famously made in Cincinnati, Ohio) -- you can tell by the large distinctive chrome sphere at the front which housed part of the pumping mechanism.

Hans Zdrazila

They say a picture is worth a thousand words...  if you are paying attention to this one, your take away should be that the overhead dumbbell press is an exercise worth adding to your training.  Core strength? Yeah, you can see his abs through his shirt. The man at the other end of those awesome dumbbells is Hans Zdrazila, a  Czechoslovakian weightlifter who took home the gold medal in the middleweight class at the 1964 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan (with a 445.5 kg total).

The Lind-Hendrickson "Big Giant" Grip Machine

Lind-Hendrickson Big Giant Grip Machine
Even though "working out" was a relatively new concept in the early 1920's, when the Lind-Hendrickson "Big Giant" Grip Machine first appeared,  people still understood the importance of building a strong grip... something which far too many folks neglect
in their training these days.

Ahmed Madrali ~ "The Terrible Turk"

Ahmed Madrali, The Terrible Turk, lifts a large kettlebell.  Two globe barbells are at his feet. Ahmed Madrali was actually the second well-known wrestler with the nickname "The Terrible Turk" (The first being Yusuf İsmail about a decade prior.) In one of the biggest matches of the time, on January 30, 1904, Ahmed Madrali took on "The Russian Lion" George Hackenschmidt at Olympia Hall in London, England.  Anticipation for this match was high... not only were these two great competitors, there was also more than a little bit of bad blood as Madrali was managed by Antonio Pierri, who Hackenschmidt had previously defeated in 1902.

A record crowd of 20,000 people were in attendance (which also caused the largest traffic jam ever recorded up to that time.) Unfortunately the match did not end decisively... less than a minute after opening bell Madrali dislocated his elbow after being "thrown" by Hackenschmidt and could not continue.  Though not ideal, this victory put Hackenschmidt's name on the map in the wrestling world and increased his fame considerably.

Also, fortunately, Madrali's injury was not serious and he was back wrestling again three months later. In 1905, Madrali made up for this defeat by winning the wrestling championship of southern France defeating "The German Oak" Ernest Siegfried.  As evident in this rare picture taken from around that time, "The Terrible Turk" was also clearly a big fan of kettlebell training.

Don Athaldo

Don Athaldo - Australian StrongmanThe land down under has had its fair share of great strongmen and one of the most well known was Don Athaldo from New South Wales.  Athaldo (born Walter Joseph) overcame a sickly childhood and injuries incurred during World War I to become a circus strongman.  Athaldo had a flair for performing, often donning tiger-skin outfits, gladiator boots and a firey red cape. Athaldo performed a number of unusual feats, including carrying a horse up a ladder with the use of a harness and supporting an automobile in the "leg press" position.  Athaldo also wrote a number of training courses which were very well received. 

Gustav Fristensky ~ The Bohemian Hercules

Gustav Fristensy Bohemian Hercules
Czechoslovakian-born Gustav Fristensky was known professionally as "The Bohemian Hercules" -- and he was aptly named. Fristensky once ran the 100 meter dash in 14 seconds while also carrying an extra 90 kg. He was also very good at repetition lifting, having been able to jerk 176 pounds 26 times and 220 pounds 18 times. Like many strongmen of the day he was also a very good wrestler (amateur and later pro).  Fristensky's coach was none other than Georg Lurich.

Great Beckett "The Five-Plank Marvel"

The Great Beckett: The Five-Plank Marvel
We specialize in bringing you content that you won't find anywhere else, and here's a great example: pictured above you'll find Great Beckett "The Five-Plank Marvel."  How did he get this nickname?  His act consisted of hammering a large nail through (count'em) five thick wooden planks... then pulling out the nail with his teeth.  Needless to say, the strength of neck, jaw, gums and teeth required for this performance is prodigious.

Noel le Gaulois

Noel le Gaulois
The French strongman Noel le Gaulois was the man to beat at certain lifts in the late 19th century. He won the world's championship in Brussels, Belgium in 1897, with a two-arm snatch with 220 pounds, a two-arm jerk of
253-pounds and a one-arm snatch of a 143-pounds... All lifts which would still be respectable a century later.

Like many strongmen of the period, he was also a very good wrestler. Later, Le Gaulois owned a café/gymnasium which was the gathering place for the famous strongmen of the day.  Also, so you know, "le Gaulois" was not his actual last name but a nickname The Gaul, which referred to his outstanding mustache.

The 1942 Weightlifting Championship of France

French Weightlifter, 1942
A rare look at a shot from the French Weightlifting Championship  of 1942. Unfortunately records from the time period are spotty, so we don't know this lifter's name (although it may possibly be Augustin D'Halluin).

Like many big athletic competitions, this event was held at the famous Voltaire Gymnasium in Paris.  Originally built in 1870, the Voltaire Gymnasium is still around, if you know where to look... it has been preserved and athletic events are still held there to this day.  It's pretty amazing to think that you can go lift in the same place that Charles Rigoulot and Louis Hostin set many of their records.

Unknown Strongman #3

Unknown Strongman #3Unknown Strongman #3... We'll never know his name... Based on his attire, it looks like he could have been a wrestler as well.

Richard Thomas, of Niagra Falls, New York

Richard Thomas, Niagra Falls, New YorkShown here is Richard Thomas of Niagra Falls, New York, and his weights, circa 1931.  Mr. Thomas ran a private gym of about thirty members and was also clearly a big fan of kettlebell handles.  These were Milo Barbell Co. weights and bars as things had only just barely gotten started down in York, PA at the time...    

The Gobelin Athletic Club: Paris, France

The Gobelin Athletic Club Paris, FranceA rare image of the Gobelin Athletic Club in Paris, France, circa 1910.  This was a fairly typical training studio at the time, with plenty of globe barbells, globe dumbbells, block weight, Indian Clubs, gymnastic rings and climbing ropes -- pretty much anything a strength athlete could want or need.

The extremely long globe barbells leaning up against the wall on left are a pretty interesting concept... The large, open sand pit was to prevent breakage to any globes which may have been dropped during use.  This gym is where the great lifter Charles Rigoulot got his start.

Sergio Oliva and the Nautilus Pullover

Sergio Oliva and the Nautilus PulloverThe Nautilus Pullover, demonstrated here by Three-time Mr. Olympia winner Sergio Oliva, was often called "The Upper Body Squat" because it trained the largest and strongest muscles of the back in a way that is not possible with regular barbells and dumbbells...

However, like any tool, the pullover must be used correctly.  "Correctly use" entails not just the form of the movement itself but also the volume and intensity in which sets and reps are performed.  A lot of people dind't do it right from the outset and wrote it off, which is a shame... Once you "get" how to use the pullover correctly, the results are like night and day.  Though this particular machine was originally in production over forty years ago, they are still surprisingly easy to find -- we may actually do a special feature on the pullover at some point.    

The Myrtle Street Gymnasium, 1865

The Myrtle Street Gymnasium, Liverpool

Liverpool Gymnasium

A look at two rare engravings of the front and interior the Myrtle Street Gymnasium in Liverpool, England, which officially opened on November 6th, 1865.

This facility was the finest in the world at the time, and offered training in the British, Swedish, German and American gymnastic systems as well as fencing, rowing, swimming, cycling and other athletic pursuits.

Look closely and you will see climbing ropes and ladders, wall pulleys, barbell and dumbbell lifting, wall pulleys and a variety of other interesting methods of training (including a live horse!)

The "Gymnasiarch" of this facility was Mr. John Hulley, who was one of the co-founders of the Liverpool Athletic Club and who helped organize the first Olympic Festivals. These early athletic contests gave rise to the "Modern" Olympic games.

Grigori Novak

Grigori Novak - Russian Weightlifter

Known as "The Ukranian Hercules," Grigori Novak was the greatest weightlifter of his era.  He stood only 5'3" but set 111 Soviet records and 62 World records throughout his career. On October, 19th, 1946 at the World Championships, held at the Palais de Chaillot in Paris, France, Novak totalled 425 kg (935 pounds) in the light-heavyweight class to become the first Soviet weightlifting world champion. Shown above is Novak's winning snatch of 130 kg (286 pounds).

The Neck Helmet

The Neck HelmetIf you want to look strong (not to mention also be strong) then you had better train your neck. This fellow, a football player at the University of Tennessee Martin, named Hunter Carter had some help from Mother Nature in that department but he also did quite a bit of work with a Neck Helmet shown here. You'll find him featured in the July, 1976 issue of Muscular Development Magazine in an article on neck training by Carl H. Giles.

Speaking from experience, a neck helmet trains the head and neck muscles in a unique manner and is an excellent choice though it is not without its disadvantages.  To build the strongest possible neck a variety of equipment and techniques can and should be used, including plate-loaded neck machines, manual resistance, neck straps, jaw and teeth lifting, isometrics, and head stands (this list is by no means exhaustive).  Keep in mind that building the strength and size of the neck is like developing any other muscle group, incorporate the overload principle, train progressively and recover properly and your collar size will inevitably increase.

Georg Lurich

George Lurich

Estonian born Georg Lurich was a great wrestler and strongman during the early 1900's. He was was a great friend and training partner to George Hackenschmidt (It was actually Lurich who introduced Hackenschmidt to weightlifting.) Lurich's brother-in-law was Alex Aberg, another champion wrestler of the time period.

Lurich won the World Greco-Roman Wrestling Championship in 1912 and was the last man to face Frank Gotch before Gotch retired in 1913. As far as strength feats, among others, Lurich is credited with a one-arm jerk of 267 lbs., and a two-arm clean & jerk of 344 lbs -- both of which would still be impressive today.

The Bruno Course of Bodybuilding

Here's a look at the cover of the incredibly rare "Bruno Course of Bodybuilding" authored by The Living Legend himself, Bruno Sammartino. You can see by Bruno's thick bone structure that he was a man built for some serious horsepower but don't forget that he still had to work for his strength.

In The Bruno Course, he covers a dozen or so basic exercises which were his favorites, some "weight" exercises, some bodyweight movements and some conditioning work... simple, but highly effective. You can read more about The Bruno Course in The Dellinger Files Volume I.

The Lille Athletic Club, 1901

The Lille Athletic Club, 1901France was a center of physical training activity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  This was due in large part to Professor Edmond Desbonnet who founded his school of physical culture in his home town of Lille, in northern France. Here's a look the members of the Lille Athletic Club, circa 1901, with some of their classic equipment: globe barbells and dumbbells, chest expanders and blockweights etc. Desbonnet himself is pictured at the far right.

John Grimek

John C. Grimek, from Perth Amboy, New Jersey, has the unique distinction of being one of "the greatest" in pretty much every aspect of strength training that you can think of...

As you can probably tell, Grimek was a champion bodybuilder and won every contest he ever entered.  This included the AAU Mr. America contest twice (in 1940 and 1941) and Mr. Universe in 1948.  Grimek was a fixture on the cover of Strength and Health magazine and either the subject of, or the author of dozens of training articles.

...but he wasn't just all show,  Grimek was a as strong as he looked.  Grimek represented the United States at 1936 Olympics in Berlin (where he accomplished the highest American total) and put up impressive numbers in many different lifts.

To give you a few good examples, Grimek could easily rip phone books, lift 11-3/4 pounds on the "Weaver Stick" and actually worked up to supporting a thousand pounds in the overhead press position.

100,000 Strong Men Can't Be Wrong!

 

Earle E. Leiderman
What we find pretty interesting is that while people tended to keep various strength books and courses, almost no one kept the ads, which are  fascinating in their own right.  Here's a classic ad from Earle E. Liederman who did more advertising than any of the Mail Order Muscle Barons.  Whether you are a fan of oldtime strength training or oldtime copywriting, it's a good idea to pay close attention... we may have several of Liederman's books available in the near future.

Cannon Lifting

Cannon Lifting"Don't have a weight set? ...just lift a cannon!" That's what Steve Justa would have said if he had been born a century earlier...

Sensing potential threats invading from the Alpine border, back in the late 1800's, the French Military formed a special brigade devoted specifically to mountain warfare  Their cannon were often transported by mules,  yet there were many places where the mules were not able to travel so these soldiers did what they had to do in order to be prepared, and that often meant putting their cannons on their backs and carrying them themselves.

As these kinds of things often do, it became a sense of pride to see who could lift the heaviest cannon.  One of the highest compliments that could be said for a member of these battalions was that "he can do the work of two (or three) mules." The cannon that the gentleman above is shown carrying was listed as weighing 280 kg -- that's over 600 pounds.

Unknown Strongman #2

Unknown Strongman #2

Here's
another good example of an unknown strongman, whose name and feats are unfortunately lost to the sands of time.

This fellow is obviously a big fan of barrel lifting and blockweights or kettlebells.


Notice that while his arms are not particularly large his forearm development is exceptional -- no doubt the result of lifting, heavy, awkward objects.

UPDATE: Unknown no more! He is Signor Dondretti, Iron Jaw Athlete and contortionist - he performed with the King & Franklin's New Colossal Shows in the late 1800s and lifted a 1000 lb. horse with his teeth!

Strength and Health Magazine: Volume 1, Issue 1

Strength and Health issues number one, Wally Zagurski coverJust in case you ever need to know who was on the cover of the very first issue of Strength and Health magazine, the answer is Walter "Wally" Zagurski.    This issue hit the scene in December of 1932.  Starting a magazine in the teeth of the Great Depression was quite an ambitious undertaking for Bob Hoffman, something which will be covered in great detail in the second volume of The Dellinger Files.

Zagurski was an original member of the "York Gang" who lifted back when it was called the "York Oil Burner Athletic Club."  He competed in the 1932 Olympics, won the 1933 Sr. National Weightlifting title at 165 pounds and was a very good all-around strength athlete.

Rudolf Ismayr

Rudolf IsmayrRudolf Ismayr, seen here in mid-clean with what looks like to be about 265 pounds, won the Gold Medal at the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, California where he totaled 345 kg in the Middleweight class.  Four years later, Ismayr was chosen to read the Olympic Oath at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, Germany (at which he took the Silver Medal with a 352.5 kg total.)

Bazin: The Cannon Man

Bazin, The Cannon ManIf you are interested in true "Oldtime" feats of strength, then late-19th century France was the place to be. Whether at a night club, concert, or street fair if there was a crowd present, it was an opportunity for a strongman to showcase his talents. 

This extremely rare poster, dating from 1876 highlights, Bazin, The Cannon Man, whose act must have been a sight to see.  Sure he lifted and juggled heavy weights etc... but notice that not only is Msr. Bazin pictured firing a cannon from his shoulder but walking with blockweights strapped to his feet as well!

The Rarest of the Rare: York Cattle Horn Collars

York Cattlehorn CollarsWhen you walk into an antique store and ask if they have any "York Collars" you never know what you might get...

You see, when a young bull's horns begin to grow, they grow straight out from his forehead making a pretty effective weapon... To protect themselves and other cattle, the oldtime farmers used to attach a weight to each horn and, thanks to gravity, the horns grew downward instead.

Well come to find out there were, in fact, "York" Cattle Horn Collars, an example of which is shown above.  Is this collar some lost relic of The York Barbell Company?  Did Bob Hoffman once decide to produce equipment for a whole different market? No one seems to know the answers... yet given the fact that they were cast iron (like many other types of York equipment), that the font is pretty darn close if not identical (a York Barbell Plate is shown at right for comparison), and that this collar is fairly close in function to a York barbell collar, it would not appear to be out of the question... you be the judge.

The Great Gama: Lion of The Punjab

The Great Gama: Lion of The PunjabGhulam Muhammad, The Great Gama, is the greatest Pehlwan, or Indian wrestler, who ever lived.  He is the only wrestler to remain undefeated throughout the course of his entire career which spanned over 5000 matches.

The Great Gama publicly challenged all comers and easily defeated the likes of the American Champion Dr. Benjamin Roller (who he "threw" 13 times in 15 minutes), Stanislaus Zbyszko of Poland, the European John Lemm of Switzerland, and Maurice Deriaz of France.    Interestingly, Gotch and Hackenschmidt refused to face him.

Gama's daily training routine consisted of thousands of traditional squats and pushups... and after seeing him train, many would-be challengers wanted no part. The object Gama is seen holding here was not a piece of training equipment but an ornamental scepter known as a Gurz, the Indian Wrestling version of the Championship Belt.

Gernulf Garbe, Mr. Germany 1963

Gernulf GarbeIn days gone by, bodybuilders used to be as strong as they looked...  Here's the 1963 Mr. Germany, Gernulf Garbe, curling what looks to be around 180 pounds.  Garbe went on to become a famous physician and authored several books on bodybuilding.