It was on June 12th, 1957 when Paul Anderson backlifted 6270 pounds — a well-documented and still-unbroken feat. Paul Anderson, of course was a noted Olympic Gold Medal Winner and Strongman. If you are unfamiliar with the backlift, it is an oldtime lift which was very popular with many of the greatest strongmen,
…likely as a result of being able to lift some truly huge poundages — backlifts are usually measured by the ton. This made for a much more visually effective feet — to lift a ship, or an elephant, or some cannons, or bales of hay, or beer barrels, or a group of people rather than merely a stack of pig iron. Other great backlifters include Doug Hepburn, John Davis, George Levasseur, Jack Walsh and Louis Cyr who was able to backlift “only” 4300 pounds in his prime.
Anyhow, one reason you don’t see the back lift much these days is that it requires a special setup. (The only modern backlifter that I know of is Steve Justa who Discusses his special backlift setup in Rock Iron Steel.) You’ll need a sturdy thick wood or metal platform and a lot of Weight. In many performances, volunteers from the audience were used to stand on the platform since it was a very easy and convenient source of a lot of weight. There is also a small bench or support underneath the platform which the lifter braces his upper body on.
The lifter then positions himself under the ponderous load and straightens his legs moving the platform off the ground. The movement itself is an inch or less and a “good” lift must be held at least for a count of two. While the backlift may not be the best lift for training these days, heavy supports will never go out of style. Load the bar and hold – squats, deadlifts, benchpress, curls, the standing press – pretty much any lift can be done in this manner. Try it, but be sure to add weight very slowly as this type of training is very demanding on your overall system. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at what happens after several weeks of productive training.