In October, 1928, Victor DeLamarre performed a backlift of an entire precinct of Quebec policemen. The captain, Emile Trudel, stands in the foreground. Interestingly, DeLamarre only weighed about 200 pounds at the time. It was said that one of the reasons for DeLamarre’s great strength was that he had thicker than average tendons and bones.
The Heaviest Weight Ever Lifted – June 12th, 1957, Paul Anderson’s Record Backlift
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.
A rare woodcut of the great Louis Cyr’s famous backlift. Cyr astonished the world with a lift of 4337 pounds!
Over half a century before Billy Joel’s hit tune, the original “Piano Man” was Andre LaFeuille of Paris, France. He was a dock worker who became the toast of the town because of his unique ability to…(wait for it)…lift pianos. On August 27th, 1920, LaFeuille (back)lifted four of them, totaling over 3000 pounds, a record at the time.
Jack Walsh from Trenton, New Jersey, is the strongest man you’ve never heard of. Over his career he performed all kinds of crazy strength feats, including lifting elephants, towing trains and letting trucks run over his body. At a bodyweight of 190 pounds, he even broke Louis Cyr’s backlift record. Anyhow, here’s Jack Walsh jerking a 230-pound dumbbell overhead — That’s damn strong! Do you know anybody that can jerk more than bodyweight overhead with one arm?
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.