Franz Stähr

Posted on Tuesday, July 31st, 2018 by John Wood
Here’s a rare look at Franz Stähr, the great early lifter from Vienna. Stähr was a member of the Osman Trio and one of the first men to ever put 200 lbs. overhead with one hand. At an exhibition on December 9, 1885, Stähr “put up” from the shoulder to overhead (what we would today call a push press) a 109 lb. dumbbell twenty five times! It’s not hard to see from this photo that he was a man of immense power.
All Contents, Including Images and Text, Copyright © 2005-2019 by John Wood and Thunderdome Media Inc., Not to be reproduced without permission, All Rights Reserved
Author: John Wood. All contents, including images and text, copyright © 2005-2019 by John Wood and Thunderdome Media Inc. Not to be reproduced without permission. All rights reserved. We will most likely grant permission but please contact us if you would like to repost. IMPORTANT: Equipment and books, courses etc. pictured in blog posts are generally not available for sale unless specifically noted.

John Grimek vs. The Cyr Dumbbell

Posted on Monday, June 15th, 2015 by John Wood

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

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

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

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

All Contents, Including Images and Text, Copyright © 2005-2019 by John Wood and Thunderdome Media Inc., Not to be reproduced without permission, All Rights Reserved
Author: John Wood. All contents, including images and text, copyright © 2005-2019 by John Wood and Thunderdome Media Inc. Not to be reproduced without permission. All rights reserved. We will most likely grant permission but please contact us if you would like to repost. IMPORTANT: Equipment and books, courses etc. pictured in blog posts are generally not available for sale unless specifically noted.

The Gittleson Dumbbell

Posted on Friday, May 9th, 2014 by John Wood

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…

Dimitrios Tofalos

Posted on Saturday, April 28th, 2012 by John Wood
Dimitrios Tofalos, Greek Weightlifting Champion
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.

t 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.

The Myrtle Street Gymnasium, 1865

Posted on Wednesday, March 21st, 2012 by John Wood

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.

Fred Winters

Posted on Thursday, November 3rd, 2011 by John Wood

Fred Winters

Fred Winters, of the New Westside Athletic Club of New York, won the Silver Medal in the Dumbell Lifting portion of the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis, Missouri. The competition consisted of nine individual dumbbell lifting events with the tenth event being an original feat of strength of the competitor’s choice.

Above is the result of Section #6 of the contest “Pushing up slowly one dumbbell with one hand from the shoulder to arm’s length above the shoulder” which Mr. Winters won with a lift of 126-1/2 pounds.

Fred was in the lead after the all dumbbell events and for his choice feat he performed six one-arm pushups with 105 extra pounds of weight strapped to his back… An impressive feat, but only good enough for second place.