Not much is known of Gottfried Huber, the early weightlifter/strongman/wrestler from the Austrian state of Tirol. What little is remembered is that he specialized in feats of gripping power and finger lifting. Consequently, he was also a champion in the sport of Fingerhakeln (finger hooking), a test of strength in which you you try to pull your opponent across a table with your middle finger only.
The great martial artist Bruce Lee was a big proponent of physical training and with good reason. He understood… he “got it” … which is why he also made it a point to train his grip. Building stronger fingers, wrists, hands and forearms is obviously very important in combat settings. Here’s Master Bruce doing pushups on only his thumbs in between takes while filming Game of Death – an incredible feat. Can anyone today do this?
The French strongman and wrestler, Julius Cochard, possessed an unusual level of strength and endurance. His best known feat was to carry a 220-pound sack on his shoulders from Paris to Reims, a distance of 112 miles. It took him just under a week to cover that distance. He was also very adept at feats of finger strength, being able to snatch and swing 110-pound dumbbell with only one finger. Cochard pulled one of the first recorded impressive deadlifts when he lifted 661 lbs. way back in 1895. Cochard, whose name was also spelled “Cochart” in some circles, weighed around 220 lbs at a height of 5’10”
This nifty device never appeared in any strength magazine, it was actually marketed to musicians at the turn of the last century. I believe this is an idea with some interesting possibilities…
Like many strongmen, Harry Good was very talented at feats of grip and forearm strength. Here he lifts a set of heavy farm equipment gears weighing over 300 pounds with one finger. His best performance in this lift was with over 450 pounds.
Basil Korolev was Russian by birth but left his native land in 1919 at the start of the revolution. He settled in Japan were he was undefeated in Judo and boxing contests and held the heavyweight title in both sports until his retirement in 1936. Here is Basil at a strength demonstration curling a pair of 80-pound kettlebells with only his little fingers.
One of the classic tests of grip strength is to pinch two heavy weight plates together – something that legendary John Davis could do with ease with these York Deep-Dish 35-pound plates. 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…
If you want to perform amazing strength feats, then having super strong hands is a must… It’s impressive to be able to rip a deck of cards in half, but the great Texas strongman Paul Von Boeckmann took it a step further by ripping this quarter-sized chunk out of a 52-card deck. For obvious reasons, this type of feat is referred to as “card notching.” Von Boeckman could also tear a deck of cards into eighths.
Edwin Zello, of Platt’s Valley, Nebraska is shown here with a one-finger deadlift of well over 400 pounds. Zello performed many traditional strongman feats around the turn of the century, and so did his wife Alice, who was also part of the act, and quite a performer herself. Also of note is that Zello once wrestled George Hackenschmidt to a draw in an exhibition match in Canada.