The famous French strongman Louis “Apollon” Uni at 19 years of age. As the story goes he ran off and joined the circus at 14 and started performing as a strongman a year later. Even at this young age, Apollon’s potential for great strength is evident by his thick bone structure. Strength ran in the family, it as was said that he was descended from Pompelius Unicus, an undefeated Roman Gladiator.
Another great shot of the champion French Weight lifter Ernest Cadine at the conclusion of a heavy one-arm snatch. Even though the quality of this old picture is not perfect, Cadine’s incredible muscle density is evident.
It’s not hard to see why he won the gold medal at the 1920 Olympic Games, likely around the same time this picture was taken.
Note the cannon on the wall behind him. Yes, it was used specifically for lifting purposes.
An extremely rare posterof the great French Strongman Apollon. he was called “Le Roi des Athletes” (The King of Athletes) for good reason, even a hundred years later no one has even come close to bettering any of his feats. Apollon is shown performing a Muscle Out with a ring weight and a small horse! Apollon’s famous wheels are pictured as well.
Dr. Georges Rouhet is shown here demonstrating an overhead press with his favorite barbell. It was listed that this barbell weighed 216 French Livres, or just over 233 lbs.
Horace Barre was Louis Cyr’s protege as they traveled the country performing in the John Robinson Circus. Though from Montreal, circuses through a more exotic moniker would be better for ticket sales so Barré was often billed as the “French Hercules” or the “French Sampson” and, like his mentor, he excelled in such oldtime strongman feats as the back lift, hefting heavy dumbbells overhead and barrel lifting.
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”
The great French lifter Alexandre’ Maspoli was born in Lyon, France in 1875 and was an amateur champion an astounding 19 years in a row (1901 to 1920). He won a Bronze Medal at the 1906 Olympic Games. He also competed in the long jump in the 1906 games but did not place. Maspoli’s greatest lifts include a right hand snatch of 207-1/2 pounds, a two-dumbbell clean and press of 231-3/4 pounds, and a two-dumbbell jerk of 298 pounds. Maspoli was also a successful sculptor – a true Renaissance man.
Performing strongmen used to be a common sight in many big cities. Here’s a rare shot from a Paris sidewalk of a strongman having a few onlookers lift a globe barbell to his shoulders so he can walk with it, circa 1950. Look closely and you’ll notice there’s four additional french block weights tied to the bar. His other outstanding equipment: a few globe dumbbells, a few globe barbells, more blockweights and even a baltass all sit in the foreground.