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 La Seyne-sur-Mer Athletic Club

Posted on Wednesday, December 17th, 2014 by John Wood

A look at the few, but hardy, members of the La Seyne-sur-Mer athletic club, circa 1906. La Seyne-sur-Mer is a port town located in south eastern France, and like most all French strongmen, they have an excellent array of training equipment: globe dumbbells, barbells and ring weights.

Charles Charlemont

Posted on Monday, September 1st, 2014 by John Wood

Joseph Charlemont essentially invented the french martial art of Savate. His son, Charles, shown above, continued his work, and codified this combat style into the form that is practiced today. Unsurprisingly, heavy club swinging and dumbbell training are just as effective today for combat training as they were around 1880, when the above picture was taken.
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 Brooklyn Strongboy” Charles Phelan

Posted on Friday, February 21st, 2014 by John Wood
“The Brooklyn Strongboy” Charles Phelan was the American Professional Lightweight Champion and also performed a strongman act for many years at Coney Island and around the New York area. Notice the outstanding show weights: the unusually large kettlebell and the thick-handled globe dumbbell.

Charles Phelan was a protege of Warren Lincoln Travis and eventually taught much of what he knew to Vic Boff.
Phelan told jokes between feats of strength, also billing himself (quite uniquely, I might add) as “The World’s Most Entertaining Strongman.” Phelan only weighed 140 lbs, but could backlift 2500 lbs.

Dan Lurie

Posted on Thursday, February 6th, 2014 by John Wood

Dan Lurie

As a bodybuilder, Brooklyn-born Dan Lurie won the “Most Muscular” subdivision and finished second in the AAU Mr. America contest in 1942, 1943 and 1944.

As a strongman, Dan performed 1655 push ups in 90 minutes, a bent press of 285 pounds (at a bodyweight of 168 pounds) and backlifted 1810 pounds.

Lurie went on to become a very successful gym owner, magazine publisher and TV strongman. He also established the Dan Lurie Barbell Company which produced barbells and plates primarily on the east coast.

Bonus points if you noticed that the dumbbell that Dan is holding in this photo is from Professor Anthony Barker’s Strength Maker Bar-Bell System.

Hammer Strength/Tim Krumrie

Posted on Tuesday, June 19th, 2012 by John Wood

Tim Krumrie, Hammer Strength and a classic Globe Dumbbell

Tim Krumrie, the Cincinnati Bengals All-Pro nose tackle is shown here with a classic globe dumbbell in this early advertisement for Hammer Strength equipment. The dumbbell shown (yes, it was a dumbbell) once belonged to the great French strongman Apollon.

Krumrie was well-known for his incredible hand strength, which should be an essential part of training programs for the game of football. Krumrie’s specific grip routine can be found in The New Bodybuilding for Old-School Results by Ellington Darden.

Joe Nordquest, The Ashtabula Strongman

Posted on Monday, June 4th, 2012 by John Wood
Joe Norquest, the strongman from Ashtabula, Ohio, lifts a heavy globe barbell overhead.
One of the true unsung strongman is undoubtedly Joe Nordquest from Ashtabula, Ohio. His name is rarely mentioned at the top of the list of all-time greats yet his strength feats would certainly rank him among them.

Joe Nordquest could jump from a table to the floor while maintaining a handstand position, curl 180 pounds and bent press 277-1/2 pounds. He could military press 124-1/4 pounds with one hand, an American record at the time and did a “bridge press” with 388 pounds (breaking Arthur Saxon’s record.) Keep in mind that he did all this and more on only one leg, having lost a limb in an accident as a boy. Joe’s brother Adolph was also an excellent strongman.

Sig Klein

Posted on Tuesday, February 7th, 2012 by John Wood

Sig Klein with some classic barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells.

Sig Klein inherited much of his great equipment when he married Professor Attila’s daughter and took over his gym in New York. Of course, Sig had pretty good taste in equipment and often had custom-made barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells fashioned to train with.
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.

Unknown Strongman #1

Posted on Wednesday, October 19th, 2011 by John Wood

There were hundreds, if not thousands of strongmen who were very successful yet never got their due since the flow of information back then is certainly not what it is today. Consequently, there are many examples of oldtime strongmen whose images remain but whose names are lost to history. Here’s one example of an image you probably haven’t seen before and won’t see anywhere else. We don’t know who this guy is, but he certainly had excellent taste in equipment.
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.