The old York Lifters all used to practice the bent-press because the lift built incredible core strength. This, in turn, helped in increasing their Olympic Lifting totals.
One of the most talented of the bent-pressers was Val De Genaro who could lift 215 pounds. Bob Hoffman said that De Genaro had the most perfect bent-press technique that he had ever seen. Perhaps due in great part to his bent pressing ability, as a 148-pound lifter, De Genaro could Jerk 290 pounds.
De Genaro was also, unsurprisingly, an excellent hand-balancer who could walk the length of a football field on his hands.
The duo performed hand-balancing feats and were featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not. They were at their peak in the teens and 20’s and once even shared the stage with Will Rogers in Atlanta. Unfortunately we’re not sure which of the King brothers is featured in the rare postcard above but all that hand-balancing work has certainly built an impressive pair of arms for this fellow.
On August 21st, 1934, with the news reel cameras rolling, the Jackson Trio balanced precariously on a ledge of the 86th floor of the Empire State Building while this famous picture was taken. The Jackson Trio got their start opening for Houdini on the vaudeville circuit and when in New York, the trio always trained at Sig Klein’s Gym!
In either case, this feat, accomplished by amateur handbalancer Miles Hayes, of Mansfield, Ohio, is still quite impressive (but definitely don’t try this one at home folks.)
They say that the York picnics were so popular that cars were parked three quarters of a mile in every direction. Hoffman’s house is still there and you can see it if you know where to look.
Showing that a heavy bodyweight isn’t an obstacle, the great Doug Hepburn could easy perform handstand pushups at the drop of a hat at 305 pounds. Handbalancing is still very much a discipline that will benefit every strength athlete.