An old poster of the strongman Clevio Massimo during the time he appeared on the stage throughout the country, depicting some of the feats of strength he included in his act: harness lifting, the One Arm get Up, Kettlebell Crucifix, card ripping, hand balancing etc. He included quite a variety; many not illustrated here, and his ability as a showman only enhanced his fine performances. Massimo also played the violin in one portion of his act to prove he was a capable musician as well as a genuine strongman.
The German Strongman William Pagel used to perform an amazing feat of strength: carrying a 1050-pound horse to the top of two 18-foot ladders by the use of a harness. Even more amazing was that he did this for 10 shows a day. Notably, Pagel could clean 225 pounds with one arm, jerk it to arm’s length and while holding it aloft, lay down flat on the ground and then return to a standing position, barbell still overhead. Pagel was also a great wild animal trainer.
A rare poster advertising the strongman duo of Franz “Cyclops” Bienkowski and Charles A. Sampson. Sampson’s Harness Lift is highlighted.
“The Amazing Samson,” Alexander Zass was a master of many different types of lifts. Here’s the man making a harness lift of over a ton without even breaking a sweat. Harness lifting was always very popular with performing strongmen since they could be done with very heavy weights, and could use audience members as ballast. Aside from the performance benefits, our research indicates that heavy supporting lifts may be a great contributor to greater overall body strength.
A look at the great American weightlifter Bill Good in the midst of harness lifting the equally famous Good Dumbbell. circa 1934. Good, a Reamstown, Pennsylvania, native was a seven-time National weightlifting Champion (1930-1935, 1937) and competed in the 1932 and 1936 Olympic Games. Good liked to celebrate his birthday each year by harness lifting the 2150 lb. Good Dumbbell for as many repetitions as the number of years of his age, a feat he kept up until he was 90.
Here’s an extremely rare poster from the late 1880’s, when Karl Abs was the featured attraction at the Cirque d’ Hiver (Winter Circus) exhibition hall in Paris, France. Each night, Abs harness-lifted a horse and challenged all comers in the wrestling ring, (among other feats.) It’s pretty awesome that the Cirque d’ Hiver, which opened in 1852, is actually still going strong to this day.
Thomas Topham is known as the greatest strongman of the 18th century. Among his many incredible feats, on May 28th, 1741, by use of a harness, Topham lifted three barrels filled with water a combined weight of 1386 lbs.