One of the earliest of the Oldtime Strongmen, Felice Napoli of Italy was performing incredible feats of strength in Wallshlager’s Circus in the 1850’s. Napoli dressed as the mythical Hercules as he performed and certainly lived up to it: Napoli’s act consisted of his having a cannon shot off while held on his shoulders, bending iron bars, lifting heavy weights while hanging upside down from a trapeze, The Tomb of Hercules, and performing feats while hanging on a vertically suspended rope, a type of feat known as “The Spanish Web’. Plus, he had an excellent goatee.
The Brothers McCann, Henry (left) and Louis (right), of Birmingham, England, were known as Hercules and Samson when they became professional strongmen in the late 1800’s. In December of 1890, at The Royal Music Hall, they challenged Eugen Sandow to a match — and Won! …although they were defeated by Louis Cyr in a similar contest a few years later.
Steve Reeves getting in a little arm work during the filming of one of his Hercules movies. Italian beauty, Sylva Koscina, looks on in amusement. She was Reeeves’ co-star in both Hercules (1958) and Hercules Unchained (1960).
It’s a pretty awesome feat to be able to press bodyweight with a barbell but doing so with dumbbells is a whole different level of strength. Here’s Reg Park locking out a standing press with a pair of dumbbells, 235-pounds total, in outstanding form. I certainly can’t think of anyone more fitting to play “Hercules” in the movies…