Do NOT Try This!

Posted on Wednesday, November 22nd, 2017 by John Wood
Balancing Feats are always impressive but I do not recommend trying this one (or anything close to it!) Here Samuel Jenkins accomplishes something dangerous, impressive and quite possibly stupid at the same time ~ balancing precariously on two chairs atop a New York apartment building, circa 1923.
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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 Origin of The Kennedy Lift

Posted on Tuesday, October 24th, 2017 by John Wood
“About forty years ago, at the height of the new wave of strong man popularity, the late Richard K. Fox, then publisher of the Police Gazette, the leading sporting journal of America, had a 1000 pound dumb-bell cast, but it was not in the shape of the dumbbells today. It was more like a massive block of iron. He offered a very valuable gold medal and title to the first man to lift this 1000 pound weight.

At that time there was a man known as James Walter Kennedy who was athletically inclined and developed. He was an oarsman and general athlete, leaning, however, more toward the strong man. He was about 6 feet tall and weighed around 190 pounds, had jet black curly hair and mustache and at a time was a special officer at The Globe Museum at 298-300 Bowery, New York City.

Kennedy took a notion that he could lift this 1000 pound dumbbell with his hands and he began to train with a big whiskey cask, not using whiskey in it, but water, sand and rock as he gained strength. In other words, he used the Milo Bar Bell system of gradually increasing weight as he improved in his strength.

The first time he tried lifting the 1000 pound weight he failed but some time later he succeeded. His style was to straddle the weight and have one hand in front of his body grasping the weight and the other hand grasping it in the rear of his body, this position being known as the Hands Alone Lift. His body was erect with the exception that the knees were bent about 2 or 3 inches.”

– Warren Lincoln Travis
My 40 years with the World’s Strongest Men

Sig Klein’s Gym (Exterior)

Posted on Monday, December 26th, 2016 by John Wood

I’ve shown plenty of shots of the inside of Sig Klein’s Gym but here’s a rare shot of the exterior. Sitting atop Gruppe’s School of Music and Romeo’s Spaghetti Kitchen, Klein’s Gym was located at 717 Seventh Avenue in New York City and was hard to miss with the huge picture of Sig out front. The building is still there, if you know where to look. Wonder if the current occupant has any notion of Sig’s place?
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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.

Enrico Tomas

Posted on Saturday, February 20th, 2016 by John Wood

Enrico Tomas, from New York City, is shown here on the January, 1955 issue of Strength and Health magazine. Enrico only competed in a few bodybuilding contests but never finished lower than third and in 1954, he took first both in the AAU Mr. New York State and the NABBA Mr. Universe.
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.

Dr. Rich’s Institute For Physical Education

Posted on Monday, February 15th, 2016 by John Wood

John B. Rich was an orthodontist who spent the early part of his training in Paris where he could not help but notice the exemplary fitness level of its citizens. Rich noted that those with heathier bodies tended to also have healthier teeth which makes quite a bit of sense. He brought these teachings back to the United States and established his Institute For Physical Education at 159 Crosby St. (near Bleeker) in New York City.  The above lithograph was an advertisement for this establishment, circa 1850, making it one of the earliest commercial gym on record.
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.

Louis Chiarelli’s Record

Posted on Tuesday, May 5th, 2015 by John Wood

Louis Chiarelli, of New York City, is pictured here setting an all-time record by pressing 308 pounds while in the wrestler’s bridge. Chirelli was 5’2″ and 152 pounds at the time but this would certainly be an impressive feat at any bodyweight. Chiarelli sported a 48-inch chest and 17-inch arms.

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.

MacFadden’s Muscle Builder, July, 1926

Posted on Sunday, January 18th, 2015 by John Wood
Here’s one NOT to try at home: Daredevil Kurizo hangs precariously by his fingertips off a building ledge in New York City (looks like about twenty stories up.) This was the cover of the July, 1926 issue of Bernarr MacFadden’s Muscle Builder magazine (also the very last issue.)
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 Gymnasium of the Central New York Turn Verein

Posted on Friday, May 9th, 2014 by John Wood

The Gymnasium of the Central New York Turn Verein

A look at the typical afternoon session at the central New York Turn Verein, circa 1890. Look closely and you’ll see an impressive rack of Indian clubs and dumbbells, climbing ladders, trapeze swinging and all manner of fitness building activities. Located at 211 East 67th street, in addition to the excellent gymnasium shown above, the central Turn Verein also had rooms for swimming, shooting, fencing and bowling. It also featured the largest ball room in the city of New York at the time.
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.

Double Your Strength Almost Overnight!

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

One of the most interesting (and, in my opinion, most fun) aspects of strength history is the old advertisements. There is much to be learned by those in the same business today who might take the time to study them. Here’s a classic ad circa 1928 from Professor Henry W. Titus, one of the early mail order muscle pioneers. You can see why someone would want to save up their paper route money to send away for this course. You even get a nifty medal to pin to your jacket when you completed it!

Courses like this one are simple and might even be considered crude by today’s standards but often the “after” results beat much of what we see in today’s gyms, even with infinitely more equipment and access to information.

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.