The Incredible Arms of Clevio Massimo

Posted on Thursday, May 24th, 2018 by John Wood
It was said that Clevio Massimo’s family was descended from great Roman athletes of antiquity. That certainly isn’t too difficult to believe, Tony was one of the most muscular men who ever lived and excelled at a number of great feats. He could support a piano and player in the Tomb of Hercules position, bend spikes and tear phone books. Massimo was also a great Hand Balancer and wrestler — he only weighed 190 pounds but you would never think it looking at his pictures.

T.H. Sarkari – The Indian Sandow

Posted on Thursday, April 19th, 2018 by John Wood
Tehmurasp “T.H.” Sarkari lifting in a contest circa 1920. Sarkari owned a gymnasium in Bombay and was known as “The Indian Sandow” for promoting the importance of physical training and weight lifting in his native country. Sarkari was adept at tearing phone books, which is always an impressive feat.
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.

Harry Luft: The Brooklyn Samson

Posted on Friday, November 10th, 2017 by John Wood
Shown here is Harry Luft, age 17, performing his own specialty of tearing not one but TWO 2000 page telephone directories in half. Harry, who weighs but 142 pounds, stand 5 feet 4 and does other strongman feats such as bending iron bars in his teeth, is one of the “Samson Twins” of Brooklyn, New York. The other twin is his 15 year old brother Sol who also bends iron bars in his teeth and who emulates his older brother’s book tearing stunt by destroying Red Books, which are about 1/3rd as thick as the directories. Harry elected to tear these phone books lengthwise instead of the more common method of breaking the spine ~ impressive! Harry was inspired to become a strongman by Siegmund Breitbart. Luft was also a vegetarian.

Joan Rhodes

Posted on Saturday, January 24th, 2015 by John Wood
There weren’t many woman strength acts but there were a few and the most notable was London-born Joan Rhodes. For decades, “The Iron Lady” bent steel bars and ripped phone books with the best of them ~ all even more impressively while wearing high heels!
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 Human Vise vs. The Impossible Phonebook

Posted on Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 by John Wood


[This is from a few years back, but certainly no less impressive, I mean WOW, just look at that thing! Special thanks to our good friend Pat “The Human Vise” Povilaitis for sending this our way. ~ JW]

“About a year ago, I began getting into tearing phonebooks in a big way. During a visit to Iron Sport Gym (In Glenolden, PA) around that time [Iron Sport Gym Owner] Steve Pulcinella showed me a phone book that he kept in the lobby of his gym which he believed was impossible for a human being to tear. It was easily the thickest phonebook I had ever seen (in terms of pages) and it was also in the small format, slightly less than 8″ wide x slightly less than 10” long, making it an incredibly difficult tear.

Tough? Yeah. Impossible, Hmmm, I filed that one in the back of my mind. It just so happens that the day before Christmas I took a trip down to The Iron Sport Gym with some good friends of mine.

After basically destroying myself for about two and a half hours bending, tearing, lifting etc, all of us were hanging out at the front counter shootin’ the breeze. I suddenly remembered about that monster phonebook and asked Steve if he still had it around. With a smile on his face, he opened the cabinet and pulled it out. As he slammed it down on the front desk he said “it just can’t be done, no human can tear this.”

Although I was definitely feeling the last few hours of training, I was confident I could do some damage. Before I took a crack at it, I told Steve that I would make the tear nice and neat in case he wanted to keep it as a souvenir and so there would be no question that this was a legitimate tear.

I told Steve to let me have a shot…

The look on everyone’s faces was priceless when I handed Steve the two pieces of the now-torn-in-half book.

Steve said it was one of the most impressive things he had ever seen and he had seen plenty of amazing feats as a gym owner and World’s Strongest Man Contestant. He really doubted it could be done by a “normal” human being — and he was right about that.

This feat was especially gratifying because I really didn’t feel like I had any strength left after training, and I did it in the lobby of Iron Sport, in front of a good crowd of people who know a thing or two about strength.”

Pat Povilaitis
The Human Vise

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.

Gaston Heon

Posted on Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 by John Wood
There has been a long tradition of Canadian Strongmen, one that you probably haven’t heard of is Gaston Heon of Quebec. Heon performed standard feats such as phone book tearing, the human link and having a large rock broken on his chest with a sledge hammer… but he also performed several unusual — and somewhat dangerous — feats, such as allowing himself to be run over by a car traveling 40 miles per hour(!) and this backlift/support of a 3000 pound automobile.
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.

“Little Samson”

Posted on Monday, April 14th, 2014 by John Wood

Little Samson

Pete Reynolds performed for many years on the Vaudeville and night club circuit as Little Samson – The World’s Strongest Small Man. Standing only five feet tall and weighing 107 pounds, he certainly fit the bill, among other feats, he ripped phone books in half… then quarters… then eighths! You won’t find many heavy weights who could accomplish such a feat. Samson attributed his great strength to his healthy diet, and after he retired from the road, opened a health food store in Cincinnati, Ohio.
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 Great’ Joe Rollino

Posted on Tuesday, August 30th, 2011 by John Wood

Joe Rollino

Joe Rollino learned the strongman trade as an assistant to Warren Lincoln Travis at the famed Coney Island. In the 1920’s, Rollino branched out into his own strongman act.

Joe stood 5’5″ and weighed just under 150 pounds but possessed the strength of someone twice his size. He easily performed all the traditional feats of strength such as back lifting, finger lifting, nail bending, phonebook and playing card tearing and, shown here, bending a spike in his teeth. He once lifted 635 pounds with one finger.

Rollino was also a boxer under the name “Kid Dundee” and, like many strongmen of the day, was a very good hand balancer. Joe was a lifelong vegetarian and lived to 105 years old. He passed away a few years ago, not from sickness or disease but from getting hit by a van while crossing the street to pick up his morning paper.