Gustave Empain

Posted on Tuesday, April 18th, 2017 by John Wood
Gustave Empain the Belgian weightlifter, finished third at the 1903 World Weightlifting Championships, behind Francois Lancoud and Heinrich Schneidereit. Empain’s greatest feat, however, was a Muscle Out of 76 pounds, which he did in front of Professor Desbonnet at the Weightlifting Club of France. After retiring from competition, Empain opened a bar in his hometown of Charleroi, Belgium.

Vulcana

Posted on Monday, February 15th, 2016 by John Wood
Kate “Vulcana” Williams, was a Welsh Strongwoman who toured music halls in Britain, Europe and Australia in the early 1900’s. Among her many other feats were a bent press of 125 pounds and an overhead lift (i.e. press) with a 56 pound weight in each hand. She was quite popular in France where Professor Desbonnet verified her feats and was very impressed with her level of strength. As you can see, she sported a pretty impressive set of 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.

Desbonnet’s Expander

Posted on Monday, April 27th, 2015 by John Wood

You can add Professor Desbonnet’s name to the long list of strength champions who have used chest expanders to build size and strength. Expander training has always been popular, this pictures dates to 1891. This particular exercise, performing a 1-arm curl with one end of the expander underfoot, is one of the all-time best methods for building arm strength and why you’ll find it in just about every expander course ever written.
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.

“Starke” Arvid Andersson

Posted on Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 by John Wood
Arvid Andersson was a Champion Swedish strongman who put up some very impressive numbers at the turn of the century. He got his start lifting horses in the circus and once he moves on to more conventional weights, quickly set the world record in the Clean & Jerk with a lift of 328 lbs on November 7th, 1906.

Professor Desbonnet, was the judge, and was highly impressed with the lift. Andersson’s nickname soon became “Starke Arvid” or Strong Arvid.
Like many strongmen of the time he was also a wrestler, and held the Swedish Heavyweight Championship for many years. After he retired from wrestling and lifting contests, “Starke Arvid” moved back to Stockholm and opened a café.

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.

Luigi Monticelli Obizzi

Posted on Sunday, February 9th, 2014 by John Wood

Luigi Monticelli Obizzi

Luigi Monticelli Obizzi, an Italian Marquis, led a very active childhood involved in gymnastics, swimming, fencing and rowing, but did not take up weightlifting until 20 years old.

He found that he was quite adept at it, so much so that in 1890, Obizzi founded the Milan Athletic Club and was instrumental in spreading weightlifting and physical training throughout Europe. At the Italian Weightlifting Championship, he finished 3rd, in 1897, 3rd in 1900 and 2nd in 1901 and 1902.
Working closely with Professor Desbonnet, Obizzi, helped establish the first Weightlifting Championship of France in 1901 (which he also helped judge.) It was under Obizzi’s suggestion that weightlifting contests adopted weight classes, a feature that continues to this day.

Obizzi weighed only 160 pounds but was quite strong, one of his best lifts was a military press of 200 pounds AND he also had a truly excellent mustache.

Professor Desbonnet

Posted on Thursday, September 19th, 2013 by John Wood

Professor Edmond Desbonnet is often called “The Father of Modern Weightlifting” — and for good reason, there are a lot of “firsts” associated with his name. A few good examples: he was the first to compile a records table of great performances, the first to introduce referees into a weightlifting competition and the first to codify the press, snatch and jerk into competitive lifts.

Desbonnet opened several schools of physical training (including in 1900, the Halterophile Club de France) and wrote a number of incredible books and courses dealing with strength training and early physical culture. All of his books are detailed and extremely rare. His two most famous titles are Les Rois de la Lutte (The Kings of Wrestling) and Les Rois de la Force (The Kings of Strength).

Athleta

Posted on Friday, June 14th, 2013 by John Wood
Athleta Strongwoman
There weren’t many performing “strongwomen” …but there were a few, one of the greatest of whom was Athleta Van Huffelen, of Belgium. In the late 1800’s, her solo act at the Eden Alhambra Theater in Brussels caused quite a stir in the strength world as she performed feats that, at the time, were thought all but impossible for a woman. Athleta lifted barrels, bent horseshoes and spikes, and, as shown above, danced a waltz while supporting three men and a loaded barbell on her shoulders. The French strength historian Professor Desbonnet had never seen anything like it, so much so that he listed Athleta among the great strength athletes in his classic book “The Kings of Strength.”

The Lille Athletic Club, 1901

Posted on Saturday, March 17th, 2012 by John Wood

The Lille Athletic Club, 1901

rance was a center of physical training activity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  This was due in large part to Professor Edmond Desbonnet who founded his school of physical culture in his home town of Lille, in northern France. Here’s a look the members of the Lille Athletic Club, circa 1901, with some of their classic equipment: globe barbells and dumbbells, chest expanders and blockweights etc. Desbonnet himself is pictured at the far right.

Apollon: King of Strength

Posted on Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011 by John Wood
Apollon!
Louis Uni, the French Strongman known professionally as “Apollon,” was certainly one of the greatest, if not the greatest strongman who ever lived. It was Apollon, along with Louis Cyr who were dubbed “Les Rois de la Force” (Kings of Strength) by Professor Desbonnet because their strength was so far above and beyond the ordinary.

Apollon, who was at his peak during the 1890s, stood 6″2′ and, in solid muscular condition, around 260 pounds.

While he was certainly thickly-muscled and strong all over, he excelled in grip an forearm feats, especially lifting thick handled weights, such as the Challenge Weight that bears his name. Also of note is the fact that even though this images was taken well over a hundred years ago with crude photographic equipment by today’s standards, Apollons tremendous “core” strength — built through years of heavy one-arm and two-arm overhead lifting — is evident.