Viggo Jensen, the great Danish athlete, won the very first Gold medal ever awarded in the modern Olympics. At the 1896 games in Athens, Greece, Jensen, bested Launceston Elliott at the “Two-Hands” lifting event but injured his shoulder in doing so. This caused him to finish second to Elliott in the “One-Hand” event. At the same Olympics, Jensen competed in Rope Climbing, shot put, discus and two rifle events (taking Bronze in the free rifle.)
Sig Klein was always outspoken as far as the importance of grip strength… One of Sig’s favorite exercises was to hang by one hand from a thick climbing rope. It’s still a good one.
From 1911 to 1934, Edward Aston held the title of ‘Britain’s Strongest Man’ and judging by this picture, it’s not hard to see why. One of Aston’s “Secrets” was to pay particular attention to strengthening the grip and forearm. He employed a number of different exercises to build his hand strength but one of his favorites was to do one-arm timed hangs from a climbing rope.
“From a single climbing and descending of a 30 foot rope each day (which took about two minutes) William Bankier “The Scottish Hercules” obtained infinitely better results as far as arm development than did an acquaintance who devoted a half hour each day to exercises especially for the biceps.”
Rope Climbing was a contested event at several Olympic games. Here’s a rare shot of the event from the 1906 Athens Summer games which was a 10 meter climb for time, held on April 26, 1906 in the Panathenaic Stadium. Georgios Aliprantis of Greece took the Gold with a climb of 11.4 seconds. Béla Erődi of Hungary and Konstantinos Kozanitas of Greece both had identical climbs of 13.8 seconds but the Silver was awarded to Erődi since Kozanitas accidentally touched the pole from which the rope hung. Notice that these guys were playing for keeps, don’t see any padding underneath. With two countrymen finishing on the medal stand, the rope climbing event was very popular with the Athenian crowd.
Edward Kunath, of Jersey City, New Jersey was the AAU National Rope Climbing Champion of 1899-1903, 1907 and 1909. He set many records over the course of his career, one of which was in 1901 when he climbed 25 feet in 6.8 seconds. When you do the math, that is over 44 inches per second! A few years later, Kunath invented and patented the spacer for manual typewriters, making him millions.