Monday, August 22, 2011

PHYSICAL TRAINING SIMPLIFIED - The Complete Science of Muscular Development - (circa 1930) - CHAPTER 23 - THE WORLD'S STRONGEST MEN: ALSO THE STRONGEST MAN - By Mark H. Berry

With so many athletes claiming to be the world's strongest, the questions become most confusing to the beginner or casual observer. Those who are fairly well acquainted with the recognize lifts and the accepted records are not so liable to pay attention to the claims of every professional who wishes to be known as the best the world has ever seen. As in many other things, a misunderstanding cannot exist if the public is informed concerning the facts. Right here is the key to the solution of the all the faking which has been imposed upon a most gullible public. Enlighten our dear public concerning the facts. However, such education is easier said than done; till no reader of this volume need longer be in doubt on matters pertaining to strength. Just what class of strength feats form the best criterion for deciding which individual is the stronger. Among professional exhibiting strong men we find some who gain a reputation by bending iron bars, breaking chains, tearing phone books and decks of cards, driving nails through boards with a blow of the fist and feats of a like nature. Others make a name for themselves by performing supporting feats and holding weights upon the feet or body.

One strong man claims distinction on his ability to make a high class one hand lift; another points to his two arm lifting ability; another expects fame to honor him due to his Back or Harness Lifting. How are we to recognize all of these men as the "strongest man" and which should be entitled to the greatest honor? To properly decide the question, it is first necessary to arrive at some conclusion as to what type of strength feat requires and demonstrates the greatest degree of strength. We know of Arthur Saxon having put overhead with one hand 336 and possibly 370 pounds; the great Arthur also succeeded in putting the greatest amount of weight overhead with two hands when he lifted 448 pounds in the Two Hands Anyhow style, raising 336 with the right arm in a Bent Press, and then bringing a kettle bell of 112 pounds up alongside of the heavier bell. The greatest Two Hands Jerk stands to the credit of Karl Swoboda, of Vienna, who jerked 408 3/4 pounds after lifting it to the shoulders in the Continental style, that is, with two movements form the floor to the shoulders, he also lifted overhead the enormous weight of 442 pounds, after others had put the bell at his shoulders.

The best Jerk poundage accomplished by Saxon was 350 pounds, so it would seem Swoboda was far superior on actual two arm lifting and strength. The Two Hands Anyhow is a splendid method of lifting when a high class poundage is elevated overhead, but the lift is not recognized as superior to a double handed Jerk. A small man of 122 pounds bodyweight has lifted 272 pounds in the Anyhow style while his best Jerk was 238 pounds. When we consider that only the best 148 pound men are capable of Jerking 272, no one would be so foolish as to imagine the 122 pound man as strong as the high class 148 pound men.

Granting the necessity of tremendous strength in accomplishing the 448 and 272, we are compelled in fairness to the lifting game and its devotees to make comparison on the generally recognized double handed lifting poundage of these same men. The Two Hands Anyhow happens to be a lifts practiced by few lifters, and due to not being generally recognized throughout the world, it is rather difficult to use it as a means of arriving at a decision on the strongest man among all lifters. It must be recognized that one lifter may excel everyone else at lifting a weight with the little finger, another may outshine all others at teeth lifting, and so on, but there certainly is no reason for basing a claim to the title of strongest man upon the ability to excel in this one way. Some standard must be used which is generally recognized throughout the world, and as no one lift can be used in fairness to all lifters, an officially recognized as the basis of championship competition. Certainly the man with the highest total on this set should be entitled to more consideration than the man who bases his claims on an ability to do some one unusual feat.

A discourse on strength or physical development will hardly be complete without a certain amount of discussion concerning the strongest man living today as well as the strongest man of all time. Frankness will be the best policy in this respect, so we might as well state that no individual ever earned the right to be known as the world's strongest man. There will, however, be no harm in considering the worthiness of all claimants to the title. Louis Cyr, of Montreal, Louis Uni (Apollon) of France; Arthur Saxon, of Germany; Eugene Sandow, likewise of Germany; all of these have probably been best known throughout the world as properly entitled to the honor. As far as strength is concerned, two or three big Viennese lifters were properly better fitted for the title. Joseph Steinbach and Karl Swoboda were both men of tremendous strength, yet because they were not theatrical showmen the world heard little of them. Scores of athletes throughout history have laid claim to being the strongest man of all time, and during recent years the strong men have proven no exceptions to this practice. Warren Lincoln Travos. Lionel Strongfort, and Herman Gorner have had staunch supporters, nevertheless the elements of personal opinion, national patriotism, and publicity influences must all be considered.

Before we may properly entertain the claims in behalf of any of the above named athletes, it will be necessary to decide which merits shall entitle each to worthy consideration. Some of the men were pure lifters, others showmen performing exhibition feats of strength; some of lifters belong to the Back and Harness lifting school, others to the bar bell branch of the game. Louis Cyr was undoubtedly the greatest Back and Harness lifter of whom we have any record, and at grip lifting (lifting weights off the floor with hand grips) he was also supreme. Warren L. Travis is the other athlete in the group representing this same type of lifting. In Back lifting, Cyr has been credited with 4300 pounds, while Travis has claimed 4000 pounds. The latter has claimed the same poundage in the Harness lift. Cyr has been credited with 1897 3/4 pounds for the Hand and Thigh Lift, while Travis has claimed no more than 1600 pounds. Travis has raised 881 3/4 pounds with two fingers, and in a repetition Back lift, 2500 pounds fifty times in twenty-five seconds.

To the best of our knowledge, Travis has never claimed to be stronger than Cyr, and as the latter has been dead for a number of years Travis has without a doubt been rightfully entitled to some distinction as a Back, Harness and dead weight lifter. Practically all claims in behalf of Apollon have been made by Frenchmen, and as no world's records are credited to him, it is rather difficult to seriously entertain such claims. By no means do we wish to belittle the abilities of the wonderful Apollon, but his principal feats were of such a nature that it was necessary to see them at first hand to fully appreciate the strength of the man. He performed feats with awkward and cumbersome thick handled bells, which other strong men found it quite impossible to handle. However, when comparing him with the best men of his time as well as those of other days, it is necessary to compare feats pound for pound, so that if a man handicaps himself by using bells with unusually thick handles, we cannot very well consider the feat in compiling a record lift or in a comparison of his lifts with others.

Eugene Sandow was undoubtedly the possessor of the best shape among all modern men, but there is absolutely no basis for referring to him as the world's strongest man. He was not the strongest man in the world at any time in his career, much less to be considered the strongest man of all time. His best feats were: One Hand Bent Press of 271 pounds, a Two Hands Anyhow of 269 pounds . (216 B.B., and 53 K.B.), Two Hands Snatch 231, and One Hand M. P., 121, Sandow was a remarkable showman, and should be entitled to recognition as such, but his lifts and feats of strength simply did not compare with those of other strong men who appeared before the public either during, before, or after his best days. Louis Cyr made a One Hand Press of 273 3/4 pounds, which although not a Bent Press, nevertheless exceeded the best poundage of Sandow. Arthur Saxon is officially credited with 336 pounds and unofficially 370 pounds has been claimed for him on a one hand Bent Press. Saxon accomplished a Two Hands Anyhow of 448 pounds, and could Snatch more than two hundred pounds with one hand. These few figures will serve as a fair comparison of the strength of Sandow and Saxon, the latter being entitled to quite a bit of consideration in a discussion of strongest men. Among the more modern claimants to the title, Lionel Strongfort, whose real name is Max Unger, bases his claims on a reputed Bent Press of 312 pounds and a supporting feat of holding an automobile and bridge, the weight of which was claimed to be 7000 pounds. Herman Gorner, a German who resided for some time in South Africa and who has lately been performing in England, can with every sound reason be seriously considered among the few strongest men of whom we have any record. His lifting feats are all first class, and besides, his professional act includes real strength feats. His best official lifts are: Two Hands Clean and Jerk, 352 3/4 pounds; One Hand Swing, 203 1/2 pounds; Two Hands Snatch, 264 1/2 pounds; Two Hands Clean and Jerk behind neck, 336 3/4 pounds; Two Hands Dead Lift in British style, 652 1/4 pounds; One Hand Dead Lift in British style, 548 1/2 pounds, and 501 pounds, with right and left hands.

Joseph Steinbach of Vienna, Austria, has officially performed a Two Hands Continental Jerk of 387 pounds, a Two Hands Snatch of 264 3/4 pounds; Two Hands Continental Press of 335 pounds. At the same time, he holds the world's records on lifts performed with two dumb bells.

Karl Swoboda, a massive Viennese lifter, was the first man to correctly succeed with over four hundred pounds in the Two Hands Jerk, accomplishing 408 3/4 in the Continental style. He also succeeded in Jerking 422 pounds from his shoulders after the weight had been put in position for him at the shoulders.

Having duly considered the above several claimants, and of course there are dozens of others who might be included, we should now pay honor to the present world's champion bar bell lifter, Charles Rigoulot, of France. As bar bell lifting is no recognized as the standard means of testing the strength of strong men, both amateurs and professionals, we must recognize the Frenchman as the world's strongest man. Rigoulot has lately succeeded in a Two Hands Clean and Jerk, of 402 pounds. In the Two Hands Snatch, Rigoulot has accomplished 110 pounds, and in the One Hand Snatch, 254 right and 221 pounds left.

If asked for my estimation of the proper ranking of the strongest men, I would list Charles Rigoulot at the top.

As to the ranking of the other leaders, it would be rather a difficult matter to decide which was best when they were all accustomed to different lifts and lifting conditions. Therefore, it might be well to rank several on an equal basis as entitled to the distinction of "goliaths of humanity." In this rating, we would include Apollon, Cyr, Gorner, Saxon, Swoboda, and Steinbach. We are inclined to rank a man according to his bar bell lifting ability rather than on the grounds of exhibition or Back lifting feats. Remember that in his day, Cyr ranked at the top as a bar bell lifter, with his double handed Clean and Jerk of 347 pounds, Continental Press of 301 pounds, Side Press of 273 1/4 pounds, and Snatch with either hand of 188 1/2 pounds. Saxon came along with a Bent Press of 336 pounds, Steinbach beat Cyr on the Continental Press by thirty-four pounds, and now Rigoulot has beat him by over fifty pounds on the Two Hands Clean and Jerk, and by sixty-five pounds for the One Hand Snatch.

As great as the feats of Cyr may appear, we are of the opinion that they can be greatly exceeded if first class lifters take the trouble of training on the Back lift and the Hand and Thigh Lift, as well as lifting awkward and cumbersome objects. Cyr is credited with a Back lift of 4300 pounds, but strict investigation fails to prove that the weight was authentic. The weight consisted on men from the audience who volunteered to stand on the platform. The method of computing the weight was to take the work of each man for his weight as he stepped on the platform. However, the majority of experts are willing to grant that Cyr should have been capable of lifting that amount of weight.

When we consider that an amateur middleweight, Boyd Shearer, of Portland, Oregon, succeeded with 3502 pounds under strictly official conditions, and that Travis has lifted 3660 under contest conditions, on the same evening that he performed nine other heavy feats, we believe some good heavyweight should be able to train himself to exceed the lift of Cyr. The Hand and Thigh lift of 1897 1/4 we believe can be exceeded, and firmly consider a number of good heavyweights capable of doing so if they specialized on the lift for a while. Three American middleweights have succeeded with creditable poundage on this lift; Charles MacMahon with 1500 pounds, Frank Olender and Frank Dennis with 1410 pounds. The lifts of Olender and Dennis were performed under strictly official conditions. A small European, George Lettle has been credited with 1763 pounds for the Hand and Thigh Lift. As this man was hardly more than a featherweight, and as the lift was evidently performed under fairly strict conditions, we can easily realize the possibilities if the really good big men would become interested in the lift. Some of the champion heavyweights should be capable of lifting a ton if they took it seriously for a while. The last man on the Two Hands Dead lift among the above quartet is Frank Dennis, whose record is 506 1/4 pounds. Herman Gorner holds the official world's record with 652 1/4 pounds. Here is a difference of practically one hundred and fifty pounds, or 30% better. Why not figure that the lifts of Llender and MacMahon could be exceeded by 30% by first class heavyweights? On the gross lifts, John Grun Marx continually claimed two tons for a Harness lift, and Charles Sampson actually lifted 4003 pounds with Harness at the London Sporting Club. There is no question about it; Sampson did not compare with the greatest strong men, so we feel confident of someone beating the heavy lifts of Cyr, when first class men become sufficiently interested in such feats.

Again, we might consider men like Steinbach, Gorner, Moerke, and Steinborn, whose all around ability on strength lifting feats rank them at the top. Rigoulot now Cleans and Jerks far more than any of these men could Continental Jerk. Or, in other words, we might say that Rigoulot is capable of handling all by himself, weights far greater than those other giants of man power could Jerk from the shoulders, regardless of how the weight was placed in position for them. Also, in the Snatch lifts, both with one and two hands, he outshines these other men by many pounds. Only one man, Karl Swoboda, has Jerked a heavier weight than Rigoulot, and he had to Continental the bell to the shoulders; that is, lift it from the floor to shoulders in two movements. Employing this style, he managed 408 3/4 pounds, whereas Rigoulot has tossed to arm's length 402 pounds after raising the bell to his shoulders in one movement. The Frenchman is still a young man, and there is no doubt he will improve. We might as well look forward to a Clean and Jerk exceeding the best previous Continental Jerk.

To properly consider the case of those strong men who prefer Back, Harness and Hand and Thigh Lifting, and supporting feats where thousands of pounds are held above the body, we wish to say that personally we try to be very open-minded concerning their respective claims. As far as total poundage is concerned, this class of strong men can show the highest figure. Therefore, if gross weight was to be considered as entitling the man to highest honors in the strength field, the gross weight specialist would certainly win out. And therein hangs a tale, and darned hard one to unravel if we wish to be absolutely fair to all concerned.

Professionals get into the gross weight class because the extremely heavy lifts impress the audience while bar bell and dumb bell lifting means nothing to the show going public. The majority of the strong men in this class have trained in their earlier days with bar bells almost exclusively, while the others have combined both types of lifting throughout their career. But, when a man must make a living, he shows the class of work the public likes to see, and very soon the rush of business finds him entirely taken up with exhibition lifting, supporting, and so forth. So far as pure strength lifting feats are concerned, the exhibiting professional in most cases is not as strong as he was an amateur. On the other hand, the professional who instructs and has an opportunity to keep in condition on actual bar bell lifts will continue to improve. The controlling bodies of weight lifting throughout the world, sponsor and encourage straight bar bell lifting only. This is true in every country where lifting is given official recognition. We feel certain that nowhere in the world outside of the United States has an attempt been made to officially conduct National lifting championships on such lifts as are commonly classed under the heading of "Body Lifts."

The Association of Bar Bell Men, sponsored by STRENGTH Magazine has been awarding medals and diplomas for totals on this class of lifts; and in 1927, at the instigation of the writer, championships were conducted in the various bodyweight classes, for both amateurs and professionals, for the first time in history of lifting, we are certain. The lifts encouraged in the group are the Back Lift, Harness Lift, Hand and Thigh Lift, One Finger Lift, Two Finger Lift, Teeth Lift, with the Two Hands Dead Lift included. Even with this attempt at encouragement, heavyweight professionals have made no attempt at competition. The professional in the lifting game seldom enters a contest, and when a contest is mentioned, he talks in terms of big money, and insists on his own terms. However, the fact that a number of amateur and professional "Body" lifters in the lighter classes did compete shows the possibility of arousing and keeping alive some interest in that branch of sport.

With official world wide recognition lacking, and with leading heavyweights unwilling to regularly perform records under official sanction in public, the "Body" lifting branch of the game can hardly register a serious claim to consideration in deciding the strongest men. The outstanding bar bell lifters lift in public, either for records or in competition, at rather frequent intervals. Considering all of the above facts, we can hardly be blamed for insisting that bar bell lifters be honored in preference to lifters who base their claims on the ability to perform other feats. We would undoubtedly hold a different opinion if a champion Back and Harness lifter would register poundage on the recognized bar bell lifts about equal to the performances of some of the leading bar bell men whom we have considered.

For instance, a man like Gorner, Moerke, Steinbach, or Steinborn who also held high records on the other class of lifts. Back some years ago, Louis had a good right to be considered the world's strongest man; he was supreme at "Body" lifting, and also could lift poundage equal to, if not superior to, the best bar bell lifters. During recent years, Warren L. Travis was undoubtedly the best Back and Harness lifter, but Travis is now retired and to the best of our knowledge there is no outstanding performers at that class of strength feats at the present time. Up until the advent of Charles Rigoulot as top man of bar bell lifting, that branch of the game was undoubtedly confused as to a champion. Several men were considered but none stood above the others. There can be no doubt as to the right of Charles Rigoulot to the title at the present time; and of course, he is the greatest bar bell man of all time.

As to answering the question of who should be entitled to the distinction of "Strongest Man of All Time," we prefer to leave the reply to the judgment of our readers.


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