Friday, October 28, 2011

THE TRUTH ABOUT WEIGHTLIFTING - (circa 1911) - Chapter 5 - By Alan Calvert

When I was a boy I remember having owned a volume entitled “Magic,” and one of the chapters of this volume was called the “Magic of Strength.” This chapter described the marvelous feats performed by several athletes who lived in the Eighteenth Century. All these feats were tricks, and were not genuine tests of strength . I can remember very distinctly the old wood-cuts which illustrated this chapter, one of which showed a man standing on a high platform; around his waist was a belt and to this belt was tied one end of a rope, and on the other end of the rope was hanging a two-thousand-pound cannon. This feat was given as a sample of the different lifts performed by the Eighteenth Century athletes. As a matter of fact it was not a lift at all, but was really what is known as a "supporting feat," and it illustrates the natural strength which lies in a man's bony construction. The bones of the hips form a natural arch and this arch is capable of sustaining an immense amount of pressure, if the pressure is applied from outside the curve of this arch. This feat is used to the present day on the variety stage and generally creates a great impression on the audience. It seems like a wonderful for a man to stand upright and support a ton hanging from a rope which is tied around his waist; but almost any sturdily-built mechanic, or day laborer, could easily perform the feat.

Several years ago in New York City I saw an athlete, who has considerable fame as a back-lifter, raise from the ground a weight of 1,000 pounds 100 times in 75 seconds, and he did it by what is known as the hip lift; that is, he stood on a small platform above the weight, had a belt fastened around his waist and lifted and lowered the weight by alternately straightening and bending his legs at the knees.

Another attractive supporting feat is known as the bridge lift. The manner in which this feat is performed begins with the athlete supporting himself on his hands and feet. His body is faced upwards and the legs are bent at the knees and the arms are fully extended to the floor behind his body. A specially prepared board ( which is heavily padded on the under side) is then rested upon his knees and on the points of his shoulders. At right angles to this board, and resting upon it, is a long plank, and this plank are assembled the weights which the athlete has to support. The important point is, that the cross plank must be placed much nearer to the knees than to the shoulders, so that most of the strain is thrown upon the bones of the leg. I have seen a man support in this way twenty other men, total weight of over 3,000 pounds. Sandow, who introduced this feat in America, used to support three small horses. An athlete in Europe recently supported a small elephant in this manner. I have seen a comparatively slender woman, who certainly did not weigh over 140 pounds, support in the bridge lift a number of men and heavy iron dumbbells, who aggregate weight was nearly a ton. Recently two or three American strong men have introduced a variation in this feat by allowing an automobile to run across a long plank. One end of the plank is rested on the ground, the automobile runs up the plank from this end, crosses the man's body and as the plank tips, runs down and off the other end. In this way the athlete supports the weight for only a fraction of a second and it is not nearly as difficult to do this as to support a pair of horse for a couple of moments' time.

If the reader wishes to test for himself the remarkable strength of the bones of the lower leg, let him sit in an ordinary chair and put a 12-inch plank across the knees; sit well forward in the chair and put a cushion under the plank to act as a pad. You will find that you will be able to support the weight of seven or eight persons sitting on the plank without making any exertion, or feeling any strain on the legs.

I might mention that when the bridge feat is performed, the athlete always keeps his head toward the audience when he assumes the bridge position. This is not accident, but design. In the first place it prevents the audience from seeing that the cross plank is really above the knees, instead of over his chest, and in the second place it enables him to make a wonderful display of his triceps muscles. If a man stands with his arm hanging at the side, with the palm of the hand front, and then straightens his arm, he will feel the muscle on the back of the upper arm tighten; this is the triceps muscle referred to above. Now, if the reader will raise his arm backwards, still keeping it rigid, he will feel the triceps muscle tighten, more and more, until the tension becomes almost painful and the muscle stands out in knots. When the athlete assumes the bridge position his arms are, of course, rigid and drawn behind him and the triceps muscle stands out prominently even before the weight is put on the cross plank. A the weight is put in place the lifter will throw all the tension possible on the arm muscle, and the spectators, who see only the top of his head and shoulders and the back of his arm, notice that the triceps muscle is in a state or high flexion and naturally assume that the arms are doing a large part of the work. These things are only detail, but they show how a professional will work in order to create an impression.

Lifters sometimes gain great reputations by holding enormous weights at arm's length above the head. This is very much easier than lifting an equal amount of weight from the shoulder to arm's length. A man who can push up one hundred pounds should be able to support, on the straight arm, at least two hundred and fifty pounds.

An impressive feat of strength can be performed with two men and an light bar bell. Sometimes it is performed with an iron rod instead of a bar bell. One man stands at each end of the bar and holds it above his head. The lifter stands in between the two men, bends his knees until he can get beneath the bar with straight arms, and then, by straightening his legs, he can raise the whole weight from the ground. The strength of the legs and back raises the weight, and all the arms have to do is to support it. Any intelligent workman who handles bulky packages of goods, applies this same principle. When a stevedore has to up-end a large box, or crate, he never stands close to the object and attempts to move it by straightening his arms. He will, instead, stand about two feet from the crate and lean against it with perfectly straight arms and then, by throwing his weight against the crate and by pushing with his legs, he will be easily able to overturn it.

The same general principle of utilizing the strength of the back and legs is applied to almost all supporting feats. For instance, an even more striking variation of the feat just mentioned is to support the weight of two men and a bar-bell on one upraised arm. Thomas Inch first introduced this feat and supported 500 pounds in this manner. Back in the nineties Sandow used to carry a horse across the theatre stage in the following manner: A very heavy girth was fastened around the horse, and the horse was then hauled about six feet in the air by means of a block and tackle. Sandow would stand under the horse and grasp a specially prepared handle on a side of the girth. By leaning forward he would bring a large part of the horse's weight on his shoulders and the back of his neck. The tackle would then be released and Sandow would walk across the stage, carrying the horse with him. We copy the program in using the word "horse, " but as a matter of fact, the animal was only a good-sized pony weighing in the neighborhood of 600 pounds.

George Lurich, the noted Russian lifter, has made a specialty of carrying weights in this manner, his latest feat being to carry across the stage five men hanging from a ring, which he grasps in his up-raised right hand. He has also succeeded in carrying three men suspended from the middle finger of his upraised right hand.

Arthur Saxon, who was here two years ago with Ringling's Circus, introduced a novelty in the way of supporting feats. Instead of using the bridge feat he would lie flat on his back, raise a heavy bar-bell to arm's length and allow one man to sit on each end of the bar-bell; at the same time he would hold on a plank (which rested on the soles of his feet) as many as twelve or fifteen men. This feat is very much harder than the bridge lift. In the bridge lift almost all the strain is thrown on the bones of the leg from the knee to the ankle; whereas, in Saxon's feat, he not only had to keep the entire leg straight, but also had to balance the weight.

Rudolf Klar, a German amateur, who attempted to imitate Saxon, succeeded in holding twelve men in this manner, but when he attempted fifteen men, the weight came down on him, breaking both legs.

The wrestlers' bridge, where a man supports his whole body on the heels and crown of his head, is another well-known supporting feat. I have seen a man in this position hold a heavy bar-bell and four men; total of eight hundred pounds.

Another supporting feat which makes a hit is when a lifter assumes a horizontal position with his heels on the seat of one chair and back of his head on the seat of another chair and holds a few bar-bells or a number of people on his chest, abdomen and legs. When this feat is performed nine out of ten people in the audience will exclaim: "My, that man must have tremendously strong stomach muscles!" As a matter of fact the feat is a pure test of back and neck strength and the muscles of the chest and abdomen are hardly called into play.

Acrobatic teams generally conclude their acts by a display of pyramid work. The largest and strongest member of the troop will support on his shoulders, hips and outstretched arms, the remaining members of the troupe. This trick is not at all difficult; all that is necessary is to have the feet about fifteen inches apart and to concentrate all the attention upon preventing the legs from bending at the knees.

I have seen some powerful men take a few steps while carrying on their shoulders weights of 800 or 1,000 pounds, but invariably the athlete, instead of striding out in a natural manner, takes steps about 8 inches long, and shuffles along with straight legs. If he allowed his legs to bend at the knees he and the weight would come down in a heap.

To return to the book which I mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, I recall two other feats that were mentioned. In one feat the athlete sat on an inclined plane with his feet braced against a vertical board. A rope was tied around his waist and passed through a hole in the vertical board, and pulling on this rope was a team of horses. This feat worked on the same principle as in the cannon supporting feat before mentioned.

Another startling feat described in this old book, and which is still popular in circuses and variety theatres, is performed as follows: An athlete will lie flat on his back and hold on his chest a heavy stone, or iron anvil, which must weigh at least 300 pounds. Small stones are then placed upon the anvil ( or large stone ) and an assistant will break the small stones by repeated blows of a sledge hammer. The only hard part of this feat is to support the weight of the anvil. If this is sufficiently large and heavy, it absorbs all the shock and man who is doing the supporting act hardly feels the blows of the sledge-hammer.

If a professional wishes to create the impression that he is a champion at one-arm lifting, he can often make his point by having a photograph taken showing him holding above his head with one arm an enormous bar-bell. In describing his own picture he can state that he lifts 250, 300 or 350 pounds above the head with arm, just as the fancy strikes him. He may or may not have lifted the bell into position with one arm. The chances are that the ball was pulled into position with ropes before the picture was taken. Sandow used to say: " I believe I could hold almost any amount of weight above my head on a straight arm if it was lifted into position for me." If a man can push up 100 pounds he outs to be able to support 250 pounds in a straight arm. George Lurich, whose best one-arm push was 265 pounds, has supported 750 pounds above his head on a straight arm.

The careful reader has probably perceived for himself that in all supporting feats, the weight is supported by the strength of the bones, while, when a weight is actually lifted, or moved, the work is thrown on the muscles. If you want to know how strong a man is you should find out how much he can lift or carry. "Supporting feats" are not tests of strength. The fact that a man can assume a certain position and support a weight of several thousand pounds does not prove that he is a particle stronger than the average sturdy day-laborer.

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First 20 Books of SNS

It has come to my attention from Lulu who prints the copies of Super Natural Strength that the first 20 books sold in August had a printing glitch where several pages had the bottom line chopped off. It was corrected right away and only 20 books were involved. If you bought a book in August and had a few pages missing a bottom sentence, please call me: (202) 638 1708
I'll ask you a few questions to confirm you have the book and then give you an address to mail the book. You will get a new perfect book in exchange.

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Review of Super Natural Strength By Fr. Paul Makar

With regard to SUPER NATURAL STRENGTH, all I can say is WOW!!!! "Maximum" Bob Whelan again hits a home run with the release of this new book. It is primarily a collection of articles that Bob had written for HARDGAINER, but the wisdom contained in these pages is priceless. Bob writes very clearly and succinctly in driving home the fundamental principles of weight training for overall health and functional strength. What Bob provides is not a get-fit quick instant gratification scheme, but rather an overall philosophy of physical culture that, with persistence, hard work, patience, and dedication, yields dividends in strength and health to those who apply his philosophy in life.

What I found most useful in this book is not so much the training routines that he provides, or the humorous stories (such as his description of trainees "drilling for oil" on the back pullover machine or punks requiring attitude adjustments on their first visit), but rather his writings on the importance of the attitude and focus that one must have in developing a total training philosophy that is oriented towards the end goal of attaining health and fitness. In particular, Bob's emphasizes a point in one chapter that can be summed up as "Physical culture is about what you do in the dark. It is about doing the right thing [when there is no one around to impress]." I paraphrased this from the book, credit and kudos to Bob for saying this so well!!!! How true this is. Only you, and you alone, can set reasonable goals and work hard to achieve them. Only you, and you alone, can provide the attitude that will get you the results you want. If you desire to achieve strength and health, then live clean, follow Bob's commandments in everything you do (if you want to know what the commandments are, get the book!), and work hard. You will never achieve good health, long life, and strength and fitness if you chow down on tons of junk food at home, smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, guzzle a six pack of beer every night, set ridiculous goals that are impossible to achieve, or follow the latest fad advice in many of the muscle magazines you see today. Specific training goals are mentioned in parts of the book (such as his descriptions of working with various Whelan Strength Training trainees), but Bob always orients his training philosophy to the ultimate end goal of physical health and strength, earned through honest hard work and dedication.

Bob is extremely passionate about physical culture and proper training and mindset, and he expects the same type of passion in his trainees and readers. However, it is very important to note that he tempers this passion with sound intellectual reasoning, and I am not talking about the spewing of scientific "facts" as proof that one method of training works better than another. Rather, as stated above, Bob puts forth a soundly reasoned, sensible, concise and BS-free blueprint of training for the ulterior goal of physical health and strength, and shows how important effort and self-motivation are.

If you are looking for outrageous training regimens that require many man hours in the gym plus hundreds of dollars of supplements (or even worse, steroids), or fancy toning training as espoused by many glam fitness magazines, or the latest scientifically developed training routine that is "guaranteed" to give results in less than 30 days, this book is not for you. On the other hand, if you are looking to develop a total training philosophy that will carry over into every aspect of your life and deliver quality fitness, strength, and health, then I urge you to at least consider this book. In the Catholic faith, many of the old spiritual fathers and theologians are called "Fathers of the Church." In a similar vein, "Maximum" Bob can truly be called a "Father of Physical Culture" for collecting the salient points of his training philosophy (a philosophy that echoes the old time greats of physical culture such as Sandow, Maxick, Grimek, and others) and presenting it in a clear, concise and easy to understand manner that is truly and uniquely Bob's formulation. I strongly recommend this book, especially if you consider yourself a true student of honest physical culture!

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

My Friendship with Arthur Saxon - by Thomas Inch

It was not long after my arrival in London at the age of 21 that I met a world-renowned weightlifter who was fated to have a great influence upon my strength career, the late Arthur Saxon.

I lived in Fulham where the local music hall is a small but not unimportant one as the “Granville.” Visiting the hall one evening accompanied by my wife, I first saw the act of the famous Saxon Brothers – Arthur, Herman and Kurt. I immediately realized while watching the great Arthur that I was looking at a real strongman, one capable of feats which, at that time, no other man in the world could accomplish.

The feat of holding up a genuine 300 lb. barbell with two heavy men seated thereon and at the same time supporting upon the feet a long heavy plank with about a dozen men clutching each other for safety upon that insecure seat was most impressive, and everything was done with such ease and lack of effort I felt astounded. I made up my mind to make this superman’s acquaintance.

This I was shortly after enabled to do through the editor of a physical culture magazine commissioning me to visit the Brand Music Hall, Clapham, and take with me a scale with which to test Saxon’s claim that he was raising 300 lbs. overhead single handed twice nightly.

The Saxons had no inkling of my intended visit but I was pleased to find that they placed no obstacles whatever in my way; they seemed only too glad to believe that at last something was being done to establish their claims.

This was because at the time it was quite customary for so-called strongmen to outrageously exaggerate their lifts, one 10 stone (140 lb) lifter calmly claiming a Bent Press of 336 lbs. whilst the bell probably weighed only 140 lbs. or so.

I found everything in order, the thick handled bar being a little over the weight claimed. It was NEVER less than 300 lbs. all the time I knew this great lifter.

Once, indeed, at Battersea, the card read 286 lbs., but the bell, of course, was a good 300 as usual. Asked what this meant, Arthur, to my surprise, said, “We have lost the 300 lbs. card and they cost money, but we have a nice 286 lbs. card.” Such behavior had never been known in the lifting world before.

The Saxons believed in hard work and plenty of it.

Even when appearing twice a night with this laborious and trying set of feats of strength they practiced for two or three hours in the morning and seemed tireless.

Thus the Saxons had what others at that time lacked – the method of daily hard work which has got the champions of today where they are. But in this system they stood alone, others did as little as possible and the general standard of lifting was low at the time.

I am often asked about Saxon’s measurements and his best lifts. They were as follows:

Height, 5ft. 10ins.; Weight, 200 lbs.; Neck, 17; Biceps, 17; Forearm, 14½; Chest 44; Thigh, 24; Calf, 16; Wrist, 8 ½.

Saxon’s muscles were tough, also his tendons and sinews, tuned over a period of years with really prodigious feats of strength. He was once a good wrestler but gave this up save for an occasional bout of Swiss wrestling (i.e., wearing a strong belt with leather rings). This style, which he taught me, required strength above all, and it suited him well and he was probably the best in the world at that particular style.

His best lift was, of course, the Bent Press, or a Two Hands Anyhow with Barbell and Ringweight, the barbell to be pressed single handed and not jerked and changed to one hand (the style which I introduced for the first time in my match with Aston). Arthur Saxon’s British record was 336 lbs. Bent Press and 411 lbs. Barbell and Ringweight. These were performed in strict conditions. He always seemed capable to me of doing substantially more but was never lucky when the attempts were made.

For instance, Peggy Bettinson. if the National Sporting Club, gave permission for Arthur to attempt to raise 350 lbs. Bent Press on the occasion of a big fight at the club when the late Lord Lonsdale was present. This was to settle a wager I made of £50 with a well known North Country lifter.

Unfortunately the barbell was loaded to 353½ lbs. and perhaps this would not have mattered (the odd 3½ lbs.) but Arthur chose his stage barbell instead of a disc bell. It was loaded with sand and the globes were filled, they had no dead point as we say. Thus there was nothing in the very thick and perfectly straight bar to prevent it rolling in his hands and this it did each time it went to a straight arm, six times in all, so there was nothing left for me to do but to pay and look pleasant.

Arthur left the club in a fit of depression which was somewhat relieved when we reached my home where he was staying and I asked him to produce and inspect the leather bag which I had handed him in the club ring with suitable praise as a testimonial from his British supporters.

Arthur was always looking for justifiable stage by-play and had thought that there were a few silver coins in the bag for the sake of effect. When he opened the bag and poured out the contents – over £50 in golden sovereigns – it did much to make up for his big disappointment.

He tried again later but again was unlucky.

A claim was put forward that he had raised 370 lbs. when on the Continent but I am afraid that this lift was not checked properly and could hardly be accepted as a strict record.

At the same time, in spite of the fact that I had made a special 370 lbs. bell at his request and that he failed to press it, I would not put such a figure beyond him under good conditions with just that bit of luck which such a tremendous weight requires.

At one time the so-called friends of the Saxons claimed that he had, in the early hours of the morning, and after discarding all clothing until he was quite naked, raised over 400 lbs. bent press after commencing with a very much higher weight.

I can say now that Saxon himself never wished this claim to be made; he always gave me to understand that it was much exaggerated to say the least and in spite of threats from interested people as to what will happen if anyone dares to doubt this rather preposterous story I say that it was just nonsense and the actual weight of the early morning lift will never be known.

His feats were wonderful enough in all conscience without being stretched and Saxon was a most truthful man who never wished to receive credit save for actual feats.

He only showed me a 311 lbs. Two Hands Clean because he was not a fast lifter and there was a lot of “push” in his jerks.

I saw him do well over 280 lbs. Two Dumbells Clean and Jerk and when the bells came to the shoulder first attempt one slipped back to the side of the thigh, the left hand bell over 140 lbs. weight. Making a laughing remark Arthur calmly curled the bell back again and then half pushed and half jerked them.

The best Two Hands Press I saw was between 250 and 260 lbs., accomplished as if he had a lot in hand and let it be known that he did not bend back an inch or sway or move in any way, just forced the bell up with sheer power in a perfect “military” style of press as we then called that style of lift. He could have raised much more by leaning back.

I saw him Right Hand Swing 187 lbs. using a straight arm and a bell with discs evenly loaded (no back hang). This he did in the bent press position and with practice would probably have exceeded 200 lbs. I have seen him Snatch over 200 lbs. right hand in perfect style and it was his practice just before the curtain went up for his show to do a perfect Single-Handed Military Press with a barbell of 126 lbs. and the only reason he did not do more was because that was the only weight available.

He had two ringweights, solid, 150 lbs. each, the handles very close to the globes. He would swing one up and then stoop down and swing up the other. This 300 lb. lift he made the subject of an offer of either £50 or £100 and needless to say he never lost his money.

He was not a very big eater, he left that to the young brothers Herman and Kurt who were remarkable trenchermen. I could tell unbelievable stories of their gastronomic performances at my home which would be difficult to credit.

Arthur, however, was certainly a heavy drinker and once when a Fulham crowd at the Red Lion endeavored for a joke to get him drunk so that he could not go through with his show, he drank some 50 glasses of beer and had the last laugh as he never performed so well as that night at the “Granville.”

When he ascertained what had been intended he roared with laughter and told the plotters that he had been ‘weaned on beer.’

I trained with Arthur and the two boys at Manchester for the World Middleweight Championship, which I won at the German Gym defeating Billy Caswell. Using heavy weights to keep pace as far as I could with these champions, I made great strides modeling my Bent Press on Arthur’s style and my jerks on Herman and Kurt – who even then used the style of today, the special hold with the elbows high at shoulders and the fast split, etc. Their method was to start very low, with say a 100 lbs. bell, and work up until first one and then another dropped out leaving Arthur the champion every time. Of course, I was the first to cry “enough.”

Yes, I have much to thank Arthur for.

For his part he always credited me with being outstanding at feats of grip and never succeeded in lifting my challenge dumbell or closing my record gripper. It was this knowledge, during 15 years of practice together, that made me so confident that I would never lose my money. And if a champion with lifting brains like Arthur never found anything in the way of trickery or ‘secrets’ in my solid thick handled bell I think that is sufficient answer to the charge in a physical culture magazine that Inch knows a secret without which no one can lift the £200 challenge bell. The secret was a 15-inch forearm, unusually developed will power and constant practice.

Arthur seemed to have an objection to going to bed at a reasonable hour and often sat up right through the night smoking, playing billiards, even lifting at three or four in the morning. Of course, it is evident that we never saw the best of him and that, properly trained as we understand it today, he could have done very much more than he ever did. He was never extended and to this day his Bent Press and Two Hands Anyhow are unbeaten.

At the height of his career Saxon met with a serious accident. Through no fault of his own a heavy wooden bridge loaded with a large motor car and a number of people fell on him whilst he was supporting it. He was in hospital a long time, iron bolts having been driven in at several places.

He recovered but died at about 43 years of age from pneumonia.

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Sunday, October 23, 2011

THE TRUTH ABOUT WEIGHTLIFTING - (circa 1911) - Chapter 4 - By Alan Calvert

For some reason, the one-hand slow “press,” or “push up,” is no longer included in competition lifting in Europe, but it is still favored to some extent in both amateur and professional lifting in England, and is almost exclusively used in competition lifting in America. The reason the one-hand slow "press" is excluded in Europe is because it is so hard to lay down rules governing this lift.

The one-hand slow "push up" can be divided into three separate lifts: First, there is the slow, steady, push with the body held in military position; second, an ordinary "press," or "push up;" and third, the "bent press" or "screw press." We will describe these lifts in detail.

First, the lift in military position. In this lift it is customary to use a short-handled dumbbell. The lifter is allowed to raise the bell from the floor to the shoulder in any manner he pleases, but after he gets the bell to the shoulder (in the right hand, for instance) he must assume what is known as the military position, or what we call in this country "attention." He must stand rigidly upright, heels together and knees touching, left arm held close to the left side, and he must keep this position while he pushed the bell slowly aloft with the right arm. (If he is lifting with the left hand, the right arm is held close to the right side). When you push a bell above the head with one hand the natural tendency is always to let the body bend at the waist. When you push with the right hand the body will naturally bend to the left.

It is hard to keep the body perfectly upright, even when you stand with the feet about 15 inches apart, and when you stand with the heels close together in military position it is doubly hard to keep the body from bending. This lift is a test of pure strength; skill does not cut any figure at all. Therefore, if a man presses 100 lbs. over the head with the right arm in this particular lift he performs a fine test of strength; 125 lbs. is a remarkable lift, while 150 lbs. is simply extraordinary. Carl Witzelsberger, of Vienna, holds the world's record with 154 lbs. Three or four German and French lifters have succeeded in lifting 143 lbs. Many men who claim records of 200 to 300 lbs. in the one-arm "bent press" cannot lift 125 lbs. in military position. Generally speaking, a man cannot lift more than two-thirds of his own weight in this manner, and half his own weight would be considered a very good lift.

THE ORDINARY "PRESS" OR "PUSH UP." In this lift the athlete is privileged to stand in any position he chooses, but generally he takes a position with the feet about 15 inches apart. He is not allowed to bend the legs at the knees while making the lift. Some men will simply push the bell aloft and allow the body to bend to the opposite side, while other men will give themselves a start by bending first to one side, then straightening suddenly in order to give momentum to the bell and finishing the lift with a bend to the other side. To explain more fully, suppose a lifter has a bell at this right hand, as he starts the lift he will drop the right shoulder and bend 3 or 4 inches to the right; then he will heave the bell aloft, using the strength of the side muscles to start the bell upwards, and as the bell goes upward, he will bend the body far to the left. The important point in this lift is that the legs are not allowed to bend at the knees. This lift requires enormous strength and is a good test of a man's ability. It is a lift pure and simple. A good, heavy man will put up 200 lbs. and more in this manner. This is the way Louis Cyr made his famous lift of 273 1/4 lbs. Cyr, as you may remember, was an enormously heavy man, weighing over 300 lbs. and was so stout that he was unable to bend very far at the waist; and I am informed by professionals who saw his lift that Cyr was utterly incapable of performing the "bent press" in the way that it is practiced by Sandow, Saxon, and other professionals. Nobody else has ever come near Cyr's record in this lift, and it is one of the most wonderful feat of strength of which we have a record. There are half a dozen German lifters who are accredited with records of 220 to 242 lbs. In this lift. Hackenschmidt, the Russian wrestler, is said to have lifted 242 lbs. in this manner and to have lifted 220 lbs. twice in succession. "Cyclops" Bienkowski, who toured this country in 1891, could raise 242 lbs. in this lift. He carried a dumbbell of that weight through the United States with him, and he did not find any American lifter woho could get the bell above the head with one hand, even when they resorted to the "bent press."

BENT PRESS. This lift is also know as the "body-press" or "screw-press." In one-arm lifting above the head more can be raised by the "bent-press" than by any other method.

There has been a great deal of discussion as to whether or not the "bent-press' is really a lift; some authorities claiming that it is more of a supporting and balancing feat than a genuine lift. In making this lift the athlete will generally use a long-handled bar-bell, with a handle over 2 inches thick. It is possible to raise from the shoulder by the bent press far more than can be lifted from the ground to the shoulder with one hand. As the pressing motion is a very slow one, and quite exhausting, the lifter generally saves his strength as much as possible for the final effort, and consequently raises the bell to the shoulder in the easiest manner. This is done by standing the bell on end and rocking it into position. Now we assume that the lifter has the bell in a horizontal position at his shoulder, the bar grasped in the exact center with his right hand. He now leans forward and to the left, balancing the bell meanwhile in the right hand, keeping the right forearm perpendicular to the floor. If the weight is a very heavy one he will bend until his left shoulder touches his left knee. At this period of the lift the right arm should be almost straight. The lifter then bends his right leg at the knee, which will drop his body far enough o enable him to get under the bell with the right arm straight. By taking great care to keep the bell balanced he can then bring his body to an upright position and finish the lift.

In one manner of this lift the athlete is all the way down and gets his left arm straight under the bell. In fact, the bell is really held in one position, and the athlete bends away from it until he can get the arm straight, and then by straightening the legs and body comes to erect position with the bell over the head.

I incline to the opinion that the "bent-press" is more of a supporting feat than a genuine lift. Almost every lifter is able to master the standard lifts, such as the "jerk," "snatch," "swing" and the "press" in military position, but comparatively few athletes can fully master the "bent-press." In this country it is used almost exclusively by professionals. A man not only has to have strength, but also must have a great deal of skill at balancing, and must be able to keep a cool head if he wants to excel in the "bent-press." Any good "hand-balancer," especially a man who is expert at balancing himself on one hand, should be able to make a fairly good record in the "bent-press."

In England the "bent-press" still retains its former popularity. The English people are very slow to change. Sandow made the "bent-press" popular many years ago, and the English still stick to it.

The reason professionals favor this lift is given in Chapter II. By having a thick-handled bell, which they raise above the head with one arm, they are able to create a very good impression if a man from the audience fails to raise the bell above the head when using both arms. The audience figures that if the professional puts 250 lbs. up with one hand he can put up 500 lbs. with both hands.

Sandow, who practically introduced the lift in England and America, has a record of 271 lbs. in the "bent-press," which was made in public. He always claimed that could lift in excess of 300 lbs. in this way, but, as he would never permit his exhibition bells to be weighed, his claim has never been allowed by the most eminent weight-lifting authorities.

When touring the United States in the '90s Sandow used to make a great hit by pressing a large bell of which each end was made of leather, and was large enough to hold a small man. At the completion of the lift, as the bell was replaced on the stage, the men would step out from the ends of the bell. Of course, it was necessary to use very small men, but in order to create the impression that the man were heavy, they always were dressed in very baggy clothes. They used to hang up a sign reading 320 lbs. when Sandow made the lift. I doubt very much if the men and apparatus together weighed more than 260 lbs. Since Sandow's time a number of German, English and American lifters have specialized in this lift. To the best of my knowledge and belief only one man has ever succeeded in raising more than 300 lbs., and that man is Arthur Saxon. Saxon is officially credited with having raised 336 llbs. with his right arm in this manner. He once tried a 350-lb. bell before the National Sporting Club of London, but he failed to make the lift. His admirers claim that he once pressed 370 lbs. in a weight-lifting club in Germany. This lift has never been certified. Outside of Arthur Saxon, I do not believe there is a man in the world today who can raise 295 lbs. above his head with the right arm; by this I mean the "bent press: from the should to arm's length above the head.

HOLDING BELLS "IN THE BALANCE." This is the feat known in America as "muscling out," or holding bells straight out from the shoulder with the arm horizontal. This is test of pure strength; very little skill enters into the performance of the feat. In order to make sure that no one contestant has any particular advantage, all lifters are compelled by the European rules to perform this lift in a certain manner. Two variations of this lift are practiced. When a single weight is held in one hand, it is the custom to employ a kettle-bell or ring-weight. The weight is first lifted up to the height of the chest, and then the arm is straightened out directly to the front. The knuckles of the lifting hand are upwards and the ring of the weight hangs on the bent fingers and the thumb. The man making the lift is compelled to stand as nearly upright as possible, although a slight bend backward from the waist is permitted. If the lift is made with the right arm, the lifter is allowed to advance the left foot, and vice versa.

The record in this feat is the 112-lb. lift of Michael Mayer. Carl Abs, the famous German strong man of the '90s, is unofficially credited with 110 lbs. and several big Frenchman have held out weights between 80 and 90 lbs. It takes a tremendously strong, heavy man to excel in this feat. It requires not only strength in the arm and shoulder muscles, but also a very strong back.

When one weight is held in each hand it is customary to first lift the weights above the head and let the arms drop to the sides. In this lift the weights rests on the palm of the hand, but the arms must be held rigidly straight from the sides. A light man can make better records in this event than when holding one weight out in front of him, because in the two-arm lift the weights balance each other. The record is held by the Russian lifter, Khryloff, with 90 lbs. in each hand. George Hackenschmidt, also a Russian, comes next with 90 lbs. in the right hand and 89 in the left.

HARNESS LIFTING. This particular kind of lifting is practiced almost exclusively by professionals, because in order to make a harness lift properly it is necessary to have large and costly apparatus. In the first place, it is necessary to have a specially constructed platform, which will enable the lifter to be a considerable distance above the ground. The platform is usually made with the legs spread, so as to prevent the platform from overturning. On the ground is placed another square platform. From each corner of the lower platform chains run up and attach to a collar fastened around the lifter's neck. In some cases the whole four chains are attached to the bottom of the collar. In other cases the lifter has a collar made from a square piece of leather, and the chains are attached to each corner of the leather, so that two chains pass the front of the lifter and two behind him; in this case, instead of having one hole in the upper platform for the chain to pass through, it is necessary to have four holes, one for each chain. On the upper platform are two strong rails (or hand-rests) to give support to the lifter's hands.

The weight is placed on the lower platform, and the lifter first gets in position with his legs bent slightly at the knees, arms bent slightly at the elbows and the body inclined slightly forward from the hips. He then makes a tremendous effort and simultaneously straightens his arms and legs and brings his body to an erect position, and by so doing he will raise the lower platform and weight an inch or two from the ground. More weight can be lifted in the harness lift than in any other manner, because a harness lift calls for concerted action of all the large extensor muscles. The extensor muscles of the back of the upper arm, which straighten the arms, are much more powerful than the flexor muscles, which bend the arm. The extensor muscles on the front of the thigh are much stronger than the flexor muscles on the back of the thigh, which bend the leg. The large muscles of the back, which straighten the trunk, are very much stronger than the muscles of the abdomen, which bend the trunk. In the harness lift all the extensor muscles are employed at the same time. Tremendous weights have been raised in this manner. Some stage exhibitors use living weights, such as 12 to 25 men, or a couple of horses; other performers use heavy dumbbells or a ton or so of pig iron.

John Marx claims that he has lifted over 4000 lbs., and I fully believe this feat is possible. C. A. Sampson, the Alsatian lifter, was given a medal by the National Sporting Club of London for lifting 4003 lbs. in the harness lift, and the lift was made under such conditions as precluded all chance of fraud. The harness lift is shown in this country by several vaudeville and circus performers, but I do not know whether any of these men attempt to prove the amount of weight they lift. Twelve to fifteen men is generally about the limit and I suppose that 1800 or 2500 lbs. is as much of the American performers lift I believe in harness lifting that if a record is attempted, pig iron or some similar material should be used with which to load the lower platform. When live weights, such as men and horses, are used there is always bound to be some question regarding the exact weight.

BACK LIFTING. This lift is performed in somewhat similar manner to the harness lift, except that the performer stands under the weight instead of above it. The weight is placed on a platform, which is supported by two high, wooden "horses." The lifter gets underneath the platform in a stooping position and has a support for his hands. He then straightens the arms and the legs and partly straightens the back, and lifts the platform which thus rests upon his shoulders. The famous Louis Cyr was credited with having raised 4300 lbs. in the back lift, and this, I believe, is the record.

The back lift is more dangerous than the harness lift, because in the former the lifter, being beneath the weight, has to balance it. There is also the danger of one of the wooden horses tilting over when the weight comes down at the completion of the lift, and if this happens the lifter is very apt to be crushed by the falling platform. One or two serious accidents have happened in this way.

Both back lifting and harness lifting throw a tremendous strain on the muscles, and also on the vital organs. Still, if a man is properly trained for the lift he can raise enormous weights without much fear of injury. Very few amateurs ever have the opportunity of trying their strength at harness lifting, but I believe that the average amateur lifter (for instance, a man weighing 170 lbs., who can lift 250 lbs. above his head with two hands) can learn to lift 2500 or 3000 lbs. in a harness or back lift after a few weeks' practice.

DEAD WEIGHT LIFTING. In this lift the performer stands on two chairs (or strong stools), grasps the handle of the weight in both hands and raises it one or two inched from the ground by simultaneously straightening his legs and back. The apparatus most convenient for this kind of lifting consists merely of 100-lb. iron plates on a vertical rod, while at the top of the vertical rod is fixed a horizontal handle. The amount that can be raised in this manner is largely governed by the strength of a man's grip. The proper way to raise the weight is to stand with the legs bent slightly at the knees and body inclined slightly forward; the arms are kept straight and act merely as connecting links between the shoulder muscles and the handle of the apparatus. It is very important that the back should be straight and not curved; all the bending should be done from the hips.

If the back is allowed to arch there is considerable danger of rupturing the wall of the abdomen. This feat calls for tremendous strength in the grip, the trapezius muscles, which raise the shoulder, and the muscles on the outside of the thighs and of the small of the back. Any athlete who can lift a 275-lb. bell above the head with both hands should easily be able to raise 1000 lbs. with two hands in this "dead-weight" lift. The record in "dead weight" lifting is Louis Cyr's performance of 1897 lbs. D. L. Dowd, a very famous athlete of 20 years ago, lifted 1440 lbs. Cyr once lifted 987 lbs. with one hand, without any artificial aid to his grip; and Hans Steyrer, of Munich, Germany, lifted 581 lbs. with the middle finger. In the one-finger lift it is, of course, necessary to attach a loop of leather ( or some other pliable material ) to the handle of the weight. The middle finger is slipped through the loop.

When lifts are made with one hand ( or one finger ) it will greatly aid the lifter if he will put the disengaged hand on the thigh, right above the knee. This steadies the lifter, and if he pushed downward with the disengaged hand it will materially assist in raising the weight.

In regard to Cyr's lift of 987 lbs. with one hand, I always have been curious to know what sort of handle was attached to the weight which was lifted on this occasion. I do not believe that it was a straight handle-bar of iron or of wood, because in such a case it could not be more than 1 inch thick, and even then I do not believe the mighty Cyr himself had a grip strong enough to raise that amount with one hand. One-hand lifting is very much harder than two, because in the two-hand lifts it is customary to grip the handle with the hands turned in opposite directions; that is, the palms of the hands facing each other, as it were. This steadies the weight and prevents it from turning or swinging, I feel sure that Cyr must have had a rope, or canvas hand-grip, attached to the 987 lbs. which he raised with one hand.

DEAD-WEIGHT LIFTING TO THE CROSS POSITION. In this lift a long bar-bell is placed on the ground in front of the lifter, and he is supposed to lean forward, bending the body at the hips and arching his spine, but not bending the legs at the knees; and then, by straightening his back, raise the weight to the height of the hips.

I never remember seeing this lift attempted in this country, though I believe it is popular in some parts of Germany and France. It differs from "dead-weight" lifting both in position the lifter is compelled to assume and in the height the weight is raised from the ground. In "dead-weight" lifting the back and legs are straightened simultaneously and the weight is only raised and inch or two, but in lifting to the cross position the weight is raised entirely by the strength of the back and shoulders and in case of a man of average height is lifted about 30 inches from the ground. I am obliged to confess that I am ignorant of the record of this particular lift, though I am strongly under the impression that it is in the neighborhood of 650 lbs. and that the lift was made by a 250-lb. man. In lifting to the "cross" position and in "dead-weight" lifting there is not the slightest chance of faking, because it is practically compulsory to use dead weight. These lifts are, therefore, tests of pure strength.

In connection with "dead-weight" and harness lifting it is appropriate to mention the feats of the wonderful German, George Lettl. This man, who enjoys a great reputation in Germany, came to this country a few years ago, but owing to the fact that he had no "stage presence," as the actors say, and also to the fact that he insisted on showing genuine feats of strength, he was unable to get any engagements in first-class vaudeville houses in our principal cities. Lettl might be described as a "freak of nature." He is a man over 40 years of age, stands 5 feet 6 inches in height and weighs 135 lbs.; chest is only 36 inches, upper arm 13, thigh about 20 inches.

Thousands of men can show measurements equally as good, but not one man out of a thousand can equal Lettl in pure strength. Lettl's specialty was "dead-weight" and "harness lifting." In "harness lifting" he raised over 3700 lbs. (something marvelous for a man of his weight and physique), and in "dead-weight lifting" he has lifted over 1600 lbs. with both hands.

Lettl seems to be the exception that proves the rule. Ninety-nine out of a hundred men who have pursued weight-lifting for any length of time develop powerfully muscled bodies, but Lettl is the exception in that he does not appear muscular or athletic in any way.

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Friday, October 21, 2011

THE TRUTH ABOUT WEIGHTLIFTING - (circa 1911) - Chapter 3 - By Alan Calvert

Originally posted on on 25 June 2006

It should be distinctly understood that chapters III and IV are not to be considered as instructions. I have endeavored to describe in these chapters the way the lifts are performed. It is necessary to do this in order that the reader should be able to understand the numerous references to the standard lifts in the chapters of this book.

Only a general description of the lift is given. In each lift there are a number of essential details, which are omitted here for the sake of brevity. No one should attempt these lifts without having the full knowledge of every detail in regards to the proper way in which to perform them.

On the continent of Europe, weight lifting with dumbbells is one of the favorite sports. In Germany they have more weight-lifting meets than we have track and field meets here in America. In the winter time there are sometimes as many as half-dozen big weight-lifting contests a night. Practically every night throughout the winter there is a weight-lifting contest of importance in one or another of the large German cities. In France, Denmark, Greece, Sweden, and Russia weight-lifting is very popular.

During the last dozen years, all European weight-lifting contests have been governed by the same general rules. There are eight lifts which are generally recognized as being the standard lifts. These are: Right-arm "snatch." Right-arm "swing." Left-arm "snatch." Left-arm "swing." Right-arm "jerk." Two-arm press. Left arm "jerk." Two-arm "jerk."

In France and Austria they sometimes introduce as competition lifts the one-arm straight press, in "military position," and very occasionally they will introduce the feat of holding weights to arms length at the side.

It is very seldom that the competitors are required to make more than three or four different kinds of lifts during one competition. For instance, a German lifter may enter into a tournament at Munich and the events might be a right and left-arm "snatch," two-arm "press" and two-arm "jerk." The same lifter might compete a week later in Dresden, where the feats would be the right and left-arm "jerk," right and left-arm "swing, and two-hand "jerk," and so on throughout the several meetings. Any athlete who can go through a whole season and win first or second prizes in the majority of the tournaments, is sure to be not only an immensely strong man, but also a finished lifter, capable of handling bells in any of the standard lifts.

Now, if a reader wants to understand and be able to read the rest of the book intelligently, he should give careful attention to the next few pages, which will give a short description of the standard lifts and the best records made in these lifts.

First, the "snatch." This lift is generally performed with a long-handled bar-bell. The bell is placed on the floor and the lifter stands behind it, and bends down and grasps it. With one hand he grasps the exact centre of the bar, and he places the other hand on his knee. He then makes a sudden tremendous effort, straightens the back and legs simultaneously, and at the same time give a vigorous pull with his arm. If correctly performed, the first movement will bring the bell about as high as the top of the lifter's head (when he is in an upright position). For a fraction of a second the bell will hang in this position, suspended in the air, and at the instant the lifter has to relax his grip on the bar quickly (so it will turn in his hand), dip his body by bending at the knees, and in the manner get under the bell with a straight arm.

From the foregoing description it will be seen that great speed as well as enormous strength is needed to make a good record in the "snatch" lift. Very few men are able to master this lift at the first trial. Some of the famous foreign lifters have spent years in perfecting themselves in the snatch. Any man who "snatches" a bell as heavy as himself has performed a remarkable feat of strength. A 180-pound man who can snatch 180 pounds correctly with his right arm is a wonder. The Germans and the French excel in this lift. Schniedereidt, who weighed 194 pounds, snatched 199 pounds. Neihaus, another German, who weighed 190 pounds, snatched 196 pounds with the right hand and 187 with the left. Heinrich Rondi, of Dusseldurf, a 240-pound giant, snatched correctly with his right arm 203 1/2 pounds. All these records have been eclipsed by the recent performance of a French army sergeant by the name of Vasseur, who weighs 195 pounds, and actually succeeded in snatching 205 pounds.

Many Americans will remember the Saxon trio, who appeared with the Ringling Circus in 1910. These three brothers comprise the most famous professional lifting team in the world, and the two elder brothers have made very good records in the "snatch" lift. Arthur, the oldest brother, who weighs 200 pounds, has several times snatched with his right arm barbells of 208 and 210 pounds, but he has never made an attempt at the record under the official conditions. Almost every weight-lifting authority in Europe concedes that Arthur Saxon could break the one-hand "snatch" record any time he took the trouble to train two weeks especially for that event. Herman Saxon, the second brother, when he weighed 168 pounds snatched 180 pounds. The highest record ever claimed by Eugene Sandow in this particular lift was 180 pounds, and there have been at least 15 lifters who have exceeded that mark in the last few years.

You will notice that several times in the foregoing description I used the words "snatched correctly." In Europe they not only give a man credit for the amount he is able to lift, but also for the manner in which he lifts it. For example, in the snatch lift it is considered very "bad form" top move the feet at all while getting the bell aloft.

Frequently you will see an amateur, or a badly trained professional, make a tremendous effort to get a bell above his head, and then, after he has gotten the bell aloft he will have to take a few rapid steps in order to maintain his balance. This is a sign of a very poor lifter. Skill in lifting has been brought to a degree almost approaching perfection, and it has been discovered that a man who lifts correctly is able to raise much more weight than a man who lifts incorrectly, and also that a "correct" lifter is always much more graceful in his movements than a man who is lifting incorrectly.

This peculiar fact has been greatly played upon by the professional lifter in America. They know that the audience always associates a tremendous lift with the appearance of a tremendous effort. A lifter can make a really wonderful lift, and if he lifts correctly, he does not appear to be over-exerting himself; but if he bungles the lift, he will give the appearance of straining himself to the very last degree. The professional takes advantage of this b using a light bell and making a tremendous effort when lifting, and thereby give the impression to the audience that he is raising a tremendous weight.

This is wandering somewhat from our subject, but no discussion or description of lifting, as it is conducted abroad, would be complete without some reference to the amount of emphasis and importance the European lifters give to this question of "form." To give you an example, suppose in a competition, that lifter A and lifter B had raised exactly the same amount of weight in the various lifts on the program, but that lifter A had made the lifts in the most correct and graceful fashion, while lifter B had made his lifts in an awkward and bungling manner. The judges in such a case would at once give the first prize to A on points. In France they sometimes carry this matter of form even further. Lifters are marked so many points for the amount of weight they raise and so many points for their "form" in lifting. In the big Amateur International Competition of 1903 in Paris, a German who gained second prize actually lifted several pounds more (in ten lifts) than a Swiss, who was given first prize. The Swiss's form in lifting was so much superior to the German's that his total points enabled him to win out.

Very few lifters are able to "snatch" as much with the left arm as they can with the right arm; that is, unless they are naturally left-handed men. A well-trained lifter will generally show a difference of 10 or 20 pounds between his right-arm and left-arm "snatch."


The one-arm "swing" is a very similar lift to the "snatch," but the swing is generally performed with a short-handled dumbbell or a kettle-bell, while the snatch is almost invariably performed with a long-handled bar-bell. In competition a dumbbell is generally used in the swing lift, because more can be lifted than when a kettle-bell is used.

The swing lift is performed as follows: The lifter stands with his feet about 12 or 15 inches apart, and places the dumbbell in front of him, with the bell parallel to his feet. The dumbbell usually has a handle of about 5 inches long, and the lifter will stoop down and grasp the bell with one hand immediately behind the front sphere. Then he swings the bell back between his legs in order to give momentum, and then makes a tremendous effort and swings the bell forward and upward, keeping the arm rigidly straight.

The simultaneous straightening of the back and the legs and the swinging motion of the arm will bring the dumbbell on the level of the lifter's face, and then he has to make a sudden dip of the legs, the same as in the "snatch" in order to get under the bell. Some lifters, instead of squatting downwards, prefer to drop the body to one side and bend the knees very little, but a straight drip is considered the best form. The principal difference between the snatch and the swing is that in the snatch the bell is pulled from the floor to above the head in a straight, vertical line, whereas, in the swing, the bell describes a semi-circle. The arm is bent in performing the "snatch" and held rigidly straight in performing the "swing" lift. It is practically impossible for a man to swing a dumbbell which is heavier than he is, because no matter how fast he is in performing the lift, the bell will overbalance him when it is three-quarters of the way up.

The "swing" lift is a great favorite in France, and is practiced comparatively little in Germany, or other European countries, although it is rapidly coming into favor in England, along with the "snatch" lift. The man who excels at the snatch lift can generally make a very good record in the swing.

The best record in the swing lift is held by Jean Francois, a Frenchman, who swung 199 pounds with the right arm. The next best record is 193 3/4 pounds, of Emile Deriaz, another Frenchman. There are 15 or 10 lifters who have made records running from 180 to 192 pounds. Anything over 180 pounds in the "swing" can be classed as a remarkable performance, and any man who "swings" a bell within 10 pounds of his own is a wonder. A 150-pound man swinging aloft a 140-pound dumbbell, would be a star in this particular lift.

In both the "snatch" and the "swing" lift it is important to use bells with slender handles. For a man with an ordinary-sized hand the best results can be obtained by using the bell with a handle bar 1 inch or 1 1/8 inches in thickness. A man with enormous hands might possibly be able to perform a good "snatch" or "swing" with a bell with a 1 1/4 inch handle.


In this lift the bell ( either a bar-bell or a dumb-bell) is usually lifted to the shoulder with both hands, and then is jerked from the shoulder to arms' length above the head with one hand. This lift is known as one of the "quick lifts," the other "quick lifts" being the "snatch" and the swing." In the "jerk," after the bell is placed at the shoulder, the lifter will bend his legs at the knees and then suddenly straighten them and at the same moment thrust the arm vigorously forward. This will give the bell such an impetus that it will rise 10 or 12 inches from the shoulder, and then the lifter with a second quick "dip" of the knees will get beneath the bell with a straight arm, and the lift is completed.

Great activity and long practice are necessary in order to properly master this lift. Some athletes in making this lift will bend the body to the side in order to get under the bell. This side-fall has some advantages, because if you do not get quite low enough you can finish the lift with a strong push of the arm. It is considered correct form to drop straight beneath the bell, and if the lift is performed correctly, and if the athlete is quick enough in his movements, he should be able to get below the bell with a perfectly straight arm and should not find it necessary to use the strength of the arm to finish the lift.

In German and Austrian competitions the athletes are allowed to take the bell from the ground to the shoulder with both hands, but always in England and usually in France the athletes are compelled by the rules to lift the bell from the ground to the shoulder with one hand and to jerk it above the head with the same hand, without once allowing the bell to touch the body in any way. This method is called "clean lifting." In the German style 266 1/5 lbs. has been jerked aloft with the right arm by the Russian athlete, George Lurich, while in the French style the record is 231 lbs.


TWO ARM PRESS. In this lift the bell ( which, of course, is a long-handled bar-bell) must be raised from the ground to the chest without touching the body, and after the bell reaches the height of the neck, the lifter must pause and then push it slowly aloft. He is not allowed to assist the motion by a jerk or swing, but he must press it slowly and steadily upward until his arms are straight. If the athlete bends backward, or allows his legs to bend at the knees, he would not only be lifting very bad form, but would also be liable to strain himself.

TWO ARM JERK. Such an enormous amount of weight can be raised from the chest to above by this particular lift that the athlete is generally unable to lift "clean" from the floor to the chest. In European competition the contestants are allowed to lift the bell slowly to the height of the hips, where it is rested against the body. From thence a sharp pull of the arms and "dip" of the knees will bring the bell half-way up the chest, while a second "pull" and "dip" will enable the lifter to get it as high as the neck. From there the bell is jerked aloft with both arms, the lift being very similar to the one-hand "jerk."

The lifters of the city of Vienna, Austria, excel in all two-hand lifts. England has produced no good two-hand lifters. (By a good two-hand lifter is understood a man who can press at least 242 lbs. and "jerk" at least 330 lbs.) France has produced a couple of dozen good two-hand lifters, while Germany has probably 50 or 60 men who can raise over 330 lbs. above the head in the two-hand "jerk." The best record made by a German is Andreas Maier's lift of 367 lbs. In Vienna there are four men who can lift above the head over 370 lbs. These men are: Grafl, Witzelsberger, Steinbach, and Karl Swoboda. Steinbach, with a record of 390 lbs. is regarded as the real record-holder in the two hand "jerk," because he brought the bell from the ground to the shoulder in three movements. Karl Swaboda*, who is a giant weighing 300 lbs., recently succeeded in "jerking" above his head with two arms the enormous weight of 402 lbs.; but this has not been allowed as a record, because he the bell from the floor to the chest in four movements.

As stated in the beginning of this chapter, the competitive lifts in a German tournament are generally selected from the foregoing eight standard lifts. If the reader has read this section carefully he will have noticed that in the "quick" lifts most of the power employed to raise the dumb-bells aloft from the straightening of the back and legs, and the reader should also realize that no one but an extremely active man would be able to hold his own in a modern weight-lifting competition. *Karl Swoboba should not be confused with the American "resistance system" man named Swoboda, who formerly advertised from Chicago, later from Washington, D. C. Karl Swoboda, of Vienna, is a weight lifter and an extremely strong man.

For a long time there was an idea prevalent in this country that no man could be a successful dumb-bell lifter unless he was a big, heavily-built individual, strong as an ox and just as slow in his movements as that patient beast.

The reason that so many quick lifts are introduced into the present-day competitions is in order to give the light man a chance against his heavier brother, and also to put a premium on activity and skill. Do not misunderstand me here. Nobody except a tremendously strong man can raise above the head dumb-bells weighing over 200 lbs. in the two-hand lifts or over 150 lbs. in the one-hand lifts; but strength alone is not sufficient.

It will be noticed that much more can be lifted in the "jerk" than in the "press," because in the "jerk" the strength of legs is added to the strength of the arms and shoulders. The difference between the two lifts is much greater in the one-arm feats than in the two-arm feats for obvious reasons. Any man who can "press" in military position 100 lbs. with one arm should be able to "jerk" almost 100% more ( 200 lbs.) In the two-hand lift the difference is not so great. Siebert, the great German authority on lifting, claims that the proportion between the "press" and the "jerk" should be as 2 is to 3; that is, if a man can raise 200 lbs. in the two-arm "press" he should raise 300 lbs. in the two-arm "jerk," or in other words, the amount raised in the "jerk" is 50% more than in the "press." This rule works all right in the case of a light, active man, who is very skillful in the "jerk," but the difference between the two lifts decreases very rapidly when we take the case of the heavier, and therefore slower, man.

I knew one lifter who weighed 160 lbs.; he could "press" 200 lbs. perfectly with two arms. He claimed that he could 300 lbs. in the "jerk." The most I saw him do was 280 lbs., but I am willing to admit that he had not had much practice at the "jerk" previous to making the test for me. In the case of the Champion Steinbach, we see that his record in the "press" is 330 lbs. while his record in the "jerk" is 390 lbs. (in round figures); a difference of 60 lbs., which means that the record in the "jerk" is less than 20% greater than in the "press." You will find the same thing in most heavy men. For instance, Cyr, who was very slow in his movements, could raise in the two-arm lifts 350 lbs. in the "jerk" and about 315 lbs. in the "press," showing that he did not get much advantage from his legs. All this goes to prove the wisdom of mixing up the various kinds of lifts in competition, because it puts the light, active, skillful man on an equality with the powerful giant. The best athlete is the man who can make the best use of strength, and a 175-lb. man who can raise 300 lbs. in the two-arm "jerk" is certainly entitled to more credit than the 250-lb. man who can only raise 325 lbs. in a like manner.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

THE TRUTH ABOUT WEIGHTLIFTING - (circa 1911) - Chapter 2 - By Alan Calvert

Originally posted on on 30 April 2006

There are several reasons why weight-lifting as a sport is not popular in this country. Probably the principal reason is the very foolish and short-sighted attitude of the professional lifters in this country. These professionals have made a practice of deceiving and "buncoing" the public for so long a time, that the public has become disgusted with their methods and has come to the conclusion, either that all weight-lifters are fakirs, or else that weight-lifting is a peculiar kind of sport in which only a few men can excel.

Probably you have noticed that every professional weight-lifter in America eagerly and earnestly proclaims himself to be "the strongest man in the world." They seem to have the idea that nobody will pay to see them perform unless they make this claim. Sometimes they qualify it by modestly stating that they are the strongest men in the world of their weight. Practically every one of these professionals claims to hold all the world's records. They know that the general public is not accurately informed as to the records and they take advantage of the fact by making all sorts of ridiculous statements regarding their own lifts; and in this respect, we are sorry to say, they are helped out by the newspaper reporters and sporting writers, who, with childlike innocence, accept and print in their papers, as gospel, the absurd claims of some of these lifters.

For example, a few months ago there appeared in one of the vaudeville theatres in Philadelphia a big Belgian, who, during the course of his act, held at arms length to the side, a large kettle-bell, which was labeled 125 pounds. This is the feat known to the schoolboy as "muscling out" a weight. Probably you have tried it and have found that, it as much as the average will do to "muscle out" 25 pounds. When this performer, of whom we speak, claimed that he was holding 125 pounds the audience burst into wild applause, whereas, the man ought to have been hissed off the stage for making such a foolish claim. There is no man in the world today, who will hold 125 pounds out sideways in that manner.

In order to show how little the newspaper reporter knows about this particular line of athletics let me cite another instance. One day a couple of years ago, a certain weight-lifter came to see me and asked if I could let him have a bell for an exhibition he was going to give the following evening. I accommodated him by allowing him to have a bar-bell of the "plate-loading" type, and this bell weighed exactly 160 pounds. In due course of time he returned the bell and at the same time showed me a newspaper clipping describing his exhibition. It seems that after he had closed his act, a newspaper reporter approached him and asked him how much he had lifted. He told the reporter that the bar-bell he had pressed up with one hand weighed 260 pounds, and that the lift was a world's record for a man of his weight. The reporter then asked for a picture, and so the following day the lifter had his picture taken showing himself making a one-arm press with the 160-pound bell. This picture with the lifter's statement (that the bell weighed 260 pounds) was published in one of the leading Philadelphia papers. This incident only goes to show how little the average reporter knows about weight-lifting. If he had been possessed of any knowledge, either of lifting, or of dumb-bells, he would have known that the lift was impossible for a man of the lifter's size, and also that the bell itself could not possibly weight 260 pounds.

A professional lifter will almost always carefully conceal his real records and at the same time will exaggerate the feats which he performs on the stage. The public is just as much to blame for this as are the lifters. If a trick jumper was to appear on the variety stage and in his act make a jump, and then claim that he had just cleared a height of 8 feet, almost every man in the audience would know that he was lying, because nine young men out of every ten are able to tell you that the world's record in the running high jump is about 6 feet 6 inches. The weight-lifter, however, trades on the ignorance of the audience, and is able to make the most absurd statements and obtain credit for impossible lifts.

The average professional weight-lifter is generally an extremely strong man, but, as a matter of fact, he is not the least bit stronger than a first-class amateur lifter. As we will point out in another place in this volume, many of the world's record lifts were made by amateurs.

The professional lifter, however, has but two ideas. The first, is to make the audiences believe that his feats border on the marvelous and are far beyond the powers of even the strongest amateur; and the second idea is, to by all means possible keep any outsider or amateur from handling his dumb-bells and finding out how light they really are. The writer has made dumbbells for a good many celebrated lifters, and he can confidently assure his readers that not more than one professional lifter out of five will tell the truth, or anything like the truth, about the amount of weight he lifts.

I remonstrated with a celebrated lifter one time and said to him: "As you are perfectly capable of handling the amount of weight you claim, why do you actually handle only about one-third of that weight?" To put this more clearly: The lifter in question was advertising that he was making a one-arm "press" of 240 pounds, and I was well aware that he could accomplish this feat, but in his performances he actually lifted only 80 pounds; the dumbbell used in the lift being large, but of exceedingly light weight. When I asked why he did not lift the actual weight he replied:

"What's the use? The audience sees that I am apparently working very hard to make the lift and they would believe me just the same if I told them I was lifting 480 pounds. The people who watch me lift don't know the records, and so long as I can make them think that I am lifting 240 pounds by lifting only 80 pounds what is the sense of my working hard when I don't have to?"

This is the attitude that most professional lifters assume. There is only one drawback when the lifter is using very light bells, and this is, that some member of the audience may come across the footlights and "show up" the professional. Therefore, the professional has to resort of some very funny expedients, and sometimes, we are sorry to say, to some very shabby tricks, in order to keep the audience from "getting wise." One very famous lifter always keeps his dumbbells and bar-bells in a big chest when they are not being used in his act. Another lifter always takes the precaution of chaining his bells to the floor, so that none of the stage hands can pick them up and find out how light they really are.

These men are exceptions, for most of the professionals do not care whether the stage hands know about their weights; all they care about is deceiving the audience. In order to make their acts seem genuine many lifters will invite members of the audience to come the footlights and test the weight of the bells, and when this invitation is accepted it always happens that the "kind gentleman" from the audience gets hold of a trick or "phoney" ball. Some of the funniest stories regarding weight-lifting concern just such occasions.

As one of the objects of this volume is to give information to the amateur weight-lifter, I will give a few instances to illustrate the danger of fooling with a professional's apparatus. The first and perhaps easiest trick used by professionals to deceive the audience is to have a couple of small-sized bells and exactly similar bells. These bells are generally laid quite near the footlights, while around the back of the stage are strewn dumbbells and bar-bell of enormous size. Very frequently the performer does not touch these big dumbbells, but they are there, and certainly look impressive.

To start the act the lifter will go to the pair of small bells, pick up one of them ( which is generally a hollow iron bell weighing 30 or 35 pounds) and will throw it around in the air and juggle it from one hand to the other, and perform a number of taking, attractive lifts with it. He will then confidently tell the audience that the bell is not heavy, and invite any member of the audience to come up and lift it. Sometimes a "stool-pigeon" will come up and make a fake attempt to lift and thus satisfy the audience; but if a real stranger comes up the performer gets busy at once.

Now it is impossible for anyone, even the most expert, to judge a man's lifting capabilities when he is attired in street clothes. Therefore, when a stranger steps across the footlights he may be a novice or he may be a champion amateur lifter for all the performer knows; but in the majority of case he is a mechanic or working-man, who know that he is strong and wants a chance to lift a heavy bell. As he steps across the footlights the performer will deftly roll aside the light bell, which he has been juggling, and will roll to the newcomer the other bell of exactly the same size and appearance, but which is made of solid lead, and weighs anywhere from 100 to 125 pounds. The amateur, having had the performer's assurance that the bell was light, expects to put it up easily, and when he succeeds in lifting the bell to his shoulders, and finds that it is very much heavier than he expected, he almost always fails to push it aloft, and then the performer scoffs at him and tells him, "if he cannot lift a little bell like the one he has just tried, how could expect to lift one of the big ones which lie around the stage." This little comedy generally takes full effect and the audience from that minute on has perfect confidence that the performer is lifting exactly what he claims. Occasionally the amateur is able to lift the lead bell, and then it is funny to see the professional dash around and hunt up the heaviest bell that he can possibly handle and use it in making his own particular and special lift. As it is ninety-nine chance out of a hundred that the amateur has never seen the performer's "pet lift," and is, therefore, unable to make a successful attempt at it, the performer generally "gets away with it," and restores the audience's confidence in him.

Another way the professional has to fool a man from the audience is to let try to lift a "trick" bell. The bells are generally made with ends of uneven weight. In the ordinary dumbbell for one-hand lifting, the grip portion between the balls is generally make 4 1/2 to 5 inches long; just enough room being given to grasp the bell by the handle. In these trick bells the handle-bar is about 10 inches long. One end of the bell may weigh 70 pounds and the other end 50 pounds. In the center of the handle is a turned "grip." The performer when he lifts the bell grasps the handle near the heavy end. For instance, in the bell mentioned above, he would grasp it with his hand close to the 70-pound end. This would make the 50-pound end come 5 inches from his hand, and make the bell balance. When a stranger grasps the bell, however, he is almost sure to pick it up by the fancy grip in the center of the handle. Naturally when he gets the bell to his shoulder it is out of balance and generally falls to the floor.

An even simpler trick is that used by a professional lifter who used to travel around the country with a "one-ring" circus. He owned a number of fairly heavy bells and he used to invite the farmer boys in the audience to come into the ring and make a lift. As he described it himself, his trick was as follows: " I used to carry around a box, in one of which was a little bit of rosin, but he rest of the box was full of soap powder. Before I would make a lift I would rub a little rosin on my hands, which was quite necessary as all my dumbbells had thick handles and were hard to lift, but when some husky young 'rube' crawled into the ring and wanted to lift, I would always kindly allow him to rub his hands with soap powder, and I never had one of them succeed in lifting my bells."

In this connection I might say that it is very hard for a novice to lift to his chest a long bar-bell if it has a handle over two inches in diameter. It is quite an art to get a heavy bell to the chest, when you are going to make a "two-arm" push-up, and the best sized handle in making this lift would be 1 inch to 1 1/4 inches in diameter. A professional lifter who is gifted with very large hands is always sure to use thick-handled bells. John Marx, the celebrated German lifter and "strongman," has enormous hands, and it is said that no other lifter can use his dumbbells. It is extremely difficult to lift from the ground with one hand a 200 pound bar-bell if the handle is 2 1/4 inches thick. Personally, I don't know more than two or three men who can perform this feat, and yet practically every first-class professional lifter can raise from the ground with one hand a 500-pound bar-bell, providing the handle is not more than 1 1/4 inches thick. Of course, if you use a soft strap, or prepared grip, very much more than 500 pounds could be lifted.

Lifters take advantage of this in the following manner: The performer will come to the front of the stage and announce, "I will give to any man in the audience who will lift from the floor with one hand a bar-bell which I will lift with one finger." He will then put a strap around the thick handle of a big bar-bell, and by putting the finger through the strap will lift the bell with the middle finger. This would be a cinch for the average amateur.

When the man from the audience tries to lift the bell the strap is taken off and he is expected to raise the bell by grasping the handle-bar itself. Unless he happens to possess a hand of about 10 inches long and have tremendously strong fingers, he will find himself unable to lift even one end of the bell. Many lifters have built up reputations by this trick.

Another variation is the following: As stated previously, when a man is going to make a two-arm lift above the head he has to use a bell with a comparatively slender handle. Before you can push a bell aloft with both hands you have to pull it up to the chest and to repeat, both skill and strength are required to do this.

In the one-arm lift from shoulder to arm length above the head, known as the "bent-press," the exact opposite is the case. This lift was a specialty of Eugene Sandow, and he worked it on all occasions. In making the lift it is customary for a professional to use a bell about 6 feet long with a handle 2 to 2 1/2 inches thick. In order to get the bell to the shoulder, he will first stand it on end, then leaning over, he will grasp the center of the bar and "rock" it into position over his shoulder. He will then raise it aloft by the "bent-press method, and while he is pressing it aloft the thick handle is a great advantage, as the bell is less liable to roll in the hand, and as a man can push harder against a broad surface than against a narrow one.

Any good professional will raise with one arm in this manner a 200-pound bell, and after making the lift will generally anyone in the audience to try to lift bell with both arms, and if the bell has a sufficiently thick handle-bar it will defy the efforts of even a very skillful lifter. The professional's part, of course, is to stand around and sneer at the efforts of the novice; to ask him if the considers himself strong if he can't lift as with two hands as the professional can with one, etc., etc. The chances are ninety-nine out of a hundred that the professional could not lift the bell with two arms, and he is very careful never to make the effort.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

THE TRUTH ABOUT WEIGHTLIFTING - (circa 1911) - Chapter 1 - By Alan Calvert

Originally posted on on 08 April 2006

In dealing with feats of pure strength, we regret to have to admit that most of the strength records are held by European athletes. This does not mean that the European races produce larger and finer man than we breed in America, but really indicates the fact that for the past 25 years the European nations, especially the Germans and the Austrians, have taken as much interest heavy athletics as we take in light athletics in this country. We would not expect England, for instance, which has only a few hundred baseball players, to produce ball players equal to our big league stars, and as Germany happens to have about 100 amateur weight-lifters where we have one, it is only natural that they should hold the records in that particular line of athletics.

So far we Americans have not distinguished ourselves in any line of heavy athletics with the possible exception of "putting the shot." This is a feat which requires considerable skill, in addition to size and bodily weight, and, as American amateurs have made a point of acquiring the correct form in this particular event, they have succeeded in making records.

In "hammer-throwing" we have produced some good performers, but none that were quite good enough to win the national championship. A couple of imported Irish-men have monopolized the honors in "throwing the hammer" for the past dozen years, and these same men, and one other of their countrymen, have always won in the still more strenuous sport of throwing the 56 lb. weight. Why is it that, while we have produced "record breakers" in running, jumping and in all sports which require activity, that we have not, in the last generation, produced a winner either in weight-throwing or in weight-lifting? The answer is that we do not train in the right way; and among other things the proper method of training is to be dealt with in this volume.

One of the most prominent athletic clubs in Philadelphia has in its gymnasium a long-handled bar bell of 150 lbs. weight. We are informed that for a long time there were only two members of the club who could lift this bell above their head, even when they used two hands in the lifting. Some time ago a delegation of German Turners made a visit to this club and were being shown over the clubhouse by an Entertainment Committee. When they came to the gymnasium, the Germans, twelve or fifteen in number, expressed their surprise at the absence of heavy dumbbells, and one member of the committee, after some search, was able to discover and produce the 150-lb. bar-bell alluded to above. One after another the Germans stepped out of line and raised this bell above the head. Not one of them had any trouble lifting the bell with one arm. They were simply amazed when they were told that not of the 500 members in the club could perform the same feat, and they stated that a one-arm lift of 150 lbs. was a very small affair to the average German athlete.

These Germans were men of average height, but they were all very sturdily built, with deep chests, broad shoulders and powerful arms and legs; and every one of them was an enormously strong man, and active as well, as they proved by doing many difficult feats on the different pieces of gymnasium apparatus.

It is here that we come to the great difference in the German and American systems of training. The Germans train in order to develop a finely built body and a great deal of all-around ability; the American is much too apt to specialize on some one particular feat, and, therefore, generally has a one-sided development. The Germans recognize the principle that in order to become very strong it is necessary to make the exercise harder and harder.

Every German gymnasium, or athletic club, keeps on its gymnasium floor a large assortment of heavy dumb-bells and bar-bells, and the club members train principally with this kind of apparatus. Heavy dumb-bell lifting is one of the greatest sports in Germany, and throughout the winter season there are contests almost every evening in one or the other of the larger cities or towns. In order to give an even chance to men of all sizes, the contestants are divided into four classes, according to their bodily weight; very much the same as we classify boxers. A lifter who weighs only 125 pounds is not expected to compete with a 220-pound giant, and in this way every ambitious lifter is given a chance to prove his strength and skill against men of his own size.

Frequently weight-lifting tournaments have 150 or 200 entries and it is no exaggeration to say that there are, in the average German lifting club, more first-class lifters than there are in the whole United States of America. It is not the intention of the writer to give the impression that the Germans are naturally a larger or stronger race of men than the Americans. We have the raw material in this country and as soon as we train properly we will produce champions and record-breakers in weight-lifting, the same as we have done in every other line of athletic sports.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Originally posted on on 25 March 2006

By Alan Calvert, the Originator of Progressive Weight Lifting in America. Inventor of the “Milo” and “Milo Triplex” combination dumbbells. Proprietor of the Milo Bar-Bell Co.

Published by the Author, Philadelphia, 1911


The purpose of this book is to describe some of the greatest know feats of strength; how such feats are performed, which feats are genuine, and which feats are tricks, or fakes; also to endeavor to give the reader some idea of who are the strongest men of the present day and the records to prove them so.

It has been the custom for a man who is writing a book about feats of strength, or the development of muscle, to open the subject by relating some remarkable feats of the ancient athletes. We are gravely told, for instance, that there was a certain Roman Emperor so strong that he would take an ordinary cobblestone in his hands and squeeze it to bits; and that some other equally remarkable athlete of the older times would seize a wild bull by the horns and tear the said horns out by the roots. Such stories may be very interesting, but their truth is entirely dependent upon word of some authority who is dead and gone these centuries past. We suppose that, like most other stories, they become wonderfully magnified as they passed from mouth to mouth. For his own part, the writer does not place the least credence in such tales. He fully believes that the men of today are larger and stronger than they have been before in the history of the world. Moreover, he believes that the feats of our present-day athletes and modern Hercules are far and away beyond the actual feats of the ancient heroes.

I find that there are a great many people who are firmly convinced that the present-day athletes are mere pigmies compared to the old Greeks or Romans. These people have heard the old fairy tales so often that they have come to believe them true. In proof of my contention that the modern man is larger and stronger than his forebears, I would like to call attention to the well-known fact that the average size man of today cannot possibly get into the suits of armor which are in the collections of the great European museums; and yet these suits of armor are supposed to have been worn by the greatest heroes of the middle ages.

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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mighty Doug Hepburn - By Walter Wadas

Originally posted on on 02 September 2004

The road to bodybuilding success is rarely walked with a clubfoot, but that’s the way Doug Hepburn started out.

On September 16, 1926, Douglas Ivan Hepburn was born at Vancouver (BC, Canada) General Hospital with a deformity to his right ankle and foot. He had as well a vision distortion called severe alternating squint and a pointed head, caused by forceps-pulling. While his head soon returned to a naturally round shape on its own, Hepburn’s other impairments required surgical intervention. From the age of three, operations and casts were a feature of his childhood and youth, as were such hurtful nicknames as gimp, hop-along and wall-eyes.

But Doug Hepburn was a strong boy. He withstood those jibes and he even competed in sports at Kitsilano High School. About that time, he took up weightlifting at the Vancouver YMCA. And by l8, Hepburn weighed 200 lbs, could bench press 260, squat 340, and two-hand curl 140. In weight-training and bodybuilding young Doug Hepburn had found his avenue of accomplishment.

The last of the tedious and painful operations to correct his physical disabilities were finished then, and, though still a teenager, in the gym Hepburn “stumbled upon” – his words – the training technique of using heavy weights in 10 sets of three repetitions, which became a feature of his rapid growth in size and strength. This routine, Hepburn says, qualifies him as the “Grandfather of Modern Powerlifting.”

Hepburn went on to gold medals in weightlifting, first in 1953 at world championships in Stockholm and again in 1954 at the British Empire Games. When men the likes of Joe Weider extolled Doug Hepburn as the world’s strongest man, they meant not just when they were talking, but of all time.

These achievements over adversity are told in Strongman: The Doug Hepburn Story. This new book, a biography written by Tom Thurston, takes the form of a conversational, first-person narrative, which makes both enjoyable and inspirational reading. Hepburn has an even-tempered appreciation of his successes as an athlete without disregarding his foibles as a man.

Besides strength sports, Hepburn had other talents and accomplishments. He also had other hardships and shortcomings besides those already mentioned.

Like his father and stepfather, Hepburn battled with alcoholism. Drink and depression sank him after his triumphs of the 1950s. He turned to a career in professional wrestling, a job choice more forgiving of his addiction and personal problems. Confused and depleted, Hepburn barely noticed the opportunities for legitimate championships anymore.

Demons confronted with the help medically administered LSD at a Hollywood clinic made a crisis and turning-point for him. In 1963, Hepburn returned to Vancouver. Briefly he settled into a $40-a-month flophouse, but with friends and the stamina and strength of character he had shown as a boy and young man, got back onto his feet financially and soon opened a gym.

He was only 37 and he was like a new man, making a new life, but salvaging what he could from his past experience. Part of his experience was with addiction, and Hepburn became an ardent advocate of drug-free athletics. He opposed – and says he never used – steroids.

In his later life, Hepburn designed and built sports and fitness equipment, including an all-in-one “universal” machine and a one-hand curl device called the Dynatron. He wrote and promoted two training programs based on his own practice and experience, extolling them as the “exact” systems he used when preparing to win his medals in 1953 and 1954. Hepburn even embarked on a career as a singer and recorded a Christmas song, which – I’m told – is still played on the radio seasonally in Canada. But, perhaps because of the abusive and alcoholic examples of his father and stepfather, Doug Hepburn never married.

There’s a lot of hard luck story in Strongman, but, in the end, it’s a story hard not to like.
Title: Strongman: The Doug Hepburn Story, Author: Tom Thurston Pub.:Ronsdale Press, Vancouver, BC, Canada ISBN: 1553820095 Etc.: 296 pages, softcover

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