Friday, September 30, 2022

Review of the Book: Anvils, Horseshoes and Cannons, The History of Strongmen, (Volume 11), By Leo Gaudreau, The Arthur Saxon Trio is born - By David Sedunary

Kurt Saxon was one of the famous Saxon brothers the youngest of the powerful trio. At the end of 1947 Kurt asked longtime admirer of the famous trio Leo Gaudreau of Salem Massachusetts USA to write this book. Kurt was able to add much information that had never been made public. Kurt was able to send some photos to illustrate the book. Over a period of years Leo and Kurt became exceptionally good friends, which Kurt appreciated. Leo made comment had his brother Arthur been alive he also would have appreciated their friendship.

Kurt and the author Leo Gaudreau became good friends and conversed by letter for many years. Kurt’s brother Arthur Saxon at 32 years of age, height was 5 feet 9 and a half inches, his neck measured 16.5 inches and his biceps measured 16.5 Inches, his chest was 45.7 inches, forearm 14.2 inches with a wrist of 8.1 inches, his thighs measured 23.2 inches and he weighed 204 pounds. Arthur had powerful well-built hips which measured 40.9 inches. Strongmen in years gone by built their neck to the same measurement as their biceps. This to them was a sign of strength.

Arthur Saxon never had the symmetry to be body builder instead he was a powerfully built large boned man, whom could back it up with power. In those times Arthur Saxon was the most powerful weightlifter in the world. He could do feats of strength in practice that seemed incredible. In the four lifts combined, one hand bent press with the right hand of 336 pounds, one hand anyhow press, two hands clean and jerk, and two hands anyhow he lifted 448 pounds, there was no weightlifter amateur or professional who could defeat Arthur Saxon.

The same can be said of the remaining two brothers Hermann who was 4 years younger and Kurt who was 6 years younger than Arthur. Hermann was 5 feet 7 and a half inches in height had a neck and biceps which measured 16 inches, his chest measured 45 inches, his forearms were 14.5 and his wrist was 8.1 inches. Herman’s thighs were smaller than Arthur’s at 22 inches, and he weighed 166 pounds. The younger brother Kurt was the smallest at a little over 5 feet 8 inches in height and weighed 164 pounds, his neck and biceps measured 15.5 inches, chest 43 inches, a wrist of 8.2 inches and thighs 23.1 inches.

Kurt and Hermann could lift 332 pounds in the right-hand bent press two hands to shoulder. Kurt could two hand s clean and jerk 341 pounds and Hermann could clean and jerk 330 pounds. Kurt could lift 213 pounds in the right-hand snatch and Hermann could lift 206 pounds in the right-hand snatch. Both Kurt and Hermann could lift to arm’s length overhead, two kettlebells each weighing 119 pounds, and held only by the little finger of each hand. These were official records. Both could lift a barrel (contents 75 quarts of beer) to arm’s length. In September 1905 Kurt Saxon walked into the Athletic Club Ziska, Prague Czechoslovakia, and in street clothes, he performed two hands clean and jerk with 297 pounds and a right-hand snatch with 187 pounds.

On several occasions older brother Arthur bent pressed more than 300 pounds before weightlifting celebrities who were pleased to certify the amount of weight lifted in their presence. P Harrison, Manager of Sandow’s School of Physical Culture, at Liverpool, certified in writing, November 24th, 1904, That Mr. Arthur Saxon Lifted 331 pounds from the shoulder to above the head with one hand only. The trio of brothers started strength shows at an early age. In 1883, when Arthur was 15, and Hermann and Kurt were 11 and 8 years of age. They were able to put on a show in their back yard. They challenged all boys up to the age of 15 and offered a prize of 10 Pfennig (two and a half cents) if successful in defeating the brothers in either weightlifting or Swiss belt- wrestling, the brothers were never defeated. As Kurt said at the time, we were still kids but immensely powerful. In 1883, they were giving 10 or 12 shows every afternoon.


All three were strong eaters. In addition to being a partner in the act Kurt was appointed chief cook. For breakfast they ate 24 eggs, and 3 pounds of smoked bacon, porridge with cream, honey marmalade and tea with plenty of sugar. At three a clock they had dinner, ten pounds of meat was consumed with vegetables (but not many potatoes) sweet fruits, sweet cakes, puddings, cocoa and whipped cream and very sweet tea. Supper after the show they had cold meat, smoked fish, much butter, cheese, and beer. Hermann and Kurt were partial to sweet foods and sugar. They tried very hard to gain weight and had a terrific appetite sometimes consuming 1 pound of butter between them. Arthur did not care for sweets and   butter, instead he would use the lard from pork. Kurt was the heaviest eater of the three and for breakfast alone he would consume 24 eggs (cooked in  half a pound of butter). Their late supper included herrings when they could get them and eaten in the manner they had been accustomed to in childhood. All three brothers did not care for milk they developed no taste for it, only at teatime they had whipped cream. At 9 o’clock in the morning they arose and always had a cold rub down over the whole body, if possible, they would have a shower bath and a massage.

Arthur was never one for light exercises and their whole program was directed towards building greater strength. Their favorite exercise was performed with ring weights Kurt and Hermann would perform many repetitions with different lifts and exercises with the heavy ring weights. For the grip, back, and leg muscles they used to carry a pair of 199-pound ring weights, at the hang, around the stage ten times. They also, used to walk around the stage carrying their 423-pound barbell a few times. The warmup exercise was always leg press with a heavy barbell, doing twenty repetitions then up into a shoulder stand, and then while in this position, the barbell was pressed a few times and balanced on one foot. The bent press was practiced every day. 

They practiced squats (or deep knee bends) with the barbell held at the chest, when they came up from the squat without stopping the weight was jerked over the head. The brothers also included belt wrestling. This type of wrestling was done with a harness, which is buckled on around the waist and hips, there are grips on each side, and the main action is to heave your opponent off his feet. Eventually the wrestling was given up and medicine ball throwing took its place. They would line two men up against one and feed him 2 medicine balls as fast as he could manage. The Saxons liked walking and when they had spare time they would go for long walks. Their training program indicated they were physical supermen. 

When training for a new feat of strength they gave up all drinking and smoking. I their everyday life Arthur smoked a pipe or cigars, Kurt smoked cigarettes and Hermann was a versatile smoker. Their favourite beverage was beer or sweet wine, they only drank occasionally and mainly used drinking alcohol as way of gaining bodyweight lost during their performances. It is the opinion of the author that the Saxons would have developed much better physiques if they had possessed the know how to apply their extra ordinary strength and unusual vigor and energy, to the weight training, bodybuilding methods advocated by Bob Whelan and this web site Natural


There is no background of physical weakness in the Saxon family. The father the mother, two sisters and three brothers were all strong and healthy. The father of the Saxon brothers was a joiner by trade and a very strong and powerful man. Kurt Saxon witnessed his father’s anger one day; a man owed Saxon senior money for work performed and refused to pay. The argument took place on the second floor of the building and the elder Saxon grabbed the man and holding him by the neck and the seat of his trousers gave him the alternative of paying or being dropped two floors. He paid.

Kurt and Hermann copied their father’s method and when they got into a brawl with other boys, they employed their fathers favourite fighting tactic. Their father was built along the same lines as son Hermann, except he had bigger hands. Their mother was from a farm, and she was brought up on hard work and good food. and she was a strong and sturdy woman. Their mother was married when she was 25 and it was hard work bringing up 5 children. While the Saxon brothers travelled in England, they had their mother with them for a few years to have an enjoyable time. After a while she returned to Germany. 

Mrs. Saxon was 5 feet 6 inches in height, had red, rosy cheeks and died in 1932 at the age of 86. Arthur married an English girl and Kurt and Hermann married German girls. The younger sister trained with her brothers and at the age of twelve,  could swing a fifty-pound swing weight with her right hand twelve times. Arthur was ill at the age of sixteen, he had rupture of the appendix and peritonitis. Arthur ended up with rheumatic fever, he was in bed for 28 weeks. The Doctor ordered him to get plenty of rest and drink tea. Instead of drinking tea he smoked it in a long pipe. It was not long before Arthur rehabilitated himself and was back in full training. After 6 months of full training, he was in such good form that the Athletic Club offered one thousand marks to anyone who could defeat him.

During a performance on stage one of the members accidently discharged a gun to close to Arthur’s face. This in turn blinded Arthur and he lost the sight of his eyes. After an operation he gained the sight of one eye only. Arthur died in 1921. Hermann had an open challenge to any man in the world at his weight (168 pounds) for weightlifting and Greco roman wrestling he was never defeated. Not being a big man in his street clothes he was often bullied and picked upon by toughs. The result was as the author was informed “he only crippled these fellows and smashed them to the floor, and they forgot to get up “. A short time later Kurt and Hermann formed an act and were a great success.

Hermann did not have his heart in it like to old days and he retired to private life. Kurt kept on performing on his own, until he had a serious car accident and near lost his life, this finished his career as a performer. Upon recovery Kurt was appointed Trainer for Body Building at the University of Leipsic (Germany from 1926 to 1929). After this he opened his own Gym in Leipsic with great success until 1943. Kurt kept training up until 1943 when he lost all through being bombed. At 60 years of age Kurt showed his pupils his strength by lifting 300 pounds overhead with two hands and pressed 200 pounds overhead with his right hand.

Kurt Saxon’s last letter to the author Leo Gaudreau was dated July 1952. Two months later he had not survived an emergency operation. So dropped the final curtain, September 5th, 1952, for another of the great Arthur Saxon trio. The author was not familiar with Hermann’s last years, but somehow or other he was fortunate enough to be in Leipsic, where the Saxon boys had grown up to manhood. As far as longevity is concerned, he was more fortunate because when he died on February 12th, 1961, he was 79 years old. In 1961, the final curtain fell for the last time for the last of the trio of world-famous brothers. The demise of an era of old-time strongmen super stars of professional strong men.

Lifts by Kurt, Hermann, and Arthur Saxon they were given to the author as official records







































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Saturday, September 24, 2022

A Tribute to Bill Pearl - By David Sedunary

I sit at my desk and think to myself after the death of the great Bill Pearl, the leaves of time keep falling off the tree of weightlifting and body building knowledge. Bill Pearl just recently passed away at 91 years of age. As we all know Bill was an American professional body builder, athlete, and strongman. During the 1950’s and 1960’s Bill won The Mister Universe Title five times and was named World’s Best Built Man of the Century. Bill was born on the 31st October 1930 and sadly passed away on the 14th September 2022.

I bought Bill Pearl’s book in 1980 called Keys to the Inner Universe, and read it many times, it still sits proudly on my bookshelf. The book is 636 pages of comprehensive knowledge gained from over thirty years  of teaching and training athletes. From an early age Bill had an intense desire to be strong and well built, studied the Strength and Health magazine and looked at the photos of John Grimek, Clancy Ross and Steve Reeves and he knew then he had found the way. Bill worked long and hard hours to save enough money to buy a York Barbell set. Bill would write of strongmen such as the Saxon brothers, Eugene Sandow and Louis Cyr.

Bill Pearl, like Jack LaLanne, Peary Rader, and Bob Hoffman influenced me and many others, to train in weight training. Whether you were an athlete, body builder, or just an average active person, with weight training your body became stronger, you bettered your health, fitness, and longevity. Thank you, Bill Pearl, for helping me guide my life to its most exciting potential of strength, health and well-being.

Rest in Peace Bill Pearl.

Editor's Note: Nice job David. Bill was truly one of the all-time greats. I had his picture on the wall of my basement gym in my earliest years of training. He had a huge influence on me to start weight training and make it a way of life. I had the honor to interview him for the informative chapter he contributed in Iron Nation. Thank You Bill and RIP. You were a tremendous Iron Game champion and will be missed.

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Friday, September 23, 2022

All gone now - By Jim Bryan

LtR Bruce Howell, Craig Whitehead, Bill Pearl, and Al Chrietensen. All gone now. Craig Whitehead trained with Bill Pearl and I trained with Craig b/4 he went to Mr Universe. He got 2nd place behind Bill March. (Circa 66-68 timeframe) 

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Sunday, September 11, 2022

Are You A Slave To Your Program? - By Jim Duggan

I have often mentioned that the Iron Game has been blessed with the talents of many great “strength writers” over the years. People who write with such a passion about getting stronger that their love of strength jumps off the page. I’ve mentioned many such people over the years. Dr. Ken Leistner, Bob Whelan, Brooks Kubik, Jan Dellinger to name just a few. My inspiration for this month’s article is a gentleman who I have referred to previously.

I’ve devoted previous articles to Bradley Steiner before so I’ll just jump right in and get to an article that first appeared in the November 1987 edition of Muscular Development magazine. York Barbell may have been in the doldrums during this period of time, but MD was still a great source quality articles geared towards those who hoist the steel. This should come as no surprise since the Editor-in-Chief at that time was Jan Dellinger, and Brad Steiner as well as Dr. Ken were regular contributors.

“How planned should your workouts be?” was the question that was posed at the very beginning of the original article. The basic question seems to center around the debate between approaching a workout with a definitive program in mind and following it no matter what, or having a tentative program in mind and making changes as you go along. In other words, should you rigidly follow your planned workout, or should you train “instinctively?” There are strong arguments for either approach, but Mr. Steiner seems to favor an approach consisting of some sort of structure, particularly for beginners.

“Planning your routine to some extent in advance is just good common sense.” I happen to agree with this statement. This is especially true for those who are just starting out. Structure, consistency, common sense, and progression should be the hallmarks of any weight training program. However, as the saying goes, common sense is not always common. There is a lot of foolish ideas circulating through the world of weight training. Unfortunately, beginners are particularly vulnerable to silly ideas. I’m thinking about the inane training principles put forth by the self-proclaimed “master blaster” years ago, when his muscle comics dominated the scene. I believe there was even a “principle” devoted to instinctive training. I can only guess as to how many young trainees wasted their time with his useless ideas and products, in an effort to emulate the steroid-bloated druggies featured in his magazines.

Getting back to Mr. Steiner and common sense training. If you’re a beginner your workouts should be carefully planned and structured so that you can attain your goals. But there is a point – after six months or a year of training- when Mr. Steiner concedes that a trainee needs to alter the way in which he/she structures their routine or else there will be a point where progress will begin to slow and eventually stop.

“A routine which becomes overly rigid or unrealistic will prove to be an unpleasant grind from time to time.” Once a trainee has been lifting for a while, there is a certain leeway or “wiggle room” in altering one’s sets/reps, and even choice of exercises, to a certain extent. This leeway is based on your energy, drive, and strength levels on a particular day. Specifically, it is the LACK of rigidity which can salvage a bad workout on those days when you may not be feeling your best, for whatever reason.

This is especially true for drug-free lifters. Let’s face it, there are going to be times when you go into the gym with plenty of enthusiasm, ready to attack the weights, then once you begin, the weights feel as if they weigh a ton. Hopefully, these occurrences are few and far between, but we’ve all experienced them. It is during these times that you can alter or “tweak” your workout. Instead of working up to that heavy triple, try lowering the poundage and go for higher reps. Better to live to fight another day than to force yourself through an unproductive workout. Or, even worse, risk injury.

According to Mr. Steiner, there are four steps to determine your training structure. Step one is pretty simple. Decide which days you will be training. Naturally, this will vary with the individual. Work, school, family responsibilities will determine what days you can devote to lifting weights. Step two is the selection of exercises. It should be obvious that the basics- Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Presses, Presses- should be the staples of any effective strength training program. Beginners should avoid doing too much so that they may recover from their training sessions. “ A good workout should consist of enough exercise, not too much.” Do not overtrain.

Step three is deciding on an effective set/rep scheme which will allow you to reach your goals. Low reps, high reps, medium reps. The choice is up to you, depending on your individual goals. This, of course, can be varied as mentioned before. But if you’re training to achieve a new one-rep max in a particular lift, then the majority of your training should consist of low-reps and heavy weights.

Step four is the training itself. This is where good common sense must apply. “Regardless of the routine you’re following, you simply must let a certain degree of on-the-spot flexibility and variation to take place.” If your workout calls for heavy sets of five for your deadlifts, you might decide that heavy triples would be more effective. If you have been lifting for any appreciable length of time, it is important to listen to your body.

“There is nothing to be gained by browbeating your body into a routine that it might not be prepared to follow on any given training day.” If you’re feeling fatigued or sluggish, learn to adapt to how your body is responding.

Should you plan your workouts? Yes, but do so with the knowledge that nothing is written in stone. Rather than being rigid, be open to the idea that you can alter your training and still make gains. “Benefit from the discipline and balance of of sound structure, but don’t be a slave to it. That’s advanced, effective training.”

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Monday, September 5, 2022

My Undeniable Truths of Weight Training for Beginners – Part 9 - Adopt a Label-Free Approach to Training – By RJ Hicks, MS, CSCS

I know a lot of coaches that like to label their training as the most effective or efficient way. They take a one size fits all approach to strength training no matter the clients experience, preference or goal. Their training philosophy becomes the very methods and modes they have chosen. This can be confusing for beginners and enough pressure to make them feel the need to choose a specific camp. If you want to maximize your muscular size and strength ignore these coaches and ditch the dogmatic mentality in your training.

There is no one best way to train for every individual. Many coaches rather cramp their style of training down your throat then to take the time to understand your goals. I see it all the time where a coach says we do barbell training or HIT training or Olympic lifting at this gym. They try to fit the client to the methods rather than the methods to the client goals and interest. It is a backwards approach to training that limits the physical potential a client reaches since no one method will work for each individual.

When you label yourself in training you handicap yourself from progressing in the long term. Injury, burn-out, mental blocks are all real factors when it comes to training. It has nothing to do with a lack of knowledge or motivation as to why you cannot train in one particular method for the rest of your life. You do not have to swear allegiance to anyone camp to be a serious lifter. It is better to have the freedom to adjust your training as you see fit for the specific goal. it is not the tool, exercise or rep scheme that determines your success; it is your attitude and effort towards lifting greater resistance on the basic exercises that does this.

Do not label yourself. When you become a disciple of any one of the many camps in the field of strength you close the door to many other good training methods. Strength training is not an either-or conflict. Take the good parts of each training camp and discard the bad from your training. Your own instincts, knowledge and experience has to override what any one camp may say. You do not want to be bound by one individual camp and their training methods. Instead, you want a large tool box of methods so that you have the opportunity to choose the right tool for the right job.

Be a label-free zone like is not a HIT, DINO, Super Slow, Hard Gainer, NSCA, BFS or Starting Strength site. All training philosophies and methods of training are welcome as long as they are drug-free and productive. The site promotes the best of each training method and highlights the commonalities between the groups. It’s the basic principles that they share that makes the training successful, not the differences.

Successful drug-free lifters all utilize he same basic principles. They train their whole body with the basic compound exercises. They ensure to place equal emphasis on pushing and pulling for both the upper and lower body. They also train hard, prioritize load progression and always plan for enough recovery between workouts. How they incorporate the specific modes and methods into their training is of minor importance and based on the individual. Jim Duggan, Linda Jo Belisto, Bob Whelan and Jamie LaBelle’s are just a few examples of successful lifters who demonstrate different variations on how they apply the same basic principles to their training, based off of their goals and enjoyment.

You can train in a pyramid set fashion, straight sets, super sets or one set per exercise. You can train to failure or just shy of complete muscular fatigue. You can use train with high repetitions or low repetitions, with good machines or free weights with great success. There is no one rep/set scheme or rest interval that is always the right choice. What matter is if you train hard and progressively and specific to your goal and interest.

You should be able to enjoy your training and not feel confined to only one method of training. I know guys who miss training with heavy weights and using a mix of free weights and machines, but refuse to switch up their training because they label themselves Super Slow. The tools and methods you decide to use has nothing to do with the foundation of strength training. As long as you train the whole body hard with equal emphasis on pushing and pulling, with poundage progression as the main goal you can make many methods work! It is good for both your body and your mind to switch your training up and set new goals.

Make a strategic change every four to five months based off your goals. Alternate the rep ranges you are using for your exercise every few months. Don’t be afraid to experiment with higher reps for a period of time and then with lower reps. If you are always training on machines and want to train on free weights, switch up your tools for four months. Train in a high intensity format for several weeks if you’re an in-season athlete and time is tight. Then, if in the off-season you want to see how strong you can get take the next few months to train with straight sets and a lot of rest to see how much you can increase your poundage’s. Listen to how your body feels and chase after goals that will keep your motivation high. You will become much bigger and stronger this way rather than if you settle for a dogmatic approach.

Brooks Kubik said it best in Dinosaur Training, “The common denominator for all guys who are serious about their training is very simple: THEY TRAIN HARD! They may use different equipment, do different exercise, use different set/rep schemes and so on, but the bottom line is always the same: HARD Work!” Skip the internet wars and go out there and find the training approaches that excites you the most. If anyone asks you which camp you belong to, respond with the “Hard, progressive, drug-free training camp”.
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Does modern bodybuilding make you sick? You should write for Natural Strength! I always need good articles about drug-free weight training. It only has to be at least a page and nothing fancy. Just write it strong and truthful with passion! Send your articles directly to me:

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