Wednesday, October 26, 2022

The Miraculous Strength & Influence Of Louis Cyr - By James Athanasiou

It's hard to comprehend the level of strength and potential Louis Cyr forced the world to witness. Since his strongman debut, he never stopped pushing the boundaries of what was thought impossible. Today, we're diving into the rise, the glory, the unique assets and the unfortunate end of a legend.


1: The Early Life: Standing Out Already


One could argue that his genetic gifts were apparent even before he was born, since his mother was a tremendous 6'1'' 265lbs woman.  Born as Cyprien-Noé Cyr in 1863, in Quebec Canada, he was forced to exploit his strength through a very early labor at both a lumber unit and his family's farm. It was this exposure to manual labor that allowed the world to witness his already outstanding feats.


During that stage, Cyprien had two great influences in his life. He was first inspired to follow the training principles of the ancient Greek athlete Milo, who carried a bull on his back at a young age, discovering for progressive overload as both he and the bull grew up together. 


However, due to an unprecedented incident with his calf, Cyprien was forced to use a sandback progressively loaded by 2lbs each day. His mother's admiration for his feats led to his association with Samson, the biblical character who possesses superhuman strength through his long hair. Sampson would carry on the legacy of Sampson, alongside his long hair.


Having left school at an early age to work in a lumber camp within the winter and in his father's farm the rest of the year, Louis had all the time to experiment with animals and objects to increase his strength rapidly. For instance, at age 14 he moved 15 bushes of grain for a total of 900lbs for 15ft.


A year later, Cyprien lifted a farmer's heavy loaded wagon, attracting enough publicity to get him a shot at competing with Canada's strongest man, a strongman he ended up beating at just age 17, weighing a full 230lbs. After his family moved to Massachusetts in 1878, the now named Louis had the chance to further develop his talent.


2: The Dawn Of The Strongman Era


5 years after his first strongman encounter, Louis would make his official debut in Boston, lifting a fully grown male horse off the floor. Although he met great success whenever he competed, his main occupations varied over time, since his profits from strongman were very little in the early stages of his lifting.


In 1882, he worked as a logger. Then he switched careers, enrolling as a police officer for 3 years. He landed the job by carrying two knife fight participants to the police station. Even though he was initially turned away for being thought of as too heavy, Louis beat the majority of them in a foot race, despite weighing around 290lbs.


Although many of his lifts became exaggerated over the years, there were witnesses to some incredible feats that stand unbeatable to this day. Some of which include:


  • Lifting a platform with 18 men standing on top on his back for a total weight of over 4,300lbs (his most famous feat)

  • Lifting 534lbs with just one finger

  • Lifting a 514lbs rock off the ground to his shoulder, aged only 19

  • Lifting 273lbs in the Bent Press, beating Eugen Sandow's record by 2lbs

  • Resisting the pull of four draught horses, a feat he would perform publicly many times during his career


3. The Mythical Size Of Louis


There's been great debate on the numbers that are mentioned. However, they are an important testament to Louis's superhuman build. In 1985, he was measured by a Harvard professor, putting up the following numbers:


  • Height: 5ft 8.5inch

  • Weight: 291 lbs

  • Neck: 20 inches

  • Biceps: 20 inches

  • Forearms: 16 inches

  • Wrists: 8 inches

  • Chest: 55 inches (normal), 60 inches (expanded)

  • Waist: 47 inches

  • Hips: 48 inches

  • Thighs: 28.5 inches

  • Knees: 17 inches

  • Calves: 19 inches


These already incredible measurements were said to have increased by up to 20% and his weight by up to 70lbs in his late 40s. He never weighed in lighter than 270, in contrast to his wife who never surpassed 100lbs. 


4. The Rise To Fame


By the time he got married, Louis began arranging tours all over Canada and America. His first tour in the Maritimes ended up producing zero profit for him. During his officer years, he teamed up with a boxer and a wrestler and a weightlifter.


His next competition came in 1886, where he would go on to become the strongest man in Canada. Perhaps his greatest appeal to the public was within Britain, where at one time, during his London debut in the Royal Aquarium, 5,000 people, including many celebrities, gathered to watch his feats. The side wager that night was £1000 ( equivalent to about around $100k as of today ). In Montreal, 10,000 people witnessed him performing the iconic four horse pull.


Like every other strongman of this era, his displays varied, including some wrestling matches to feed the public's interest. He learned the techniques to face Édouard Beaupré in 1901, a giant of a man at a height of 8ft 3inch. Both men weighed in exactly 365lbs, with Louis being the decisive winner.


Throughout his career, he faced off and humbled many great athletes, including Cyclops, Sebastian Miller and Richard Pennell. He never managed to compete with Eugen Sandow, as Sandow became very picky of his opponents after suffering an early loss to McCann. People were so eager to see such a contest that a genuine diamond studded belt was to be offered to the winner.


5. The Exciting Persona Of Louis


As the years went on, Louis embraced the identity of the "Strongest Man On Earth" more than anything. He was fueled by the crowd's astonishment, eager to present the world with more and more unique feats.


Rumors say that during a meeting of his with the Queen of England at the Buckingham Palace, Louis attempted to impress her by digging his heels into a, certainly expensive, red carpet and ripping it in two with ease. 


Like many of the strongmen in his era, Louis was also a charismatic showman. Conducting numerous tours with his family and his brother Pierre around Europe, Canada, USA and Britain from 1888 to 1897. Having already developed his own circus in Canada by 1994, his team would provide spectacular shows for five consecutive years.


He never once backed down from a challenge, oftentimes battling titans of strength with favorable terms for them - still coming out on top. When he didn't lift horses or dozens of men in carts and platforms, he would spend his time quietly working a regular job, either as a tavern owner, a police officer or a laborer. Truly a humble man, Louis let his actions speak louder than any words.


6. The Downfall Of Samson


Sadly, the very thing that enhanced his already surreal abilities ended up causing him irreplaceable damage. His eating habits led to a rapid health decline in 1904. During that era, he had to cut down from 400lbs just to compete at his last ever contest, retaining his title till the very end.


In Montreal 1912, Louis Cyr passed away due to chronic nephritis. Great homage was paid by people all over the world, particularly from his homeland of Canada. In Montreal, Parc Louis Cyr and Place des Homme-Forts are named after him, while statues of his have been scattered throughout Quebec and his parks.


The story of Louis is that of a man who pursued what was natural to him. Never backing down from challenges, always pushing his body's potential. It's truly a miracle when an athlete gets to unleash his potential the way Louis Cyr chose to do.


I urge everyone to push harder on his training in honor of Louis, perhaps the strongest man ever gifted to Earth. Just keep a reminder on how your journey is more like a marathon's runner rather than that of a sprinter. Don't try to rush through things, respect the weight and dedicate time to listening to your body's needs. I wish everyone Strength and fulfillment through your training, thank you for sticking till the end.


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: bobwhelan@naturalstrength.com
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