Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Old-Tymers Were Crazy

Feats of strength have been around for as long as men have been and their exploits, real and mythical, are well documented.  The ancient Greeks blessed heroes like Hercules with great strength.  Samson and Goliath of the Biblical tradition captivated and intimidated with their great strength.  Milo of Croton was the first to try progressive overload by lifting a newborn calf every day until it was a full grown bull.  Even in present day we give our superheroes the strength abilities of multiple men.

Then you have the Highland games of medieval Scotland which are undergoing a current revival today along with strongman contests such as World’s Strongest Man.  Strongman has been gaining popularity since the mid-seventies and it owes much of its beginnings to the physical culture from a century before.  

Some of the most interesting characters in strength athletics came from the physical culture of the mid to late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  This was way before the standardization of lifts and equipment alike.  Men like Arthur Saxon, Hermann Goerner, Louis Cyr, Thomas Inch, and Eugene Sandow captivated and thrilled crowds of thousands as they traveled with circuses or as their own stand-alone stage acts.  You also guys like Ed Zercher and Paul Anderson who were the forerunners to today’s gym rats who were constantly coming up with different things to do in the gym.

Stories of their acts and feats of strength are as numerous as they are interesting and entertaining (at least to me) and entire books have been written on their amazing physical prowess.  All this article aims to do is to bring forward a few of the crazier feats and acts that these men put on to earn a few pints of ale and leg of mutton.

Horse Lifting
I'm sure PETA would have something to say about this.

Lifting Multiple Humans At One Time

Lifting With Their Teeth

The Human Chain
Today's permutations are done with cars, motorcycles, and sometimes jets.

Nail Driving
The guy in the picture, Siegmund Breitbart, died after he accidentally punctured his leg with a nail.  Talk about going all in for your craft.

Catching (and apparently balancing) 50 lb. Cannon Balls
I really wish this kind of thing was still around.

Bending Things That Aren’t Supposed To Bend

The Two Hands Anyhow
This is performed by hoisting the barbell onto the shoulder.  Then bent pressing it, grabbing the kettlebell waiting on the floor and then standing erect with both objects.  Arthur Saxon's record is just north of 370 total pounds.  Give it a shot some day.

Odd Object Lifting
These lifts are still done in many gyms and contests today.  I-beams, stones, kegs, and logs are some of the more popular ones.

The First Leg Press

This is Ed Zercher, inventor of the Zercher squat.  He kind of looks like Gandhi.  But he was brave if nothing else.

So as you can see it doesn't take much in the way of equipment to become an awesome strongman.  All it takes is some creativity, some iron-working skills, and an awesome mustache.  One other thing if you want to be an Olde-Tyme Strongman, you can't call lifts by their current names.  Squats are Deep Knee Bends, Bench Press is Prone Press from Chest to Arm's Length, and so on.  Gentlemen, START YOUR MUSTACHES!


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