October 30, 2015
Bert Elliott was a bodybuilding champ in the 1950's and 60's who had an interest in real oldtime strength training. He even shaved his head and dressed like a turn of the century strongman to complete the effect. Here's Burt standing in front of some pieces of his famous collection of oldtime equipment: chest expanders, globe barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells and Indian Clubs. (Note the very old Hand Grippers on the wall.)
October 30, 2015
When most people think of Nautilus Machines they picture cams and weight stacks, which were certainly the case... But later on, Nautilus came out with a series of leverage pieces with the look of machines yet the feel of free weights. Pictured here is Cincinnati Bengals All-Pro Linebacker Reggie Williams demonstrating the shrug/row combo piece. This photograph was taken in the world famous "Kong Room" and if you were ever there, you sure never forgot it.
October 30, 2015
They used to call Charles Vansittart "The Man With The Iron Grip" for good reason -- he could bend an Old English penny, rip a tennis ball in half and bend a spike like the one pictured above. Bending bars, spikes and nails has always been a traditional Oldtime Strongman feat, not only do many people find it incredibly impressive but merely doing it will build tremedous strength throughout the entire body. You can tell that rectangular stock (like the spike above) was actually hand bent by the shape. If a piece of steel was truly hand bent, it will bend on the angle, not the flat edge.
October 28, 2015
A bit on finger lifting from George F. Jowett, circa, 1924: "So far as lifting weights with the fingers goes, I believe that Warren Lincoln Travis is the best man in the world. He certainly is the best that I ever met, in raising weights off the floor with the aid of his fingers. I have seen him make several big lifts with two fingers, but the best he ever did was the time he celebrated his fiftieth birthday, when he raised the terrific weight of eight hundred and eighty-one and one-half pounds, using just one finger of each hand. I was the referee on that occasion, and was proud to see Travis raise the world's record so high. On the one finger lift, he has done around five hundred and sixty pounds, while John Pagano has also raised over five hundred pounds with one finger. The lift is not made with the bare finger, as you are no doubt aware. The finger could not grasp the object to lift it. The middle finger is used, and on it the lifter fits an iron eye that has a hook attached, which grabs the object to be lifted. It is necessary that the eye should fit tightly upon the finger up at the first joint, as close to the knuckle of the hand as possible, as the finger is crooked, the eye locks thereon. Just the same it has to be raised off the floor, and that takes power. The ligament of that finger becomes very thick. In some cases, I have seen it become so thick that it made the finger crooked. A few years ago I met an old Swedish lifter who had quit the profession, but in his day was claimed to be a great finger lifter. I remember quite well that the middle finger of his right hand was almost twice as large as any of his other fingers, just from practicing that lift." Unfortunately we don't know the gent pictured above but he has a pretty sweet setup, and that barrel, if filled completely, must weigh somewhere between 300-400lbs. which makes a very worthy feat.
October 25, 2015
A rare poster advertising the strongman duo of Franz "Cyclops" Bienkowski and Charles A. Sampson. Sampson's Harness Lift is highlighted.
October 24, 2015
Eugen Waddell was a member of the famed "Jackson Trio" and the only man we know of who could replicate Bob Jones' signature feat of standing atop a series of Indian Clubs and flicking them away one-by-one until left balancing only on his thumbs.
October 20, 2015
Here's a strength feat that we've never seen before: The Double Backlift! This was performed by Erik Petterson and Arvid Anderson who were both great Swedish strongmen in the 1920s. I count 23 people, so a conservative estimate of this lift would be around 3500 lbs. ~ which ain't bad at all. 
October 18, 2015
Now here's a curious one: We have several rare shots of the great French weightlifter Ernest Cadine with these interesting pieces of equipment. You could make the case that they have the trappings of kettlebells but they appear to be used more like dumbbells with an unusual twist. The counterweight can be adjusted along the handle to increase or decrease the resistance but the resulting torque of holding them in place must be tremendous which means even curls, presses or other basic movements would be terrific grip developers. Cadine was certainly no slouch in the forearm department. We've never seen these advertised so they must have been for his own personal use.
October 18, 2015
To promote his first tour of America in 1894, Sandow lent his image to his own brand of cigars. Sandow knew what he was doing and this tactic clearly worked as his shows were all well attended. This was one of the first, if not THE first "celebrity endorsement" which are commonplace today with athletes, film stars and the like.
October 18, 2015
Edward Traver and Robert Shank were two lads from Schenectady, New York who ran off and joined the Vaudeville circuit as "The King Brothers - Herculean Comedy Athletes!" The duo performed hand-balancing feats and were featured in Ripley's Believe It or Not. They were at their peak in the teens and 20's and once even  shared the stage with Will Rogers in Atlanta. Unfortunately we're not sure which of the King brothers is featured in the rare postcard above but all that hand-balancing work has certainly built an impressive pair of arms for this fellow.
October 18, 2015
  A Surprise to Harvard   Last Tuesday afternoon, a number of Harvard students were given a great surprise by a sturdy little French athlete Pierre Gasnier, whose exhibitions of strength have been one of the features of the great Barnum & Baily shows for the past six years. Gasnier was introduced to Professor Sargent. After Professor Sargent had made a thorough examination and taken the different measurements of the tremendous athlete. Gasnier, in the presence of over 150 of Harvard's best athletes performed feats of strength which called forth unstinted applause from the students and caused Professor Sarent to step forward, shake the hand of Gasnier and exclaim "Gasnier, you are a physical marvel!"Among the more difficult feats accomplished by the sturdy Frenchman were the breaking of a piece of chain which had been tested to sustain a weight of 750 pounds by expanding the chest... breaking a similar piece of chain with his biceps... stretching three strands of rubber out to arm's length while the combined strengths of five students could only stretch then four inches... lifting and placing at arm's length above the head, with one hand, a dumb-bell, the largest and heaviest in the gymnasium, weighing over 200 pounds... and many more feats of strength just as extraordinary. Considering the size and weight of the man, Professor Sargent says "all of his feats of strength are marvelous," Pierre Gasnier stands a little under 5 feet 3 inches in height and weighs 137 pounds yet his chest measurement is 47 inches.                                        - The Boston Post, Nov. 17, 1903.
October 15, 2015
Here's Joseph "The Mighty Atom" Greenstein supporting what looks like 14 people on his chest while lying on a bed of nails.  Doesn't look like The Atom is even breaking a sweat.
October 15, 2015
For a period of a few years, John Grimek didn't touch a weight of any kind... no barbells, no dumbbells, no nothing BUT he still continued to maintain and even enhance his impressive physique by focusing intently on his hand-balancing skills. The great thing about hand-balancing is that it's a lot like riding a bike, once you learn how to do it, you never forget. This classic shot of Grimek looks like it was probably taken in Bob Hoffman's back yard in North York, PA.
October 15, 2015
Here's another strength feat by young Arthur Santell, 19 years old at the time, performing "The Tomb of Hercules" with eight lovely ladies. This picture was taken on April, 28th, 1931 in his hometown of Los Angeles, California and ran in newspapers all over the country.

October, 2015