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Louis Cyr "The Canadian Colossus"

Louis Cyr Circus Poster
The great Canadian Strongman, Louis Cyr traveled and performed with The John Robinson Circus during the 1898 season. According to records, Cyr's measurements at the time were as follows:

  • Width across shoulders: 27 inches
  • Neck: 23 inches
  • Forearm: 19 inches
  • Bicep: 21.5 inches
  • Waist: 52 inches
  • Thigh: 29-3/4 inches
  • Calf: 24 inches
  • Chest: 59.5 inches
  • John Robinson's challenge was whether any man could equal or better any one of Cyr's feats... With numbers like a backlift of 4300 pounds and a one-arm Jerk of 254 pounds, needless to say, the money was very safe.

    Apollon: King of Strength

    Louis Uni, the French Strongman known professionally as "Apollon," was certainly one of the greatest, if not the greatest strongman who ever lived. It was Apollon, along with Louis Cyr who were dubbed "Les Rois de la Force" (Kings of Strength) by Professor Desbonnet because their strength was so far above and beyond the ordinary.

    Apollon, who was at his peak during the 1890s, stood 6"2' and, in solid muscular condition, around 260 pounds.

    While he was certainly thickly-muscled and strong all over, he excelled in grip an forearm feats, especially lifting thick handled weights, such as the Challenge Weight that bears his name.  Also of note is the fact that even though this images was taken well over a hundred years ago with crude photographic equipment by today's standards, Apollons tremendous "core" strength -- built through years of heavy one-arm and two-arm overhead lifting -- is evident.

    York Isometric Power Rack

    Isometrics were all the rage in the 1960s although you don't hear much about them these days.

    Here's a special rack made by The York Barbell Company created just for performing Isometrics (model W.W.) This is also the very same type of rack that Bruce Lee trained on.

    Unknown Strongman #1

    There were hundreds, if not thousands of strongmen who were very successful yet never got their due since the flow of information back then is certainly not what it is today. Consequently, there are many examples of oldtime strongmen whose images remain but whose names are lost to history. Here's one example of an image you probably haven't seen before and won't see anywhere else. We don't know who this guy is, but he certainly had excellent taste in equipment.

    W.A. Pullum's Challenge

    W.A. Pullum was a great British Strongman who set scores of strength records during his competitive career. Like many Oldtime Strongmen, Pullum had his own strength challenge. Using the special thick-handled globe barbell shown here, a lifter had to do a "Two Hands Anyhow" with a poundage equal to 1-1/2 times his own bodyweight and simultaneously lift a kettlebell loaded a third of the barbell poundage with the other hand.

    Pullum used to perform this "double-bodyweight" feat twelve times per week but in all his years, his "challenge" was never accepted.

    Peary Rader and The Magic Circle

    The Magic Circle

    The most satisfactory device yet found for doing quarter, half and full squats -- for doing Hise Shoulder Shrugs and other heavy poundage exercises where weight is held on shoulders. It has made squatting a pleasure by removing the agonizing and sometimes paralyzing pain and discomfort of a heavy bar across the shoulders cutting into the flesh and putting pressure o the spine.

    The "Magic Circle" gives a freedom for deep breathing in the popular and result-producing "Breathing Squats" for the exerciser can stand erect and breathe normally with a high lift of the chest at every breath, and is not compelled to hump over forward and breathes it the abdominal area as with a bar.

    In use, the "Magic Circle" is loaded up on the side pegs (unless you go over 700 lbs., in which case you have front and back pegs to load on), step in the circle (which is supported on side horses or boxes), lift shoulder straps onto shoulders, center straps, stand erect and walk away from stand and begin squats in normal manner.

    When finished, walk back to stands and lower ring to supporting rack. While squatting it helps to grasp ring in front and pull slightly toward you. If you get stuck at bottom you place hands on legs and push upward to recover. No more getting stuck at bottom, will hold 1200 lbs. or more.


    If you read Iron Man Magazine in the 70's you remember Peary Rader demonstrating the Magic Circle. Peary's using 425 pounds in this picture. and making it look easy .

    I actually grew up with one in our basement gym -- that's right a fully functioning Magic Circle, one of the last ones left. I don't like using it for squats -- it changes the center of gravity in the bottom position too much for my taste. Though not necessarily the same concept, (but very much along the same lines), a Gerard Trap Bar will give you a much better leg workout.

    Doug Hepburn

    Doug Hepburn was born in Vancouver B.C. on September 16th,
    1927. He was of average height and build and took up weight lifting to bulk up. Soon it became very apparent that Doug wasn't so average after all...

    Although he had a slight handicap (a club foot) that did not stop him from becoming one of the most powerful men in history.

    He became a Senior World Champion in 1953 and set eight World Records during his career.

    Here's a look at his best lifts:

    Right Hand Military Press: 175 lbs.
    Two Hands Press (Off Rack): 440 lbs.
    Behind Neck Press : 350 lbs.
    Two Hands Curl: 260 lbs.
    Bench Press: 580 lbs.
    Jerk-Press (Off Rack): 500lbs
    Two Hands Snatch: 297-1/2 lbs.
    Two Hands Clean & Press: 381 lbs.
    Squat: 760 lbs.
    Two Hands Deadlift: lbs.

























    George Jowett's Molding Library

    Jowett Molding library

    The great strongman George Jowett's "Molding Library" consisted of a number of short training courses devoted to the development of various areas of the body. There were over twenty booklets in all, some more rare than others. The most well known titles of his Molding Library are:

    • Molding a Mighty Arm
    • Molding a Mighty Chest
    • Molding a Mighty Back
    • Molding a Mighty Grip
    • Molding Mighty Legs
    • Strongman Stunts Made Easy

    Jowett's course on grip training can be found with our other classic grip courses.

    H.E. Mann

    Robert Edward "H.E" Mann, of Germantown, Tennessee, followed in the footsteps of Milo of Crotona... He began with a 35-pound Jersey bull calf and lifted it daily. A year later, the bull weighed in at over 500 pounds. The animal kept growing and Mann kept training - eventually the bull weighed over 800 pounds, and Mann was able to carry it 60 yards on his back.

    The Sandow Health and Strength Cocoa Token

    Sandow's Health and Strength CocoaEugen Sandow was bodybuilding's first superstar and lent his likeness to a number of different products, including cigars, pins and a chocolate cocoa drink.  Sandow's Cocoa didn't last long. Some of other big chocolate manufacturers saw Sandow's brand as a threat. They who lowered their prices and forced Sandow out of the market.   The factory, which opened in 1913, shut down production in 1916.

    Tokens, like the one shown above, were used for the promotion of Sandow's Cocoa and are quite rare.  The image shown here has been enlarged to roughly twice the size to show detail.

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