JOHN Y. SMITH:
The Man With Iron Claw Hands
John Y. Smith bent-pressing sometime around 1900. This unique dumbbell weighs 185 pounds and Smith could clean and bent-press it easily for multiple reps.
On April 22nd, 1866 the great strongman John Y. Smith was born. Though not a large man - (5'6" and 165 lbs. in his prime), he
possessed tremendous full-body strength, especially in his hands and forearms (which were said to resemble 'iron claws' due to years of thick-bar deadlifting.)
While, it certainly was not unusual for old time strongmen to possess greater-than-average grip and forearm strength, John Y. Smith stood head and shoulders above many of his contemporaries in this department. Sometime in 1903 at around 31 years of age, he was said to have picked up a 220 lb. barbell in his right hand, a 200 lb. barbell in his left hand and with these two weights walked 75 yards!
If this feat doesn't sound all that tough, consider that the diameter of each barbell was 1.5 inches. He was also said to have been able to hang by one hand from a manila climbing rope while holding a 100 lb. dumbbell in the other hand.
In 1926, John Y. Smith won the "Strongest Man in New England Contest" which was held on the playing field of the Boston Braves. The contested lifts included:
Smith beat all comers and won the contest by 15 pounds -- keep in mind he was 60 years old at the time.
Aside from his grip feats, Smith was very proficient in other lifts as well. He was a tremendous bent-presser with a lift of 275.5 lbs. (performed at a bodyweight of 160 lbs.) He also lifted a 1640 lb. block of iron in a "hand and thigh" set-up and could overhead press a pair of dumbbells totaling 225 lbs.