The original strongmen and their fascinating feats of strength, 1890-1940


In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, strongmen demonstrated their incredible prowess as circus performers and entertainers compared to competitive athletes.

Originating in Europe and spreading to the United States, material cultists consisted of strong men and women who regularly competed against each other for prestige and popularity. Later, part of this culture turned to bodybuilding.

In the past, strongmen would perform various feats of strength such as the bent press (not to be confused with the bench press, which did not exist at the time), arm length, bending steel, supporting large amounts of weight on chains. break, etc.

These feats required a great deal of wrist, hand and tendon strength, as well as prodigious oblique strength. Other tricks included turning iron bars, balancing the arm, lifting strange objects (barrels, anvils, anchors, people), and doing all kinds of other crazy things.

Some of the most famous talismans stood out from the rest by performing strange or brand new feats of strength that they claimed only they could accomplish, that they would challenge other artists.

Louis Cyre, a French-Canadian strongman born in Quebec, claimed to have lifted a horse off the ground with his early strong showing. And while touring with the Ringling Brothers Circus, 5'10" 230 lbs. Sire carried a stage 18-man on his back.

Born in France, Pierre Gasnier eventually became known as the "French Hercules". His claim to fame was breaking an iron chain by extending his rib across his chest.

Gasnier, who was only 5'3" and 143 pounds, eventually went on tour with the Barnum and Bailey Circus, among other adventures, by ripping a deck of cards in half and lifting a 260-pound barbell over his head.

Joe Holtum: Joe Holtum's biggest move was the 'cannonball catch'. In case you don't know what's involved, he'll basically stand in front of a cannon and catch the ball with his bare hands and absorb the impact into his chest.

It's an incredible example of reflexive, negative power as well as reactions and technique. The first time he tried this trick, he lost many fingers.

Angus McAskill: McAskill's most impressive feats include lifting an anchor weighing 2,800lbs, as well as carrying two barrels weighing 300lbs+ each at once (one under each arm). He was sometimes called 'McAskill the Giant' as he weighed 508lbs at 7ft 4in.

Arthur Saxon: Arthur Saxon (who would later be joined by his brothers to become the 'Saxon Brothers'), best known for performing 'Bent Press'. It was a move in which he lifted a barbell above his head with one hand from a crouched position. His official record is 371 lbs, although unofficial reports claim he gained all the way up to 409 lbs.

What makes this achievement impressive is that the record has still not been officially broken (although Eugene Sandow claims to have equaled it), despite being set in the 19th century.

Thomas Topham: Thomas Topham not only lifted 224 lbs above his head with his little fingers, but also managed to lift a 1,386 lbs barrel full of water by a rope onto a suspended platform.

The term strongman evolved in the late 20th century to describe a person who competes in strength athletics – a more modern eclectic strength competition in which competitors use their raw functional power to lift rocks, tug at refrigerators, trains. Demonstrate through exercises such as pulling, pulling the eighteen-wheel. Trucks behind them, etc.

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