T Nation

Old Tyme Strength


The more I research, the more I realize how weak most of us are compared to the old tyme lifters of physical culture.

For example, I came upon this page today about chin-up strength feats on John Gill's website:

There is also a ton of info regarding these amazing men here:

These guys were herculean in their efforts.

An aside:

So why are we so damn weak?
I'm sure some it has something to do with the fact that our food sucks, plain and simple. Back then, a farm was a FARM, where animals, plants, and soil were properly cultivated. You could eat real grass-fed beef, nutrient dense vegetables, drink delicious milk.

Organic farming is the way to go for healthy bodies and minds.


The strongest of humans are getting stronger and stronger as generations go by. This is a fact.


We lead pussy lives, with everything coming easier with each passing year. Lacking impetus to develop mental toughness, we find ourselves less willing to strive for these fitness accomplishments.

They worked for that strength.


I love reading about the old timers of strength training, they are who inspire the most to train. My heroes are many but a few of my favorites are John Grimek, Reg Park, and Sig Klein.

cool links:





These guys were old school no bullshit and fucking strong, no fancy training programs, the just flat out trained hard and listened to their body.


you eat and drink to much s...

that is the problem nowadays - furthermore there is too much crap in the food that hurts your body and makes you weak


1) I do believe that food grown today has minuscule amounts of previously unidentified and important micronutrients. I lived in a European village for 2 weeks and there is something diffent about the food. I only ate about 1500 cal/day but felt satiated without being stuffed. I primarily ate 3-4 eggs, 2 cups of "buttermilk" about 1/4 pound of various mushrooms, garden vegetables and raspberries.

2) I think most of the one arm pullup stuff is just a freak thing. I went into the weight room at the highschool where I work on friday, and there was a slim kid I'd had in class doing pullups like nothing. I want to be totally honest here and not risk embellishing, but he was in the middle of a set and did about 20 with no apparent effort and I asked one of the kids about it. I was told that he regularly did sets of 1-arm chins. This guy was no physical specimen except for being lean and having huge forearms.


OAC = one armed chin up


We don't have strong backs, plain and simple. People think picking up heavy stuff will cause you to hurt yourself, so they don't do it. Talk to most people that "work out" and they don't bother to squat consistently and they don't even know what a deadlift is. Not many people train their grip either, and that is essential. Farmboys rarely need grip training because their hands are strong from the work they did growing up, city boys need to train their grip. Makes a huge difference to do these three things.

Natural foods always beat supplements. People seem to consume "supplements" as foods instead of comprehending the name of what they are taking. They are called "SUPPLEMENTS", as in take them in addition to actual food not in lieu of it.




I agree with you about the organic food thing.

Anyway, I think you are using different exercises to illustrate strength in athletes. Yes, these guys were strong, but who trains for that stuff any more? I don't know anyone who can do a one armed chin up, but then, I don't know anyone who has tried.

If you are going to compare strength between generations, you would logically use the same exercises. In these lifts, (clean and jerk, bench, squat, etc) the records are still going up.


The records are still going up, yes, but how many of them are set raw these days? When Eder first crested over 400 lbs in bench press, he hit it at a body weight of 185, and did it on a public beach -- no bench shirt, no chalk, nothing fancy about what he did.

Grimek used to squat with poundages that would make most modern trainees' heads spin, and would crank it out for high reps. Feats that even modern lifters might have trouble with... never mind doing it without knee wraps, a belt, or a special squat suit.

This is not to belittle the strength athletes of today -- they do remarkable work and put heart and soul into their training. I think, though, that by the very nature of how ecclectic training was back then, that the original strongmen/bodybuilders were far more adaptable. Insane grip strength, excellent flexibility, fine proportion, and outrageous power.


And the smartest of humans are getting smarter and smarter as generations go by.

Yet, the average human is weaker and dumber as generations go by!


What "crap" is in the food that makes you weak?


If you look at how the very early guys trained, it was three times per week, and full body!

That might have something to do with their ability.


my friend has worked on a farm all his life

first time benching: 225 for 5
first time deadlifting: 365 for 2


If raw benching is the measure, then people are getting stronger. 600 lb raw presses are not all that rare today- see ponomarenko, mendelsohn, et al- basically any guy cracking off 800, 900 plus in a shirt is doing 600 raw in the gym, maybe for a few reps. A 600lb single was not seen in a
meet until the late 1950's. However, except for ocassional exhibitions (e.g. NE Record Breakers), the strongest benchers competed shirted. I think overall, stenght athletes are stronger and here's why they are stronger- they are bigger, they have better technique they have access to more sophisticated training methods, and the fact that the drugs are better doesn't hurt either. I still think Grimek and Sandow are real damn cool though.


I'm more a fan of Samson and Paul Bunyan. Now those guys were strong.


True! None of the superheavies today could come close to Kazmaier's raw lifts, and he was a pec bencher, and did his squats close stance, rock bottom and with a pause in competition.

None of the superheavies approaches what Paul Anderson could do Raw.

And nobody could match what Ed Coan did in single ply.

Kaz squatted over 900 and pulled 880+ without equipment and with deliberately strict form and pauses. I have talked with many equiped powerlifters who tell me that a good suit gets you +200 to +300, and about +50 on the deadlift, and +200-250 in the bench at the superheavy level. That's 3000 for sure.


See, you've derived the concept of evolutionary pressure!


Yes, but I bet that the range of motion of competition bench presses today is less than half of what it was even in the early 80's. I also bet that pauses were stricter then.

I have read guys today saying that their bench press stroke is right at 5 inches. Kazmaier benched 661 from the pecs which with his armspan would have to be 24 inches or more right?


Most of the big raw benchers are still built pretty much like the big raw benchers of the past and have a regular ROM. A big arch is more conducive to a shirted bench than a flat bench. Mendy's 715 was fairly traditional from that standpoint, and I think he weighed a little bit less than Kaz. The pause on the 715 was legitimate (however one of his 700lb benches had a non-existant pause).

I also doubt that Kaz had a 24 inch stroke...we've got guys that lift with us that are 6'6" and above with long arms that would have a hard time getting a 24 inch stroke. I am not disrespecting Kaz at all, as he is an all-time great, but please don't disrespect those that lift today based on assumptions and stereotypes. Not to mention that 90% of our top guys never lift raw, so we don't even know what they are capable of, but of the few that do, there are some freaks.

The raw (belt only) deadlift has also gone up...Bolton pulled his original 932 WR in just a belt and a singlet, and I think Frank pulled his 931 the same way, but I could be wrong about that. I imagine Magnusson could do similar weights in just a belt.