T Nation


Okay, since I’m a fan of the “old time” drug-free bodybuilders, and because I think that these are the very people that today’s weightlifting newbies should try to emulate – no, I’m not preaching here, so please don’t get offended – I thought I’d post an occasional trivia question to highlight some of these old timers’ accomplishments. This first question will be easy, but rest assured they’ll get more difficult with each one. (If you know the answer without having to think about it much – which I hope a lot of you will – please refrain from posting it right away. Try to let those people who don’t research it first; after all, that’s the whole point of this little series of mine.)

Okay, let’s start. Question: This late old timer is regarded by many as the greatest drug-free bodybuilder in the history of the sport. His accomplishments include winning the Mr. America title twice, being a member of the 1936 U.S. Olympic weightlifting team, and winning the Mr. Universe in 1948 and the Mr. USA in 1949. He was also an expert swimmer, diver, and acrobat, and he reportedly could come within a half-inch of touching his elbows to the floor while standing (keeping his legs locked in a straight position, of course). He could also rip a deck of regulation playing cards in half without any effort whatsoever, and he could perform one-arm chins, handstands, backbends, jumping splits and numerous contortive stretches that would make a yoga instructor envious. He died on November 20, 1998, at the age of 88. Who was this very essence of the T-man?

John Grimek?

thats who i would have guessed.

Definitely John Grimek.

Two of the things that amazed me most about Grimek, though, weren’t mentioned in Bob’s brief bio. Now, these things I learned from Grimek’s old column in MuscleMag, but Grimek was no braggart and I’m sure the stories are true.

He told about how when he was a young man, during the Depression, what he and other young men often had to do was stand waiting in line all day, trying to get jobs. He had too much energy to just do that, so he got up extremely early in the morning and went running, then went back home and got ready for his hoped-for job interviews. This exercise kept him feeling like he was doing something.

Much later in life, in his 70s I think, he went back to this area (upstate New York I think) and drove his car along the same route that he used to run.

He was running over 20 miles every morning!

Now while that is not all that impressive for some skinny guy that is a born distance runner, for a muscular strength athlete like Grimek the ability also to do endurance exercise like this – and for fun yet!! – is astounding.

And secondly, though not to parallel, he was able to squat over 600 lb in his 70s.

If anyone has been a genetic superman physically, Grimek was.

Good job, guys, as the person in question is indeed John Grimek.

I’d like to add something about Mr. Grimek that may have not been apparent in either my original post or Bill’s follow-up story (which I’d never heard before, so thanks Bill): Although he was undoubtedly one of the genetically elite, Grimek also had an attitude regarding training that few others then or since have possessed.

One example of Grimek's drive to excel is the little-known fact during the 1937 National Weightlifting Championship in Wyandotte, Michigan, Grimek missed all his presses, snatches, clean and jerks, plus two extra attempts. Simply put, he lost royally.

After that, Grimek trained harder, longer, and with even greater determination, and he was once described during that period as “Eating everything in sight, including the damn cat if it hadn’t had so much fur!” (That was Bob Hoffman, I believe.) All the effort paid off, and in 1938 Grimek vindicated himself and made the U.S. team that competed in Vienna, Austria, where he excelled like no other. In fact, in making the team, Grimek established a new record in the press with 261 pounds. This press was actually a world record, but was never officially credited to Grimek because he weighed in at one lb. over the 198 lb. bodyweight limit.

As I stated before, John Grimek was the very essence of the T-man.

Great idea for a series, and thanks for something besides the typical “my girlfriend sucks” threads. Keep it up.