Super Strength - Chapter 21 - Who Is The Strongest Man in the World?
By Alan Calvert
Posted on NaturalStrength.com on 20 June 2002
When a man is extraordinarily strong, it frequently happens that he is lured into the professional ranks. Consequently, the best known "Strong Men" are professionals. Several years ago I wrote an article for the Physical Culture Magazine, in which I stated that the three strongest men of recent times were Louis Cyr, of Canada; Apollon, of France, and Youssoff, the gigantic Turkish wrestler. I should have qualified that statement by saying that these were the three strongest men who appeared publicly. There are men in Canada today who swear that the amateur, Horace Barre, was just as strong as his professional friend, Louis Cyr. Mr. Jowett says that the amateur, La Vallee, is stronger than either Cyr or Barre were. Apollon was a contemporary of Cyr's. The two never met in a contest. Prof. Des Bonnet, the French authority, claims that Cyr and Apollon were stronger than any other men of their time; but the Professor is a Frenchman, and so was Apollon, while Cyr was of French descent. Youssoff, as far as I can learn, was as strong as either of these two Frenchmen, and possibly stronger. The Germans and Austrians have several claimants for the title, and there is today is Vienna an Austrian named Carl Swaboda, who can beat any one in the world in two-arm bar-bell lifting, and lifting with two arms requires more bodily strength than lifting with one arm at a time. Swaboda is the only man in athletic history who has raised aloft more than 400 lbs. in the two-arm "jerk." His record far excels that of Cyr and Apollon. In Finland they breed a race of giants, and in that country there are undoubtedly men who, for brute strength, can compare to the best of any other nation. Eastern Canada is full of "Strong Men," and for that matter, so is this country. I have seen amateurs who could equal the strength feats of any professional on record, if they cared to devote as much time to training as the professional does. A man does not become strong because he is a professional lifter. It is just the other way about. He becomes a professional because he is strong. And it should be remembered that for every "Strong Man" who exhibits professionally, there are a dozen others in the amateur ranks. I am personally acquainted with three amateurs of prodigious strength, who are as magnificently developed as any of the perfect men you have ever seen on the stage. Not one of these men will allow me to publish his picture, or even mention his name. One of these men has a 48-inch chest, a 16-inch forearm and a 19-inch calf measurement. I once saw him pick up an 80-lb. steel bar, muscle it out, and then twist the bar from side to side; and I have never seen a professional who could equal that stunt. Another of these men is so strong that he can break any of the "dead-weight" lifting records. The third man is only of moderate size and weighs but 165 lbs.; but I believe he can walk with more weight on his shoulders than any other man I have ever seen.
There has never been a man so strong that he could far outdo the feats of other "Strong Men." What one man can do, another man in the same class can go very close to equaling. If you get the five best sprinters in the same 100-yard dash, the best man will finish only a foot ahead of the second man; which means that he is only a fraction of one per cent faster. If the best high-jumper can clear the bar at 6 feet 6 inches, the second and third best can do 6 feet 5 inches. The same rule applies to "Strong Men." As a class, these men are two or three times as strong as the ordinary man; but no one "Strong Man" is very much better than other leading "Strong Men." Some of them excel at one lift, some excel at others. Arthur Saxon could push aloft with one arm a bell 20 lbs. heavier than any other man has lifted in the same manner, but there were a number of men who could beat him at a two-arm lift. Steinborn is possibly the best man is the world at what we call the "quick lifts"; but there are men who can beat him at "slow-pressing," and other men who could undoubtedly beat him at "dead-weight" lifting; and so on down the list.
You can't even decide the question by examining the records. To publish a complete list of lifting records would take several dozen pages of this book, because they keep the records for men of all weight and for all styles of lifting. Many of the world's records are held by amateurs. Joe Nordquest, when still an amateur, broke records made by the professionals, Hackenschmidt and Lurich. The same thing applies to weight throwing. Most of the records for throwing the hammer or throwing the 56-lb. weight are held by amateurs. There is no reason in the world why an amateur should not be just as strong as a professional. You would be surprised if you knew of the thousands of men who by practicing lifting just for the sport of it have become magnificently built.
A strength contest is something like these newspaper beauty contests. Every once in a while you see in the papers the picture of some young woman who has taken first place in a beauty contest, and who is announced as "the most beautiful woman in America." And when you see that picture, you say to yourself, "I know half a dozen girls better-looking than she is." The truth of the matter is, that she happened to be the best-looking girl in that particular contest, or at least the judges thought so. You know perfectly well that for every pretty girl who goes in such a contest, there are fifty more girls equally pretty who never even thought of entering the contest; and you can rest assured that for every man who is announced as the "strongest man in the world," there are several dozen others who are just about as strong as he is. If you were willing to train, you have just as good a chance as the next fellow to become one of the strongest men in the world of your weight; and if you are of average size, that means that you can become almost as strong as anybody, because I have proved in a previous chapter that man who weight less than 150 lbs. have come very close to equaling the best records of "natural giants" who weight 300 lbs. Any man who is willing to devote six months or a year to practicing a progressive schedule of developing exercises can certainly double, and possible triple, his own bodily strength, and that means that in that length of time he will become two or three times as strong as the average man.