From his rise in 1889 till his loss of life in 1925, Eugen Sandow was usually heralded because the strongest and most completely developed man on the planet. The concept of being robust like Sandow was one which many people sought to emulate, and for a lot of strongmen of his period, beating the revered health idol in some type of competitors was usually the last word purpose.
The one downside was that Sandow hardly ever, if ever, competed in weightlifting competitions. When he achieved the designation of the strongest man on the earth within the early Nineties, he protected his picture in any respect prices. When strongman Arthur Saxon introduced himself as the person to beat Sandow within the contest, Sandow went after him in courtroom. And when Quebecois strongman Louis Cyr challenged him to a contest, Sandow merely ignored the calls. It was higher to maintain quiet than doubtlessly lose in entrance of a crowd.
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For most of the people on the time, Sandow was the head of energy and health. Even at the moment, he’s thought-about the daddy of contemporary bodybuilding and serves because the mannequin for the acclaimed Mr. Olympia trophy, awarded annually to the winner of bodybuilding’s high prize. However how robust was Eugen Sandow? And the way did he construct his energy? We put this health pioneer underneath the microscope under.
Editor’s observe: It ought to be famous that whereas Sandow and his contemporaries have been also known as “strongmen”, the occasions they entered have been extra like efficiency exhibitions fairly than the structured occasions we now have at the moment within the fashionable sport of strongman.
Eugen Sandow was a showman and advertising extraordinaire. Whereas this meant he was an extremely thrilling performer, it additionally meant he was liable to exaggeration and untruths, each about his feats of energy and likewise in how he educated. Relying on which of his books you learn, he was both a sickly youth who managed to construct the world’s most completely developed physique over time, or he was a lifelong athlete who did wrestling and gymnastics earlier than turning to free weights .
What we do learn about his coaching is that he used heavy and progressive weights. In 1894, the person himself briefly touched on his coaching regime within the e book Sandow on bodily coaching.
There, Sandow demonstrated a sequence of workouts that would appear very acquainted to fashionable lifters. He used heavy overhead urgent (each barbells and dumbbells), beginning with the weights on the ground. And for chest workouts, he used push-ups and crude types of dumbbell flyes. Biceps curls, sit-ups and lateral lifts have been additionally on the menu.
Frustratingly, Sandow did not describe his again and leg workouts, however we do know that he was capable of do single-finger chin-ups and will carry out weighted belt lifts with a whole bunch of kilos.
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It is price noting that when Sandow was coaching, the trendy Large Three of powerlifting again squats, bench presses and deadlifts weren’t commonplace. If something, overhead urgent was an important strategy to construct energy.
Sandow was, in fact, a showman, and like many others of his period, his weekly performances have been usually his coaching as effectively. Early strongmen didn’t max out their weights throughout efficiency for worry of failure, however they nonetheless helped preserve a robust physique.
His shows of energy usually centered round 4 key actions. The primary was a type of overhead press, be it a barbell or, as his efficiency progressed, a “human barbell” the place members of the general public sat at both finish of a barbell. Subsequent was a weighted carry, typically with unusual implements like a pony or piano. (Based on custom, Sandow usually carried the piano and pianist throughout the stage.)
Based on a number of biographies, he additionally performs standing somersaults whereas holding dumbbells in every hand that reportedly weighed 56 kilos. Lastly, there was a “human bridge” the place Sandow supported the load of an animal or numerous viewers members whereas holding a crab bag.
Sure, it was all unconventional, however it additionally helped preserve his physique.
Eugen Sandow Feats of Energy
Surprisingly, Sandow hardly ever, if ever, entered official weightlifting competitions. Even his breakout victories in opposition to the robust Cyclops and Samson in 1889, when Sandow first started advertising himself because the World’s Strongest Man, concerned breaking chains and utilizing different crude strongman feats as a substitute of official barbell lifts in competitors.
Sandow’s personal selection reveals have been equally extra centered on flashy lifting fairly than athletic endeavours. Energy historian David Willoughby studied Sandow’s profession within the 1970 encyclopedia of energy, The tremendous athletes, and located that his 269-pound bench press remained his heaviest recorded feat utilizing a barbell. Though spectacular, lots of his contemporaries broke this report throughout their careers, together with Arthur Saxon, who reportedly accomplished a bench press of 371 kilos. (As with most exploits on the time, these guarantees are tough to verify as legitimate.)
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In harness lifting, Sandow claimed to have lifted a 1,500-pound stone off the bottom and even included illustrations of this elevate in his 1894 train e book, however nobody may confirm this declare.
Slightly Incredible, Sandow’s 1897 e book, Energy and find out how to obtain it, contained a passage by which he mentioned he lifted a 530-pound lion “as excessive as” his shoulder. The identical e book additionally put Sandow’s highest overhead press at 300 kilos, which Willoughby and others have disputed.
How does Eugen Sandow examine to fashionable athletes?
It is laborious to match Sandow’s energy to a contemporary athlete due to how coaching has advanced. Though he’s credited with bench urgent 269 kilos, that elevate has fallen drastically out of favor with at the moment’s energy athletes, partly due to how tough it’s to be taught. Plus, there isn’t any definitive visible proof that Sandow’s whole weight is even correct.
Nonetheless, some fashionable strongmen dabble within the bench press, together with 2019 World’s Strongest Man Martins Licis, who topped out at round 200 kilos on the elevate again in 2019. (Though it is vital to notice that Licis says it is not an train , he places numerous deal with.)
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If we take Sandow’s 300-pound overhead press significantly (and there are causes to not), he pales compared to fashionable strongmen as soon as once more. Immediately, it’s common to see athletes press 400-plus kilos overhead utilizing barbells or 200-plus-pound dumbbells in every hand.
Essentially the most spectacular quantity, which Sandow claimed however was additionally by no means verified, was his 1,500-pound stone harness elevate. American strongman Steve Schmidt presently holds the USAWA harness world report with a elevate of three,515 kilos. Even the 18th-century English strongman Thomas Topham, who predates Sandow, has a recorded harness elevate of 1,836 kilos.
Sandow in perspective
So was Sandow ever the “Strongest Man on Earth”? No. He wasn’t even the strongest man of his era once you have a look at among the lifts accomplished by Arthur Saxon.
So why was Sandow seen as so distinctive? That is simpler to reply. Sandow was one of many first public energy athletes with a bodybuilder physique. On the time, many robust males have been heavy and large however lacked muscular definition. Sandow was lean and muscular and knew find out how to play to these strengths. Whereas others have been stronger, Sandow’s actual energy was his marketability.
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