In a modern strongman competition, contestants demonstrate their strength by pulling trucks, lifting insanely heavy objects, and flipping cars over. In the early 1900s, heavily muscled dudes caught cannonballs and ripped chains with their pectoral muscles to prove their might. While the focus of modern strongmen has seemingly gone from strength to appearance, the old timers presented in these pictures led the way for every bodybuilder and train-puller that followed.
Strongmen of the 19th and early 20th centuries made a living demonstrating their strength at fairs, circuses, and theaters. Popular strong guy Eugen Sandow even included pony carrying in his act. Old timey strongman bodyweight exercises included lifting or carrying heavy objects such as kegs or bending steel. Heavy resistance exercises used for health and strength grew in popularity, gymnasiums flourished, and many succumbed to what would later be known as buying a gym membership based on delusions of grandeur.
These vintage photos of old timey strongmen striking a pose demonstrate muscled dudes were sexy – if you're into leopard print briefs, strategically placed fig leafs, and crazy mustaches, that is.
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George Hackenschmidt, Circa 1900Is he captivatingly beefy?
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Lionel Strongfort, Circa 1900Is he captivatingly beefy?
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Max Sick, 1910Is he captivatingly beefy?
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Arthur SaxonIs he captivatingly beefy?