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The Truth About Sandow


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What I've read recently about Sandow is not flattering.  Just the opposite.

There is confusion about his death, and the circumstances surrounding it.  Was Sandow all he says he was, or was he much different than what he claims.  Were the feats he performed truly legit, or something other?  What do you think??

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People like Sandow, the Saxon brothers, Goerner and so on were circus and theatre performers. The were putting on a show performing stunts. There is little proof in the way of photographs and any eye witnesses are long dead. As such I choose not to believe what has been claimed for them. I do believe lifts performed by men such as Ashton, Inch, and Maxick as they took part in organized and controlled contests, with little chance for fakery. It is a matter of believing what you want to believe as far as the oldtime strongmen are concerned.

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Old Guy,

Good point about official contests versus performances.

But continue the logic: when did Inch under official conditions

have his Challenge bell weighed and then lift it? His fabrication

was in unofficial conditions as well. He also renamed a lift

just to maintain a record in the lift even though he was mis-

performing it. So he is most famous for unofficial claims.

Saxon lifted under controlled conditions and set records, and

he offered money per pound for every pound underweight his

bells weighed.

We each believe what we choose, as you mention, but

hopefully evidence plays a part in the belief.

Sir Snott,

Somehow the thought of someone named sybersnott blowing

out birthday cake candles seems un-appetizing!

But have a splendid birthday!

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I think that Sandow and others faked most, if not all of what they did. They were actors and showmen with egos, like Stallone and Arnold. The oldtimers performed to earn their living. It seems like more and more we are discovering that they were fakes or that their strength claims are totally unsubstantiated. Also, how could a person, especially before the use of steroids, perform maximum lifts night after night???

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We must be careful not to throw out the baby with the


Saxon often bent pressed 300, some say twice nightly, but

that was hardly a maximum bent press for him, indeed was

probably approximately 80% of his max.

Can we not lift 80% of max about anytime?

Sandow, of course, is another story, and I heartily suggest

David Chapman's book on him.

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I agree that there was plenty of fakery and exaggeration going on with the old timers.  But to me, anyone who takes steroids is the biggest fake imaginable, regardless of how accurate their equipment is.  What you also fail to acknowledge is that steroid usage is not conducive to night after night max performances anyway.  When the muscles grow exponentially faster than the supporting tendons etc., something is bound to give.  Steroids (and all drugs) suck, plain and simple....if you choose to use them you deserve whatever you get.  If anyone has a problem with what I have said, I really don't give a rat's posterior.   :D

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I do not believe Inch's claims for his dumbbell, just his conventional lifts in competitions. True he would go to any length to avoid damaging his claim as Britain's strongest man and was full of all kinds of tricks. No doubt after his confrontation with the mighty young Reg Park at the age of 68, Inch still believed himself to be the strongest man in the country.

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Old Guy,

As you mentioned, there are differences between

the anvil called the Jowett anvil at 168 lbs (a photo

recently posted at Iron History Gallery), and the

anvil shown in the famous photos of Jowett lifting

an anvil. The 168 lb anvil IS NOT the anvil Jowett

was photographed lifting.

There are major physical differences between the

168 and the smaller anvil Jowett was photographed


For one thing, forget the weight of the anchor, look

at the incredible leverage feat when he has it at the

shoulder- grasping it so far 'forward' toward the horn,

that, were it the 168 that is shown in the Gallery, there

would have been an immense amount of its weight toward

the rear.

And the beat goes on.

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I think so many of the old "strongmen" were fakes, period. Maybe they should have used steroids so they could have actually performed their feats of strength!

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Guest StrongerthanArne

What if you are wrong? They are all dead and cannot thus defend their claimed lifts. Show them some respect. This whole thread sucks.

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Obviously those of us who are discussing it care.

As for being dead and therefore defenseless: leave

only the truth behind you and you have nothing to

fear from future investigation.

So all those who are misrepresenting things currently should hurry up and die so we will be hesitant to examine their


I do not respect those who treat my sport as though it is

to be tarnished by deliberately misrepresenting their abilities,

thus leaving impossible gaps for others to catch up to who

simply are truthful of their abilities.

Sorry if the thread bothers you. The lies bother me.

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I agree Roark.

Lies are lies. The truth is the truth. Let's not all stick our heads in the sand.

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I think you are all right to a point, remember they were human...strong humans but still subject to the lure of making the job easier for them while being a PERFORMER. If you cant budge a weight and someone tells you it weighs a ton, you just may be led to believe.....it true. I recently aquired the entire file on Herman Goerner from writer/iron game historian David Gentle and along with those awesome stories and facts there does lie a subtle change in measurements and poundages as reported by many... even for such a well documented strongman like Ol' Herman. In all, most of them should be held in a position of respect for being the very foundation of the good old Iron Game. RS

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I have great respect for men like Goerner, Saxon, Inch, Aston, etc.  These are men who trained hard and lifted heavy weights and pushed the very limits of human endurance.

Those who "do not care" show ignorance.  The past should be studied, and the men who lifted those incredible weights are studied and admired by those, like me, who appreciate their feats of sheer strength.  Some men come and go - legends are never forgotten.

When I read discepancies regarding Sandow, I am curious and call for further investigation.  If three people told me the EXACT same story about Sandow, then there wouldn't be any problem.  But there is.... hence this thread.

I wish to find the truth.  Thanks to everybody for their input!

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Guest StrongerthanArne


Quote:As for being dead and therefore defenseless: leave

only the truth behind you and you have nothing to

fear from future investigation.

This is not always the case. I friend of mine is a bodybuilder. The is extremely good at it and has done well on IFBB amateur World Championships, WITHOUT DRUGS. He has been drug tested several times and always came out clean. Very few in the Swedish bodybuilding community believe that he is not using drugs, simply because they cannot understand that among us are the odd person with superior genetics and iron mind. He will not be remembered as one of the best bodybuilders of all times even though he probably is, had all been competing drug free. He is now so sick and tired of being asked what stuff he is using so that he is loosing interest competing. Needless to say every time he enters the Swedish championships, he wins.

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If your friend has been tested, and passed the test,

hopefully in the future that condition will be remembered,

because he has the proof.

We have been discussing here some situations that were

not proven at the time, only rumored to be true, and in

some cases, we now have the means to disprove the claims.

The sad part is that Jowett, Inch, Sandow and some others, while not being able to do SOME of the great lifts claimed, were CERTAINLY very strong men, but who by misrepresenting

their abilities cast doubt on themselves when studied carefully.

One of the American bodybuilding magazines a few years ago

decided to feature 'all natural' bodybuilders and to take a

strong anti-drug stance. Much money lost. Now that magazine

has flipped and is serving the very audience it abandoned in

a moral snit. It is a sad general who frequently checks his

troops to see where they are going so he can join in.

We will always have those among us who refuse to accept

what was proven- I ignore them; but what we have in some

cases accepted as proof without questioning, turns out to be

doctored photos and lies. There is no pleasure in this for me

to discover those lies, but once discovered the truth should

be spread.

Now that digital photography is here, can you imagine the

photos that Jowett could have had created for him!

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I wish I could believe some of the old-time claims of strength. I think it'd be great to know that incredible strength was attainable without drugs. I think it's totally possible, but it's worse in my opinion to make claims that are false and to go so far as to doctor photos and lie about the actual weight of a barbell just to try to win the respect of the public.  I would rather see a guy on steroids perform a lift truthfully than to deal with this non-documented heresay from some of these old-timers.

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As someone rather new to this iron game, I must admit that

I am somewhat surprised see so many so shocked at the

hucksterism of the oldtime strongmen.  Isn't the most

common caricature of the old strongman telling:  

    he is muscular and bald, probably wears an animal skin

    outfit with a strap over one shoulder, has a handlebar

    mustache, and a wheelbarrow full of barbells, dumbbells,

    and the like.  At some point the inevitable happens - a

    child sneaks behind the unwary performer and lifts a

    large barbell overhead, revealing it (and the strongman)

    to be a fake.

The general public had to know that much of what they saw

was faked.  They just didn't care.  Do you really want to

know that the magician isn't magic?  It was a different era.  Today we have proffesional sports and we have "professional"

wrestling.  The line wasn't always so clear.

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At the turn of the century, wrestling was the national pastime.  Wrestling matches were legit, and the public loved to see them.  Problem:  the matches were too long, and nobody was willing to watch a two to four hour wrestling match.  This is where wrestling turned for the worse.  A reporter accidently went to press with the results for matches that didn't happen (but were going to the next day).  Matches were "predetermined" and shortened; suffice to say that the "sport" of wrestling never was the same.

Baseball almost took the same route.  It was the 1919 "Black Sox" scandal that gave baseball a bad rep, until the commissioner (then newly elected) decided to punish all that were involved.  Baseball was saved, and didn't fall into the same fate as "professional" wrestling did.

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