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George Inch Nearly Died


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If anyone has the July 1925 issue of STRENGTH magazine, will you please contact me? Mine has

left home, apparently.

In that issue the story is told of when Thomas and George Inch decided to play a joke by having George lift the 172 lb Inch bell by means of a wire secreted around George's neck, leading down his sleeve under his clothing, attached (as I recall) to a hook in his palm.

But when George exerted to try the lift, the wire tightened and nearly choked him- he was rushed backstage. This situation may help explain why

there was a 1/4" diameter 'hole' in the original

handle (it is still there, of course).

You may remember the occasion when the audience got wind of the hole and several men showed up with a

nail, believing if they inserted the nail into the hole then they could lift the bell. Inch, getting word of this,  had the hole filled with some sort of putty and foiled the attempts.

Why? Why fill in the hole, which Inch said was merely an escape hatch for gases during the foundry process? If, as Inch claimed, the hole had nothing to do with the lift, why fill it in? By leaving the hole apparent, and allowing

lifters to use it in their attempts, he could have proven his case that the hole was not a part of the lift. The fact that he had it filled in, brings suspicion, and has indeed made me wonder if Inch himself used some mechanical device on those occasions he deadlifted it. (I cannot

see benefit in the clean part of the lift, or the overhead part of the lift by using such a device.)

This is an aspect I am just beginning to investigate, but my copy of STRENGTH July 1925 is missing, so I cannot even test my memory on this until I see it again. So if anyone has that issue, I would appreciate knowing through the message board here or on a post.

Thank you,


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well if it could help deadlift the bell- any attachment could also help get the acceleration needed to clean the bell. it'd be like using straps (not so much help on a regular bar where you could get your fingers around or use a hook grip but would help alot with a thick bar)

just a thought

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You certainly could be right. I am trying to imagine

how the wire mechanism would have worked- it

appears that if the hook were on the thumb side

more benefit would have been derived. If on the

side of the four fingers, it would appear to make the

bar roll with more force toward the thumb, I would


If somehow the bar could be surrounded with the

hook in place, then we're cookin'.

This is all theory on my part, but Inch's statement

that the hole was an escape hatch for gases seems

questionable. The replicas have no such hole.

And one wonders where Tom got the idea to have

George try this. If Tom had used the wire before,

he certainly could have helped George set it up,

thus avoiding the near hazard that took place.

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I have to say that the hole is tiny and looking at it it does seem as though it was a flaw. However, I could also believe that flaw or not if one was to wear say a ring with a tiny 'nobble' on it which sat in the hole it might well help a little.

But, once again, more than a few have moved the bugger off the floor without such an aid. I have rings and never wear them - just never felt ok with jewellary (thats just me:)).

So, the only bod who benefitted, as it were, from the hole would have been Inch. The guys you mentioned who thought that they had found the secret would have been better served by working their balls off and lifting it. Imagine doing that, putty in hole and Inch thinking 'ha my money is safe' then pow! up comes the dumbbell. 'Sorry Inch old boy - that'll be £500.00', he he.

How many other specialized lifts had secrets. I am aware of trick equipment but so many lifts were only hard because of the style or the awkwardness of the lift.

Truth be known, as I have said elsewhere, it is a case of borderline obsessive training just to take a few quid and get to remember the look on the strongmans face. Most would not have bothered.

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I could have a ring on every finger and the bell

would still be peacefully snoring in arrogance; you

are correct, hard work is the key.

Regarding other trick lifts, these were common,

and sometimes took the form of duplicate weights

which were falsely marked. Even Apollon had some

such weights to save strength from the daily grind

of lifting. Of course in his case he could at any time

lift the real weights.

I have been reading about Apollon in Desbonnet's

'The Kings of Strength' and Apollon remains, from

my point of view, the strongest grip-man of all time.

Here is one example that I don't recall reading about


A large globe barbell of 205 lbs, with a turning handle,

was at Prof. Desbonnet's school in France. Cyclops and

Noel the Gaul, were unable to one hand lift it even

off the floor. Leon See and Vandernocke had managed

a one hand deadlift on the first try. No one had been

able to clean it.

Upon being told this Apollon was not interested in trying because he thought a joke was being played on him, but becoming convinced of the serious request, he took

the bell is his right hand, lifted it as though it were a

walking cane, tossed it skyward more than a meter,

and caught it in his left hand. All the while he kept an

eye on Desbonnet to make sure a joke was not being

played. In order words, he hoisted a bell no one else

could get past the knee, and he did it so casually that

he could glance around at onlookers.

Someday, Apollon, will receive the credit he has always


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Guest Luke Reimer

Wow!! As I started reading this story about Appollon I couldn't help trying to guess how it would end; I expected that Appollon would astonish everyone by easily one-hand snatching the 205# dumbbell.  The one-meter high throw is fantastic, but what impresses me even more is the catch! For me even using two hands to absorb the downward momentum of a failed one-handed snatch (at much lighter weights, of course) wracks my whole body--forget about absorbing  the impact of a one-meter-up, free-falling 205# dumbbell with one hand! Thats super impressive. Perhaps Appollon could have extended his left hand overhead for the catch to minimize the accelleration of the falling bell--but then again he wouldn't have been able to do this while keeping his eyes on the onlookers. It sounds as though he caught it underhanded at the bottom of the free-fall. Besides the stress on the fingers, just think about what this could do to the lower back and the rest of the body! The potential for serious injury here is amazing. How many strongmen could safely do this sort of catch even with two hands?

Roark, was there ever any mention of how thick the handle on this bell was? I would imagine it would have to be much thicker than 1.1", if other strongmen were failing even to lift it from the ground. Maybe a minimum of 2", and possibly more?  

The more I hear about Appollon, the more inconceivible it becomes to me that he couldn't lift the Inch Dumbbell. It is more a question of what novelty he would have peformed while playing with it. (Perhaps--considering a highly creative thread on the Inch dumbbell a short while ago-- Appollon would have benefitted from being able to consult with Joe Roark, Tom Black, Mobsterone, and Barbender for this.)

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The text in Kings of Strength does not offer the bar diameter, but, as you mention, a standard size bar

would not have prevented the men mentioned from

lifting the 205, so we can assume a thick bar.

I did not mean that Apollon was literally not looking

at the weight overhead, but that he was perhaps as

casual as I would be with a 30 lb dumbell- I'd would

have to pay attention, but I could risk a quick glance


Many of the oldtime strongmen included the transfer

of weights from one hand to the other while the weight

was overhead. Saxon once opened his show to anyone to bring a bell up to 325 lbs- any shape,size, whatever,

and he would lift it. And he did. One man, apparently

not realizing how strong Saxon was, brought a bell which weighed only 265. Arthur toyed with this, as did

his brothers.

On the other hand, we have the story of Goerner who

would lift a heavy bell overhead, then allow it to drop

in the crook of his elbow or upper forearm (not elbows,

or upper forearms). The balance problem alone prevents

belief in this lift.

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