Sunday, August 3, 2008

Giants In Strength - Mac Batchelor

Ray Van Cleef and Peary Rader






Giants in Strength
by Mac Batchelor (1951)


There are so many great strength athletes whose height is below the recognized average of five foot eight, and who, pound for pound, are more than a match for the lifting giants in proportion to body weight and height. It is my pleasure to peruse on a few of these famous names as they come to mind with due apologies to the many others in the same category whom I may have neglected to mention.

Siegmund Klein, of New York City, known the world over by all devotees of strength, is truly a top performer. His stage appearance is a treat, his every action is harmony, from muscle control to the dexterity of his weight juggling routine. A master showman who has retained an enviable physique since he first seriously applied himself to the weights at the age of seventeen in 1919. His classical torso is as sharply defined as it was twenty years ago and the delineation and beauty of muscular contour have withstood the years. Siegmund is a wonderful personality, it’s stimulating to be in his company and delve into refreshing conversation with such a strength character. Siegmund, although a profound student, is witty in dialogue and of unbounded enthusiasm. The West Coast never received such a treat as his master performance at the Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles, not so long ago. The ovation was deafening as his exhibition reached a finale. In his earlier training his calves were slow in responding, so Sig would stand on tip-toes as an exercise medium while commuting by bus or streetcar to and from his establishment. Keeping the muscles in a flexed condition for some period of time brought him results. The soleus muscles of his lower leg are exceptional.

As a lifter he was a champion in his day as well as being famous for his hand balancing. His feat of fourteen consecutive tiger-bends (dropping from a handstand position until the weight is resting on the forearms, retaining balanced and pressing back up into a handstand) was long a record. He has many ideas and lifting routines of his own making which can test a man’s mettle as an athlete. One of these was a drill with a 100 lb. barbell, another was a manual of feats which could be accomplished only be a complete athlete. Yes, Siegmund probably did much in this country to popularize the bent press as a lift and built up general interest in kettlebells. His many articles on kettlebell feats, and records made in the lifting of them, besides his book on the bent press, should be a must with the student of strength.

Just a few of Siegmund’s accomplishments, most of them made many years ago, and a weight of 148 pounds, are a Press on back in 1937 of 300 pounds; also a Bent-press (using his famous Rolandow bell) of 209 pounds; Two hand snatch of 190 pounds for four reps; Deadlift of 470, Dumbbell crucifix of 126 ¾ pounds total; Side press of 174 ¾ pounds; Press from behind neck with 206 pounds; Press with 200 pounds for eight reps;

Two hands clean and military press with 221 ½ pounds; Two hands clean and jerk twice from the shoulders with 270 pounds; Two hands alternate dumbbell press with 100 pounds in each hand for 12 reps.

He was a great one for perfect form in every lift. Using less strict style as is allowed today, his totals would have been much greater. Siegmund on one occasion sent his photo to a French publication to adorn their pages. He was amazed sometime later to hear he had won the “Plastic Beaute Contest,” which, unknown to him, was then being held, and his photo was acclaimed the finest of a great many entrees.

A “pet” of Klein’s is to clean and press an 85-pound dumbbell and a 100-pound dumbbell together. The 15-pound difference in weight will tax your sense of dexterity.

W.A. Pullum next comes to mind as one of the greatest lifters and authorities of his day. An Englishman, born 1887, he trained solely for strength. His long association with the Saxon Brothers may have encouraged his trend in this direction. When a champion, he measured 5’5” and weighed 126 pounds. As to his lifting ability, it was fantastic!

One arm military press – 86 pounds; Bent press right arm – 238 pounds; bent press left arm – 192 pounds; Right arm clean and jerk – 196 pounds; Lateral raise standing – 86 pounds; Lateral raise lying – 102 pounds; Two hands anyhow (dumbbells) – 244 pounds; Two hands anyhow (barbell and ring weights) – 272 pounds. This compares favorably with Arthur Saxon’s two hands anyhow of 448 pounds at 210 pounds bodyweight. To continue, Two arm military press (dumbbells) – 162 pounds; Two arm clean and jerk (dumbbells) – 190 pounds, and was a master at kettlebell and barbell juggling. At his bodyweight he was without peer on certain lifts, and extended his knowledge to many famous pupils.

From England we tour to the continent where a famous Bavarian athlete born in 1882 gave strength athletes something to wonder at as his prodigious muscularity and amazing lifting became apparent. He is Max Sick, also known as Maxick; height 5’4 ½”, weight 145 pounds. He was rated my many in the era around 1909 as the world’s most muscular human. At muscle-control he was an artist, and when lifting believed in extreme concentration on only the muscles or groups that were taxed to make a successful lift. At the completion of a workout his contention was complete relaxation to recharge and restore the energy expended. His theory certainly was successful as judged from the amazing lifts he accomplished!

Two arm continental and jerk – 330 pounds; One arm clean and jerk – 240 pounds; Two arm snatch – 220 pounds. Maxick was an exceptional presser which greatly aided his fame and performance of unusual hand balances and planches. In 1910 his standard two arm clean and press was 222 pounds. Two arm clean and continental press – 240 pounds, and to top that, due to his flexibility and general body construction, he performed a clean and continental (but in this case rested both elbows on his hips (might even be a two arm bent press, if such a lift were recognized), he then arched his back until the arms locked straight coming erect with the weight overhead – 254 pounds. Since the middle 1930’s he has been residing in South America, and in the past few years I have seen some remarkable photographs of him, still a muscular phenomenon.


In the country “down under,” Sydney, Australia, is an athlete whose physique is superlative. I have yet to see a photograph of him that wasn’t a muscular masterpiece. His name is “Don Athaldo,” born W. J. Lyons in 1895. At a height of 5’4 ½” and a top bodyweight of 160 pounds, his lifts were outstanding. As early as 1921, at a bodyweight below 140 pounds, he two dumbbell clean and jerked a total of 182 ½ pounds. Again in 1928, at a bodyweight of 143 pounds, he performed a crucifix totaling 122 ¼ pounds. I have not heard of him since 1940, at which time at the age of 45 his weekly schedule was still strenuous, consisting of three swims of good duration, many miles of walking and jog trotting in addition to a barbell workout.


I wonder what ever became of Manuel Ferry of Auburn, California, prominent for the following feats in the late 20’s. Of modest stature at 5’2” in height and a bodyweight of 136 pounds, his deltoids were astounding for his size, as was his ability to put the shot. Manuel tossed the 12 pound shot 49 feet. 8 pound shot 64 feet, and the 20 pound shot 38 feet. I am wondering if he is the lad who some fight promoter rightfully reasoned should have an unearthly wallop and started him on a ring career which ended with the first bout when, using his shot put technique, he shattered his opponent’s jaw and had no further interest in the game. That his reflexes were of the best is proven by his ability to run the fifty yard dash in five and four-fifths seconds, and toss a javelin in the neighborhood of 160 feet. A one arm jerk of 197 pounds, one arm military press of 91 pounds and a one arm curl of 57 pounds mark him as a superman, not withstanding his ability to “muscle out” 50 pounds. Seems I have but just touched the surface on these compact dynamos of strength, and will have to continue in a later article.

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