Broad Shouldered Men
In books which I have previously written, namely “Big Arms” and “The Big Chest Book,” a chapter in each was dedicated to the men who had the biggest arms and the biggest chests. As explained in each of those books it is difficult to obtain accurate measurements of the greatest strength athletes of the past and present. The best chest size might be taken at one stage of life, the arm size at another. For instance, the weight of Louis Cyr varied from 270 when at the age of 18 he first outlifted the strong man, Michaud, to 315 at the age of 23 when he outlifted Richard Pennell, who was considered to be the strongest man in the United States, and later in lift to 365 while still performing on the stage and in circuses. After his retirement he came to weigh nearly 400 pounds. Even the great John Grimek has controlled his weight to a considerable extent. In 1936 when he was the United States Heavyweight champion and a member of the Olympic team, at Berlin lifting the highest official total of any American who contested there, he weighed about 190, in the months after the Olympic games he reached the greatest weight of his career, 230 pounds. At this weight he possessed the very favorable ratio between chest and waist for which he is famed and presented the most Herculean looking figure I have ever seen. Yet six months later we saw him contesting in the national championships held that year of 1937, at
Some men wish to have the greatest possible measurements while others do not consider measurements of value. They are more interested in the appearance and the quality of the muscle, what can be done with it, than with its mere size. Some take a measurement one way and some another. For instance, in the book “Big Arms,” there has been an endeavor to popularize three positions for measuring the upper arm. No. 1. With the forearm at fight angles to the upper arm. No. 2. With the hand drawn back close to the shoulder. No. 3. With the arm at the side holding the wrist of one arm with the hand of the other. When we know in what position the measurement was made, whether it was taken cold or with the arm pumped up, we can compare more favorably. Some use a steel tape and take the measurement snugly, while others use a cloth tape which with constant use has shrunk so that the measurement of the arm is magnified. Some men use a slanting tape for they are so constructed that the highest point of the biceps is not in line with the greatest curve of the triceps. A man with such an arm can not obtain a measurement that compares favorably with those whose anatomical construction places the bump of the biceps above the curve of the triceps. John Grimek is one who has such an arm, and his best measurement will never illustrate what wonderful arms he has. Without exception, when John Grimek, Tony Terlazzo and I made a trip through the West appearing in 24 exhibitions or demonstrations in one month, everyone who saw Grimek thought that he was much more impressive in person than they expected from his measurements or even from his wonderful photos.
In measuring the chest, some men like Arthur Saxon, who did not care about measurements, would be taped in their habitual slumped position and the 48 measurement which resulted would not give a fair indication of the wonderful chest development of this great strong man, the greatest one armed lifter of all time, really possessed. As a contrast, Sandow, who really had a magnificent physique, at times exaggerated his measurements out of the realm of possibility. In one of his books he gave his chest measurement as 60 inches. This was certainly impossible for a man who was five foot eight in height, approximately Grimek’s height, but who usually weighed 180. Weighing 200, the magnificent chest of John Grimek barely places him in the 50 inch class. In Sandow’s book, “
Few strong men have much if any actual expansion of the chest. Otto Arco claimed that he had none. If I stand in the correct position of a soldier, my chest is raised and I can not show any additional expansion, the same is true of John Grimek, yet when the chest is contracted and then expanded there can be a considerable increase in measurement. But this expansion is chiefly extension of the muscles, for the well developed chest properly carried is always near the limit of its expansion. John Grimek, one night back stage at one of the York theatres, to duplicate the feat of one of the performers who placed a derby hat under a belt around his chest, and then removing the hat, expanded his chest and his muscles until the belt was tight, was taped with a differential of 14 inches between his contracted and his expanded chest.
So it’s evident that there can be a great difference in measurement of the muscles of various strength athletes. Some pump their arms up by continuous exercise until it is a full half inch larger than normal, some have the faculty of humping their biceps to a greater degree, no one has ever been able to duplicate the biceps development of Otto Arco, which gave him the greatest arm measurement of all time for a man of his bodyweight, and some like Arthur Saxon would half-heartedly flex their arms when someone sought to measure them. For these men knew that measurements didn’t matter, many men have sizeable muscles and can’t do anything much with them. The expert looks for the development of certain muscles, instead of measuring the man whose strength he seeks to estimate.
While there is not quite the possibility of discrepancies in shoulder measurement that there is in arm and chest measurement, the method of standing, of controlling the shoulder muscles, will have an important bearing on the measurement. If a man stands with his arms tight to the body there is less chance to expand the shoulders, for the man with a good Latissimus Dorsi development can carry his arms extended halfway to the sides by tensing his latissimus muscles. Joe Miller (the man who posed for most of the exercises in the four famous York Barbell Courses, was one of the strongest men of his weight in the world, later senior national lifting champion and a member of the Olympic team) early in his career carried his arms this way which made some people believe he was muscle bound (although there never was a muscle bound weight lifter or weight trainee, they are the most flexible of men). In measuring the
I have compiled a list of over 200 of the best men of the past and the present, in many cases I have been able to obtain accurate shoulder measurements, in others, having the chest measurement, I have estimated the shoulder girth and the shoulder breadth, using a formula that I have devised through comparing the measurements of scores of strong, well developed men.
Above is a list of the vital statistics of some of the most famous men of strength and development of the past and present.