Modern day strongmen and powerlifters are true freaks of nature. Huge, athletic and terrifyingly strong. Ray Johnson can squat with 1000lbs on his back like it’s not even there, and Brian Shaw throws Atlas stones that nearly outweigh adult grizzly bears on a daily basis.
However before the titans of today started lifting impossible amounts of weight, there were those who did so before them. Some of them holding records few men can challenge even by today’s strength standards. Now, how about we talk about those strong guys a bit? Trust me, you won’t regret reading this.
1. Thomas Topham
Thomas was an 18th-century Strongman from London, known as “The British Samson.” He initially tried his luck with owning and running a pub, but when that didn’t go well, he realized he had a knack for lifting weird heavy stuff for people. Among his many feats of strength is the famed “Harness lift,” where he would stand on a platform and lift three giant barrels filled with water totaling 1,836lbs!
He also was able to roll up a seven pound pewter dish “‘as a man rolls up a sheet of paper” and he once lifted the 27-stone (378lbs) Vicar of All Saints with a single hand—while laying on two chairs and having four people standing on his body. His great career and life came to an end at the age of 39, when he found out his wife was cheating on him. He took a knife and ended her life and wounded himself heavily, dying from the injuries a couple of days later.
2. Pierre Gasnier
The Frenchmen was often billed as “French Hercules” and is one prime example of old school strongmen. He frequently performed with a circus in the 1890s and used those funny looking ball ended dumbbells and barbells.
But he was no joke, and there’s a reason he’s on this list. Gasnier had many feats of strength. The most famous ones were tearing a chain wrapped around his chest by merely expanding it, and lifting a thick gripped 260lbs dumbbell over his head, even though he was merely 143lbs and stood at 5’3″.
As you can tell, this was impressive as hell, considering the dumbbell was nearly the same size as the man himself!
2. Bybon’s Stone
Now this is one of my favorite tales from strength history. Picture the following; It’s ancient Greece and Olympic sports have just barely kicked off. Recreational weightlifting and competitive bodybuilding is nowhere to be found.
Yet, as long as there are men, there are bros. And as long as there are bros, there’s going to be someone who lifts heavy objects to impress other bros. Such is the case with Bybon. Bybon saw a giant, 315 pound slab of rock and decided to make a huge makeshift kettlebell/dumbbell out of it and carved out a handle in the middle of the stone.
Then, he picked it up overhead with one hand. I’m confident that as he performed this amazing feat of strength, he looked everyone in attendance dead in the eyes, with the ginormous stone still in hand, and said “Bretherens, dost thou even hoist?” before performing the first ever mic drop—or in this case, stone drop.
Not much is known about Bybon aside from the inscription found on the stone which reads “Bybon, son of Phola, has lifted me overhead with one hand.” You may be badass, but you’ll never be having your own name carved on the weight you just lifted, badass.