By Eric Todd
One of the things I find the most fascinating about the strong men of old is that they were much more true all-rounders than those of modern physical culture. It is what has inspired me to pursue many different types of strength sports. I grew up reading about many of them in Wrestling Physical Conditioning Encyclopedia by John Jesse, which I purchased for $10 (a huge sum of money to me at the time) when I was around 10 or 11. This book was primarily about lifting and conditioning, but in each chapter, it highlighted a wrestler or two from the days of old. These guys were not only great wrestlers, but they were the strongmen of their times (many excelled at many of the lifts that we do in the USAWA today), and they had the physiques of bodybuilders.
One of the wrestlers mentioned in Jesse’s book was World Champion wrestler, the Russian Lion, George Hackenschmidt. Many of you have probably heard the name. We do some lifts that are named for the man, such as the Hack Lift and the Hackenschmidt Floor Press, as well as others that he perfected, such as the pullover and press and the pullover and push. Hackenschmidt said “Wrestlers need a particular kind of strength. They require all-round development, such is sadly neglected in many departments, the neck for instance.” (Jesse, 1974). This is clearly demonstrated in his wrestler’s bridge pullover and press, which is present on the USAWA list of lifts. He was able to pullover 311 pounds while in the bridge position, and press it for 2 repetitions (Gentle, 2017). Hackenschmidt is probably most famous for his catch as catch can wrestling bouts with Frank Gotch, who was from a farm near Humbolt, Iowa.
However, this article is not about the Russian Lion. It is about his lesser known mentor, Georg Lurich from Estonia, who was a fantastic wrestler and all round lifter just like Hackenschmidt. Lurich was born George Luri on 22 April 1876 in a village in Estonia named Vike-Maarja. George’s family joined a church that was primarily Baltic German. Since they believed this church provided the family’s children with more opportunity in education, they changed their name to the German “Lurich”(George Lurich 2017). Though physically weak as a lad, upon attending Tallin, a prestigious secondary school, Lurich dedicated himself to increasing his strength to improve his health (Katzer).
In 1895, Lurich moved to Russia. There he met who would become his coach, Dr. Wladyslaw Krajewski (Christopher 2013). It was at this time he became proficient in both weightlifting and wrestling. Though he was not Estonia’s first weightlifting and wrestling champion, we was their most famous, both due to his success on the mat and in the gym and his showmanship and promotion. When he returned to Estonia, he did so a star. Not only was Lurich known as a sensation in athletics, but he is credited with a instilling a national pride in the Estonians which led them to move toward independence from tsarist Russia (George Lurich 2017).
Lurich is credited with a number of weightlifting records in his time. It is said that he completed a one arm jerk of 267 pounds and a clean and jerk of 344 pounds (Wood 2012). He is credited with a pullover and push of 201.5 kilos, which is in the neighborhood of 444 pounds (Myers, 2010). Tragically, Georg died prematurely from Typhoid fever on January 20, 1920. He was 43 years old, a mere year older that your young, young author. Lurich’s legacy lived on however. One way is through the legends and folktales about him that Estonians continued to tell. Another way is through the young champion, George Hackenschmidt, that Lurich began teaching and mentoring when Hackenschmidt was but 18 years old. Hackenschmidt went on to be one of the winningest wresters and weightlifters in printed history.
In the 2017 USAWA Old Time strongman championship that I will be hosting, we are contesting as an exhibition lift called the “Lurich Lift”, which was proposed by my confederate Lance Foster. This is a partial Hack lift written with Old Time strongman style rules. Since Lurich was Hackenschmidt’s teacher, Lance felt it was an appropriate tribute to a great champion and true all-rounder. I do concur. Below are the rules we will be using for the lift in September. IF the lift works according to these rules and we feel it is a good lift that goes along with the USAWA Old time strongman philosophy, we will propose it to the executive board.
Lurich Lift: This is a partial Hack Lift, where the bar height must not be over 18” from the platform (measured to the bottom of the bar). The plates or bar may be supported on stands, rack supports, or blocks to obtain this height. The lifter must have the bar behind the legs, as defined by the rules of the Hack Lift. The hands must be on the outside of the legs (NO SUMO STANCE) during the entire lift. Lifting straps or any other gripping aid is not allowed, but any grip may be used. It is NOT an infraction to drag the bar up the legs. The bar may touch the calves and the rear of the upper legs as it rises. Should it bind against the upper legs, the bar may be stopped momentarily or lowered while a hip adjustment is made. A one minute time limit is allowed for the lifter to make a legal lift, during which time a lifter may make multiple tries. Once the lifter is totally upright and the bar motionless, an official will give the command to end the lift.
Christopher, L. (2013, July 24). Georg Lurich. Retrieved June 24, 2017, from
Gentle, D. (Ed.). (n.d.). George Hackenschmidt 1878-1968. Retrieved June 14, 2017, from
Georg Lurich. (2017, June 10). Retrieved June 14, 2017, from
Jesse, J. (1976). Wrestling physical conditioning encyclopedia. Pasedena, Calif: Athletic Press.
Katzer, N., Budy, S., Köhring, A., Zeller, M., & Verlag, C. (n.d.). Euphoria and Exhaustion: Modern
Sport in Soviet Culture and Society. Germany: Campus Verlag.
Myers, A. (2010, May 25). THE PULLOVER AND PUSH PART 2 – HISTORY. Retrieved June 24,
2017, from http://usawa.com/the-pullover-and-push-part-2-history/
Wood, J. (2012, March 18). George Lurich. Retrieved June 14, 2017, from