John Grimek and the One Arm Dumbbell Swing
by Al Myers
I can’t finish the story on the One Arm Dumbbell Swing without mentioning John Grimek. As most All-Rounders know, John Grimek has had a tremendous influence on the USAWA. He is one of the very few USAWA Hall of Fame members who didn’t earn his way into the USAWA Hall of Fame by competing in USAWA competitions. He got nominated and inducted with the first USAWA Hall of Fame Class in 1993 because of the way he trained, how he promoted odd lifting (or all-round lifting as it is known today), and the great respect all-round lifters have for him.
Most lifters know John Grimek the bodybuilder. After all, he is the only man to ever win two AAU Mr. America titles (1940 and 1941). He had the “perfect physique” and was way ahead of his time in bodybuilding. He also won the Mr. Universe title in 1948 and the Mr. USA title in 1949.
Most lifters know John Grimek the weightlifter. After all, he was a National Weightlifting Champion and member of the famous Olympic Weightlifting Team that competed in Berlin in 1936.
But I argue he was foremost an All-Round Weightlifter!!! His training program consisted, as he put it, of using “1001 exercises” to not only increase muscle size and strength, but flexibility and athleticism as well. He excelled at one arm lifts like the bent press, one arm snatch, side press, and the one arm dumbbell swing. He even did support lifts like the Harness Lift and Hip Lift. He was also a great gymnast – and often did handstand pushups with ease. But this is not intended to be an autobiography of John Grimek – I don’t have enough space for that – instead just an article showing his great ability in the One Arm Dumbbell Swing. I was hoping that I could find proof that John Grimek had done a Swing that would have put him into the Top Ten of All-Time. I have read that he did swings with over 200 pounds in training – but I couldn’t substantiate them. An article by one of his training partners, Gord Venables in 1943, stated that he and Grimek had both done 175 pounds in the One Arm Dumbbell Swing in training.
I ran across this old YouTube Video showing John Grimek doing some lifting and posing at a weightlifting picnic at York around the year 1940. The quality of the video is not the best – but it clearly shows what a great lifter and performer John Grimek was!!
John Grimek died on November 20th, 1998.