Otto Arco

By Eric Todd

Otto Arco (photo credit:

Otto Arco (photo credit:

In the last article I wrote about Georg Lurich,  I mentioned that one of the things I liked most about the old timers was their versatility.  There was not a great deal of specialization in just one discipline.  Many of these strongmen displayed their strength in a variety of ways.  I am not sure any is a better example of this than Polish strongman/wrestler Otto Arco.

Otto Arco was born Otto Nowosielsky in 1881.  Standing only 5’8” and weighing a mere 138 pounds (Jesse), Arco was definitely an outlier in the world of physical culture at the time, compared to peers like Louis Cyr and Herman Goerner.  However, Arco did not let his diminutive stature dissuade him from being a very successful strongman and wrestler. In 1903, Arco won the Austrian wrestling title.  He was considered one of the best Greco Roman wrestlers in the world, pound for pound (Jesse).

Arco was an accomplished lifter as well.  He had a clean and jerk of 279 pounds.  He was only the second man to have accomplished this, and it was a double body weight lift (Jesse). He was also credited with a 175 pound Turkish getup (Christopher, 2017). As you are probably aware, the Turkish Getup is an official USAWA lift.

Another discipline that Arco was well versed in was hand to hand balancing.  HE would train hand balancing and perform with his brother Pete (Christopher, 2013).  Though you may occasionally see a hand balancing act on “America’s Got Talent” (my wife loves that show), how many strongman competitors or weightlifters do you see performing such feats today?  There are some, but I would venture that their numbers are few.

Otto Arco (photo credit:

Otto Arco (photo credit:

What Otto Arco was most proficient at, however, was the art of muscle control.  Muscle control is the skill of relaxing one or more set of muscles while flexing another in order to really make it stick out.  In 1913, Arco won the title of worlds most developed man (Christopher, 2017).  Here is a picture of Otto performing “the rope” in which he isolates certain abdominals and flexes them while relaxing the rest of his midsection, giving them a rope-like appearance.

Otto Arco was the epitome of and all-round strength athlete. Though small, he had herculean strength.  As many of the strongmen of his time, he was also a very accomplished wrestler.  All things considered, though, what he was best at, and perhaps one of the best all time, was the art of muscle control.  See here for some vintage footage of Otto performing some muscle control and hand balancing (pardon the hideous music):


Christopher, Logan. “Strongman Profile: Otto Arco Teaches Us About Muscle Control
Techniques.” Breaking Muscle. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 July 2017.
Christopher, Logan. “Otto Arco.” Legendary Strength. N.p., 04 Dec. 2013. Web. 14 July 2017.
Jesse, J. (1976). Wrestling Physical Conditioning Encyclopedia. Pasedena, Calif: Athletic Press.