Siegmund Klein, A man of Two Eras

by Dennis Mitchell

Siegmund Klein was a well-rounded strength athlete and early day bodybuilder.

Siegmund Klein was born on April 10, 1902, in Kronisberg Germany, also known as West Prussia. His family moved one year later to Cleveland Ohio. He still has family living in the greater Cleveland area. Siegmund was never a 97 pound weakling and was a sturdy healthy child. His father was a strong and muscular man, and Siegmund said he got his desire to be strong and well built from his father. At age 12, his first set of dumbbells were two discarded iron weights used to counter balance the raising of windows. He got his first set of real weights when he was 17, and trained in his secret attic gym. Siegmund was a true All-Rounder, not only doing the standard lifts but the odd lifts as well. He was a physique man, an excellent poser, and muscle control artist. He was an admirer of Professor Louis Attila, the man who invented the Bent Press. The Professor died before Siegmund could meet him. However he did meet his widow and with her permission took over running the gym which was located in New York City. He also married their daughter Grace. He eventually opened his own gym. His gym was a show place known through out the weightlifting world. It was equipped with the old time globe barbells and dumbbells.

Sig Klein was also a very accomplished tumbler and hand balancer. Klein owned and ran one of the most popular gyms of all-time in New York City for over 50 years.

He is credited with inventing some new equipment – the “Feet Press Machine, The Iron Boot, and the ‘In-Klein’ Board”. Somehow he managed to be friendly with the two barbell super powers – Bob Hoffman’s York Barbell Club, and Joe Weider’s IFBB organization. He wrote articles for both organizations and was not only written about in their magazines but his photographs were on their magazine covers. He also was on the covers of Iron Man, Vim Magazine, LaCulture Physique, and Macfadden’s Physical Culture Magazine. He even published his own magazine, The Klein’s Bell, from June 1931 to December 1932. After that he wrote for Hoffman’s Strength & Health magazine. He was inducted into Joe Weider’s Bodybuilding Hall of Fame in 2006. At a body weight of between 147 to 150 pounds he did the following lifts: Strict military press 229.25 pounds, strict press behind head 206 pounds, one arm snatch 160 pounds, one arm clean and jerk 190.5 pounds, crucifix 126.75 pounds (total), alternate dumbbell press with two 100 pound dumbbells for ten reps, a bent press of 209 pounds and a side press of 174 pounds. He also did 10 reps with 300 pounds in the deep knee bend. Notice that I did not say squat, as in his day they were done on your toes, not flat footed. The Association of Old Time Barbell and Strongmen began with a birthday celebration for Siegmund. It was so well received that they have been meeting yearly since then. Siegmund Klein passed away May 24,1987. The end of an era.

The Life of a Physical Culturist

by Al Myers

Sig Klein was one of the prominent Physical Culturists in the United States in the early 1900's.

Yesterday’s story of Thom climbing the mountain in Scotland got me thinking. First – Why would Thom do something like that? Thom is a guy with no experience in mountain climbing. He took no gear and items that may be needed for survival. He is obviously not built like a professional hiker. And top of all this – he took on this formidable adventure by himself!!

Well, the answer “crazy” first comes to mind.

But truthfully, I understand why he did this. It is all about seeing the physical challenge in front of you, setting a goal, and then having the mindset to make it happen. You “trust” that your training will carry over and allow your body to be able to “rise to the occasion” and achieve whatever physical obstacle you may encounter. You have confidence in your body that it will not let you down.

I have been doing a lot of reading lately about Old Time Strongmen and one term that is always brought up is the term “Physical Culturist”. Just what does this mean? Physical culture is more than weightlifting, more than running or walking, more than being able to throw a hammer far, and more than being able to pick up a big stone. It is the combination of all of the above – plus living a lifestyle that allows the body and mind to grow and develop both physically, mentally and spiritually. This sums up Thom Van Vleck. Thom living the life of a Physical Culturist prepared him for this challenge.

The Old Time Strongmen knew something about training that modern day weightlifters have forgotten. The Oldtime Strongmen’s training focus was based on not only developing strength, but maintaining good health and fitness. Today, everyone has to specialize in order to excel in any type of lifting – whether that be Olympic Lifting, Powerlifting or Bodybuilding. I understand that. But much is lost and sacrificed in order to achieve a high level of performance in these specific lifting sports. Living the life of a Physical Culturist requires one’s training to be well-rounded. I have been there and made those mistakes myself. When I was heavy into powerlifting and could Bench Press over 500 pounds I thought I was strong. But take me outside of my comfort zone of pressing a weight while lying on a bench, I found that other things suffered. At that point in time I couldn’t even play softball with my daughters because my shoulders were to tight to throw a ball. My cardio fitness was very poor – just walking short distances would tire me out. After all, I didn’t want to do any other training on my legs besides squats because I feared it might adversely affect my recovery time and my squat wouldn’t improve. My flexibility was terrible. I had trouble bending over and tying my shoes. I could deadlift over 750 pounds, but I knew that I couldn’t spend the day picking up rocks in a plowed field all day long like I could when I was a kid. My health was suffering. I was weighing close to 300 pounds (more than my frame could take) and was starting to have problems with high blood pressure. Gaining body weight was always the answer when I would hit lifting plateaus. I had become a prisoner to my own training.

These things are what lead me to All-Round Weightlifting. I want my training to be more than just about strength. I want to live the life of a Physical Culturist, just like the Old Time Strongmen did. Now I go on ten mile bike rides with my wife. I spend time playing catch with my daughters. When I go hunting, I can walk all day long now and not get tired. I have lost about 50 pounds body weight and my blood pressure is under control. My approach to training has changed completely – thanks to All-Round Weightlifting!!

To the Top of Scotland

by Thom Van Vleck

Thom Van Vleck at the Top of Scotland

On a recent trip to the Scottish Masters World Championships I decided to take a day and do some mountain climbing. My grandfather had a copy of the famous painting “Monarch of the Glen” when I was a kid and the Cairngorm Mountains are the back drop that inspired the painting. I decided, to honor my grandfather, I’d climb that mountain! And, to honor my friend, Al Myers, I wore my Dino Gym cap when I did it.

It was a 9 hour grueling hike for a 300lb, 45year old weightlifter with a bum hip. The weather turned typically bad….really bad and it turned into a real adventure. But an adventure I’ll never forget and one I’m writing a much longer story about that I’ll share when it is done. I made it to the top of the 2nd and 5th tallest Mountains in Scotland. Ben Mcduibh was thought to be the tallest mountain in Scotland for centuries and traditionally is still thought of as the tallest (it falls short by a mere 30ft). Many legends surround it, it’s said to be haunted, and you will find primitive stone “forts” that the highlanders used centuries ago when they used the Mountain tops to signal each other in times of invasion.

The picture is at the top of Mcduibh because when I made it to the top of Cairngorm, I was dealing with freezing rain, winds gusting 70plus mph, and fog so thick you could barely see! I made it, just barely!

My trip to the York Barbell Museum

by Al Myers

A Bronze Bust of the founder of York Barbell - Bob Hoffman

Following the IAWA World Championships last month, I got to do something I have always wanted to do – go see the famous York Barbell Museum in York, Pennsylvania.  It only took Chad and I a hour or two to make the trip from Lebanon – and it was worth it!  The museum contains the entire history of York Barbell, photos and equipment of Old Time Strongmen, and the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame.  We met up with Mike Locondro, who is the retail manager of York Barbell, and got insight into York Barbell beyond that normally seen by a normal museum tour.  As some of you know, Mike has competed in USAWA competitions in the past and was very good, placing 10th Overall in the 1993 & 1995 World Championships.  He was very gracious to us and gave us a tour of the York Gym, which is off-limits to the general public.  He spent over two hours visiting with us.  Chad and I thought we must have been receiving special treatment because we were All-Rounders, but the truth is Mike is just an outstanding salesman and treats all customers that way.

Chad posing with the full-size sculpture of Eugen Sandow

Now back to the York Museum – I can’t even start to describe everything that we seen.  A highlight for me was seeing the Travis Dumbbell, which Warren Lincoln Travis used in many of his strength shows.  It weighs 1500 pounds empty!! It seemed much bigger to me than the prior impression I had of it from pictures.  The York Museum contains the Challenge Barbells of Eugen Sandow and G.W. Rolandow.  Just getting to put your hands on a barbell with so much history is an amazing feeling.  The museum has the Challenge Dumbbell of Louis Cyr.  It weighs empty 202 pounds and fully loaded with lead shot weighs 270 pounds.  Cyr could easily take it one handed and Side Press it.  These are just a few of the museum items – there is much more!! The museum details  the complete history of York Barbell, and tells the story of how Bob Hoffman built York Barbell into a weightlifting empire. If you ever get the chance to go to the York Barbell Museum – make sure to give yourself at least a half day to see it all!

But give Mike a call first – and tell him you’re an All-Rounder.

The Challenge Barbell of W.A. Pullum

by Al Myers

W.A. Pullum and his famous Challenge Barbell

To win the 100 pound offered in connection with this challenge, the man taking it up had first to lift overhead in the “One Hand Anyhow” style this barbell loaded to a poundage equivalent to 1 1/2 times his own weight, after which a kettlebell representing a third of the barbell poundage had to be lifted overhead with the other hand.

This “double-bodyweight” feat of W.A. Pullum was performed  twelve times a week at music halls.  The Challenge, however, was never accepted.

Source: How to Use a Barbell by W.A. Pullum

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