On July 9, 2016, British strongman Eddie Hall set the new world record in the deadlift, hoisting a staggering 1102 pounds. It may seem like the sort of accomplishment that only the strength-obsessed care about, but the roundness of the number—and maybe the dramatic lift itself—created a surprising amount of mainstream media buzz. By becoming the first human to lift half a ton off the ground, Hall earned comparisons to the likes of Sir Roger Banister (the first person to run a sub-4-minute mile) and Sir Edmund Hilary (first man to climb Mount Everest).
Could a knighthood be in Hall's future as well? Probably not, but what both of those men share with this 6-foot-3, 400-pound behemoth is the resolve to push the human body to do something previously thought impossible. They went beyond what the ordinary human mind can perceive, and gave the rest of us proof of where our potential lies.
Hall's lift is by no means the only strength record out there, of course. Pretty much any lift that's ever been done has been done at least once by someone with the goal of seeing how much or how many could be done. Here are five that might make you go "huh?" at first, followed shortly by "wow."
Bent Press, 370 Pounds: Arthur Saxon
The bent press is a lift that fell out of favor with the advent of the bench press. It looks pretty bizarre to modern lifters, but its appeal is understandable enough: The old-time strongmen believed (and I'll anecdotally attest) this was the lift that allowed you to lift the largest amount of weight overhead with one arm. For this reason, it was also contested under the name of the "one-handed lift" at several early Olympic games.
Eugene Sandow, Sig Klein, and pretty much every other performing strongman near the turn of the century performed what was then known as "the king of lifts," but Arthur Saxon's lift goes down as the heaviest of all time. Perhaps someone will approach this record, but given that the bent press's fans these days are a pretty small community, I doubt it. I've spoken with a man who claims he's pressed 225 pounds. The heaviest bent press I could find with a cursory look on YouTube was 90 kilograms, or approximately 198 pounds:
Although not a bent press, Paul Anderson's side press of 300 pounds also deserves mention. The differences between the two moves are subtle but significant: In the bent press, you move under the weight to get to the lockout position, while in the side press, you can actually press it out. Good luck finding anyone who can match this!
Tiger Bend Push-Ups, 13-17 Consecutive Reps: Sigmund Klein
Today, the tiger bend push-up is usually done from a push-up position, so you may be surprised to learn that it was once performed from the incredibly difficult handstand push-up position.
Accounts differ of just how many reps Klein did, and the accomplishment is completely anecdotal, since it was set in a time before video recording was widely available. But what's well known is that Sig Klein was a larger-than-life character who helped popularize physical culture in the United States and wrote a classic guide (easily found online) called "Super Physique."
In my scouring of the Internet, I've never seen anyone perform more than a handful of tiger bend push-ups. I would love to see another performance of this caliber.
90-Degree Push-Up, 16 reps: Willy Weldens
You may have heard of the bent press or tiger bend but never heard of the 90-degree push-up. But unlike everything else listed so far, this is an official Guinness world record! French acrobat and balancing specialist Willy Weldens knocked them out in 2014, even though it's not hard to find videos of him doing more. Here is a "training" video where he performs 20.
Hammer Leveraging, 2 x 28 pounds: Slim the Hammerman
Slim "the Hammerman" set this record in 1975 in front of a screaming crowd at Madison Square Garden (as the story goes). Go ahead and try it for yourself with a light weight; it's an incredibly difficult movement that demands not only strength, but serious mental focus. Shouting "hey y'all, watch this" before each rep is optional.
Bottom-Up (Anderson) Squat, 1000 Pounds: Bud Jefferies
Starting a squat from the safety pins the bottom position, in what is known as an Anderson squat (after the aforementioned Paul Anderson), is a great way to improve your strength out of the hole, since you get no benefit from the stretch reflex. But as a four-digit strength achievement? That's only for the truly wild, like strongman Bud Jeffries. Unbelievable.
Pinch-Grip Muscle-Up (and more): Adam Glass
This isn't a record, per se. I include it because Glass, a grip-training specialist, is the only person I've seen do it, and probably the only person who can or will. Why? Certainly not because there's any money in it. And not because he's some Herculean freak who came out of the womb strangling pythons.
Glass is performing the movement strictly as a personal challenge. Regardless of what feat we're chasing, that spirit is exactly what should be at the heart of all of our fitness journeys.