Eugen Sandow

Eugen Sandow, father of modern bodybuilding, was a legendary strongman, showman, weightlifter, acrobat, muscle control exponent, physical culture expert, as well as being a hugely-successful businessman in his own right (Sandow was one of the first millionaires of his time, with a fitness enterprise that enjoyed tremendous international reach.).

The name of Sandow is held in great reverence even to this very day, and the coveted Olympia trophy, considered by most to be the pinnacle of contemporary bodybuilding achievement, is a miniature likeness of this extraordinary Victorian-era strength athlete who once enraptured the world with his unparalleled might and physcial development.

Sandow was a leading performer of the strongman feats that found such great favour on the Victorian stages, and he regularly lifted enormous weights overhead and snapped solid metal chains that were bound around his torso with the expansion of his powerful chest.

Besides possessing staggering levels of absolute strength Sandow was also extremely athletic, and he could perform both front and back somersaults, the latter even while holding a 35-pound dubmbbell in each hand. The fact that he could alight precisely from his point of takeoff was duly illustrated by the use of a small handkerchief, from which this incredible athlete would leap from, somersault, and land again, all on the same spot.

Another one of Sandow’s outstanding strength feats was his ability to chin himself on a loop of small-diameter rope with any one finger, even with his thumbs. Although the latter was assisted by the palm of his hand it was nevertheless a most remarkable physical accomplishment.

However, Sandow’s fame stemmed chiefly from the beauty of his physique, which he could display to its best advantage with his skill in muscle control – the art of relaxing and flexing every individual muscle in the body, sometimes without significant joint movement. Sandow’s posing was full of a fluid and natural vigour, and he was widely-acclaimed to have been in possession of the most beautifully-developed physique of all time.

What made the many splendid achievements of this wonderful athlete all the more remerkable was the fact that he was a fine and delicate child whose health was often “despaired of”, and for whom a very short lifespan (only up to an age of 18 years or thereabouts) was predicted by medical authority.

As a boy Sandow laid eyes on classical sculptures of Roman and Greek origins, and was enthralled by the pleasing proportions and harmonious development of the human body as exemplified by these statues. He then resolved to attain similar measurements through exercise, and was one of the first athletes to intentionally develop his musculature to pre-determined dimensions.

Sandow impressed not only on the physical plane. His keen mind, mecurial intellect, artistic temperament and amiable personality made him a huge succes, both on- and off-stage. His great gift at showmanship and his shrewd commercial instincts made him arguably the most celebrated athlete in human history, and he was highly sought-after both as a stage performer, and as an artist’s model upon which Herculean likenesses were fashioned from his marvellous physique.

Sandow left the world at the age of 58 – he probably never truly recovered from an automobile accident in which he was involved. This luminary in the field of strength and athletics may have departed before a time of his choosing, but his unqiue legacy will continue to serve as an inspiration for physcial culturists the world over, for centuries to come.

~ This post is written by Lionel Ng, part-time Personal Trainer & full-time Fitness Enthusiast. ~