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Old Strongmen Series: Paul Anderson




Paul Anderson is recognized nowadays for his Strongman lifts and his unbelievable squatting prowesses,but not many know of the tremendous influence he had on training systems around the world.He was a pioneer for Powerlifting and shaped the sport as we know it.Here is the man who introduced squatting to the Russians.

Paul Anderson was born on October 17th,1932 in Toccoa Georgia.You would think that a man that later on in life would be called “the strongest man in the world” was born enormous and from infancy strangled snakes with his bare hands.In fact though Paul Anderson was born weak because of a kidney ailment and spent his early years in the hospital.He was released finally at the age of 5-1/2 but because his disease had been almost unto death the doctors gave him a very strict diet to follow that cruelly lacked protein.Very soon though the young Paul decided his body needed them to get strong and fill up and convinced his mother to prepare him foods like eggs,fish,meat,etc…

By the time he got to high-school he was actually larger than most boys his age and quite a bit stronger.It is in college that he started lifting weight,and right away took it very seriously.He gave up college after 1 year to focus on a career on weight-lifting and chose his own diet from then on.Back with his parents in Elizabethtown, Anderson met weightlifter Bob Peoples, who would greatly influence him in squat training and introduce him around weightlifting circles.

In 1955, at the height of the Cold War, Anderson, as winner of the USA National Amateur Athletic Union Weightlifting Championship, traveled to the Soviet Union, where weightlifting was a popular sport, for an international weightlifting competition.When he first got there he saw rooms with platforms after platforms where the lifters did their training but yet not much else.All the Russian lifters did was to work on the 3 Olympic lifts and nothing else (at the time the Olympic lifts were Press,C&J,and Snatch).Being gracious hosts the Russians allowed Paul Anderson to set up a squat rack and a bench press station using some of their equipment.The only time they protested was when he loaded one of their barbells to 700 lbs and got ready to squat (for reps btw).They felt that the bar could possibly break and result in injuries(he did bend the bar)

On a side note 2 months later in Munich,Germany where everybody gathered for the World Championships Paul Anderson noticed a real change in the Russian team’s attitude toward training.They had their lifters squatting and bench pressing.They also were doing high-pulls and stiff-legged deadlifts just as he had done in Moscow.A new system was born!

At the competition Bud Palmer, commented as follows: “Then, up to the bar stepped a great ball of a man, Paul Anderson.” Palmer said, “The Russians snickered as Anderson gripped the bar which was set at 402.5 pounds, an unheard-of lift. But their snickers quickly changed to awe and all-out cheers as up went the bar and Anderson lifted the heaviest weight overhead of any human in history.” Prior to Anderson’s lift, the Soviet champion Alexey Medvedev, had matched the Olympic record of the time with a 330.5 pounds press

In 1956, he won the gold medal in a long, tough duel in the Melbourne, Australian Olympic Games as a weightlifter in the super-heavyweight class (while suffering from a 104 degree fever)

Paul Anderson turned professional after the Olympics and started his career in Strongman.He could not compete in the 1960 Olympics because he had been ruled a professional for accepting money for some of his weight lifting and strength exhibitions. In the 1960 Olympics the Russian heavyweight Yury Vlasov beat Paul Anderson’s records set at the 1956 Olympics. A short time later, not to be outdone by the Russian and to verify his position as World’s Strongest Man, Anderson lifted the same weight as the Russian three times in quick succession

During all those years Paul Anderson perfected his high-protein diet.His search went on for more protein foods that could be used in a concentrated form and taken in liquids.He would put plain gelatin product with orange juice and drink it,using that along with the shakes of milk,raw eggs and soy beans.He started to use extract from raw beef (!) (the procedure is to take ground beef and put it in a centrifugal liquid extractors.This will extract most of the liquid ,which looks like blood),and then expanded to raw seafoods.He found this more rewarding than pure beef blood that he ingested with a bit of citric acid and water to stop the coagulation.With all that protein he felt his body grew a bit stale so to help with digestion he would ingest up to half-a-pint of honey (straight from the beehive) per day.When people asked him how he could possibly eat those foods his answer always was “it depends on how much you want to be a champion”

Here are his best documented lifts

Height: 5’9″
Weight: 330-360 lbs.
Thigh circumference: 36″

Bench:627 pounds

Squat:1206 pounds.In all fairness, it must be said that there is some question if the 1200 went past parallel

Deadlift:820 pounds, he pulled a massive 1000 pounds using metal hooks attached to his wrists. This assisted deadlift was witnessed by Tommy Kono

Clean and Jerk:480 pounds, unofficial

Push Press:600 pounds, witnessed by Bob Hise

One Arm Press:380 pounds, 300 pounds for ten reps; this 380 pound lift was the greatest lift ever lifted overhead with one arm; both were witnessed by Paul Magistratte

Squat:900 pounds for 10 reps, John Grimek was a witness to this

800 x 10 (2 sets), Pat Casey was a witness to thiss: 425 x 3 (just missed 3rd rep) (exhibition at 1958 dual meet with Russia, this is back when an Olympic press

Olympic Press:425 pounds x 2 (just missed 3rd rep) (exhibition at 1958 dual meet with Russia, this is back when an Olympic press was strict)

1955 World Champion Weightlifting

1956 Melbourne Olympics Gold Medallist in the 110+kg Class

2 Arm Press: 167.5 kg. (368.5 pounds)

2 Arm Snatch: 145 kg. (319 pounds)

2 Arm Clean and Jerk: 187.5 kg. (412.5 pounds)

Olympic total: 500 kg. (1100 pounds)

Best Olympic press: 575 pounds

1957 backlift of 6270 pounds

He was twice U.S. National Champion

He set 18 American Records

He set 8 World Records

He retired unbeaten and undefeated as an amateur




  1. Matt permalink

    Awesome article!!

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  1. The Compiled Work of Paul Anderson | Gregory Taper

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