Years ago there were two types of contests, one was weightlifting and the other was bodybuilding. They never crossed paths in the beginning because Bob Hoffman, who ran the weightlifting, didn't like Joe Weider, who ran the bodybuilding. It wasn't till years later that Bob accepted it and put the bodybuilders in his magazine. He knew they were popular and were a bigger draw because of the visual effects of it.
Along with the bodybuilding contests, many of the competitors did feats of strength at the shows.
Chuck Sipes was famous for bending big metal rods, tearing phone books and punching railroad spikes through boards with his hands.
Bill Pearl, who was a top bodybuilder, would rip phone books in half with his hands and these strength feats were a big audience favorite at the shows.
Mike Dayton -- who was also a bodybuilder -- would hang himself by the neck and survive. Was this a trick or was he just one of those gifted people able to do this? No one really knows for sure.
Here's Mike Hanging Himself.
Paul Anderson, World's Strongest Man at the time, would squat with people holding onto the bar or with a platform full of people on his back.
Another strength feat was lifting a car. Here Franco Colombu lifts the front of a Volkswagen. When I was in high school a few of us lifted a girl's VW and put it on her front lawn in the middle of the night. I always wondered what she thought the next morning when she came out to get into it.
These feats of strength were endless and were poplular for a very long time, and then they kind of faded away because no one kept up the tradition. I've always thought they were a big part of physique contests to break the monotony of posing as an extra added attraction.
There are a few men today who still do this and Mike Bruce is one of them going around to institutions to motivate young people as he bends horseshoes and big bars around his neck, but as far as I know he's one of the few.
He's also got one of the strongest necks of all time, he can deadlift like a monster, and he's always been very generous to me when I've asked him questions about strength training for my show.
Maybe someday there will be another bodybuilding contest and the promoter will see this and decide to add some entertainment to the show by bringing back the strength feats. Everything does go full circle, and let's hope this is too.