The Strongest Man Who Ever Lived

Sometimes when I’m feeling particularly bored, I like to browse through bodybuilding and other fitness-related forums to look up people’s opinions on certain fitness-related topics.

During one of these instances, I came across the topic of who the pound for pound strongest bodybuilder of all-time was.

While researching this, I often came across people’s collective astonishment of how freakishly strong some of today’s pro bodybuilders are.

Now I wouldn’t be so naive as to disagree that many of today’s pro bodybuilders are incredibly strong athletes, however when we talk about who the ‘pound for pound’ strongest bodybuilder of all time is, I often read responses such as “Ronnie” or “Johnnie Jackson”, with the most popular response being “Franco Columbo”.

Columbo was definitely incredibly strong for his size (weighing well below 200 pounds), with some very impressive lifting numbers including a 750 lb deadlift, a 525 lb bench press, and a 665 lb squat.

This certainly makes a solid case for him being the strongest bodybuilder to ever live.

However the issue I have with calling him the strongest bodybuilder of all-time, is that:

 

1. He performed these feats while in his mid thirties (therefore he had a lot of time to get his strength up)

2. There is speculation on whether Columbo used steroids during his career

 

Now I have absolutely nothing against Franco, I myself marvel at his feats of strength for a man of his stature, however if we are truly going to find out who the pound for pound strongest man who ever walked the planet was, we have to take all the eras of strength training into account.

During the 1950s, there was a young, up-and-coming weightlifter named Marvin Eder.

Marvin was a bodybuilder from New York who cross-trained bodybuilding with Olympic-style weightlifting.

To say that Marvin was a genetic anomaly would be an understatement.

The weight that he was able to lift at his size, age, and WITHOUT the assistance of steroids (or any supplements for that matter), is something one can only marvel at.

Standing at about 5 feet 8 inches, and never weighing more than 200 pounds, he was the first man to ever bench press 500 pounds while weighing under 200 pounds.

In regards to his workouts, Marvin has stated that he trained to the absolute limit, sometimes six to seven hours per day.

His schedule began as every other day before eventually adopting a 2 days on – 1 day off routine.

He discussed his training further in an interview on bodybuilding.com, stating:

One thing I can tell you: every workout I trained to the absolute limit. I never worked out light and that is how I trained. And I had enormous recuperative powers and was always ready for the next workout.”

Other sources have claimed that Marvin enjoyed mixing up his rep schemes during training sessions.

Considering Marvin was both a bodybuilder and an Olympic-style weightlifter, this would obviously have been a smart thing to do.

He would usually begin his workout with overhead presses, eventually working his way up to performing sets of 3 reps.

He would then use weighted dips as an assistance exercise, doing 8 sets of 10 with 220 lbs attached to him.

For his legs, a typical Eder workout would include 8 sets of 3 repetitions, using 500 pounds (source).

As you can see, Eder was quite ahead of his time in utilizing a variety of rep ranges to assist his mass and strength goals.

Some of Marvin’s other best lifts included: 50 deep squats with 300 pounds, 80 wide grip pull-ups, and probably most impressive of all:

7 Dips with 400 pounds hanging off of him (yes you read that correctly).

The weight was usually in the form of training buddies who were polite enough to hang off his legs while he repped out his dips.

Marvin’s gift for doing dips stemmed beyond just lifting as heavy as possible.

One day, he decided to break Jack Lalanne’s record of doing 1000 body-weight dips in 20 minutes.

Eder broke the record with ease, doing 1000 body-weight dips in only 17 minutes.

All of this being done while in his early 20s.

To truly comprehend how amazing Marvin was, here is a complete list of his feats that further illustrate his inhuman strength:

    • Olympic press – 330 pounds.
    • Deep squats – 50 reps with 300 pounds.
    • Side laterals – reps with 120-pound dumbbells.
    • One-arm-chins – 8 consecutively with each arm.
    • Press behind neck – 305 pounds.
    • Side press, left hand – 220 pounds (with a man sitting on his hand).
    • Parallel bar dip  – single rep with 434 pounds (two men hanging from his feet).
    • Parallel bar dip – 400 x 7
    • Bench press – 515 pounds.
    • Still arm pullovers – 250 pounds.
    • Wide grip chins80 with his bodyweight and 8 reps with 200 pounds attached.
    • Consecutive handstand push-ups on a horizontal ladder – 25

Stats retrieved from bodybuilding.com

 

Marvin sadly decided to retire from bodybuilding at the tender age of 22, due to the politics involved in the sport that kept him from competing in future bodybuilding or weightlifting events.

*The exact reasons for why Marvin was stripped of his amateur status are said to involve him appearing in a Joe Weider magazine, which was claimed to violate AAU regulations.

While his career may have tragically been cut short, he is still recognized by many old-school lifters for his god given strength.

In fact, the great Pat Casey (the first man to bench press 600 pounds) once stated: “pound for pound, Marvin Eder was probably the strongest man of all time.”

One could only imagine how strong Marvin would have become if he had stuck with it.

 

Comments

  1. and how can the author be sure that eder never used any muscle building hormones? Testosterone use for strength is well documented in the 1930’s.

    • You have a good point, when it comes to individuals and steroid-use, no one can ever be 100% sure. Having said that, the availability of steroids during Eder’s time was far lesser than it was during the 70s – 80s. Furthermore, when you read interviews of him, Eder vehemently states that he has always been 100% natural, and that he finds steroid-use in bodybuilding abhorrent. While this is obviously not proof that he was natural, there is also no evidence that he wasn’t.