History of Strength Sports

History of Strength Sports

-Matthew Cavalier

More and more people are participating in strength sports all across America. People from all walks of life are finding their way to the gym. Whether they’re training to be a bodybuilder, a powerlifter, a strongman or just want to get some exercise, the popularity of strength sports have exploded. Especially since the rise of social media, weight training has gone from being a niche and sometimes weird hobby to a mainstream cultural movement. It seems just about everyone is getting ready for a meet or striking a pose in the mirror.

Unlike social media, weight lifting has existed for a long time. The activity has undergone many evolutions and saw the creation of many disciplines from the brightest minds to produce athletes who performed incredible displays of strength. Over time, much of the history of strength training has been lost to time. My goal is to try to shine a light on some of that lost history and bring to you what I learn. I have always believed that it is important for people to learn about history as it is easy to forget the lessons that people learned before us. A lot of people have gone through great lengths to explore the capabilities of the human body through trial and error. It would be a shame to see their memory erased entirely.

My hope is to find and research people from the past who have made an impact on strength sports in one way or another. People have interesting stories, and I think it’s important that they be shared. This is probably not something I’m going to be able to do every article as it may take time to do research. Finding history about strength sports can be difficult as for a long time, it wasn’t something that was as popular as it is now or it just wasn’t recorded and documented like events and people are today.

Clevio Massimo (1895-1975)

I won’t leave you empty handed, though. Let me introduce to you the Italian Hercules, Antonio Clevio Massimo Sabatino. The early 20th century strongman emigrated to New York when he was a young boy. With talent as a violinist, acrobatic performer and strongman, he made a living as a traveling performer. He was known for weightlifting feats, hand balancing acts and juggling routines. It is said that he could support a piano and its player in the Tomb of Hercules position. He was able to bend railroad spikes and tear phone books with his hands. He would even continue to perform during World War I. Instead of a rifle, he would use one of his comrades to perform
At only 5’ 8” tall, Massimo was known for having one of the most muscular physiques during the 1920s weighing at an impressive 185 pounds. His muscular physique and combination of his acrobatic performance would prove a point that even a man with his large muscles could be so strong yet so graceful at the same time. His impressive physique received the attention from magazines all around the world and icons such as Charles Atlas. After his time was over as a performer, he would eventually find his way into competitive wrestling and would travel across the U.S. for wrestling matches.
Unfortunately, not much is known about his later life. He would live the rest of his life quietly and live into his eighties. Like many performers during the early 20th century, he would fade away into the pages of history. There are many people like Clevio Massimo who made an impact in the world of physical culture, and it would be a shame to not see their stories shared with strength sports enthusiasts today.

If you are in the Baton Rouge area and are looking for a place that has all of your strength and conditioning needs, check out the Atlas Strength Shop for all of your training needs. Send an email to cameron@atlasstrengthshop.com for your next visit. You can also check out our apparel line and programming options on our website. Be sure to like our Facebook page, here, and follow us on Instagram, here. Do you need a high quality energy supplement that won’t leave you with that crashing feeling? Check out veteran owned strikeforceenergy.com and use promo code ATLASSTRENGTH at checkout to get 20% off of your order. If you’re like me, and you like to bite down while lifting, you need to protect your teeth. Check out Impact Mouthguards and their custom molded mouth guards. Use promo code ATLASSTRENGTH at checkout to get 10% off of your order.

“You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.” -Carl Jung