There are many legends about the strength of ancient superheroes. In the Greek and Roman mythology, we have the legendary Heracles with extraordinary superpowers. He could lift huge boulders and crush giant animals.
In the East, the legendary Hanuman could also perform many feats. He could lift mountains and fly in the air. Added to these traits, he had the superpowers that enabled him to reduce himself to the size of a fly or grow himself up into a giant. All in the blink of an eye!
Such people also exist in modern times. Meet Louis Cyr, the strongest man recorded in recent times. Louis was born in Quebec, Canada on October 10, 1863. Cyr became physically strong by intense labor all through the year. He worked on his family’s farm all through spring, summer and fall. In winter, he worked in a lumber camp. By the age of 12, when he started working on lumber camp, Cyr was strong and could easily lift heavy logs.
Louis Cyr was fascinated by the legendary Milo of Croton. Milo of Croton was an Olympic wrestling champion five times in a row, between 536 and 520 BCE. One legend fascinated Cyr. Milo, the strongman had a soft side. He raised a calf by carrying it on his shoulders. The calf and Milo got attached to each other, that Milo continued to carry the calf even when it grew to become a full-grown bull. Inspired by this story, Cyr attempted to do the exact same thing. He carried a calf around his shoulder. As the calf grew older, and reached adulthood, it became a struggle. One day the calf escaped from his clutches. Cyr never lifted a bull again!
However, such breaks were short as Cyr was soon lifting heavier things. At the age of 17, when Cyr helped a farmer in trouble, the fame of his physical strength began to spread. He lifted the farmer’s heavily laden wagon out of the mire where it got stuck. Soon after, he was invited to participate in a contest against, Michaud, the strongest man in Quebec at the time. In the tests of lifting, Cyr hosted a heavy granite boulder weighing 480 lb (220 kgs).
Shortly, Cyr family immigrated to Lowell, Massachusetts. At the age of 18, Cyr entered the strongman contest in Boston. He performed remarkable feat of lifting a fully-grown mare that was placed on a platform. The horse weighed about 0.68 ton. Cyr lifted the platform easily!
Throughout his career, Cyr performed many strongman feats. This included—
• Lifting a platform with 18 men
• Pushing a freight car up an incline
• Lifting 534-pound (242 kg) weight with one finger
Cyr performed many other strongman feats through out his career. His strongman career ended in 1904. He died in 1912 in Montreal.
Body builders were curious about the source of strength for Cyr. His body measurements recorded in 1895, when Cyr was 32-years old.
Weight: 291 lb (132 kg)
Neck: 20 inches (51 cm)
Biceps: 20 inches (51 cm)
Forearms: 16.3 inches (41 cm)
Wrists: 8.2 inches (21 cm)
Chest (normal): 55.2 inches (140 cm)
Chest (expanded): 60 inches (150 cm)
Waist: 47.4 inches (120 cm)
Hips: 48.1 inches (122 cm)
Thighs: 28.5 inches (72 cm)
Knees: 17 inches (43.18 cm)
Calves: 19.3 inches (48 cm)
Ankle: 10.3 inches (26 cm)
Shoulder width (across the deltoid muscles): 25.6 inches (65 cm).
Several of these measurements are disputed as other sources have different information. There is also a possibility some of these numbers are exaggerated. The above information was recorded by Dr. Dudley A. Sargent, physical director, at the Harvard University. Much of these measurements are discussed and disputed even today. Many times, these measurements are used as basis for comparing new strongmen.
Others have studied the metabolic requirements of Cyr’s big body. However, research in this area has been rudimentary. Cyr was a big man. He ate more than the diet of four normal men at the time. For example, he could eat up to 6 lb of gourmet meat at one sitting. With two meals a day, he could easily consume 12 lb of meat. That is the weight of 4 average roosters! This diet gave him some problems later in life.
At his lightest body weight during the strongman career, Cyr weighed about 270 lb. His heaviest was close to 400 lb. His diet caused him to gain a lot of weight. However, we do not have much information about the source of his strength. Scientists today think that Cyr trained to just snatch weights with extensive support from his muscles and skeleton. There is not much information about the condition of his bones.
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