Adrian Peter Schmidt was a physical culturist and strongman born in 1872 in France. Unlike many oldtime strongmen who had great genetic predispositions and health, Schmidt wasn’t so lucky genetic-wise and he also contracted typhoid fever at the age of 15. This combination left him very slim, but he still managed to accomplish amazing results during his lifetime.
Schmidt was a gifted drawer and painter, so he decided to study art. He was particularly good at drawing classical physiques of Greek statues and eventually this made him wonder if he would be able to use exercises in order to improve his health condition. Schmidt stood only 5’2″ in height with a bodyweight of 126 lbs, but that didn’t stop him from studying every book of physical culture he could get his hands on and finally start working out on a regular basis.
It wasn’t long before he left France and settled in New York where he set up his own gym. Years of experience gained through studying physical culture in theory and practice, finally started to pay off – both financially and health-wise. At this time he became a professional teacher, using a stage to demonstrate his skills & strength in order to attract more clients. Since he could illustrate and write very well, Schmidt was one of the first physical culturist to offer mail-order course. He also wrote numerous books which are still very popular among collectors.
Adrian Peter Schmidt invented several training machines, such as the Home Exerciser. It was similar to Deadlift machine and it was adjustable enough that anyone could train progressively. The other one that was also very popular was a walking machine, used by gymnasiums and even USA Government Departments to help with physical conditioning.
One of the most amazing feats of strength Schmidt was capable of was definitely a one arm pullup, but with a twist – he was pinch gripping the last link of a hanging chain! Believe it or not, Schmidt was still capable of performing this feat even at the age of 68, as witnessed by Ray Van Cleef and Sig Klein. Even Warren Lincoln Travis said that he saw Schmidt performing 10 pull-ups in a row using only one finger. His grip strength also helped his ability to rip a corner of not one, but two decks of cards at the same time. Schmidt was also a great arm wrestler, beating large weightlifter Karl Morke.
Check out a related story below about Schmidt’s arm wrestling from Sig Klein’s memoirs.
Once about 1917 the great Joe Nordquest was doing his act at Coney Island. It was generally conceded that Joe was America’s strongest man, he could press 300 lb overhead with one arm, and was indeed a powerful figure at 200 lb bodyweight. Friends brought Joe and Professor Schmidt together to test their ability at Wrist-Turning (Arm Wrestling), Joe thought it was some sort of gag when he sat down across a table from the Professor who looked more like a longhair from Columbia University with his neatly trimmed Van Dyke beard.
But once they grasped hands and began to put on pressure, he found to his astonishment that he had to give the business in hand the “WORKS”, when the little man’s hands refused to budge, Joe lowered his gaze and concentrated on watching only his opponent’s hand, and with a grunt, he put all the pressure he could summon on his powerful upper body, slowly the hand began to bend a fraction of an inch at a time it went slowly towards the table, finally the hand and was now sideways in the air, resting on his elbow! He had not turned Schmidt’s wrist…but he had turned his whole body!
Even though Schmidt never specialized, he could perform a 203 lb Bent Press at a bodyweight of 126 pounds and do 100 One Arm Presses in a row using a 35 lb dumbbell. Professor Schmidt died in 1944, but his name will live in the world of physical culture forever and continue to inspire those looking to fight against bad genetics and achieve more than they could ever dream off. If you want to become really strong while staying relatively small, make sure to check out Deceptive Strength.
he was very much an inspiration to me. I have had health problems growing up.
I own the Piedmont Design Associates version of the Schmidt Automatic Exercise Device (AED) in stainless steel. It allows me to safely Harness Squat, Health Lift and Overhead Press. Excellent bit of kit. I was sad when PDA folded shortly after their founder died. I also own their trap/squat bar and a few other bits of gear, all very well made.