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Charles Atlas

Charles Atlas was born in Italy in 1892 as Angelo Siciliano. He moved to the USA with his parents when he was 13 years old in search for a better life, which turned out to be the right decision later on.

Charles Atlas

Charles Atlas

Angelo started training after visiting the Brooklyn Art Gallery where he was inspired by the Greek Gods mythology. There is a story about a bully, which Angelo always told, who kicked a sand in his face at a beach. Young Angelo weighed only 97 pounds at that time and that’s when he decided to start training hard in the nearby YMCA, using barbells, dumbbells, calisthenics and pulley-style resistance. This type of training didn’t produce satisfactory results for the young Angelo (as he claimed) and later on he saw a lion stretch in a zoo and came to a conclusion that animals become strong by pitting muscle against muscle, so why wouldn’t he use the same technique?  According to this story, that’s how Charles Atlas came up with the idea of the Dynamic Tension, his own training program.

Wrestler's bridge with a twist, by Charles Atlas

Wrestler’s bridge with a twist, by Charles Atlas

Bernarr Macfadden, who run the “Physical Culture” magazine, held a photo contest in 1920 which was won by Angelo Siciliano. Prize of a 1000 dollars was great, but what was even better is that “The World’s Most Perfectly Developed Man” title helped Angelo to get a job in Coney Island where he performed various stunts and feats of strength.

Finally, in 1922 Angelo decided to legally change his name to Charles Atlas. Charles sounded more American, but Atlas idea derived from his friend who told him he resembled the statue of Atlas, which was on a top of a hotel in Coney Island. Charles founded his company, Charles Atlas Ltd. in 1929 and, believe it or not, this company still exists today.

Charles Atlas doing a handstand at 62

Charles Atlas doing a handstand at 62

Even though a reliable source says that Charles Atlas had a family history of heart attacks and that he died following a daily jog on a beach, it turns out he never really jogged* at that age nor did he have the history of heart diseases.  Instead, Charles was using a stationary bike at his own home and he developed diabetes in his 70’s. He was put on a high protein diet, which unfortunately clogged his arteries. After one of his daily exercise routines, Charles experienced chest pain and had to be hospitalized for further testing. He died at the age of 80 on  December 24th, 1972 at the Memorial Hospital on Long Island.

Charles Atlas ripping a phonebook in half

Charles Atlas ripping a phonebook in half


Handstand pushup by Charles Atlas

Handstand pushup by Charles Atlas

 * Many thanks to Bill Gibbons, a friend of Charles Atlas Jr, who provided more precise information about circumstances which led to Charles death. 

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5 Responses to Charles Atlas

  1. Bill Gibbons July 16, 2013 at 5:16 am #

    I was a friend of Charles Atlas Jr until his passing in August, 2008 at the age of 89. He told me many wonderful stories about his famous father, and repudiated the fact that he (Atlas Sr) did NOT die from a heart attack after a jog on the beach. Atlas did not jog at that age, but used a stationary exercise bicycle on his condo balcony in Palm beach, Florida. Charles Atlas developed diabetes in his late 70s (from his mother’s side) and his doctors put him on a high protein diet to offset the effects of the disease. This in turn clogged his arteries, and he began to experience chest pains after his daily exercise regime. He was eventually hospitalized for tests, and died at the Memorial Hospital on Long Island on December 24th, 1972.

    BTW, Charles Jr never mentioned a history of heart trouble in his family, and he himself worked out regularly until a spinal aneurism put him in a wheelchair at the age of 85.

    Hope this helps.

  2. admin July 16, 2013 at 6:51 pm #

    Hi Bill,

    it definitely helps. Thanks a lot for contributing!

  3. Dude June 15, 2014 at 11:32 pm #

    Is that reliable info?… (about his death) It seems like some dude from the internet is the source…

  4. Bill Gibbons October 4, 2014 at 4:51 am #

    Hi Guys, there is a new Charles Atlas biography out. I read it and was pleasantly surprised at the wealth of information and facts about Atlas that was packed into the book.

    I wrote a preview for Amazon.com on the book. See the link below.




  5. Joe April 4, 2018 at 8:14 am #

    I think Charles Atlas Courses rule!

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