Don Athaldo

In Strongman Mastery by Admin32 Comments

One of the most famous Australian strongmen was Walter Joseph Lyons, better known as Don Athaldo. He used to perform as a circus strongman, but his mail-order offering “The Athaldin System” was the one that bought him real fame. As a circus strongman, Don Athaldo was involved in a variety of unusual feats of strength, like these two in the pictures below.

Athaldo shattered all records for strength feats and here we can see him carrying a horse (officially weighed 935lbs.) up a 14ft. ladder and down again. The horse was carried right to the top rung of ladder.

Don Athaldo carrying a horse

Don Athaldo carrying a horse

In this one Don Athaldo is seen lifting an Essex Super-Six Sedan car and platform, officially weighed at 1 ton 15 cwt. This weight was lifted 8 inches from the ground and held for 20 seconds at Sydney on 6th May, 1930.


Don Athaldo car lift

Don Athaldo car lift


Don Athaldo

Don Athaldo

Don Athaldo presenting the results of his methods

Don Athaldo presenting the results of his methods


If you are interested in the ways of old strongmen, make sure to check out as you may find just the right book for you.


  1. Wow this is a name from the past. My dear old uncle used to talk about Don Athaldo when I was a child. I just remember the name only.

  2. As a young man growing up in Rabaul, PNG I enjoyed the many stories my uncle Julius “Pop” Eluel told me about Don Althaldo. Pop trained under Athaldo in Rabaul (1917-1921) and he grew into a very strong man himself. He recounted that on one session Pop actually out shone Athaldo. Pop recounted that Athaldo wasn’t all that pleased and cuffed him over the ears.

      1. There’s nothing hilarious about all natural and really strong!

    1. Hi Harry,
      That’s a good story, did your Uncle Julius ever tell you about the training methods they followed, what exercises and all that? I’ve been searching for Athaldo’s training methods but I’m dubious about the official athalding course.

  3. I was told by my father that he had his hand shakened by Don Athaldo . I think at Central railway Syd around 1930s Dad said that he said……. HELLO MY NAME IS DON ATHALDO,,,,, I think he must have been a very popular man at the time…..

  4. I am the son of Jacqueline Joy Kramer Lyons his eldest daughter

  5. I have just tried this means of response and cannot work out why I was unsuccessful.

    I have heard of Don Athaldo’s great achievements all my life and remember meeting older people who had purchased his mail order book of exercises and diet and was wondering if such was still available.

    Kindest Regards,


  6. As a teenager I ordered his book in the early sixties- I remember it cost about three pounds which was a lot of money in those days. I remember the exercises were basic tension exercises and some of them for the upper body involved using a broom handle as a prop. For rapid weight gain I remember he recommended boiling Milo into a toffee fudgy state and then eating a lot of it regularly. I think I cut the coupon/ad out of the back of the Pix Magazine.

  7. I knew Don Athado as a young boy (around 10 yrs). My father Leo Rose who was blind, trainded using the Athaldo method and Don used to visit our home fairly regularly.

    Don was a fairly old man then and was carrying a back injury from training troops and had to use a cane to walk.

    Putting all that aside, his method of building muscle tone without weights, using muscle against mustle/putting muscle under pressure using body strength works. I’m no strong man but have noticed there are sights available on the web that use the same principles.

    So don’t waste money at gyms, identify exercises that suit you to do when it suits you. You don’t need weights, just time.

    1. Don Athaldo was my grandfather, I can remember staying at Sidney and an old lady at the back of his house give me a real boomerang from 1937.He would wake me up for an ice-cream.He was a wonderful man.Also can remember him coming up to Taree.Her we stayed with Nanny.My mother was his eldest daughter who married a Dutch merchant navy officer. So when Dad went on along voyage we went out to Australia. I have sibling so the last in the line. Alas I am being shunned by the family of his second daughter Ruth,living in Taree.My mother was Jaqueline Joy nee Lyons.
      Jan Gerard Donald Kramer

      1. Hi Jan, I am part of Ruth’s family in Taree, I’m not sure what you mean by being shunned. Unfortunately Ruth passed away in February 2013.

  8. I have some of Athaldo’s exercise equipment at home. They have brought many so called “strong men” undone. Athaldo was a partner to my dad’s uncle and used to frequent my grand fathers blacksmith shop in Waratah NSW

  9. My close mate in Umina Beach, NSW was Dons protege, “Young Athaldo” Denis Peterson. He performed all of Dons feats of strength from bending key steel into a pretzel shape and build a chain of them to liftening a horse up off the ground. He told a story about Dons reaction to Denis saying he couldn’t train that day because of a bad sunburn from a day on the beach. Don quickly said he had a cure for sunburn. He went over to the nearby wood fence, tore off a fence board and told Denis to pull off his shirt and bend over, then Don raised the board and whacked Denis across the back. As Denis struggled to stand up, Don asked him “do you feel the sunburn now?” Denis assured Don that the pain of the sunburn was gone! Denis never complained to Don of anything that might keep him from training after that!

    1. Interesting I live 2km from Ettalong the last place where Don lived. Would love to know more about him, especially as I also run Strongman competitions.

      I’m running Central Coasts Strongest Man competition on June 23rd in Ettalong would be great to hVe a trophy dedicated in his memory.

      1. G’Day Phil. I used to train under Don in his backyard in Ettalong. Other people that I knew who were training and performing then were Denis Peterson and Billy Graf. From memory Denis was also in the local Scout troupe. I can vouch for Don’s training methods. Just saw your post after trying to find an instruction manual for a contraption of Don’s that I have and that he used to sell.

      2. Don used to train my uncle back when he lived in Ettalong bill Graf he tells the odd story about don he idolised him

        1. Knew Billy Graf later also when he worked as an electrician for George Retford in Umina. Not sure whether Bill was still training with Don then.

    2. Dennis was my cub master at umina / Ettalong. I just found a picture of him at the scout hall. I watched him do a few strong man feats and still think of how incredible he was. Hope Dennis is well

  10. My great aunt was very good friends with Don. I grew up hearing all about him. I have his monogrammed leather wallet.

  11. G’day
    As a small kid growing up in one of the remote
    Islands in Fiji I used hear bout my old man stories
    That he was attacked by a bull, with a cane knife a single blow
    On bulls neck that amputated the bulls. Head
    As it was a rough time in his young man years in the 60’s
    My old man went away to work in a bigtown in one the bigger islands
    As he was a outsider he started to run untroubled with the local tribesmen gang
    So one Saturday afternoon they attacked him
    A street fist fight at its best
    He knocked all of them out and sadly one the gang members
    Lost his life from a single hit that his jaw was broken in three
    Places., he won his case cause his defending himself
    I’m not proud of my story the reason
    Is when I became a young man then I asked my father
    This stories that I have heard about him,
    He was quite then he told me he used to do a Don Athaldo excercise
    That why he was so strong,and he did it religiously
    In his 20’s
    In the end he taught me a few of them as he couldn’t remember them all.
    Thank God for the internet I finally found the excersise
    As I started now to keep me fit a im in my 50’s
    My apologies I was not proud about my old my man stories was all about the Don Athaldo excersise that saved my Old mans life.

  12. I bought some Don Athaldo excrcsise equipment in the late 1950’s when I was in my teens.
    I did a variety of excecises almost every evening in an attempt to build up my strength.
    A major device that I used was a device called a CRUSHER.
    This was a spring steel (about 1/4 inch round rod) that was bent at least at lear 6 times into a 2 1/2 inch spring shape shape with straight extension arms about 15 inches long, with tubular rubber like hand grips on either end.
    The whole device appeared as a n almost 90 degree shaped steel rod with the circular spring in the middle.
    The objective was to use your hans ars and shoulder muscles to press your handles together as far as you could.

    I was hoping to become a muscle man, but did not have the drive or dedication to get there.
    I did however join the BenallaPpolice Boys Club and enjoyed some wrestling competitions.

    I retained the CRUSHER device for many years and used it occasionally to practice strengthening my arm, chest, shoulder muscles when I felt that I was getting too weak.
    Ultimately the metal developed cracks and one of the arm rods broke making the device impractical to use.
    Now that I am an 83yo I wish I still had a CRUSHER to help me get stronger.

  13. In 1960 I began the Athaldo Exercise course as a 60 kg weakling.
    A year later I was still 60 kg but not a weakling.
    I am now 77 and weigh in at 62 kg but now a health weakling, and a wiser one to boot.
    Even though I did not attain the physique I desired, I was quite fit.
    One of my sons was introduced to boxing, like his grandfather who used to fight at the Festival Hall, Brisbane in the 1920’s … I just fight with the wife now !
    Life has many twists and turns and it is not what we can get out of life that matters, it’s what we put into it.
    For all those who want to improve themselves physically, go for it. You won’t need supplements etc., just determination and sticking to a routine. It won’t be a quick method, but a gradual improvement over a 12 month period and it will stay with you for life.

  14. Some of Don Athaldo’s best lifts with barbell are:
    Two arm jerk 275 pounds
    One arm jerk 170 pounds
    One arm bent press 228.5 pounds
    Two hand deadlift 517.5 pounds
    Wrestler’s bridge lift 246.5 pounds
    Two arm slow curl 143.5 pounds
    Press on back legs straight 255.25 pounds
    Bridge lift 352.5 pounds

  15. I was 12 in 1947 when I first saw the Don Athaldo ad. It may have been in an Australian Post magazine. I responded and was duly offered a course in Atholding for 5 pounds. Too much for me at the time but in the months that followed, that price was reduced in stages to about 2 pounds. As soon as I turned 16 and had a job the first thing I purchased was the Athaldo course and happily paid the full amount. I must say it kindled a life-long commitment to exercise and I attribute it to my reasonable health now at 87. I still workout on a regular basis and for that , I thank Don for the encouragement he installed many years ago..

  16. Bula
    I am from fiji. My uncle, father’s elder bro bought or subscribed to one of athaldo books by buying it. He used it to train and followed the diet and exercises religiously, never smoking a cigarette nor drinking any glass of alcohol in his whole life. He is 85 years old now and today as he was reminiscing how he used to carry one whole grown bull on his shoulders from the river bank into the village ground where it is laid out during traditional functions. He is only five feet two weighing 6 stones before he started but reached eight stones at his peak of training. He once single handedly knocked out two brothers in a fist fight in my village both of whom were bigger guys standing more than six feet and one weighing 13 stones. The 13 stones one knocked out a Fijian heavyweight champ once during a game of rugby by punching him. When the champ came around, and wanted a formal boxing rematch, the catholic priest officiating at that rugby tournament prohibitted the match after weighing them in, seeing the champ weighs only 11 stones whereas the man from our village weighs 13 stones. So this 13 stones guy was finally knocked with his younger brother whom we don’t know how much he weighs, both at one fight by my uncle who weighs only 8 stones and stands at five two. And he said it was all due to this athalding training.

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