Don Athaldo

In Strongman Mastery by Admin18 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. 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.

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

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