John Grimek was born in 1910 in New Jersey, where he started training with his older brother George, who was already well developed and bigger than John. However, his brother wasn’t as interested in competitions as John was and in 1934 John took a heavy weight contest in New Jersey, totaling 710 pounds.
He went on to set the national record in 1936 where he cleaned and jerked 308 lbs, snatched 220 lbs and pressed 285 lbs. That same year John had the honor to compete in the Olympics in Germany where he didn’t won anything, but still managed to perform better than his American colleagues.
John won the Mr. America contest in 1941 and that’s when he decided to focus on body building instead of weightlifting. This title was followed by Mr. Universe in 1948 and Mr. USA in 1949. In 1998, John died remaining undefeated in body building contests.
John Grimek shows one of the most impressive abdominal vacuums ever seen. He outperformed the famous Ringling Brothers Circus performer “the man without a stomach” back in the 30’s.
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Awesome article. I love this stuff and it inspires me to do more. I am training for a 400lbs deadlift at a bodyweight if 165lbs. Hit 375lbs week. Keep the good stuff coming.
My dad introduced me to John Grimek at York Barbell in the 1970’s. I have photos of John that he signed for my dad. I plan to sell the photos. If interested, contact me at 71.684.7899. I also have portraits that my dad painted of the Mighty Atom for sale, both originals and prints.
What was the cause of Grimek’s death?
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find additional info regarding his passing away, but he died at 88.
John Grimek, the greatest of ’em all died of a heart attack after going to dinner with his wife Angela and close friend Jules Bacon. In my opinion there was never and will never be another bodybuilder who compares to John Grimek. To me, he had everything and without the use of steroids as a few people have said he took. By the time he was retired from physique competition in 1949 steroids weren’t in use and even if there was a way he could have gotten any he wouldn’t have needed them anyway. Grimek, Steve Reeves, Reg Park, George Eifferman, Jack Delinger, Clancy Ross, Armand Tanny- those were the great “natural” bodybuilders who built their physiques the old-fashioned, natural way and to this day remain the greatest. There will never again be men like them because they “don’t make ’em anymore. Selah!
Re: Your remark about steroids is inaccurate. Steroids were developed un the mid to late 1930’s and were beind advertised in bodybuilding magazines at keast as esrly as 1939. Also later in life when Grimek was working for York Barbell he took steroids as part of an experiment along with other lifters( yes there are letters from the man himself verifying this) Interestingly Grimek claimed that the steroids if anything, made him look worse…even though most of the other lifters saw positive results.
Why is thus Interesting? Because since the dosages were high enough to see results, Grimek if truely natural should have looked better.. He most surely shouldn’t have regressed.
The only really plausible explaination is that he was on higher dosages of steroids prior to the experiment. That would explain the regression.
You couldn’t be so more wrong steroids became available in 1939
John Grimek was a genetically superior man he was naturally built with powerful muscle even before he touched weights. He came on the scene in the late 30’s and 1940’s and won Mr. Universe 1948. I’m providing an excellent vid on the history of steroids below, but what you should know is that steroids became available to the public in 1939. So I suspect with the bodybuilder world knowing about the success of the first juicer Steve Reeves, who did not have Grimek’s raw genes, John may have started taking the juice in the middle 1940’s. Watch this video draw your own conclusions to me 1939 is the marker and after 1949’s bodybuilders bodies instantly started to change drastically.
John Grimek was a natural bodybuilder and weightlifter. In later life he was asked to try a sample steroid to see if there was any improvement but there wasn’t. I had the great pleasure of meeting and talking with him in London in the 1960’s. I read everything I could find about him and I copied several of his poses since I have a similar stocky build. Grimek had tremendous natural potential and I learned a lot from him. I won a few titles but nothing like the great man. I relied on milk and eggs for protein and my mother served healthy meals. At 22 years of age I had a 17.5′ inch upper arm cold… after a workout 18′ inches or 45 cm. The gym manager in Koln ( Cologne ) measured me. At the time we had two years national service for men at or above 18 years of age. I also managed to win Sheffield and District Heavyweight powerlifting title. I weighed 211lbs,I usually competed at 14 stone or 196lbs. Today I still weigh about the same 210lbs or 15 stone. I still train at 83 years. Joe Baron.