John Y. Smith was a strongman born in 1866 who lost both parents at the age of four. He spent next 25 years working on ships where he grew up, only to retired at the age of 29 and start weightlifting a year later. Unlike most oldtime strongmen, John Y. Smith didn’t start training as a young men but spent his best years in hard labor in order to support himself.
Nevertheless, all those years of hard work paid off in terms of incredible strength and toughness. Even though he stood only 5’6″ and weighed around 165 pounds in his prime, John trained hard and managed to win the “Strongest Man in New England” title at the age of 60! Mind you, he competed against all comers who were decades younger and bigger than him!
John took part in this contest along with 33 competitors watched by 5,000 spectators during the elimination phase and more than 20,000 in the finals. The competition consisted of two hands continental press, right hand & left hand deadlifts, two hands continental jerk and two hands deadlift. His best result from these was the right hand deadlift of 415 pounds, even though he set a world record two weeks before that with 450 pounds.
John Smith excelled in other types of lifts as well. For example, at bodyweight of just 168 pounds John was able to bent press 275.5 pounds and not with a barbell, but using a dumbbell! He could also lift 1,650 pounds in a hand and thigh style, deadlift 520 pounds at bodyweight of 160 and possessed an extraordinary grip strength.
As seen in the picture below, John Y. Smith had an amazing form in the bent press. Dumbbell used for this bent press weighed 185 pounds and John could easily repeat clean & bent press this one for three reps.
- Lifting a 200 pounds barrel. This doesn’t sound like anything special, until you realize he did it by holding the metal straps which are used to hold the barrel together.
- Hanging from a belaying pin, which has smooth surface and around 1 inches in diameter, using one hand while holding 140 pounds weight in the other.
- Carrying a thick handle barbell (220 lbs) and a thick handle dumbbell (200 lbs) for 75 yards.
- Bent pressing thick handled 225 heavy dumbbell.