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Louis Attila

Ludwig Durlacher, better known as Louis Attila was a German strongman born in 1844 and one of the greatest men in the history of physical culture. Professor Attila wasn’t just a strongman, but an accomplished pianist who spoke five languages fluently.

He was very well educated and didn’t really trained with weights until he saw a strongman performance by Felice Napoli (1821-1887). During that time, strongman shows were commonly performed in circuses, theaters and music halls; Attila was lucky enough to learn from Napoli all about this profession. He worked with Felice Napoli for some time, but when he turned 19 Attila decided it’s best to move on on his own.

Louis Attila

Louis Attila

For several years he toured the world and generally had a very successful strongman career. In most cities he performed, Attila was asked for tips on how to exercise and soon he opened a gym to help more people achieve better health & body through regular training. One of the most popular members of this gym was Eugen Sandow, whose real name was Friedrich Muller. Louis Attila practically “discovered” Sandow and helped him become one of the best known strongmen in history. But Louis Attila achieved much more than just discovering Eugen Sandow.

Louis Attila and Eugen Sandow

Louis Attila and Eugen Sandow

Soon he opened one more gym, this time in London, which became very popular as well. In 1893 Attila moved to New York with an idea of opening a gym for Germans to accommodate them with an owner who speaks their own language. Naturally, this gym called “Attila’s Athletic Studio and School of Physical Culture” attracted many and quickly became another success story. Attila was the first gym owner to introduce an idea of regular weightlifting to improve performance in other sports and he had a lot of success coaching boxers, some of who earned championship titles. Furthermore, Louis Attila encouraged women to step into a gym and build muscle, which was unheard of back then. Ludwig “Louis Attila” Durlacher died in 1924 at the age of 80 and left the gym to his son-in-law. Guess who was that? Siegmund Klein!

Atilla's gymnasium in a photo taken around 1900.

Atilla’s gymnasium in a photo taken around 1900.

More interesting facts about Louis Attila:

  • He invented the bent press, card tearing, the globe barbell, the plate loading barbell, The Roman chair and many feats of strength. Before his barbell invention , only dumbbells were used.
  • Louis initially employed young Friedrich Muller at his gym as a janitor and turned him into Eugen Sandow
  • Aside from Sandow, Louis Attila coaced many well-known oldtime strongman: Louis Cyr, Lionel Strongfort, Warren Lincoln Travis, George Rolandow, Bobby Pandour…
  • He took his nickname from Attila the Hun
  • Apart from being a strongman, Attila was a very well accomplished athlete, especially in swimming, running and jumping
  • He was the first person to bent press more than 200 pounds
  • Attila performed at Queen Victoria’s Jubilee at Buckingham Palace in 1887
  • He won more than two hundred medals in his lifetime

Check out Feats of Strength to learn many strongman feats in the style of  Louis Attila and other oldtime strongmen.

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One Response to Louis Attila

  1. otto portmann January 25, 2018 at 11:05 pm #

    always enjoy your articles…………

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