He nearly died several times while performing, broke 30 world records in feats of strength, held 50 weightlifting records, got injured dozens of time and you’ll barely find anything about him online. The Man You Cannot Hang, the God of Steel, the Mighty Young Apollo, The Greatest Strongman of the Century – so many names for the magnificent Paul Anderson, a strongman from Australia. (Note that this is a different man than the other more well known Paul Anderson.)
He was born into a family of great athletes, with strength and agility running through his veins. Paul stood at 5’5 and while he wasn’t a giant, he belonged to an era that bred incredibly strong men, without the steroids or supplements we have available today.
Paul Anderson was brought up to be unique which later transferred to his strongman acts. He sought to be unique and not replicate others, but create unique feats, setting standards of his own and branding himself instead. Thanks to his extraordinary mental abilities, Paul was able to achieve that goal quite easily. Paul was a great teacher who trained many fighters that later became experts in their own careers. He invented his own self-defense method called Combat, which was very successful. It emphasized the practical use of martial arts, especially on streets.
Throughout 1930’s, The Mighty Mighty Young Apollo was in the best shape of his life and this is the time during which he performed the most dangerous feats of strength. Paul was aware that most of his feats were highly dangerous, but he did them anyway as the sensationalism was expected from someone as powerful looking as he was back then. As shown in the video below, Paul used to perform a two hand snatch with an old-school barbell and then drop it behind the back into his hands. He often did a similar stunt where he would drop the weight in front, catching it with his arms.
Paul Anderson admitted he was pretty nervous during times when his assistant would break a bluestone block (a material much tougher break than concrete as it is not a composite but solid rock) which laid on the upper portion of Paul’s back, but only for one reason – he could not see the hammer going down. The Mighty Young Apollo was involved in a number of stone-breaking feats, including the ludicrous one where he would hold the block on his arm while two sledgehammers attempt to break it. He was actually injured during this feat you can see in the video, but decided to carry on and finish the job.
Apart from less serious injuries Paul suffered during this feat, at one time he had his arm broken in two places. What makes this feat even more dangerous is the fact that his skull is only one slip away from being crushed by a 20 lb sledgehammer.
These feats were just the tip of the iceberg. The Mighty Young Apollo was capable of incredible jaw and teeth feats of strength. He was capable of lifting a 200 pound man with his teeth while having another one on his shoulders, without breaking a sweat. As opposed to other strongmen who were pulling airplanes using their teeth, Paul Anderson actually pulled a 30 ton tram…up hill…while walking backwards!
Paul claimed that physical and mental power weren’t enough to perform this feat, but that he was given a spiritual power by the God to perform it. He also used to say “The mind is the king and the body is only a subject,” which certainly holds true in my experience.
Check out these other unbelievable feats of strength that this man, in a pre-steroid era, achieved without any tricks whatsoever:
- Had a regular slip knot around his neck while many men / cars pulled the rope in opposite directions
- Carried a horse up ladder
- Set a record for most times being run over by cars on a bed of nails
- Had a 8-ton elephant stand on him with all four legs, while laying on a bed of nails!
- Set a world record by pulling five cars with his teeth
- Pulled cars with teeth while carrying a man on his shoulders
- Resisted the pulling power of two men with his teeth on a wet grass
- Pulled a fully loaded tram (35 tons of weight) 67 yards up hill by teeth
- Not only that, but he performed many of these feat to raise money for various charities through the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s
Throughout his career, Paul Anderson showed extraordinary creativity by inventing numerous dramatic feats of strength. Check out this crazy feat performed by the Mighty Young Apollo.
At that time of my career, which was in the 50’s around 1954 I had performed this feat quite a few times. The balance of the helmet on my head is probably pretty essential. It’s a 300 lb barbell and if anything happens, especially with the centrifugal power that is developed by spinning around…
He also starred in movie called “The Man You Cannot Hang”, among others, and took part in more “ordinary” feats like bending iron and steel bars. As if some of his feats weren’t sensational enough, he improvised and made them even harder. For example, while four men strangled him with a slip knot around his neck, he had one more hit his stomach with a sledgehammer. The other dangerous stunt with a bluestone block on top of his back smashed by sledgehammers was made more difficult by having another person hold a razor-sharp Samurai sword under his neck.
Paul Anderson received the International Champion of Champions belt in 1975, which was the highest award any athlete could receive at that time. It’s a custom made belt with several shields which are illustrated in pictures and words with feats achieved by the athlete. Paul admitted that he didn’t dream of reaching such heights to receive this prestigious award when he started his career. What was written on each shield of the belt says a lot about this legendary strongman.
- Greatest Feats 1954 – Pulled two elephants and 50 people on a semi-trailer uphill by teeth
- The Honors – 1975 World Records – Enlisted in a Guinness Book of Records & Encyclopedia of Sports
- Official Champion of Champions belt, presented to Paul Anderson, The Mighty Apollo
- Weight Lifting and Feats of Strength State Champion – Featherweight, lightweight, middleweight, light heavyweight, heavyweight and super heavyweight
Paul Anderson held around 50 weightlifting records.
After receiving one more award in 1988, Paul Anderson retired. The Greatest Strongman of the Century, the Living Legend was the name of that title, presented by the president of the Pacific Bodybuilding International and publisher of the Muscle Australian magazine in front of thousands of people. But even after he retired, Paul Anderson still performed many feats of strength just for the heck of it, even into his eighties.
Apart from substantial physical strength, Paul was obviously using mental strength and even visualization techniques, similar to those I write about in my Strength Health Mind Power Inner Circle, to perform as good as he did. He would “dream” about certain feats, convince himself that he is able to perform them and then just go and do them, while imagining that he is 16-foot tall Apollo with all the strength that comes with that. The legendary strongman Paul Anderson passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 84.
I would like to say special thanks to Paul Anderson’s son, Mark Anderson, for providing me with information and material to create this article. Without his help, this article wouldn’t exist. Thank you Mark!