Paul Anderson, The Mighty Young Apollo

In Strongman Mastery by Admin30 Comments

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.

The Mighty Young Apollo

The Mighty Young Apollo

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.

The Mighty Apollo Lifting a Girl

The Mighty Apollo Lifting a Girl

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.

Paul Anderson Pulling a Tram

Click to enlarge

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

Mighty Apollos tent

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…

During this time Paul made appearances on many TV shows including the Bob Crosby show, where he demonstrated various feats that made him famous, including getting run over by a car (with several beauties in it, for added sensationalism). Paul injured his knee at this time, but like every other time he just kept going like nothing ever happened.

Paul Anderson Car Pull

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.

Mighty Young Apollo Iron Bending

Click to enlarge

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.

  1. Greatest Feats 1954 – Pulled two elephants and 50 people on a semi-trailer uphill by teeth
  2. The Honors – 1975 World Records – Enlisted in a Guinness Book of Records & Encyclopedia of Sports
  3. Official Champion of Champions belt, presented to Paul Anderson, The Mighty Apollo
  4. 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.

Young Apollo Elephant Feat

Click to enlarge

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.

The Mighty Apollo Poster

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!


  1. Holy hell, that is amazing. Very inspiring. Didn’t know we had any strongmen down here, either!

  2. Incredible!

    Thanks for this Logan, I love reading about the old timers and this is one cat I haven’t heard of before.
    Amazing accomplishments. His back development in the video where he behind the neck presses the globe barbell is friggin great.
    And best of all…he has a moustache!
    Lets hear it for stache power man.
    Benny. T.

  3. Wonderful memories. I trained with him in Unarmed combat the 1960’s.
    I believe his wife was Rhonda but i cannot be certain. Apologies if i am wrong.

    He was a true gentlman.

    1. Hi Steve, I’m making a documentary about ‘The Mighty Apollo’ with permission from his sons, Paul Jr, Mark and Bruce, and would love to have a chat to you about your time training at the gym. What’s the best way to contact you? Many thanks Nick Barkla

    2. Yes. Rhonda ran the gymnasium in the city of Melbourne, I used to workout there in 1964.

  4. One of the highlights of my life is being one of the dancing girls in some of Mighty Young Apollo’s travelling shows around Melbourne & suburbs when I was a teenager. I clearly remember all of us being on the back of a truck and Apollo pulling it by his teeth down the street outside the Oakleigh Theatre before the show began. I often stood in the wings offstage to watch his feats of strength. I was always amazed by him laying on a bed of nails and two men smashing rocks on his chest. He then stood up turned his back to the audience to show the marks on his back. He never even flinched. He was the real deal. Great man.

    1. Hi Merle, I’m making a documentary about ‘The Mighty Apollo’ with permission from his sons, Paul Jr, Mark and Bruce, and would love to have a chat to you about your time training at the gym. What’s the best way to contact you? Many thanks Nick Barkla

  5. It is sad to hear that Paul has passed away, in the 1960’s I learn Karate at his Gym

    in West Melbourne, also on Saturday mornings did lessons in Unarmed Combat,

    When it came to Unarmed Combat, Paul knew what it was all about,

    1. sorry you are miss informed uncle Paul did not pass away in the 1960’s. He still had a gym in the early 70’s. he passed away in the 80’s.

      1. Maybe I’m missing something, but where does it say he passed away in the 80’s? The article indicates Paul won his last award in 1988, for instance.

    2. Just to let you know, in my reply – April 14, 2016, I meant I did my training

      lessons in Unarmed Combat with Paul in the 1960’s

    3. Hi Ray, I’m making a documentary about ‘The Mighty Apollo’ with permission from his sons, Paul Jr, Mark and Bruce, and would love to have a chat to you about your time training at the gym. What’s the best way to contact you? Many thanks Nick Barkla

  6. Is there anywhere I can read more in-depth about The Mighty Young Apollo and/or Valentin Dikul’s methods?

    1. Unfortunately, I haven’t found much specific training information on either of them.

  7. What an absolute Legend. I was taken to the Mighty Apollo gym in the early 70’s by my Shito-Ryu Karate instructor ‘Sensei Lucky Condos’ another absolute legend, whom was taught by the Mighty Apollo, and remember all the martial arts memorobilia he had collected and had on display. I was in complete awe of the Mighty Apollo.

    1. Hi Arthur, I’m making a documentary about ‘The Mighty Apollo’ with permission from his sons, Paul Jr, Mark and Bruce, and would love to have a chat to you about your time training at the gym. What’s the best way to contact you? Many thanks Nick Barkla

  8. My father trained with Paul, my siblings and I would often hang out at the gym. I remember Mark and his mother’s beautiful long black hair. A lifetime ago. He was a lovely man.

  9. I worked with Paul Anderson Junior in the mid 80’s and always respected his father when I was a child viewing his feats. I had the privilege of training at his West Melbourne gym in the early 1990s and would speak with Mighty Apollo on the phone for sometimes about 2 hours and even though I had an ego as being strong myself, I always marvelled at his recollection of feats and stories and advice he’d tell me. His passing in 1995 saddened me and during his funeral discussing with Paul junior that a movie and monument should be made for The Might Apollo. I’m so glad that a documentary is finally underway.

  10. I started weight training at the Mighty Apollo & Rhonda gym in West Melbourne in 1961.
    i was about 90 pounds wringing wet.After 3 months I was 125 pounds with Paul’s instruction.
    He changed my life from a skinny 18 year old to a confident 140 pound 20 year old who could finally approach girls.
    Rhonda must have been a pioneer in the ladies gym downstairs.
    i was there the night they bought their son in a basinet into the gym – proud parents..
    A great couple – fond memories

    1. Hi Mal, I’m making a documentary about ‘The Mighty Apollo’ with permission from his sons, Paul Jr, Mark and Bruce, and would love to have a chat to you about your time training at the gym. What’s the best way to contact you? Many thanks Nick Barkla

  11. Hi, l tonight decided to Google Young Apolo, l myself. Am 71 years old, the reason being our Mother knew Young Apolo, & we have a photo of her with him with his arm around her, he & she was young & single at the time, we loved that story, & thought it was very special, so he passed in away in the 90s l believe, we believe she was seeing him at that time going back to the 1040s sometime, Our dear other passed in 2004. Maybe l can get hold of those photos of Paul with our Mother, & Paul passed in the 90s?? Many Thanks Jill

  12. Hi there., l.would like to know when did Paul pass away?? & what from ??? .I hope he didn’t suffer , did Paul write any books?? & his birth date please xxxx,

  13. Fantastic achievements of the Mighty Apollo,
    l witneesed some of these feats personally at the Wangaratta Shogrounds in the early to mid 60’s..
    My father James McNab(1904-1998) knew him personally where they lived in Peel St Kew.before W11.
    In the ealy 70’s while my farther was visting me in Melbourne he took me to Apollo’s city gym where l met him and had a brief workout.

    Thanks for the memories.

  14. What an honour it was to know the mighty Apollo and train under his guidance at his gym in west Melbourne in the 80,s as a young kid. I always looked forward to training and chatting with Apollo and his son Paul. I learn’t so much about weight training and martial arts from Apollo. I would always dredd the first greeting as Apollo would nearly break your hand when he shook it. A great humble mentor to have as a young kid.


  15. I trained at the Mighty Apollo Gym in West Melbourne in the late 80s early 90s and got to become close friends with Paul and his 3 sons.

    Paul was way ahead of his time i would regularly spend time with Paul and listen to his stories and philosophy about training and getting into the right mind set .

    I was privileged to be allowed to look at his personal books and he would explain in great detail the feats he had done .

    On a regularly occasion i would see Paul lifting enormous weights at the age of 80 plus years .

    I actually was one of the coffin bearers at his funeral which was a very sad day. R.I.P. Apollo

  16. I trained for a year at his gym when his son Paul Jr was running it in 1993 while I was a young undergraduate student from Malaysia. He didn’t speak much at that time but I remembered his iron vise-like handshake 🙂 He will be missed.

Leave a Comment